For Howard Yancey, helping those in need across the nation by volunteering for the American Red Cross is not only a means to give back through an organization that once helped his own family – it's a way to learn valuable skills he can bring back to his community.
Howard first became aware of the Red Cross during the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Howard had relatives who lived in Louisiana, and he heard about all the good work the Red Cross was doing in the area, setting up shelters and providing food, water, and clothing to those affected.
When he retired in 2011, Howard decided to join the Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter as a way to help others in need, in the same way the Red Cross had helped his family in Louisiana.
“I’ve had a pretty good life,” said Howard. “I’ve been pretty lucky. I’d like to give back.”
Since he joined, Howard has left home eight times to help in the relief efforts of major disasters, including both Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012.
Last July, Howard went to Arizona following the destructive fires, which tragically took the lives of 19 firefighters and left dozens of families without homes. There he worked at Red Cross shelters providing food, blankets, and other supplies to those affected. Howard found that during his service that, beyond the essential goods the Red Cross gives during a disaster, the emotional support he can provide is just as important.
“Sometimes they just need someone who’ll listen to them,” said Howard, who also deployed in this past September to assist those affected by flooding in Colorado.
In addition to the rewarding experience of giving back, Howard also appreciates the opportunities the Red Cross provides to build a community.
“When I retired, I lost my social network,” said Howard. The Red Cross subsequently proved a wonderful way to meet people who shared his values. “You’re with people who care about other people, and those are good people to be around.”
Howard also sees the Red Cross a means to learn useful skills he can bring home. “One reason I go on deployment is to learn, to bring these skills back to our region,” said Howard. “I want to take care of my community.”