By Gordon Williams 

It takes scads of volunteers, working long hours, for the American Red Cross to carry out its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) mission of aiding members of the military and their families.  Recently, the Red Cross saluted those SAF volunteers by presenting more than 200 of them with the President’s Volunteer Service Award.  

Five of those honorees are from the Red Cross Northwest Region, covering Washington and the Idaho panhandle. The five are Bradley Andrews, Angus Bush, Darryl Chitwood, Darrell Griffin, and Paul Johnson. The awards were presented on Martin Luther King’s birthday — the holiday officially designated by Congress as a National Day of Service. 

The realities of COVID-19 being what they are, the event was done online, using the Microsoft Teams communication platform. 

The Volunteer Service Award was created in 2003 by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. The website for the award explains that it honors “the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation.” 

The award program is administered by AmeriCorps — the federal program that places volunteers with service programs, including the Red Cross. AmeriCorps manages the program in partnership with Points of Light — an international nonprofit organization headquartered in the U.S. which describes itself as being “dedicated to engaging more people and resources in solving serious social problems through voluntary service.” 

Groups that want to honor their volunteers with a President’s Award must first become Certified Organizations. For more on what organizations must do to become certified — and about the awards program in general — go to the website at presidentialserviceawards.gov/about. 

The Red Cross SAF program is, of course, a Qualifying Organization. Ties between the Red Cross and the military have always been close. The founder of the American Red Cross in 1881 was Clara Barton, a Civil War battlefield nurse. A key function of the Red Cross today is the SAF Hero Care Network — a service that unites military families during emergency situations. SAF volunteers also assist at military hospitals. 

Other SAF programs help military members and their families cope with the stresses and strains inherent in modern-day service life. The program also teaches about the humanitarian rules that govern warfare. All SAF services are available to both active-duty service members and retirees.

The SAF program for the Northwest Region is run out of Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), the huge army-air force facility near Tacoma. Leading the regional program is Jason Matheney, himself a U.S. Army veteran. 

To win the award, individuals must carry out “unpaid acts of volunteer service benefiting others.”  Here is what the five regional award winners were cited for, as reported by Yaleidy Torres, SAF Regional Manager for the Northwest Region.  

Bradley Andrews – SAF event volunteer. He has contributed more than 800 hours to different projects throughout the pandemic. Bradley has become one of our most reliable volunteers.  He single-handedly made more than 500 face coverings as well as hundreds of toys and baby blankets that are being distributed in our Baby Basket Program and Comfort Cart Program in our JBLM Military Treatment Facility (Madigan Army Medical Center). 

Angus Bush – Volunteer since 2015 with more than 4,000 volunteer hours. He is the Front Desk Greeter at one of Madigan’s clinics located in McChord Air Force. 

Darryl Chitwood – Volunteer since 2018 who has become a cornerstone for the American Red Cross, logging more than 4,000 hours. He is one of those volunteers that we could always count on stepping in when we were short-staffed.   

Darrell Griffin – Volunteer since 2019 with more than 1,700 hrs. logged. Darrell works at Madigan Army Medical Center for the Quality Service Department. 

Paul Johnson – Is a Service to the Armed Forces VA Work-study student working as a Regional Hero Care Network Casework and event support volunteer for the region, logging more than 600 hours.  

Among the speakers at the award ceremony were Trevor Riggen, president of Humanitarian Services for the Red Cross; Koby Langley, Red Cross senior vice-president and worldwide head of the SAF program; and Matt Bertram, Red Cross vice-president for volunteer services. 

I would like to thank the volunteers that were recognized for their unwavering commitment & support for our Active Duty military, Veterans and their families.

Jason Matheny, Regional SAF Director

Join our Service to the Armed Forces team! Find a role that aligns with your interests and availability, start here: redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-role-finder

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