The Rewarding Impact of Deploying with the Red Cross: A Philanthropy Officer’s Perspective

Story by Jillian Fackrell, photos by Daniel Ray

When most people think of a Red Cross shelter, they see a gymnasium with cots and blankets.  Daniel Ray, Regional Philanthropy Officer of Connecticut and Rhode Island, emphasizes that it involves so much more.  He described it like this: “Imagine you’re at work and can’t go home. You’re put on a bus and taken to a gym where you’ll live for two weeks.  All your everyday tasks in life are now extremely complicated. The things in life you take for granted, your medications, seeing a doctor, getting food, doing laundry, all those simple things are removed.”  This is the support that the Red Cross volunteers provide. 

“I was looking for an organization that had an excellent record of putting their money where their mouth is in terms of helping people.” This is the attitude that brought Daniel Ray to the Red Cross in April 2021. Since that time, he has twice deployed to disaster areas.  “For me, as a regional rep of this organization, I spend a lot of time talking to donors.  By going on deployment, not only am I encouraging others to donate, but I’m actually helping to carry out the work. 90% of the Red Cross workers are volunteers.  As an employee, I also volunteer because I believe in this mission.”

Dan’s first deployment was to Monroe, Louisiana, in September 2021, working at the shelter for those impacted by Hurricane Ida.  His role was that of shelter associate, at entry level.  He describes that as “just doing what needs to be done.  As a volunteer you show up and immediately start working to set up cots, hand out personal hygiene supplies, and provide hot meals.” In January 2023, Dan went to tornado-hit Griffin, Georgia. A manager was needed, and he stepped up to the role, in what he calls a “player-coach position,” helping, but also tracking the shelter census, coordinating food delivery and staff schedules, and interfacing with local community organizations.

During the deployment in Griffin. Daniel kept a journal of the many good deeds he and his volunteer team carried out.  He recalls helping shelter residents with their daily routines, assisting the elderly with transportation, connecting parents with school shelter workers, distributing comfort kits, and so much more.

Daniel has some special memories of his time there.  One was buying a birthday cake for a 19-year-old with no family, and everyone in the shelter singing happy birthday.  Another was the help provided by the community. The shelter was in a church’s gymnasium, and Daniel was impressed at how the congregants really pitched in: driving people, doing laundry and giving whatever support they could. He felt he saw the best in humanity. 

What are Daniel’s thoughts on deployment?  “Take the training, and go spend two weeks of your life helping other people to make a difference in their time of great misfortune.  You will look at your own life in a completely new way when you see people who have lost everything. Your problems will be put in perspective.”

“You will be tested, but I recommend doing it.  Become part of their lives.  It’s hard but rewarding. It will impact their lives, and your own.”

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