Meet Mr. Burnes, a Red Cross Everyday Hero!

Mr Burns

Volunteering isn’t just something to do; it’s an opportunity to help others.  Those who’ve had the pleasure of meeting Earnest Burnes can sense the passion he has for the Red Cross and helping others.

“You know, everybody knows me now.  I have met a lot of people,” said Mr. Burnes as he’s affectionately called.

After retiring from a 16 year professional boxing career, Mr. Burnes didn’t know what he wanted to do 43 years ago, but he knew he wanted to join the American Red Cross.

“I was [driving] my wife to work and I heard on the radio that the Red Cross needed volunteers.  I looked at [my wife] and I said, ‘that’s for me.  I’m going to check that out,’ he recalled.  “I went to the local chapter and spoke with a man who asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, ‘listen, I’m not that high up on everything, but I’m willing to give my time and talent,” he said.

Mr. Burnes began volunteering with the Red Cross as a Damage Assessment Volunteer and later moved up to a Disaster Action Team Leader (DAT Leader).

“Sometimes I’ll be in the grocery store and they’ll say, ‘Mr. Burnes, remember you came over to our house and you gave us some assistance?’ I’ll say, from the Red Cross, and they’ll say, ‘yes, that’s how we know you!’ These people make me feel so great; he explained flashing his famous smile. “Sometimes, I’ll have my family with me–my wife, my children, my grandchildren and [people will] say something like that, it really hits home with me.  You know, this is one of those things you just really can’t shake off,” said Mr. Burnes.

It could be 3:00 a.m., when Mr. Burnes receives a call from Red Cross dispatcher that there’s a home fire and a family is in need – he is willing, and more importantly he is happy to respond and to help.  This is one of many scenarios for Mr. Burnes.  When disaster strikes… “You got to get up and respond,” he said.  “Sometimes as soon as I finish one fire, they need me for another fire,” he said.

As a DAT Leader, Mr. Burnes has a job that requires him to respond to unexpected disasters at any time of the day.  He and his team assess disasters and provide the needs of the families affected.

“[The Red Cross is] one of the greatest organizations in the world.  They don’t discriminate.  It doesn’t matter if you are a good person or a bad person; we go to help the family.  We don’t disclose any [information]; all that we do is assist the person’s emergency needs [during a disaster] like clothes, shoes, food, lodging—we provide all of that,” he said.

“You know, a lot of people ask me, ‘what are you doing, you don’t have a job,’” he said while laughing.  “I say, ‘yes, I do; I work for the American Red Cross.’  This is just like when I was working and getting paid.  It gives me the chance to help people,” he said.

“It gives me a chance to give something back, you know,” Mr. Burnes said.  “I’m not a rich person, I don’t have a lot of money, but I have time and talent.  The Red Cross assured me that it doesn’t matter what color you are or what nation you come from, we are still family—you can help out.  That’s the only way I can give something back… I enjoy working with the Red Cross,” he said eagerly.  “I think that if you are a citizen of this town or this country, we should all become volunteers.  We are our brother’s keeper; that’s what the Red Cross is trying to show us.”

I’m glad that the Red Cross allows me to do what I do,” he said.  The Red Cross is thrilled to have an extraordinary volunteer like Mr. Burnes – an everyday hero!  Thank you Mr. Burnes.

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