Being a Change Agent Starts Local

By Penny Black, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

American Red Cross North Texas volunteer, Penny Black, shares her experience volunteering at the Red Cross for the first time and the feeling of making a difference when people need help most.

Last month, I connected with the American Red Cross to start volunteering. I have been looking for ways to get involved which has been difficult because of the pandemic. 

In fact, it was this pandemic that made me realize that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. We must do as Michael Jackson said: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” So instead of complaining, I am rolling up my sleeves to see how I can help others. 

The American Red Cross has several virtual volunteer opportunities as well as in-person volunteer opportunities as long as you practice social distancing and wear a mask. After completing my application & background check, I connected with the North Texas Red Cross team members to start volunteering. 

I am pleased to say that I will be helping the Red Cross recruit diverse blood donors to help meet the needs of patients battling Sickle Cell Anemia and other diseases. I am very excited to start working on this project! 

However, last week, there was a winter storm in Texas causing power and internet outages, pipes were bursting which resulted in many being without running water as well as food and water shortages. It was truly a mess down here in Texas last week. The energy just felt heavy and negative. 

We survived the Texas Winter Storm. To help with the storm’s aftermath, this week, the Red Cross was looking for volunteers to help hand out water. I decided to sign up for Tuesday & Wednesday. On Tuesday, I was at the Mattie Nash-Myrtle Davis Park and on Wednesday, I was at Kiest Recreation Center. 

Penny Black, Red Cross volunteer with Eric Johnson mayor of Dallas at water distribution sites in Dallas after the 2021 winter storms.
Photo courtesy of: Penny Black

It was an absolutely amazing experience! It may sound cliche or nerdy, but helping others is so much fun. I truly had a blast. Upon arriving, the on-site supervisor directed me to help hand out cases of water. I could have helped direct cars but I wanted to hand out water because since I work from home, I don’t get nearly enough physical activity. 

While at Mattie Nash-Myrtle Davis Park, one of the Parks & Recreation employees who was also there to help out noted that the Mayor would be coming to help. I thought he was joking at first, but Mayor Eric Johnson did in fact come and help hand out water. 

Not only that, he brought his 6 year old son William. William was a true blessing! It was amazing to see a child serving, putting heavy cases of water in cars.

This was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Every time we handed out a case of water the person was always grateful and kind. Also, there were all kinds of people who came to both the locations at which I served. It was so cool to see because it shows how diverse Dallas really is. 

In conclusion, I would encourage you to do your research and find an organization like the Red Cross at which you can volunteer. In this season, let’s all strive to do and be better.

To learn more about volunteering at the American Red Cross visit redcross.org/volunteer.

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