Richard Wood pulled a piece of paper from his desk drawer to recall the exact year he began his work with the Red Cross, explaining he does not focus on himself very often. That will momentarily have to change as Wood celebrates his selection as the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient at the Dallas Red Cross Annual Awards on Thursday, June 27.
Working in the mental health field for 30 years, Wood found his ideal position as a volunteer for Disaster Mental Health at the Red Cross in 1994. While working with the community mental health department in Dallas at the time, Wood said Gov. Richards declared that MHMRs (Mental Health Mental Retardation workers) would work in disaster services to help the state.
“I took the training and we had a horrible tornado in Lancaster then, and I worked with the MHMRs and responded to the disaster,” Wood said. “I worked alongside the Red Cross members who were there working and said, ‘Oh, they’re doing it so much better than we were trained, so let me jump ship and start working with the Red Cross.’”
Wood said he liked the work the Red Cross was doing and it was much more organized than he was used to, leading him to decide to work with the Red Cross as a volunteer while keeping his job with the county.
Throughout his many years with the Red Cross, Wood said working with people in need of mental health services has been the most rewarding.
“The Red Cross has the program to help folks feel empowered about taking care of themselves and getting back to active participation in their life,” Wood said, “and providing support as needed and making referrals to places that might need to have longer term follow-up.”
He said he previously worked with chronic patients who had long-term, ongoing treatments with very slow recovery processes. Wood said, with the Red Cross, he was excited to do work, see changes and go on to a new task.
“We could see folks move on,” Wood said, “and we could move on ourselves.”
Today, Wood serves in an administrative role in the mental health department, which includes actively responding to disasters. He said he is grateful to the Red Cross for allowing him to continue his work after becoming disabled from a serious brain infection.
“I was actually supposed to not be able to work anymore,” Wood said. “At the Red Cross, I was actually able to continue the work I’m doing and be quite grateful I can continue to do that work on some level.”
After nearly 20 years of service to the Red Cross, being recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award was not an idea that had crossed Wood’s mind. He said he is both overwhelmed and surprised by the honor.
“I’m honored and humbled because I just think I’m kind of doing what I can do, and glad I can continue helping the community and help my team be better prepared to serve,” Wood said with a grin. “I wasn’t really looking for any kind of acknowledgement.”
The Red Cross uses volunteers of all kinds to make the mission of service to other possible. To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit us online at redcross.org.