"With the Red Cross you can do just about everything. No one says you cannot do it.”
- Susan Tovey, American Red Cross volunteer
By Kaelin Harris, American Red Cross volunteer
The act of volunteering is a selfless one. It allows us as individuals to come together and collaborate collectively, to make an impact in some way. Whether it makes a difference in a large community setting, or to just one person, is irrespective of the significance of the act of giving of oneself, to a cause a person is passionate about.
At the American Red Cross, giving is the foundation that upholds the unwavering integrity of the Red Cross volunteers. When it comes to giving, there are countless volunteers who embody that spirit and for 12 years now (and counting!) Susan Tovey has given innumerable hours to a wealth of different services provided by the Red Cross.
Susan is a staffing manager but her experience goes far beyond that. She noted that she does a little bit of everything at the Red Cross; from working as a shelter supervisor, taking the lead as a disaster action team (DAT) captain, volunteering with lodging, disaster assessments, disaster responses and more, though Susan’s favorite role so far has been in staffing.
While volunteers are always at the ready to dispatch, assess, lend a hand, work hard, listen and just be present in the times when people feel utterly lost, Susan plays an integral role in giving back to those who give back. She’s there for the volunteers, to advise, direct and mentor them. With over a decade of experience under her belt in various roles within the Red Cross, she’s perfect for the role.
Susan is where the action is and with the Red Cross, that is just about everywhere! Everyone’s role is important as it lends to the efficient flow of assistance and service delivery. On her first DAT call, Susan became part of a team of helpers and the impact that made on her echoes itself still in the work she continues to do for the Red Cross today. What amazed Susan on that first DAT call, was that she was in the thick of it, part of the immediate response efforts. The take away point was that anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a background in volunteering, in serving and giving. The intrinsic nature of the act is that it is universal. Susan could help in a way she didn’t think she could and yet, there she was (and still is) helping in those same ways, and more!
“It keeps you on your toes and you constantly learn,” said Susan of her volunteer experience, and especially DAT calls. The compassion for others is undoubtedly a driving force for Susan. In discussing her many cases, the one which was most impactful, which really demonstrated to her the importance of volunteering, was a DAT call to a home fire. A week after the event, Susan received a phone call from the client who had just come out of the burn ward. Taking the call, Susan was struck by the client’s gratitude for the assistance and empathy she received from Susan and the Red Cross, and the client wanted to call and thank her. For Susan, this simple phone call from someone struggling in the face of an incredibly difficult event highlighted the need to always give of yourself to others in their times of hardship.
Susan’s work within the Red Cross and serving others has changed her life. She notes that it’s easy for us to not notice others but the amazing part about volunteering is that you become aware of the fact that people across all dimensions, no matter their age, creed, nationality or socio-economic status, go through things and that compassion and service benefits all who experience it.
Susan likes to get out and talk to people, especially those who are considering volunteering. She has motivation, drive and a passionate call to help others, and she tells her stories as part of the Red Cross story — and that speaks for itself.
In these times, with many aspects of service becoming virtual and online, the vehicle for the delivery of compassion is different but the premise has remained the same. For volunteers like Susan, the feeling is no different than it always was. While a physical separation might exist at the moment, for certain operations, the emotional connection to the event is ever-present. At the heart of her experience, Susan says “[with] the Red Cross you can do just about everything. No one says you cannot do it.”
There is so much positivity in volunteerism and while it helps affected individuals and communities, the unexpected rewards of volunteering cannot be understated. It makes a difference in so many lives. Thank you for your service, Susan!