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Red Cross support comes full circle for volunteer in Fort McMurray

Newfoundland resident and Red Cross volunteer Jillian Mullowney is helping with the Alberta fires response as a member of the outreach team.

Why Red Cross?

Canadian Red Cross volunteer Jillian discusses her motivation to help othersIn 2009, my father passed away in the 2009 Cougar 491 helicopter crash. I don’t remember a lot about that day, all I remember was my friends taking me to a reception centre where the Red Cross had set-up and they were helping families.  Someone came out in a red vest, I don’t know if it was a man or a woman, but they just put their arms around me and got me past the media. 

The Red Cross was there for the next few days, they had teddy bears, comfort kits, they had snacks – they would sit with us and hold our hands – they would just be there.  It was such a comfort to me, it was such a recognizable image and person who was there for us.

In 2012, I was in the school of social work, and I received an email that the Canadian Red Cross was looking for volunteers, and I thought hey, that’s the organization I saw when dad died. I submitted my application and became a disaster management volunteer. 

The day everything came full circle

After the Calgary floods in 2013, I was deployed to volunteer. I was talking to another volunteer, a lady from home, and she saw my last name and asked, “Do you know Harrold?”
“Yeah, that’s my uncle.” I said

“His brother passed away in Cougar 491.”

 And I said, “Yeah, that was my father.”

 She lost all blood in her face and said there was somebody from that response here. And it turned out that Peggy Keating, who now lives in Ontario, had been one of the responders from the crash, and so we met. It was incredible that she came all the way from Ontario and I came all the way from Newfoundland, and we met on response in Calgary in the logistic office. 

It was like everything had come full circle.

How I’m helping with the Alberta fires response:

I’m working with the outreach team in Boyle and Wandering River. I do community needs assessments; it’s like being a link between the community and Red Cross. It was such a comfort to me in my time of need, seeing the Red Cross vest, and knowing that there was an organization and a community behind me. And I think that is a lot of what people here want and need, they need to know that we are here to support them, and that we’re not going anywhere.

The Newfoundland connection:

Fort McMurray attracts such a diverse population and I’ve met lots of Newfoundlanders. I even met my cousin! I didn’t even know he was my cousin but we worked back up the family tree and it turned out our grandfathers were first cousins.

They ask me how long I’ve lived in Fort McMurray and I tell them I don’t live here, I flew up on May 9th. Some of their eyes fill up and they just want a hug because it’s a piece of home. They’ve been far away, and now they’re missing two of their homes – Newfoundland and Fort McMurray.

It’s hard to put into words the feeling that working for the Red Cross gives you. You meet so many people in the run of a day, but you remember all of them. I meet people in Boyle, in Wandering River, and I remember them all. It’s amazing.

Jillian shares her experiences in this video:
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