A volunteer's story: The Red Cross made us a stronger couple

Topics: National, Volunteer
April 07, 2014

April 6-12 is National Volunteer Week. Meet some of the inspiring Red Cross volunteers who help us fulfill our mission in communities across Canada.

For once, Kate was by my side. Well, not exactly by my side, but at least we were in the same city.

One of the difficulties of having a long-distance relationship is finding things that truly connect you to your partner. When you’re so far away from one another it can be tough to ease into conversations that go deeper than the standard ‘So, how was your day?’

I live in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, and Kate is in Cleveland, Ohio – that’s about 3,300 kilometres apart. One thing that shortens that distance, sometimes quite literally, is our volunteer work with the Red Cross.

I began volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross in 2008 and  found a real home in the organization. As a part of the Red Cross, I can be there for anyone who needs help, whenever and wherever they need it. That could mean helping a family navigate recovery after a fire, educating seniors on disaster preparedness, or working in a shelter during a large-scale disaster.

I think my enthusiasm and excitement about volunteering made a real impression on Kate because during a summer visit to Alberta in 2011 she began helping out in the Red Cross office in Red Deer, organizing volunteer files and the disaster response supplies, as well as attending community events.

When Kate returned to Ohio she became an American Red Cross volunteer and we had a new and never-ending stream of interesting things to talk about as we discussed our own respective Red Cross Societies and what we had been doing as a part of them.

The Alberta floods: Working together to help those in need

Then came the summer of 2013. We had the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to volunteer together. Early in the summer we helped set up two separate reception centres after wildfires forced the evacuations of some communities in northern Alberta. The following month, we were at an event in Red Deer called Refugee Day in the City on June 20th to help educate the public about how the Red Cross reconnects separated families through the Restoring Family Links program. Everything about the day was perfect ... except for a few drops of rain.

Those drops of rain quickly turned into a flood and Kate and I were called into duty – together – to join the largest response in the history of the Canadian Red Cross. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes as heavy flooding damaged houses and businesses across Southern Alberta.  Kate was deployed to the south to assist with evacuee registration and I was stationed in Calgary to help the American Red Cross team prepare for the bulk distribution of relief items to evacuees.

Responding to a disaster can be stressful and you can often feel overwhelmed by the emotions of the people you are trying to assist.  I was thankful that this time Kate was by my side. Although we were not working together, we saw each other at night and talked about our days, our victories and our challenges. Not only did it ease our minds, it helped us to grow closer.

Across borders, time zones, and the years, the Red Cross has been interwoven into our journey as a couple and I couldn’t be more thankful. We get to grow in our love for each other, while showing love to others. And that is an incredible gift.

We continue to volunteer and I know it will only add to our story in the future.

Edward McIntyre is a Canadian Red Cross volunteer living in Sylvan Lake, Alberta.

Canadian Red Cross contribute to all programs and services carried out by the Canadian Red Cross, including: Disaster Management, Community Health, First Aid, Swimming and Water Safety, Violence, Bullying and Abuse Prevention, International Humanitarian Law, International Operations, Restoring Family Links, and Migrant and Refugee Services.

Find out more about volunteer opportunities in your area. To show your support for Canadian Red Cross programs and services, please donate online today.

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