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.”
The American Red Cross honored Suzie Hall with the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership in Sonoma County for her extensive volunteer efforts. Named after the founder of the American Red Cross, this award recognizes a volunteer for service in a series of leadership positions held over several years.
The top-honor recipient joined the Red Cross back in 2014 through San Jose’s local chapter. Following her departure from a career in Silicon Valley at Apple Inc., Suzie searched for a new community to call home. Hall sought a slower pace of life and desired to be closer to friends and family, so she put down new roots in Oakmont in Santa Rosa. She quickly dedicated her time and energy to a volunteer leadership position within the Red Cross using her IT and seasoned management experience to serve the needs of the organization.
Her current focus is on the Volunteer Connection Tech Team and she works with two other volunteers – Linnea Dunn and Ayman Baydoun. Hall’s expertise and strong leadership help manage and streamline the system. If volunteers have an issue or question, they can write in for support. “It’s a huge system that runs the lifeblood of how we communicate with everyone.” Volunteers update their availability and accept shifts, among other things.
American Red Cross volunteer Janet Rogoff loves books. For over 40 years, she and her husband have dealt in rare books, specializing in tribal art and working with galleries, collectors and institutions. So, it is no wonder that when speaking with Janet, you get the impression that she is most comfortable working behind the scenes.
When asked about her recent “Marin County Volunteer of the Year Award,” Janet credits her colleagues for the success of the Marin Red Cross. “We have a really good group in Marin now,” Janet said. “We have people doing such a good job that they’re being recruited to the regional level, and a couple have even gone to national.”
Like other volunteers, Hurricane Katrina first brought Janet into the Red Cross. The scale of need motivated her to take action. She remembers the Red Cross desperately recruiting responders who were willing to train quickly and then deploy to Texas. As one of those new recruits, Janet recalls commuting from her home in Marin to the Oakland office for two consecutive days of training. After she completed training and before the call to hop on a plane arrived, Janet assumed that she was too old to deploy. Yet, once on her way to Texas, she realized not only was she not too old, but she was one of the younger responders.
“I see my job as being in customer service,” says Melissa Kaplan.
That is putting it mildly. Since Melissa joined the Red Cross in 2006, she has become one of the most dedicated and essential volunteers in the Northern California Coastal Region. She volunteers more than 1,200 hours a year and has performed multiple jobs in her 15 years with the Red Cross.
Fellow volunteer Angela Thompson Hunt nominated Melissa for the Gene Beck Award, named for the long-time volunteer and board member.
“She has worked tirelessly for Red Cross for such a long time and all those behind-the-scenes tasks that let other people make progress. I would not have been able to do the kind of work I’ve done if she wasn’t there with me, backing me up.“
On April 1, 2021, the American Red Cross Heart of the Valley Chapter honored Carl and Jane Knowles for their hard work and dedication at the annual volunteer recognition event (held virtually due to COVID-19 precautions). Located in San Joaquin County, this amazing couple collectively put in over 1,200 volunteer hours in 2020 in various locations and activities, despite a pandemic and quarantine requirements.
For Jane and Carl, 2020 was packed. They worked in disaster assessment for the Lake Berryessa area and served food during the Santa Cruz fires. Jane sewed 450 masks for family, friends, SAF (Service to Armed Forces) and a neighborhood school. Then the Knowles transported large quantities of blood donations, often working double shifts five days a week to compensate for the reduction in volunteer drivers due to COVID-19.
Dr. Diane Bridgeman is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who has served as a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than 30 years. In April, Diane received the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership, the Red Cross’ highest honor. A treasured member of the Disaster Mental Health Team in the Santa Cruz chapter, Diane took the time to share about her rich experience with the Red Cross and why this recognition means so much to her.
What drew you to the American Red Cross, and what kept you engaged?
I suspect my initial interest in the Red Cross, and why I stayed with it for over 30 years, stems from a matching of my core life tenets and the central mission of the Red Cross. This includes service to others and the importance of fairness and social justice – these are key lenses for my view of the world and similarly coincide with the basic principles that guide the Red Cross. It is why I chose psychology, and clinical psychology specifically, as my career choice and why I resonate with the heart of the Red Cross. The more I learned about the history of the Red Cross and its profound and inspired founder, Clara Barton, the more I embraced and wanted to give time to this humanitarian organization.