Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Colorado Red Cross Volunteer Receives President’s Lifetime Achievement Award

 By Bill Fortune

“If you don’t serve your community you really are not part of that community.” A single sentence that expresses why someone would give 48 years of service to America.

Deborah (Debby) MacSwain has been a part of the American Red Cross, or, the Red Cross has been a part of Debby MacSwain, for nearly half a century. During that time she has taught water safety classes to children with special needs, supported our Armed Forces, provided leadership within the Red Cross as a volunteer and employee and helped people recover from disasters. Her commitment to the American Red Cross and to America has never wavered.
Debby speaks at the 2015 Memorial for the American
Red Cross Overseas Association after receiving the
 Lifetime Achievement award. Photo by
American Red Cross

Debby was recognized recently for her commitment at a ceremony in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House where she was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for “her lifelong commitment to building a stronger nation through volunteer service.” The letter, signed by President Obama states “Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise.”

Debby’s commitment to service began when she started teaching the Red Cross Water Safety Course. After the first year of teaching Debby was approached by the Red Cross to become a member of the Red Cross Service at Military Installations team. She served for one year in Vietnam providing support to our military.
Debby sits with a soldier while serving in Vietnam.
Photo courtesy of Debby MacSwain

At the height of the Vietnam War the Red Cross had 500 employees in country to support the war effort. Many of those were women who shared the hardships and dangers of war with the military personnel they were there to serve. Five American Red Cross staff members lost their lives in Vietnam and many others were injured. “Of all the things I have done with and for the Red Cross that experience was the most memorable,” Debby said after receiving the award. “I lost a dear comrade during that year. I think of her often and those thoughts keep me going even today.”

Debby's commitment has continued through the years as a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor.
Debby teaches a child to swim. Photo courtesy
of Debby MacSwain
She teaches water safety to children with special needs at a swimming pool on Fort Carson. "This is my passion right now," she said. "The smiles from the children when they have their first experience with swimming bring me the greatest joy."

Debby will continue her commitment to the Red Cross and the nation as a Red Cross volunteer and as a water safety instructor for children with special needs. “It makes me feel good knowing that I have helped someone or changed their life in a way that makes it better.”

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