On March 16, 2019, the American Red Cross of the California Northwest Chapter honored three volunteers from Lake and Mendocino Counties at its annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Dennis Burke of Lake County was one of them.
When selected as the recipient of the 2018 New Volunteer Award for his contribution to the Red Cross in his first year of service, Burke went up to receive his award in shock.
“It did not register,” recalls Burke.
Burke felt humbled and proud of the unexpected honor even though he did not anticipate being the center of attention that day. After the award was in hand, a sense of accomplishment came over him.
“At first, I was embarrassed because there were so many other people who had been volunteering so much longer than I had,” says Burke. But when fellow Red Cross volunteers and staff clapped, the feeling of recognition kicked in. “It was a good feeling. It was nice to be recognized for a job you’ve been doing and learning along the way.”
Burke played a vital role during the Mendocino Complex Fire volunteer efforts. Familiar with the area, the Lake County resident helped “hotshot”, or returned to burned-out areas with supplies for the residents as they repopulated the area.
Burke is no stranger to public service. He joined the Hayward Police Department before taking over as the senior animal patrol officer. As a state humane officer, Burke investigated acts of cruelty against animals. In 1989, he became the Director of Lake County Animal Control. Burke found happiness later in life in the construction business. He is now semi-retired and spends his newfound free time wearing many hats with the American Red Cross.
“They keep you busy,” Burke says with a grin.
Burke organizes the volunteer calendar, detailing all events and helps communicate with the team to make sure everyone is informed and up-to-date about volunteer opportunities. He is supporting Sound the Alarm in Mendocino plus recruitment and engagement of new volunteers. The award winner has also taken on the leadership role of the preparedness team lead. From tabling events to DAT calls, Red Cross volunteers and the community are likely to cross paths with Burke at some point.
“Dennis has been an awesome team member and valuable part of driving the Red Cross Mission in Lake and Mendocino,” says Richard Goldfarb, Disaster Program Manager.
When Burke isn’t volunteering, he spends time with his three daughters, seven grandchildren, and three canine companions – Ruff, Rascal, and Reckless.
Burke looks forward to future opportunities with the Red Cross and aims to make a difference. On Father’s Day, he attended the first Red Cross event held in Comptche, a town with less than 200 people. He hopes to reach smaller communities like Comptche that have not been focused on in the past due to staffing shortages.
When asked what he would tell potential volunteers for the Red Cross, Burke replied, “It’s all about the people – working with those in need and working with others that are just as wonderful.”
For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.