For this installment of Conversations with Red Cross Volunteers, we introduce you to Chris and Shirley Greagan of Selkirk. They are enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers for the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York and serve in multiple roles. They hope others will consider joining them on their Red Cross Journey.

Chris has served on the board of directors since 2017.  Impressed by the work her husband was doing, Shirley began to look for ways she could be involved with the Red Cross and found her niche. She has logged many miles throughout the 13 counties served by the Northeastern New York Chapter as a blood transportation specialist. Chris is vice president for Rose and Kiernan Insurance and has also served on the boards of Hope House and the Living Resources Foundation. In his role as a board member for Northeastern New York, he believes that it’s important that the community knows about the “important services the Red Cross provides from saving lives in multiple communities through our Sound the Alarm Campaign, to providing services to veterans and military families, and ensuring our regions healthcare systems have an adequate blood supply.”

Both Chris and Shirley have also been hands-on volunteers with Sound the Alarm in communities across the region. Shirley is proud of her work as a blood transportation specialist and enjoys her travels across multiple counties in our service region and notes that her volunteer work has helped her alleviate COVID fatigue during this challenging time for everyone.

Chris and Shirley recently sat down with ENY Content Creation Team Member Stephen Bogdan to speak about the numerous benefits of volunteering and how inspiring it can be even during the pandemic. They encourage others to explore the many volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross.

What drew you and your wife to join the Red Cross?

Chris:  I joined the Board of Directors three years ago at the invitation of Sujata Chaudhry, a respected friend and president of the board at that time.  Additionally, my mother had volunteered for Service to the Armed Forces when I was in college.

Shirley:  Chris is excellent at sales and, after joining the board, he encouraged me to participate in Sound the Alarm, which I did twice; he recently drew me in to the Transportation Specialist Program.  Years ago, I began giving blood as a high school student and have been keenly aware of the importance of that life-saving function of the organization. I also volunteered as a Water Safety Instructor Aide after being recruited by several Red Cross-certified instructors.

What advice do you both have for people interested in the Red Cross?

Chris:  Take the first step: ask. Ask a board member, ask a current volunteer or visit our website and click on Volunteer and Explore Opportunities.  With the breadth of services by the Red Cross, there’s a good chance you will find a way to be meaningfully involved.  With Disaster Services preparedness and response, Service to the Armed Forces and Blood Services, to name a few, it’s hard to imagine that a person with the goal of serving others and saving lives would not find something that fits.  It’s important to remember that the Red Cross is volunteer-driven, and that the need for people to be involved will always be with us.  Because the level of involvement can range from supporting a single annual event such as Sound the Alarm, to making the Red Cross a full-time commitment, there is always a way to become involved.

Shirley:  It’s important not to be paralyzed by the magnitude of need in the world, and to take that first small step of finding a way to do something good.  Don’t be limited by what you think your limitations of time or talent are.  And don’t be afraid to try something new.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of volunteering at the Red Cross?

Chris:  Working with our leadership, fellow board members and volunteers to impact the lives in our community and across the country.  Through my service I play a part in providing life-saving services, preserving the nation’s blood supply, honoring those who serve or have served in uniform and their families, and helping the victims of home fires and natural disasters move toward recovery.  Having a small part in a great endeavor with thousands of other volunteers is both humbling and gratifying.

Shirley:  knowing that I am fulfilling a need and doing something positive.  I’ve also enjoyed getting to meet the dedicated workers in Blood Services at the Red Cross and the hospitals.  The quiet “me time” on the road is a bonus.

How has your life changed with quarantine and how does it impact how you do the Red Cross mission?

Chris:    My profession is designated as essential, so the basics of what I do has not changed.   The quarantine changed how I work with and on behalf of the Red Cross.  As with many, much of my activity is now home- based with very little face-to-face interaction.

Shirley:  Quarantine has reduced my exposure to people, except for my family members working from home, both of which provide an added incentive to sign up for more shifts to deliver blood.

Have you learned any new skills during quarantine and or how do you keep busy?

Chris:  The quarantine required me to become more skilled in virtual communications and the associated technology.  I have had to adapt to Zoom and Teams as primary communications tools, which was not how I worked a year ago.

Shirley:  Like most people, I have learned how to attend remote meetings via computer.  With libraries closed, downloading audio books was a great skill to acquire.  On a very practical level, I’ve learned how to drive a Red Cross van without a rear window, and how to operate a large hand cart stacked with boxes without pinching my fingers (most of the time).

What advice can you offer us on how to deal with the social isolation of coronavirus?

Chris: I would say reach out, phone a friend, or mask up and get out.  The best way to combat feelings of isolation is to know you are not alone.  It’s great that we have social media apps but there’s world of difference between LOL and hearing someone laugh or seeing their face. Our region is blessed with an abundance of free parks, trails and preserves. Put on a mask and walk with a friend.  And most of all remember you are not alone.

Visit our website to explore how you can become involved with the Red Cross.