Written by: Emily Goff, volunteer
Taking a leap outside of one’s familiar world can be incredibly daunting—especially if the tasks involve much selflessness and responsibility. But the Crane family accepts this challenge with hands that never cease to lend support to the countless lives they touch. The Red Cross is the medium through which Chris, Denise and Alex Crane perform their various volunteer jobs, and their story of becoming involved with our organization is one of striking devotion. They continually bring justice to the fundamental mission of the Red Cross: to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
In my interview with this compassionate family, I learned that in 2010, Chris, after 12 years of being a volunteer firefighter for the OWL Volunteer Fire Department in Prince William County, decided to align himself with the Red Cross as a DRT member (essentially a “second responder” to problems). He described how it proved to be a powerful experience: “I always wondered after the fire department left what became of the people who lost their homes or were injured. When I was looking for other volunteer opportunities, I recognized the Red Cross as the next likely source of assistance and comfort for those folks.” The Red Cross focuses many of its efforts on the aftermath of disasters, and the volunteers who choose such a realm of work are incredibly brave individuals.
Chris recalled that the moments that have particularly stuck with him are ones in which people faced the unthinkable: “Most homeowners seem to be unexpectedly calm after a fire—I suspect that means the catastrophe just hasn't sunk in yet. It's also interesting how easily a stuffed animal can, at least temporarily, cheer up a small child.” Clearly, Chris has witnessed a large amount of sorrow, but his involvement with the Red Cross has allowed him to be the much-needed comfort in these people’s lives.
Interested in a more behind-the-scenes role, Chris shifted to a position in the logistics support function in 2013—his son Alex had already joined this team in 2011—enjoying it so much as to encourage his wife Denise to work alongside him in 2015. In this “invisible” but essential tail of the Red Cross, the entire family contributes time, effort, and most of all passion to various duties. Namely, Chris is a certified Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver and shelter associate; both he and Alex are certified trailer pullers, forklift operators, and Base-X Tent masters; and Chris, Alex and Denise work together in National Capital Region warehouses inspecting shelter trucks and trailers. Such responsibilities can obviously be arduous when trying to balance other duties, but the Cranes, a self-proclaimed Red Cross “family,” make it a point to volunteer despite the busyness in their lives already.
Those who are directly involved in the Red Cross’ various services get a peek of their clockwork. Chris was “struck by the many truly dedicated, hard-working people, both employees and volunteers, who worked together to assist those in need. [He] also recognized the unique challenges faced by an organization that consists of a backbone of full-time employees but relies on legions of volunteers nationwide to accomplish its mission.” Also, working with the Red Cross provided the Cranes with the opportunity to interact with dedicated managers such as Gary Gilham and Chuck Mudd.
For those of you who are contemplating becoming a volunteer for the Red Cross, the Cranes have a few words of advice: “The Red Cross is a welcoming family and there's plenty to do, you just have find your place in the organization. But don't just sign up to volunteer and then sit at home waiting for someone to call you. You've got to get out and learn with other volunteers in the organization. It also helps— within the constraints of your regular job—to be reliable, but everyone understands that employment and personal life can get in the way of volunteering.” Our organization encompasses most anything you may be interested in participating in. If there is one thing you should know, according to Chris, “there's a place for almost anyone who wants to help.”
The Cranes’s adventures as Red Cross volunteers speak volumes about who they truly are as people: kind, motivated, and courageous. (Incidentally, their interests as a family include kayaking, motorcycling, astronomy, and supporting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.) Larger-scale disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, which Chris and Alex actually once drove a loaded ERV through, and smaller-scale dilemmas are made survivable by their—and all other volunteers’—efforts. Ultimately, the Red Cross is extremely fortunate to be propelled forward by such steadfast, warmhearted people as the Cranes.