Fred Peel is a very special member of the Greater Miami & The Keys Chapter office. He has lent a helping hand and shared a friendly face as a dedicated volunteer for the past 41 years. As he nears his retirement due to health reasons, he looks back fondly at his time in service.
Fred grew up in South Deerfield, Mass., and spent time in Connecticut and Jacksonville, Fla., before moving to Miami in 1974 for the warmer weather. He started volunteering at the United Way with a program for flu shots, and two years later officially became a Red Cross volunteer at the Miami chapter office in 1978.
He took on many administrative tasks – answering phones, filing and shredding papers, and welcoming guests at the reception desk. He has also helped in various programs for Service to the Armed Forces and Disaster Services – helping them prepare for smoke alarm installation events. But his favorite part of volunteering has been as a shelter and kitchen worker during disasters.
“My mission in this world is to help people, to be a servant helping people,” says Fred, “and in a shelter, you get to do just that.”
He remembers working at a shelter after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when they were bringing elderly patients from Miami Beach who lacked medical services. More recently after Hurricane Irma struck South Florida in 2017, he worked at the South Dade High School shelter and people were grateful to have help.
Fred has fond memories of all the staff and volunteers he has worked with throughout the years. He can still name them and describes what he helped them do. After all this time, his only wish was that there was another chapter office closer to where he lives in a far-south area of Miami. Two or three times a week, he takes a series of buses and a train to get to the chapter office. The trip takes two to three hours each way.
This commitment and sacrifice is worth it to him because “according to my faith, Jesus went around helping people and doing good. That’s why it’s important to me. My family is very mission oriented too,” says Fred.
Thankfully, his impending retirement won’t keep him away completely. He says he will not be coming in every day, but will visit and will help in shelters if he is needed. He plans to stay in Miami for a while, but eventually may move back up north to be near his brother.
As we wrap up National Volunteer Month, we celebrate Fred’s 41-year anniversary and all the other volunteers like him who have dedicated so much of their time and lives to serving others and making the Red Cross mission possible.
If you are inspired by Fred’s story and want to become a Red Cross volunteer, please visit redcross.org/SFLvolunteer.
Written by Estefania Garcia