“Nothing Is Better Than Giving of Yourself”

Today, long time Red Cross volunteer Nellie Brennan will receive her 55 years of service pin at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Disaster Action Teams’ volunteer celebration. Nellie is an amazing, vivacious volunteer who has served the Red Cross through a number of disasters.

“I’ve been north for the Minnesota floods, out west with the Oklahoma City bombing, south for ice storms in southern states, in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Floyd, the north east during 9/11, and at the Notre Dame Convent Haiti shelter in Chicago…” This is just the tip of the iceberg for all Nellie has done with the Red Cross.

Nellie started volunteering in 1951 because she “always wanted to help people, and take care of people.” She introduced her kids to volunteering when they were young since it was such an important part of her life. “We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the flood workers in the Quad Cities on the Mississippi.” Nellie has willingly volunteered for every type of disaster from floods to fires to serving as a case worker and mental health expert during the after shocks of 9/11.

In our conversation yesterday, I asked her why she volunteered, and why she believes others should volunteer. “For the sound satisfaction to know they are helping people, because there are so many people less fortunate than us that have gone through such horrendous problems. They need the support from people that have this yearning to help people…it’s a self satisfying endeavor. Nothing is better than giving of yourself.”

At the age of 79, there is no end in sight for Nellie’s passion for volunteering. “I never feel or think of my age…I feel more like I’m in my 50’s and can do things of people in their 40’s…on the bus, people stand up and give me their seats, and I think ‘why are they doing that?’ I just don’t see myself as an age.”

Nellie plans on taking a few classes offered by the Red Cross this month, and is still on the list of people to be deployed should a disaster arise. She is ecstatic to be receiving her pin tonight and is so pleased of how proud her boys will be.

After talking with her, I felt rejuvenated. This woman has given so much of her time to helping others and is an inspiration to everyone she talks to.

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