For nearly all her life, Martha Connot has volunteered her time to help others in need. Never in her wildest dreams did she expect to be honored for her efforts, let alone get the chance to greet the President of the United States as he arrived in Nebraska yesterday.
Martha was recently chosen as a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, an honor that was created by The President's Council on Service and Civic Participation to thank and honor Americans who show the utmost commitment to volunteerism and inspire others to engage in volunteer service.
Her letter of nomination for the award came from the Red Cross Heartland Chapter in Omaha, Neb., and came as a huge shock to her.
“I got a call from the White House and thought it was a telemarketer!” she exclaimed. “I was very overwhelmed but needless to say, it was a nice surprise.”
Meeting the President
On the morning of December 5, Martha waited anxiously for the president’s plane to land at the Omaha airport and she was the first to greet him on the runway.
“I was very nervous but the President immediately broke the ice,” said Martha. “He said ‘Hola!’ to me, which I thought was a lovely personal touch.”
The president then presented her with the award, a beautiful blue lapel pin honoring her lifelong commitment to volunteer service.
Embodying the Volunteer Spirit
A native of Bogota, Columbia, Martha began her volunteer work with the American Red Cross in 2002. Fluent in Spanish, she began as an interpreter within the blood region. Since then she has responded to countless other disasters, often as the only Spanish speaking volunteer available. She also spent seven weeks in Mississippi in 2005 assisting with the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.
“This is something I never thought would happen to me,” she said. “It makes me that much prouder to be a part of the American Red Cross. To me, the work we do is the most important in the world.”
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.