Heeding the call and going all-in

By John Lindner

Regional Volunteer of the Year, Dave Dorman

After speaking with Dave Dorman for 30 minutes, you might wonder if he does anything else outside of the Red Cross. He’s a self-described “semi-full-time volunteer.” This same unwavering dedication earned him the Regional Volunteer of the Year Award.

While he’s officially been a proud Red Cross volunteer since 1984, Dave’s first contact with the Red Cross occurred during water safety instructor and lifeguard training in the 1950s. In the 1970s, he taught first aid and artificial respiration for his employer and discovered his Red Cross calling. He would eventually gravitate to disaster operations, and more specifically, to logistics support: acquiring, organizing, and delivering materials during a disaster. 

In 1984, Dave began to volunteer at the Red Cross’s Oakland headquarters. His dedication grew during the three weeks he supported the Loma Prieta earthquake response in 1989. Dave would work his day job as an analytical chemist, head to the Red Cross facility at night, and grab a few hours’ sleep before going back to work. Dave’s work supervisor finally told him to focus solely on the Loma Prieta response until he completed the effort and then return to work afterward.

Dave is pensive when asked about his favorite Red Cross moment or memory. “I’ve had a lot of interactions with people,” Dave says. “We did a lot for people when I was in the warehouse in Santa Rosa when the fires were right there just outside of town.” During the 2015 Santa Rosa fires, Dave participated in the Todd Road warehouse’s setup and operation for two months. He practically lived in the warehouse, driving a forklift, loading and unloading trucks, organizing the warehouse and delivering supplies after hours.

Dave also worked in the Calistoga warehouse during the fires of 2016 and 2017. “We were running from Calistoga to Middletown and taking stuff up there. We went up to the Cobb fire above Middletown and hauled water into people. He witnessed processions of people coming to the warehouse for much-needed supplies. “Most of them had lost homes.” 

Dave could empathize with these people because he, too, lost his home during the Oakland firestorm in 1991. “I’ve seen what they’re doing and what they’re going through,” he said. And to complicate his personal experience further, Dave was unconscious and hospitalized during the Oakland fires due to a mountain biking accident. His Red Cross colleagues began to look for him when he neglected to report to the Oakland shelter site to assist in the response. As an aside, Dave is quick to point out that his trauma surgeon insists that Dave’s helmet saved his life.

Dave chronologically recounts story after story of supporting Red Cross recovery efforts after Northern California disasters. “In 2017, we had to move supplies to the Silicon Valley chapter during the Anderson Dam and Coyote Creek floods.” In 2018, Dave helped ship six truckloads of supplies, “essentially everything we had,” to support the residents of Paradise after the deadliest wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire, destroyed the town. 

During the pandemic, Dave’s role has shifted to building, distributing and refilling COVID-related kits, which enable the Red Cross to respond more quickly if they have to open shelters.

“When COVID started, we were told to go home,” Dave says. Once you speak with Dave, however, it’s obvious there is nothing that will keep him away from his “semi-full-time” volunteer work with the Red Cross.

John Lindner is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.