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Why I Help: Joe French

Joe French - American Red Cross Santa Cruz
"We really enjoy driving the mobile feeding vehicle, it’s so rewarding, seeing the joy on people’s faces." - Joe French

For Joe French, volunteering at the American Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter allows him to give back to the organization that paid for his airline ticket from New Jersey to Watsonville, Calif., to see his dying father in the hospital. It was 1969 when the Red Cross contacted Joe who was one week shy of deploying to Vietnam from his military boot camp training at Fort Dix in Burlington County, New Jersey.

“That phone call from the Red Cross meant so much to me - especially the financial aspect as I was in the Army not earning anything,” Joe said. “It was a huge relief both financially and emotionally. I was so grateful to be able to see my father before he passed away. When I arrived at the hospital, my father asked me what I was doing there and asked why I wasn’t in the Army! He was pleased to see me though.”

To give back to the Red Cross and their community, Joe, 65, and his wife Sandy French, 60, have been volunteering for the Chapter for the past eight years. Sandy retired in 2009 from her role as Deputy Fire Marshal for the City of Santa Clara Fire Department and Joe works part-time from home.

“I donated blood to the Red Cross for many years but had to stop when I was diagnosed with lymphoma. At that point I thought I could really do something else for the Red

Cross and that’s when we started,” Joe recalls.

The couple’s first assignment was helping with an emergency and disaster response for three devastating local fires in 2010. They helped with the disaster assessment, setting up shelters, and driving the mobile feeding vehicle. One of their preferred voluntary roles is delivering meals to those in need.

“We really enjoy driving the mobile feeding vehicle, it’s so rewarding, seeing the joy on people’s faces,” Joe said. “To know that they appreciate our help and they respond to us is unbelievable. We’re physically helping rather than donating money and that feels really good.”

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