Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Letter from East Tennessee Executive Director Michelle Hankes, December 2015

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross. When 90 to 96 percent of the mission work is accomplished through people who receive no paycheck, there can be no denying that a solid, trained volunteer is worth his or her weight in gold. Recruit, train, evaluate, thank. Sounds easy, right?

Think again! A volunteer is more than a person to put through a cycle of best practices. A volunteer is an individual, with individual needs, expressions and expertise. One size does not fit all. A volunteer needs more than an occasional t-shirt or pin. A volunteer needs more than a template of trainings. A volunteer needs to feel welcome, respected, and needed. A volunteer needs to know that he or she is appreciated by the clients, staff, and other volunteers!

Engagement is more than the number of hours clocked or the number of classes taken. Engagement is conversation with other Red Crossers, figuring out solutions to problems, identifying opportunities to do better, and celebrating the wins. For some volunteers, an hour a week is enough to feel engaged. For others, the Red Cross is a home away from home. Both types of volunteers are committed and passionate about the mission.

I want you to feel engaged, but you need to help me. I want to understand what I (and other staff) can do to make you feel needed…because you are!

The Volunteer and Mission Capacity Committee meets to figure out strategies around recruiting new volunteers and creating opportunities for engagement for those of you already in our family. So far, we’ve identified workshops that focus on professional development beyond the Red Cross program. We’re trying to plan fun things for recognition. But I need you to tell me what you want. You can email me at michelle.hankes@redcross.org. I can’t promise to get every idea onto the schedule, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Maybe you just want to talk about things: things you like, things you wish could happen. Again, I can’t promise the stars, but I will shoot for the moon!


  1. Thank you for those encourament wwords. Yes, the office is my home away from home. Yes, the Staff and my fellow volunteers are my other family. Yes, we do need more than encouraging words. My Jamie Lewis, gies above and beyond to make sure his volunteers are able to do what we do in every way possible, but there are times that his hands are tied and it gets frustrating to me. But since I love what I do, I just keep on doing it the best possible way. Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. Maybe some time soon you'll visit us and we can sit down and have a "pow wow '. Just saying.

  2. Oops. There are some misspelled words, but you understand.