Giving Back… Gives Friendships

Jess Chairez and Marcus Heningburg met through the Red Cross. They drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) together, and have developed a friendship that both are grateful for.

For Jess, joining the Red Cross was a way to recover after the loss of his son Joe. Joe was 24, a newly graduated police officer, with a history of helping others. He collapsed while making an arrest. “Joe pushed kindness on everyone.” Exclaimed Chairez proudly. As a testament to his son Joe Chairez says “I am so thankful for the Red Cross and Donor network west, to keep the legacy of my son alive, and helping people in the process, that’s the biggest blessing.” Joe will forever live in servitude, so will his father Jess. “Red Cross gives me different platforms to work from, it keeps me active, they don’t realize that they are healing my heart,” said Jess.

Jess’ first assignment with the Red Cross, immediately after joining, was ten years ago during Hurricane Katrina. He spent 4 weeks in service to the victims of the largest and third strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in the US at the time. “To hand someone a meal, and give them a hug, let them speak to you is helping them from one step to the next,’ Jess remembers “I am so thankful, it is such a healing to my heart.” Ten years later, Jess continues to serve the Gold Country region in different capacities. It doesn’t matter to Jess how big or small the need is, “People need hugs, and someone to talk to. The more I help people, the better I feel inside of me. I’m trying to give back.”

For Marcus Heningburg… the Red Cross journey began in Mobile, Alabama many years ago. His family taught him early on, that if you can help, you should, and there is always some way you can help. Marcus stood in service to this country with the Air Force, and then with the penal service. By the adage that was instilled in him early on, he joined the Red Cross. Marcus also found was a new friend, another selfless individual, Jess Chairez.

Marcus is humble and likes getting involved in preparedness events as well as disasters. But there is never a dull moment in the Red Cross and he’s done so much. Working in telethons, installing smoke detectors, delivering mattresses to veterans, working as a parking lot attendant during the the California State Fair, and even participating in staff events at the headquarters like potlucks and staff meetings. “How can I help?” Red Cross answers that question for me and many of us,” smiles Marcus humbly. “Seeing someone with a smile on their face, and shaking their hands, is my reward. It’s easy.” Said Marcus “It’s so easy working with Jess, I do it as much as I can. He allows me to do as much as he does, He is always going. I try to keep up.” Meanwhile, Jess adds “You don’t have to force the guy, he wants to do it. You can see the compassion, it might be a parking lot one day, and delivering a mattress another. Marcus does it with a smile on his face and with open arms.”


Pairing up to drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), these two enter into a partnership, that adds to each individual in ways unimaginable. Red Cross allows them the  platform in which to reflect a little bit of themselves to those who need it. Sometimes it’s a neighbor, sometimes a stranger. It doesn’t matter which, be a mirror; with a smile. A hug, a meal or your time, as Jess and Marcus do. Red Cross can help you serve those in your community; show you an opportunity to give. It may also connect you, as it did Jess and Marcus, with your long lost best friend.

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Gold Country Crosswords

The American Red Cross Gold Country Region serves the Sierra-Delta Chapter as well as the Northeastern California Chapter, a total of 24 Counties from Stanislaus to Siskiyou. We are happy to serve the 4.4 million residents in the state.

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