By Steven Gregory, American Red Cross volunteer
Brenda Bridges is an Operations Management Generalist and Mass Care Lead for the American Red Cross Southern California Region. Brenda is delightful and has a wealth of experience in volunteering with the Red Cross. As it is common with all volunteers, Brenda’s passion and compassion are evident. When she is asked about her work with the Red Cross, Brenda has a spark of enthusiasm, and wisdom that other volunteers can learn from! As a backdrop to Brenda’s experience and travels with the Red Cross team, her willingness to serve has transcended many roles. She has gone from Service Associate to Operations Management in just a few years. Read on for a Q&A to learn more about Brenda’s passion to serve.
What was your motivation to join The Red Cross?
Brenda: There was a blood drive at my church one day, with the bloodmobile onsite. I had a friend who volunteered with the Red Cross as an EBV (Event-Based Volunteer) for Hurricane Katrina, and I had always been intrigued with the idea of volunteerism in some form. A Blood Ambassador took the time to talk with me and share her story about her volunteerism (thank you to all Blood Ambassadors!). After talking with her, I became more intrigued and excited to investigate opportunities to get involved.
As Mass Care Lead, what does your role entail?
Brenda: I oversee operations and activities as they relate to disaster response. One passion is disability integration; coordinating how we respond to displaced people with physical or mental health challenges. I also lead the San Bernardino County Chapter in Mass Care. I have been involved in DAT (Disaster Action Team), Recovery, Disaster Assessment, Logistics, and I still dabble in staffing when the need arises.
Can you share some of the disaster relief operations that you have been involved in?
Brenda: The devastation of the fairly recent northern California wildfires, wildfires in southern California and mudslides, flooding in the Midwest, volcano eruption in Hawaii, most recently, Hurricane Ian, plus many more disaster responses. There seems to always be an opportunity to help the displaced and traumatized somewhere.
Do you have a “mission moment” or a particular experience that has stood out over the years?
Brenda: I was working as a shelter supervisor in one of the Northern California fires, and there was this gentleman who always seemed to stay secluded from the other evacuees. It was rather obvious that he did not want to be around a lot of people. At first, I just went about my business, making a point not to encroach on his personal space. Just ensuring he, and the other evacuees were as comfortable as possible. After a while, I started to engage with him, and he started to open up a bit more each day. Eventually, we were conversing regularly and had good conversations. Our conversations included his relationship with his family and his work as a music producer for Motown Records! He had produced music for great performers like Smokey Robinson, Temptations, and many more. As the disaster was winding down and the clients were able to return home, he left me this beautiful thank you card that I have kept to this day. It just proves that you just never know who you will meet and have an impact on while volunteering!
What advice would you give to those who might be interested in volunteering with The Red Cross?
Brenda: Explore all the opportunities that the Red Cross offers. There is a wealth of training that is offered in many areas. I would also advise to be flexible, build relationships with other Red Cross volunteers and serve compassionately.
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.