More than 150 West Point Volunteers Honored by American Red Cross

WEST POINT, N.Y.-- On Monday, the American Red Cross took time to say thank you.

"All of our volunteers touch every layer of every community by providing disaster relief services after fires, giving the gift of life by organizing blood drives," said Mary Young, CEO of the Metro New York North chapter of the American Red Cross. "They help teach in our community, and of course, support our military related activities."

More than 150 men and women serve selflessly as volunteers. Women like Darlene Johnson, who volunteers at Keller Community Hospital and has been with the Red Cross since 2008.

And Judy Audevard, founder of the Hudson Valley Paws for a Cause program. The pet therapy program helps those in need of emotional support, like special needs children or soldiers returning from war.

"I was that soldier in Afghanistan who lost brothers and sisters in combat," said U.S. Army Garrison Commander Col. Landy Dunham, "and reached out to an organization just like Paws for Cause to come and inspire my young soldiers to keep driving on."

Audevard, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for 10 years, was awarded the Jean McArthur Volunteer of the Year award. She says her involvement with the program began when she noticed what she calls the miraculous effect her dog Kizzy had on her mother who, after a stroke, was unable to talk or move her arm.

"I put him on her lap to take a picture and she started petting him," Audevard said. "I said to her, 'Mom, do you know what you're doing?' and she said 'I'm petting Kizzy.' She had not talked in two years; she hadn't talked sentences."

Audevard brings the pet therapy program to the West Point campus every Tuesday, working with cadets, children and families.

"The Red Cross truly could not fulfill its mission without our volunteers," said Young. "It's their energy and compassion and belief in our mission that makes it work."

The Red Cross says its volunteers serve as the backbone of the organization. Nationwide, they make up about 95 percent of its workforce.

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