Thursday, April 20, 2023

“Three Questions” with Red Cross Volunteer John Angulat

By Erianne Lewis, American Red Cross in Greater NY

"Three Questions” is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Born and raised on Long Island and now a resident of Westchester County, volunteer John Angulat joined the Red Cross in 2018. After retiring six months ago, Angulat now thoroughly enjoys almost a fulltime volunteer role. Angulat is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) team member, which means that he provides relief and compassion to residents after local disasters.

What led you to join the Red Cross?

There was a desire to volunteer. But I think, without sounding too altruistic, it was self-reflection. I somewhat realized that I had a pretty good life. I didn't grow up wealthy: working class mother and father. When I think of the state of the world, and what people go through, in the grand scheme of things I didn't do too badly. And it was just a desire to just pay a little back. I just started feeling guilty about not being engaged. I just didn't want to take life for a ride anymore. So, I said: “Well, I'm gonna volunteer.” I didn't actually start out with the Red Cross. There's a website that's called Volunteer New York, and it's a listing of all the volunteer opportunities that are available in the area…it's almost like a help wanted listing. I was doing one-off volunteer opportunities, sometimes with photography, sometimes something else. And then one day I saw an advertisement that Red Cross was looking for Disaster Action Team responders, and it was in my area. So, I said to myself, “I'll try it,” and never looked back.

What is a moment you will never forget from your time with the Red Cross?

Me and a partner had responded to a what we call a multi-family fire. A number of people were profoundly affected by the fire. We were just trying to be as nice as we could to the people, and as kind as possible. One of the worst things you can go through, other than losing loved one, is losing your home. We were working with them for quite some time, just trying to get them calmed down. When all was all said and done, we packed everything up. As I walked down from the porch to the sidewalk, there were crowds of people. And as I was walking to my car, somebody started clapping and then everyone else was clapping and I knew that they were clapping for us. I’m still moved by it. It kind of hammered home what you're doing for these people. In the long term they've still got a long process to go through. But at least you've gotten them through the next few days and pointed them in the right direction. It was touching, it really was. I don't think I’ll ever forget that.

What would you say to encourage someone to become a Red Cross volunteer?

Try it. You have nothing to lose. You are a volunteer. There’s a whole different mindset when you are doing volunteer work, rather than when you are being paid by someone. Just a different mindset, a different approach. What could go wrong? You try, you don’t like it, you just say “Hey it’s not for me.” But at least you can say, “I tried it.” That’s what I would tell anyone. Try it and I think you’ll like it. I really do.

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