The Next Generation of Red Crossers

From the second I arrived at Six Flags New England on Wednesday, August 20th, I could immediately tell that it was going to be a good day for the Red Cross. Prospective youth volunteers and club members began streaming in to the empty park, initially interacting only with close friends but quickly becoming much more comfortable with one each other as the incredibly helpful Six Flags staff shepherded us from the entrance to the Grove where the Youth Programs Day Event would take place. While I could tell that the general consensus among the attendees was that 8:30 in the morning was EARLY (A point I am sure most of us can agree on), I could not have been more impressed with the cheery mood evident as youth volunteers signed in and took seats alongside each other while sharing a light breakfast.

After a majority of the 80 youth were seated and settled, Sarah Corrigan, Board Chair of the Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter said a few opening words before conducting a basic ice breaker that involved everyone splitting away from those they arrived with in order to interact with someone brand new. I have been a part of many ice breaking events, and I have rarely seen a group so willing to mingle! This cheery mood continued to pervade the entire day from the lecture sections where the new volunteers learned the history of the Red Cross and about its mission and values to the ending educational walk through of Volunteer Connection. Perhaps the most impressive section of the day, however, was an exercise where the youth broke off into several small groups in order to plan potential fund raising ideas. Not only did every group come up with an incredibly clever fund raising idea, but they also managed to plan most of the logistics! My personal favorite was a group that came up with a color run (a cross country run where participants are generally pelted with water balloons full of paint), which would raise a lot of potential revenue for the Red Cross. In the end, while the event spanned a long 5 hours, every student remained actively engaged throughout and walked away with an enthusiastic call to “spread the red” as they move forward during the upcoming school year.

As i walked around the park afterwards, it was incredibly gratifying to see all the new Red Cross volunteers in their Red Cross Youth Programs Day shirts dispersed amongst the crowd knowing that all these highly motivated individuals will be working hard to further the Red Cross mission.

More Than Just Blood-Experiences at a Blood Drive

On July 9th I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Six Flags Super Blood Drive at the Big E along with a fellow Youth Programs Intern, Sarah Braverman. Together, we decided to share our experiences from the drive.

Sarah Bessette: I had attended and seen a few blood drives before, but this one was very impressive. From the moment you step into the Better Living Center, a Red Cross Volunteer greets you with a smile, guides you through the process, and sends you to the next station. From the colored wrist bands, to the Looney Toon characters for each donation booth, the organization and flow of the event is incredible. The donors feel comfortable and welcomed.

Going to an event like that, you can’t help but want to give in some way. Whether it’s through actually giving blood, or sitting at the registration desk, each part of the event helps to change and save lives. It was motivating to see the people lining up to donate blood. As a volunteer you get to interact with so many of these people. Some have been giving for years, and others it’s their first time. Some are outgoing, and some hardly speak at all. One was in shock that people actually volunteer their time to help with the drive. Another had volunteered with the Red Cross before. Every donor is different, yet all unified under the same gratification that they helped to save a life. Knowing that is what makes my volunteer experience the most satisfying.

Sarah Braverman: The Big E hosted a Six Flags Super Blood Drive on July 9th, and what an experience it was! The Better Living Center was filled with Red Cross Volunteers and blood donors of all ages and all ready to donate, starting early in the morning to late at night. What I thought was most impressive was how the system was organized. A donor would walk in and be greeted by a Red Cross Volunteer and informed on our regulations and policies for donating blood. The donors were given a colored wrist band that matched a sign at each donation station with a Looney Toon character. Donors had the option to donate whole blood or just red blood cells. After a background check and their donation, each donor went to one of about eight refreshment station, relaxed and socialized with the many other donors.

I volunteered at the “Sylvester the Cat” station greeting people and recording who came in to donate. I had never seen so many donors all in one place at one time. While I was volunteering, I got to meet other volunteers and donors of various backgrounds. Everyone had a story to tell: what brought them to working for the Red Cross, what brought them there that day to donate, how long they have been volunteering or donating, the stories were never ending. What left the longest impact on me was to see all these people, no matter how hard life had been to them, taking the time out of their lives to give to someone they may never meet. Someone with stories they may never hear. Being surrounded by these good Samaritans revived my feelings of enthusiasm and optimism in the charity work I do. Every little thing you do that’s for the benefit of someone else is time well spent.

As you can see, there is so much more to a blood drive than just blood. Its about the donors you meet, the volunteer stories you hear, and the experiences made that create the difference.

My Red Cross Story: An Intern’s Perspective

A little bit more than getting coffee for the executives, these posts will feature some of my experiences with the Youth Programs Department at the Pioneer Valley Chapter.

Before I begin, since this is my first post, let me introduce myself. My name is Sarah Bessette and I am a senior at Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, PA. I am studying Business Administration and have a passion for humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

During junior year, every college student faces the ultimate struggle of attempting to find their internship in order to complete their area of study. My experience was no different. I began my search in October of last year. I was determined to be different than the rest and lock down my internship before the mad dash at the end of the year. I went back and forth with various companies and got dragged around in between yesses, no’s, and maybe so’s. As the school year went on, nothing seemed to be working out. Take a guess when I finalized this internship I am in now…April. Don’t get me wrong, the best was certainly saved for last!

With all that being said, when I started the internship I had no idea what to expect. I had received information about my position before starting and was excited to begin, but I had little background knowledge about the Red Cross. I knew it was one of the largest global nonprofit organizations, and that it organized blood drives. As I’m discovering, unless you work or volunteer here, that’s the perception most people have. In my first day of volunteer training I learned that the Red Cross does so much more than that. Between blood drives, service to armed forces, international services, disaster relief, and health and safety education, the possibilities are endless.

