American Red Cross volunteer – and recent transplant to Fairfield – Susan Reese always planned to work with the Red Cross when she retired. When Susan finally retired from the restaurant industry last year, she became a volunteer wildfire associate. While working at a Local Assistance Center (LAC) during the North Complex fires in Yuba City, disaster response leadership called for people to join the feeding team. Susan jumped up, and said, “Feeding is what I love doing!” Just like that, Susan’s first deployment brought everything full circle.
Susan first had contact with the Red Cross in 1997 when she lived in Klamath, California. That year, the Klamath River breeched and flooded the town. Susan says that the entire area “was wiped out.” The Red Cross arrived and began to feed survivors and evacuees by bringing in food from a neighboring city.
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.”
THE DRAMATIC STORY OF HOW QUICK ACTION AND TRAINING SAVED THE LIFE OF A YOUNG SANTA ROSA MAN
Six coaches and swimmers from Santa Rosa Junior College have received the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for their efforts to rescue a student athlete.
by Marcia Antipa
“The last thing I remember is looking up at the ceiling, and then I blacked out.”
On March 5, 2020, Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) student Morgan DeSalvo finished a lap of a swim team workout when a lifelong heart condition finally caught up with him.
Morgan and a few teammates were at the pool wall, catching their breath, when he slipped underwater and sank to the bottom. Swimmer Katie Morrison noticed Morgan underneath her.
“He [wasn’t] moving,” Katie recalls. “He was underwater on his back. His mouth and eyes were open.” She reached under Morgan’s arms and struggled to lift him. Teammate Megan Ference was in the next lane and hurried to help.
What does a law enforcement officer do in his spare time? Volunteer to help others, of course. Meet Kevin Sagar, the American Red Cross Volunteer of the Year for Marin County.
Kevin is wrapping up his first year as a police officer with the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit, known as the SMART Train.
“The majority of my job is looking for people that are on the train tracks, either oblivious to the trains or trying to hurt themselves. Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere at the right time, but it is nice when we do get there and spot someone before something happens.”
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!”