A smile to share

Volunteer BreAnna Sanabria and a smile behind the mask.

A few weeks after beginning training, BreAnna Sanabria packed up to board a flight for the first time in seven years. For the first time, she deployed on August 22 to support the American Red Cross response to fires in Northern California. No stranger to service, BreAnna was more nervous about the flight than the work itself.

“I like being social and like to give back,” says BreAnna. “Our parents always said we were very blessed and that we should always give back. I thought the Red Cross was a way I could do that.”

BreAnna is disabled and lives by herself in Highland, CA. Her mother’s neighbor made an introduction to the Red Cross, and BreAnna signed up right away.

“I started with the Red Cross at the end of July,” says BreAnna. “I had literally just finished the sheltering classes before I left. I was really new – even the night before my flight, my supervisor said, ‘take this class before you leave!’ I kinda packed everything I could think of. But once I got there, I thought ‘why was I so nervous?’”

As soon as BreAnna landed, another ‘cool and nice’ volunteer escorted her to Hayes Mansion, her initial station, and then onto Petaluma. The next day, she arrived at the Sonoma Fairgrounds and ended up with fellow volunteer, Ernie Woody, for the deployment duration. Together they maintained the snacks, water, and coffee for shelter residents and evacuees. They also handed out hygiene kits and broke down and cleaned cots.

“[Ernie] was my little buddy the entire time I was there,” says BreAnna. “When we were done, he left to Idaho, and I left to my house. We became Facebook friends and stay in touch. It was a good experience – exactly what I was hoping to do.”

When asked to reflect on her time with clients, BreAnna said patience was a virtue. Many people simply wanted to say hello and talk about their day.

“It was sad and touching,” says BreAnna. “I was surprised at how many were in there. A lot of them told me they didn’t have family. It made me appreciate my family and all the blessings I had.”

She saw and felt the powerful effect of the little things first-hand.

“I felt like my presence – and having a smile on my face even if they couldn’t see it – mattered,” says BreAnna. “Sometimes a new snack would come in, and I’d take it to someone there and say, ‘I thought you’d enjoy this.’ It really brightened their day.”

Thanks for all the little things, BreAnna. They matter!