By Patricia Smith, American Red Cross volunteer
When Jno and Betty Visbal retired from their jobs, they still felt a need to keep busy. Jno was born in Hawaii and Betty in California. When Jno retired from his position with the U. S. Government working with the SR-71 program (a special airplane), as well as serving in the Air Force Reserve as a flight engineer on the C-141, and Betty retired from her work as a home health/hospice nurse, they were recruited to the Red Cross by their friend Jane Mundan, a Red Cross volunteer in San Bernardino. Jno and Betty decided to give it a try. This was the beginning of sixteen years of service with the Red Cross.
In October 2014, they were given the "Volunteers of the Year" award. That same month, Jno had an atrial valve replaced in an open heart surgery, staying in the hospital six weeks. The Visbals thought they would return to Red Cross duties, but could not because of medical reasons. So ended their many good years of serving with other wonderful volunteers who always gave support.
Although the Visbals are now retired from the Red Cross, they treasure their many memories of serving together, near and far. They remember their first deployment to West Virginia for hurricane relief. The first thing Jno did was to find a hometown volunteer. Where they were, there were no street names or house numbers. Just "up that hill, around the corner.” Jno’s hometown volunteer was invaluable.
Betty recalls a deployment to New York, during which she was put on a computer to answer calls. At that time, Betty knew nothing about computers, but because of her determination and knowledge of the Red Cross mission, she managed to get the work done.
On another deployment, Jno and Betty fondly remembered flying to Florida to pick up a brand new Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), which they drove home to their local Red Cross. Jno often drove the ERV to areas impacted by disasters to give out food and other supplies to those in need, while Betty most often worked as a volunteer nurse helping to replace medications and other medical supplies as well as taking care of the personal needs of those affected by disasters.
The Visbals consider themselves privileged because they were able to respond to local disasters and middle-of-the-night calls with each other as Disaster Action Team responders, while also going all over the U.S. together to serve others. They still feel their favorite duty with the Red Cross was whenever they were able to fulfill the needs of disaster clients - together.
When asked if they had any Red Cross heroes, the Visbals remarked, “There were and still are volunteers who warrant the ‘hero’ status. But, without a doubt, we would nominate Patricia Smith as a very special hero. Patricia is a very dedicated, very efficient, and caring person. She knows her job. Also, Ricardo Tomboc, who visited Jno in the hospital while he was recuperating from his heart surgery. Ricardo played his guitar and sang, which was very comforting.”
Needless to say, the Visbals still consider Oahu, Hawaii as their favorite vacation spot to relax. Their hobbies mostly include time with their daughters and their families.
The Visbals remain proud of their many years of volunteer service with the Red Cross, and encourage others to get involved. “The Red Cross is a way of serving your community, state and the nation in giving back. You give by taking care of people hit by disasters. Red Cross workers usually receive more by giving. Advice to anyone interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer: try it, you'll like it.”
To become a Red Cross volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.