If volunteers are the lifeline of the Red Cross, and 90% of the workforce are volunteers, don’t they deserve to be honored for their dedication and willingness to give valuable hours to help alleviate human suffering? The four chapters that make up the South Florida Region, did just that. Volunteers provide a vital force, always ready to help people who endure house fires, flooding, other emergencies, and of course, most important this time of year, devastating hurricanes.
This year, each Chapter awarded volunteers with a virtual awards ceremony and a socially distant parade for their outstanding performance over the past year and going above and beyond in their service to the Red Cross mission. The parade consisted of staff and other volunteers parading by the awardees with Red Cross vehicles and the Emergency Response Vehicles. In previous years, an in-person ceremony was held for the volunteers where they are presented with awards, but due to COVID-19, gathering together was not an option. However, still recognizing the volunteers, was a must.
In the Greater Miami and The Keys Chapter, Jessica Mairone was awarded Distinguished Volunteer of the Year. Jessica volunteers on the Public Affairs team as a Volunteer Engagement Lead and speaks passionately about the mission and how others can get involved. Her dedication to training and helping new and current volunteers are well known throughout the region. “I love the volunteers, training them, and then watching them grow into active, empathetic, energetic helpers for people who are in need,” says Jessica. “Since 2017 when I came to the Red Cross, we have implemented many changes to welcome, support, and engage our volunteers.”
Debbie Koch, Executive Director of the Greater Miami and The Keys Chapter, participated in multiple parades and celebrated with the volunteers while remaining socially distant. The parades created a special moment for the volunteers to not only see Red Cross staff after many months apart due to COVID-19, but reminded them that they are valued, missed, and appreciated.
“No other organization can equal the size, value, and readiness in the Miami area in disaster help,” says Debbie Koch. “They help people in their darkest hour and it is incredible to watch how much suffering they can alleviate with comfort, supplies, housing, and emergency health situations as needed.”
Red Cross volunteers make it possible to fulfill the mission day in and day out, during a disaster and even a pandemic. This year is particularly challenging for all as we are in the midst of, what is predicted to be, one of the busiest, most active hurricane seasons we’ve seen in years combined with the COVID-19 threat. With the likelihood of shelter openings this season in the region, ensuring the safety of our workforce and clients is a top priority. Because of this threat, additional precautions and special training have been put in place. Disasters don’t stop during a pandemic, so the Red Cross must be ready for any type of emergency or disaster that may come our way. The service of volunteers is invaluable both during a disaster and when times are calmer.
Congratulations to all South Florida Region Volunteer awardees for your dedication to your communities!
If you are interested in helping our community, please go to redcross.org/SFLVolunteer or contact your local chapter office. For more information on office locations and phone numbers, visit redcross.org/SouthFlorida.
Written by Mary Churchill