Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Pearl Parker

By: Melanie Benson, volunteer

Volunteer: Pearl Parker - Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Length of Volunteer Service: ~ 1 Year
Resides: Gaithersburg, Maryland

Pearl Parker was introduced to me as a Red Cross volunteer through Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the largest public service-oriented sorority for African American women in the country.  Pearl has been a member of Delta Sigma Theta for 30 years, but it wasn’t until 2015 when her sorority partnered with the Red Cross to help support the Home Fire Campaign in our local Gaithersburg community that she became a Red Cross volunteer. 

We have never met, but just from our time together over the phone, I can tell that Pearl is one of those individuals that everyone wishes they had as a friend.  She is effervescent and her positive energy and obvious kindness serve her well for the role as part of the Disaster Action Team in Montgomery County.  Pearl shares that she was bitten by the “preparedness bug” years ago as a Cubmaster for her son’s Cub Scout pack.  After taking a Montgomery County Emergency Response Team course in 2011, she became interested in learning how to educate members of her neighborhood and workplace in emergency preparedness.  As part of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, Pearl is a presenter for the Pillowcase Project in local schools, and participates in smoke detector installation campaigns to further the Red Cross mission of fire safety, awareness, and prevention.

Recently, Pearl’s engagement with the Disaster Action Team deepened when she responded to her first home fire call.  As one of a three-member team who answered the call to action that night, she describes it as a humbling experience.  Arriving at the scene of the house fire, the Red Cross workers cared for the affected family by providing warm blankets, assistance with immediate needs, and recovery guidance. Reflecting on witnessing and participating in the relief effort, Pearl remains in awe of the impact the Red Cross team was able to make by being there, and providing a temporary haven for the days ahead. “It was a short drive for me,” she tells me, “but life changing for others.”

Pearl's home fire response call further motivated her to stay involved with the Red Cross.  She knows that the next time the phone rings, she will do what she can to respond.  When asked if she has advice or inspiration to share with volunteers and potential volunteers she replies, “Helping others prepare or overcome a tragic event gives me a true sense of purpose.  In a world where it seems that we have little control, volunteering with the Red Cross helps me feel that I do." Pearl also shares a quote from Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, a fellow Delta Sigma Theta Sorority member, “Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.” I couldn’t agree more.

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