In my second post, I wrote about volunteerism and how to get involved. There are so many ways you can contribute to an important cause, including through the donation of your time and skills. The opportunities to volunteer in a virtual capacity have grown during the pandemic, and we are not out of it yet. The needs existed before and will remain.
In this post, I asked Curtis Luthye, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Montgomery, Howard, and Frederick Counties Chapter, to share some insights on the important work he does as a leader of this dynamic organization. In the interest of full disclosure, I have the pleasure of serving alongside Curt, his colleagues and our fellow volunteers in a role with the Red Cross. Nevertheless, his is an important story to tell. For those of us who are public servants, I think it helps to gain perspectives and learn from other sectors, because so much of what we do crosses sectors.
One of the main takeaways from this is that your professional and personal mission is of critical importance to your life and the lives of others. As individuals and collectively as public servants, we have the ability to positively impact others every day. I hope this inspires you to think about what you do in becoming the best version of yourself, and motivate others to do the same.
1. Can you tell me what motivated you to work for the Red Cross?
I have a personal mission to help people live their best life. This has manifested itself as a career in nonprofits. At the Red Cross we have a phenomenal mission statement: The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. This mission statement aligns with my own and provides the opportunity for me to both serve those in need and empower, coach and lead those who are looking to do the same. Very rewarding!
2. As a senior executive, what do you find to be most challenging and most rewarding in carrying out the Red Cross mission?
The most rewarding is an easy answer: the people. Those we help on their hard day often return the good work and become volunteers paying what they received forward. I’ve seen this play out many times. Those affected by floods or a house fire, a wildfire or a hurricane – they recognize what they’ve been given and want to give back.
The most challenging is the pace at which the world is changing. And I mean that both in terms of the frequency and magnitude of natural and human-caused emergencies, as well as the pace of technological change and changes in our tools. But in the challenge is great opportunity, especially on the tech side. We’re using new tools to better respond all the time, which means always updating systems and refreshing the training for our volunteer workforce. All challenges, but those are the good kind.
3. For this audience, can you describe some of the ways the Red Cross coordinates with local or federal government?
We have the opportunity to work very closely with all levels of government. During a disaster, we have trained personnel operating inside of Emergency Operation Centers, as well as appropriately trained personnel at Incident Command Post when necessary. In or outside of a disaster, we also have opportunities to communicate and share directly with all elected officials to make certain they have information about the depth and breadth of our work in their jurisdictions. Additionally, we work daily to have strong relationships with military commands at bases and installations so that we can assist them as needed through our mission to serve the armed forces.
4. What should federal employees know when it comes to working or partnering with nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross?
Federal employees make great Red Cross volunteers. Now or after you retire, you have the skills, the connections and the know-how to significantly impact our mission. Our mission statement says it all. We do this good work primarily through great people and generous donations. I would encourage you to take a deeper look at how you can continue your public service through the Red Cross.
5. What do you feel is essential to success in the nonprofit sector?
We, like many organizations and the country in general, know that we need the richness of a diverse workforce to do our work well. The research is mixed about trends in volunteerism, but I think it is critical that nonprofits like the Red Cross continue to lean forward and show that very different people can rally around a common mission. We want to continue to meet our mission in fresh and innovative ways, and we need you and your distinctive history, skills and perspective to do it well.
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Christine is Deputy Director, Office of Ethics and Integrity of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This article was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the FDA, DHHS or the federal government. Christine also serves as a Community Volunteer Leader for the American Red Cross, Montgomery, Howard, and Frederick County Chapter, and on the advisory committee for her city pool and fitness center. She is inspired to write about endurance, volunteerism, and career management, among other topics. In her “spare” time she is an avid swimmer and runner, and enjoys spending time with her family, friends and pets. Her motto is: “Work hard, play hard.”
This writing was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the FDA, DHHS or Federal Government.