By Stephanie Heckman, Red Cross Public Relations Intern
In January, Joseph Sanchez became a Community Transportation intern for the American Red Cross of Central-Southeast Ohio. As a premed biology major at the Ohio State University, he seems like an unlikely candidate to do marketing and promotions for a transportation program.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved with American Cross, ever since I was little kid, born in the Phillipines. The Red Cross had strong presence on our island. Our country is prone to many disasters and gets a lot of help from international organizations,” Sanchez says. “I love what the Red Cross stands for: the humanitarian efforts, the volunteers and the helping of people in need.”
The Community Transportation Program in the Greater Columbus area began in the 1970s yet is not widely known. Paid or volunteer drivers transport the elderly or cancer patients to essential appointments. The CTP is the only Columbus transportation program that can give free rides to potentially life-saving medical appointments.
“I really love interning for the Community Transportation program but I found it frustrating that a lot of people don’t really want to volunteer. It’s such a great program and it does a lot for the elderly and people with disabilities,” he says. “I wish people would want to do it more. You get to save someone’s life driving to and from medical appointments. It’s such a necessity.”
The internship involves working with Volunteer Resources and Community Transportation to develop and plan marketing strategies in the effort of recruiting new volunters. The interns reach out to churches and community centers, make flyers, writs letters and attend Community Action Team events to find potential volunteers.
Sanchez says that he joined the CTP to become involved with humanitarian work and the community. He says that it’s a great experience because the volunteers can interact with the clients and hear their stories.
“I want to learn their side of the story, what makes them who they are,” he says. “I studied premed because I really want to help people.”
Because Sanchez formerly worked in a nursing home, he understands the importance of care for seniors. “There was this lady who lives by herself. They need assistance, they need someone to take care of them,” he says. “They really do need our help.”
Sanchez says that finding volunteers for CTP is essential right now because there are simply not enough volunteers. The goal for the program is to have 80 volunteers; unfortunately, there are only 20. With so few transportation volunteers serving the Greater Columbus area, clients may be turned away or asked to call two weeks ahead. In the past, clients only had to call two days in advance, Sanchez says.
Sanchez advises others to get involved with the CTP, as an intern or volunteer. “Even if you have just a little bit of time, instead of sitting at home and doing unproductive things, you could be helping. You could make a difference in the community and just bettering yourself,” he says. “It helps you grow as a person.”
Community Transportation volunteers only have to commit four hours a month of their time to the program. Sanchez says one of the biggest mispresentations is that volunteers have to lift wheelchairs and other heavy objects. Ramps are included in the cars and vans provided by the Red Cross.
The Red Cross will teach volunteers defensive driving, CPR, AED and First Aid. Sanchez says that he was very thankful and considers the free classes a “great service” for volunteers.
Sanchez believes that each service and program that the Red Cross offers is vital: “Without each program there are people who need the service; so if we cut out other programs, then people will not be able to receive the services they need.”
Although he is graduating this May and will soon begin work as a microbiologist in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, he plans to continue volunteering with the Red Cross. Sanchez’s future plans for volunteering with the Red Cross include becoming certified to teach First Aid and CPR, volunteering with the First Aid Services Team and doing community outreach.
“If I could do all of it, I would,” he says. “I really want to volunteer more. It makes me feel good, to make a difference in someone’s life and in the community.”