By Y. Hope Osborn, Volunteer Contributor, American Red Cross
Ask Janet Cordell how long she’s been with the Red Cross. She says that’s hard to answer. Her history with the Red Cross began with her mother before her parents married. Her father survived the Bataan Death March of WWII, and after the war was over, Janet’s future mother, who was a Red Cross army nurse, nursed him.
Janet has spent 58 of her 68 years as a Red Cross volunteer, giving swimming lessons, nursing, lifeguarding, helping with blood drives, giving childbirth classes, recruiting and retention, acting as an informal community liaison, being state lead for disaster health services, and more. And each activity is different. Janet says, “One of the things people don’t understand is you have to handle things differently, say, in a flood or a fire.”
Janet tells people, “You don’t have to go to another country [to serve people]. There is so much work to be done here.”
Janet’s position as state lead for disaster health services took her to Stillwater during the 2015 tragedy at Oklahoma State University, to flooding in east Oklahoma, and a snowstorm in Oklahoma’s panhandle. But “here” for this native Oklahoman is Enid.
According to Janet and Disaster Program Manager for Northwest Oklahoma, Kaylynne Clingerman, Enid residents’ concern is the lack of Red Cross presence since the physical Red Cross building closed. But as Kaylynne, Janet, and the 71 STURON student pilot squadron of Vance Air Force Base show, the Red Cross is still very much present and active in Enid.
Enid, OK exemplifies who the Red Cross is. As Kaylynne says, “Volunteers are the heart of what we do.”
The Red Cross isn’t the buildings and is only partly the paid staff. It’s mostly the volunteers who make a difference every day across the country in cities like Enid. Kaylynne says, “Just because there’s not staff there doesn’t mean we’re not still in the area, doesn’t mean we’re not still doing services.”
In fact, the Enid fire department still calls the Red Cross for area help. Local volunteers run booths during events such as the annual town celebration. Vance Air Force Base’s student pilot squadron work the Pillowcase Project and Home Fire Campaign. A warming center helps residents who lose electricity in harsh winter weather. These are just a few things happening in Enid.
Though the Red Cross is vibrant in Enid, more volunteers doing a variety of things are always welcome and needed. And just as I found when I started volunteering with the Red Cross, and as Janet explains, “It is … easier to volunteer for the Red Cross than ever.” A lot of classes are online now, and the Red Cross streamlined the process for getting involved. Contact your local Red Cross office, if interested in volunteering or visit redcross.org/volunteer.