For the week of April 15 to 21, we're celebrating National Volunteer Week by honouring some of the work of our incredible volunteers through their stories. At the Canadian Red Cross, we are so grateful for the contributions of thousands of volunteers who give their time and skills in helping others.

By Shelly Makrugin

 
For Andrew, pictured here, volunteering is a way of life.For Andrew DeGruchy, volunteering is a part of his life.

The 30-year-old has been a volunteer firefighter and Lieutenant with Cold Lake Fire-Rescue for eight years. When evacuees from the La Ronge, Saskatchewan area were sheltered in Cold Lake, he got a first-hand look at the work Canadian Red Cross volunteers do and that prompted him to become part of the disaster management team.

“It is quite a basis of our Canadian communities," says DeGruchy. "A lot of things happen in the background that wouldn’t without volunteers. It is a great thing to do to help your community, a great way to spend your time, and you meet really great people while doing it."

When the wildfire ravaged Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region, he spent five days fighting the flames as a firefighter. When he returned to Cold Lake, he switched volunteer roles and, with the Red Cross, spent three weeks operating a reception centre for hundreds of families evacuated from Wood Buffalo.

DeGruchy says volunteering with the Red Cross allows him to be involved after the initial, critical stage of an emergency call. “A lot of times, through the firefighter side, we go there and once everything is safe, our involvement ends. This is one way for me to stay involved afterwards and continue helping those impacted.”

Since joining the Red Cross in October 2015, he has worked hard at recruiting volunteers.  
“We usually find we are recruiting people that already have a voluntary mindset. Others who are a bit hesitant, once we explain the community impact they can have, are eager to sign up.”

Disaster Management Coordinator in northern Alberta, Vishva Ragunathan, says volunteers like DeGruchy are the reason the Red Cross can do the work it does. “Andrew is a dedicated volunteer. He has been instrumental in helping Red Cross build its volunteer capacity in northern Alberta.”

In addition to volunteering, DeGruchy has a busy life; he works full-time with the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires and is an avid outdoorsman and hockey player.

If you would like to become a volunteer, visit redcross.ca/volunteer.