Florida’s Southern Gulf Chapter of the Red Cross has many volunteers to be thankful for. They consistently have a highly engaged volunteer team and this past year led the South Florida Region in deploying the most volunteers to disasters across the country. At a recent monthly volunteer dinner meeting, two of those volunteers – Thomas Sentner and Phil Ward – were honored in a special way for their achievements.
Thomas Sentner was presented with the prestigious Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for using life-saving skills to save an individual’s life while deployed in Wilmington, N.C. during Hurricane Florence in September 2018. He was there as a Disaster Health Services volunteer and was helping at a shelter as a “medical rover,” meaning he would roam throughout the shelter assessing patients, making sure people were medically taken care of, and performing first-responder-type actions.
At around 7:30 a.m. one morning, his team heard that someone was passed out in the bathroom. When they arrived, they found the stall door locked and could see a man inside “dropping fast.” By the time his team partner got into the stall and unlocked the door, the man was unconscious. Another shelter resident mentioned “overdose” and Thomas quickly recognized the signs. He ran for the Narcan and administered three doses. Within one minute, the man was once again alert and was taken to a local hospital.
As a certified EMT, former firefighter and U.S. Marine, Thomas knows how to act quickly and decisively while maintaining a humble mentality. “Honestly I was just doing my job. It was nice to assess, react and get the client to where he needed to be. I was impressed by the teamwork.”
Although Wilmington was his first and only deployment so far, he looks forward to volunteering his services to the Red Cross in future deployments. “I’m a humanitarian. Whatever I can do to help people.”
Phil Ward was presented with an award for 50 Years of Service with the Red Cross. The 74-year-old originally from Boston became a volunteer when a buddy there, who was a Red Cross volunteer and ham radio operator, invited him to go out on a fire call with him. He joined after that, starting as a Disaster Action Team member – or DAT member – before it was even called DAT!
He later moved to Nebraska where he served in his local chapter for 42 years and was able to start deploying after he retired in 2007. Since then, he has consistently deployed almost every year – sometimes multiple times a year – and has a clear memory of each experience. He enjoys his work in logistics and is a trusted emergency response vehicle (ERV) driver who often drives long distances to get ERV’s back “home.” After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, he drove three different ERV’s from North Carolina back to Kansas, and another time drove one from Houston to Grand Rapids, Mich.! His longest deployment was 54 days last year for Hurricane Michael in North Florida. From July 2018 to June 2019, Phil deployed a total of 108 days to six disaster response operations. In total he has done 21 deployments since his first in 2008 to Houston for Hurricane Ike. He moved to Florida in 2014.
When asked what has inspired him to be a volunteer all these years, his answer is straightforward and pragmatic. “Just doing the work. It ain’t gonna get done unless we do it. Better than being bored at home doing nothing.”
If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer and starting your Red Cross journey, visit redcross.org/SFLvolunteer.
Written by Estefania Garcia