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Quarantine to volunteer: One Saskatoon man’s story

Please visit our COVID-19 resource page for the most current information about Red Cross programs, support, and tips. 

By: Doug Schmidt, Canadian Red Cross volunteer

From sailing across the Pacific Ocean to isolation at a Canadian military base for two weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken Al Stickney of Saskatoon on a strange journey that ended with a new volunteer position with the Canadian Red Cross.

Al Stickney standing in front of a waterfall while on vacation pre-pandemic.In March, Al and Heather Stickney were enjoying a cruise from Hawaii to Mexico when there was a COVID-19 outbreak onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship. The couple – and 226 other Canadians – ended up anchored off the coast of California for four days before the Government of Canada help to repatriate them.

However, while they were heading to Canadian soil, they were not yet heading home. The vacationers were all taken to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton in Ontario for a mandated 14 days of isolation. And for Al, that is where he had the opportunity to see the work of the Red Cross up close and personal.

“They were making us very comfortable,” says Al, a retired police officer. “It was very stressful for us, but they did a great job of keeping us informed and keeping us safe.”

Over the course of the two weeks in Trenton, Al and Heather had the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise but were required to wear a mask when outside their room.

“We were in a hot zone as far as exposure went,” says Al, who is now a semi-retired travel consultant. “The people did so much for use there.”

At the request of the federal government, the Canadian Red Cross supported operations at CFB Trenton by providing comfort and care through registration services, information and resources such as hygiene kits, activities, wellness checks and referrals for mental health needs.

It was during the time in Trenton that Al decided he wanted to give back to his community and that he wanted to do it as part of the Canadian Red Cross family.

“There is always going to be a need. There are disasters all over the world,” says Al who is now in the process of training to be an Emergency Response Team (ERT) member. “Whether it’s COVID-19 related, or a forest fire, the need will exceed the availability of volunteers. The time is now, for sure.”

The Canadian Red Cross is actively recruiting volunteers and there is a need for ERT members. Responders with these teams support the provision of shelter, food and clothing to those affected by an emergency event. Learn more about volunteering with us.

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