By Cindy Huge, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer
Retirement brought a new challenge for Jim Hankinson in the form of what to do with his time. After much reflection which included thinking back to his time as a youth and his parents stressing the importance of helping others, Jim began the journey of finding a nonprofit organization that he could volunteer with.
During the time when movements were restricted due to COVID-19, Jim researched and came upon the American Red Cross. He thought to himself “let’s give Red Cross a try” and this is exactly what he did.
In Hankinson’s relatively short time as a volunteer, only 11 months, he has taken over 40 classes and is a very active member of the local DAT (Disaster Action Team) of Kern County. His compassion is quite evident to those who volunteer along with him, which led to Hankinson being presented with the Disaster Cycle Service award this spring.
When the French Fire first ignited in August of 2021 in Kern County, Hankinson was the first to step forward and let Disaster Program Manager, Megin Hughes, know that he was available to help in any manner necessary.
Huges’ asked Hankinson to manage a Red Cross Shelter along with another volunteer during the day shift which was from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Without a moment of hesitation, he jumped in and used his training as a shelter worker to care for those who were evacuated from their homes.
Hankinson listened to those frightened residents, many of who were elderly, and tried his best to provide comfort and care to them. At times it was a simple request for another blanket or a hot cup of coffee, no request went unfilled. He kept the residents calm and reassured them that the Red Cross would be there as long as needed.
Hankinson’s personal motto of “What needs to be done first and how to get it done,” has served well for the many residents he has helped and will continue to be there for in the future.
Smaller disasters, such as home fires, are no less devastating to the families affected. The Red Cross is recruiting Disaster Action Team volunteers like Jim to help comfort and support families in need by providing food, shelter, clothing or supplies, and connecting families to recovery assistance. Turn tragedy into hope by donating your time and skills. Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday to get started today.