A Spirit to Serve

Jamshid Kiani’s path to the American Red Cross is a familiar one for many volunteers: he was led by a spirit to serve others. Media coverage of a Red Cross disaster response in 2015 had piqued his interest, so he sought to learn more.

“A few months after retiring from my job as a chef at a private resort, preparing up to 1200 meals per day, I saw a news item showing Red Cross volunteers providing food and other items to affected clients. I was moved, and I thought to myself ‘I have the knowledge and ability to help with this,’ so I went online to see what the Red Cross is all about.”

Kiani presenting at a Fire Safe event in Santa Cruz County.

That online foray kicked off a humanitarian journey that recently culminated in the top honor for a volunteer: this past June, Kiani was awarded the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership. Named after the founder of the Red Cross, this award recognizes a volunteer for their years of service in various leadership positions. In his seven years as volunteer, Kiani has achieved both experience and leadership in multiple disaster roles, including 46 disaster response deployments, two of those as extended deployments in the Virgin Islands and Oregon. In Northern California, he works with the Regional Response Management Team, and is a disaster response instructor for new Red Cross disaster teams and volunteers.

In short, Kiani has made good on that spirit to serve. But his initial intent to apply his culinary skills on a disaster back in 2015 didn’t quite go to plan. After taking online Red Cross training courses and learning more about the organization, he visited his local chapter office.

“I walked into the Santa Cruz office and met my now-great friend and mentor, Lorraine Jacobs. She promptly deflated my bubble and told me the Red Cross does not cook food (on disaster responses).”

Kiani (far left) at an International Services event in Carmel, Calif.

But he had another skill set that would come in handy.

“I owned and managed a computer consulting firm for 18 years. Lorraine immediately recognized my talent and background in computer technology and put me to work on the new volunteer management system, Volunteer Connection.”

And the rest is history – since then, Kiani has been on the front line of disaster response and training within the Central Coast Chapter and beyond. His spirit to serve others is as strong as ever.

“In my personal life, I hold a deep and unshakable belief that all humankind is equal, and good deeds should be done for the sake of doing them, not for any type of reward or expectation of returned value.”

It’s no surprise, then, that while honored to have received the Clara Barton Award, his focus lies with his humanitarian work.

“(Winning the award) is humbling, but I do what I do to alleviate suffering of those who are in need, no accolades are necessary.”

Kiani (right) out with fellow volunteers during a disaster deployment in Salem, Ore.

He appreciates all seven of the Red Cross fundamental principles, among them equality, impartiality, and neutrality.

“I found the concept of helping all without taking sides, regardless of race, gender, color or nationality and economical status most appealing and in line with how I would like to spend the rest of my time and energy.”

As the Central Coast Chapter and Northern California Coastal Region ramp up for another busy disaster season, Kiani is among the battery of volunteers giving their time, effort and talent to ensure our communities are prepared for what may lie ahead. While it is not easy work, and, especially during disasters, fraught with challenges, he is happy to be doing it.

“(Being a volunteer) is the most fulfilling and worthwhile endeavor anyone can partake in that has the most immediate effect in the lives of others.”

The Red Cross needs more volunteers like Jamshid Kiani – visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and get involved.