By Kati Cowan, American Red Cross Volunteer
Pete Kriz is not only a perfect fit for the American Red Cross, the Red Cross is a perfect fit for Pete Kriz; and, it’s a family affair.
Pete’s wife Sharon Sveningson is the Red Cross Feeding Team lead volunteer at the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties. As a father of five grown children, with several grandchildren, Pete did not want to be idle in his retirement. He was eager to volunteer. But where? He was looking for a place that would allow him to use skills and experience acquired over many years as Director of Operations of a large company and would still give him time to travel.
“I like the flexibility,” Pete said as he was boarding a plane and coming back from a vacation in Hawaii. “When I checked out other volunteer organizations, they wanted a time commitment. But with the Red Cross I could volunteer two, three weeks at a time. It was much more flexible than other volunteer opportunities.”
When Pete is on the job, he works with endless energy and enthusiasm, donating about 20 hours a week in various areas.
“The Red Cross is a much bigger operation than I thought,” he said. “Everyone knows about the blood drives and hurricane relief and I did not realize that there were so many opportunities in different areas. It is almost overwhelming the number of things to do, depending on your skill set, that can be valuable.” Versatile and adept at what he does, Pete is, in his words, “a volunteer all over the map.”
First and foremost, he is fired up about home fire safety. He installs smoke alarms and helps organize near-monthly Sound the Alarm smoke alarm installation and home fire safety events. He also teaches youth in grades 3-5 about disaster preparedness through The Pillowcase Project and helps train new presenters to continue the program’s successes and educate more kids. As a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Lead, Pete is one of the first people called to respond to a home fire.
Pete finds it rewarding to help people during times of greatest need - as he puts it, “to be there for them especially where the entire house is destroyed and they do not have insurance; to be there to help them through the first few hours and give them support when they need it.”
Exhibiting tremendous drive and energy, Pete qualified as a DAT Lead in a mere three months – one of the quickest qualifications in the past four years! This is especially impactful because he is now able to cover shifts for his fellow team leads. Pete is one of only two DAT Leads who have voluntarily signed up for and covered shifts in both North and South San Diego County – a tremendous mission boost to the regional DAT capability.
But he does not stop there. Pete is incredibly friendly, professional and always willing to lend a hand and offer guidance to others. He’s extremely talented at recognizing issues and coming up with solutions to ensure a better process.
Volunteer work makes him feel useful and accomplished.
“At the end of the day, I installed alarms in ten homes or I went to a classroom and taught kids in grades 3 - 5 about fire safety. It is solid and verifiable,” he said. “I made a difference.”
Overall, Pete sees himself as an educator and hopes that his daily contributions to the Red Cross and to his family and community will make the world a better place. He is paying it forward.
“People should help others,” he said. “If people do that then the world would be a better place. The Red Cross is there to respond immediately to alleviate pain and suffering and that is a good thing you can offer someone in need. Someday the person in need may be you.”
With all that he has done, coupled with his inspiring outlook, it is no wonder that he was chosen as the July 2019 Volunteer of the Month. Truly, he is a perfect fit and according to Pete, the Red Cross is not only a perfect fit for him but it can be for anyone wishing to volunteer.
“Regardless of your skill set there is something there for you, you can be sure of that,” he said. “So you can be comfortable volunteering and the time spent is well worth it.”
To learn more about how to become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.