By Abby Oldemeyer, Public Affairs Volunteer
Like many people that find their way to the American Red Cross, Shirley Bahr started searching for a way to give back to her community after she retired. Having already seen the positive impact the Red Cross had within her own community, she applied and began volunteering in 2017. Through her volunteering career, she has proven herself to be a huge asset to the volunteer team as a peer, mentor and leader. Originally a shelter associate helping in evacuation centers, she continued to expand her volunteer work into other areas and take on leadership positions. This year, she took on the roles of Shelter Manager and Regional Mass Care Lead for Central California, a major accomplishment for any Red Crosser.
Bahr has been deployed in-person and virtually to a variety of disasters over the years, including tornados in Jefferson, Missouri, wildfires throughout California, flooding in Michigan, hurricanes in Louisiana, and most recently supporting unaccompanied minors in Texas. She most recently supported the Creek Fire and Windy Fire throughout the pandemic, which affected her own neighbors and community. Bahr credits her 42-year career in education in helping her be successful in shelter work, learning to deal with all kinds of people has aided her in establishing relationships and communicating with others within shelters.
Aside from shelter work, Bahr was also inspired to get involved in Service to the Armed Forces by her husband, who is a retired service member. In this role she works on contact cards, where family members of individuals in the military are taught how to reach their loved one. Occasionally, she conducts follow-up calls when a family did have an emergency and needed to contact a military base.
Bahr positively reflects on her work with the Red Cross. The moments that stand out the most to her are the brief instances of joy within the serious nature of her work. One such moment is when she had a direct impact in caring for each member of a family at a shelter, including the people and those with paws. She also recalls a few unexpected celebrity encounters, such as meeting then-Senator Kamala Harris and Guy Fieri while volunteering at shelters.
She encourages others to join the Red Cross because of how easy it is to make a positive impact, especially since the Red Cross is very flexible in that it allows volunteers to choose which events to volunteer for to ensure that they are able to work around their schedule. With remote work, this has allowed even more flexibility for volunteers. She also emphasizes her experience with fellow volunteers, saying, “I’ve run into nothing but good people in the Red Cross, people that have a heart for helping others. It’s just really refreshing.”