Former US Army Reserve Uses Talents to Assist Those Affected by Natural Disasters

After 34 years of serving the country in the US Army Reserves, Max Oleson decided to use his skills to directly help people at home suffering from natural disasters. His passion, selfless acts of kindness and countless hours of volunteering have led him to be named the 2012 From the Heart Hero for the American Red Cross.  

For nearly 11 years, Oleson has volunteered with the American Red Cross in their Disaster Services and Blood Services departments. Having first donated blood in college, he was drawn back to the Red Cross to assist in the devastation he saw caused by the elements throughout the country—9/11 was his first disaster response and he has also aided in the relief efforts for Katrina, the Texas flooding, California wildfires and many of the deadly tornadoes affecting the nation.

Oleson acknowledges that natural disasters cause destruction to property, but that can be rebuilt. “The real damage is hurting people, physically, emotionally, and financially … and the loss of life,” he says. Oleson believes strongly in the mission of the American Red Cross, which brings together diverse and highly skilled teams, completely free. “With over 25 specialties and services available to assist people, the American Red Cross brings the best of America to people in their worst time.”

Support from his own family gives Oleson the strength to continue volunteering in the hardship areas he’s been to, often deployed for weeks at a time. Oleson doesn’t desire a paycheck either; just the look of gratitude in a person’s eyes is all he needs. Yet Oleson does take the time to show appreciation for other volunteers. He attends local blood drives and thanks donors for their gift.

Embodying the spirit and selflessness of the organization, Oleson believes his years in the Reserves gave him a clear understanding of how government agencies function that has allowed him to thrive at the Red Cross. In his position as a Government Liaison Officer, he can organize, create and sustain relationships with agencies such as FEMA, State Emergency Management, and all local and municipal appointees.

Oleson encourages others to become involved at the Red Cross because its various services are in need of volunteers with a wide range of skill sets. “The respect and gratitude they will receive from our communities and nationwide is both awesome and humbling.”

Oleson and others will be honored at the Red Cross’s 15th Annual Real Heroes Celebration. The event occurs on Saturday, May 19th at 5:30pm at the home of Dr. Craig Samitt. Contact Stephanie Wallace at Stephanie.wallace@redcross.org for tickets and visit Arcbadger.org for more information.

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