‘I didn’t realize the variety, the national scope of what the Red Cross does’

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

November 2, 2020 – Is it time to add a breath of fresh air to your life? Are you ready to try something new? Do you feel like doing good for others, but you’re not sure how?

Gail Robinson of Wickliffe, Ohio, felt the same way. The retired health and physical education teacher was laid off from a part-time gig with the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers and was feeling restless.

“I needed something to do,” she said. “I saw that the American Red Cross was looking for people to volunteer and I decided to check it out.”

Gail Robinson

Gail checked out an online volunteer information session that opened her eyes.

“I was a Red Cross swim instructor for many years and taught first aid and CPR,” she said, “and I gave blood.

“But I didn’t realize the variety, the national scope of what the Red Cross does; how the Red Cross needs people to go to help with disasters in California and Florida and Louisiana. I guess I just thought the Red Cross there handled all those disasters.”

“Actually, more than 90 percent of our workforce are volunteers,” said Melanie Collins, volunteer recruitment specialist for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross. “Due to COVID, many of our volunteers are not able to deploy right now, which is completely understandable.

“At the same time, the need for volunteers to help with blood drives and local disasters such as home fires – as well as disasters across the country – hasn’t dropped off.”

The Red Cross has adapted in many ways to keep its workforce and the people it serves safe. Many of its activities are now done online; volunteer recruitment is one.

Melanie will host an online information session from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, to explore volunteer opportunities in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties.

“We’re looking for people who are willing and able to volunteer to help fill the gaps we’re currently experiencing,” Melanie said. The “gaps” include serving on Disaster Action Teams to comfort those affected by home fires and other local emergencies, serving as “ambassadors” at blood drives and driving blood products to area hospitals.

Charles Bluhm of Williamsfield, in far eastern Ashtabula County, works for a commercial construction company. He joined one of Melanie’s virtual information sessions and is now checking out the many aspects of Red Cross service through online videos.

“I’m interested in the hands-on things that the Red Cross does,” he said. “Emily (Probst, a regional disaster workforce manager) reached out to me and I think she’s going to get me involved with a local disaster response team. I appreciate that personal contact.”

Meanwhile, Gail Robinson is taking online Red Cross courses so she can go help house, feed and comfort those hit by this year’s relentless hurricanes or merciless wildfires.

Gail is looking forward to a new activity, a new sense of purpose at a time when so much seems to be on pause.

To join Melanie’s online volunteer information session, RSVP to melanie.collins4@redcross.org or call 330-204-6615. You can always find out more about what the Red Cross does and how you can get involved by going to redcross.org/volunteertoday. Be a Hero in your community