I had mixed feelings, when the pandemic was declared,” says International Vice President Damian Petti. “As the Local 212 President and Vice President for the International, I watched all of my members become unemployed within 48 hours.”
Petti says it was in January when he first signed up to become a Red Cross volunteer, however he didn’t realize the urgency of being needed would happen so soon.
“I remember just completing my Red Cross training and thirty minutes later the phone rang,” he says. “The opportunity to volunteer for Red Cross happened in the same day. The timing was amazing.”
COVID-19 caused additional deployments,” says Petti. “Red Cross were depleting their volunteers new and experienced.”
Petti says he was appointed by International President Loeb to sit on the Response and Recovery Disaster Committee.
“The entire Red Cross experience would have never happened if I had not been appointed,” he added.
After receiving approval from his Local and the International, Petti was deployed for ten days as a virtual operations team ERT Responder for the Fort McMurray and Area Floods 2020 Response from May 6 to 15, 2020.
“Working as a Virtual Operations Team ERT Responder, I was able to aid others in need of food, lodging or mental health services,” says Petti. “I was working 40 hours a week. It can be a lot dealing with people who are emotional. I witnessed people roaming the streets with no food or homes, knowing they were starting their lives over. However, my volunteer experience was very fulfilling. The amount of gratitude was overwhelming. Being able to help people through the Red Cross was a rewarding experience for me.”
Petti admits the skills he learned while volunteering for the Red Cross, he was able to bring back to the IATSE Disaster Response Committee.
“I believe the skills I learned can be applied to Locals when helping their own members during any disaster,” he says. “My volunteer experience has helped me with my work with IATSE and prioritize the immediate needs for circumstance changes.”
“To be a leader of the union and making people’s lives better felt very natural because by being in the union that’s what you do,” Petti explained. “You help others recover.”
Petti says as the captain of IATSE ‘Every Plate Full Challenge’ he was very disappointed when the event was canceled due to COVID-19.
“My work with Red Cross really helped me to still fulfill those same efforts for ‘Every Plate Full Challenge’. My hope is that when things return to normal, the food drive will resume as well,” he added.
Petti strongly encourages Local members to help others in their communities and suggests Red Cross is one way you can start by helping.
“The IA really helps its members. Activism is one of our mandates and I truly felt like I was fulfilling one of my mandates,” Petti expresses. “I’m very proud of my union and volunteering for Red Cross was the perfect fit in my life and for the Red Cross organization.”