American Red Cross Santa Cruz County Board Chair Rick Martinez has been involved with the Red Cross since he was 15, first receiving help from the organization, and now he assists others.
“In just about every phase of my life, the Red Cross has been there. Whether it was with blood services, communication and military services, or general emergency services in coordination with the City of Santa Cruz, the Red Cross was at the scene helping those out in need,” Rick said.
Rick first received assistance from the Red Cross as a teenager when he needed blood for a surgery. His next encounter was in 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed most of downtown Santa Cruz. Rick became a reserve for the Santa Cruz Police Office. Rick said the first responders worked 18-20 hours a day in the first weeks following the deadly quake.
The destruction was so great that helicopters flew in supplies. Business owners could not enter the downtown area. Rick also remembers that the only organization allowed in the disaster area was the Red Cross, which provided warm meals, snacks, beverages, and emotional support for the first responders.
“It was really the Red Cross that kept us afloat, taking care of us by making us a priority and ensuring we had food and water,” Rick said.
Rick became a full-time sworn Santa Cruz police officer in April 1991. Nominated by the Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz, Rick was awarded the Law Enforcement Hero award for the Santa Cruz County Chapter Real Heroes event in 2009 for his community outreach, improving public safety, and unifying business owners and stakeholders to make quality changes in the downtown area.
The Red Cross was there for Rick’s family earlier this year, assisting Rick’s cousin, a Pararescue Jumper with the United States Air Force Special Operations stationed in Afghanistan, to fly home and spend time with his ill father before he died.
“For the Red Cross to do that with such efficiency, I was very thankful,” said Rick.
Rick loves the Santa Cruz County Chapter, calling it the “little Chapter that could.” He credits the support of the community and the active volunteers for making his involvement worthwhile.
“I’m honored to be a part of the board,” he said.
Learn how to become a Red Cross volunteer at: http://www.redcross.org/ca/santa-cruz/volunteer/become-a-volunteer