Restless retiree found purpose as a volunteer

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Sunday, July 10, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

He was in New York after Sept. 11.

After floods in Wichita, Kan., Miami and Iowa., he was there.

Wildfires left devastation in eastern Washington, and in Jackson, Tenn., people had to pick up their lives when a tornado ripped apart the town.

And he was there.

Kris Krischano is a retiree who found a second career by volunteering with the Snohomish County Red Cross.

“What can I say about volunteerism?” he said. “It keeps you mentally alert, physically refreshed and, most assuredly, self-fulfilled.”

Krischano, now 77, found himself restless when he stopped working.

“There had to be something more interesting for me to do with my time than watching the grass grow,” he said.

Today, Krischano has retired from his retirement and doesn’t volunteer like he used to, but he still urges other to follow in his path.

At 60, he started giving his time to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and soon met Red Cross volunteers.

Four years later, he was working full time (for free) at the Snohomish County Red Cross. He was trained as the public affairs manager, fielding press calls while learning to be a part of the Disaster Services Human Resources program.

Volunteering can a social outlet for seniors and spur new interests. It also can provide health benefits, including increased longevity and lower rates of depression, said Kamilia Dunsky, the mental health program manager at Senior Services of Snohomish County.

She supervises a team of trained volunteers who offer peer counseling and help others navigate health insurance.

“It’s just so life enhancing,” Dunsky said. “It’s just kind of a win, win, win.”

Many of the volunteers at the local Red Cross chapter are retirees, said Diana Schmid, the volunteer coordinator at Snohomish County Red Cross.

Through volunteer work, people create new value in their life.

“We give them that opportunity to do something more with their life and maybe challenge them,” she said.

Red Cross volunteers receive thorough training in a variety of fields. Many people are deployed to disaster areas to help with recovery.

During the recent floods and tornadoes in the Midwest, the Snohomish County chapter sent more volunteers than almost any other affiliate around the country, Schmid said.

Red Cross volunteers don’t just do disaster work.

Some people help with administrative tasks or fundraising. Others help at Naval Station Everett, providing support services for sailors.

“I learned as a Red Cross volunteer that there is absolutely a place for anyone who is willing to make a commitment,” Krischano said.

Volunteers contribute to the community, make lifelong friends and experience real gratitude.

“It’s the privilege of helping,” Schmid said.

“You become the story teller. You were the one who did it. You’re the one who helped.”

Vitality main page

Volunteer or donate

If you want to get involved volunteering or help by making a donation, here’s how:

Snohomish County Red Cross: 425-252-4103; snohomishcounty.redcross.org

Senior Services of Snohomish County: 425-355-1112; www.sssc.org

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