By Clarice Nassif Ransom, VolunteerAs 2017 unfolds, Denise G. Miller, Executive Director of the American Red Cross (ARC) in Fairfax, Virginia, wants to increase the volunteer connection between the humanitarian organization and the community. Her professional “New Year resolutions” are to recruit new, top-notch volunteers and to increase current volunteer retention and engagement.
“Volunteers are our most precious resource,” said Miller. “The Red Cross can’t wait until a disaster strikes to then ask for volunteers. Disasters happen every day and everywhere. Whether it is a house fire, someone who needs blood to survive a life-threatening situation, or a community recovering from a natural disaster, the American Red Cross is there, 24-7, 365 days a year. We welcome and need volunteers from every age group and walk of life.”
Miller recently initiated a project for high school students to help bring cheer to military troops worldwide who are on the frontlines and unable to be with their families. Thousands of cards and letters came pouring in at the end of 2016, as part of ARC’s Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign. ARC in Fairfax hosted more than 30 students in December to assist with distribution. The task at hand was to sort and get the cards and letters ready for dissemination to the troops. Miller thought this would be a perfect way to engage youth. So, she invited local high school Red Cross clubs to come in for a few day-long-sorting events. She even offered free pizza to show appreciation. As a result, the team of youth volunteers were able to accomplish this task and the cards and letters were delivered over the holidays.
“The kids did a great job, had a lot fun working with their friends, and everyone walked away feeling good about what they did to help others,” said Miller.
Another activity that Miller is proud of is the ARC Home Fire campaigns. Fairfax volunteers, corporate partners, and Red Cross Youth Clubs came together a few times last year to install smoke alarms in “at-risk” communities. Miller said volunteers went door-to-door, installing smoke alarms and delivering fire safety information. Many of the volunteers stayed well past the hours they said they would donate to ensure that all the residents of the homes requesting the smoke detectors were able to be served. Miller noted that these volunteers are making a difference because working smoke detectors cut the risk of dying in home fires by half.
“Because of the generosity of our volunteers, we are able to help our fellow citizens,” said Miller, who says working for ARC the past four years is one of her best life experiences.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Miller. “Our job is really cool and I am honored to work for such a wonderful organization that serves the public in extraordinary ways.”
There are many ways to volunteer with the American Red Cross. Get started today by logging onto: https://volunteerconnection.redcross.org/. As noted on the site, “Every single day, the American Red Cross helps people in emergencies. Whether it's one displaced family, thousands of disaster victims, or providing care and comfort to an ill or injured service member or veteran or support to a military family member, our vital work is made possible by people like you. It is through the time and care of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things.”