“What a wonderful world we live in.”John Baker, Red Cross volunteer
By Mark Walker
There’s no “quit” in 79-year-old Red Cross volunteer John Baker.
“I’ve got the body of a 20-year-old,” Baker said in all seriousness.
After a more than 70-year relationship with the Red Cross, Baker’s seemingly boundless youthful energy and commitment to serving others is as strong as ever.
His indomitable spirit shines through in his voice and actions, such as his ongoing role as a Red Cross mental health volunteer.
Over the years, he’s been deployed around the nation when the Red Cross responds to disasters and regional emergencies.
“There have been so many that I’ve lost count.”
In the fall of 2018, he joined a large group of Red Cross managers and volunteers who responded to the Camp Fire, the nation’s worst wildfire in a century, that claimed 86 lives and more than 11,000 homes in and around Paradise, Calif.
It wasn’t easy for anyone who was there, he said.
“I will always remember the man who came up to me in tears after he had just lost his best friend and dog,” who held and consoled the distraught fire victim. “He was just heartbroken, and it’s times like those that you never forget and never really get over.”
“We all absorb the pain of the people we walk with.”
Baker just finished helping the Red Cross make hundreds of wellness telephone calls to volunteers throughout the region as the nation continues to confront the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re reaching out to people in the Red Cross to make sure they are OK, and if there’s anything we can do for them.”
Baker is a Red Cross fixture in Bellingham and throughout Whatcom County, responding to house fires and other emergencies.
“I see my role as a kind of navigator helping steer people to resources in the community,” he said. “What we actually do is bring love to people.”
He also works with immigrant students at Western Washington University, and sometimes has one accompany him to interpret for Spanish speakers in need of services, embodying the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) motto With Humanity, Toward Peace.
Baker’s Red Cross experience started when he earned his Boy Scouts first aid patch through its instruction, and later his senior lifeguard training.
“I’ve always had the Red Cross in my view,” said Baker.
The graduate of Oregon’s Willamette University worked as community college administrator for decades in California, making sure that at each stop the college was connected to the Red Cross through blood drives and emergency shelter when needed.
The irrepressible Baker sums up with a reminder for us: “The present will pass, and it is the way we embrace it that has the power to change the future.”
He adds, “I love being alive and realize what a wonderful world it is that we live in.”