By Michael Coleman, American Red Cross
Dave Dunlop, a Logistics Coordinator and Team Lead with 31 years under his belt as a Red Cross volunteer, was recognized in June in honor of his fine work and unwavering dedication to the Red Cross and helping clients, most of whom he never meets.
His impressive run with the Red Cross has lasted longer than hit shows M.A.S.H., Seinfeld and Friends combined. And it’s not quite over yet.
Honored as the finalist for the National Presidential Award for Excellence 2018 from the Red Cross Missouri-Arkansas region, Dave’s journey with the Red Cross all started by giving a little blood – just enough for a free cholesterol check -- back in 1988.
“I went to the Liberty office one day to get a free cholesterol check,” Dave said. “I met the branch manager and had quite a conversation with her. I told her about my background and to make a long story short, she recruited me.”
JoAnn Woody, the Region’s external relations manager, chuckled on recalling that episode and said, “Somebody had their thinking cap on when they recruited him. That was a sweet score.”
At the presentation she talked about his dedication and longtime service to the Red Cross, but had not tipped him off ahead of time.
“I thought I’d go to this volunteer event and it would be nice to see some volunteers recognized,” Dave said. “When JoAnn got up there and started talking, I was just really surprised.”
Like many, Dave, 82, started on a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member going to home fires and helping out first hand. But as his working career at Trans World Airlines (TWA) wrapped up, his experience and knowledge in logistics came to the forefront of his Red Cross service.
After 41 years with TWA, where he was responsible for millions of dollars in equipment, he put his experience to work for people he rarely got a chance to meet. In logistics, he was often working at home ordering supplies or in staging areas outfitting or maintaining trailers for deployment. He didn’t often see those he served, but his behind-the-scenes work still provided an inherent sense of satisfaction.
“I was able to actually provide for other people,” Dave said. “Even though in logistics you don’t really have much face to face involvement with your clients, you’re able to provide things that they need which helps them out.”
He put his experience to work and became the logistics lead in 2000, just before the chapter started getting trailers. He organized and outfitted about two dozen trailers with cots, blankets and comfort kits, enough to cover 15 counties.
“We took them out and placed them all around the counties that we are responsible for and they are still in use,” Dave said. “You can’t set up a shelter unless you’ve got the materials to do it with.”
Once a trailer is deployed and returns from a disaster site, then the cycle begins again and supplies need to be reordered, cots are cleaned and everything for the trailer has to be prepped again.
JoAnn noted that Dave revamped the inventory ordering process and organized storage space with a catalogue system that makes it easier for the team to be prepared for local events. The work didn’t slow down Dave, however, If anything it kept him going.
“Someone told me one time when you rest, you rust and I’m trying not to rust,” he said.
He proved that true by giving time to other groups as well, from helping build homes to a five-year stretch on the Mayor’s Silver Hair Council. He helped with issues faced by older residents in serving on the Mid-America Regional Council the last three years.
In 2005, Dave was part of the team that responded to Hurricane Katrina in Florida, where it first hit. Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) were vital to getting food to those in need.
“We had about 10 ERVS that worked out of that kitchen,” he said. “They would load up every day and go out and feed people in the county.”
Over the years, he responded to multiple national deployments like wildfires and hurricanes. He respects his fellow volunteers for what they bring to the Red Cross and how they pitch in.
“Just a bunch of good people – they are concerned about others and they want to help others that are in need,” he said.
Dave helped his fellow volunteers, too, on the chapter’s leadership council, JoAnn said.
“We had a few key volunteers who would get together every month or so,” she said. “Dave was an integral part of that leadership council. He wasn’t afraid to bring up the difficult issues. He would also come prepared with what the issue was and one or two possible solutions to explore. His tenacity was amazing.”
Dave spent three years in the Navy after high school and later joined the reserve and was a lead petty officer in a supply unit, again working logistics.
“Just about everything I’ve done in my working life has been in some area of logistics,” he said. “I think I covered about every job in the logistics field.”
Dave lives in Kansas City with his wife, Jean, and they have two daughters.
“She put up with me and all the time that I spent at the Red Cross,” Dave said, chuckling.
Now, after the type of dedication rarely seen these days, he is finally turning the logistics over to his replacements. After talking about hanging up his boots for several years, Dave got the chance to train his successors.
“I was getting old, getting tired,” Dave said. “And finally two guys came along and they took over responsibility.”
He trained Ken Carlson and Mark Singer and stayed on to help out as an advisor.
“I told them what a good job the logistics lead job was and I sold it to them,” he said, adding that the two are a great asset to the chapter. “They are really good at it.”
“At this stage of the game I’m pulling back and doing less and less,” Dave said. “I’ll be 83 next month and I think it’s time to taper off.”