Red Cross Volunteers: A Family Tradition 

 

By Annie Sorich

Edited by Nancy Waddell

A passion for helping others was passed down to Brian Opitz from his parents, who have helped deliver the Red Cross mission as volunteers for over 20 years. By occasionally helping his parents out, Brian himself decided to become a volunteer and also inspired his wife Mary. Now, he is a board member with the American Red Cross serving Central and Southeastern Washington. In his Q&A he shares why people are so inspired to volunteer in his chapter.  

How long have you volunteered with the American Red Cross? What role(s) have you held?

I’ve been active with the American Red Cross for about four years. I’m part of our Kennewick Disaster Action Team and I help with Staff Services and Mass Care. I am also an Instructor and a local Public Affairs person. I recently became a Board member for our chapter.

You have a lot of pride in your fellow Central and Southeastern Washington volunteers. What do you think makes our Red Cross volunteers so amazing, and what do they bring to the Northwest Region? 

Our chapter has some very dedicated folks who take the lead on any request put forth to them.  From responding at local or regional disasters, helping organize and teach at major instructional institutes, preparing procedures or manuals about disaster response, to simple things like coordinating informal meetings and training sessions, our lead volunteers jump at the chance to set a high standard for others to follow. Their effort and attitude is contagious and [it] drives everyone to excel and step up to help and become involved. Observing the responsibility that is given to our chapter volunteers by the Red Cross staff in our region, I think it demonstrates the confidence they have in our volunteers. It gives all of us a great boost in confidence that we are doing the right thing when it counts.

What was your most challenging day of volunteering for the Red Cross?

I was asked to work with a local TV station to put together four different news segments about our local chapter. Each segment was only going to be about 90-100 seconds long but it took most of a day to do the orientation, then a couple of practice takes, then the real filming/recording. Six minutes of TV time was harder than I had previously imagined.

Mary and Brian Opitz at Pasco 7-4-16 Parade (1)

Brian Opitz and his wife Mary

What’s the most unusual task you’ve been asked to do while volunteering?

Probably the most unusual was to assist a woman who was staying at a shelter we had set up, and she went into labor with her third child. We contacted the local paramedics, but it was a busy night and it took a while for them to show up. It brought back some distant memories of my wife and myself with our two boys being delivered. Fortunately, for both myself and the client, the professionals arrived in time.

What made your family choose the Red Cross as an organization deserving of their volunteer time and energy?

My parents have been Red Cross volunteers for over 20 years. Hearing their description of what they were doing across the country, plus helping them as a volunteer several years ago, put the bug in my ear to become more involved. As a result of me getting involved, my wife Mary is also active with our chapter now and has been for a couple of years.

If another friend or family member was considering getting involved, how would you pitch the American Red Cross as a worthy organization?

Learning about all the different volunteer activities that you can get involved in is what makes the Red Cross such a great organization. Responding locally to community events or responding nationally across the country to major disasters is what sets the Red Cross family apart from other organizations. You see Red Cross responders in the news at all types of events, and you can become one of the folks to help victims or clients get back on their feet and on the road to recovery. There isn’t a better feeling than when you are responding and someone who has been affected by a disaster comes up to you and says, “Thanks for everything you are doing. It is really helping me out.”

What do you do when you’re not volunteering?

I retired from work a year and a half ago and, besides volunteering with the American Red Cross, I am a local soccer official, I love to ski, hunt and fish, play volleyball, travel with my wife and visit our two boys in Nevada and Florida.

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