1 minute readVolunteers
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The Meaning of Volunteering — Wise Words from Red Cross Donut Dollies

Written by Greta Gustafson, Media Relations Intern, American Red Cross

I had the privilege of mingling with some of the Red Cross Donut Dollies at the American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA) award ceremony in October. These amazing women have served members of the U.S. military in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, among many other military operations, helping to support soldiers and their families. I didn’t think I would have much in common with them, but the majority had recently graduated college when they chose to serve overseas, and they were looking for something meaningful and exciting. As we poured over old photographs together, they reminisced about their life changing volunteer experiences, and they left me with advice I will always remember.

  1. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others.
    “It is so satisfying because individual volunteers go out and literally put themselves on the line; put their lives on the line. There’s no finer group of people I’ve ever worked with. My Red Cross experience changed my whole belief system about people, because of the military men I helped provide service for.” -Elaine Bailey, Vietnam
  2. Experience is truly the best way to learn.
    “I think the Red Cross was probably the best graduate school I could have ever attended. I learned more from that one year of volunteer experience both about myself but also about really challenging myself, and stretching what I thought I was capable of doing or was maybe afraid of doing, and Red Cross doesn’t give you a chance to say no. You just get in there and start doing it.” – Carolina Smith Morton, Vietnam
  3. Sometimes you have to take a chance and step out of your comfort zone.
    For many of these women, it was their first time overseas, or even away from home. But Payton Wooldridge, a Donut Dolly in Vietnam, said it best, “Why not?  It will change your life. It’s worth every minute.”

This holiday season, draw some inspiration from the Donut Dollies and consider how you can dedicate time to something meaningful, by helping others. The Red Cross provides numerous opportunities to get involved in your community. To find out how you can help, visit http://www.redcross.org/support/volunteer.