The American Red Cross Club at UC Irvine unites students who are passionate about giving back to their community and dedicated to providing comfort, care and aid to people all over the world. Because of these notable efforts, UC Irvine recently awarded this club the “Organization of the Month” award.
Holding to the values of the original American Red Cross as a nonprofit, the club does not charge membership fees in order to be as accommodating and accessible to those interested in joining. All members are required to purchase a shirt for $10, but that is solely for the sake of representing the club as a unified team during volunteer events.
“Ultimately we’re a nonprofit organization so it’s not right for us to keep money,” co-president Madina Sadat, a fifth-year public health sciences major, said.
In lieu of a fee, the club utilizes a point system to determine when an individual attains status as an active member. Members must accumulate a pre-determined amount of points by the end of a quarter, which they can earn through attending meetings, fundraising or participating in community service. The only requirements are that members attend at least two weekend events and spend two hours fundraising throughout a single quarter, a rather feasible feat. With plenty of opportunities for members to earn points spread throughout the week and weekend, the point system is flexible enough to afford even the busiest of Anteaters a chance to be involved.
Fueled by its strong desire to make a difference in the community, the club seems to take hold of any opportunity to help that comes its way. Red Cross Club has worked with several nonprofit organizations in the past year, each of which have championed a myriad of different causes, such as Working Wardrobes, the OC Food Bank and Think Together, and is continually looking for new ways to help.
With such a strong focus on its community service aspect, Red Cross Club strives to strike a balance through its social aspect by incorporating socials and icebreakers to keep members engaged.
“Every meeting starts out with an icebreaker, and most of the meetings focus on that and making new friends. Everyone is so friendly and it’s such a positive environment that it makes you want to go back to more meetings and just be involved directly in Red Cross,” Mika Coronel, a second-year biology major said.
Coronel isn’t alone in her sentiment, as board member Kalissa Zhang, a fourth-year biological sciences major, recalls a similar story of her first meeting in Red Cross Club.
“I had that magical moment where I came into this club, and I met so many people where I instantly clicked with,” Zhang said.
Of the several volunteer projects that Red Cross Club is involved with, perhaps none are more meaningful than the annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless. Every Thanksgiving, club members go about inviting citizens from homeless shelters to a dinner fully prepared and hosted by the Red Cross Club in the Dr. White Room at the Cross-Cultural Center.
“It’s just a really great time because we can help them sort of not think about their troubles even if it’s just for a few hours and we can give something for their kids to do that’s memorable and make them laugh and have a good time,” Sadat said.
As the club spends weeks in advance planning for the event, Thanksgiving Dinner serves as an opportunity for incoming fall members to bond with another, as well as gain a more intimate view into how much of an impact their efforts have on the lives of those that they assist.
“It was really rewarding because I could directly see how my efforts benefitted the community and how I could give somebody a personal memory especially on a familial holiday where you want to be around people and have that warm comforting feeling,” Zhang said.
Most recently, the club succeeded in raising over $1,000 through selling Korean BBQ tacos on Ring Road to fund its third annual visit to a children’s orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, as hosted by the Corazon de Vida Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing life support to Baja Orphanages. Red Cross members spend the day interacting and playing with children at the orphanage, and use their funds to provide the children with food, supplies and up to a month’s worth of utility bills.
“[Mexico’s] right across the border, yet it’s a whole other country [where everything is basically different]. It’s just interacting with the kids and seeing how different it was from what we have … It makes a big impact on you and you get to see how lucky you are to have everything that you do,” Bianka Equiha, a second-year public health policy major said.
With over 90 members and an expanding presence in the local community, co-presidents Sadat and Wynnie Thoi have done a stellar job in maintaining the club’s efforts in the local community, and have left a legacy that they can be proud of.
“I want people to think of Red Cross Club as a place where if you have a goal to make a difference in your community you can get it done here and you can get it done with friends,” Sadat said.
“It’s not even work, it’s something you love so much you think about it all day,” Thoi adds. “This is our passion at Irvine, this is all we need.”
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