Meet Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award Recipient Betsy Witthohn

Betsy Witthohn 420x279From the ashes of wildfires rise everyday heroes. Betsy Witthohn is one of them.

After reaching safety, the fire survivor recounts how time stood still two years ago until mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Her mind was preoccupied with anxiety as she feared for the worst.

Returning to the area, she found the flames spared her residence. Many nearby were not as fortunate. That experience served as a catalyst to becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Her husband joined, as well.

The newcomer quickly became an invaluable asset at her local chapter. And, Betsy continues to play a vital role in helping others year-round. She has been deployed to Hawaii, Iowa, and Michigan to aid flood and fire victims.

Following containment of the Kincade Fire, Betsy braved the storm to spread some holiday cheer at the Geyserville Tractor Parade. Soaking wet, she smiled and waved to parade attendees from the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle.

“Betsy is a true gem. She started as a volunteer during the north bay fires where she blew everyone’s socks off with her kind heart, ability to connect with clients, and her can-do attitude,” says Senior Volunteer Engagement Manager Nicole Massey. “She approaches each person with dignity, respect, and compassion. We are truly lucky to have volunteers like Betsy supporting our local community.”

Immediately following the 2017 fires, she processed 120 cases a day. Witthohn ensured clients received customized care and comfort based on their specific needs.

As a casework coordinator, she also led others and created training materials. “I used the skills that I had gained in my career,” explains the former Senior Vice President of Marketing. Eventually, she advanced to serve as the Red Cross Disaster Co-Chair for the California Northwest Chapter.

The following year, her team was inundated with aftercare requests and faced new challenges. The long-term recovery program took nearly 80 calls a day. Witthohn was no longer in California and the number of available volunteers had dwindled. With the assistance of Anne Reynolds and Debbi Criswell, Witthohn processed the remaining cases across state lines.

It is precisely this kind of commitment and selflessness, particularly her work in long-term recovery, that deserves the Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award that Betsy received earlier this year from the California Northwest chapter. Betsy continues to lead by example, and we are all grateful for her service.

Lindsay R. Peak is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.