By: Jonathan Sandstrom, American Red Cross
The American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region recently completed a month-long Sound the Alarm Prepare-a-thon challenge from April 8th to May 8th. The goal was to educate families in our community about the importance of home fire safety. Throughout the month, Red Cross volunteers educated over 1,200 people from over 560 households.
One of those volunteers, Iris Rivera-Acosta, was the top educator – making over 64 households safer!
Iris joined the Red Cross in March 2021, following her retirement as a worker in Hartford’s public healthcare system. She provided social services, health education and many other services to city residents for nearly 40 years. Now she enjoys her volunteer role with the Red Cross helping those affected by local disasters. “I enjoy being part of the team and the ability to be present helping people during catastrophic disasters,” Iris said.
After retiring in 2015, Iris knew she wanted to be involved somehow. With many activities shifting to virtual during the pandemic, Iris continued looking for additional ways to stay active and give back to those around her.
Since the beginning of 2021, Red Cross volunteers have helped at select COVID-19 vaccination clinics by welcoming patients, assisting with registration, and providing support in the recovery area.
When Iris went for her first dose of the vaccine, she met a Red Cross volunteer assisting at the vaccine site and asked how she could get involved. She registered as a Red Cross volunteer and began helping at the Parker Memorial vaccination clinic in Hartford, CT. She has loved being a part of the Red Cross team. “This experience has changed me in so many good ways. I thank God every day for the opportunity,” Iris shared. “It makes you feel good about who you are and allows you to continue to use the training, experience and skills you’ve acquired over your lifetime.”
Iris has also been involved with the Hispanic Health Council for over 40 years, working at the Charter Oak Center as a community health educator. That’s why when she was asked to help promote the Sound the Alarm Prepare-a-thon at the Hispanic Health Council’s vaccine clinic, she happily agreed.
Immediately, Iris began providing home fire safety education and information to those arriving at the clinic for their vaccine appointment. She handed out bilingual packets of information including tools to develop a two-minute family escape plan and other safety tips. She was sure to stress the importance of passing along the information to ALL household residents – especially children – and the need to practice executing the escape plan and taking the necessary steps in the case of a home fire. Iris was so successful in her efforts at Parker Memorial, she educated 64 households and won the challenge!
“We are so grateful for Iris and all those who supported our Prepare-a-thon challenge to help make homes safer,” Neil Brockway, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region said. “Our partners and volunteers are instrumental in helping us get this vital information out to families in our community. Knowing how to prevent home fires and what to do if one happens may just save your life.”
“Looking back, the most important thing I wish to communicate is I have had a very blessed life,” Iris said. “I have had my share of loss, heartache, and pain. Yet God has blessed me with the spirit of resilience. I love helping others.”
Thank you, Iris, for your continued commitment to help families in need in so many ways. Join Iris today and make a difference. Visit: http://www.redcross.org/volunteer