Silicon Valley volunteer Liz Dietz works day in and day out for the Red Cross
And this Clara Barton Award recipient wouldn’t have it any other way
Liz Dietz’s work for the American Red Cross — in health services, supporting people affected by disasters large and small; advocating for the needs of military members, veterans, and their families; staffing a regional first-aid team that for years supported major events; and so much more — speaks for itself.
It almost has to, given the challenge of getting Liz to lend her own words to a description of her decades of impactful volunteer work for the Red Cross.
Don’t be fooled: It’s not that Liz isn’t proud of her Red Cross efforts; she was beaming when she learned that her body of work would be recognized with a prestigious Clara Barton Award at a recent recognition event for Silicon Valley Chapter volunteers.
But truth be told, it’s just not that easy to get time on Liz’s calendar for a conversation about the volume and quality of her Red Cross work. That’s because her daily to-do list is overfilled with … Red Cross work.
When she is finally able to squeeze in that conversation, Liz makes one thing abundantly clear: She wouldn’t choose a less busy life. “I do stay very, very active with the Red Cross,” Liz acknowledges. “But I love the work I get to do!”
In fact, one gets the impression that Liz’s life has been in overdrive at least since 1977, the year she, her husband Larry (himself a dedicated Red Cross volunteer), and their first son moved from Massachusetts to the South Bay. For Liz, seven months pregnant with the couple’s second son, the relocation enabled her to take a job as clinical director of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley.
Two years later, she was offered a teaching job at San José State University in obstetrical nursing and community health. The offer, however, came with two sizable conditions: Already an RN, Liz had to return to school to get a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction; she also would have to perform community service to secure the tenure-track position of Associate Professor at the school.
Accepted into a weekend-only Ed.D. program at the University of San Francisco, Liz eventually earned that doctorate. But it was the community service requirement that — fortunately — led her to discover the American Red Cross.
“In all honesty, I started looking at a number of local programs that might satisfy this requirement,” she says. “My discovery of the Red Cross was a very fortunate happenstance.”
Forty years later, Liz might feel that she was “fortunate” to have made the connection. But so do the volunteers and employees in the many lines of Red Cross service she has faithfully served. Here’s an incomplete list of Liz’s Red Cross highlights:
• In response to the 9/11 terrorists attacks, Liz was deployed for two weeks to the Pentagon, the site of an intentional airplane crash that killed 125 people affiliated with the Defense Department and everyone aboard Flight 77 that day. “It was a very emotional assignment,” she recalls. “One of my jobs there was to help plan 100 funerals for the victims.”
• Four years later, in addition to her university position, Liz was serving in the role of Disaster Program Manager for the “Santa Clara Valley Chapter.” Then Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. “There were so many people who were made homeless by that disaster, and I was part of the team that set up and operated a 75-family shelter in abandoned graduate-student housing at San José State,” she says. “We were told that we only had one week to get it set up; the evacuees were under our care there for four or five months.”
• More recently, Liz has served as a Disaster Health Services Manager, supporting local, regional, divisional, and national responses for the organization. In this line of service, she currently serves as the Disability Integration Lead for our region, working to ensure that any access or functional needs that clients and staff experience are remedied.
• Over the years, Liz has also has also been very active in Service to Armed Forces, conducting too-many-to-count briefings for military members and their families about the support available to them from the Red Cross. “Sometimes the work has involved trying to get a member of the military granted leave so he or she could go home because of an emergency there,” she says. “That has felt so important to try to do.”
• Until it disbanded recently, Liz was also a mainstay of the region’s First Aid Services Team that, for many years, provided medical support at large events held throughout the Bay Area. “I loved FAST because it enabled me to practice my nursing skills,” she says. “Because I was teaching community health, I didn’t have an opportunity to work one-on-one with that many patients. So that volunteer assignment was very therapeutic.”
With a Red Cross resumé like that, Liz could be forgiven if she decided to step away from her volunteer work. But she has no intention of doing that. “I’m afraid I do not know the meaning of the word ‘bored,'” she says. “I am also just very honored to do this work for this organization.”
In fact, Liz could have ended her Red Cross work way back in 1985, after she attained tenure at San José State. “I could have stopped then, as I had satisfied that community requirement. But I didn’t want to. My Red Cross work has been a grounding experience for me, and it has added tremendously to my sense of worth.”
Plus, she adds, “I wanted the community health students I was teaching for so many years to know that I too could do some of the things I’d been telling them they had to do.”
Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You too can make a difference by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the total Red Cross workforce, supporting our humanitarian work, our work in blood services, and our work in every other Red Cross line of service. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents safely. Go to redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html to get started.