Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Red Cross Story: Art Shaw

Fundraiser and Volunteer—Providing Vital Service to the Red Cross Mission

Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, volunteer

Employee and Volunteer: Art Shaw

Resides: Sterling, Virginia

Length of Service: 2 years as employee/15 years as volunteer

Title: Partnership Officer, American Red Cross

Meet Art Shaw. By day, Art is a partnership officer for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, a role in which he helps to raise funds, a vitally important function for the humanitarian organization that relies on the generosity of donors and the power of volunteers to alleviate human suffering during emergencies.

When Art is not working, he is volunteering his time to the Red Cross, donating blood platelets, helping to respond to disasters such as fires and floods, and assisting with large events like the recent Red Tee Golf Tournament.

“I first started giving blood in college,” said Art. “Later, when I was donating blood near where I worked in downtown D.C. for Marriott, the Red Cross nurse asked me if I ever thought about giving platelets and explained to me the importance of platelets to saving lives. That’s when I started giving my platelets – about 15 years ago.”

Art said the process of giving platelets takes about two hours and he has needles in both arms. The blood is withdrawn, the platelets are extracted and then the blood is put back into a person’s body.

“You go home with the same amount of blood you came with—minus the platelets, which regenerate quickly,” said Art, who donates platelets about 20 times a year. “My platelets have been linked to helping many others. One person I helped in particular is a child leukemia victim at Johns Hopkins in Maryland—my blood platelets helped keep him alive. It feels good to help others, and it does not cost you anything but time. So why not do it?”

As a member of the Red Cross Volunteer Disaster Action Team, Art helps victims of house fires, floods like the ones that occurred last year in South Carolina, and with teams installing free smoke alarms and providing fire safety information to local communities.

“It is really important to be there for disaster victims and to give them the reassurance that they are going to be OK,” said Art. “There are people who just lost everything in a house fire, it’s 2:30 a.m., and they are devastated. As a Red Cross volunteer, we can be there to comfort them and to provide them with resources, such as a hotel room and food, to help them begin to rebuild their lives, and that is rewarding.”

When the recent Women’s March ended, a group of about 30 Canadian women were stranded at RFK Stadium due to a bus breakdown after everyone else vacated, according to Art, who said the Red Cross was the only organization left to assist these women by providing a tent shelter, food and coffee. 

“Our motto is, ‘We will help you until you are OK,’” said Art, who was one of the Red Cross volunteers onsite that day and evening until all the women were able to leave, the last bus departing around 3:00 a.m. the morning after the march.

One of the Canadian attendees was so thankful to the American Red Cross that she wrote a personal note to the team and vowed a donation. An excerpt from her note said, “We did appreciate the help as we were exhausted from the long bus journey the night before and the excitement of the wonderful day… The Red Cross helped everyone to get going again and we all got safely back to Canada.”

As a partnership officer, Art communicates with many local companies, sharing the value of donating resources, as well as hosting volunteer venues such as on-site blood donation centers. One of Art’s most memorable exchanges was when he attended a blood drive at a company. A retired, elderly volunteer told Art that the reason he volunteers is that when he was born in the 1940’s, dialysis was not used, and had a blood disease in which he received about 1,000 pints of blood at the Children’s Hospital. That elderly volunteer attributes being alive as a result of the generosity of blood donors, as many of his peers with the same disease did not make it, and he told Art that is why he still volunteers. Art was touched by this story.

“Volunteering helps me to tell the Red Cross story to donors, who can hear the conviction in my voice, as to why it is important to support our organization,” said Art. “I am telling the truth when I say I helped save someone’s life by working and volunteering for the American Red Cross—I have donated life-saving blood and platelets; I have comforted victims of disasters; I have provided food, shelter and clothing after disaster victims have lost everything. I am living the expectations I am asking for from my donors.”

Art said he will forever volunteer for the Red Cross.

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