American Red Cross volunteers Jo Oliver, left, and Dianna Cross sit in commissioners meeting room at the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles after being honored by the commission for their long-standing service with the disaster-relief agency. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Red Cross volunteers’ accomplishments acknowledged

Two longtime Clallam County American Red Cross volunteers were honored by the board of county commissioners last week.

Dianna Cross and Jo Oliver received certificates of appreciation for their years of service to a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education in the United States.

“On behalf of the citizens of Clallam County, on behalf of the commissioners and on behalf of all of your fellow American Red Cross volunteers, we would like to acknowledge you for your service and say thank you so very much,” board chairman Mark Ozias said while presenting a certificate to Oliver.

“It was a joy,” said Oliver, a retired registered nurse who joined the Clallam County American Red Cross office in 1998.

The American Red Cross provides shelter, food and emotional support to victims of disasters.

It supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood, teaches lifesaving skills, provides international aid and supports military members and their families, according to its website, www.red cross.org.

Cross, 91, has volunteered for the Clallam County office of the American Red Cross for more than 30 years.

During her time with the organization, Cross was deployed seven times to floods, fires and tornadoes in Oklahoma, Louisiana, New York and Washington.

“She remembers huddling with other volunteers in a warehouse on one of her deployments while a tornado thundered by,” Ozias said while reading a prepared biography.

“Dianna also recalls the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building as the most emotionally challenging due to the vast numbers of responders and volunteers.”

Cross has stayed active into her 90s, spending her Mondays doing paperwork at Captain Joseph House in Port Angeles and Tuesdays staffing the Red Cross office in Carlsborg.

Cross operates a booth at twice-annual grange bazaars and is part of a group at Queen of Angels Catholic Church that puts together food baskets and clothing for people in need.

“As a former director of the Sequim Food Bank, I can tell you how much those baskets and gifts of clothing mean to the people who receive them,” Ozias told the audience.

Oliver was the senior registered nurse at the Carlsborg Red Cross office from 1998 through 2012, which she worked to help victims of house fires and other catastrophes.

“Her background in emergency nursing fueled with great compassion expedited the recovery efforts for many families,” Ozias said.

Oliver spearheaded an effort to reorganize the Clallam County Red Cross office in the mid-2000s, spending hours wading through paperwork, instructional manuals and equipment in a back room.

“Many say this was a turning point for the Red Cross,” Ozias said.

Oliver also trained Red Cross volunteers as Disaster Action Team or DAT responders. DAT responders are on-call at all hours, ready to assist disaster victims.

Oliver also visited and documented areas in churches and community buildings that could be used as disaster shelters, most of which are available to the Red Cross today.

Cross and Oliver received a round of applause from attendees upon receiving their certificates.

The audience included more than a dozen other American Red Cross volunteers.

“Thank you so much,” Cross said. “I love you all. You’ve been a part of my life for a long time.”

Meanwhile, the consolidated Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas Chapter of the American Red Cross is launching a yearlong centennial celebration this month.

Concerned residents formed a local chapter of the American Red Cross in 1917 as the U.S. prepared to enter World War I.

“March is Red Cross Month, the perfect time to kick-off our centennial, honor volunteers, blood donors and financial contributors who bring hope to people facing life’s emergencies,” said Leigh Kamasz, executive director of the American Red Cross serving the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, in a news release.

“During Red Cross Month, we thank them for 100 years of tremendous support.”

Last year, Red Cross volunteers on the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas responded to 82 local emergencies, assisted 432 military families and trained 4,543 people in lifesaving skills such as CPR, first aid and water safety.