As my internship have unfolded I have discovered that Youth Programs really has the best of all the worlds. How many departments get to work with each of the other five all at the same time and promote every single one of them? As my first volunteer experience with the Red Cross, it is the best way for me to really learn the heart of the organization. To witness the impact the Red Cross has in so many areas through these students clubs is a privilege. We get to encourage the next generation of leaders and advocates of the Red Cross. It’s truly a very rewarding experience that will last far beyond my contributions here.

Disaster Services: Unsung Heroes

Disaster Services Vehicle On Site

Disaster Services Vehicle On Site

As a communications volunteer with the Red Cross, I have heard and written about several disaster responses and even had the oppurtunity to speak with several Disaster Service volunteers over the past month. While all these stories range in terms of size of the disaster and number of people affected, there is always one underlying fact that remains: the heroic commitment and service of our Disaster Service volunteers. These volunteers are men and women of our communitties who have dedicated time and effort to undergo training, so that when a call comes in for any type of emergency, they are willing and able to respond bringing material and emotional comfort to this undergoing truly horrific circumstances. It is one thing to read and write about how volunteers in Lawrence responded to 3 fires in one night, or how Cape Cod volunteers opened up and ran shelters to support large amounts of tourists stranded on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard during Hurricane Arthur, and another experience to actually speak to these dedicated, yet humble, citizens.

I have only had the chance to physically speak to these amazing people twice in my time with the Red Cross, as when they are not either physically responding to a disaster, or running the gears of the behind the scenes to ensure continued Disaster Service support, they are also committed members of their respective communities. My first experience speaking with a Disaster Service volunteer happened at a volunteer management training sesssion. We split into small groups and were asked to go around and share an experience; this volunteer chose to share a story about one of his responses. While the details of the story were interesting, it was clear from the way he spoke that this volunteer truly cared about helping those displaced during a disaster, and he even went above and beyond to help talk down a person who was undergoing a panic attack due to the trauma that often accompanies such unfortunate tragedies. From this man’s story it became clear that not only does he have to be a skilled tactitian in planning out who will need what aid in the form of basic living supplies, food, and emergency money, but also has to be a shoulder to cry on and provide strength and surety in order to help their fellow man. The effort this takes is truly herculian, yet all disaster volunteers are more than willing.

My second oppurtunity to speak with a Disaster Services volunteer occured when I was attempting to write up her story for our website and social media. She and I ended up speaking on the phone concerning the details of her response, and yet I learned so much more than the simple facts of this particular disaster. I learned the depths to which our volunteers are willing to go in order to ensure comfort and support to those whom we serve. After an unfortunate event left almost a score of people homeless, this volunteer spent hours calling hotels going so far as to call hotels from miles away in order to try and find housing for all the people affected. When even reaching out to hotels almost 50 miles away didn’t work, instead of admitting defeat, this volunteer helped work with each of the people in order to find friends and family that could finally host them. It was clear from this volunteers tone of voice that this level of effort is no less than those who suffer from disasters deserve.

What amazes me most about these two, and all other disaster volunteers like them, is that they are volunteers. They do not recieve monetary compensation for their efforts, nor do they often recieve widespread praise. Yet every hour of every day there are disaster volunteers prepared to drop their lives in order to come to the aid of their fellow citizens. Trying to help get the stories of these heroes’ efforts out to the public has truly been a privilage, and when I have the time and the training I hope to be able to provide this type of support to my community as well.

 

 

 

Youth Programs is wicked serious

Club Coordinators TrainingYouth Programs is wicked serious.

JK. It’s probably more fun than you can handle.

Youth Programs volunteers on May 31 spent their weekend learning how to recruit new clubs and oversee established ones. Pioneer Valley Board Chairwoman Sarah Corrigan kicked off the day with an inspirational speech, and was followed by an Ambassador training session by Communications Director Dawn Laks.

The day ended just like any other: with dress up and dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy”. Thanks to all who participated!

 

 

 

Shop H&M, support the Red Cross

Our friends at H&M are hosting a special campaign just for us: a customer donation program.

Between now and May 18, customers can make a donation to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts when they shop at H&M. H&M will match all donations, and donors will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

Red Cross volunteers will participate in special store events to share information on disaster response and answer questions. Come see us!

  • May 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    H&M, 305 Washington St., Boston
  • May 15, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    H&M , 100 Newbury St., Boston
  • May 16, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    H&M, 100 Cambridge Side Place, Cambridge

A special thanks to our volunteers

It’s been a very busy week for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts.

Volunteers 001Since last Friday, our dedicated volunteers have responded to about 17 home fires. They assisted more than 270 people from more than 70 families. That work continues today, as volunteers are meeting with more than 30 people displaced by a large fire in East Boston last night.

It’s fitting that this very busy week happens to fall on National Volunteer Week. Our volunteers wake up at all hours of the night, ready to respond wherever they’re needed. And we’re not the only ones who noticed.

Mark Holden chats with a resident affected by fire

Mark Holden chats with a resident affected by fire

We just received this thank you letter from a Cambridge resident volunteers assisted during a fire in February. Here is what they had to say.

Dear All the Staff & Volunteers of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts,

On behalf of myself and all the residents of 240 Prospect Street, Cambridge.  I thank you all for the help, support and assistance that you gave us during our fire tragedy and for being with us during our difficult time. 

You kindness and goodness will be forever remembered.

Wishing you good luck and best wishes.  With prayers and gratitude.

We couldn’t agree more. Thank you to all of our volunteers.

 

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