By Betsy Senescu, American Red Cross volunteer
When California State Assemblymember Dr. Steven Choi presented the American Red Cross of Orange County the 68th Assembly District's 2021 Nonprofit of the Year Award, he revealed how the vital work of the Red Cross had recently hit close to home.
Dr. Choi, who represents the 68th Assembly District, noted, “I had to evacuate my house last year when a wildfire in Irvine threatened the Orchard Hills area where I live. I had to evacuate for three days and I would have been under your care; It would have been me in one of the shelters,” he acknowledged, if not for a daughter living nearby. “Every time we run into disaster, the first organization that pops up is the Red Cross.”
Dr. Choi was on-site at the Red Cross of Orange County headquarters in Santa Ana on November 4 to present this prestigious annual award to Becky Firey, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Orange County, and Board Chair Ashwin Rangan, as a group of Red Cross staff, board members and volunteers watched. The awards were established six years ago to recognize how critical nonprofit organizations are, working on the frontlines to keep communities safe and thriving.
“After the year and a half we’ve had, this recognition is even more meaningful. Thank you for this huge honor!” Firey declared. “Our mission continues every day, and you can rest assured we will always be there to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.”
As Dr. Choi presented the resolution, he continued, “I am happy to take the opportunity to recognize the Red Cross. When I tried to think about a nonprofit organization that does more for the community than the Red Cross, I could not think of any. You are there with shelter, food and whatever basic needs are, in a disaster. You are out there with the blood drives, supplies and donations. Whether in terms of an emergency or day-to-day life, always the Red Cross is there. You certainly deserve this honor.”
While the presence of the Red Cross is most visible during times of major disaster, Firey pointed out that more than 90 percent of Red Cross responses each year involve household fires and multi-family unit fires — and those incidents have recently been on the rise. Red Cross volunteers coordinate with local police and fire departments to be on the scene and provide those people with immediate relief, including temporary shelter, food, water, hygiene items and emotional support. The Red Cross also has a strong focus on fire safety and preparedness.
“We are proud to do what we have been given the opportunity to do and honored that you have recognized it with this unexpected honor,” added Red Cross of Orange County Board Chair Ashwin Rangan. “As Chair of the Board I have the easiest job; it’s our volunteers and first responders who jump up to help when there are problems. And we never step back: our entire mission is about being available when there is the most dire need. We appreciate that you have recognized the nature of the work the Red Cross is doing, and the fact that we’re always there.”
The Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that mobilizes the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors to provide help and relief to all persons in need. You can support the local Red Cross mission by becoming a Red Cross volunteer. For more information, visit redcross.org/volunteer.
Photos of the award presentation can be viewed at the Red Cross Southern California Region flickr album.