Jarrett Tomas Barrios has always believed in public service and used his voice to make a difference. Since his high school days with the American Red Cross Club in Tampa to his current role as Chief Executive Officer of the Eastern Massachusetts region, Barrios has had a connection with the American Red Cross and its mission.
The grandson of Cuban immigrants, Barrios always looked for opportunities to serve others. “Giving back is an obligation,” said Barrios. “Can I be any luckier that I’m with an organization whose mission is to help others?”
Over the years, Barrios witnessed and participated in many events and disaster operations with the Red Cross. He promoted the mission in high school, provided comfort to the grieving families after 9/11, was presented with the Clara Barton Award from the Massachusetts Bay Chapter for a bill he authored and passed in the state legislature to help Red Cross volunteers continue helping without depleting their vacation hours. He later joined the board of directors and accepted the position of Regional CEO of the Eastern Massachusetts region in 2011. But the bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 was the most intense event that affected Barrios on a professional and personal level.
For months, Barrios and other members of Team Red Cross prepared to run the 26.2 miles to raise funds and public awareness for Red Cross. Training for the marathon was long and arduous. “It was the most taxing thing I’ve ever done but I learned that I can do it and that the mind can really conquer the body.” Barrios was about to reach the highly coveted finish line when he was abruptly stopped.
There was confusion and chaos. No one knew what was going on. Then the word “bomb” started circulating among the runners. The only thing on his mind at that moment was his son. He had to get in touch with his son who was supposed to be waiting for him by the finish line. A fellow Bostonian let Barrios borrow his phone to make the call. Thankfully his son was out of harm’s way. Barrios then switched hats and walked to the Red Cross headquarters to oversee the relief operation.
“In the midst of heartbreak, I walked into the Red Cross disaster operation center and saw our mission already in action,” recalled Barrios. Dozens of volunteers were already extending a helping hand by delivering food and blankets to runners.
The relief operation took weeks. Looking back, Barrios is proud of his community and his Red Cross. This event was staffed primarily by volunteers. During that time there was a spirit of camaraderie in New England as regions in New Hampshire and Connecticut reached out and helped with volunteers and 35 emergency response vehicles. Barrios was especially touched by the disaster mental health volunteers. “The mental health volunteers had more than 4,000 conversations with people not only from Boston but from across the country. They helped a bruised city heal.”
In addition to his passion for humanitarian work, Barrios is highly involved in several causes to support issues facing Latinos.
“I am so proud of the work of the Red Cross and the founding principles of Henri Dunant. It’s about Universality. Hope. Impartiality. That is how we deliver our services,” explains Barrios. “Latinos are one of the populations hardest hit by disasters such as fires and hurricanes. Latinos get caught up in where you are born, your residential status, the color of your skin. The American Red Cross proudly serves everyone.
“Now is the perfect time to learn more about the American Red Cross and get involved. Our volunteers and workforce should reflect the people we serve so I encourage Latinos to reach out to their friends, family members and faith communities and join the Red Cross.”
Prior to joining the American Red Cross as CEO, he served four years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and five years as a State Senator chairing the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee and the Vice Chair of the Health Care Committee. Barrios is a graduate of Harvard College and Georgetown Law, and practiced law at Hill & Barlow.
Barrios and his adopted sons Javier, 21 and Nathaniel, 11, reside in Boston. In addition to being a highly respected Red Cross leader, Barrios is known for making the best flan de coco.