By Gordon Williams
When Nicole Imbriaco and her mother, Marci, leave their Sammamish, WA home for an evening out, they are more likely to drive to a house that is on fire than to a movie or a mall.
Marci Imbriaco has been responding to home fires and other disasters for the past seven years as a member of a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT). Two years ago, Nicole volunteered to join her mother on her four-person team that responds to disasters in the King County (Seattle) chapter of the Red Cross Northwest Region.
Nicole is a student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Most of the time she lives on-campus in Bellingham. During the weeks when her response team is on call, she moves back home to her parents’ house. “When we get calls, my mom and I go out together,” she says. In the year since she became a Red Cross volunteer, Nicole has provided assistance at a dozen fires.
The desire to help others was instilled in Nicole when she was young, “There was a lot of volunteering in my home when I was growing up,” she says. She was still a teen-ager when her mother volunteered to become a Red Cross disaster responder.
This altruistic spirit shows up elsewhere in Nicole’s life. Her college major is communications but she has a minor in women’s studies, She is leaning toward social work as a career. “I want to work with women and children,” she says, “maybe with victims of domestic violence.”
Given her mother’s years with the Red Cross, Nicole found it easy to decide where she would volunteer. “My mom suggested that I volunteer with her DAT team, and so I did” she explains. “It has been great. I like it.”
Her most challenging response so far was to a fire in Auburn, WA where two people died. “It was so hard hearing that people had died,” she says. “But it was rewarding being where we were needed, doing what we could do to help the survivors.”
It is easy to see what Nicole, as a volunteer, brings to the Red Cross — someone committed to helping disaster victims when they need help the most. But what does Nicole gain as a Red Cross volunteer — beyond the personal satisfaction of helping those in great need?
She calls the Red Cross “a pretty good start,” toward her career goal in social work. “I am learning a lot about dealing with individuals who are in crisis,” she says. “As Red Cross responders, we see people at their worst times and we have to do what we can to help them. They need support and we have to provide it.”
Asked to sum up her volunteering experience at the Red Cross. Nicole says, “It has been rewarding. I would definitely recommend it to other young people.”
Join the American Red Cross as a volunteer. You’ll gain valuable experience that will help develop your professional life.