By: Sarah Benes, Red Cross writer
Our volunteers aren’t just those we see working on the front lines of a disaster or at a blood drive. This Red Cross Month we also want to recognize the unsung heroes working behind-the-scenes to keep our mission running smoothly.
Fred Brann is a 25-year volunteer with the American Red Cross, serving as an operations and facilities volunteer. In this position, Brann has done it all – right up to literally helping to build the building where he volunteers in Topsham, Maine.
“I help a bit with everything facility related,” Brann said in an interview with Red Cross office manager, Nicole Bosarge. “Sometimes I change light bulbs. Sometimes I paint. Other times, I ensure the walkways are shoveled. I have made all the heavy items easily moveable by installing wheels on all file cabinets and bookshelves. I’ve built a full shelving system for the garage, workbench and storage cabinets. I also help with cleaning and moving items.”
Bosarge says Brann is invaluable member of the team. He even tackles creative projects, like building special housing units to protect the office’s HVAC system and tending to the geraniums in flower boxes he made by hand.
“Everyone loves the flowers,” he said. “I winter them in the foyer and ensure they stay healthy and strong for the spring.”
Brann and the Red Cross have a long, intertwined history dating back to his days in the service.
“One of my first encounters with the American Red Cross was when I was deployed during the Vietnam War in Saigon,” Brann said. “I had to send an emergency message home to my family due to a change in release of duties. They were expecting me at a certain day and time and that shifted, as I was recruited to stay on deployment for another several weeks. I appreciated the Red Cross – and what they could do to get the message home when I had no way to do so.”
And that’s not the only time Brann’s life intersected with the humanitarian organization. Later in his career, while working as a HAZMAT Response Manager for the Department of Environmental Protection, he needed to be certified in First aid and CPR. He turned to the Red Cross for training.
“The Red Cross instructor at the time asked me if I would be interested in volunteering. I told him when I was retired,” remembered Brann.
It’s a promise the Maine man would keep.
“Not long after retirement, I spent six months hiking the Appalachian trail. I started in Georgia in April and finished in September in Maine. When finished and settled, I reached out to the instructor at the Red Cross and told him I was ready to start volunteering.”
Brann started teaching Training Services classes in schools throughout Mid Coast Maine. He says he worked with students to achieve certifications that would give them a head start when looking for summer work at camps or recreation centers. Some days he would teach more than 180 kids.
“I found my niche. I loved teaching and enjoyed the years I instructed,” he said. “It was extremely rewarding to run into them years down the road and have them tell me stories about how they utilized their training.”
Brann says it is experiences like these that kept him volunteering with the Red Cross all these years – a team that’s become family.
“I appreciate the camaraderie that I find when I come into volunteer my time,” he said. “By nature, I am an introvert, but those moments where I can interact with others has been very helpful to me personally over the years. The Red Cross has given me a community.”
Volunteers, like Fred Brann, are the lifeblood of the Red Cross. Ninety percent of the workforce is powered by volunteers. Interested in applying for a volunteer position?
“Talk to a Red Crosser and find out what they do and what they love,” Brann advised. “Then look for something that fulfills you within the organization.”