July Volunteer Spotlight: Sandy Whitney

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Q: What originally inspired you to join the East Georgia Red Cross?

A: My church was wondering if they would be suitable for a shelter, so we attended a sheltering course to find out. Then our sheltering instructor invited us along to go help us with a fire, and we handled that pretty well we thought. It seemed like something we could do that would be a service to the community.

Q: What is the most memorable experience you’ve had volunteering for the Red Cross?

A: There have been a couple of them. I think working in the service center after the tornadoes in Atlanta. That was hard, but I learned a lot and I felt like we were doing a lot to help folks. There have been a couple of fires around here that were particularly memorable because I felt like we really made a difference for the people because they were so completely at a loss when we got there, and by the time we finished up what we were able to do the relief that they felt in having at least some direction — no matter how bad their loss had been — that they could start to figure out how to cope with it. There were several like that that really encouraged you to keep going.

Q: What impact do you believe the East Georgia Red Cross has had on the community?

A: In the community as a whole, sadly I don’t think it gets enough credit for what it does. I keep running into people who aren’t aware about what we do, whether it’s health and safety or disaster services or armed forces. Most people think only about blood — maybe that’s the more obvious one — because there are blood drives all over the place. I’ve watched a lot of families figure out how to get back on their feet…whether it be through the disaster [efforts] or services to the armed forces.

Q: What would be your advice for anyone who is considering getting involved with the Red Cross?

A: My advice would be to take as many courses in the areas you’re interested in and then find what fits best for what you want to do and what fits your personality because there’s so many different things you can do. What I tell all my students in the Introductory Disaster Services classes that I teach is take as many courses as you can manage to fit in, and then even if you don’t want to do it, you’ll know something about how people are doing those other jobs and you’ll appreciate their work better. I guess the responding to fires and everything looks a little flashier, but we can’t do that without everything else going on behind the scenes, e.g. logistics for a disaster relief operation. We can’t set up a shelter unless somebody is ordering the toilet paper. People need to find the right niche within the organization that’s what they like to do, and then they can contribute a lot.

Q: Lastly, what is your favorite thing to do in Athens?

A: Go to a UGA football game. I’ve been bleeding red and black for a long time!

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