An American Red Cross AmeriCorps Journey, by Americorps member Riley Hennessy

The question of, “Why I serve as an AmeriCorps member for the American Red Cross,” is a question I get asked on a regular basis. And, though the people who ask are always different, my answer is always the same. I serve to make a difference and I serve to help better the lives of others. Both locally and while deployed, I have witnessed people who have lost everything and still have a smile on their face and a willingness to thrive.  It is because of their stories and their resilience that I chose to do what I do.

My journey as an AmeriCorps member has taken me from the deadly wildfires of Los Angeles to the roaring hurricanes of South Carolina. In October 2016, I was deployed as a caseworker to help with the Hurricane Matthew relief efforts in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And, while I went to South Carolina to help people, I didn’t know that the people I went to help would end up helping me. I saw only trees where there used to be homes. I saw a beach completely devastated with debris. And I saw families with no place to go. And, while the people of South Carolina helped me learn a great deal about myself, they also reminded me to never take life for granted!

Locally, I am the casework lead for Territory 2. And this, by far has been the most meaningful experience of my term. I get to learn from and interact with Red Cross volunteers who dedicate their time to help those affected by disaster (and in the Los Angeles Region these disasters are mostly home fires).  As the casework lead, I am able to interact and help those affected by disaster on a daily basis. I have seen clients who have lost everything: their house, their belongings, their cars, their pets, and even their family members. But, they bounce back and continue on in life—thriving! And, it is the Red Cross casework team of volunteers that play a large role in helping these clients recover so quickly. Whether by giving clients listings for housing, resources for clothing, emotional guidance, or just being a friend they can trust, every case opened touches the heart of every Red Cross caseworker.

Being a member of the AmeriCorps has given me insight as to how I want to spend my life. I believe that I am here to help people.  And, being a part of the AmeriCorps has given me the leverage and guidance to do just that.  Now, as a stronger person, I’m excited to see what the future holds


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