By Gordon Williams
When 17-year-old Marie Hafez first volunteered at the American Red Cross office in Kennewick WA, last August, she intended her tenure to be just long enough to finish a project for her high school Social Justice class. It didn’t work out that way. “The project was only supposed to last one semester, but I really liked the Red Cross, so I just kept on going,” Marie says. When that class ended, she stayed on.
Her stay with the Red Cross Central and Southeastern Washington chapter will finally end this summer when Marie — now a senior at Tri-Cities Prep in Pasco, WA — graduates and heads off to college. Michele Roth, executive director of the chapter, says finding a replacement won’t be easy.
“Marie has been a valuable volunteer for the Red Cross,” Roth says, “especially to her high school community. She provided the continuity when most schools were not in session due to Covid-19.”
There is a Red Cross function called Community Volunteer Leader (CVL) — volunteers who represent the Red Cross when paid staff members aren’t available or don’t quite fit the bill. “Marie has really built a Red Cross community in her high school,” Roth says. “She has done many of the things that a CVL would do for the Red Cross.”
In what is arguably her most notable achievement in her year with the Red Cross, she organized and ran a blood drive at Tri-Cities Prep. That proved to be a grand success, and Marie will run another blood drive at the school on May 3.
She has assisted at the annual Kennewick Turkey Trot, a 5k Thanksgiving themed run which raises money for the Red Cross. Her role at the Turkey Trot was to stuff bags with swag for the runners — T shirts, number bibs, food coupons and more — and then distribute them (at a safe distance) to the runners.
Nor is this the first time Marie has been featured in the Red Cross Northwest Region blog. An article that ran early in February told how Marie and Red Cross staffers and volunteers distributed non-standard Red Cross blankets on Martin Luther King Day to needy families in the area. Thanks to their and other community organization’s efforts, more than 400 families in the area received blankets, food, essentials, and gift cards.
Marie first came to the Red Cross when she was casting about for ideas on how to manage the senior service project for her Social Justice course. The course required her to do a certain number of service hours aiding the community. Marie looked over the list of possibilities and focused on the Red Cross, finally meeting with Roth, who herself was new to the chapter. “I talked to Michele about what I wanted to do,” Marie says. “I told her I would do anything she needed me to do. I told her I love working with people,”
In more normal times, Marie might have been able to do disaster preparedness presentations to school kids or help install smoke alarms as part of the Red Cross Home Fire campaign. But because of the pandemic, most face-to face Red Cross services have been put on hold. At 17, Marie was too young to serve as a Red Cross disaster responder or aid disaster victims as part of a Red Cross disaster relief operation.
One place Marie could be useful was in helping the Red Cross collect blood, The Red Cross supplies 40 percent of the nation’s need for human blood, and the demand for that blood has not slackened a bit during the pandemic. What the pandemic has done is slowed donations of blood, leaving the available supply of blood at dangerously low levels.
“That gave me the idea of running a blood drive at Tri-City Prep,” Marie says. “I love planning and running things.” The initial idea was for Marie to be a blood ambassador — greeting donors at the blood drive site and preparing them to give blood. Marie took her role far beyond that, enlisting her fellow students and playing a lead role in managing the drive. “People need blood, and I am grateful I could take time out of my day to help out,” she says.
The drive was a huge success, according to Roth. “I wish you could have seen her in action. She not only organized the drive, but she provided moral support to first-time donors.” Marie adds, “It was great. Things ran really smoothly, and we got a lot of donors.” Marie will also play the lead role in the next blood drive on May 3rd.
Being a Red Cross ambassador to young people in Washington’s Tri-Cities isn’t all there is on her resume. She has played on her high school’s volleyball team and been captain of the school’s cheerleading squad. And she has bold plans for after she graduates high school and her time as a Red Cross volunteer runs out.
She has already narrowed her choice of colleges to two, both in the Pacific Northwest. Asked about her choice of careers, she says, “I hope to become a doctor.” She wants to continue her outreach to young people, saying “I am thinking about either pediatric neurology or pediatric cardiology.