By Ashley Henyan
The American Red Cross relies on volunteers to deliver lifesaving services. In fact, 90% of all work carried out by the organization is performed by volunteers. And the time, energy and compassion a volunteer lends to assist complete strangers in need can be one of the most impactful gifts anyone can give or receive. This is particularly apparent around the holidays—especially surrounding our National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region’s commitment to providing essential resources following a disaster.
What makes Red Cross disaster response, relief and recovery work unique, is our team’s ability to respond to emergencies close to home and across the country – and often at the same time.
Close to home, within the DMV, Red Cross disaster workers responded to about 1,300 emergencies in the last 12 months. In the fall of 2021 - including the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – trained responders assisted more than 40 families in Baltimore and on the Delmarva peninsula after heavy rain caused severe flooding that impacted dozens. Significant challenges such as internet and phone service outages in remote areas, like Tangier Island, made this response extraordinarily unique. But, as usual, our teams stepped-up—taking to a ferry boat to access hard to reach areas with essential emergency assistance including warm meals, water and disaster clean-up kits.
“We go wherever there is a need,” said Theresa Young, Executive Director for the Red Cross Delmarva Chapter. “Whether during the holidays or not, our volunteers are able to adapt to any situation – and this was further defined by our successful, non-traditional response effort on Tangier Island.”
Of course, the Red Cross responds to over 60,000 emergencies and disaster across the country, every single year—with many of these tragic events occurring outside the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region’s footprint. Because of this, on November 26, 2021, when most people were sitting down to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers, disaster volunteer Sadiq Saffarini boarded a plane and flew across the country to help complete strangers impacted by flooding in Washington State.
“Personally, it has been a tradition to volunteer on Thanksgiving holiday weekends; and be able to lend a hand to strangers impacted by natural disasters, during what can often be a distressing and challenging time,” Sadiq said.
The Red Cross understands that disasters don’t take time off for Thanksgiving, Channukah or Christmas; and our volunteers and staff remain committed to helping anyone, anytime, anywhere. If you’d like to join our team of service-minded humanitarians, who are committed to providing hope for strangers in need, even during the holidays, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.