by Amy Yen, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
Red Cross DFW Board Chair Biggs Porter’s Red Cross story started before he was even born. His mother was a Red Cross volunteer, around the time of World War II. She even kept her Red Cross pin.
“She kept that pin for 50 years,” he says. Eighteen years ago, she finally passed it on to Mr. Porter’s wife, Marilyn, who is also involved with the Red Cross as the chair of the DFW Chapter Tiffany Circle, a group of women philanthropy leaders. Mrs. Porter wears it to this day to Red Cross events.
When Mr. Porter was five, his family lived in a flood-prone area of Tulsa. During a sudden flash flood, they were forced to evacuate their house. Their neighbors came over to help the family get out. During the evacuation, the family dachshund was left behind.
“This dachshund always used to get on this chair in the living room and my mother always used to hate that. When we realized we left the dog behind, I prayed she would be okay. The next morning, my aunt is watching The Today Show and they’re showing news coverage of firefighters trying to get through the floodwaters to get to a house where a dog was barking,” he remembers. “And it was our dachshund, floating around on the chair cushion of her favorite chair. So she ended up getting rescued, and we were all okay.”
This experience has stayed with Mr. Porter all his life, and it is what drew him to the Red Cross mission when he was looking to become involved with a nonprofit in the 1990s.
“I know what’s it’s like to go through a dislocation. I remember the fear, especially as a small child,” he explains. “I remember what it was like, not knowing what’s going to happen with your family and your pets and your things, and just trying to get your life back in order. It was a long time ago, but I still remember it. It makes me sympathize with everyone who is affected by disaster. We had neighbors, people we could turn to. Not everyone has that.”
Mr. Porter says he joined the board at the Red Cross in DFW and ultimately became its chair because of all the times in his life he’s been touched by the mission of the Red Cross; from his mother’s fond memories of her time volunteering to when he was an Eagle Scout as a child and earned swimming and life-saving merit badges from classes taught by Red Cross volunteers. Now he is working to help increase the Red Cross presence in the greater Metroplex community, after the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters recently merged.
“We want to be out there, telling the story of the Red Cross, building relationships, which we hope lead to more volunteers and more financial support, which helps us be able to give more support back to the community,” he explains.
Although as a board member, he doesn’t often get the chance to deliver service personally, Mr. Porter is driven by the knowledge that his work does make a difference.
“I called a lot of volunteers recently for our annual volunteer recognition awards and just talking to them and hearing why they do what they do, and how they’ve made an impact, that really got me charged up and made me want to keep doing what I can to help the Red Cross be successful,” he says. “Whenever you hear a story about someone who was helped, you know you’ve made a difference, even indirectly.”
And to anyone who may be thinking about getting involved, Mr. Porter is encouraging.
“You’re supporting an organization with a huge legacy and a huge responsibility to help people at a time when they can’t help themselves. The mission is not just about helping in the big disasters—the tornadoes and hurricanes—it’s helping during the house fires, installing the smoke alarms that prevent those house fires, providing all that training that can save lives, providing blood for people who critically need it. The Red Cross is all of that,” he says.
“There are a lot of great organizations. But if you’re inspired by helping people at the point in time when they really, really need it, then the Red Cross is a great choice.”
Mr. Porter would know. He has a lifetime of experience.
To join Mr. Porter and learn how you can get involved, visit RedCross.org/volunteer.