By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
December Volunteer of the Month DiAun Burns’ first encounter with the American Red Cross came during an emotional exchange in 2006, with firefighters who had just put out a fire in her home. “I kept telling the firefighters, ‘I can stay here. I want to stay in my home,’” DiAun recalls. “That’s when they introduced me to Red Cross volunteers. The Red Cross convinced me I needed to move to other premises. They set me up in a hotel and recommended I contact my insurance company immediately.”
That compassionate, level-headed approach stuck with DiAun and showed her that the Red Cross was a good fit for her volunteer skills. Since joining the Orange County Chapter in 2017, DiAun has taken on several assignments, including serving as the Recovery Coordinator in Orange County in 2020. She also undertook two additional leadership roles this year, serving as a Shelter Site Manager as well as a Supervisor of the Client Lodging Coordination Team during large wildfire responses. Just as the Red Cross reached out to assist and guide DiAun back in 2006, she now makes sure that every client she and her team work with receives timely and coordinated support. “My day-to-day work is focused on the recovery process,” she explains. “I contact clients after a disaster happens, help them formulate a recovery plan, and make sure they are headed in the right direction.”
Like so many Red Cross workers, the way DiAun does her work has changed significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This year has been huge. Life is very different and Red Cross has had to adapt. Most of my work right now is done from home. But we are getting the work done.”
When asked to recall a “Red Cross moment” that stands out in her mind, DiAun responds, “I was out on Disaster Recovery for a flood. I was doing the usual casework. Going to people’s homes, opening cases, gathering information. As we worked our way through the details with one woman, I told her that Red Cross would provide her with funds to help with her recovery process. She jumped out of her chair and hugged me!”
DiAun cherishes the feeling of being able to make a positive difference in another person’s life. “I get that feeling with Red Cross. Everything I do is appreciated. Appreciated by clients, by the staff, and by my fellow volunteers.” Her message to potential Red Cross volunteers is equally passionate. “The Red Cross needs you. You have an interest and a skill that is unique to you. You have something special.”
For more information about volunteering with the Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.