3 minute readDisaster, Volunteers
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Service and Commitment: John Navarro is a Catalyst for Change and Community

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the work and compassion of our Red Cross community. We could not make a lifesaving difference in the communities we serve without dedicated volunteers like John Navarro of the American Red Cross Central California Region.  

As an Army veteran who faced combat during the Vietnam War, John Navarro from the Yakama Nation of Washington knows the meaning of service and sacrifice. After returning home from the battlefield, John committed the rest of his life to giving back and supporting fellow veterans in impactful ways. 

John’s journey of service began in his early twenties when he took on the role of a coach for various sports, including soccer, football, baseball, softball and basketball. For over 50 years, he passionately coached both adults and children, emphasizing the values of fair play, honesty and camaraderie. John’s commitment to instilling these principles through sports has left a lasting impact on countless individuals across Central California. 

Leading the American Indian Veterans Association 

For over 15 admirable years, John has been an instrumental leader driving the mission of the American Indian Veterans Association (AIVA) forward. 

Throughout his tenure, John served as AIVA President, setting a vision and strategy to better support Native veterans across the region. Currently as vice president, John continues to support the veteran community. Under John’s passionate leadership, the AIVA has grown into a major force for good. He helped evolve the organization into one that uplifts Native veterans through community, camaraderie and healing support. 

“I have a goal to improve with where we’re at the moment,” John said. “I want to do a lot more for our veterans, for the Association. To go out and do more community service and be more involved.”? 

Helping Neighbors Impacted by Disasters Big and Small 

John also dedicates his time to disaster relief, helping community members recover from catastrophic events beyond their control. As a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, he actively participates in disaster response efforts, offering crucial assistance to families affected by unforeseen events. John’s involvement ensures that families receive the support they need in times of crisis, from shelter and clothing to emotional and spiritual guidance. 

“That is the beat of the Red Cross – being able to help others in time of need and I love that. I love that about the Red Cross and that I can do that,” said John. “I can help a family of six kids and mom and dad, and that’s good. It’s a good feeling.” 

When wildfires ravaged California communities, John was there on the frontlines to offer shelter, food, clothing and comfort to devastated victims who lost everything. After flash floods destroyed homes, John rushed to the scene to provide emotional support and critical supplies so families could begin their recovery. During home fires, John helps coordinate emergency assistance for those who need it most. On top of that, he even installs smoke alarms across the community to prevent those tragic home fires from happening. 

A Lifelong Volunteer 

John’s compassion and eagerness to help those facing challenges are limitless. He has volunteered on funeral honor guards across the Valley to ensure fallen veterans receive proper memorial services. When the pandemic struck, John made wellness check-in calls to isolated senior veterans. 

For over a decade, John has coordinated the Fresno Veterans Treatment Court mentorship program with passion and purpose. He works diligently to match mentors with veteran participants to provide guidance critical for getting their lives back on track. John draws on his personal experience to offer counsel and encouragement during this sensitive time. 

Today at 75 years old, John continues spearheading local food drives to ensure families do not go hungry. He spends his weekends building wheelchair ramps for community members lacking mobility access. There is seemingly no limit to John’s will to give back at every moment possible. 

John’s 50 tireless years of volunteer service demonstrate the monumental impact one deeply committed person can have to catalyze positive change. His unrelenting dedication has uplifted veterans, disaster victims and his broader community for decades. John exemplifies how consistent volunteering of one’s time and skills can transform lives for the better. His profound commitment to serving others before himself represents the pinnacle of human compassion. 

“That’s just it, I can’t wait for the next for the next day to see what else I can do.” 

This story was originally published on the American Red Cross Central California Region’s blog.