Sonoma County volunteer Andy Witthohn recognized as Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year

Andy and Betsy Witthohn at a volunteer thank you event in 2018. Photo by Ritch Davidson | American Red Cross

Andy Witthohn has a long history of volunteerism and service work spanning multiple continents, industries, and community needs. Born in Bangor, ME, Andy studied in Nairobi, served in the Peace Corps in Somalia, and taught school – mostly kindergarten – for 20 years in Sonoma County. He finished his professional career advocating for teachers with the California Teachers Association. 

In December 2020, he received the Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year award for his extensive efforts with the American Red Cross during the devastating Kincade Fire in 2019. 

His peers were quick to gush. 

“Not afraid to try new things or take on new challenges, Andy quickly became one of our most steadfast and reliable volunteers in the Napa-Sonoma Territory,” said Angela Hunt, volunteer for the Northern California Coastal Region and presenter of the award. “With his energetic spirit and constant good humor, he made short work of any project he took on, and he’s taken on quite a few. We’re so appreciative for everything he does.” 

This leg of Andy’s journey began in 2017. Andy and his wife, Betsy, the 2018 recipient of the same award, walked into Red Cross headquarters during the Tubbs Fire and asked, “How can [we] help?”  

“It started [with] logistics, moving trucks… anything a site-based or event-based volunteer might be asked to do,” says Andy. “After the fire, I was asked to stick around, so I got involved with the Home Fires Campaign. After a year or so, I was running the campaign, setting up and managing mobile home park visits.” 

Not long after that, Andy leveraged his educational background and joined the Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro, helping both initiatives get up to speed in the North Bay.  

Then the 2019 Kincade Fire hit, and Andy did not need to ask how to help that time. “There was more logistics, truck delivery, supplies delivery – I became a jack-of-all-trades,” he says. 

It is safe to assume that Andy’s modestly single comment about the event cannot accurately capture the breadth and depth of the time and effort he gave during the disaster. It is also safe to say that this is a theme for Andy. 

“I’ve been fortunate in my life, and there are a lot of people who haven’t been,” says Andy. “I’m glad for the opportunity to give back.”  

When COVID-19 hit, Andy stepped up to serve as second in command for logistics work at the North Bay Chapter. He helped restock all the trailers after the fires, onboarded a new inventory system and provided additional logistics work for the facilities.  

When asked why he would suggest the Red Cross as a place to volunteer, Andy paused only briefly. “I believe that the Red Cross is instrumental in helping people, especially in disasters,” he says. But then he quickly added that the Red Cross is also critical “in blue skies with smoke alarm installations, child education and preparedness events for life and disasters.”   

We could not have said it better. Thanks, Andy. And congratulations!