Sunday, April 6, 2014

Paid in Hugs

Part I: National Volunteer Week 

By Renee Killian, Disaster Action Team Volunteer

I began volunteering, unofficially, with the Red Cross in 2006. I had met my husband, Brian, after he returned home from his 6-month volunteer post with the Hurricane Katrina operation. He began volunteering with logistics in Richmond, VA, and I started to volunteer 2 days a week on my days off. 

After a year of dating, Brian and I were married on August 16, 2007. Because of our love and connection with the Red Cross, instead of wedding rings we chose to get matching tattoos - of the American Red Cross. 

Brian later passed away on November 17, 2007.

In February of 2013 I was released from a 5-year employment contract. I took some time to vacation, organize, and do some simple life reflection. I started to think about Brian and the Red Cross. It dawned on me that I was missing something in my life and I wanted to connect with Brian in some way for our upcoming anniversary on August 16th. That's when my tattoo flashed at me. As I cried over missing Brian, I decided to contact the Red Cross.

I became a trainee on the DC Disaster Action Team (DAT), took every course required and others that were available. Advancement to a DC DAT team member came quickly and soon after I became a Senior Response Leader. During this time, I heard about an internship in the Disaster Services office. I thought no one would hire a 46-year-old to be an intern. But, I was wrong and I've been an intern by day and a response leader by night. What a rush! 

During my time working with the DC DAT I've learned that volunteers are the arteries of our organization. Without them we would be nothing. It takes a special kind of person to take time out of their own lives just to make sure others can continue in theirs. And only volunteers know how it feels to get paid in a hug! 

Editor's Note: Renee was featured in a recent NPR interview. You can read or listen to the full interview here

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