Well-known Red Cross volunteer “Mr. Jack” promoted

This blog post is authored by Karen Callwood, a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts.

Volunteer Jack Kavanagh, who has been with the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts since 2008, was recently promoted to a title called “feeding manager” within the organization’s Mass Care Group.

Kavanagh is known by everyone as Mr. Jack, a name he got from his granddaughters that stuck.

Before Mr. Jack came to the American Red Cross, he worked six decades in the food industry as a broker. After he retired, he had more time on his hands and said he wanted to stay busy.

“I always admired and always supported the Red Cross, but was never able to make the commitment or have the time,” he said. “I was first assigned to the disaster team and went to fires and whatever else that happened.”

Knowing about his long history in the food industry, it was his team leader that suggested he get into feeding clients for the Red Cross, an area that desperately needed help.

Mr. Jack immediately started getting meals and meeting with local vendors such as Roche Brothers and Whole Foods. He also was deployed to places such as Rhode Island and Mississippi to help those in need. While deployed to Springfield last year, he helped give out 27,000 meals to those affected by the tornado disaster.

It was the aftermath of the tornados in Springfield that has become his most profound memory. “It was very devastating, but seeing how everyone just came together was the biggest thing I’ve been involved in,” he said.

Mr. Jack said there are a lot of things about his job that he loves, including the people he comes into contact with. “You develop relationships with people you never would have met. I’ve made a lot of friends,” he said.

It’s these friends that Mr. Jack works with everyday to make sure things run more smoothly during a crisis. For him, the work never ends.

“When I’m deployed it can be a really long day because I’m responsible for feeding everyone in the shelters,” he said.  “I also have to feed all of the first responders like the police, firefighters, and EMTs.”

The meals are usually prepared in a field kitchen or come from caterers and supermarket chains. Mr. Jack also makes sure the trucks are loaded correctly and plans all the logistics. Being flexible is the most important thing in this job, he says.

 “Take as many courses as you can,” he said. “When you take training courses you’re much calmer when you get called to a disaster. The training really helps.”

When he’s not volunteering at the American Red Cross, Mr. Jack is a military history buff who specializes in the Civil War. He is also fascinated with WWI and recently returned from a trip to France to visit a battlefield. He is also a member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and MRC (Medical Reserve Corps) both in Brookline. He credits his training at the Red Cross with helping him in his additional volunteer roles.

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