By Noreen Walton, American Red Cross volunteer
October 2020’s Volunteer of the Month, Tonya Long from Riverside County, first came to know the American Red Cross in 2018. As she watched the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore from her home, she wanted to help, and rushed to a Red Cross evacuation center, announcing that she wanted to go to work. “I was ready,” she recalls. “I just wanted to do something, anything, to help.” A volunteer took time that day to speak with Tonya about the specific steps she would need to take to become a Red Cross volunteer. “I remember thinking, “This is one organized team!” said Tonya. Intrigued, Tonya headed back home and began her Red Cross training.
After going through training and becoming a Red Cross volunteer, Tonya, a former Marine, worked with the sheltering team and then joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT). Tonya describes DAT as a good fit for her skills. “I drove trucks in the Marines and I love to take care of trucks. I’ve spent a good amount of time washing our Emergency Response Vehicles.” It was during her work with DAT that Tonya found her true Red Cross mission – organizing and inventorying.
Tonya recognizes that organizing materials and completing inventories may not seem particularly exciting, but she knows how important the work is to the success of the Red Cross mission. It is a job that requires time, patience, and above all, attention to detail. “I maintain and update inventories for the warehouse, the Conex boxes, the storage units, the Mass Care trailer and the Sound the Alarm trailer,” Tonya explained. “I organize, inventory, and then take videos of the areas I’ve worked on. That way, if someone calls and needs to find a particular item, I can give them a good idea of where to find it. Sometimes I can get it down to the exact shelf!”
Tonya describes herself as a caregiver, who “hates to see people down and alone.” That is what inspired her to become a volunteer in 2018 and what motivates her day-to-day work with the Red Cross. Recently, Tonya found out just how important the Red Cross is to her own life and happiness. After losing her spouse of 30 years as well as her mother this year, Tonya turned to her Red Cross work to put purpose and meaning back into her life. As she describes it, “The Red Cross is my outlet in life. The warehouse is the one place I can go for quiet and peace.” Doing work she loves for the benefit of others, October Volunteer of the Month Tonya Long exemplifies the very best of the Red Cross.
To learn more about volunteering or to become a Red Cross volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.