By Mimi Teller
When Ray Cano isn’t towing stranded cars, he’s toeing the line as an American Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer, providing spiritual and emotional support to individuals and families whose lives have been upended by disaster. In addition to owning a towing company, Ray serves as an army reserve chaplain and provides four monthly church sermons in both Spanish and English near his home in the Coachella Valley.
Joining the Red Cross in 2021 seemed only natural for Ray when he learned from his brother, a Red Cross volunteer in Orange County, that the organization needed professional faith leaders — imams, pastors, rabbis and anyone recognized by a spiritual organization, to support local and national disasters as a spiritual care volunteer. These uniquely trained and skilled volunteers guide people affected by disaster to use the values and traditions of their personal beliefs towards their healing and recovery.
“People can feel very confused following a disaster” Ray shared, “I find many people want to talk to someone about how their faith and spirituality can serve them in their situation and how a greater power is working in these moments. I point to the blessings of the fire department and the Red Cross, and how immediate needs such as food and shelter are being provided; that divinity will be present throughout.”
Ray has learned to measure people’s emotions by the words they use and the verbal pictures they paint: What they see and smell, their concerns and desperations or even their hope. When people magnify their loss Ray urges them to look at what remains and empowers them to have faith that they have what it takes to make it through to better days.
“Before I joined the Red Cross, I didn’t realize how well the organization was structured and how fully the volunteers trained. As a volunteer I’m a valuable member of a hard-working team dedicated to service. In addition to faith, I am never the only support present for people during their difficult times.”