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Agency Spotlight: American Red Cross

Make a Difference with Your Local American Red Cross

By: Mercedez McDowell

Red Cross_June Taylor1 June Taylor At the sound of the siren, you jump up from bed, run out the door, and face flames bursting from the apartments across the street. You see the fire engine jet around the corner, nearly on two wheels. You hear the screams of your neighbors as they run out of the building. Within minutes, jackets with Red Cross logos move throughout the crowd, reaching out to the frantic residents with comfort and care. Then a volunteer touches your shoulder and asks if you're ok.

In Bloomington, American Red Cross Volunteer Coordinator June Taylor relies on volunteers to make a difference in the lives of people. This multi-faceted organization offers a variety of volunteer options including disaster relief, military aid, health and safety, educational outreach, promotions and events, e-sales, and book sorting for their annual signature fundraising event, the Red Cross Book Fair.

In 2008, the Book Fair utilized a building twice as big as usual. "Watching that empty building turn into a bookstore (with over) 90,000 books . . . If we had to pay them, we wouldn't be able to afford it," Taylor said, "That tells me the event was a success: when (both) the volunteers and customers are excited."

Taylor strives to present an open and friendly environment for volunteers. "We make them feel like part of Red Cross_June Taylor2 the team and that's vital," Taylor said. Take it from current volunteer, Mark Jackman, who described Taylor as "fun loving," and said he enjoys her energy and flexibility. Since Jackman has a background in music, Taylor offered him a position sorting donated music records. "The music's the thing for me," explained Jackman. "This gives me an opportunity to see what folks have kept in their closets."

Advice for fellow volunteer coordinators:
June's advice is simple:maintain clear communication and make use of resources. Taylor attends the Volunteer VIP get-togethers organized by the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network, to listen to veterans in the business, especially for ideas on volunteer recruitment. As a volunteer coordinator, "You're always trying to stay one step ahead," Taylor said. She tries to make everyone feel welcome at all times and enjoys coming up with ways to offer different layers and opportunities to fit the interests of each volunteer. Taylor tells volunteer coordinators to "try to appeal to all those gray areas."

Advice for prospective volunteers:
Taylor advised prospective volunteers to "expect the unexpected", citing Hurricane Katrina, when volunteers were deployed to Texas, then to Florida, and then back to Texas. "If you want to feel like part of a team, this is the place to go," Taylor said. Though individuals at a disaster site may be from different areas around the country, the training is the same, allowing volunteers to be a team. "If your heart goes out to the hurricane victims, this is how you help them." When asked for an anecdote that would better sell her agency, Taylor's response was, "I love it here. I don't have to sell it because I love it!"