By Communications and Marketing Intern, Angel Emodi
| LA Talks: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as Red Cross volunteers?
Jim and Nancy: Our names are Jim and Nancy. We’re married and we’ve been retired for about 3 years. Something felt missing from our lives, so we sought opportunities to give back to the community. We really wanted to get involved to help generate positive change. We ended up finding the Red Cross and decided that’s where we wanted to dedicate our time! One of the things we really loved was that the Red Cross always remained neutral while performing their services.
LA Talks: What type of volunteer work do you do with the Red Cross?
Jim and Nancy: At first, we volunteered in blood drives— because that’s all we thought the Red Cross did. The Blood Services Department does great and important work, but we didn’t feel at home there. Then we tried Community Outreach, but Jim isn’t the most outgoing person, so that wasn’t the right fit, either. As soon as we came across Disaster Services we felt liked we really belonged! Now, we do shelter work, casework, and recovery plans for those affected by emergencies and disasters. Since 90 percent of the disasters the Red Cross responds to are home fires, the Home Fire Campaign has been a huge topic, lately. [As part of those efforts] we have been volunteering to help save lives by installing free smoke alarms. It’s amazing that we can make such a huge difference in people’s lives by increasing their chance of surviving a home fire.
LA Talks: Recently you took a personal vacation to Europe and managed to make a few new Red Cross friends along the way. Tell us about it?
Jim and Nancy: There was a festival in Mechelen, Belgium with about 2,000 people, and as we were walking down the street, we noticed a Red Cross vehicle and tent was stationed nearby. We introduced ourselves as International Red Crossers and they immediately took us in as friends! In fact, it was like we were best friends! The Red Cross really does bring people from around the world together. A little later during out trip, we were in a cafe in France, and we met more Red Cross volunteers. They were going from table to table, collecting donations in collection cups. It was very interesting to see how the French Red Cross engages volunteers to support the mission! During our trip we also saw a Red Cross “thrift store!” There, Red Cross volunteers were working hard to help support the increasing populations of refugees in the area. It was crazy to see how, in each place we visited, Red Cross volunteers were doing completely new and different things! For us, this showed the determination and creativity of International Red Cross Societies, and how hard they work to help those in need!
LA Talks: What is one of your best memories so far, as Red Cross volunteers?
Jim and Nancy: One of our best memories as Red Crossers happened while staffing a shelter in Long Beach after the Wilmington Fire. We had worked a 12-hour shift and during the shift, we got to know a lot of people, and we also got to hear how much they appreciated what the Red Cross was doing. Another one is the Home Fire Campaign. We love physically doing something to stop a possible tragedy, and help to reduce deaths and injuries related to home fires! Also, just working with the Red Cross is incredible. We love that 95 percent of Red Cross Disaster Relief workers are volunteers— plus everyone is so hardworking, dedicated, and professional. We love being around people that are always willing to help.
LA Talks: Do you have any advice for someone who might want to become a Red Cross volunteer?
Jim and Nancy: Just do it! Be realistic and don’t overstretch and try to participate in too many programs, because you can burn out. Have an in person meeting to test the waters and see what department you might fit in with best. There are also online classes that can help you decide what area you should volunteer in. Investigate those classes and get into a program that feels like your home base. Also, try to meet other Red Crossers. They are great and they have a lot to share! Trust us!
LA Talks: Thank you, Jim and Nancy, for all you do as Red Cross volunteers, and for sharing your story with us today!
Jim and Nancy: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share our Red Cross story! Hopefully, we will inspire others to volunteer and work to positively change the community! We love what we do, and we are rewarded 100 times more than the hard work we put in. We’ve also noticed that we really get respect in our Red Cross gear, and that is always a great thing!
To learn how you can join Jim and Nancy, as Red Cross volunteers, click here!
Angel Emodi will be in 11th grade at Hawthorne Math and Science Academy. She enjoys playing volleyball and her professional goals include attending Medical School to become a Pediatrician. This is Angel’s first year interning with the American Red Cross.