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Volunteer Spotlight: Nicholas Reis, The Consummate Juggler

"Nicholas gave me that peace of mind, which was most important."

Master juggler describes Nicholas perfectly. His secret?  He focuses on goals, demonstrates initiative, develops leadership skills, and commits to the task—all bolstered by family support, time management, and abundant energy. 

Nicholas’ resolve to achieve goals can be traced as far back to age sixteen, when he completed the St. Petersburg College program for Emergency Medical Responder. And at eighteen he passed his test to become a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Responder.  Proudly including those designatory letters after his name, he has administered first aid at local events for the Pinellas County Medical Reserve Corps.  

Although volunteering as an Emergency Medical Responder is critical to realizing his career goals, Nick always chooses the Red Cross first if both organizations compete for his time. “The Red Cross is my first commitment.  I am on call 24/7.”

Many Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough County first responders; Red Cross personnel; and local Medical Reserve Corps volunteers know Nick both as the Disaster Action Team (DAT) lead for Central Florida and as an Emergency Medical Responder.  Exploiting boundless energy, Nicholas, the diligent student, is also completing an associate’s degree in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) so he can realize his lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter/paramedic.

Having passed his prerequisite general education courses at the college, Nick is waiting to be accepted to the EMS Program.  In his free time, he continues to practice his juggling by honing his initiative.  In addition to his DAT responsibilities, Nick has been helping Mike Nolan, a volunteer Transportation lead at the Tampa office:   

“Nick has been inspecting our vehicles in the St. Pete and Clearwater offices.  If necessary, he’ll take the vehicles to the specific repair shop.  He’s eager to take on these tasks, ensuring that our vehicles are in working condition.  We went over trailer operations recently, including hookup and maneuvering the trailer.  An incredibly fast learner, he would be able to deploy that vehicle if needed.” 

Mature beyond his twenty years, Nick sees saving lives as tantamount to his current and lifelong mission—a mission that aligns with that of the American Red Cross of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies.  This commitment is indeed indelible for him:  After his signature in emails, he writes Servare Vitas, which means to save lives. 

Duane Steiner, Disaster Program Specialist and Nick’s immediate supervisor, highlights this twenty-year-old’s leadership style:  “Wearing many hats, Nick most definitely is not a lone ranger as he equips, teaches, and trains a team.  He minimizes people’s weaknesses while encouraging them to capitalize on their strengths.  He’s also introspective, acknowledging and addressing his shortcomings.”

In alluding to Nick’s age, Duane says, “. . . his maturity astounds me, and his caring and compassionate heart is evident.   He is passionate, personable, teachable, and trustworthy.”

Since joining the ranks of the Red Cross in October 2015 as a DAT trainee, Nick has been promoted to DAT lead—an achievement that speaks volumes about both his initiative and leadership. 

Before joining, Nick was in the National Guard.  But an injury sidelined him from completing his military service.  Reluctant to talk about the incident, he explained that “. . . I failed to fulfill my commitment.”  Those few words amplify his dedication to any task undertaken. 

Nick felt that he had too much free time on his hands while just attending college.  He wanted to make more of a difference, so he applied to the Red Cross as a volunteer.  “The Red Cross’ wide reach in disaster relief and its mission could help fulfill my desire to support my community while facilitating my eventual goal as a firefighter/paramedic with the Lealman Fire District, Pinellas Park Fire Department, or St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue.  My long-term aspiration is to become a lieutenant—and so much more.” 

Disaster relief encompasses many tasks, all of which Nick performs exceptionally. Having juggled extra responsibilities, Nick was instrumental in building a partnership with the Largo, Florida Fire Department. As a team captain, he assisted with the Home Fire Campaign, visiting at-risk neighborhoods for home fires, supporting smoke-alarm installations, and providing fire safety education material where needed.  And most recently he was assigned to the local Disaster Relief Operation as a Service Associate in Disaster Assessment, where he determines the type and extent of damage.

Nick downplays the range of tasks he’s been involved in by saying, “Those are the assignments I've had thus far, but whenever something needs to be done, I'm always ready.”

Nicholas’ proficiency at juggling was recently tested during Tropical Storm Colin.  Exploiting 16-hour days, first in Pasco and then in Pinellas counties, he and his team, comprising Cassidy Nealis, Dave Smith, and John Veneziano worked tirelessly.  Personifying the Red Cross mission, they set up, inspected, and oversaw shelters in community centers for evacuated residents, especially from mobile home parks, such as Mariner’s Cove. They distributed food and fed clients, provided comfort kits for personal hygiene and other items such as pillows, bug spray, and other materials, many of which are donated by IKEA. The team assessed damages at mobile home parks—road by road and home by home, sometimes returning to target homes that might have been missed during the initial assessment.  

Nick is indebted to his team and understates his critical role.  Referring to the havoc wrought by the tropical storm, Nick says, “The DAT that responded is a fantastic team.  I’m grateful and honored to know some of the most motivated, unselfish individuals.”

Even more illuminating about Nick’s character is a client’s comment during a recent Dunedin apartment complex fire:  “He (Nick) personally responded to my medical condition  . . .  I thought I was going into shock.  The ambulance arrived and the EMTs checked my lungs, which were clear.  Nicholas gave me that peace of mind, which was most important.” – Elizabeth Wooten

Nick’s opinions about the tenants also reflect his values.  “What was so bizarre about this call is that even though the residents were faced with uncertainty for the future, every single one of them was supporting each other. You could see the spirit of America there.  Even though we were there to help them, they were trying to help us.  It was truly remarkable.”

Nicholas is a devoted family member, whose relatives have influenced his career path and decision to volunteer.  Born into a family of military personnel, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and healthcare providers “. . . have molded me into the man I am today. We would all give the shirts off our back for someone in need.  And we, in fact, do—just about every day.”

Family financial assistance and moral support have enabled Nicholas to realize his goals.  A role model for others, Nick downplays how he’s indispensable to the Red Cross by saying:  “These amazing men and women I volunteer with are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for our fellow Americans, neighbors, friends, family when their nightmares are made real.  The volunteers from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties make a difference in our clients’ recovery.” 

Predictably, Nick doesn’t have much free time.  But with the little he has, he spends with family and Red Cross colleagues, whom he considers his extended family.  Given his crowded days and evenings, it’s ironic that he recommends volunteering for the Red Cross in your free time.

Eventually Nick will replace his NREMR notation with that of NREMT (Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician) and then NRP (National Registered Paramedic), which will also enable him to provide health services for the Red Cross.


But now, NREMR defines Nick perfectly:  Noteworthy citizen, Resolute goal setter, Exceptional leader, Master juggler, and Red Cross advocate and volunteer.