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Paying it Forward

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What I went through brings a whole new level of understanding and empathy.

Katey Walsh has been involved with the American Red Cross off and on for the past 15 years – as both an employee and a volunteer. She’s been deployed all over the country doing all she can to help those affected by home fires and various acts of Mother Nature and is currently in Baton Rouge serving in an External Relations role working with Red Cross partners. 

This deployment, however, is her first since 2014 – the year Katey suffered her own personal disaster. Katey’s New York City apartment caught fire on July 4, 2014. It was a complete loss. She was very familiar with the Red Cross and the help the organization offered, but this time she got to see the other side of the services that she found herself desperately needing. 

“The customer service I got from the Red Cross, across the board, and the compassion I got was amazing,” Katey said. “They offered me temporary housing, referrals to city agencies, documentation I needed to get prescriptions filled, and a letter I needed so I could take a shower at a local gym.”

That attention gave Katey a new perspective on what Red Cross volunteers do—something she has seen more evident that ever during her time on the ground in Baton Rouge, helping those who have been displaced by the recent catastrophic flooding. 

“What I went through brings a whole new level of understanding and empathy,” Katey said. “This is my first Red Cross deployment since my fire, and seeing and working with clients is just very humbling. There are people here who needed to help and I knew I could help them. That’s why I didn’t hesitate when given the opportunity to deploy.

“I wanted to be able to give back, to pay it forward, and be someone who gives the kind of compassion and support like the support I received back at my chapter when I had my fire. You may have all the training and classes and think you are empathetic, but until you’ve lost everything … Now, I really get it. I get it on so many more levels.”