By Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — When was the last time you were at the pharmacy either at the main clinic or at the Exchange/Commissary? How long were you waiting? Imagine the wait time if the American Red Cross volunteers were not there. Would you be waiting longer? The answer is yes.
Irmgard Cates is the Chairperson for the Air Force Facilities in El Paso County. Cates has volunteered with the American Red Cross for 34 years at Little Rock AFB and Peterson AFB.
The Red Cross currently has 42 volunteers at the Air Force Academy, two at Schriever AFB and 26 at the Peterson AFB pharmacies.
“Unfortunately, many jobs that Red Cross volunteers used to do on base such as volunteer life guards and swimming instructors have gone away,” said Cates. “We are pretty much limited to having Red Cross volunteers work at medical facilities.”
As the Air Force has gone through personnel reductions, the volunteers are there to help fill in where paid employees used to be to help with the busy everyday life at the pharmacies. Volunteering at the pharmacies requires customer service, multitasking and flexibility. The volunteers will work with the customers at the windows, request help if needed and adjust to the changes in policy.
“The best thing is the people, even though it gets pretty hectic everyone is pretty helpful,” said Larry Grenier, American Red Cross volunteer since August 2008. “We’ve had days where there’s a queue of 100 people waiting and even though there’s three volunteers we can only go so fast.”
The goals of the volunteers are to improve customer satisfaction and save taxpayers some money, explained Cates. Volunteering with the Red Cross gives people who may be fully retired from their paying jobs a way to socialize and still be productive.
“The volunteers are part of the Air Force family and believe in giving back to those still serving,” said Cates. “It has been a pleasure and honor to serve as the Chair for the last 20 years.”
Most of the volunteers work 4-7 hours a week, a couple shifts, or more depending on their personal schedules. The Red Cross will work with the volunteers on where they want to work but also try to balance the need of positions at a certain location.
“It is hard work but it’s a good place to work,” said Grenier. “If we need more volunteers then we will definitely take more volunteers.”
For more information on volunteering with the Red Cross call the Red Cross liaison office at 632-3563.
“Red Cross has served for over a century supporting military members, I believe the need will continue for many more years,” said Cates.