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Change a Life Finalist Melissa Sieminski
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Leslie A. Smith
April 6, 2009

In the dark and quiet hours of the night, while most are fast asleep, Melissa Sieminski is changing lives.

Melissa is a member of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay’s Disaster Action Team (DAT), which responds to local emergencies. She is on call every day of the week, and often that call comes in the middle of the night. After getting out of bed and going to assist on the scene—whether it’s a house fire, an ice storm or other local disaster—Melissa returns home and gets ready for another day, all before the sun comes up…and with almost no one the wiser as to the events that played out in the wee hours. “I felt like I was living a secret life for the first year or two,” she said.

The event that drove her to become a Red Cross volunteer was one that moved many people: Hurricane Katrina. Melissa was sitting on her couch one day, watching the news footage of people standing on rooftops and holding up signs that pleaded for help. “I just felt like I had to do something,” she said.

After calling the Red Cross, she received training and was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana three days later. Since then, she has traveled to help in three other national disasters, but the majority of her volunteer work takes place closer to home. Before becoming a volunteer, she was aware of what the Red Cross did on a national level during large disasters, but didn’t realize how much help was needed on a day-to-day basis in local communities.

No matter where she is called to help, volunteering has changed Melissa’s life. “I have received numerous hugs, cried infinite tears and laughed with joy when someone whom I had helped realized that there was hope after all…I am not wealthy, but I am richer because I volunteer.”

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

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