Giving people purpose in times of catastrophe

By Andrea Mendoza


Ann Eichhorn is shown with her husband Bill at a Red Cross shelter in Santa Rosa in 2017. (Photo: Virginia Becker)

“The mission of the Red Cross, its reputation, and its non-biased position to help whoever needs help is what originally inspired me to volunteer,” says Ann Eichhorn, who was recognized with a Volunteer of the Year Award this past May during the annual recognition event for Marin County volunteers.

Ann’s volunteer experience with the Red Cross officially began in the early 1970s as a young adult. Back then, she might not have imagined becoming the organization’s Marin County Disaster Chair, a position she has held for the past two and one-half years. In between, her experience as an emergency room nurse and an ordained minister has also come in handy when nurturing clients during disaster responses.

Her current Disaster Chair position allows Ann to coordinate volunteers and manage the organizational goals and objectives. “I find that this is something that I like to do,” says Ann. “I love working with the volunteers and the folks who find themselves in difficulty to help bring both safety and relief to their situations when they need it.”

The recent fires in Northern California led to an increase in volunteers, people who stepped up and made themselves available to help those affected. According to Ann, volunteers have almost tripled in number, and one of her challenges is to make sure that volunteers with special skill sets get placed in the right spot where they can be engaged and comfortably give the best of themselves.

“My job is to give people a purpose and to help them find their place where they can serve with the time they have available, as well as helping people see beyond a catastrophe to see what needs to be done and how we can help,” says Ann.

In working with the Red Cross, Ann has not only helped in giving volunteers a purpose within the organization but has also directly helped those who have sought aid and comfort. One of her most memorable experiences was an 11-day deployment to the Santa Rosa Veterans Center when it became a needs shelter for over 300 people. “It was a very intense 11 days,” remembers Ann. “There were lots of good lessons learned, and we all made it out alive,” she says jokingly.

Like other volunteer leaders who exhibit endless dedication in service of others, Ann was not expecting to be honored last spring for doing what she loves. “There have been a lot of great volunteers before me, and there’s a lot of people who do a lot more than I do with the Red Cross too,” she says, reflecting on the Volunteer of the Year Award. “I was both humbled and honored.”


About the author: Andrea Mendoza is interning with the American Red Cross in the Santa Rosa office.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference in the San Francisco Bay Area by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the total Red Cross workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Email to get started.