Volunteers Past and Present are the Strength of the American Red Cross

Special Blog Post by Kerri Hah in Honor of the Five Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

As a new volunteer for the Lakeland Chapter, I am amazed by the commitment and generosity of the volunteers in the eight county area.  Many of you have been giving your time for decades and new ones join every day.   By far though, the largest number of volunteers reached out to the Red Cross to help five years ago when they saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the news.  The fact that so many of you are still with the organization is a true sign of the important work the Red Cross performs and the strong leadership in place. 

During Hurricane Katrina, I was the assistant executive director for a chapter about the same size as the Lakeland Chapter out East.  In talking with staff here in Wisconsin, I quickly realized that we had similar amazing and heartbreaking experiences during these weeks five years ago.  Both chapters had an influx of clients coming to their doors needing assistance, both had donations pouring in from the community, and both had thousands of local residents interested in learning what they could do to help.  I recently learned the Lakeland Chapter deployed over 50 volunteers to the Gulf Coast, many of whom were new volunteers that would be going out on tough assignments for two to three weeks.  As a former staff person who knows all too well the complexities of this process, this is an astounding number of volunteers to train and get deployed in such a chaotic and short time frame. 

 My staff and I were able to deploy 32 volunteers, all of whom came back to the chapter with tearful and joyous stories of the families they helped.  As I look back five years later at many of the volunteer leaders at my former chapter, I am not surprised at all that many of them are the same volunteers who showed up at the Red Cross doors five years ago willing to do anything to help; I’m confident that Lakeland Chapter has the same situation. Today many of these are board members, DAT leaders, fundraisers, and committee chairs.  Red Cross chapters all over the country are stronger today in large part because of these volunteers. Although the fifth anniversary of Katrina should be a reminder that the unthinkable can happen and that we all must do our part to get our homes, communities, and nation ready, it should also remind us of the importance of volunteerism. 

 Kerri Hah

Red Cross volunteer & former staff member

About Kerri: Kerri Hah has been either volunteering or working for the American Red Cross for the last 13 years.  She started her career at the Outagamie County Chapter as assistant to the executive director/volunteer coordinator and over the years has worked for six different chapters in all lines of service including health and safety, volunteer services, disaster services, financial development, public relations, and chapter management.  In addition to her Red Cross work, Kerri is a full-time grant writer, currently acting as the development director for Creative Energy & Data, a Green Bay based renewable energy company.  She and her husband lived out East for the last ten years and recently moved back to Appleton to be closer to their families.  They have one daughter and are expecting another child this winter.

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