If Irene Johnson could live her life to perfection, she would be guided by the Seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. “The principles really resonated with me. I really do believe in the Red Cross mission,” she said.
Those principles have served Irene well over her many years as a Red Cross volunteer where she’s participated in 26 disaster response deployments including Hurricane Katrina (2005), the Napa/Sonoma New Year’s flood (2006), Superstorm Sandy (2012), the Alberta wildfires (2016) and Hurricane Irma (2017), to name a few.
Irene’s Red Cross career began in Vietnam during the war. Living in Saigon in 1967, Irene volunteered at an army hospital where she would deliver books to bedridden soldiers. She speaks fondly of that first experience. “The guys that were almost well enough to leave would go to the recreation room and taught me how to play pool.”
Next month, Ashley Koenig of Seaside, California is set to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Recently, she was stunned to learn that her American Red Cross volunteer work as a teenager helped save the lives of a family of six.
“No, ma’am…I did not at all expect that would be something I’d hear.”
In September of 2016, Ashley was 16 years old and a newly-licensed driver. She laughs as she remembers getting lost in a rural area of the city of Hollister. Ashley and several other teens were on their way to an apartment complex, as part of a Red Cross team that was installing smoke alarms in homes.
Along with Hollister fire fighters and adult volunteers, the teens installed free alarms and taught families about fire safety and emergency preparedness.
As the pandemic wears on, research shows that more people want to help those in need. This month, we celebrate this humanitarian spirit during Red Cross Month and ask others to join us.
For almost 80 years, the president of the U.S. has proclaimed March as “Red Cross Month” to honor people giving back through our lifesaving mission — which is powered by more than 90% volunteers. The volunteer superstars from our 2019 recognition events are featured below. May their stories inspire countless others to heed the call.
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.”
And this Clara Barton Award recipient wouldn’t have it any other way
San Jose resident Liz Dietz has been a dedicated Red Crosser for 40 years, supporting community members and colleagues alike with a tireless commitment to our mission. (Photo by Larry Dietz) _____
Liz Dietz’s work for the American Red Cross — in health services, supporting people affected by disasters large and small; advocating for the needs of military members, veterans, and their families; staffing a regional first-aid team that for years supported major events; and so much more — speaks for itself.
It almost has to, given the challenge of getting Liz to lend her own words to a description of her decades of impactful volunteer work for the Red Cross. Read more
Tiki Dellamora represents everything that is good about the Red Cross
Tiki Dellamora is a beloved member of the Central Coast Chapter volunteer team. _____
Productive, dependable, and tireless are three adjectives regularly used to describe the thousands of volunteers whose work is at the heart of everything the American Red Cross does to support individuals, families, and communities throughout our country.
But take an extra minute to observe these volunteers on the job. If you do, it’s hard to overlook one other characteristic they all seemingly have in common: a sense of optimism that brings a smile not only to the faces of the many people they support and serve, but also to the faces of the Red Cross colleagues working at their side.
“In our Central Coast Chapter, perhaps no one epitomizes that can-do, joyful spirit more than Tiki Dellamora,” says Chapter CEO Michele Averill, who announced recently that Tiki was a recipient of the organization’s prestigious Clara Barton Award. Read more