Just Takin’ A Little Ride

Red Cross Transportation Specialists Drive to Save Lives

Tony Williams and J.P. Brehony are a couple of guys who really like to drive. We’re not talking about bright red sports cars or best-in-class trucks, though.

Rich Lukon and Tony Williams

Volunteer Blood Transportation Specialists Rich Lukon (left) and Tony Williams (right).

 

These two get up in the morning and have a hankering to slide into the driver’s seat of boxy red and white American Red Cross blood delivery van. Both say volunteering as Red Cross Transportation Specialist is the perfect way to spend a day.

Williams and Brehony – both retired – are part of a team of 35 volunteer drivers who deliver life-saving blood, platelets, and other blood products to area North Carolina hospitals. This very successful program, based in Durham, is coordinated by Red Cross Transportation Coordinator Marci Allen. She thinks the world of her team and the valuable service they perform.

“Our drivers take their job very seriously,” Allen said. “It’s a bit of a solitary job, but they know they are really helping to save lives. That’s satisfying.”

The Red Cross collects and delivers about 40 percent of this country’s blood through paid couriers and volunteer drivers. Drivers must have a valid state driver’s license, proof of insurance, at least three years’ driving experience, and a clean driving record. They also must be in good physical shape and be able to lift 45 lbs.

J.P. Brehony

Volunteer Blood Transportation Specialist J.P. Brehony.

Williams drives three days a week, arriving at 8:30 a.m., prepared to drive until early afternoon. Some days he has a few local stops and a short shift. Other days he could drive up to 200 miles. Williams retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 35 years of driving — proudly logging one million miles during his career.

Williams said he doesn’t mind the solitude of the job. He listens to public radio as he drives and enjoys greeting the hospital blood bank personnel when he makes deliveries.

“I’ve been doing this for four years and people offer me jobs to drive for pay, but I like volunteering for the Red Cross. People respect the Red Cross. They think it’s all about disaster relief though, so I like them to understand how important these blood deliveries are,” Williams said.

Brehony also has a high regard for the Red Cross and enjoys driving one day a week while also working to be trained as a disaster relief volunteer.

After a long career building custom homes in Reston, Virginia, Brehony moved to North Carolina to be closer to family in Fayetteville and Cary.

“When Hurricane Irma hit I watched [the devastation] on TV and wanted to help. I got involved with the N.C. Baptists on Mission group and went to Florida to help with their mass feeding program. We served 30,000 meals a day for a couple of weeks,” Brehony said. “Red Cross partners with the N.C. Baptists on Mission group, and I was really impressed with their efficiency when I was in Florida. I knew that I wanted to do more disaster relief work.”

As he awaits those opportunities, he truly enjoys serving the community as a transportation specialist.

“The best part of this job is the sense of purpose I have as part of a healthcare team,” he said. “And I get to sing as loud as I like while I’m driving!”

To volunteer as a Transportation Specialist, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer, or contact Marci Allen at marci.allen2@redcross.org or call 919-316-0057.

Story by Susan Washburn/American Red Cross

 

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