One would think that retirement would mean relaxation and an end to service, but that is not the case for long-time volunteer and Disaster Program Manager Rick Paul. After 51 years of service, Paul is finally retiring, but he doesn’t see that as an end to his involvement with the American Red Cross New Jersey Region.
“I initially plan to just sit and relax for a short time,” says Paul, “but then I want to get back into volunteering for the Home Fire Campaign.”
The American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is a national effort that aims to reduce the number of home fire-related injuries and fatalities by working with volunteers and community partners to install free smoke alarms in homes that need them and educate families about fire safety.
Paul says he is also considering volunteering with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, which helps military members, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service.
Paul began his service in 1965 as a volunteer water safety instructor. Just one year earlier, Paul met his wife, Ruth Ann, at a Red Cross Senior Lifesaving course, sparking a life-long commitment of performing community service together. The two began volunteering, teaching swimming, CPR and First Aid.
“My wife and I enjoyed the water and sharing this enjoyment with children and adults,” says Paul. “We moved on to become instructor trainers, and this is something we are still involved with today.” Ruth Ann still teaches First Aid, CPR and AED to this day.
Before becoming a full-time Red Cross employee, Paul spent 37 years as a buyer for Atlantic Refining, handling the purchasing of service station equipment. During this time, he was also a part-time Red Cross employee as a volunteer coordinator for the Camden County area. Once the disaster program manager position opened, Paul made the transition to being a full-time Red Cross employee.
Disaster program managers are an integral part of the Red Cross team, coordinating volunteer disaster responders to help people following a home fire and other disasters. Paul, like other disaster program managers, was responsible for overseeing preparedness, response and recovery efforts.
Last year, in New Jersey the Red Cross responded to 889 local disasters, mostly home fires, and provided emergency assistance to more than 1,820 families. Disaster response is made possible thanks to the donation of time by dedicated Red Cross volunteers and the generosity of the American public.
Throughout his 51 years of service, Paul finds it hard to distinguish between the countless disasters and families he helped along the way.
“All local disasters left a mark on me due to being able to assist people at a difficult point of their lives through the American Red Cross,” said Paul.
He fondly remembers how Red Cross regions from all over the country would pull together to support each other during large disasters. He recalled how many people in New Jersey came forward to be trained to deploy to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina and how a few short years later volunteers from across the country would return the favor when the Garden State was struck by Superstorm Sandy.
The Camden area volunteers Paul trained were among the hundreds from New Jersey who headed to the Gulf Coast for two to three weeks at a time to help families devastated by the storm.
While his volunteers served down south, Paul played a key role in assisting the families impacted by Hurricane Katrina who relocated to New Jersey, many of whom traveled to the Camden area to be close to friends and family living there. Paul and his team of disaster volunteers in New Jersey met with families to provide emergency assistance and help them get back on their feet.
He was moved to see that same humanitarianism come to New Jersey to help people after Superstorm Sandy made landfall.
“I feel the most rewarding part of my work at the Red Cross was the ability to assist affected families get back on their feet after a disaster, such as a house fire, flood, or storm,” said Paul. “This was all thanks to our generous donors.”
Paul has more than earned his retirement after five decades of work with the Red Cross. Though relaxation is the plan at first, he looks forward to returning to volunteering and doing something he loves. Paul has four children and four grandchildren to keep him busy, along with an upcoming 50th wedding anniversary to celebrate this September.
We congratulate Rick Paul on his retirement and commend his amazing career with the Red Cross. His generosity and selflessness has helped countless individuals across all of Camden and Burlington counties and we wish him luck in his future endeavors.
BECOME A VOLUNTEER Every single day, the American Red Cross helps people in emergencies. It is through the time and care of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things. The Red Cross is always looking for people with various backgrounds, talents and skill levels. For more information or find a volunteer orientation near you, visit redcross.org/NJ.
By Bob Fisher, Red Cross volunteer