Volunteers make all the difference in the American Red Cross Ohio Buckeye Region

Foster’s listening tour went on hiatus in the latter half of 2017. From August through November, large-scale disasters put the Red Cross into gray skies mode.

Now that the Red Cross has transitioned into blue skies — the normal course of business — Foster will follow up on issues she’s learned about and continue meeting with people.

After a hectic fall, Foster also encouraged the team to use their vacation time, which meant ensuring it was paid-time off, not pretend-time off where they still checked their email and responded.

The Red Cross would not be able to do what it does without its volunteers — some who have been around for decades, she says. In fact, one woman from Lima is in her 70th year as a volunteer.

Foster says whether it’s volunteer staff or paid staff, people are your richest asset and resource and should be valued as such.

“We always have to be thinking about our volunteers. Are we recruiting? Do we have the right number of volunteers? Are we engaging our volunteers, and how are we retaining our volunteers? Because we certainly don’t want to just be spinning our wheels. We have to be very deliberate and intentional about our volunteers and make sure that we are taking care of them and recognizing them for their efforts,” she says.

Intentional support

Along with strengthening the culture, Foster says the Buckeye Region will be moving toward greater connectivity between the humanitarian and biomedical services, such as leveraging the other’s relationships. This national initiative is looking to encourage more intentional support.

Another initiative is a new signature event: Sound the Alarm, Save a Life. From April 28 through May 13, the Ohio Buckeye Region will install 1,000 smoke alarms in Columbus and 1,000 smoke alarms in Toledo, as part of a 100-city campaign across the country.

“We know that having smoke alarms in your home reduces the risk of fatalities tremendously,” she says.

The alarms in Columbus will be given away on the streets where data indicates the most incidents of home fires occur. Teams will go door-to-door with ladders and drills to not only install the alarms, but also educate families.

Foster says there’s not a day that goes by that the Red Cross isn’t responding to fires. She receives a report every morning of all of the fires that the nonprofit responded to the previous day, and it can vary from a few to 20.