Finding purpose in service: Bobbi Montean, Red Cross Volunteer

By Michelle Palansky, Canadian Red Cross

“Be open. Be willing to try something you’ve never ever done before.”
Looking back on over 30 years of volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross, Bobbi Montean speaks from a wealth of experience.
Before settling in Thompson, MB, where her volunteering career began, Bobbi travelled across western Manitoba with a carnival where she ran booths and set up rides. On one of her trips, as she passed through Thompson she turned to her partner and said that this was going to be her future home. She has lived there ever since. 
Red Cross volunteer Bobbi Montean standing behind a table with a large soup pot on it.Bobbi is a woman who has worn many hats in her life including a time when she was one of the first female bouncers in northern Manitoba.

Wherever her varied career took her, she always found she could rely on her innate ability to use her critical thinking to defuse a difficult situation while at the same time showing compassion and concern for others.  
She needed those skills when she was thrown headlong into her first volunteering experience.
Bobbi began volunteering in the summer of 1989, just as fires began to rage out of control in the prairie provinces. She had just relocated to Thompson to start a degree in social work.

At the time, Thompson’s population was 15,000. With over 18,000 evacuees from northern communities, the city more than doubled in size. With fires raging to the south, the airport was shut down and roads were closed.
Her first day volunteering at the Thompson recreation centre, Bobbi was put to work. By nightfall, she had helped set up four shelters.

“In ’89, I probably put in a month straight of volunteering and I became hooked. I loved it. I loved the work that I was doing. Being with different people, our northern neighbours, being able to support them. Some of them came from communities where they didn’t know if there was going to be a community after.”

That first volunteering experience gave Bobbi a unique perspective on the challenges of supporting northern communities. She wanted the opportunity to express how the North is different from Winnipeg. She wanted to be involved.
Long before a formal process was set up in northern communities, Bobbi was providing informal personal disaster assistance when people in the community experienced house fires. She documented the number of cases and now there is a fully trained and formalized personal disaster assistance (PDA) team to support the community.
Bobbi encourages people to volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross.
“Do it! The experiences are out of this world. Would I have had the opportunity to travel as much as I did? Probably not. I have met and worked with some very interesting people, including police officers, community members, and sometimes even the occasional celebrity!”

Learn more about volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross.

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