Red Cross volunteers provide help. Hope. They provide hugs. Shelter. Safety. Support. A listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Sue Mayberry has been a Red Cross volunteer for over 20 years. In that time, she’s responded to countless disasters and worked tirelessly to assist disaster victims and those in need. As part of our volunteer spotlight series, Sue sat down with us to share her Red Cross story.
Why do you volunteer with the Red Cross?
“As a Red Cross volunteer, you make a substantive difference on what’s often the worst day of someone’s life. You and your team get to be a point of grounding for people who may have just lost everything. Our teams provide mental and physical support, food and lodging. To be able to provide that is amazing. Life can be difficult at times. To have a friend help, or even a stranger, it means a lot. Somebody needs to do it. That’s what the Red Cross does.”
What is your most memorable Red Cross moment?
“The ’03 fires were a standout moment for me. I remember looking out and watching the fires burn. I stood with a man at one of our shelters and we watched his house burn down. With wildfires, they can take a turn and spread anywhere, and lives are at stake. It’s up to us to make a safe place and make sure people have a place to go. There’s a real sense of urgency during disasters. Time was important. We had to get people to safety. And we did.
The President of the United States at the time, George Bush, visited San Diego after the wildfires. I was asked to help welcome him, along with other first responders that helped with the wildfire response. I remember standing in line with everyone, watching him get off Air Force One at MCAS Miramar. We greeted him and I got to spend a couple of minutes talking to him about what we did and how we helped during the wildfires. He looked me in the eye and thanked us [the Red Cross] for a job well done for the people of San Diego. I’m proud to have been able to meet the President of the United States while wearing the Red Cross on my shirt and representing our organization. That’s something I’ll never forget. I love the Red Cross and am proud to be here.”
What’s a typical “blue skies” day for you when we’re not in a disaster?
"Every day is different, but usually I’ll be talking with volunteers, answering questions, meeting with partner agencies about sheltering and attending, and teaching, training. I’m also on call 24/7 to identify safe locations for shelters and staffing, if a disaster does happen."
What would you tell people who are thinking about volunteering?
"Go to orientation and find out where you fit in. There is a job here for just about everybody. Then, be open to gaining experience and volunteering in different areas. Experience is what makes you more effective in what you do and it’s going to give you more confidence in what you do. In my experience, one thing I've learned is to be open and available. You’ll work with diverse people and people who are different from you. I've worked with people from different parts of the country. But as long as you have the same goal, you’ll be successful. We’re all in it to help people.”