Community Volunteer Leader Finding Excitement and Opportunity in New Role

Story by Ali Hargrave / Red Cross Cascades

With 3,400 volunteers providing lodging following a disaster, first aid training, staffing blood donation centers, and other numerous services, the Red Cross Cascades Region is a major force for good in the community, and now it has made that effort even more impactful.

In February 2019, the Red Cross established a new role of Community Volunteer Leader (CVL) to shepherd volunteers and their ideas into new leadership roles.

One example is PJ Johnson, a central Oregon resident, who is already a veteran volunteer extraordinaire, and was selected to help to drive this new mission. 

PJ Johnson at Prineville Reservoir, July 2020.

Before her position as a CVL, Johnson was organizing the Pillowcase Program, training volunteers and presenting to central Oregon communities as part of preparedness programs. Due to her involvement in the community, it made sense to Central and Eastern Oregon Executive Director Nadine McCrindle to ask Johnson to officially be the face of her community as the chapter’s CVL.

With Johnson stepping into the role of CVL, the chapter is able to maximize the local volunteer base to continue the growth and distribution of the local Red Cross mission. 

Even with limited interaction opportunities in light of COVID-19, Johnson’s enthusiasm for the community and her self-starter initiative drives her to be nothing but successful for her region.

“Even though you’re a volunteer, you’re pretty much your own person within this role,” says Johnson of her CVL position. 

The Red Cross Cascades Region upholds the national mission to “prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

It is in the hands of our CVLs to continue this mission by building capacity to grow the volunteer base in our region.

As CVL of the Central and Eastern Oregon chapter, Johnson is involved in a wide variety of roles including, public affairs, assisting committees focused on increasing diversity and inclusion, identifying those in need during disasters, supporting the Pillowcase Project and encouraging diverse communities to donate blood. She also leads training sessions in the community.

Johnson has said that one of her favorite parts about this job is learning.

“I love working with people, but I am learning so many valuable skills. I joined the Red Cross because it is such a great organization; it’s allowing me to achieve my goal of relation to the public and offer something that people need, and I get the benefit of learning and working with incredibly intelligent people,” she said.

Becoming a CVL

If becoming a CVL sounds exciting to you, McCrindle says that there are specific qualities that make someone successful in the role.

“It is important to be comfortable talking to strangers about the mission of the Red Cross and that, since it’s all about people, those who love meeting new people, circulating in groups and are established, well-known and active in the community are characteristics of someone who would make a great CVL.”

Nadine McCrindle on deployment during the Kincaid wildfires, 2019.

McCrindle also discussed the multitude of training offered by the Red Cross to their volunteers, making it easy for leaders to have the confidence to put into action what they’ve learned.

“There is so much training available that you don’t have to know everything from day one,” McCrindle said. “For someone interested in being a CVL, they need only to talk to their chapter Executive Director and they will provide you with the training and resources. It is a really wonderful volunteer position; it exposes you to so many different parts of the Red Cross that perhaps you wouldn’t have gotten to see.”

If you’ve ever considered becoming a part of the Red Cross team, now is a great time to begin training online and virtually connecting with our team so that you will be ready to hit the ground running once we get back to normal. 

Community Volunteer Leader’s official volunteer description:

  • Serving as an advocate, representing the Red Cross volunteer needs within a specific community.
  • Sharing volunteer needs within a social network/circle of influence.
  • Meeting with community groups and schools to share about volunteer opportunities.
  • Help build a presence in the community.
  • Provide updates to local service clubs.
  • Participate in local community events as an extension of the Executive Director.
  • Assist in cultivating, managing, and stewarding external partner relationships.
  • Support routine meetings with key stakeholders (fire chiefs, mayors, veterans organizations, local media partners).

If you are interested in assisting your local CVL in their endeavors to prevent and alleviate human suffering by getting involved in the community, please sign up at redcross.org/volunteer

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