By Mark Maginn
American Red Cross
One simple thing motivates American Red Cross volunteer Thomas Zeller.
“I do this because I feel called to help those in distress.”
A 33-year veteran Red Cross volunteer and a member of the national headquarters Internet Technology Team, Zeller recently received the End User Services (EUS) Volunteer Service Award to honor his exemplary service to the Red Cross.
Zeller began volunteering as an EUS associate in 2016, and as an IT Service Desk associate in 2018. He has logged more than 2,100 hours for EUS and answered more than 4,300 service desk calls. He has also handled more than 1,700 Easy Vista tickets, so if you ever submitted a request for IT support, there’s a good chance you interacted with him. He was honored as IT Service Desk Agent of the Month, and maintains an astonishing all-time customer satisfaction score of 97.3 per cent.
A resident of Joplin, Missouri, he experienced disaster firsthand in 2011 when a devastating tornado tore through his hometown, destroying much of the city and causing 162 fatalities. After the storm subsided, he surveyed damage and checked on his neighbors, then made his way to Red Cross headquarters to assist the disaster relief operation. The deeply moving experience intensified the empathy he feels for those affected by disaster and strengthened his resolve to help other in times of need.
Zeller is part of a small nationwide team of volunteers capable of setting up the technology vital to Red Cross disaster relief. From networking computers and printers in Incident Command Centers and shelters, to connecting it all with reliable internet service, Zeller works behind the scenes providing tools necessary to deliver relief to those affected by disaster. His work might not get noticed, but without it nothing else would be possible.
In 2020, multiple hurricanes in the gulf coast region stretched Red Cross capacity to the limits. Zeller spent four months deployed to states affected by the disaster, where he coordinated internet technologies and collaborated with local volunteers to facilitate safe and effective relief to those displaced.
When not deployed, Thomas spends five hours a day, three days a week at the virtual Red Cross IT Service Desk assisting those overwhelmed by technological challenges and advising callers on end-user support when restoring a damaged system. He also serves as a certified Red Cross instructor, teaching classes on technology and how it used in Red Cross service delivery.
On top of everything else, he wears another new hat as a Red Cross Roll Out Team member. These teams are among the first to deploy and assess the damages and needs of the affected communities, as well as test the disaster assessment smartphone application that is used to document the different levels of damage sustained during a disaster.
Despite the many awards, Zeller remains humble and credits coworkers with much of his success. He goes about his business quietly, enabling the American Red Cross to provide cutting-edge service to those affected by disaster.
When asked why he volunteers, Zeller stated “I volunteer to help others who may be suffering from a disaster and to help make a difference in their lives.”