This year marks a half century of service at the Red Cross for Patty Williams and what a journey it has been! Starting at 13 years of age as a swim teacher through the Red Cross, then aiding in blood donor paperwork processing at her local hospital, providing service to the military, volunteering throughout her college, and teaching career days, and donating blood for most of her life, through today, Patty continues to deploy and respond to disasters which are too numerous to keep count.
Not only a committed American Red Cross volunteer, Patty was also as an elementary school teacher who managed volunteering while working until she retired from teaching in 2014. These days, Patty is busier than ever responding to fires in and around her community as well as deploying when disasters have struck other parts of the country.
“I have always felt compelled to serve in large part because I can’t sit still,” chuckled Patty during a recent conversation. “At a very young age, I set out to give the Red Cross 50 years and here I am – celebrating my 50th anniversary. I’m so very proud of being part of the Red Cross who whether it’s night or day, cold or hot weather, rain, or shine, will always be there during someone’s time of need. Disasters are hard to live through, but when you have someone show up and ask, ‘What do you need?’ it not only changes the affected person’s perspective, but something inside of oneself does too. One day it could be me, it could be you, regardless, having someone show up to help is life changing.”
Patty’s dedication to the Red Cross has not only been life changing for her, but her 50 years of service has also left an indelible imprint on the many people she’s helped, her fellow Red Cross volunteers, as well as the business of disaster response operations. In 2017, Patty was instrumental in establishing a food truck system that helped feed 60,000 people on a daily basis during Hurricane Harvey, a system which is still employed today when having to feed masses of people during a disaster response. And thanks to her lifesaving training, Patty has been able to save two people! One of those a student in her class who was choking on a mint.
Hurricane Harvey, 2017 – Partner food truck canteen services
Patty remains committed to answer the call for as long as she can, but emphatically notes that we will always need more volunteers, “I know there are many people out there who want to help, who feel the calling to show up and help their community, their country, when it’s needed. I call on them to join the Red Cross. The experiences, friendships, and connections I’ve made and maintain through my 50 years and counting are priceless. I’ve not only been able to put my humanitarian values to use, if I can help, I always will.”
Volunteers like Patty are the lifeblood of the Red Cross, and we are proud that 90% of our workforce are volunteers. Volunteering not only provides a sense of purpose, but it also can also improve health and happiness and for Patty, these 50 years have given her a lifetime of friends, moments she will never forget, and daily motivation to assist her community and beyond.
“Over the course of the past 50 years, I have attended to home fires, multiple family fires, tornadoes, floods, bombings, train wrecks, and so many disasters I’ve lost count. I’ve also saved lives thanks to my first aid training, but through every one of my experiences, I’ve been present because we need each other. So many times, in times of catastrophe, we just need someone there.”
These days, when she’s not responding to disasters for the Red Cross, we can find Patty piloting a hot air balloon. We applaud and profusely thank Patty for her five decades of service and look forward to continuing to work with her as she continues volunteering.
We’d love to celebrate a milestone with you! Put on a red vest and join us. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to find out how you can support your community.
Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza