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Why I Help-An American Tale of Exceptional Volunteerism

The Herrman Family help others is the greatest blessing we can give to ourselves.

Bob Herrmann, American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, Cambridge, MA.

Everywhere in the world, people hope. A perfect example of this is epitomized in the good works of Bob Herrmann. Herrmann has volunteered for HOPE Worldwide for 22 years! HOPE Worldwide is a charitable effort dedicated to bringing hope to distressed people around the world. Specifically in Boston, HOPE Worldwide has many programs like the Framingham Food Pantry, the Harvest Walkathon Fundraiser, and outreach activities such as days of service on every Martin Luther King Day.

The American Red Cross has often teamed up to support HOPE Worldwide endeavors. Herrmann believes that the HOPE Woldwide’s “five year partnership with the American Red Cross” has caused a tremendous positive “impact … on fire prevention in the Boston area.” For example, it is typical for volunteers (galvanized by Herrmann) to go door-to-door distributing valuable information about home fire safety, so that home fires can be prevented before they start.

Home fire is a subject that Bob Herrmann knows about all too well. He and his family endured the tragic event of their home garage catching fire and burning down. In his own words, Herrmann describes the nightmare experience:

Three years ago on July 3rd, we had some friends over for a bar-be-cue and in the afternoon we were cleaning up when my daughter ran into the kitchen, saying “Dad, the garage is on fire!” It was like a dream in slow motion, but my wife and I got the car keys to back the cars out of the burning garage. Thick black smoke was hanging about six feet off the ground and I knew to breathe that air would be deadly. As I ran back towards the garage, I thought about grabbing the sprinkler hose, but I heard the fire engines sirens – help was coming. Thankfully, both of our teenage girls thought of calling 911 and that saved valuable minutes. I could hear the crackling fire as the pop of a propane cylinder exploded and made the fire rage, as the firefighters arrived and doused the flames. Our neighbor’s house siding was melted from the intense heat, our grass had burned, and a large pine tree nearby was singed and almost caught fire too. When we finally saw the back porch, the windows and back door had melted to nothing and the aluminum gutters were on the ground in a silver pool of melted metal. The garage was black and smelled like a caustic mix of melted plastic, metal, and wood. I briefly thought about our lost stuff, but was quickly thankful that we were all safe. The fire investigators think that an outlet had over heated, due to where the fire started. My personal belief is that God allowed it, so that I/we could live through that experience and do all we can to prevent this nightmare from happening in other families around us and in New England.

The American Red Cross stood ready to help the Herrmann family through this crisis.

The firefighters called our local Red Cross office, when they determined we couldn’t go back into the house for the weekend, while they figured out what happened. The Red Cross truck came an hour later, and they met with our family, gave us comfort packs, put us up in a local hotel for the weekend, and gave us a re-chargeable debit card for clothes and food. This was done at their cost, and they didn’t know who I was, or anything.

Simply put, the Red Cross helped them, so they can help others. Herrmann remarked, ”I have many great memories of volunteering, and I always have gotten more than I put in, no matter how hard I have worked. I believe that God made us that way – to help others is the greatest blessing we can give to ourselves.”

He added, “As a Christian, I believe that God’s word tells us how we need to take care of and serve the needs of those around us.” (Both of Herrmann’s daughters have received HOPE Worldwide student awards for volunteering.) At the first-ever event of HOPE Worldwide Boston’s MLK Day of Service, Herrmann remembers giving out last-minute instructions to the volunteers before they went out to the neighborhoods to distribute fire safety materials.

About the American Red Cross, Herrmann recalled that when the Red Cross gave such unstinting aid to his family to help them recover from the fire at their home, it “clearly showed me what the Red Cross does for all disaster victims, 24/7.” He enthused, “What an incredible organization!”

*Photo caption: The Herrmann family - Bob, his wife Cindy, and their two daughters, Kristen and Katie. Photo Courtesy of Bob Herrmann.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.