This past Saturday, October 5, was my 12-year anniversary with the American Red Cross. How did this happen? Where did the time go?
When I tried to write about it, words failed. Or, rather, words poured out of my pen in an endless, meandering stream: lots of words, not much sense.
So I got ambitious and turned the past twelve years into a simple infographic. (Click on the graphic to get a better view.) There are the long-term projects that lasted weeks, months or years, and the one-off emergency responses that lasted only a few days–often just one day.
That first day, volunteering for the World Trade Center disaster response, I had no idea what to expect. I told the woman in Staffing who was placing me in a Local Disaster Volunteer role that “I’ve never done anything like this before. Why don’t I try it for three days and see how it goes?”
It must have gone well, because here I am. The work I’m proudest of, in the long run, is my first three years as part of the September 11 response. I’m a native New Yorker and my Dad worked in the World Trade Center for several years. (He was, fortunately for us, retired before 2001.)
Among the shorter responses, this was my proudest moment. Serving hot chocolate at the Brooklyn Bridge during the 2005 transit strike was the most fun. I was ther the third–and what turned out to be the last–day of the strike. Word had just gone out that there would be service the next morning and our ERV became the hub of a party atmosphere. When a young woman walking off the Bridge squealed with excitement into her cell phone, “It’s the Red Cross! And they have hot chocolate!” that was the best reward a volunteer could have.
I’ve recently taken on a new project within my work with the Volunteer Resources Department: I’m following up with existing Greater New York chapter volunteers who expressed interest in new roles with the Red Cross. Whether they are taking on additional responsibilities or changing roles to accomodate changes in their personal interests or schedules, it resonates with my diverse experience. The main reason I’ve stayed on this long is that there was always something else I could do when my work schedule changed, or my interests took a detour–and even once when a project I was working on was discontinued. It’s the advantage of volunteering with a large and diverse organization like the American Red Cross (of which Greater New York is the busiest chapter). Express an interest, perhaps take some training, and I’m on my way to new opportunities.
By the way, if you’re interested in volunteering, here’s the link for all American Red Cross volunteers to get started. I can’t promise you’ll have twelve exciting and satisfying years… but, then, I have.