This year two volunteers at the NY Red Cross are receiving citations as "emerging leaders," a new award that recognizes people who have shown strong leadership qualities early in their tenure at the Chapter and who are viewed as exemplary role models for other volunteers.
For Mary O'Shaughnessy, one of the winners, that description fits like a glove. Born, bred and still living in Manhattan, she joined the Red Cross in 2007 and trained to work as a disaster responder. As she gained experience, Mary quickly rose in the responder ranks, taking a leadership role in training and mentoring many disaster response volunteers. She also heads her own Disaster Action Team, or DAT, which is on call to respond from Chapter headquarters every other Saturday.
Volunteer Rebecca Callahan, who has worked with Mary for almost four years, explains the leadership qualities she sees in Mary: "She is able to stay impartial and attempts to bring out the best in volunteers while making sure they have the tools and the skills necessary to meet the needs of clients in a range of disaster situations." Rebecca says that Mary is terrific at maintaining the morale of her disaster responders, attending to their training needs and giving them positive reinforcement, "even after the most challenging situations."
It isn't just her organizational and training skills that make Mary such a valuable volunteer. "Her spirit is infectious," says disaster-response volunteer Jack Gwaltney. "Her kindness and compassion are an example for all of us when dealing with clients."
By day, Mary is a manager of legal services for a nonprofit law firm that aids low-income women in need of legal representation in marital and family cases. She does database management and statistical reporting, as well as soliciting non-attorney volunteer help. Mary regrets that due to her job requirements she's been unable to deploy on two-week-long national disaster relief responses. To compensate, she does more at Chapter headquarters: serving as a Call Center agent when possible and training as a public affairs representative, a government liaison and a "Ready New York" preparedness program presenter.
"I really like responding to fellow New Yorkers on the regular basis that I do," says Mary. "I have made great friends, witnessed great kindness and strength in adversity, and grown tremendously through my Red Cross volunteering."
Mary O'Shaughnessy from Manhattan, NY is the co-recipient of the 2010 Emerging Leader Award