by Riley Kaminer
Speaking with Gaenor Speed is an energizing experience. Her wide, welcoming smile radiates infectious positivity to all those lucky enough to be caught in its gaze.
This time, the smile has been triggered by a conversation about her first deployment as a Red Cross volunteer.
“That got me hooked,” Speed says, recalling her experience supporting disaster response efforts in Iowa merely six weeks after having joined as a volunteer.
Since then, Speed has been one of the most active volunteers in the Red Cross’ South Florida Region, having deployed almost 20 times in the last four years and logged tens of thousands of volunteer hours. She has held leadership roles in her local Florida Gulf Coast to Heartland Chapter and for the South Florida Region and touched countless lives through her service.
After spending the first part of her life in New South Wales, Australia, she spent forty years as a nurse in Panama. It’s there where she first came into contact with the Red Cross, in 1989.
Speed moved to Cape Coral, Florida in 2015 and at age 78 adopted her godson, becoming a first-time mother. In August 2016, while attending a workshop on sheltering during hurricanes, she met a Red Cross volunteer and asked how to get involved.
She’s been one of the South Florida Red Cross’ most active volunteers ever since. The approach Speed took to her first deployment was that, in her own words, “volunteers must be kind and understanding.” Now a veteran Red Crosser, she has become a living example of this belief.
Speed prides herself on acting as a mentor to new volunteers, especially those who are on a deployment for the first time. She has learned from her team leaders and mentors:
“I could never have wanted a better supervisory staff,” she says.
In her time at the Red Cross, Speed has given back to the community in a variety of roles. She is an expert at perhaps the most public-facing activity the South Florida Red Cross undertakes; sheltering. Speed has been a regional lead and supervisor for sheltering, on top of her regular duties as as heltering coordinator.
Speed still helps with sheltering efforts, but no longer undertakes leadership positions. Now, she primarily volunteers by hosting deployment workshops and screening potential volunteers.
When screening, she underscores the need for volunteers to uphold the values of the Red Cross at all times. She believes every volunteer is tasked with maintaining the organization’s impressive reputation. And few Red Cross volunteers uphold that reputation quite as well as Gaenor Speed.
As we enter a new year and set New Year’s Resolutions, consider becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross in South Florida and work with inspiring individuals like Gaenor Speed!
Whatever your interests or skills may be, there’s a volunteer position in the Red Cross that’s perfect for you! Learn more at redcross.org/sflvolunteer.