Eighty-two-year-old Ray Carter could enjoy his retirement in a traditional, relaxing way. Instead, the Vietnam veteran has been a dedicated American Red Cross disaster response volunteer for almost ten years.
Prior to volunteering, Ray retired from his career working in city and county government, including 14 years as a fraud investigator. He always enjoyed doing community service, at one point serving as a Cubmaster to be a guiding force for the next generation. Upon his retirement, he had a desire to stay active.
Every day, Red Cross volunteers respond to four to five devastating home fires in Chicago and Northern Illinois. Red Cross responders like Ray are there on, what is likely the worst day of someone’s life, to help them cope. Volunteers guide people along the path to recovery, working with families to help them meet their immediate needs after a disaster, including temporary housing, food, clothing, bedding, replacement medications
“I worked hard, but had been fortunate. I had a good job and was able to take care of my family. When I volunteered for the Red Cross, I did it to help people who were not as fortunate,” Ray said. “Once I started volunteering, I was committed. The reality of the immense poverty and those needing help out there is staggering. The need is very real and I am just doing my small part.”
Ray has responded to more than 500 home fires, a rare milestone that few volunteers reach. Regardless of his age, he continues to inspire and mentor fellow volunteers and staff members. Several days a week he serves as a Red Cross disaster responder and he motivates all who interact with him.
According to Senior Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Adam Runkle, “It is always a comfort to know when Ray is assigned to a response because of his immeasurable capacity for patience and compassion while counseling those dealing with tragedy and loss.”
Ray is also involved in other aspects of disaster response at the American Red Cross. In 2016, he deployed to help relief efforts in North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew. He also traveled to Texas to assist after major floods devastated the state. Locally, Ray helped lead disaster assessment efforts last August in South Holland, Illinois when major flooding impacted 400 local families, visiting dozens of homes, documenting damage, and helping comfort families while providing recovery resources.
Looking much younger than his 82 years, Ray says he runs on a treadmill four days a week, eats right and takes care of himself. “As long as I am physically able, I will continue to volunteer,” Ray says. “I used to say it would be 10 years, but I’m about to pass that milestone.”
The Disaster Services Award is presented to an individual(s) who has exhibited heroic efforts in any or all of the areas of disaster services, including preparedness, response or recovery during a natural disaster or emergency situation, or has made an ongoing commitment to a community that experienced a disaster in response to an
Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.