What it Means to Give Back as a Red Cross Volunteer and Staff Member

Written by Debbie Calcote, Disaster Program Manager (Tuolumne & Stanislaus Counties), Red Cross Capital Region

Debbie Calcote (R) provides direction for Red Cross volunteers during a recent fire safety canvassing event in Turlock, CA.

Debbie Calcote (R) provides direction for Red Cross volunteers during a recent fire safety canvassing event in Turlock, CA.

In 2005, like many other people, I was devastated by what I was seeing in the media about Hurricane Katrina.  The sadness and total devastation of so many things and people was almost more than I could bear.

My heart went out to all impacted by this rage of Mother Nature. I needed to do something only I was caring for my disabled husband and couldn’t leave the area. So I went to the local Red Cross office and offered to help in any way.

The director at the time told me I could help by deploying volunteers out of the office to the disaster. So, I gathered what I needed to take care of my husband we went up the road to help.

But after my time of doing that I wanted to do more, right in my own area. So our Director, Jim, told me to take some classes. And so classes I did take…I took every single class he offered!

Soon I was part of the local Disaster Action Team.

My first call was in a nearby neighborhood and off I went. When I arrived the home was totally destroyed, water damage was horrific. I walked through the house with my red vest and white hard hat on. Then it hit me as I was looking at what was there.  Photos burned , precious memories and clothing.

I stood in the middle of the room with the fire department’s Battalion Chief, the flood lights from the engines shining through what once was the front of the home. I started to cry and felt this heavy sadness in my chest. The Chief put his hand my shoulder and said, “your first call, right?”

When I turned around I saw the husband standing behind me, the look on his face I will always remember – shock, sadness and the look of being lost.

I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder and said I was there to help. He would get through this night.

While we usually respond as a team, I happened to be the only volunteer on scene that night. I took care of this family by myself and was glad it worked out that way.

I helped the family that night, and what it left in my heart has stayed with me to this day…

The ability to provide some form of comfort, letting the family know they are not totally alone. A time for them to take a breath. Our services aren’t for long term, but they do ease some of frustration and fear.

The mission of the Red Cross is the most compassionate form of giving to the many people impacted by disasters.

I cannot imagine myself not always being a part of the Red Cross either as a staff member or, as a volunteer where I began.

I think being a volunteer first has helped me understand, work and lead the volunteers that I am so fortunate to have in all my areas.

The Red Cross helps you to be humble at times and strong when you feel weak. But most of all it makes you feel needed and that you are giving back, saying thank you for letting me wake up each morning, and for the roof over my head and the family and friends in my life.

The Red Cross touches lives and truly makes a difference.

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Holiday Mail for Heroes v 2.0

Check out our new twist on one of our favorite holiday traditions! With a reduction in U.S. military forces overseas, particularly in the Middle East and across Europe, we have revised our Holiday Mail for Heroes program!

Rather than collecting hundreds of individual holiday cards, we are collecting messages and signatures on large banners to be distributed to and displayed in military and VA facilities throughout the region! What began as a Veteran’s Day project for several Red Cross Clubs in the Capital Region is quickly taking off…

Supporting our military service members is the foundation of the American Red Cross. It was the driving force for the establishment of this organization more than 130 years ago, and remains a cornerstone of our pride and passion to this day.

As we enter into the holiday season, we are always reminded of the thousands of service members who do not have the good fortune of being with their loved ones during this special time of year. Instead, many are serving the country and defending our freedoms out of military installations around the world while we enjoy the many comforts of home that their service and sacrifice has provided.

In this season of thankfulness and joy, we are proud to continue this annual tradition of sending thanks to those who serve and have served. It may look a little different, but the message is the same. Thank you to our military members past, present, and future, for your courage, service, and selfless sacrifice.


~ Share your messages of thanks using #HolidayMail on Twitter @RedCrossCRC and Instagram @RedCrossCRC or @redcross_saf ~

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Giving Tuesday – Why We Give Back

Volunteer Freddy Aw helps deliver relief supplies to residents of Weed, CA following September's Boles Fire.

Volunteer Freddy Aw helps deliver relief supplies to residents of Weed, CA following September’s Boles Fire.

Tuesday, December 2, has been designated at “Giving Tuesday”. This is a global campaign driving people to give back in some way, shape, or form during the day and bring some balance to other days on the calendar devoted to shopping and giving thanks. And whether you choose to provide financial support, or get hands-on and volunteer to help, there are countless opportunities around the world and in your own backyard to get involved and give back where it’s needed most!

In January, a late night explosion and fire at a Sacramento apartment complex knocked out power and left 140 residents out in the cold. Red Cross DAT volunteers were there to help!

DAT volunteers respond following a January apartment fire in Sacramento.

