By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO
The American Red Cross Los Angeles Region has managed and hosted AmeriCorps members since the program’s inception in 1994. In fact, the Los Angeles Red Cross was the first Red Cross in the United States to engage AmeriCorps in the live-saving work of our humanitarian organization. As I reflect on the legacy of AmeriCorps, I can assure you with absolute certainty, that many, many of our successes are a direct result of the tireless efforts, extreme commitment and steadfast dedication of our AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps is a federal program that engages service-minded Americans in intensive community service at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. The participants in the program are referred to as members. Our long-time partner, California Volunteers, runs two disaster response AmeriCorps programs, California AmeriCorps Disaster Team and the California Safe Corps. In addition, the American National Red Cross has a grant from AmeriCorps and supplies the Los Angeles Region with 11 members, too. All told, we have 26 full-time AmeriCorps members through the three programs.
So, who are these amazing Corps members?
They are trailblazers like Federica Brecha, who as part of the communications team, has helped train disaster volunteers who serve as Public Information Officers (PIOs) and perform the pertinent task of sharing vital information with media and the public related to shelter openings and shelter locations during times of large-scale disasters. Fede, as we call her, also documents the work we do by using her exceptional photography skills. In fact, she took all the photos you are seeing in this blog!
They are advocates like Earl Torres who, as a Youth Coordinator, works to recruit, train and engage youth leaders in our Red Cross network. He works with youth club members to build their leadership skills and ensures all are able to participate in our range of programs. He not only ensures our Youth Club members have the knowledge and skills needed to carry out the Red Cross mission, but also the professional and leadership skills necessary to excel as they graduate from high school and take on more responsibilities, skills that will stay with them throughout their lives.
They are innovators like Ted Horton-Billard, an AmeriCorps member who is deaf and deeply passionate about accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as anyone with accessibility needs. As part of the Shelter Support team during the California Wildfires, he worked with the Disability Integration Team to ensure all shelter clients were able to fully access ARC services.
They are humanitarians like Amanda Hidalgo and Jesse Sanchez, two AmeriCorps Members who recently gave their Saturday over to teaching 71 Compton residents CPR and basic First Aid as part of Prepare LA’s Compton Disaster Preparedness Coalition. The coalition has developed a resiliency plan to host community events to get their neighbors better prepared for emergencies and disasters, and their training has made these community leaders better advocates for preparedness.
And they are educators like Chiamaka Okeke, who has been bringing Red Cross preparedness to the Compton Unified School District, teaching hundreds of kids the Disney Pillowcase Project. She has already empowered 1000 children with life-saving emergency preparedness education, and is on track to teaching 1600 children by this fiscal year’s end.
In addition to this amazing work during the year, our AmeriCorps Members deploy to disasters to work on national recovery operations. Take, for example, Genesis Fabian. Genesis deployed after Hurricane Irma to the US Virgin Islands. She was working alongside full-time disaster response staff on St. Thomas when Hurricane Maria—then, a Category 5 hurricane barreling in from the Atlantic—approached rapidly. After sheltering in a concrete bunker, she went back to work on islands where as many as 80% of the structures were destroyed.
If you or anyone you know is interested in joining us as one of our team of esteemed AmeriCorps Members, please click here to learn more information, including where to send your resume.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org