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Why I Help - Holly Lenhardt, American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey, Fairfield, NJ


In August of this year, Holly Lenhardt, a veteran volunteer for the American Red Cross Northern New Jersey Chapter, worked non-stop after Hurricane Irene brought havoc to the Northeastern part of the United States. She remembered that the Emergency Response Vehicle went out in the late hours of the night to Paterson, New Jersey. She recalled, "People walked out of the night to our location and got hot meals. The look on their faces and their expressions of gratitude motivated us to press on, knowing fully that we are indeed providing a crucial service. We moved our location three times that night and stayed until no more people showed up!”

Lenhardt is a true veteran of volunteering. She learned to love volunteering while growing up. And, she comes from a family with a tradition of volunteerism, so seeking out opportunities for volunteering has always been second-nature to her. When President John F. Kennedy said his famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” Lenhardt took these challenging words to heart. During her formative years, this credo has remained a guiding principle in her life.

She was attracted to the American Red Cross because of its wide range of humanitarian services, and its solid reputation in providing rapid relief response to those who are most vulnerable during disasters; so when she left corporate America, she wasted no time in signing up to volunteer with the Red Cross' Northern New Jersey Chapter.

True veteran volunteer Holly Lenhardt talks with Regional Response Director Ronald Durrell about reorganization of the region, and how it affects the current volunteer leadership. Photo Credit: Stacey Spooner. Area Response Manager of the American Red Cross Northern New Jersey Chapter.

A volunteer at the American Red Cross since November of 2010, Lenhardt's enthusiasm in providing service to others was quickly noticed by the organization's management. Soon, she was tapped to become the volunteer assistant to Charlie Maltbie, one of the Disaster Relief Response Managers for the Red Cross. Regarding her varying duties, Lenhardt said that, in general, they include keeping track of the volunteers on the Disaster Action Team, communicating with them on a regular basis, and making sure they have the supplies they need to respond to disasters.

Occasionally, she also helps directly at disaster sites, those mostly relate to house fires and floods. When faced with larger local disasters, she often works with the Red Cross' Disaster Relief Response Manager in manpower requirements, and acts as a liaison to local community volunteers. Lenhardt concluded with this thought, “The hours can be long, but when I hear from clients about how much they appreciate what the Red Cross has done for them, it makes it all worthwhile. Although I would never want to have anyone go through a disaster, if they do, I can only hope that I or another Red Cross volunteer will be there to help.” In a nutshell, the victims’ thankful expressions of gratitude explain why the American Red Cross attracts and keeps dedicated volunteers like Holly Lenhardt.