Randy Allison Finds Joy in Volunteering with Veterans
By Ashley Peterson-DeLuca
If you’re at the Iowa City VA Medical Center and you need a wheelchair ride to your appointment, a sample sent down to the lab or just a friendly chat, for 16 years and counting Randy Allison has been there to help. This past fiscal year alone he logged 499 Red Cross volunteer hours as a patient escort.
“I don’t consider it a lot of time. It’s nice to have something to do,” says Allison. “You get a bit of exercise and you get out to meet people. It is better than sitting at home in the living room.”
After he retired from working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in materials services, Allison was looking for something to keep him busy. During his first year with the Red Cross, he served on the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT), getting calls in the middle of the night to respond to fires and such. But, when he learned from a speaker at a Red Cross event that volunteering at the VA was an option, he thought it would be a good fit for him.
“I like to chat with the patients and ask how they’re being treated or where they’re from,” says Allison. “Patients can be in there for something serious and I like to put them at ease.”
With is his calm, friendly demeaner, he’s a comforting presence for patients who are navigating a potentially stressful experience. He’s a veteran too, making it easy to relate to patients. He served overseas in the Air Force during the 1960s.
He's enjoyed his experience volunteering at the VA, saying: “You get to know people from all walks of life. It is always interesting.”
Allison easily injects gentle humor into conversations, getting smiles out of the staff, volunteers and patients.
“Everyone kids each other, like Marines versus Army. Everyone boasts about their service. It’s a lot of fun,” he says.
When not volunteering with the Red Cross, Allison likes to travel. Recently he took a week off, hopping in the car to explore the natural beauty of Wyoming.
“The VA is a really good place to volunteer because you have a lot of flexibility," Allison says. "The number of hours you put in are up to you. Plus, everyone gets along well.”
To learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities near year, including serving active duty or veterans, visit redcross.org/volunteer.