by Sandy Van, Communications Volunteer
Red Cross volunteer Jennifer Johnson holds an impressive distinction. Just a few months into volunteering in 2012, she responded to 50 Disaster Action Team calls within a six-month period.
“In a very short amount of time, I went from being inexperienced to really experienced,” she said.
Johnson recorded each call from July through December on a map, which stretched from the Territory 4 (South) region to parts of what are now Territories 2 (East) and 3 (West).
She recalls one particular call that took six hours to sort out. What began as a response call for a typical single-family house fire for a family of four in East Los Angeles progressively grew as more families came forward.
“We were just shy of opening up a shelter,” she said of what amounted to several families totaling nearly 20 people who lived among the property, either inside the house or in a makeshift shed in the backyard.
Johnson suspects that some families standing nearby were assessing the Red Cross response and slowly came to realize that Red Cross offers aid to anyone in need, regardless of background.
DAT shifts continued, sometimes back-to-back, as Johnson signed up for 12-hour shifts six nights a week while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health care administration in the daytime and a part-time administrative job at a doctor’s office.
Within a year, the juggling act was and getting more difficult. She temporarily stepped back from the ambitious DAT responses but dove back into volunteering with the Red Cross again when Hurricane Sandy hit.
The Red Cross was seeking volunteers to staff phones for an NBC telephone drive to raise funds for relief efforts. Johnson sprung at the opportunity and even appeared on the telecast briefly, which prompted family members to excitedly notify her via text message of her two seconds of fame. The job was followed by another similar stint at CBS.
Today Johnson works part-time for the Red Cross as an administrative coordinator for the Nurse Assistant Training Program, while also maintaining a volunteer role as the Regional Senior Administrator for Disaster Training. She landed the position after responding to a job post she discovered at a monthly volunteer meeting.
“The Red Cross has given me a lot of opportunities,” she said. The people I met here are fantastic. Some of my best friends, I’ve met [them through] the Red Cross.”