Archive | October, 2011

Making a Difference – Betsy

22 Oct

Betsy Lundquist was an amazing full time volunteer who could just light up a room with her smile during a training session. It usually took less than a minute for Betsy to have her trainees nodding and also smiling and hanging onto Betsy’s insights re: board development, how to work with volunteers, how to develop volunteer position descriptions, what to do first, then second as new director or chair of volunteers. She served as the American Red Cross national chair for volunteer services, national chair for building chapter leadership teams, program co-chair for national training institutes, chair of volunteers for the Red Cross chapter in Philadelphia, then later in Cape May, NJ. Betsy was magic, people she worked with wanted to be just like her, the wanted to Make a Difference to volunteer, to help their community, to help the Red Cross reach out and serve millions before, during and after disasters.

Betsy facilitated national working groups, wrote perfect meeting notes, document needs and lessons learned, and led teams to design and develop new tools to help hundreds of Red Cross chapter do a better job with recruiting, involving, training and recognizing hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

I had the privilege of working with Betsy as her employee counterpart or “partner” at the American Red Cross for many years, I learned a lot from Betsy, she was positive, proactive, a pied piper in a very very good way always working to strengthen the American Red Cross volunteer program, to make the experience for volunteers, fun, supportive and productive.

One day she called me on the phone the followed up with an email – the (Red Cross) chapter keep asking for sample volunteer position descriptions… we talked about the pros and cons and how we could make this happen. Well long story shorty, Betsy pulled together a national working group and started to gather sample volunteer position descriptions from hundreds of Red Cross chapters, Blood Services regions and Service to the Armed Forces stations. She convened bi-weekly conference calls and through her team whittled down the list, combining similar positions, and then reformatting all into a standardized format. When her team was done they had over 200 standardized volunteer position descriptions, then she thought it would be helpful to have some of these in Spanish, so she reached out to our chapter in Puerto Rico and many of the position descriptions were translated into Spanish.

This was a huge project, a huge help to many newer or part time directors and chairs of volunteers who could quickly adapt these sample descriptions to match the key tasks their units needed to fill through volunteers.

Afterwards, Betsy hardly missed a beat until she was onto her new projects, working on the next tool or providing volunteer consulting to leadership of the next chapter. On the side Betsy and her husband also traveled across the country serving as volunteer chapter auditors for the American Red Cross, focusing on how to enhance and improve Red Cross operations and systems while at the same time serving as one of the top volunteers for her local chapter in Cape May, NJ.

Betsy passed away a little over a year ago, many of us miss Betsy, but we continued to be inspired by her legacy of volunteer contributions, she made a huge difference.

Today we celebrate national Make a Difference Day, we celebrate volunteering; today I celebrate Betsy, one of the best volunteers I have ever known and her volunteer legacy.

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Have you ever worked on a Chain Gang?

6 Oct

Tonight it is back to chain gang duty. We got the week off last week and just got to watch the boys crash into each other like gladiators fighting for position.

My son is a high school senior playing varsity football and yes as a serial volunteer I was conscripted again this year to serve on the chain gang for home games and pre-season scrimmages. The team has been doing well this year averaging about 30 points a game so there is lots of action running up and down the sidelines with the “sticks” to mark first down territory.

Upside: there is no better place to watch the action then 2 yards back from the sideline, you get to hear the collisions, the plays being called and signaled, the up close thrill as your son’s team makes that first down, or the big tackle, the touchdowns, the defensive stops, run backs on special teams.

The downside: you can’t cheer because you are walking up and down the opposing team’s sideline, you have to listen to the opposing coaches cheer and the team rant enthusiastically whenever “they” make a good play. However when your team is down in near the end zone with yards, feet or inches to go, you can lay down the “sticks” and whisper a bit louder “punch it in boys”! Then you can cheer quietly and give a high-five to the chain gang crew when the boys listen to you and score!!

Kickoffs and pass plays can be tricky as large bodies run towards the sticks on your sideline, you drop the sticks and step back quickly trying to get out of the way of flying runner, blockers and tacklers.

The time for the Chain Gang to shine though is during that near first down, you pick up your sticks and run with the officials to the center of the field to make that all important measure resulting in the “thrill of victory” – first down for your side or the “agony of defeat” – missed by one inch 😦

We don’t get paid, we volunteer, we are close to the action, we get to see the sweat fly off the boys – we are the Chain Gang, volunteering does not get much better than this.

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