By Lucca Lorenzi, Public Affairs Volunteer
In the fall of 2021, my grandmother passed away after years of living with Alzheimer’s. She grew up in Lyon, France during World War II, and her father was taken captive by Nazi soldiers for helping thousands of Jewish citizens flee from the city of Lyon during nazi regime’s rule. While her father was imprisoned underground for three years without proper sustenance or even sunlight, my grandmother and her mother were rescued by the Red Cross and moved with families from farm to farm until volunteers were able to rescue her father. Of all the memories that Alzheimer’s took from my grandmother, she never forgot what the Red Cross did for her and her family.
My journey started with an internship. Eager to gain experience, especially following a year and a half of remote learning, I interviewed with the region’s communications director and was onboarded as an intern for the fall semester. I hadn’t discovered my grandmother’s connection to the Red Cross until after her passing later that fall. I realized that I could carry on her memory by continuing to volunteer and support the Red Cross.
Immediately, I began gaining unique and valuable experience. As an intern, I was shadowing the communications director in meetings, assisting with drafting press releases, creating and scheduling social media posts, onboarding new volunteers, and serving as the photographer at Red Cross events. During fire season, I sat in on wildfire and climate briefings and learned how current climate conditions are impacting fire season. Additionally, I received various disaster and fire safety training that have taught me critical preparedness tactics.
My favorite part about volunteering with the Red Cross is getting to interview and write about volunteers. The people I have met share invaluable stories and wisdom. Their care translates through their volunteer work. At times, it is daunting to write about them, as I worry I will not do their work justice. It is an honor to write about volunteers’ stories, because their good deeds serve as an inspiration to the rest of us and remind us that even in a disaster, there are wonderful and caring people ready to help.
One of my favorite memories as a volunteer occurred while walking along our community’s Veteran’s Day parade and photographing our volunteers. Along the parade route, a Vietnam veteran stopped me. He thanked me for all of the work the Red Cross does to support veterans and explained that he didn’t have support when he returned from war. He said, “When I returned from war, we didn’t have this type of response.” He teared up, “I’m so grateful for what Red Cross does and for your support.” I still hold his words with me today. As someone whose grandfather served in the Korean War, it is an honor to continue serving veterans of all wars through the Red Cross.
Recently, I was fortunate to visit and tour the Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington D.C. I learned of many historical figures who were also Red Cross volunteers, such as Henry O. Tanner. Tanner channeled the power of creativity through his paintings of African American troops and scenes from World War I as a mode for garnering support. Being that art is one of my favorite hobbies, I was inspired to learn of the numerous pathways available for volunteers to contribute their time and talents.
My gratitude for being a volunteer of the Red Cross can be distilled into a small but meaningful moment. I walked in the office one morning and found a note that read “You are awesome! Have a great day!” on my desk from a fellow volunteer. I kept this note because it serves as a reminder of the wonderful family that I have made as a volunteer with the Red Cross.
As a volunteer, I am always learning something new. Volunteering also allows me to carry on my grandmother’s memory. I feel as though I can do my part and give back today and inspire future generations, just as those volunteers inspired my grandmother decades ago.
The American Red Cross has a proud history of commitment to youth and their value to the organization. Today that commitment continues with programs to involve young people in elementary school through high school, college and beyond. Young professionals, college students and high school students make a difference every day. You can find out more at redcrossyouth.org.