by Dave Wagner, Public Affairs Volunteer
As Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the Red Cross put out an urgent appeal for volunteers. For Jennie and David Risard, this was a call to action. “I heard on the radio that there was a training class for volunteers,” recalls Jennie. “I had heard a lot about the good work the Red Cross did and we wanted to join.” The energetic couple has never looked back, spending the last 19 years deploying together – always together – to help those in need across the country and around the world.
Around the world? Yes!! The pair took a two-year break from the Red Cross in 2012, joining the Peace Corps for a stint in Azerbaijan. There they taught English as a second language to primary and secondary school students.
Traveling the world seems to be a natural fit for the Risards. Before their Red Cross volunteer adventures, they founded and led a successful international ecotourism business. They operated tours all across Africa, South America, and even the Arctic and Antarctica. David says his favorite travel moment was sitting in the Ugandan jungle surrounded by mountain gorillas. For Jennie, it was a canoe trip on the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls, dodging hippos and crocodiles.
Even after a lifetime of awe-inspiring experiences, the Risards cherish their Red Cross moments. “We really like it,” David says of being a volunteer. “We like to give back, give to the community.” “We learn so much by talking with clients and our co-workers at the shelters,” adds Jennie, “It’s always an amazing experience.”
For David, the Red Cross is in his blood. His great-grandmother, Frederica Williams, started with the organization in 1908. She organized the first Red Cross chapter in Northern Nevada, and then raised funds and recruited nurses for the group during WWI. Unfortunately, she died of the Spanish Flu contracted while serving in the war. But her Red Cross legacy continued with her daughter-in-law, grand-daughter and now great-grandson all dedicating themselves as volunteers.
The important work of the Red Cross is only possible because of people like Jennie and David Risard – and because of people just like you. Discover the role that’s right for you (and maybe your significant other too) and join us today!