During this year’s Northeast Florida Chapter Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition program, the 2017 Kathy Haworth Volunteer Service Award made its inaugural debut. The Award is presented in honor and memory of Kathy, former Regional Volunteer Services Officer, who demonstrated the Red Cross team spirit, compassion, commitment to professional growth, and excellence in performance. The award was created to recognize an outstanding new volunteer, who is in their first 12 months of service, who exemplifies these traits.
Sibyl Jose, the Disaster Workforce Engagement Lead for the Gainesville Service Area, is the proud recipient of this inaugural award, which she received at the June meeting held at the Regional Office.
“Wow! I was so surprised and emotional when I heard my name announced as the recipient because I was wondering who would receive it,” says Sibyl. “I’ve never met Kathy but I’ve heard so much great things about her and wish that I had the chance to work with her.”
The award recognizes Sibyl as being a source of inspiration and a guiding presence for new volunteers, and the Gainesville office where she volunteers almost daily, providing stability and strength during high staff turnovers and the absence of permanent paid staff.
The award also speaks to Sibyl’s versatility, which is a result of her passion to serve and a voracious appetite for Red Cross training, having completed more than 25 courses in less than a year. She gives credit to Red Cross for providing her support and guidance.
“The Red Cross is an extension of my family. I thank everyone who I work with and appreciate all the help they give. I know this recognition would not have been possible without their support. I’ve grown over the past year because my Red Cross family has taken their time to show me things, show me around, give up their office space and allow me the freedom to come into their building.”
“I heard about the Red Cross and saw the name come up in multiple places but I didn’t know exactly what type of work the Red Cross does. I knew that I wanted to learn more about the organization, and when I decided to volunteer, there was no doubt that it would be with the Red Cross. I know I made the right choice to become a part of this organization that does so much for so many.”
Sibyl joined the Red Cross in July 2016 and, in addition to serving as the Disaster Workforce Engagement Lead, she also volunteers for Staff Services, Community Outreach events, Disaster Action Team and is a Pillowcase Project presenter.
Sibyl says no day is the same, “I may be arranging responder support for multiple fires, traveling, and meeting volunteers to serving as the counterpart to the disaster manager and everything in between. What excites me is that every single day is different. There is no better feeling in the world than to help those in need … especially when those in need kindly respond with a thank you. Knowing that you have helped someone … no salary can compensate for this feeling.”
Sibyl emigrated to the U.S. from India shortly after her marriage to Asish Skaria in December 2015. The newlyweds moved to Gainesville in 2016 where Asish, who received his Master’s Degree from the University of Florida, works as a software engineer with a broadcasting company.
With new places come new experiences. Withy Sibyl, one new experience is the Florida climate. “When I first arrived in Gainesville, I could not handle the heat at all, unlike any of the countries I’ve been in the past five years including Dubai, the UK and London. Everyone walks in London!”
Walking is something that Sibyl enjoys because she likes window-shopping and exploring new neighborhoods. “With it being so hot here, I find myself in the mall and other stores that have air condition which makes life much easier. The hot weather is the only reason I would consider leaving this area; otherwise, Gainesville offers the perfect blend for someone who is not a student and wants to settle down with all the benefits of a big city but with a small town feel. If it would only snow here, that would be nice!”
Well, unfortunately for Sibyl, snow is definitely not on the horizon … at least not in Gainesville. But fortunately for Red Cross, Sibyl will continue to volunteer and recruit new volunteers. She intends to enroll in Master’s Degree program, which she says will give her an avenue to recruit volunteers. She currently holds an MBA from the University of Wales, Cardiff, Wales, UK but wants a Master’s Degree in health administration.
“In the UK, I worked with nursing homes and have experience handling health care responsibilities. The Master’s Degree program will not only enhance my skills but will also help me recruit more health care volunteers for the Red Cross while highlighting the awesome work we are doing. The college is a good place to recruit volunteers; in fact, most of the volunteers in my circle are college students.”
Sibyl jokes and adds that the college students keep her “young. I just turned the big 3-0 although I don’t feel 30. Perhaps it’s because I’m surrounded with young college kids who have so much energy! And they want to do good works in the community. I believe feeling young is also about what you think … if you think you’re young, it helps.”
Congratulations Sibyl! We salute you with much thanks and appreciation for your gracious service to the American Red Cross.