Sunday, March 18, 2018

Red Cross Month Volunteer Profile: Richard Sanford

by Stan Frank 

For over 60 years, the President of the United States has designated March as American Red Cross Month. It is a month when we celebrate our volunteers and supporters who make the mission of the Red Cross a reality.

This month, we are taking a moment to celebrate the volunteers who raised their hands in 2017 to support an unprecedented year of disasters across the country and around the world. From natural catastrophes including hurricanes and floods to devastating wildfires and a tragic mass shooting, the Greater New York Region of the American Red Cross deployed more than 300 volunteers to deliver hope and help during a remarkable time.

We asked several volunteers to share some of their deployment experiences. Today we hear from Richard Sanford.

Richard would clean, wash and polish his ERV every chance he got
What first motivated you to become a Red Cross volunteer?

My parents loved the Red Cross. I remember them always giving blood and even when I was a little boy, I volunteered at my elementary school to help with their blood bank. I also volunteered with the Red Cross when I was a teenager and I worked in hospitals.

How many times have you been deployed, and where?

I was deployed once out of state to help with the California wildfires (2017), and I served locally on several national disasters including Hurricane Sandy (2012). I also worked at our National Call Center in New York City as a client case worker during previous floods and hurricanes.

What was your most memorable deployment this past year?

For the California wildfires I was asked to drive an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) from Houston, Texas to Northern California. It was something I really wanted to do. Along the way, each time that I fueled the vehicle, took a break, or got a bite to eat, I would clean, wash and even polish the vehicle. (I had bought two bottles of car wax). I also had the oil changed knowing the vehicle would have to be ready for service as soon as I arrived in California.

I was excited and revved up after having driven more than 2000 miles. About 50 miles from my destination which was Santa Rosa, California, I got a phone call. “Richard, would you mind changing your assignment? We see in your profile that you are an instructor and we need you to help instruct Event Based Volunteers. Would that be OK?” I said “Sure, no problem, but if the chance arises, can you put me back on the ERV?” I was disappointed but did not let them on to it. There went my beautiful ERV! As it turned out, I loved my instructor assignment and later went back into working on the ERVs. So, I got more than I had asked for. The Red Cross also got more than they had asked for too. You see, each day as I was waiting to be dispatched on my new ERV, I would wash and wax that vehicle too.

What was your mission? What did you do on a daily basis?

Feeding was the main job of the ERV Team
Disaster Instructor and a member of an ERV Team. As a Disaster Instructor we had to do on the spot training for Event Based Volunteers, many of whom were immediately assigned to sheltering activities. Later that week I went back to working on the ERV team, my original assignment. Our main job on the ERV was feeding.

What obstacles did you face?

Search and serve feeding was quite difficult. We had to open the feeding area, then close it down and move on to another location. Sometimes you would serve only a few people but you still had to close down the ERV properly before moving on to the next location. Then you had to open the feeding area again, then return to the driver’s seat and repeat the process. It was a slow and tedious process but very much appreciated by those we served.

Can you tell us what touched you the most during your deployment?

I remember going through a community in Santa Rosa that was devastated by the fires. Sometimes, all you would see was a chimney and a burned-out car with a sliver of melted silver metal beside it which was once the car’s muffler. In various spots there were people sifting through whatever was left. Each time I pulled up to a home, I remember hesitating to ask if I could enter their property even though there was no definable property-line since everything was destroyed. I had to determine what would probably be their driveway and I would stand there awkwardly saying “May I come in?” I felt people deserved the respect of someone not simply walking onto their property.

Thank you Richard for sharing your experience and for traveling to Texas and California in October 2017 to deliver the mission of the American Red Cross. We are grateful for your service! #RedCrossMonth

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