In 1991, during the Oakland Hills Fire, Jane Jennings had her first interaction with the American Red Cross. “They were running shelters for the county, and as a county worker, I was asked to be involved in the shelter. [My experience] convinced me that when I retired, I wanted to go back with the Red Cross,” says Jennings. Now, almost thirty years later, Jennings has won the Red Cross’s highest volunteer award, the Clara Barton Meritorious Leadership Award.
After retiring from a career filled with case management as a Probation Officer, Jennings found a natural transition, pivoting into a caseworker under the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Red Cross. “Now it’s called recovery,” explains Jennings, “but the normal casework is following up on DAT calls. DAT goes out, gives immediate assistance, and within the next day, casework starts following up with the client and writing referrals and assistance…it takes training and developing a comfort level. It’s not a job that’s impossible to do; it’s just, is that the role you’re comfortable doing?” Luckily for the Red Cross, it is a job Jennings has been comfortable performing for twenty years.
Laura Hovden, of Woodside, CA, recently received the San Mateo Volunteer of the Year Award during the Chapter’s annual volunteer recognition event. A born leader, Laura encourages others to expand their skills and expertise and take on leadership roles of their own. Her flexibility and high aptitude for success have led her to fulfill myriad duties across the organization, including regional and divisional appointments.
Laura took a moment last week to fill us in on her experiences.
Congratulations on the recognition as Volunteer of the Year!
Thank you, I feel so honored.
When did you first get involved with the Red Cross?
I joined when my kids were graduating from high school in 2014. I wanted to have something to do that would be meaningful after they were gone. At the Red Cross, I found all kinds of interesting people and just loved doing this kind of work.
The American Red Cross of the North Bay honored John McMahon with their Solano Volunteer of the Year Award at their annual recognition event on October 20, 2020. John has volunteered with the Red Cross since 2012 in many roles. He currently serves as the Solano County Red Cross Mass Care Coordinator, where his primary responsibility is to keep Solano County ready to respond to disasters.
“John has always displayed an open and helpful attitude to all volunteers, no matter if they are brand new or a veteran volunteer,” says Marcia Antipa, a communications volunteer with the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region. “John has exhibited his leadership skills during so many of our activities. Fire, floods, hurricanes, you name it, John has seen it all!”
The author surveys damage from the Glass Fire during her two-week deployment. (Photo courtesy of Mariana Vimbela) _____
As is seemingly the case with every disaster deployment, there was plenty for me and other Red Crossers to learn while taking part in the organization’s humanitarian response to the Glass Fire in Northern California this past October. During this particular deployment, I was regularly reminded of the importance of making connections in the affected communities in order to maximize our relief and recovery efforts. Read more
Since mid-August, when many of the wildfires described below started in our region, we have been updating this post on a regular basis. Now that most of our efforts are focused on helping residents as part of the recovery phase of these Red Cross responses, we will only update this post if future circumstances warrant.
Please see the information below that summarizes all of the great work our volunteers, employees, and partners have done to support our communities. We are also so appreciative of the donors whose generosity makes our work possible.
Background: The lightning storms that swept through our Northern California Coastal Region in mid-August caused a number of large and destructive fires in our chapter areas, prompting quick responses by our region’s Red Cross teams. Other fires subsequently started in our region in September, including the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Working alongside our government and community partners, Red Cross teams — comprising responders from inside and outside our region — have provided shelter, food, and comfort to the many residents impacted by these wildfires. Read more
Having returned home after their Glass Fire evacuation, a Santa Rosa couple shares their Red Cross story
By Dave Skutnik
Red Cross disaster worker Leigh Elliott is shown with Ila and Mike Ervin at the Ervin’s Santa Rosa area home following the Glass Fire. _____
As flames from the dangerous Glass Fire roared toward them, Mike and Ila Ervin — like so many on the night of September 27 — were forced to flee their rural home near the Northern California city of Santa Rosa.
“The sheriff came around and said we had to get out,” recalls Mike. “There was barely any time to even pack anything. We had to go — now.” Read more