By Helen Brooks, Red Cross volunteer
Behind the more than 17 million meals distributed by Los Angeles Unified School District, World Central Kitchen and the Red Cross, are the countless volunteers who rise early each day and head to sites across LA County to distribute them.
One of those volunteers is Michael Long. I spoke with Michael on the phone on a warm afternoon in late April after he had completed his volunteer shift for the day. After our conversation ended, I concluded that Michael represents the Red Cross the way we hope all volunteers do.
He is a former Marine, which in and of itself deserves our thanks, and now he carries on his commitment to service by helping community members in need during the COVID-19 outbreak.
As part of our partnership with the Los Angeles Unified, Michael has been distributing meals to students and families affected by school closures due to the coronavirus. This act of kindness not only gives families hope, but also allows them to meet a basic human need, of feeding themselves and their children.
While volunteering at Charles Maclay Middle School, Michael was singled out for praise by his site supervisor, a Los Angeles Unified employee.
The supervisor watched as Michael worked the entire shift in the pouring rain, to make sure all those that needed meals received them. When asked if he needed a break, he simply said “I don’t need a break. I was Marine.”
Michael clearly has the stamina to do this work, but also brings a cheerful spirit and positivity to it that makes doing so a pleasure. Not only do his personal philosophies align strongly with the Red Cross’ principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, unity, universality and volunteer service, his actions do as well.
From an early age, Michael has sought to help others. He did that as a Marine, and now, he is doing it with multiple organizations in his hometown of Pacoima. In addition to being an active volunteer with the Red Cross, he is also a leader at the Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando and an active participant in the Pacoima Community Action Team.
He appreciates the opportunity to serve his community wherever there is a need. Helping hand out meals is just one way to do that.
How does he get things accomplished other than sheer gumption and bonding with people? He says he always tries to think creatively and brainstorm new ideas with his team. He also tries to lead by example.
“You’d be surprised as to how well that works when others see you doing something,” he said. “The team becomes highly motivated to either reach the same level or surpass you. Ultimately, it engages others with a sense of purpose.”
He is driven by that purpose, to help people to the best of his ability.
In the back of his mind, he carries couple of mantras from some unlikely sources, that nonetheless keep him going strong.
His first mantra: “If you do things right, people will not know that you’ve done anything at all.” This comes from the animated TV show Futurama.
His second mantra: “Crisis precipitates change.” This was borrowed from rapper Del the Funky Homosapien’s song, perhaps fittingly titled, “Virus.”
While much has changed during this crisis, what has stayed the same is the dedication volunteers like Michael bring to helping members of our community in need.
If you are interested in volunteering to distribute meals like Michael did, find a site near you and sign up by going to RedCross.org/la-covid.