While Giving Tuesday offers a great chance to raise awareness to the many needs within our communities, it also serves as a reminder that help is needed throughout the year. The only way a difference is made is because someone steps up to give back. But what determines how and why people finally turn good intentions into meaningful action? As we lead up to Giving Tuesday, we’re asking our staff and volunteers why they choose to give back through the Red Cross. Here’s what they’ve had to say:

“Distributing meals to the victims of Hurricane Sandy was an incredible experience.  Loved meeting the people each day as we ran our route through Breezy Point.  Most rewarding was when a couple to whom we had been serving lunches for three weeks told us that when they retired they wanted to be Red Cross Volunteers just like us!” – Susan and Henry Winters, Red Cross Volunteers

“I give, and keep giving, because behind each emergency or disaster I respond to is a person, a family, a community. When I look in their eyes and tell them we are here to help I mean that with every thing I have in me. Money, time, energy and most of all…..heart.” – Tracy McBroom, Red Cross

We give because after hurricane Katrina the red cross not only helped us relocate all the way to California, but treated us like family.” – Chelsea Fender, Red Cross Supporter

“As the Dalai Lama teaches, ‘It Is not enough to be compassionate; you must act.’ I give because every time we respond to a disaster there is truly someone in need. A family, a home, a life that will be changed forever.” – Michelle LaPierre Bell, Red Cross

“It is in my nature to reach out to people in need. I joined [the Red Cross] because it fit my vision of helping people that had been affected by disaster of any nature. Since first volunteering in 2010, I have  had several occasions to be deployed and help in disaster situations. Those experiences have had a profound impact on me in a very positive way. It has made me a better person and improved my sense of humanity.” - Beryl Mayne, Red Cross Volunteer

“Nothing else feels better than knowing you are able to help people during possibilty the worst event in their lives. Red Cross and our generous donors give me the privilege of doing that and experiencing that personal satisfaction.” – Jan Campbell, Red Cross Volunteer

“I give to the Red Cross because as long as I have a home to go to at night and someone else doesn’t, I am compelled to help them.” – Kris Kirkpatrick, Red Cross

I give back because it gives me ‘Emotional Income'”! – Robin Brinson-Considine, Red Cross Volunteer

“I know that when I give to the Red Cross, it’s going to directly help someone, just like it did when my brother was stationed in Kuwait and my sister-in-law became seriously ill following a routine surgery. One call to the Red Cross and he was home to care for her and their three children.” – Rebecca Ciszek, Red Cross

“I volunteered in response to Katrina. I was deployed so many times for hurricanes, fires and floods…I felt blessed to be able to share my talent.” – Esther Vasquez, Red Cross Volunteer

“There’s great reward in giving. Red Cross is just one of the many ways we can give back to our community.” – Carol A. Brown, Red Cross Supporter

“I am a servant  by nature.  I enjoy helping at any and every level.  I have helped in a grocery store, as a waitress, at church, and with non-profit organizations.  These were mostly local and I always felt a more global calling.  I would pass the Red Cross office often on the freeway until one day I stopped and the rest is history.  I’ve been here almost two years.  I love it, the people, the public and everything about it.  I will be here forever, God willing.” – Debbie Brasher, Red Cross Volunteer

“I’ve been there countless times when the fire crews have left, the police have finished their reports, and the news cameras have moved on. Entire families out in the cold who would have absolutely nowhere to turn if not for the heart and compassion of Red Cross volunteers. In that moment of greatest need, the Red Cross is there to help.” – Jordan Scott, Red Cross

“I volunteer with Red Cross because I have seen first-hand what a positive change Red Cross makes in people’s lives. I grew up in Oklahoma and when I was five my hometown was flooded. The water in our house was about two feet deep. My family was rescued and put up in a Red Cross shelter. I have also seen Red Cross on-site to assist with tornadoes.” – Marilyn Tovar, Red Cross Volunteer

“I was in the Loma Prieta earthquake, I was living in Santa Cruz. I know what it’s like to be a victim. The Red Cross was everywhere! They helped the homeless, they made sure there was food and milk or formula, and of course caring for the injured and the people like myself that where terrified! I volunteered for anything they felt I was capable of doing.” – Dianne Orsley Sutton, Red Cross Volunteer

“Years ago, volunteers helped find and rescue my daughter who was lost in the wilderness overnight. It was such a horrible feeling of hopelessness and it meant so much to have people there with a heart to help. The Red Cross is exactly that – comfort to those during those critical times.” – Charlene Maghiar, Red Cross

“Volunteering with Red Cross gives me inner fulfillment  lt gives me pride,  yet humbles me.” – Yvonne Wilke, Red Cross Volunteer

“Ever since I was a little girl I felt this strong need to help…I didn’t like seeing anybody hurt or crying. I always wanted to fix it or make it better. I became a nurse when I grew up and although I don’t work professionally anymore I still give back. By  volunteering for the Red Cross I can utilize my skills and experience to help others as an Instructor or on the First Aid team.” – Laura Bryant, Red Cross Volunteer

“As a member of the community I feel that it is my privilege to be a contributing member to its overall welfare…Why the Red Cross, an easy answer is that it is the organization that gave to me and helped ensure I was ready for unfortunate life events.” - Don Brock, Red Cross Volunteer

Volunteers honor our military veterans during the annual Veteran's Day Parade in Modesto.

