First-Time Volunteers Already Making a Big Difference

by Amy Yen, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

Behind the front desk at the American Red Cross shelter in Garland, Julie Johnston and Katie Collins are smiling and ready to help. They are both working their first disaster operation for the Red Cross after seeing the need for volunteers after last week’s devastating tornado outbreak.

“I just felt like I needed to do something,” said Julie. “I was really feeling stir-crazy. So I signed up and here I am.”

Julie Johnston, Red Cross volunteer

Katie Collins was already looking for a volunteer opportunity. She said, “I always admired how the only priority of the Red Cross was to help people.”
She’s been pitching in wherever help is needed, even spending some time as an impromptu babysitter.

“There was a family here with two little kids that were so adorable. The mom was stressed out yesterday because the dad was out trying to find them a place to stay, so I watched the kids all day. They were able to find a home so it was great to be able to help them.”

The American Red Cross relies on a workforce made up of more than 95% volunteers, most of whom train year-round to be ready to respond when an emergency arises. But when a major disaster like the tornadoes comes, new volunteers can make a big difference. Just on this operation alone, over 400 volunteers have already given their time to help.

“I like being there for people and just helping, especially in a time of need. Even if it’s just a smile, I think I can make a difference,” said Julie.

Both girls say they plan to stay on with the Red Cross after the relief operation ends, with Katie already making plans to join the Disaster Action Team (DAT) that responds to everyday local emergencies like home fires.

Katie Collins, Red Cross volunteer

“I’m glad I will be ready to go for the next disaster. I’ll definitely be back,” said Julie.

And if anyone else wanted to help?

“I’d say go for it,” advised Katie. “You won’t know what it’s like until you try it. You’ll be making a big difference.”

To start your Red Cross story like Katie and Julie, visit

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