By Laura Warfel
“If you want to support your community and our country, the American Red Cross is a great organization to partner with,” says John Hardin, volunteer with the Greater Arkansas Chapter.
John first heard about the Red Cross when he was serving with the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed on Guam in Micronesia. One of the members of his unit had an emergency back home. John worked with the Red Cross to help him get in touch with his family. He was impressed by the efficiency and compassion of the volunteers.
Fourteen years later in July 2020, John saw a news story about Red Cross volunteers serving Gulf Coast residents during disasters. A commercial asking for volunteers came on the screen and struck a chord with him. “I began researching the organization with the idea of becoming a volunteer,” he says. “My first idea was to deploy to disaster sites and help survivors. But the best fit for me as a volunteer turned out to be close to home.”
After completing his initial volunteer training online in August, he became the operations and fleet volunteer for the Greater Arkansas Chapter. “I spent 20 years in the Coast Guard, doing maintenance and repair for much of that time,” he says. “Now I am using those skills to serve others through the Red Cross.” Currently, he takes care of vehicles, helps maintain the physical condition of the office and building, and even helps transport volunteers when needed.
Phyllis Vanderbilt, business operations specialist, and Bruce Naes, regional fleet coordinator, continue to be important in helping John feel welcome and useful. “Because of the pandemic, we are figuring out a lot of things as we go along,” John says. “I’m enjoying those challenges.”
John still lives the Coast Guard motto in his work as a Red Cross volunteer: Semper Paratus, “Always Ready.” During his first week as a volunteer, he got a call at 5 p.m. to pick up a volunteer who was stranded at the Little Rock airport and take him home to Hot Springs. He located a Red Cross vehicle, made the drive, made a new friend and arrived home at 11 p.m.
To those considering volunteering with the Red Cross, John says,