By Kristin Alexander
The year was 1963. Susan LaBrie Martin, then a 15-year-old schoolgirl with cropped, brown hair and a passion for horses, had set her sights on earning the Gold Award. The highest achievement for a Girl Scout, the award is earned by fewer than 6% of scouts annually. Her mom told her about an opportunity to volunteer for the Red Cross that would give her the community service experience she needed to earn the pin.
“I was a Volunteen, which is the same thing as a candy striper except it was for the Red Cross so my uniform was blue and white striped,” said Martin, who grew up in Spokane and now lives in Spokane Valley.
As a Volunteen, Martin was a companion for residents of a nursing home called St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged. She delivered flowers to their rooms. When the seniors received mail, she helped write their replies.
“It was fun. I made a lot of friends with old people,” said Martin.
Fast forward to 2021. Martin is retired from her career as a cabinet designer and her family has grown to include four children with her husband, Jim; six grandkids and eight great-grandchildren. She lost her husband nine years ago within weeks of moving into a new home together.
During their move, they hastily packed up everything they had acquired during their 47 years living in their previous house. Recently, Martin was rummaging through her closet and discovered her old uniform, complete with nurse’s hat.
“When I took a look at it, I couldn’t believe I was ever that small,” she said.
She decided to donate it to the Red Cross. Her uniform will become part of the Red Cross’ memorabilia collection.
Martin is a lifetime Girl Scout. With help from her daughter, she also recently found all her Girl Scout pins, including her Gold Award. And, yes, she earned that Gold Award largely because of her work with the Red Cross.
Twenty-five percent, or 100,000, American Red Cross volunteers are youth or young adults age 24 and younger. Within the Northwest Region, there are 13 active high school Red Cross Clubs. In addition, the region’s Service to the Armed Forces department runs a youth summer program that is temporarily on hold due to COVID-19. To learn more about clubs and volunteer opportunities for young people, visit Red Cross Youth.