For a half century, Peg Geringer has had a love affair with her Red Cross work

peg-geringer_420x279Peg Geringer’s impact on the American Red Cross can be described in many ways: the different lines of service she has supported as a volunteer, her tenure as chair of the Silicon Valley Chapter’s First Aid Services Team (FAST), or just by some very impressive numbers.

  • Peg became an active Red Cross volunteer almost 48 years ago.
  • She began donating blood after becoming a Red Crosser, and to date has given 28 gallons.
  • She was a member of the South Bay’s FAST team for 25 years and served as chair for the last 10.

With that kind of résumé, it’s easy to see why the Silicon Valley Chapter honored Peg earlier this year with a Clara Barton Award, named after the organization’s founder. Given to Peg at the chapter’s annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner, the prestigious award recognizes a Red Cross volunteer for service in a series of leadership positions held over a number of years.

After talking with her, it’s pretty clear that Peg has rung up some pretty impressive numbers in other areas of her life too. Just ask the people at San Jose’s Oak Grove School District, where she thrived for 32 years as a science and business teacher before retiring in 2008.

“When I get involved in something, I tend to jump in with both feet — and both hands, for that matter,” she says. “I’ve been very blessed in my life, so I just want to give back.”

Peg’s initial introduction to the Red Cross came during her college days at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. “A friend of mine was diagnosed with leukemia, and I took part in a blood drive that was organized to help him.”

When Red Cross workers there discovered that Peg had a rare blood type (B negative), they started calling her regularly to ask her to consider making another donation. “They wanted my blood,” she says, breaking out her best Dracula impression.

In 1972, Peg officially became a Red Cross volunteer, joining the organization after she relocated to San Jose. “In those early years, I got started in blood services,” she says.

But Peg eventually discovered that the local Red Cross operation also boasted one of the national organization’s largest — and most impactful — first aid teams. That intrigued her, so she became a member of FAST, which provided stellar first-aid support at large public events for many, many years throughout the Bay Area.

“At one time, we had as many as 450 members on the local Red Cross FAST team,” Peg said. “And we needed everyone of those people because we were very busy with multiple events seemingly every weekend.”

At the beginning of this calendar year, Peg — as chair — was informed that the group would be disbanded as part of a national operational trend within the organization. “There weren’t as many FAST teams as there once were throughout the country,” she says.

While initially sad about the decision, Peg was also philosophical about it. “It was a great experience that I was lucky to be part of for many years, and I met so many great people through that line of service.”

It wasn’t long before Peg discovered another opportunity that was related to the care that FAST provided to so many patients over so many years. “I was asked to teach first-aid and CPR classes to pregnant women and their partners at Good Samaritan Hospital,” she says. “What is the expression? When God closes a window, he opens a door?”

And Peg has continued her volunteer work with the Red Cross, still teaching CPR and first-aid classes for an organization she has had a love affair with for almost 50 years.

“The Red Cross is such a wonderful organization, and the people who are part of it are such givers,” she says. “The many people I’ve met and worked with are not takers; they want to make things better for others, and they do just that.”

They all say the same thing about Peg Geringer.