Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio
By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer
April 24, 2020- The worldwide pandemic has most of us sheltering at home. But the incredibly giving and generous volunteers who make up the bulk of the front lines at the American Red Cross are out helping those who need it most. That selfless spirit is noteworthy any time, but now, it is exceptionally heroic.
This week, the Red Cross is celebrating National Volunteer Week to honor these special individuals. Today we spotlight Kevin Sauer, B.S.N., R.N., a caregiver at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital and a volunteer for the Red Cross.
Kevin was born, raised and still lives on the west side of Cleveland. He received his bachelor’s in nursing from Xavier University, and has been practicing for 10 years. He recently returned to school to earn a master’s degree in executive leadership. Several years ago, as he was working on his professional career ladder application, he noted volunteering was part of the criteria, so he began volunteering at the local blood donation center. In the eight years since, he has moved from Blood Services into Disaster Services, and is now a team leader/supervisor on the Disaster Action Team as well as the Disaster Health Services Team, among other roles.
Kevin functions as our Regional DHS Lead and, despite periodic months overseas, he rarely misses a Division call to stay up-to-date for the team,” said Renee Palagyi, Regional Senior Disaster Program Manager. “I had the privilege to deploy with Kevin during southern Ohio flooding and he set the bar high for mentoring and leading his nursing team through constantly changing needs.”
Prior to volunteering, Kevin admitted he didn’t know a great deal about the Red Cross beyond their blood services. “It wasn’t until I received a follow-up phone call from Debra Kellar [a member of the Volunteer Services Team] that I learned about Disaster Services and everything else the Red Cross does. After that, it was the people I volunteered alongside, together with the clients we helped, that roped me in—and I’ve been here eight years now,” said Kevin.
With Kevin’s incredibly busy work schedule, it’s amazing he finds time to volunteer, but he makes it a priority. For most of the past eight years, his 12-hour shifts, three days a week at the hospital allow him the time and opportunity to volunteer on his days off.
L to R: Kevin Sauer, Chad Whitaker, Lora Taylor, disaster program manager- North Central Ohio, Renee Palagyi- senior program manager, Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager- Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley
“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “So making time to help those who potentially just lost everything is worth it to me.” Kevin said volunteering with the Red Cross allows him to step outside his nursing role when needed, to help people who need help the most.
Kevin has seen a lot. His work with Disaster Services has taken him all over Northeast Ohio for home fires, multi-family apartment/condo fires, flooding, and even a home explosion where he helped open and operated a shelter for a few nights. He also deployed to Houston for Hurricane Harvey, and returned to his college town of Cincinnati to assist in flood relief in 2018. But one of his most memorable experiences? “I walked into a home with five kids, and that home had no electricity, no power and no running water after a fire,” said Kevin. “Their kitchen was literally ripped open and thrown outside their house. They were waiting, in the cold, for us volunteers from the Red Cross to come and help them. That experience reminded me, once again, why I continue to take calls for the Disaster Action Team.”
Kevin said the best thing about volunteering for the Red Cross is the people. “Some of the names and faces may have changed, but the dedication and willingness to serve are still there from everyone who puts on that Red Cross lanyard or vest,” Kevin explained. Also, the people we help every day. One minute these people are living their lives and the next, their lives are turned upside down by a fire, flood or other natural disaster. Being there for them, hearing ‘thank you’ from someone who just lost everything, is what keeps me going.”
During a global pandemic or an emergency close to home, volunteers like Kevin keep all of us going, and they deserve our thanks for being true heroes.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer