OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz ’15 | October 2013
Mr. Patrick Belcher, Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Yorktown, Virginia is a community partner that came to the Red Cross with close to 20 years of professional sales experience as his background. While being involved in sales was interesting and engaging work, it did not compare to being able to utilize the skills he acquired to make an impact in the community today. In his words, fundraising is a kind of sales but it differs in that when you are asking for money, you are helping so much more than just the person selling the product. He spoke of his other role: that of being a father to his eight-year old son, and how he takes great pride in being able to share how he helped changed someone else’s life at the end of the day. Here we take a closer look at exactly how Mr. Belcher’s work is helping to change lives in the community, and how students at the College can get involved as well.
Office of Community Engagement: Tell us about your role in the community.
Patrick Belcher: I am affiliated with the Red Cross, and as an organization we have two mandates that we strive to achieve. The first is to be the second responders to any disaster. The second is to serve armed forces families that are in need, to provide a sense of community between soldiers and their families. We provide about 80% of the blood used in hospitals in Hampton Roads. A lot of people don’t know that roughly every two seconds, someone needs blood. There is always a high demand for blood, but because it has a short shelf life, more donations are always needed and appreciated.
OCE: What role do W&M students play at the Red Cross?
PB: The students help organize and run extremely successful blood drives. Current President Meg Weichers is working on ways to expand community disaster education. There are various fundraising efforts as well, but the club itself wants to do much, much more.
There are so many great talents on this campus, and we want to capture as much of those talents as we can. We may or may not have a fierce winter this year, and there are a lot of things to be thought of. W&M does a great job of giving back to the community. The [Campus] Rec community does first-aid and CPR training for the W&M community at a very low cost.
OCE: What benefits does your organization derive from working with William & Mary students?
PB: There is nothing like the ability to understand the fact that donating a pint of blood saves three lives. William and Mary students are super motivated. Whether it’s about corporate philanthropy or building connections, the Red Cross provides so many skills that fill out the details of your resume. There are many things that you can be aware of at Red Cross. Even projects that don’t directly impact the immediate community can make a difference, such as organizing a card signing to wish soldiers well during the holidays.
OCE: How does your organization help educate student volunteers about community needs?
PB: The Red Cross is an international organization. Being associated with it gives you access to worldwide information. In every community, we can see mirror images of ourselves. The tragedies that happen gives us a story, and they tell us how we need to prepare for a future disaster. We can know and share stories: for example, a lot of people in the Jersey shore probably never thought they would have to worry about their lives changing so suddenly. Now, disaster emergency plans are priorities of most families along the East coast of America.
OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?
PB: To me, active citizenship means understanding that one person can make a difference. The Red Cross provides all kinds of these opportunities. Donating one pint of blood saves three lives. Even skills learned from first aid and CPR courses can drastically change the course of someone’s life. A friend of mine was once at a barbecue when a baby girl suddenly began having a seizure – there were twelve people there and he was the only one who knew how to react and he did so immediately. How many people can say that they drastically altered the course of someone’s life?