A New Chicago Volunteer’s Story

In 2008, I took my first class at the Grand Rapids, Michigan, chapter of the American Red Cross. Hurricane Katrina had come and gone, but the feeling of helplessness I had experienced was still fresh in my mind. “I’ll be ready for the next one,” I thought, as images of myself as a bedraggled aid worker saving lives at ground zero of the next big disaster flashed through my head.

I think that’s how a lot of people find their way to the Red Cross: with hopes of participating in humanitarian campaigns in exotic locales. And while their intentions are noble, there’s more to this organization than feeding children in third world countries or sheltering evacuees in disaster-affected regions.

Does the Red Cross do those things? Yes, but there’s much more to it.

By adhering to the motto, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” Red Cross chapters strive to take care of those in immediate need at a local level. Thousands of chapters across the country focusing on their own neighborhoods – that’s how the American Red Cross truly fulfills its mission.

No, I never ended up traveling to a major disaster as part of a Red Cross team. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen some day, but until that time comes, I’ve had the opportunity to do so much more. Instead of focusing on disaster response, I became a first aid/CPR instructor. Why wait around for the next big one when there are people right here that need me (and you!) right now?

Teaching classes has its benefits. I get to practice speaking in front of a group and test my jokes, for example, but the best part is knowing that my contribution could help someone – even save a life. It’s incredibly rewarding.

And through the inconveniences of relocating from Michigan to Chicago, starting a new job and getting myself acclimated to the city took my attentions away from volunteering for a few months, I’ve found my way back and look forward to working with such a large (and busy) chapter.

For now, I’m satisfied with first aid/CPR classes, but there are opportunities aplenty to try other things. A new volunteer can easily find their niche here, which is one of the greatest aspects of helping out at the Red Cross.

I urge anyone that’s looking for a way to spend some time giving back to the community to consider the Red Cross. Once this organization gets in your blood, you’ll want to keep giving back.

If you’ve somehow found your way to this blog without reviewing the Chicago Red Cross home page, check out our Chart of Opportunities to see what you can do to help out.

Don’t see anything you like? Give us a call, tell us what you can do for the ARGC and I bet we can make it happen.

Written by Jason Hoffman

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