Fire on Father’s Day: Dads Volunteer for Sherpa Fire Response


John Parsons-H
John Parsons stand in front of an Emergency Response Vehicle at the Santa Barbara Red Cross office on Father’s Day

An ideal Father’s Day for John Parsons would usually be sleeping in and reading the newspaper. But on this Father’s Day, John and many more volunteers like him, are instead giving their time to volunteer on the American Red Cross Sherpa Fire response in Santa Barbara County.

The father to three children and three grandchildren, John has spent his whole life caring for his family and others. As a Marine serving during Vietnam, he contacted the families of servicemembers who were wounded or killed in the war and helped with funeral arrangements.

The idea of becoming a Red Cross volunteer came to John when his family was evacuated during a wildfire. The Red Cross was there to provide shelter and comfort for them. Soon after retiring, John became a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) member to help families affected by home fires, as well as use his skills and experience to support disaster logistics.

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John Parsons meets with team members at the DOCC to discuss the day’s Sherpa Fire logistics

“It’s nice when you can help face to face, like on the DAT team. But I do Logistics, and I’m good at that, and organized. It always feels good to be able to use a skill,” said John.

Logistics is what you’ll find John doing today, instead of relaxing on Father’s Day. Logistics volunteers like John play a key role behind the scenes of a Red Cross disaster response. From managing facilities to running warehouses, this team is critical to supporting the Red Cross mission.

Keith stands at the Sherpa Fire shelter entrance, ready to greet and comfort evacuated families

Father and Grandfather Keith McLellan initially joined the Red Cross family as board member.

“When I was on the board of Red Cross I was very impressed with the people serving on the board, and the volunteers, and the staff serving at the Red Cross,” said Keith, “I decided that when I retired I would volunteer with the Red Cross now that I have time.”

“I have the gift of time and compassion and so both of those lend themselves to giving away. It’s a philosophy that we should always give away what we can.”

Today Keith is spending Father’s Day working in the Red Cross Sherpa Fire shelter, helping families impacted by evacuations.

“One of the principles that I think is helpful is any act of kindness small or large is always valuable. Just being available to listen and support and walk alongside somebody who has needs should be second nature. And that’s what defines community,” said Keith.

Keith McLellan celebrates Father’s Day a day early with his three sons, Colby, Carver, and Keagan.

Thankfully this father to three boys and grandfather to two granddaughters was able to celebrate Father’s Day with his family early by going to dinner last night. To him, an ideal Father’s Day is simply “Where I’m in a good relationship with my children and my family. Everything is extra. Everything else is a bonus. And a chance to be with them, know that they’re well, is the best Father’s Day gift a father can have.”

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A Father’s Day message at the Disaster Operations Command Center (DOCC) reads, “Happy Father’s Day! Thank you to all our father’s but especially the ones spending their DAY with us here in Santa Barbara!”

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