At the end of the day, we do good for people

By Debbi Behrman

Ed Silva with Chief Diaz

Ed Silva with City of Oakland Battalion Chief Zoraida Diaz. Photo: Ziji Zhou | American Red Cross

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Florida and Louisiana causing catastrophic damage and loss of life. It was the deadliest hurricane in the United States since 1928.  A month later, Ed Silva saw that help was still needed, and he called the Red Cross to volunteer. Ed went in one day for training, and the next, he was on a plane to Florida.

This past year, Ed received the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership. It turns out that Katrina was just the beginning of an action-filled volunteer career with the Red Cross that spans 15 years.

The prestigious Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership recognizes a volunteer for outstanding service in a series of leadership positions held over a period of years. As described at the awards ceremony, the list of Ed’s achievements is extensive.  In addition to the Katrina deployment, Ed has “gone on over 1,100 Disaster Action Team (DAT) calls, assisted thousands of clients, participated in hundreds of community and response events, served as the Disaster Chair of Alameda County, DAT Administrator of Alameda County, and Workforce Engagement Coordinator of Alameda County,” just to name a few.

His passion for and commitment to his Red Cross work apparent, Ed’s contributions are not limited to Disaster Services. His colleagues read aloud the following sentiment at the awards ceremony: “Ed has served and continues to serve as a ‘consultant’ and a cheerleader to Alameda DPM and all paid staff he works with. Due to Ed’s tireless efforts, we now have a process and a protocol for assisting displaced people who live in non-traditional housing. And because of Ed’s creativity and endless energy, we are now working very closely with the leaders in the Fruitvale District in Oakland to ensure that the residents of Fruitvale are prepared.” And it goes on: “Ed dedicates himself 100% to the program and the organization, clients and colleagues, and he does so without reservations and without holding back.”

Their words fail to convey every hat Ed has worn. He is also an authorized Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver and participates in a number of other teams, including Emergency Management, Sheltering, Recovery, Workforce Deployment, and Workforce Onboarding and Placement.

When asked what Ed does for his day job, he laughs, “This IS my day job!” Ed retired from paid work – working at a trucking and warehousing company that he owned – 17 years ago at the young age of 40. When not at the Red Cross office, Ed enjoys playing soccer, racing go-karts, working out, and spending time with his family. And oh yes, he and his Irish Setter, Guapo, run over six miles a day.

What would Ed say to those who are thinking of volunteering with the Red Cross? “Do it! Please volunteer!” Why? “Because people need us today more than ever. We are now in a society where a lot of the stuff that used to be there [for people no longer exists]. Giving time to help other human beings is a wonderful thing that I think everyone should do. It’s a great experience, and it’s a duty to help others in need.”

Ed believes that if you can volunteer, then you are privileged – you have free time that you can share with humanity. He also chalks it up to a great learning experience. “You learn so much, especially in a place like the Red Cross,” Ed explains. “You learn about how other people live, what other people are like. We have a cultural opportunity in the Bay Area because it’s so diverse; you learn so much you wouldn’t learn any other way.”

Ed says his time with the Red Cross has been an extraordinary experience. “It’s made me a better person,” he reflects. “It’s made me understand my community better. It’s made me try harder. I feel so lucky that I can do this. Once you are a volunteer with the Red Cross, you represent the brand of the Red Cross –  and that’s a responsibility and a privilege.”

Debbi Behrman is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.