Red Cross volunteer Valeda Andler has used her nursing and inter-personal skills to serve the Red Cross Los Angeles Region for 63 years. For the 86-year-old Andler, her desire to work with the Red Cross has very strong and personal roots.
Andler credits her late husband for inspiring her to become involved in the Red Cross.
“My husband, Dr. Maxwell Andler, who was a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II, said that he and his fellow soldiers were often freezing and hungry during captivity,” explains Andler. “The Japanese didn’t give them much to eat. He recalled that twice a year, the Red Cross would ship them care packages which were filled with cigarettes, canned food, encouraging cards and socks. My husband said one of the reasons he and the other soldiers survived was because they received those care packages. My husband never forgot the Red Cross’ generosity. When he was liberated in 1945 and returned to the States, there was only one organization he wanted me to volunteer for—the Red Cross.”
Andler says her lifelong desire to help those in need runs deep in her family.
“One of my grandmothers was a nurse and so was one of my aunts,” she recalls, adding that she was inspired to follow in their footsteps at the age of three.
Andler has assisted victims affected by earthquakes, fire and torrential rains – disasters both city-wide and single-family. She recalls one of the most intense experiences came when she assisted in the aftermath of the ’94 Northridge earthquake.
“I was assigned to be one of the charge nurses immediately following the earthquake, which meant I answered the calls of people with medical problems,” Andler says. “We also took calls from people who were trapped in places where they couldn’t get out. One elderly woman, who was an invalid, called and said she had been trapped in her fourth floor apartment for three days. She needed medicine and care. I called the Disaster Action Team to evaluate what she needed. Thankfully, the fire department was able to rescue her.”
Andler and other volunteers also flew into action when an earthquake hit the San Fernando Valley several years ago, leaving many residents shaken and virtually homeless.
“The fire burned down many homes,” says Andler. “My duties included setting up evacuation shelters at the local high schools. We provided cots, medicine and bandages and provided wheelchairs and breathing apparatuses to those who needed them.”
Andler is well aware that the Red Cross not only offers food, medical attention and shelter, but it is a comforting and supportive presence for victims who have been struck by disaster.
“Victims of disasters are in shock because of what happened to them,” Andler points out. “Red Cross volunteers lend a sympathetic ear and listen to what they went through and what they plan to do next. That’s part of the healing process.”
Andler also remembers another emergency situation where she assisted a mother with five small children whose kitchen had caught fire: “The house was not habitable, and they had to evacuate. Since the mother had small children, she needed a place to prepare food for the children. It was a difficult situation, because we had to secure a place at 11 o’clock at night. It took a lot of phone calls, but we finally found them a place to stay in Culver City.”
Asked why she continues to volunteer for the Red Cross after six decades, Andler, who has been honored over a dozen times for her decades of volunteerism, says simply: “I don’t do it for the recognition. I go wherever I am needed and do what I need to do.”