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Why I Spent My Summer Volunteering
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Meaghan Gilmore
July 15, 2009

For the majority of my life, I was only familiar with the American Red Cross through advertising and media outlets- whether through commercials encouraging the public to “Give Blood, Give Life,” or watching volunteers on the news help Hurricane Katrina victims. 

(L to R) Meaghan Gilmore, Matt Erstling, and Lauren Kade in the sculpture garden at Headquarters in Washington D.C.
(L to R) Meaghan Gilmore, Matt Erstling, and Lauren Kade in the sculpture garden at Headquarters in Washington D.C.

hoto courtesy of Mary Etta Boesl

My curiosity to learn more about the organization peaked when I saw the Red Cross Bloodmobile outside my dorm on campus.  Because of my seemingly unconquerable fear of needles and blood, I used to stay as far away as possible from them.  I knew I could never get past my fear enough to have a career as a heart surgeon, but I decided to put myself up to a challenge: to donate blood. 

The next time the Red Cross came to my college, I registered despite my reservations.  There were various times while waiting in the long line of college kids chatting about the next frat party or the perils of organic chemistry, that I almost gave up and left.  However, something kept me there- the realization that my childish fear was petty compared to the difference I could potentially make for someone in dire need of a blood transfusion.  I overcame my fear and successfully donated blood that day, and ever since I make sure to attend every blood drive at my school and encourage my friends to participate as well.

My fascination with the Red Cross did not stop after becoming a loyal blood donor- I also was interested in the inner workings of the Red Cross.  I was thrilled when I found out I would have the opportunity to intern, during my summer break from school, with the Communication and Marketing department at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C.  I was able to unite my passion for volunteering and community service with my interest in marketing through this remarkable experience.

While working at the Red Cross, I was able to connect with other interns who also agreed to devote their summer days to volunteering for this organization.  Lauren Kade, an advertising intern, found out about the internship through her college’s career center and volunteers because “it helps me feel like I’m giving back to my community and helping other people, instead of working for some huge corporation that doesn’t exactly think of the little people.” 

Another advertising intern, Matt Erstling, remarks, “What struck me about this internship was the fact that the Red Cross is such a well-known name and is one of the largest charities in the US…given the opportunity to work for a for-profit company versus a non-profit organization, the choice is pretty easy: why help the rich get richer when you can do something to help those who can't necessarily help themselves?” 

Lauren, Matt and I agree the gratifying feeling that comes with volunteering for such a prominent charity outweighs our desire for payment.

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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