By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
When asked to describe the most important part of her work as an American Red Cross volunteer, August 2021 Orange County Volunteer of the Month Alicia Escobedo doesn’t hesitate. “Being prepared,” she replies. “At a moment’s notice, my team and I need to be ready.”
For Alicia, that preparation began decades before she became a Red Cross volunteer in 2018. “I’ve experienced quite a few disasters in my life. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987. The Grand Prix fire in Claremont in 2003. And the Edison workplace shooting in Irwindale in 2011. Things had been taken away from me and my life changed,” says Alicia of these disasters. Alicia describes the moment in late 2017 when she made the decision to turn things around and meet disasters head-on. “Hurricane Harvey pulled me into volunteering for the Red Cross. I was watching TV and decided I couldn’t just stand by and watch. I had to do something.”
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Alicia deployed to Houston, Texas, where she worked delivering emergency supplies to a mobile home park. “Everywhere we stopped, families were asking for blankets and medicine for their children. They needed blankets because the floodwaters had destroyed all their bedding. They needed medicine because their children were coughing from the mold growing in the walls.” Responding to these pressing needs, Alicia experienced a powerful shift in her thinking. “That moment put my own disasters in perspective.”
The change in perspective is what drives Alicia in her work as the Mass Care Chapter Coordinator. “I co-partner with the Operations side. I recruit volunteers for Sheltering, Feeding, Reunification, and DES – Delivery of Emergency Supplies. I do my best to make sure each volunteer is fully prepared and ready to go.” According to Alicia, a critical part of that preparation is keeping up to date with training. “At a moment’s notice, we need to be ready. With Mass Care volunteers, I recommend the “little by little” approach to training. In-person, online. You can do this.”
Fluent in both Spanish and English, Alicia believes that bilingualism “increases trust in a disaster moment.” Her Mass Care team of 100+ volunteers includes Spanish, Vietnamese and Tagalog speakers.
Having experienced the positive changes that volunteering for Red Cross has made in her own life, Alicia is always on the lookout for potential Red Cross volunteers. Her message to them is simple and compelling. “The Red Cross is a great place to network. It’s a great team environment. You can work locally, regionally, even internationally.”
To learn more about volunteer opportunities or to become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.