Holding Down the Coast One ‘Little Bit’ at a Time

Mary Desautels 420x279Mary Desautels was no stranger to service when awarded the Volunteer of the Year Award for Mendocino County in June. Mary has lived in Fort Bragg for 25 years, and for 17 of those years, she has volunteered with the American Red Cross.

“I’ve been one of the only Red Cross reps out here,” Mary says. “There are more disaster action team responders inland of Mendocino County: Hopland, Ukiah, Willits, Covelo, bordering Lake County, and all the way north to Laytonville. But I am the disaster response team from Sea Ranch to Branscomb, and that includes individual disasters like floods, fires, and mudslides. The main thing is that the Red Cross is a terrific team and is available to whoever needs help, no matter what side of the county we are based. We always have each other’s backs!”

In spite of the isolated nature of her work, Mary calls it a pleasure. “It really is a privilege,” she says. “You meet great people, often in a time of stress, but I just love being able to help. I specialize in those initial tender times. I just ran into a fellow I helped who stopped me and wanted to thank me again.”

Mary credits her father with her desire for public service. He worked as an L.A. County firefighter for 35 years before retirement, and he instilled in her the need for public service. The American Red Cross was the way she learned to express that. When Mary moved to Mendocino, she started to work with the county and got to meet Red Cross trainers. She took classes sanctioned by the county and felt that that was the best way she could serve her community. She works to spread the word about the Red Cross presence teaching classes, presentations to civic groups, etc.

Mary is currently working toward building a team and developing more volunteers on the coast. She tells people new to the work, “This is a wonderful thing to be a participant of … it is gratifying and fulfilling to be able to help people in this way when they’ve been devastated. You can help lift them up a little bit.”

For all the “little bits” and more, thank you, Mary!