Mission Moment: Volunteering in the time of COVID-19

By Alyx Flatley, Red Cross LA Volunteer

During the past few weeksI have been volunteering with the American Red Cross operation to support the Los Angeles Unified School District’s distribution of meals to children and families. I worked as a Field Supervisor at 10 different schools, which means coordinating Red Cross volunteers and Los Angeles Unified staff as they distribute free meals to students and families who drive or walk up to our site.

After my first week on the job, I phoned Kate, my friend of more than 30 years. I was feeling discouraged becausfamily members were voicing their worry, I might contract the virus if continued to volunteer. I do not have family in the city to help if anything happenedand they wanted me to stop working in the field until it was safe.

They reminded me that the Red Cross can survive without me, which is true enough. I’m a Mass Care Shelter Supervisor among other things; anyone can do my job. Within the first week of my first deployment in 2017 to Texas for the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Operation, I was field promoted to shelter supervisor. I survived that experience and so did the shelter. 

Kate and I talked for a while, and though she helped me feel better, I was still torn. I was unsure if I was being selfish by placing myself at higher risk of exposure.  

She later texted me this message: 

As I reflect on our conversation, I hope more than ever that you really know – for yourself – that you are making the right decision. In fact, the only decision that Alyx could ever make. You have a skill set that is sorely needed and will make a life changing difference for hundreds of the most vulnerable on the front lines of this global crisis. How could you do less? It’s who you are. To make a positive difference for people in desperate need is what you are about. And the small risk of getting sick (or dying) is simply not a concern. That’s the hero stuff. Moving into danger to help those in need. You are a hero, Alyx – by personality, by skill, by training, by any measure. 

I was moved. My reply: 

“Wow. That really was very nicely written. I appreciate your kind assessment. Red Cross should brand some reflective capes. 😁

I am no longer torn. Three years after that first deployment in Texas, I am a fully trained Mass Care Shelter Supervisor. I have the invaluable experiences from about a dozen more deployments working alongside amazing volunteers who contributed to my education. While I still have a lot to learn, I now have much higher performance standards and far more skills than my younger self. I know the Red Cross can survive without me. However, with my support, a piece of the Red Cross may function a little better. 

All those people doing “essential services” on the front lines, the first responders or those working to support them, they are all heroes. We Red Cross volunteers, whether out in the field or working remotely, are the second responders, supporting our community.  

The front line is right outside our front doors. We all have the potential to be a hero to someone.

During past deployments, I always brought a jar of hundreds of these clear marbles to thank volunteers, staff and shelter residents when they do a good job. I have sorely missed giving out translucent marbles during this COVID-19 response. 

In case you missed the pun, the photo above is to remind you that you are CLEARly MARBLEous. If you get through the rest of this pandemic without losing it, you are doing good. So, whatever you dodon’t lose your marbles. Cause it hurts to step on them in the middle of the night. Trust me, I’ve gotten complaints. 

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