By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO
Every day, our nation’s largest and most impactful humanitarian organization, the American Red Cross, faces up to suffering and need—and we lean in to help. Whether someone has just lost their home to fire, been separated from family by war, just returned home from deployment or, they’re just eager to learn life-saving CPR or donate blood to save a life, the Red Cross makes good on the kind acts that help alleviate suffering the world over.
The engine for our mission has always been our volunteers. That’s why we’re so excited in Los Angeles, to gather on February 3 at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood. There, we will celebrate all of our amazing volunteers from around the Los Angeles Region at our Volunteer Excellence Awards. As always, we will thank all volunteers and recognize eight of them with awards born of nominations by their peers. I look forward to the party this coming Saturday and am grateful to be joined by television and film actress Elisabeth Rohm, who has graciously accepted our invitation to host this year’s spectacular event.
This year’s awards recognize the real diversity of volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross, including the Health and Safety Services Award, the Biomedical Achievement Award, the Disaster Preparedness and Response Volunteer Award, the Service to the Armed Forces and Veterans Award, the Outstanding Youth Services Volunteer Award, the Volunteer Leadership Award, the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership, and the Special Citation for Exceptional Volunteer Service.
2017 was an unbelievable year. In less than eight weeks, the Red Cross responded to three of the decade’s largest storms—Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria—followed by the deadliest mass shooting in modern history in the United States, and then the deadliest week of wildfires in California history. Throughout this time, Red Cross volunteers across the country rose above the challenge and delivered more food, relief supplies and shelter stays than we have in all of the last four years combined. Indeed, in 2017, our volunteers helped to provide 658,000 overnight shelter stays and seven million relief items to people affected by large-scale natural disasters and thousands of home fires.
Last year closed on another sad note for those of us in southern California. Deadly wildfires that had plagued the northern portions of the state found their way to Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles Counties. The Thomas Fire, that started in Ventura County, went on to become the largest wildfire in California state history—damaging or destroying more than 1,000 homes and threatening tens of thousands more. Even as this fire burned out of control, right on LA’s doorstep were the Rye, Skirball and Creek Wildfires, shutting down highways and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate. Again, our volunteers met the challenge head on, helping to provide nearly 200 overnight stays in evacuation shelters in Sylmar, Pacoima and Westwood, and over 1100 relief items to local residents impacted by the horrific flames.
With every large-scale disaster, I am humbled by the collaborative efforts of our staff and volunteers. Each response is a vivid reminder of the unifying effort required for such a massive undertaking. But, each time, because of so many individuals working together toward a common goal, we always succeed. All said, from the Los Angeles Region, in 2017 we initiated 518 deployments! This type of teamwork is what makes US the American Red Cross. And for all the lives we have together saved, I could not be more proud.
Of course, our disaster volunteers may get sent the furthest away to support the mission, but volunteers from all our departments have helped us have an incredible year. This past year, across the country, we helped over 76,900 military families receive emergency communications from family members and loved ones, and for fiscal year 2017 alone, throughout southern California we collected 247,250 pints of red blood cells and more than 66,000 units of platelets from generous donors committed to helping the Red Cross save lives. And, just in the Los Angeles Region, during fiscal year 2017, we certified 146,304 individuals in First Aid and CPR. Volunteers did that, as they do so much of everything we achieve.
I believe that every Red Cross volunteer deserves recognition and thanks for their steadfast determination and fearless commitment to seeing through our humanitarian mission. But, as with many professional awards, the first step to being honored is to receive an official nomination from a supervisor or a peer. This year, I would like to congratulate the following 60 well-deserved nominees:
Alta Abbott, Amir Karimi, Amisha Chowdhury, Amy Xia, Ava Mahloogi, Barbara Colwell, Bernie Nazari, Bob Rich, Britney Huynh, Bruce Daly, Katherine Carpenter, Cathy Carrasco, Cathy Young, Chau Phong, Cheri Larson, Cris Tsai, Danielle Dejean, Danilo Capistrano, David Balian, David Tuckman, Deirdre Lopez, Dorathy Twitchell, Evangeline Campos, Fred Roach, Gladys Ramirez, Henry Mills, Hunter Gissinger, Jada Hall, James Stevens, Jane Dean, Jim Topping, John Luong, Joseph Nurre, Kathlynne Walsh, Kirk Hyde, Ladislado Garcia, Les Mayeda, Linda Ward, Mark Chung, Mary Hughes, MaryAnn Agnew, Matthew Martinez, Melba Borgonia, Merie Burns, Michelle Santiago, Naomi Daniel, Oliver Pizarro, Pamela Hathaway, Paula Pruner, Ralph McCann, Sarah Domier, Shelby Carmichael, Sophie Pham, Sunil Trivedi, Tara Mitchell, Timothy Hokanson, Tommy Tran, Valerie Eads, Victoria Shere, and Yolanda Ledesma.
Congratulations to all our nominees. I look forward to spending some time with you at this year’s Volunteer Excellence Awards and again, thank you to all our volunteers, for an extraordinary year.
Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. But, above all, Jarrett Barrios is a humanitarian with more than 20 years experience helping people in need throughout the United States and Cuba.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org.