My volunteer story with the Red Cross started with a job advertisement for "Volunteer Coordinator" over 14 years ago. I had been volunteering for more than 20 years in schools, scouts and churches, so I thought it would be a good fit. I always like to step forward; I am a helper. At the time, I had no idea of all the services that the American Red Cross provides in our community: disaster relief, support for our military families, health and safety training & education, life-saving blood and international services. I knew about the blood program and the extensive disaster relief, but I did not know all the services that the Red Cross provides as a charitable organization dependent upon the donations of the community.

That is why I am especially passionate about my volunteer work with the American Red Cross. We change lives and we can see the direct impact we provide in our community. Over the years, I have had the privilege and honor of serving in many volunteer roles, such as Public Relations in Disasters, through which I appear on camera at the site of a fire or exercise, Disaster Action Team — DAT — member, Maryland Emergency Operations Center liaison, PR/Communications Advisory Committee member, just to name a few.

When disasters strike, the need is immediate. I have found that just the sight of that Red Cross at the disaster makes a big difference to the victims. It brightens the gloom disaster causes. Showing the victim that they are not alone is as important as the emergency services that we are providing. These everyday fires are the same to these victims as large-scale disasters that are seen all over the news. They lose everything; their lives are turned upside down. That is when the Red Cross volunteers are there. We stay with them until they are back on their feet and have a recovery plan in place. The local Chesapeake Region of the American Red Cross responds locally at least three times every day, in addition to constantly preparing for large scale disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and those close to home such as the LA Plata Tornadoes — all events that I had the privilege to have a role in.

I believe in helping — in "connecting the dots" — linking people to services or people to people. I am proud to serve as a volunteer and an ambassador for the Red Cross in the community.

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