Young Professionals “pay it forward” in new group at the Red Cross

By Jennifer Reid-Burrell
Financial Development Specialist, American Red Cross, Greater Richmond Chapter

It may seem odd that “working for free” could actually lead to finding a great paying job but as it turns out paying it forward actually pays off.  In fact, volunteering with the Red Cross was how I landed my first job out of college!
In these difficult economic times, finding a job and keeping one is priority one for most Americans, but with little or no workforce experience young professionals and recent college grads are struggling the most to secure their career path.  Amazingly, at the Red Cross we are finding that despite these conditions more young professionals are coming to us to volunteer than ever before, and we are not the only ones noticing.  A federal report, Volunteering in America, released in June states that volunteerism in America had risen from 1.6 million individuals in 2008 to 63.4 million in 2009!  We have found that young people want to develop their skills and talents, put some experience on their résumés, network, and genuinely make a difference in their communities.
In response to this growing demand for volunteer opportunities our Chapter has formed a young professionals organization, Club Red, in which young professionals in their 20s and 30s can engage in volunteer service, social and professional networking, fundraising events and education for a cause.  I started recruiting members for the group’s leadership board in July and by August had a solid group of 17 members to plan and execute the group’s events.  The 5 committees on the group, Community Outreach, Event Planning, Social Media & Marketing, Training & Education, and Membership Resources worked together to organize our kick-off event, held during Happy Hour on Thursday, September 16 at Blackfinn American Saloon.
Our kick-off was a way to introduce our group to the public, to invite people to join us and to raise money for our local chapter.  We sold wristbands for $5 at the kick-off, each wristband allowed the patron access to a complimentary hors d’oeuvres buffet and drink specials.  At our first event, we raised $250 for the Red Cross and gained 34 new members!
Club Red is a perfect fit for young people who desire to expand their networks, gain valuable experiences and enjoy the fulfillment of helping others. You can choose to take a CPR class with the group, go to a happy hour, or help build a home for a needy family when you have the time.
There is no commitment to being a member of the group; your name is simply added to our mailing list to receive updates on all of our upcoming events.  You can sign up for community outreach projects, like volunteering at the Que Pasa festival, as they fit your schedule.  Of course, if you want a deeper involvement in the Red Cross you can volunteer with a department that matches with your skills and interests.
We’re all finding these tough times disheartening each time we hear another unemployment statistic or see a drop on Wall Street, but consider giving back some of your time as a way to lighten your spirits and add to the solution.  Whether you’re interested in volunteering a few hours a month, coming out to an event, or donating your skills during the week, the Red Cross welcomes and appreciates you.  How will you make a difference?
I am always inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of young adults in support of the community. The drive and spirit of these young professionals who have joined Club Red will not only impact the services we provide to the region, but also support the work of other area nonprofits, as they broaden the scope of their outreach projects. We thank them, particularly during these trying economic times, for reaching out to others.
Reginald E. Gordon, Esq.
Regional Chief Executive Officer