Four generations strong… so far

Gary Zellerbach during the 2019 Sound the Alarm campaign.

Volunteering with the American Red Cross takes many forms. For some, volunteering means active deployment into the heart of disaster responses, where people are at their most vulnerable. Others find meaning and purpose behind the scenes, coordinating their peers from a virtual office. And then there is a family tradition, where roles pass down from one generation to the next. Gary Zellerbach is part of such a legacy.

Gary Zellerbach’s grandmother, Doris Zellerbach, served as a Donut Dolly in WWII, volunteering and working with the Red Cross her entire life. She specifically invested time and energy into youth services. Upon passing, she not only left an endowment to the Red Cross, but her son (and Gary’s father), Stephen Zellerbach, picked up the mantle in youth services. Gary retired around the same time his father died in 2011, and he readied himself for service.

“I had met Harold Brooks [the regional Chief Executive Officer for the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter from 1997-2013] at events over the years,” says Gary. So, Gary called him and asked, “Harold, are you ready for the next generation?” Harold introduced Gary to the then head of development, Michael Lawrence, who – naturally – recommended that Gary join the Youth Services Committee.

“I took over as chair and have done so for about four years,” Gary says. “I love the committee. Then I was asked to join the Board, and now I’m in my fifth year on the Board.”

And this year, Gary Zellerbach’s San Francisco peers awarded him the Bay Area’s highest honor, the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership.

Gary was humbled: “I mean, really.”

Since joining the Red Cross, Gary recruited his wife, Linda, who works in the Pillowcase Project. She also became a Tiffany Circle member, as well as a regular blood donor. “She’s a bit of a saint,” says Gary.

Of course, Gary’s son, Randy Zellerbach, now serves on the Youth Services Committee, representing the fourth generation.

Initially formed for fundraising for youth, the Youth Services Committee evolved over the last few years to focus more on volunteering and mentoring our youth. Members of the committee commit to making annual donations and volunteering throughout the year in any number of activities: Sound the Alarm, IHL (International Humanitarian Law), YEB (Youth Executive Board meetings), etc. This year, the committee included a new initiative to broaden the diversity of our high school youth clubs to reflect the broader Bay Area community and the people whom the Red Cross serves.

Bottom line: Gary loves supporting the students. “Superstars get elected to the Executive Board,” he says. “Two students on the committee who served on the Board were both elected to national councils and won multiple awards – the kids are amazing.”

Gary says, “What makes the Red Cross is the people – and not just the volunteers – the paid staff. Everyone I work with are wonderful human beings – they care for each other and are self-sacrificing – everyone down to the students.”

Four generations of Gary’s family dedicated themselves to youth. Why? “Because they are the volunteers and donors of tomorrow,” Gary says. “We strive to instill in them a lifelong practice of giving to others.”

If you have questions about the Youth Services Committee or want to get involved, please email Gary directly at