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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Behind the Scenes, Administrative Volunteers Keep the Red Cross Humming

Although the public face of the Red Cross volunteer may be a Disaster Relief team member or a CPR Instructor, countless people give their time to less publicized work, behind the scenes of the organization. One of these volunteers, Robbe Sokolove, is a retired librarian who has devoted her time to the Red Cross for data entry, research and other administrative tasks. Her work at the Red Cross may not be as visible as that of some volunteers, but the Red Cross couldn’t effectively provide its services without the valued time and skills of volunteers like Robbe.

Robbe began volunteering over a year ago for the Red Cross after her career as a librarian. She came to the organization, as she says, because she wanted to develop new skills and “the Red Cross just appealed to some of my fundamental values in life.”

Her skill set matched up perfectly with a need for volunteers with a background in research for the fund development department. During disasters, the bulk of her work for fund development was entering donation information into a database. The work was repetitive, but she says she enjoyed seeing how each donation told a story of a community’s compassion. During the 2012 wildfires, checks arrived from children’s lemonade stands and bake sales. A pair of $100 checks came from a married couple, donating the money they would have spent on each other’s Christmas gifts. A group of inmates sent in $5 donations from CaƱon City. “Everything they did really made a difference. It really was a community effort,” she said. “That’s what brought it home for me. The little things people do add up into big things.”

Robbe encourages anyone with a background in data entry or administrative work to volunteer for the Red Cross. “We need it, so badly,” she said. “When a disaster comes up, it’s critical to have people who are trained, and can pick up the concept and go for it. We really do need that kind of help.” As the organization continues to improve data management and databases, more volunteers will be needed to enter and process hard copy data for helpful new tools. It may be a different kind of volunteer work than what people usually associate with the Red Cross, but as Robbe said, “Somebody has to do it.”

Volunteers like Robbe help the American Red Cross keep its administrative costs down, part of the reason why on average the American Red Cross is able to dedicate 91 cents of every dollar it spends nationwide on humanitarian services.

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