Part IV: National Volunteer Week
By Patrick Pannett, Disaster Public Affairs Volunteer
The images of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 inspired me to do something to give back to the community. I collected goods and donated items for the victims of the hurricane, but that somehow didn't seem to be enough. It so happened I was serving as a reference for a friend who was under consideration for a deployment to New Orleans with the American Red Cross, and I used that opportunity to express my own interest in working with the organization.
I ended up not being deployed for Katrina, but used the basic courses as a springboard for getting involved with the Alexandria chapter as a volunteer public affairs member. I was first deployed as a disaster volunteer to the Southern California wildfires in 2007 where I served in a number of roles but really fell neatly into public affairs, which led to me being invited to join the national Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT).
The Red Cross offered me the most rewarding volunteer experience to date, especially as I see how we respond in every community each day, be it from offering a friendly conversation to those affected by disaster to helping solve complex challenges on the fly. Locally, in the National Capital Region, I am privileged to work with incredibly committed staff and volunteers, including for such large events as the annual July 4 celebrations and the Presidential Inauguration every 4 years. These are great examples of the Red Cross in the community.
Sometimes volunteering comes closer to home, like it did during the Navy Yard shootings in 20132 - less than a mile from my home. I was able to be there and help in the immediate aftermath. That's something that really resonated with me - that the Red Cross is local, at some level, and we are all neighbors helping each other.
Volunteering is both incredibly rewarding and professionally valuable. It informs my experiences, gives me a very diverse insight into the many communities that make up America, and the experiences cross over to my day job. I believe everyone should give back in one way or another, especially those of use who are fortunate to have not yet needed assistance from others. Organizations like the Red Cross offer a wide-array of ways to give back - be it your time, blood, or financial assistance.