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Bay Area Red Cross seeking volunteers to help others in times of crisis

Bay Area Red Cross seeking volunteers to help others in times of crisis
Bay Area Red Cross seeking volunteers to help others in times of crisis 02:25

April is National Volunteer Month and organizations like the American Red Cross hope to inspire more people to join their work helping those in need following a disaster or emergency. Volunteers in the Bay Area help the nonprofit respond to people in need locally as well as nationwide.

"What speaks to me the most is the fact that we are literally going out there and saving lives," said Caro Dratva, a volunteer for more than 20 years with the Red Cross Northern California Coastal region. "I feel like I fell in love with the people, I fell in love with the fact that I could help at any time I wanted."

Inspired by the need to respond after 9/11 and do more for her country, she became a volunteer in 2002. As a Spanish speaker, she was able to help families connect with each other over the phone. Three years later she would be part of the team sent from the Bay Area to respond to Hurricane Katrina.

"It was a life-changing experience," Dratva recalls about that assignment. "At first I was a little bit, you know, scared but then later as I got to meet my fellow volunteers, it became extremely rewarding."

Dratva is one of the 149,938 volunteers with the American Red Cross, according to the latest numbers available from the nonprofit this March. The Northern California Coastal Region covers a 15-county area including the Bay Area, Santa Cruz and Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Merced. Local volunteers are up to 6,732 as of last month. The Red Cross says 90% of its workforce is made up of volunteers and 25% are 24 years old or younger.

"I think volunteering is one of the best things anyone can do in their lives," Dratva said. "We sometimes think that we don't have the time for it but I have a full-time job for an architecture firm, I have a part-time job with a nonprofit organization that works on ocean conservation, and yet I have the time to volunteer for the Red Cross and then have my personal life."

The need to support families affected by a fire is almost daily for the Red Cross in the Bay Area. Dratva says those clients often need shelter, financial assistance, and child care. Some of the work she has been a part of just this year helped to educate residents about fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. They even installed some for families at a recent event.

"Please give it a try volunteer come talk to us," she said.

To learn more about volunteering in person or virtually, visit

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