Volunteer Recognition


Volunteer Recognition

The American Red Cross in the Bay Area depends on its volunteers to carry out its humanitarian work, and today about 3,000 volunteers help their communities through the American Red Cross service delivery. As always, the Red Cross continues to invite people of all ages, backgrounds and capabilities to join its legions of "everyday heroes."

Below are stories of our volunteer heroes...

Marin County volunteer John Woodbridge was sent on his first mass care deployment to help the people affected by North Dakota floods last month. Woodbridge departed on March 25 and was immediately put to work setting up shelters, serving up hot meals and helping people evacuate their homes to safety.  

Woodbridge helped to shelter more than 200 people, all of whom had special needs. Due to the serious nature of the floods, Red Cross disaster teams worked hard to first evacuate the more vulnerable communities, such as those living in nursing homes.

“It was the middle of the night and there were people in wheelchairs, with oxygen tanks and on gurneys,” recalled Woodbridge. “These people are not self sufficient.” And it was up to volunteers like Woodbridge to assist the evacuees with all their basic needs, giving them three meals a day, helping them into their cots and just talking to them about the situation.

Woodbridge was thrilled with his first mass care deployment commenting that it was a terrific experience with a great, cohesive team of people all ready to lend a hand. He said the clients were most definitely appreciative. “They were hugging us all as we got the last people off to more suitable shelters for their needs,” he added.

Bay Area volunteer Monica Flores was happy to spend a Saturday in March using her skills as both a Spanish speaker and CPR instructor to help better prepare nearly 250 Latino community members as part of the chapter’s CPR Saturday event.

Flores works as a professional caregiver in San Francisco and for the past seven years she has also chosen to volunteer her time with the Red Cross as a CPR instructor and Latino community preparedness consultant.

Flores first became interested in volunteering for the Red Cross in her home country Peru where she also volunteered as a CPR instructor. When she moved to the Bay Area she soon became an active member of the Red Cross Latino community preparedness team continuing her training efforts within a community where people like herself come from different backgrounds and cultures. She expressed that while the American Red Cross has different preparedness efforts than those of the Red Cross of Peru, she likes that the guiding principals are the same. The mission of the Red Cross is really universal, and people can rely on that no matter where they are from. 

This year’s Paint the Town Red Gala will be memorable thanks to our dedicated and creative gala co-chairs Roberta Economidis and Kelly Bryson Murphy. Economidis is a successful lawyer who owns her own firm and Murphy is an accomplished professional in the financial field. So why do these busy, professional women find time to volunteer for the Red Cross?  Like many Red Cross volunteers they were inspired by the drive to help others when unexpected disaster struck innocent lives—for Murphy this occurred after the earthquake and tsunami hit Southeast Asia in 2004.

“I felt dwarfed by the magnitude of the disaster, so I called the Red Cross to see if there was a way to be useful,” said Murphy. She was put to work the next morning manning the Bay Area call center. After taking on several other leadership roles in the Red Cross, Murphy took on the role of co-chair for the gala in 2008, and inspired her friend Economidis to join the effort. Economidis commented, “She helped me realize what kind of an impact the Red Cross has on the Bay Area every day and what we can do to counteract these unfortunate events.”

This power-duo is now working tirelessly—along with the rest of the committee – to put the final touches on the gala, which will take place on February 28 at San Francisco City Hall. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.redcrossbayarea.org/gala2009.

The success of the American Red Cross can be attributed to its core of dedicated and passionate volunteers. Contra Costa County’s Sue Larripa has continuously shown this dedication having volunteered with the Red Cross for 14 years as a first aid/CPR instructor, emergency response vehicle (ERV) driver, and disaster action team and disaster services human resources volunteer.

Larripa has deployed twice to Louisiana for Hurricane Gustav, Texas for Hurricane Ike and the Gulf for Hurricane Katrina. “I’m a disaster junkie. I’m in the trenches where I want to be, and there is nothing better than being an ERV driver,” she said. Sue Lurripa most recently obtained her ERV license in the field while deployed in Houston for Hurricane Ike. She has donated countless hours of her time working in Red Cross kitchens and shelters, serving meals, providing care and driving across the country in her ERV with tornado and hurricane watches all along the way, but she refuses to call herself a hero. “You can’t change the bad things that happen in the world, but with the Red Cross you can reach your hand out to someone in need and say ‘I’m here to help,’” she said. Larripa’s vibrant, go-getter personality never tires and she is currently awaiting the moment when the Red Cross calls her to action again.

Service and volunteering have been important to Bay Area Chapter volunteer Tony Ching since college, so after seeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina,
he immediately signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer.

This summer has been virtually a non-stop deployment for Ching. Like many, Ching was immediately concerned with the situation after the cyclone hit Myanmar in May 2008. Because he was born there and had visited several times, he easily entered the country as a tourist with the intention of doing disaster relief work.

Ching worked with local groups to distribute food, clothing, towels and blankets, and he traveled with doctors to the affected villages.  After about a month overseas, he returned home to the Bay Area.
With a few days rest, Ching packed up his things again and headed to a raging wildfire near Chico to work at a Red Cross shelter. While the fire was eventually contained, Ching's volunteering didn’t end there. A few weeks later he was deployed to Hurricane Dolly in Texas. In Texas, Ching helped distribute cleaning kits, comfort kits, waters, snacks and meals to shelters and distribution centers.

Ching may be back in the Bay Area now, but it's hard to believe that such a dedicated volunteer won't be back on assignment again soon.

Become part of this story. Support your American Red Cross—volunteer today! See our volunteer openings or call (888) 229-8652 for more information.

ęCopyright 2007, American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter. All Rights Reserved.
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Photos: Gene Dailey, Elena Fava Emerson, Bonnie Gillespie.