By Mark Walker
Legions of American Red Cross volunteers have stepped up over the last year and a half to help the nation confront the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Be it staffing emergency shelters, assisting with vaccine distribution or making sure the emergency needs of fire victims are met, volunteers have responded in droves during the time of peril.
That hasn’t always been easy, however, as volunteers must ensure their own safety as well as the well-being of their families.
“Sometimes you get a little nervous,” said Puget Sound Red Cross volunteer Paula Spence, a member of a disaster action team. “You have to be extra cautious and make sure you follow all the safety protocols.”
Spence, a volunteer for more than a decade, spent part of her time during the height of the pandemic assisting local Red Cross offices with administrative work and any needs to meet the moment.
“I just have a real passion for emergency preparedness,” Spence said.
Numerous people also stepped in to provide materials the Red Cross has used during the pandemic, including Luis Munoz, general manager of Steel Rule Concepts in Kent.
He was watching a television news report about face shields and thought he could produce his own well-designed plastic shields to ward off COVID-19.
He soon partnered with the Benik Corporation in Silverdale and Poulsbo’s Clear Industries to mass produce shields, hundreds of which went to Red Cross offices in Seattle and throughout Washington.
“I just filled up the van and started driving around the state,” he said of the effort that has produced about 70,000 shields thus far.
“I talked with emergency managers and medical directors and tried to meet what they needed,” he said. “Outlying areas were the ones who initially weren’t getting these sorts of supplies.”
All of the design and manufacturing costs were borne by the companies involved in the effort.
“We just wanted to help out as much as we could.”Luis Munoz, general manager of Steel Rule Concepts in Kent
The Red Cross has also supported quarantine shelters, maintained blood collection and supply, conducted online stress workshops and assistance to military families during the pandemic.
All those efforts were recently lauded by Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Gail McGovern.
“The past year has taken an enormous toll on families, and that’s why our trained volunteers are more critical to our mission than ever before,” McGovern said.
Red Cross volunteers around the country have helped establish COVID-19 vaccine distribution centers and supported medical workers administering shots. They’ve also helped get the vaccine to military personnel and their families at installations around the globe.