April thirteenth kicks off Volunteer Appreciation Week and the Massachusetts Region is especially thankful this year for the outstanding people that work with us to further the mission of the American Red Cross. What many don’t realize is that while we are most well-known for our disaster work there are lots of other ways volunteers help us too. In fact, about 95 percent of the Red Cross’ entire workforce is made up of volunteers.
“It is such an honor to work with such a talented and professional volunteer workforce. Red Cross volunteers are deeply committed to the mission of care and compassion and they are not only an amazing force for good: they change the world for the better by their selflessness and sacrifice. We are so, so grateful,” said Robert Bowers, Regional Volunteer Services Officer.
2015 is shaping up to be a banner year for volunteers in Massachusetts. The record breaking snow this winter made what is typically the “busy season” even more challenging. For Blizzard Juno the Red Cross opened or supported 16 shelters and worked with state and local partners to coordinate the recovery from the storm. Over 100 volunteers across the state were in action or standing by to take shifts in communities around the state.
The Blizzard was just the beginning and in the following weeks, Disaster Action Team volunteers continued to be deployed and on-call 24/7 the next several weeks as snow storms continued to hit the state. Teams were on call to work in a variety of different locations, from shelters to the field as well as continuing to assess the need of the communities. They were providing food and drinks for the members of the military and state workers charged with snow removal; they were available in the case more shelters needed to be opened; and they were stocking Emergency Response Vehicles with supplies.
While snow was one factor the Red Cross in Massachusetts was also responding to a large number of fires and roof collapses as well. One week this winter volunteer teams responded to 27 fires in one week or four a day. Now that’s dedication. All told volunteers responded to 132 incidents in January and February 2015, aiding over 1,000 clients, which are some of the largest numbers on record.
But disaster response is only one part of our volunteer story.
In a few weeks 350 volunteers will staff 22 of the 26 medical stations for the 2015 Boston Marathon. Also led by volunteers, this is a very important role and the Red Cross has worked extensively with the Boston Athletic Association to create a system that supports race organizers and runners in the best way possible. There is also a team of 52 volunteers running the Boston Marathon as part of Team Red Cross this year and raising funds to support our mission.
Our Food Pantry has already welcomed thousands of volunteers this year who work directly with the communities we serve. Our Services to Armed Forces and International volunteers have assisted in helping over 200 military members and their families this year
There are 904 volunteers who care directly for people by donating blood, helping schedule people to give and driving blood products to labs and storage. There are 97 volunteers who are instructors in Health and Safety and teach important skills like CPR and babysitting.
The Red Cross is also extremely fortunate to have dedicated members of our Regional and Community Boards. These skilled professionals and community leaders give of their time selflessly to further our mission and we benefit so greatly from their expertise and commitment. The members of The Tiffany Circle in Massachusetts, a group of women philanthropists and volunteers are also engaged on a number of initiatives to support the Red Cross, including working in our Food Pantries, hosting events, captaining our Marathon team and a many other activities.
The Red Cross will also be relying heavily on volunteers as we roll out the Home Fire Campaign across Massachusetts. The Home Fire Campaign is aimed at reducing home fires by 25 percent in the next 5 years. Seven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire and that number is just simply too high. The campaign’s main objective is to install smoke detectors in homes around the state, at the same time educating people about how to prevent home fires and keep their families safe. This initiative will save lives and homes around the country and we are so excited to have our volunteers lead the way.
Red Cross volunteers deserve so much credit for what they have accomplished this year already and what they will continue to accomplish as the year goes on. The regional staff is so appreciative of their dedication and effort and look forward to continuing to support the team.