By Virginia Becker
As much as Brad Gordon imagined doing volunteer work, for most of his life he simply had no extra time to pursue that dream. Living in Los Gatos, Brad was understandably busy with a family that included two children and work that was defined by a 35-year career at IBM.
But Brad's availability changed in 2010, when he decided to retire. Without the demands of a full-time job and with both of his children now grown, he was suddenly quite free to reconsider his dream of pursuing volunteer work.
In Brad's case, that dream has become a very vivid reality.
A year into retirement, Brad decided to take extensive training to become a volunteer with his local Community Emergency Response Team. He received specific training in basic disaster response skills. By signing on with CERT, Brad agreed to work side-by-side with existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster.
During one of his CERT training sessions, a spokesperson from the American Red Cross came to the session to encourage volunteers like Brad to consider joining that organization. Brad loved the idea of being able to use his CERT skills to help fill the need the Red Cross had for disaster responders. So, Brad soon started taking Red Cross classes.
In September 2016, he was deployed to his first disaster, the Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “I could see the fire from my daughter’s home in Morgan Hill," he says. "I just had to help.” He was assigned to one of the two Red Cross shelters set up for residents affected by that disaster, working as a Shelter Associate.
The very day after the shelter closed down, he was contacted by the Red Cross and was asked to help with Hurricane Matthew on the East Coast. Before he knew it, he was on a plane headed to North Carolina to work as a Shelter Associate. He was there for 15 days in October last year.
By November 2016, he was assisting as a Shelter Associate with the flooding in Gilroy, and three months later, in February of this year, he was deployed to assist with the evacuation caused by the potential breach of the Oroville Dam.
While in Oroville, Brad learned of the floods affecting people near his own community in the Bay Area. So, as soon as he was released from that assignment, Brad hurried to assist with the San Jose floods.
This past July, Brad received some quick training in how to drive a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), preparing him to help at the Mariposa fire this summer as an ERV driver.
A month later, in August, Brad was deployed to Oregon to assist as a Shelter Associate at the Chetco Fire. And in September, he was deployed to Dallas to assist with Hurricane Harvey. In Texas, he served as a Shelter Associate for one week and a Shelter Supervisor for the second week.
As soon as Brad returned home, he was deployed again, this time to assist with the Santa Rosa fires as a Shelter Supervisor. And after that assignment, he took two whole days off before being deployed again, this time as a Shelter Supervisor at the Bear Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
All told, Brad has been on 10 deployments in 13 months, making it seem like a significant understatement to say that he has fully embraced his new life as a volunteer. But if you ask him about his exuberance for his Red Cross work, Brad gives neither a complicated nor nuanced answer: “I love what I do,” he says.
About the author: Virginia Becker has volunteered for the Red Cross for five years. She has deployed numerous times herself as a Shelter Associate and is also a valued member of the Public Affairs team.