Tirtza Pearl of San Francisco figures she has deployed nearly 60 times since she joined the Red Cross in 1991 after the devastating firestorm swept through the hills of neighboring Oakland. Only recently, however, has she convinced her husband, Barry, to join her. Both Pearls worked in a Red Cross shelter in the Cameron Park Community Center in El Dorado County after the Caldor Fire in September. It was Barry’s second deployment.
“The people who volunteer for the Red Cross are an amazing group of people, ” Barry said. “They devote heart and soul to the clients.”
Barry says, so far, he’s only deployed with Tirtza. “I feel much more confident of all her years of experience,” he said. “I’m still learning the ropes.”
In addition to recruiting her husband, Tirtza has brought another special guest along on at least ten deployments – Gumby. The stretchy green figure represents the unofficial motto of the Red Cross “Semper Gumby” or “Forever Flexible.”
I joined the American Red Cross in 2020 as a Regional Philanthropy Officer for the NCCR (Northern California Coastal Region) Development Department. Having spent most of the past year learning about the Red Cross work and mission from my home office, I’d not had the opportunity to connect, in person, with many of my colleagues until now. I’m writing this, having just enjoyed nearly an hour of conversation with Mustafa Idris, a Red Cross employee based out of our Oakland office.
Mustafa is Manufacture Technician for our Biomedical Services or “Hospital Services” at the Oakland Red Cross office on Claremont Street. He volunteered for six years and has worked for the American Red Cross for five years. The Claremont office is several stories tall, with a Blood Center located on the bottom floor. Every day, this site collects blood from our blood donors (who, due to the pandemic, now schedule appointments ahead of time), processes and stores our blood products in our laboratory located within the building. It distributes the blood collected from both within the center and our local mobile blood drives. It’s a big operation and requires the expertise of an extensive team of biomedical staff.
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.
American Red Cross Sound the Alarm Day of Action on May 8 was a success!
Most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to escape a home fire. That’s why the American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region prepared families to act quickly through the Home Fire Campaign.
Joining a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety this spring, local Red Cross volunteers met virtually with families to review fire safety steps for their household.
On May 8, local first responders, Concord Police Department , CERT Ready volunteers and the Red Cross met with residents of the Clayton Villa Apartments in Concord to go over home fire prevention and safety training. Then everyone gathered in the courtyard for a hands-on demonstration of how to safely use a fire extinguisher. Twenty four apartment homes were made safer thanks to the Sound the Alarm training!
When Tracy Pico walked into the American Red Cross blood donation center in Pleasant Hill, California to donate blood, she was on a mission. She was determined to help another person in need just as others had donated blood for her 14-year-old daughter, Brandi. Last year, Brandi endured a long and arduous course of treatment for cancer which included multiple transfusions.
Tracy’s family have all been blood donors for years. In fact, her father has been a regular donor for over 30 years at the Red Cross facility in Pleasant Hill. But it was Brandi’s ordeal with cancer that ignited her personal commitment to become a blood donor.
In June of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandi was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that typically occurs in children and young adults. Her early symptoms, which included a painful bump below her left knee, were initially thought to be caused by another condition that, although painful, would eventually resolve. Unfortunately, the first diagnosis was wrong, and Brandi faced a devastating cancer diagnosis at an incredibly young age.
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.