By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
Janella Cantu-Myricks, January 2023 Volunteer of the Month, began her training to become an American Red Cross volunteer at a very early age. As a young girl, she accompanied her grandmother to various volunteer opportunities. “My grandmother had somewhere to go, somewhere she was needed, just about every day of the week,” Janella recalls. “Collecting coins for the March of Dimes or working at the Travelers Aid Society. I grew up wanting to carry on my grandmother’s legacy of volunteerism.”
Fulfilling her promise to honor her grandmother’s legacy would have to wait until 2015, when Janella retired from her position as principal of Etiwanda Intermediate School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She recalls the moment when she decided the Red Cross would be the perfect organization for her. “I was watching television and a commercial for the Red Cross came on. They needed volunteers. I got up, went online to redcross.org, completed the application, and my volunteer career began.”
Janella’s experiences as an educator prepared her well for the work she currently does for the Red Cross as disaster workforce engagement lead. “Onboarding new volunteers is very similar to the work I used to do with new teachers,” said Janella. “You want to be sure you match the person’s skills with specific jobs, so that each person feels they are doing meaningful work.” She also emphasizes the importance of teamwork in education and in volunteering with the Red Cross. “I went into education to help students learn and to support them. With the Red Cross, it’s about helping people in need. You are here to support others. Every day you work with the Red Cross, the work you do is critical.”
When asked to identify the best thing about volunteering for the Red Cross, Janella is quick to respond. “The other volunteers. I’ve met and worked with some phenomenal people!” Janella does her very best to make sure that every volunteer feels valued and useful “so that we can provide the best care possible for our clients.”
Janella Cantu-Myricks’ message to potential Red Cross volunteers is powerful and inspiring. “The Red Cross is always there – whether our work is visible or not. Hurricanes, the Red Cross is there. Mass casualty events, the Red Cross is there. Home fires and wildfires, the Red Cross is there,” said Janella. “If you can’t donate time right now, donate blood or donate money. Become a part of the Red Cross.”
Her grandmother would certainly be proud.