National Volunteer Week Spotlight: Florence Barron

Florence Barron began volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross back in the early 1960s. As she marks her 60 years of service, Florence remains steadfast in her volunteer endeavours and commitment to giving back to the community.
A headshot of Florence Barron at the 2014 Order of the Red Cross CeremonyFlorence has been involved with the Canadian Red Cross at many different levels over the years. She started volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross Well Baby Clinic and Red Cross Nursing Program in Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

At the time, there was no public health unit in the community. Florence, being a Registered Nursing Assistant, figured it would be a great way to get involved and help those in need. Her involvement with these two programs inspired her to continue volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross.  

“I knew some people who needed some help, and certainly, I think that’s what inspired me – being able to help someone else,” says Florence. “That in itself made a difference in my life, just seeing how you could help someone else out and how much they appreciated it is always rewarding.” 

Honouring excellence: Florence Barron’s contributions to the Canadian Red Cross 

From teaching first aid and CPR, collecting donations, deploying as part of emergency programs, and volunteering with the Health Equipment Loan Program, Florence’s contributions reflect her dedication and commitment to the mission of the Red Cross. 

Florence Barron being presented the Order of the Red Cross.In 2014, Florence was recognized for her years of service and received the Order of the Red Cross, a prestigious achievement, awarded to individuals who have provided outstanding humanitarian service.

While reflecting on her most memorable volunteering experiences with the Canadian Red Cross, Florence recalls her deployment to Louisiana in 1995 as part of an emergency response to a flood.  

“Working with the Americans there was lovely because we did a lot of good training so that was really a high point for me, I really enjoyed that,” explains Florence. 

Off to the races – from volunteer to athlete 

When she’s not volunteering, Florence can be found enjoying outdoor activities and is known to be quite the local celebrity and role model amongst the running community in Newfoundland.   

At 59 years old, Florence ran her first Tely 10, a 10-mile road race in St. John’s, NL. Without any prior training, Florence received a gold medal, placing first in her age category.  

After winning her first race, Florence joined a running club in St. John’s where she learned how to train for a race, considering important factors like how to properly stretch, eat, rest, and train.  

“I really got hooked then and kept doing it every year and did all the races in the summertime,” says Florence. “I think it’s just the overall feeling good that drives me, you know. When I go out and run, I feel good. If I didn’t go out and do it, then I feel miserable.” 

Florence began running 10-12 races annually in Atlantic Canada as well as in St. Pierre and Miquelon, France, where she has set two records: one for being the fastest woman in her 70s to complete a 25-kilometre race, and another for being the only woman in her 80s to complete the same race.  

Similarly to volunteering, running is a source of fulfillment for her, helping her stay active and healthy, while also setting new goals and pushing her limits.  

Now, at 85 years old, Florence continues to run, and is planning to participate in as many races as she can this summer.  

“If I didn’t do it, I think I’d be all aches and pains,” explains Florence. “While I’m running, skating, and swimming, I don’t have any aches or pains. I’m at this age now and I really feel good, and I feel like I can do as many races as I can this summer, so I’m going to go for it and see what happens.” 

Florence is an inspiration to all volunteers, that you can make a difference at any age, and it’s never too late to start volunteering or to challenge yourself by trying something new. 

“You look at her and how she makes a difference in the community,” says Katie Richardson, Service Centre Supervisor, St. John’s, NL. “Not only with the Red Cross, but with other organizations as well.”

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross, visit our volunteer opportunities page to explore an opportunity near you.  

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