Leading leaders and finding gems

Laura Hovden, San Mateo Volunteer of the Year

Laura Hovden, of Woodside, CA, recently received the San Mateo Volunteer of the Year Award during the Chapter’s annual volunteer recognition event. A born leader, Laura encourages others to expand their skills and expertise and take on leadership roles of their own. Her flexibility and high aptitude for success have led her to fulfill myriad duties across the organization, including regional and divisional appointments.

Laura took a moment last week to fill us in on her experiences.

Congratulations on the recognition as Volunteer of the Year!

Thank you, I feel so honored.

When did you first get involved with the Red Cross?

I joined when my kids were graduating from high school in 2014. I wanted to have something to do that would be meaningful after they were gone. At the Red Cross, I found all kinds of interesting people and just loved doing this kind of work.

Did you have prior volunteer experience?

Yes, I had done lots of stuff with the PTA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc. I really enjoy helping other people. And the Red Cross is a place where you can make a difference. I spent my first couple of years involved on a local level, but two weeks after my son left for college, the fires in Santa Rosa happened. I deployed there and have been doing it ever since.

How did your work at the Red Cross evolve?

After a year or so, I was asked to co-lead the regional mass care work. And this past year, I’m now involved in divisional mass care. Sheltering appeals to me the most because you most have the most direct contact with clients. You work with both clients and volunteers. During blue skies [no disaster], I identify leaders within the organization and figure out how we can develop more leadership. There are so many people with so many talents. I love finding those who want to be involved and then developing their skills.

Were you surprised by the award?

Oh my gosh, yes. It never crossed my mind. There are so many high-performing people in San Mateo. I was really proud to be associated with all the others who had gotten it before me. Thinking about the former recipients, they’re so impressive, and they do so much. And because I had been doing more regional and divisional work, it was nice to be recognized at my local chapter.

What has volunteering in COVID looked like?

Honestly, it is all-consuming – I was asked to serve as the regional and divisional COVID sheltering lead. I’ve been working full-time since March, preparing the whole team for COVID. We worked on a training plan in preparation, e.g., standards, etc. The team then put together training for all the mass care people in the region and worked with health services to identify what the actual care would like.

How did we do?

We adapted – people felt like they were much better prepared because they had been doing all this work in advance. I was the lead for the divisional group to make sure we were sharing information and learning from each other. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we were able to maximize each other’s expertise.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with the Red Cross?

The Red Cross is a great place because it offers so many opportunities. Everything you might want to do is available. You can learn new skills or get involved with new people. What I love most is the people – the clients AND the people that volunteer and work with the Red Cross. We make a real difference in client’s lives. And that’s why we’re here.

Thank you for your service, Laura, and congrats again!

You too can volunteer: Do you want to be ready to respond when disaster strikes or help with lifesaving blood collections during the COVID-19 crisis? Start by visiting this website: redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.