Friday, February 1, 2019

My Red Cross Story: Eric Coates

By Sandy Habib, Volunteer

Three hundred and fifty-four hours! When you do the math, that translates to almost nine 40-hour work weeks - essentially two months.

This is exactly how much time Eric Coates has volunteered with the American Red Cross between January 2018 and January 2019. This is an extraordinary amount of time by any measure, but it’s even more amazing given that Eric manages to give so much of himself and still work full-time.

Professionally, Eric is a Safety Director, ensuring that structures are architecturally secure for people to occupy. It is through his job that he began his work with the Red Cross. In December 2017, Eric was earning his “CPR Trainer” Certification, which includes CPR, AED and First Aid. The course instructor was from the Red Cross and informed him that the organization could really benefit from volunteers with backgrounds like his - in Safety, Engineering and Construction. Eric quickly got involved and did his orientation course on January 6, 2018.

From there, Eric dove head-first, used all of his vacation time from work and embarked on a fantastic journey of Red Cross volunteer work that has taken him across the National Capital Region and as far as North Carolina. In Fayetteville and Wilmington, North Carolina, he ensured that safety standards at Hurricane Florence relief shelters met local and Red Cross guidelines. In Maryland, he serves as a shelter associate. In D.C. and Maryland, he installs residential fire alarms as part of Sound the Alarm, a Red Cross program that educates families about fire safety and ensures that they have functioning fire alarms in their homes. He also works on the March for our Lives LSAP (Life Safety Asset Protection) Go Team, providing support services as needed.

“There are so many opportunities to do good with the Red Cross. I’m going to keep helping my community as long as I can. It’s extremely rewarding to be able to help so many people in need.”
Eric Coates, Red Cross Volunteer

The volunteer opportunities that Eric helps at most often, though, are house fires in the National Capital Region. Regardless of the hour or the wintery temperatures outside, Eric goes to help local families who are distressed after their homes and possessions have gone up in flames. After spending a few hours (usually in the wee hours of the night) helping to get the family settled, Eric heads back home to shower and goes straight to work. He may need a few more cups of coffee than usual to make it through his workday after assisting at a pre-dawn house fire, but for him, it’s worth it.

Volunteering at these house fires with the Red Cross is especially meaningful to Eric. He appreciates how the Red Cross provides those affected with hotel accommodation, food and a debit card to meet their basic immediate needs. Almost as importantly, though, he finds it very rewarding to be able to offer these distraught families much-needed emotional support. He helps them relax - and sometimes, even smile - which is quite a feat in the face of such loss.

Eric proudly explains, “The part of the Red Cross that I love the most is that we’re not a group that gives a debit card and walks away. We do a lot more to get distressed families through the crisis.”

Even talking to Eric is an inspiration. He speaks about the Red Cross and his volunteer work with such exuberance. He loves meeting so many diverse people, and he thrives on the contributions he is able to make to help others. Even more than the extra cups of coffee, it’s Eric’s passion for helping those in need that keeps him energized to continue volunteering with the Red Cross. 

Want to join us as a volunteer? Visit to learn more about opportunities.

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