Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Every Active Volunteer Has A Reason

In December 1992, Andrew Levy’s parents were called by the doctors at Strong Memorial Hospital and told he had less than 3 hours to live. It was a 6 hour drive for them to get to Rochester, NY.

After several tests, he was hospitalized as the result of Guillain-Barré (GBS), an illness that impacts the peripheral nervous system. He was paralyzed for several months, confined to a wheelchair. Once he regained control of his muscle and nerve systems, he needed to relearn how to walk.

Today, fully recovered, Mr. Levy continues his commitment to volunteer work in a major way. In addition to his career as a certified senior managing consultant with IBM’s U.S. Federal Office of the CTO, he gives his time to numerous community organizations and through an IBM program called On Demand Community.

He actively volunteers with Engineering Week, Take Your Child To Work Day, Mentoring, MentorNet, Powerup, Earth Day, TryScience, College and Accessibility Ambassador, Online Safety, Emergency Preparedness and Response. He was also a part of IBM’s initial teams selected for the Corporate Service Corps, volunteering this summer in Davao City, Philippines.

When Mr. Levy was diagnosed with GBS, the American Red Cross used plasmapheresis to get him on the path to recovery. As he says, “The Red Cross saved my life”. Since then, he became very active in volunteer work, including emergency response, but surprisingly not with the local Red Cross chapter in Northern Virginia.

But this is really only the beginning of the story. What seems like a few years ago, Mr. Levy was volunteering at an American Red Cross of the National Capital Area Save a Life Event, representing other volunteer community response groups. An executive from the Red Cross came over to the volunteers to thank the volunteers. Then she turned to him with such excitement for the partner agencies for being there and asked, why do you volunteer. He explained the story about GBS and how Red Cross played a major role. The tone of the conversation quickly changed and became very emotional. It turns out that this person’s brother currently had GBS and was challenged to find doctors, support network, information, and just someone to talk to, who has been through it. Giving a new friend a hug goes a long way. Is this a case of being in the right place at the right time? Or just something that is core to all Red Cross volunteers, their values.

American Red Cross Values
  • Humanitarianism:
    We exist in order to serve others in need, independently and without discrimination, providing relief for victims of disasters and helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
  • Stewardship:
    We act responsibly, effectively and efficiently with resources entrusted to us, always seeking to improve.
  • Helping Others:
    We are attentive and responsible to those who we serve, always listening to their needs and looking for ways to serve through existing or new initiatives.
  • Respect:
    We acknowledge, respect and support the rights and diversity of each person in our organization and in the communities we serve.
  • Voluntary Spirit:
    We, as a family of donors, volunteers and staff, search for ways to provide hope to those we serve while demonstrating compassion, generosity and appreciation.
  • Continuous Learning:
    We seek, collectively and individually, to identify, obtain and maintain competencies and the awareness required for exceptional service.
  • Integrity:
    We act with honesty, demonstrate courage and accountability under pressure and openly share ideas and information with each other.

It was because of her that Mr. Levy became a Red Cross Volunteer. While she says that he made a difference, helping her through this, she has clearly made a difference in his life. As, it is not what you receive, but the value and help you are able to give to others.

With the Presidential Inauguration and Martin Luther King Day of Community Service in the United States, this marked another major moment in Mr. Levy’s life. During this momentous time in our nation's history, Mr. Levy has reached the President's Call To Service of 4,000 hours, while volunteering this week with the American Red Cross, during MLK Day and Inauguration.

Everybody has a reason why they volunteer. At Neighbors Helping Neighbors, we would like to salute all the American Red Cross volunteers and all volunteers around the world. And give hope to those who are going through some tough times.


Anonymous said...

So now we know why you are a huge supporter of those with special needs. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You are so right about values. Organizations that document their values are key to success.