By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
March’s Volunteer of the Month, Cherish Vaught, brings years of personal and professional experience to her role as the Regional Reunification Lead for the Disaster Services team. “I come from a healthcare background,” Cherish explains. “I have experience in emergency medicine and am used to dealing with people in high-stress situations.”
Cherish became an American Red Cross volunteer in 2014. Since then, she has volunteered with the Health Services team, the Development team and multiple Disaster Services activities, including Logistics, Technology and as a disaster responder.
In her current assignment as Reunification Lead, Cherish works with a group of Red Cross volunteers who are dedicated to relieving the intense stress that can come with being separated from family and loved ones during a disaster. According to Cherish, “Our work can be as simple as providing someone with a cellphone. Or it can be very complex, conducting searches and contacting area hospitals to find a missing person.”
As she describes her work, Cherish is quick to give credit to her team members and to Red Cross staff. “I absolutely love the support and guidance I receive from the staff and from the volunteers. It really is never-ending.” This never-ending support has encouraged Cherish to take on additional responsibilities, including working closely with law enforcement agencies and the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services.
She recalls an “aha moment” when she was tasked with reporting to a County of San Diego working group on the Red Cross Safe and Well database. “Here I was with these major stakeholders. They were depending on me to educate them, to help them understand the importance of what we at the Red Cross know and do.” While nervous, Cherish knew she was ready for this moment and gave an informative presentation. “I knew how to do this. I had developed my program at Red Cross from the ground up and received such good feedback from the staff along the way.”
The Safe and Well website (redcross.org/safeandwell) facilitates communication from inside a disaster-affected area to outside the affected area, helping people notify loved ones of their well-being, as well as reuniting separated family members within the disaster area. The site is available in English and Spanish and has two main functions – a self-registration function that allows people to list themselves as “Safe and Well” and a search function so that loved ones anywhere can search for messages from those who have self-registered. Registration information may be provided to other organizations to locate missing persons, help reunite loved ones, or provide other disaster relief services.
Cherish Vaught believes in the opportunities and support that Red Cross offers its volunteers. Her advice to current and potential volunteers: “Be engaged. Become familiar with as many programs and processes as you can. This will open the door to new opportunities.” Cherish is an outstanding example of that philosophy.
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.