Red Cross volunteer Dianne Brush loves talking with people and brightening their days. But the shutdowns and isolation that have come with COVID-19 have made that much more difficult. Pair that with the fact that she retired after 30 years with the Pocatello Police Department shortly before the pandemic hit, and she was in need of a social outlet.
So when she heard about an opportunity to make phone calls to the families of deployed service members and check in and see how they’re doing she immediately raised her hand.
“It’s been great for me,” said Dianne, who is also a Red Cross disaster responder in Bannock County. “I’m a talker so I could really get people going.”
She made about 160 calls to Idaho and Montana military families through Service to the Armed Force program. The calls were all based on the same simple premise: How are you doing? How is your service member doing? And if you need anything, the Red Cross is here to help.
“We had some lovely conversations,” she said. “They all expressed that they appreciated that the Red Cross cared about them and was reaching out to them to see how they were doing.”
Dianne’s son is serving in the Army National Guard so she had an immediate connection with many of these families and understands what they might be feeling.
“We had conversations about how important it is that young people serve our country and make that sacrifice,” she said.
During one call, she learned that the service member, who is in the Navy, had come back home because his father was seriously ill. The family explained that they were faced with huge medical bills and don’t even have money for a headstone or the man’s burial. Dianne was able to put them in touch with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program leaders who connected the family with VA resources.
Mostly, the families talked about the struggles of COVID and the loneliness that comes with it.
For Dianne, the conversations were a two-way street.
“People talked about the isolation and loneliness of the past year and their worries about their service member -- whether they were safe and healthy,” she said. “They really like having someone to talk to who cared about them, and it helped me combat some of my isolation and loneliness.”
The Service to the Armed Forces program provided comfort and care to more than 2,270 Idaho and Montana military families last year. If you would like to learn more about this program and how you too can get involved, email IDMT.Recruiting@redcross.org or contact Recruitment Specialist Gini Kay at 406-493-8778.