Stretching past your comfort zone

By John Lindner

Janet Rogoff, Marin County Volunteer of the Year

American Red Cross volunteer Janet Rogoff loves books.  For over 40 years, she and her husband have dealt in rare books, specializing in tribal art and working with galleries, collectors and institutions. So, it is no wonder that when speaking with Janet, you get the impression that she is most comfortable working behind the scenes.

When asked about her recent “Marin County Volunteer of the Year Award,” Janet credits her colleagues for the success of the Marin Red Cross. “We have a really good group in Marin now,” Janet said. “We have people doing such a good job that they’re being recruited to the regional level, and a couple have even gone to national.”

Like other volunteers, Hurricane Katrina first brought Janet into the Red Cross. The scale of need motivated her to take action. She remembers the Red Cross desperately recruiting responders who were willing to train quickly and then deploy to Texas. As one of those new recruits, Janet recalls commuting from her home in Marin to the Oakland office for two consecutive days of training. After she completed training and before the call to hop on a plane arrived, Janet assumed that she was too old to deploy. Yet, once on her way to Texas, she realized not only was she not too old, but she was one of the younger responders.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Janet averaged one to two deployments a year. She visited more states than she can remember, rattling them off: “Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, Arizona, New York, Alabama, Nevada and all over California.” Janet has performed various duties as a Red Cross volunteer, mostly as a disaster responder (shelter worker), but also doing case work, assisting with staffing and workforce.

Citing her age, Janet states that she “doesn’t deploy anymore.” But then she adds that the Red Cross has “been a godsend during COVID,” enabling her to keep in touch with people and keep active. “I really love it; the work stretches your boundaries and takes you out of your comfort zone.”

When asked about her most memorable Red Cross volunteering moment, Janet recounts a story where she deployed to a shelter in Texas a couple of years ago. There was a little boy in the shelter, and it was his second time in a shelter due to a hurricane.

“We threw him a birthday party,” Janet recalled. “That was a wonderful experience, because he thought he wasn’t going to get a birthday party.” A loose bull punctuated her memory of that deployment; the shelter was housed on large grounds where county fairs and rodeos were held.

Janet continued to speak fondly of her Red Cross experience. “It’s never the same – every county, every deployment is a little different.” She proudly recounted the Red Cross’ role in providing immediate emergency help, sheltering and food during disasters. “The Red Cross knows how to do that very well.”

It sounds like Janet does, too. Congrats, Janet!

About the author: John Lindner is a Public Affairs volunteer with the Contra Costa Chapter.