By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
Jane Scanlon, July 2021 Volunteer of the Month for San Diego and Imperial Counties, proudly describes herself as a “professional volunteer.” In her 25 years as a military spouse, and an active member of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS), Jane learned how to adapt to new postings, respond to new situations, and provide the best services possible to the families on the bases where she and her husband were stationed. “I learned how to coordinate volunteer workers at thrift shops, to support families in times of need, to host military balls. You name it, NMCRS volunteers do it.”
When her husband retired from the military, Jane went in search of a new volunteer opportunity. The American Red Cross provided a perfect fit for her skills. “No matter where my husband and I were stationed, I always worked to create a welcoming atmosphere.” As a Regional Sheltering Program volunteer, and now, as the Sheltering Program’s Lead, Jane and her fellow volunteers are dedicated to creating welcoming, supportive environments for people in need.
Jane recalls the power of “a welcoming, supportive environment” during the August-September 2020 Santa Cruz wildfires. The Red Cross congregate shelter was filled to capacity by mid-August. In an effort to provide more private quarters, individuals and families were offered the opportunity to move to non-congregate shelters in San Jose. All of them decided to stay with their neighbors. As Jane recalls, “A strong community grew together in that shelter. People who didn’t know each other before the fires were committed to staying together, to supporting each other. When the fire was brought under control and the roads finally opened, they asked to go as a group to each other’s homes to assess the damage and discuss next steps."
Forming a community in the midst of challenges can take many forms. Jane believes that a new, more connected Red Cross volunteer community has grown out of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our team was holding its Shelter Supervisor Boot Camp when everything at Red Cross suddenly closed down. We had to move to online training to complete the Boot Camp, and in doing so we acquired new skills.” Jane notes with pride that when the team hosted a Boot Camp in Murrieta on June 5, they were prepared for in-person and virtual learners and recorded the entire Boot Camp so that it could be viewed at a later time.
Jane’s secret to volunteer success is simple, “You have to be very dynamic and roll with whatever is happening in the moment.”
To learn more about volunteer opportunities or to become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.