By Diane Toomey
Colleen Protzman and Dee Anderson, her friend of 64 years, went looking for a volunteer opportunity in 2014 and landed at the American Red Cross.
Shortly after joining, Colleen and Dee became part of the initial sheltering response team sent to help with the Oso landslide. They helped set up a temporary shelter in a school gymnasium in Arlington. Colleen still describes the memory with great emotion, “people came to us looking for their family members and they didn’t know if they were dead or alive.” She came away from the experience knowing she made a difference, “we can’t undo their loss, but we can be there, we can listen, we can show them we care.” It changed her forever.
Colleen and Dee continued their volunteering and went on to become a duo that drove Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) to local disasters in Washington state and across the US; North Carolina, Florida, California, Nevada and the list goes on. The ERV vehicles that Colleen and Dee drove are used to bring meals to families in disaster situations. Colleen stated that she is continually amazed at the gratitude shown by meal recipients stating that “the gracious manner of people who have lost everything changes you forever.”
Volunteer with us! RedCross.org/volunteer
Colleen and Dee both worked for Trader Joe’s and have been fortunate that their “crew members & captains” have always been amazing, covering their jobs when they are on deployments and thanking them for their volunteer work.
While Dee recently retired from Red Cross volunteering and her work at Trader Joe’s, Colleen is still at it. Most recently she has taken on more responsibility as a regional lead for the ERV fleet, making sure they are inspected, maintained and operators are being trained & tested.
Colleen encourages people to look at all the different ways to volunteer, recognizing that not everyone can or wants to travel to disasters. The Red Cross offers volunteer opportunities closer to home, even from your home, depending on your time and interest.
“Our assistance to our clients is sometime so small….but their gift to us cannot be measured. That is why I will continue to volunteer as long as I can.”Colleen Protzman, Red Cross Volunteer