Red Cross volunteers counsel those affected by the Jay St. fire in Schenectady (March 2015)

Earlier this month, a team of Red Cross volunteers brought our local Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) down to Jay Street in Schenectady, where members of the community had organized a memorial to remember those affected by the devastating fire that occurred there one year earlier. Some of the volunteers at the memorial had been part of the Red Cross response the year before…others joined the Red Cross some time afterwards.

Here, volunteer Patrick Kelsey reflects on what it meant to be there in his Red Cross red vest:

Today we ran a canteen service for the Jay Street, Schenectady fire memorial. During the event, a lady approached me with tears in her eyes. She wanted to shake my hand and thank me for the financial assistance we gave her after the fire. I explained that I did not work that event, but called over one of the volunteers who did.

In our red vest, we all look the same. Folks will thank you for things you didn’t do, just because you look like the person who did lend a hand in their time of need.

To my fellow volunteers, I’d say, if someone thanks you for something you didn’t do, just smile and say “you’re welcome”.  If you know who did help that person, let them know you took a hug for them. Someday they make take a hug meant for you, because we all look alike in our red vest.

Want to see for yourself what it means to wear the red vest? Click here to start your very own Red Cross story.


Red Cross volunteers at the Jay St. fire memorial in March 2016 (Patrick Kelsey pictured in window of ERV)