By Tori Kanhayuwa, LA region volunteer
If you are part of the American Red Cross you are a volunteer. Even if you’re a staff member or an Americorps member, you’re a volunteer by heart. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with our organization knows that at one point or another we all step up and volunteer our time, services, and/or weekends in pursuit of the same mission-alleviating human suffering. We put the community first, but at any given time any member of the Red Cross will step up and out of their department or specialty to lend a hand to a fellow Red Crosser. And that of course, is what has made the difference in my two Americorps terms here at the LA Region.
They, who I cherishingly refer to as my volunteers, are the best of the best. I feel like having worked in disaster, these volunteers are especially…resilient. Nothing will phase their loyalty and persistence and creativity in getting the job done. Frankly, because they’ve been through a lot and seen it all, almost nothing disrupts their sense of equilibrium. When things go to hell they chuckle and roll up their sleeves and move on with it.
When life got rough and I felt like I could barely breathe let alone keep my head above the water, my volunteers were the ones who saw me struggling and offered assistance. Have you ever been asked with such sincerity how someone can make things easier for you? How they can take some of the burden off your shoulders? Now not just one person, but a whole room full of 50 people? Those are my volunteers. Do some of them like doing some of the menial tasks? Probably not. Making clipboard routes and calling requesters are some of the less glamorous aspects of Disaster Cycle Services. But time after time again my volunteers will show up to events they know need support, even if it’s just to support me, my peers, or the staff. I’ve seen volunteers care for one another like family and become a support system for our skeleton staff. Do you know how many Thank You, Get Well, and Condolence cards I’ve signed? All passed around and initiated by my volunteers. It’s a mutual relationship of respect amongst the volunteers. Every person is open minded and willing to learn a new skill. No one is ever shy to offer their assistance and of course their opinions on all matters.
I’ve had people ask me how I can do what I do for so little in return. My friends and family think I work ridiculous hours and know how much I do/don’t get paid. They’ve heard about the struggles that many Red Crossers have to put up with. They are supportive, but are nonetheless baffled by my insistence on staying with such a demanding organization. My volunteers are why I chose to stay. Not because I can’t stand on my own, but because I love being surrounded by like-minded individuals who sincerely want to do some good in this world. It’s refreshing to come to work knowing that a lot of terrible things happen everywhere, but I am surrounded by the good people who will counteract the wrongdoings of the world with a smile.
So if you’ve ever met a Red Cross volunteer know that they are the most interesting, genuine, persistent people you will ever meet and thank them. Thank them for their dedication to the community, to their fellow volunteers, and to our staff. Without them, the American Red Cross would not be able to do what it does. So thank you, Red Crossers.