In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’re introducing you to couples who volunteer together for the Red Cross in Eastern New York. If an individual can find great reward in volunteering with the Red Cross, it stands to reason that a couple can double the reward!

That’s exactly what Lee and Dave Webber of Fulton have been doing as volunteers for more than ten years. They’ve been married since 2004. If you visited The Great New York State Fair, you may have been lucky enough to meet them as they were pitching in at the Red Cross parking lot.

As Red Cross volunteers, they’ve helped provide comfort and support for those affected by fires and other disasters both big and small. At this point Lee has 44 in-person and virtual deployments on record in addition to her work as a blood donor ambassador at local blood donor drives. They were both integral to Red Cross relief efforts in New York City following Superstorm Sandy.  Like many Red Cross volunteers, they wear many hats to help serve the needs of their community.  

Lee and Dave recently sat down with ENY Content Creation volunteer Stephen Bogdan to share their inspiring stories. They hope that couples as well as individuals will explore volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross.

How long have you both been volunteering for the Red Cross? What led you to volunteer with the Red Cross?

Lee: “I was helping at our church but was bored! One day, I gave blood at the Liverpool Donor Center and the person who made appointments was frazzled. She explained that her volunteer didn’t show up. I told her I felt fine and would step in if she showed me what to do. At the end of the day, she said that I should go to the Syracuse chapter office. She ‘warned’ me that they would ask me to consider volunteering in other areas. 

“I interviewed and was hooked. My official starting date is August 30, 2011. I started taking various classes, but after I took the casework class, I was asked if I would go on deployment with another volunteer in Pennsylvania. Dave was still busy with Little League, but when he heard how much I loved the experience, he wanted to join too.”

What roles have you both been involved in? What some of your most memorable moments from working together on the “scene.”

Lee: “In addition to our work at blood drives we became involved with the Disaster Action Team in Oswego County.

“We really enjoy travelling around the county, but sometimes get testy when we both want to talk to the client. So now, we explain that we are married to each other when we start. Many times, the clients will laugh and say they figured that out.

“When Superstorm Sandy hit NYC, I told Dave that we had to do as much volunteer there as possible, because we could save the donor dollar by driving and not flying. Dave went down to help at a shelter the night the storm hit. I stayed home because my son had come home to visit from Ohio. After my son left, I was asked to go to NYC for four days distributing emergency supplies. I went and the staff shelter was on a naval ship called the SS Wright. It was such an amazing experience since my father was in the Navy and I learned how he would have slept and ate during that time.

“Dave and I worked together doing multiple jobs in NYC. We drove an Emergency Response Vehicle to various areas, handing out hot meals to citizens, workers, and a fire department that distributed the food to others. Dave and I also worked together doing casework in Long Island. We met with clients who had damage that had not been repaired. Dave was paired with a gentleman from Michigan, and I was paired with a humorous lady from Oregon. We all got along so well, that we spent the last night playing cards and laughing. I keep in touch with my partner on Facebook.

“I have also volunteered for virtual casework and the Spiritual Care Response Team (SRT). The last virtual SRT I was in California, which was a very positive experience. My supervisor was patient, informative, supportive, and understanding.”

Dave:  “Fall and Winter are ‘fire season,’ so we sometimes get several local fires in a week. The local team has another member, Holly, who is a big help. We typically meet the clients after the event, at a neighbor’s house, or a family member’s place. There are times we do go to an event as it is happening, or just happened. That allows me a chance to talk with the Fire Chief or Investigator about the property condition and see it for myself. Usually, by the time we are notified though, the event is over, and the clients have left. This is especially the case with a late-night event, so the clients can get somewhere for the night. We make appropriate arrangements to meet the client the next day. It is very rewarding to be able to help people who have suffered loss and to be able to offer referrals and some money plus comfort kits (toiletries) plus toys for any children.”

Do you volunteer for any other organizations?

Dave:  “We are members of All Saints Episcopal Church in Fulton. It is like a second family for us. The church has fund raising dinners and with the money raised we provide a free dinner Tuesday nights, 51 weeks out of the year, to the community. Many people pick them up at the church.

“Also, Lee and I deliver dinners to people who cannot get out to pick up their dinner! On a typical Tuesday, the ladies who cook prepare upwards of 100 meals! Of those, Lee and I deliver 40-50, which includes enough to feed a family of 13 people who have limited resources. We enjoy the smiles it brings to their faces. We also lend an ear if they have been upset lately.

“One other organization where we volunteer is The Fulton Little League. I am President of the League. Lee is the Snack Bar coordinator, and the food we offer is the best and most reasonably priced anywhere! Lee spends a lot of time shopping and cooking, and I even help her sometimes when no one else is available.

“When I started 12 years ago, I wanted to coach, since baseball was one of my passions and I played in High School. I have coached every year, along with Vice President duties.

 “I had the honor of taking our Seniors team to the New York City area. It was a great experience for the guys and parents, and we finished 3rd! We were a very close-knit team. Two years later, the core group was part of the Big-League team, and again we qualified again for the NYS Championships. It was a great team effort—all the other coaches lauded our team for their supportive and positive attitude.  The other teams’ parents commented on their respectful nature and self-control. We made it to the Championship Game, against a team that had three players with Division I Scholarships for College teams for the fall!

“I will never forget that team, and I still see some of the players and we hug! That, to me, is what coaching, and running a League, is all about. The young people come together and enjoy playing as a team. What we experienced was the ultimate joy, to see the success that hard work and being a team is all about.”

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

Lee: “When I volunteer for blood drives, I talk about how wonderful it has been volunteering for Red Cross. I even promote starting with just volunteering at blood drives where everyone is happy. The workers and donors are always happy to be there; there is food, water bottles, and great music. I also tell people that there are so many ways to volunteer their time. I tell them to go on the website to see all the ways to just put in a few hours that will make a great difference in the lives of people in need.”

Dave: “The Red Cross Organization can be perceived in much the same way as the Little League. Our local crew, and the group we join on deployments, use the same teamwork concept. The goal is to make the clients feel hopeful, while providing them with the assistance to recover. Every Disaster Relief Operation I have been on had the same feeling. One team with a common goal; to do what we can to make our clients feel that someone cares and give them some relief from the hardship they have experienced. Lee and I feel lucky to be a small part of the success of the Red Cross of the ENY Region!”

Volunteers are involved in every aspect of the Red Cross mission and constitute well over 90 percent of our workforce! Our vital work is made possible by people just like Dave and Lee who want to make a difference in the community.

As a volunteer in the Eastern New York Region, there are many you that can make an impact with your time and your talents. Visit our website to learn more and to apply.