Sleeves Up, Hearts Open, All In

Finding Purpose: 7-year Red Cross volunteer speaks about her experiences

by Michael de Vulpillieres, American Red Cross

As 2017 comes to the close we are featuring a few our (nearly 3000) Massachusetts Red Cross volunteers who have worked tirelessly these past 12 months to help carry out our mission locally and across the country.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Lisa Contee, longtime Red Cross volunteer from Everett, Massachusetts who shared with us a bit about her work and the impact the organization has people’s lives, including her own.

What brought you to the Red Cross?

I joined after the Haiti earthquake. I saw everything on TV and it really touched me. I was at a point in my life where I felt like it was time for me to give back.

Initially, I came to the Red Cross to keep my First Aid and CPR certifications up to date. While I was in that course, we were almost done and someone came into the room and said the Red Cross was holding a class for, I think it was, Intro to Disaster Response, and invited anyone interested to attend. I did not know anything about what the Red Cross did locally so I went to learn and by the time the class was over, I was sold!

What have been some of your roles at the Red Cross?

I started off immediately in Casework. I went to my first fire within a couple of weeks. I knew I wanted to do Disaster Response. Since I joined I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do! I’m the regional lead for CDE [Community Disaster Education]. I love that: events, presentations, parades. I’m a Disaster Volunteer Instructor, which I just adore, and I got a lot of opportunities to do that after these past hurricanes because we did a lot of work getting trained to deploy. I’m also in Logistics.

Can you talk more about your work helping people after local disasters?

I’m a DAT [Disaster Action Team] supervisor. I love it. There’s no feeling like arriving at a scene where people have just lost everything and don’t know what to do. There’s no manual for a house fire. Nobody knows what to do when they are put out in the middle of the night, in the middle of a snow storm, with just their pajamas on and they have no idea what to do next. We get to pull up and say, ‘we’ve been through this a number of times, hundreds of times, and we are going to take care of you.’ And they have just such relief on their faces because we get to say, ‘we are going to help you right now with what needs to be done right at this minute.’

How many on-call shifts do you take a week?

I take two, back-to-back shifts Tuesday nights [through Wednesday morning] a week.  6 p.m. to midnight and then midnight to 6 a.m. And then random shifts here and there when needed.

What is it like to get a call in the middle of the night?

It’s just adrenaline. As soon as that phone rings I jump up, get the info, get dressed, brush my teeth and head out. I don’t sleep the same when I’m on call but I’m not tired when I get woken up.

What does the Red Cross represent to you?

The Red Cross really came into my life at very important time for me. I really needed that sense of purpose. To me the Red Cross represents helping, healing and kindness.