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Red Cross Volunteers Win Local and National Honors in PA

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“I do what I do because I love volunteering and giving back.”

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the American Red Cross, constituting 94 percent of the organization’s total workforce. Without the dedication and support of volunteers, the organization could not carry out its humanitarian mission around the globe, across the nation and down the street.

While every local volunteer makes a positive impact, two volunteers from the Westmoreland-Armstrong chapter are being recognized for going above and beyond, winning awards for their efforts with the Red Cross. For his “Student Reads for Red Cross” fundraiser as well as his contribution of more than 100 volunteer hours with the Red Cross, Davis Simon of Scottdale received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Jane Murtland of Greensburg, a local disaster responder and blood service volunteer, has been selected as Volunteer of the Year by IN Greensburg-Salem Magazine. The award recognizes Jane’s annual commitment of 2,500 volunteer hours with the local Red Cross.

Davis Simon Awarded President’s Volunteer Service Award

The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country. It is presented on behalf of President Barack Obama by the Prudential Spirit of Community awards, which honors outstanding community service by young Americans. The Red Cross presented Davis with the award Wednesday, March 13 at the Red Cross Westmoreland Chapter’s Youth Group Meeting.

“He is a youth volunteer who simply stands out from the rest,” said Nancy Ryan, program coordinator with the Red Cross in Westmoreland County. “This is why he also received the Westmoreland Chapter’s Outstanding New Youth Volunteer of the Year in 2011.”

Davis, a junior at Southmoreland High School, received the award in part for the creative way he channeled his passion for reading into a Red Cross fundraiser.

Last year, Davis designed a fundraiser called “Student Reads for Red Cross.” He sent out letters to book publishers and his school principal, asking them to sponsor him as he read his way to his goal of 15 books between his birthday in December and the end of the school year.

Donors could pledge per book, or for the completion of the entire goal. Through his reading drive, he raised $4,000 for the Red Cross.

“I decided the best way to do volunteer work … is by doing something I love, which is reading,” Davis said.

The award also recognized Davis’ more than 100 hours volunteered with the Red Cross as well as his individual fundraising efforts. Davis participates in multiple Red Cross activities including blood drives and writing cards to armed services members. He was also involved in the 10th Memorial Service held in Shanksville, Pa. in memory of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Davis said the sense of impact and satisfaction that comes from helping others keeps him motivated to volunteer.

“I like seeing someone smile because of something I did.”

Jane Murtland Named Volunteer of the Year by IN Greensburg-Salem Magazine

Jane Murtland’s focus has always been about the people she serves. A Red Cross volunteer since 2006, she participates in a variety of programs and services within the organization.

As a national disaster responder, Jane has been deployed 12 times to national disasters, including two hurricanes, two tornadoes, six floods and two winter storms. Closer to home, she is also a local disaster responder. Jane is on-call each week to assist families who experience a disaster, like a house fire. She helps address the immediate needs of disaster victims by providing food, shelter and clothing. Jane also volunteers with Blood Services, helping at blood drives, as well as providing education to donors through activities like speaking to students at local high schools.

On Friday, May 10, IN Greensburg-Salem Magazine will recognize Jane for her outstanding volunteer efforts at the inaugural IN Community Magazine Community Awards for Service Excellence (CASE) in the West Club Lounge in Heinz Field. She has been selected as Volunteer of the Year by the magazine, based on criteria including community involvement, time committed to volunteering and variety of volunteer involvement.

For Jane, news of the award was a shock. “I do what I do because I love volunteering and giving back,” she said.

Jane sees volunteering as a way to give back to her community during her retirement.

“When I retired one of things I was given was the gift of time,” she said. And she likes to pass that gift along in order to “make a difference in [the] community.”

Additionally, for all of her efforts, Jane received the Clara Barton Red Cross award – the highest honor given to Red Cross volunteers – in 2011.

Nancy Ryan, program coordinator with the Red Cross in Westmoreland County, noted that Jane always receives positive feedback from fire victims who have worked with her.

“Her kind and caring ways remind them of an ‘angel sent from heaven,’” she said.

Jane said it’s these personal connections that are her favorite part of volunteering.

“What they give back to you, a hug, a handshake, a thank you, that’s very meaningful. It’s priceless,” she said.