Volunteers honor our military veterans during the annual Veteran’s Day Parade in Modesto.

The American Red Cross is one of many organizations dedicated to helping our local communities. We provide services ranging from disaster relief, CPR/First Aid training, support of our Armed Forces, and educating communities about preparedness. Weekends, holidays, inclement weather…whenever and wherever Red Cross services are needed, they are delivered by dedicated volunteers and supported by the generosity of those who give. When a family loses their home to a fire in the middle of the night, it’s Red Cross volunteers who answer that call, providing food, blankets, clothing, and securing lodging made possible through donations. When a military member needs to get home because of a family emergency, it’s Red Cross volunteers coordinating the effort with the military and the family. Lifesaving training? Most often delivered by volunteers. Evacuation shelters? Staffed 24/7 by volunteers delivering food, blankets, bedding, hygiene items, at safe and secure facilities provided thanks to the generosity of donors.

Volunteers at the Sand Fire shelter in Placerville  (El Dorado County) during the July wildfire that burned 4,200 acres and destroyed 20 homes.

Volunteers at the Sand Fire shelter in Placerville (El Dorado County) during the July wildfire that burned 4,200 acres and destroyed 20 homes.

This year in our 24-county region alone we are on pace to respond to nearly 800 local emergencies. That’s an average of one response every 11 hours. Since January, we have opened 51 evacuation facilities due to wildfires. We have trained thousands in CPR, first aid, disaster preparedness, and much more. We have provided care packages, emergency communication, and support to countless active duty and retired military members and their families. And when disaster strikes across the country, our highly trained volunteers stand at the ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Volunteers provided Hands-Only CPR training at annual Save-A-Life Saturday events throughout the region.

Volunteers provide Hands-Only CPR training at annual Save-A-Life Saturday events throughout the region.

It is important work. Absolutely critical work, meeting these ongoing needs. We can’t do it alone. YOU are the difference that makes a difference! So, whether it’s December 2 or any other day of the year, if you’re looking to give back, consider giving THROUGH the Red Cross. And as they say with #GivingTuesday: it’s not how you give, what you give, or where you give, it’s THAT you give! GT_banner

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Veteran’s Day

By Jordan Scott, Communications Director, Red Cross Capital Region

I grew up in a military family. My grandfather flew B-24’s over Europe in World War II, and continued his service to our country over a distinguished and decorated career in the United States Air Force. My father followed a similar path, serving nearly 30 years as a flight navigator, working at the Pentagon, and retiring as a Lt. Colonel. In fact my father’s side of the family all served in the Air Force. Two uncles fought in Vietnam, others in the Gulf War, and one uncle even earned the honor to lead the USAF Thunderbirds! Continue reading

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Memories of Loma Prieta

A section of the I-880 viaduct through Oakland, CA collapsed as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

A section of the I-880 viaduct through Oakland, CA collapsed as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

At 5:04 PM on October 17, 1989, the earth shook. The San Andreas fault, one of California’s and the world’s most infamous fault lines, shifted violently beneath the Loma Prieta peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The force of the shift resulted in a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that sent shockwaves throughout California and, most notably, the densely populated San Francisco Bay Area. Continue reading

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When Disaster Strikes

Smoke from the King Fire rises across the El Dorado County sky.

Smoke from the King Fire rises across the El Dorado County sky.

It began on the evening of Saturday, September 13. A small fire took hold of the landscape in Pollock Pines, California and began moving from tree to tree in this forested community hit hard by the ongoing drought. By Sunday morning, it was clear that the King Fire would not be going without a fight. Within hours, the fire quickly jumped in size from 500 acres to 1,000 to 2,000.

The billowing smoke put on a dazzling display for onlookers as it “boiled” over the tree tops. A fleet of firefighting aircraft swarmed the skies overhead, bombarding the blaze with everything they had but having minimal impact. The terrain was rugged, the wilderness like kindling, and the wind driving the flames beyond the reach of firefighters. Continue reading

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Red Cross Volunteer Helps his Town Recover

Red Cross volunteer Andy Grossman talks with Weed resident Karly Gregory at the site where her home once stood.

Red Cross volunteer Andy Grossman talks with Weed resident Karly Gregory at the site where her home once stood.

By CARL MANNING, American Red Cross Volunteer

Ask Andy Grossman why he’s an American Red Cross volunteer and his answer is simple – he really enjoys helping people.

It’s a philosophy that’s been a major part of his life, not only as a Red Cross volunteer in Weed, California, but also as pastor of the Abundant Life Church of the Nazarene in nearby Mount Shasta and as chaplain for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Weed.  And if that isn’t enough, he’s just had a book of poetry published. Continue reading

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