By Stephanie Heckman, Red Cross Public Relations Intern
A native of Columbus, Peter Conrad has worked for the Red Cross of Central-Southeast Ohio for over 30 years or over half of his lifetime. After beginning his Red Cross career as a mobile assistant for blood services, he eventually began working for Community Transportation, his department of the past 14 years.
“I love everything I’ve done at the Red Cross,” he says. “You go home every day, feeling like you made an impact. It’s a great feeling.”
Conrad learned about job openings for the Red Cross back in 1984 through his aunt, a former Red Cross employee. He eventually left the Red Cross but did not let go of that part of his life. “I missed this place. It’s what I wanted to do,” he says.
One day, Conrad was reading the newspaper with his wife when he saw an advertisment for community transportation driver. “It was perfect. I had past driving experience with the mobile van and I knew the city very well which is a big plus when driving.”
After working as a community transportation driver for four years, Conrad was promoted to Transportation Specialist. His tasks include getting clients registered, scheduling trips, maintaining files, and sometimes driving clients when they are short-staffed. He works with the clients “one-on-one, drive with them, listen to the great, great stories they have to tell.”
“People need us,” Conrad says. “We go anywhere in Columbus. If someone’s appointment is in [the Greater Columbus area], we can go.” The Red Cross serves the Columbus cancer clinics, with clients as young as three months old. With the exception of cancer patients, other clients must be 60 or older to qualify and the majority are in their 70s and 80s.
Conrad also has volunteered at telethons to fundraise after disasters, through reperesented the Red Cross at health fairs and donating blood at the urging of his daughter. He enjoys being around the clients, working with seniors and helping others.
Conrad says that he still has to drive clients once a week to help fill shifts. “We’re in desperate need of drivers right now,” he says. “If we have more volunteers, we could do more. Nearly 99% of the client applications are accepted. Once they get signed on, they want their rides but we only have a few spots to fill.”
One of Conrad’s most memorable clients was Elizabeth Ingram, “also known as Momma Lizzie” who volunteered with the Red Cross in the 1990s. “She was helping the community, helping young girls who had a hard time. We developed a really great friendship but fell out of touch during the years. One day I got a call and it was her,” Conrad remembers. Momma Lizzie relied on the community transportation program during her last years, during which she and Peter renewed their friendship.
Conrad says that Madeline Knill, a Community Transportation employee for the last year, “is a wonderful asset.” After working for accounting for 10 years and for CTP for nearly a year, May 3 was her last day before retirement. Conrad says that after Knill retires, she plans to volunteer with the department every Thursday because she “loves being around the clients and volunteers.”
“It takes a special person to give their time and show compassion,” he says. “All of our volunteers are special.”
If you would like to become a volunteer driver or volunteer in another department, please search for positions through our website.