‘This One Really Hit Me’ — A Volunteer Story

Written by Patricia Friedman

Red Crosser Anne Johnson; a virtual selfie.

American Red Cross Volunteer, Anne Johnson, calls Fairbanks, Alaska home, but this year, she has found herself all around California – virtually that is. Anne is a recovery casework volunteer and spends her days calling people impacted by wildfires to offer Red Cross support services. In addition to resources, Anne also spends long hours on the phone, offering one invaluable service: connection.

“I was nervous about virtual deployment,” Anne says. “How do you offer something long distance from Alaska?” Yet, she quickly figured it out. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people apart, Anne realized that people desired a personal connection and to be heard. Something struck her during a recent conversation with a Red Cross client. “This one really hit me,” Anne said, and she knew she had to do something more.

Anne had checked in with a woman in Santa Cruz. The woman cares for her disabled brother, who is battling cancer. As part of his health regime, he relies on the Nutrisystem meal plan, which has helped with weight management during his cancer treatments. Being high-risk to COVID-19 exposure, he had frozen meals delivered to his home, and he had just stocked up when the fires broke out, forcing him to evacuate.

Upon returning home, he and his sister discovered all his special meals were spoiled. When Anne heard this story, she knew what to do. With the client’s permission, Anne reached out to Nutrisystem and shared their story, highlighting their needs. “Even the lady at Nutrisystem was crying,” Anne said. Once connected with their caregiver, Nutrisystem offered to replace those much-needed meals, making arrangements to ship them out immediately. What an incredible gift!

The sister was so grateful that the Red Cross could give them the hope they had lost. She said, “The Red Cross was the one who helped us.”

Anne says it best, “I think all we do is lift people up.”

Patricia Friedman is a volunteer with the American Red Cross from NW Washington.