By Jonathan Sandstrom, American Red Cross
This April, the American Red Cross is celebrating the great work of our volunteers during National Volunteer Month!
The vital work of the Red Cross is made possible by people in Connecticut who contribute their unique backgrounds, talents and skills to the Red Cross mission. Whether it is helping displaced families after a home fire, providing support to a service member or veteran, or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, the efforts of ordinary people help us do extraordinary things at the Red Cross.
One of those extraordinary Red Cross volunteers is Lawrence ‘Lee’ Kasten. Lee is an Army veteran and mental health professional who has dedicated his life to helping others.
Lee was drafted to serve during the Vietnam War after graduating from college. Following his service, he worked for the New York State Commission for the Blind for over 30 years.
“During most of my working life, I was working with blind people, trying to get them to independent living. I got used to working with people with needs,” Lee said. “Being there for [clients] on one of their worst days is very rewarding. It’s about giving people a token of support.”
Following his retirement, Lee wanted to continue helping others, so he joined the Red Cross. “I wanted to keep active. There was always a demand for mental health [professionals], and it fit my needs in life at the time,” Lee said.
As a skilled volunteer, Lee began deploying across the country, offering his expertise to disaster survivors. He provided comfort and hope to people experiencing some of their darkest days, “You show up in your vest and people breathe a sigh of relief.”
Years later, Lee joined the local Red Cross Connecticut Chapter as a Service to the Armed Forces caseworker, expanding his impact. He works with military members and their families to help connect them to community resources.
“His understanding of military life is an asset when working with military members, veterans and their families,” Jan Radke, former Sr. Director of Military and International Services Connecticut and Rhode Island Region, shared.
Lee’s passion for helping others continues to fuel his commitment to grow as a Red Cross volunteer.
Lee’s advice to all new volunteers: “There’s a variety of things people can do and there are many levels of involvement. It’s always been a great experience. There’s tons of online training available and there’s always a need for someone to do something.”
If you are interesting in sharing your expertise and becoming a Red Cross volunteer, sign up at www.redcross.org/volunteertoday.