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Why I Help
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Lorraine Barclay Nordlinger, Red Cross Volunteer Journalist
June 7, 2010

It's June!  It is month to honor the grads and dads in our lives.  Ricardo Alterno is already a dad, however he yearns to be a graduating student too.  He is also a valued volunteer of the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles.  He serves on its Disaster Action Team (DAT) as an official event photographer, he teaches CPR/AED and First-Aid in Spanish, and he is a Public Affairs Associate specializing in Spanish media for that chapter.  He currently works as a security officer for two private companies, yet manages to volunteer countless hours a month with the Greater Los Angeles chapter, while still pursuing his dream of becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Ricardo Alterno, experienced volunteer with the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles Chapter, poses with his wife, Susana, and young son, Ricardo Jr.
Ricardo Alterno, experienced volunteer with the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles Chapter, poses with his wife, Susana, and young son, Ricardo Jr.

Alterno proclaimed, "Quite simply, I love the Red Cross and I love what I can do through it [for] others."  He regards the American Red Cross like a second family.  His loyalty to the American Red Cross and his own personal family was apparent when he accepted the activation call to serve as a Public Affairs Associate for the Spanish speaking media at the Incident Post of L.A. county's 2009 Station Fire, even though his wife, Susana, was in the last stages of her pregnancy with their first child, a son, Ricardo Jr.   

During the 2009 Station Fire (the largest blaze in Los Angeles county's modern history), Alterno recalled that he came across a family of five who were sleeping in their car in the street in front of the shelter. They had lost most everything in the fire, and the family did not want to leave their vehicle to enter the shelter because they were afraid of losing what little they had left.  When Alterno and other volunteers took them to a hotel and helped them get settled, they could see happiness on the faces of the family members.  Helping others to cope with incidents like that fire is the one of the reasons why Alterno strongly believes, "I can make a difference in the life of a person, family, [or in a] community."

Alterno first moved to the U.S. from Costa Rica in 2005 to fulfill his dream of working as an EMT here.  Although a graduate of the university at Costa Rica, he was surprised to learn that California doesn’t recognize the education credits he took to become an EMT in his country.  At first he spoke little or no English at all, but then he found out about local Red Cross seminars by going to an online site.  Maria Elizondo, the chapter’s AmeriCorps site manager, gave him an individual introduction seminar in Spanish so he could instantly realize exactly how he could help the L.A. Red Cross chapter.  Now Alterno works closely with Monica Diaz, the Communication and Marketing Specialist at the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, for accurate mission statements or instructions (in English) when he gives interviews to the Spanish-speaking media.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; 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 mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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