Throughout the month of March, the nation recognizes American Red Cross donors and volunteers.
Carol Conley is a former teacher from Essex Junction who says she wanted an active retirement. Her husband, a member of Habitat for Humanity, was donating platelets at the Red Cross when Conley asked to be a volunteer.
Two years later, she has now responded to four, national-level disasters across the country.
“What I’ve discovered is that the Red Cross is teaming with people filled with kindness and compassion,” said Carol Conley, volunteer and Disaster Action Team Member.
I have now deployed to Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, the wild fires in Paradise, California, the tornadoes and floods in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and Hurricane Dorian in Tallahassee, Florida.
“Sometimes people will come to the door, and they’ll have a brown paper bag under their arm, it happened in Oklahoma. I remembered this gentleman and his wife and they said, ‘floods took our trailor, we have nothing left expect what’s in this bag, can you help us,” said Conley.
On her rescue missions, the teacher of 20 years connected with children.
“She’s also engaging a lot of those young people that have been displaced from their home…Carol’s coloring corner is one of the pieces that she’s implemented and that’s becoming a best practice around the country now,” said Kevin Mazuzan, Executive Director of the Vermont Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Conley said she always had a passion for art. Engaging with kids is one of her favorite parts.
“They start really getting involved and they start feeling better…’I’ll put my picture up on the wall, just give me the scotch tape, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.’ And you start to feel like a little touch of normalcy is back in their life,” said Conley.
Conley says a rescue mission can last one to two months. Volunteers can be deployed before, during, or after a disaster.
“I think what’s really excited about carol is she has taken her previous experience as a mother, as a grandmother, as a teacher, as an influencer in the community…And taken that skillset that she has really focused it in on the work that the American Red Cross provides,” said Mazuzan.
Once Conley is fully vaccinated, she hopes to be deployed again in May.
“For me, I love being around people who are kind and full of compassion and when you go around on one of these deployments, we get them set up with blankets and food, and special things for the kids…It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of such a positive movement.”