When a damaging winter storm rolled through North Texas in February 2022, Robert Gonzales was keeping warm in the comfort of his Dallas home. Given the conditions outside, the American Red Cross volunteer blood services transportation specialist wasn’t planning on venturing out in the cold. Then an urgent e-mail hit his inbox.
It was from Jeremy Freeman, the Red Cross North Texas hospital services manager. Freeman was looking for a driver to immediately transport a blood sample. The driver needed to take a blood sample from the Red Cross Immunohematology Reference Lab in Dallas, which assists in testing for suitable donor blood units, and deliver to a regional hospital for a patient. Gonzales didn’t think twice about accepting the responsibility.
“I kind of put myself in two persons’ shoes,” Gonzales said. “One would be the person who was needing the blood and the other one was if I was someone like Jeremy, who needed someone with the ability to function [in severe conditions].”
Before he hit the road, Gonzales, who is in his 50s and works for the City of Plano coordinating volunteers, had to convince his wife that he would be safe. He also told her that it was the right thing to do because sometimes help can’t wait and one day they may also need the support of volunteers like him.
“On a cold day like this, I hope someone would chime in and step up,” he said. “At the same time, great people do great things in the most precarious situations.”
Precarious is one way to describe the roads in Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas that day. However, he was confident in his ability to navigate the dangerous conditions, even though the roads were “a sheet of ice,” because of his background in law enforcement, where he learned to drive in treacherous environments.
Gonzales, a Red Cross volunteered since 2013, left his home and eased into the road conditions that awaited him. His journey to pick up and deliver the vital blood took him southeast to Palestine, Texas, over a hundred miles from Dallas. He then traveled back north to Waxahachie, still 30 miles south of Dallas, before returning home. In all, Gonzales estimates the trip took him five to six hours to complete.
For his efforts, he received a newly minted award. The Red Cross presented him with the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Division Vice President Recognition Challenge Coin. Gonzales is one of nine Red Crossers across the country to receive this honor.
“This selfless act by Robert ensured that patient got their life-saving blood product,” Red Cross Division Vice President Sharon Jaksa said during a recent SWaRM Townhall. “We hate to have our employees or our volunteers on the road during those really terrible times, but you did it. You stepped up, and I’m sure that patient is very grateful for the work that you did.”
That’s why Gonzales volunteers, though. He, like Red Crossers across the country, is willing to respond to emergencies when people and communities need it most. He says that his mentality isn’t what he can do for himself but what he can do for other people. He proved it on that wintery day in February.
“It’s not all about me, it’s about you,” Gonzales said. “It’s about what I can do for my community. I’ve always been that guy, serving as a United States Marine and also serving my community as a law enforcement officer. Volunteering just added to the résumé of trying to help people. It’s about spreading humanity.”