Omahan Darrell Henning spends a lot of time on the road, navigating traffic and weather to shuttle critical cargo across the Heartland. He doesn’t do it for payment – but for repayment. To Henning, volunteering with the American Red Cross (and securing over-achiever status in the process) is a way of saying thank you for services rendered.
“Everyone who does volunteer work has their own story,” Henning says. “My dad passed away in 2010. He had blood cancer and needed a lot of blood transfusions. I thought, ‘How can I give back for my dad?’”
Henning has been driving for the Red Cross for four years. Some of the time he shuttles supplies to Red Cross community blood drives and brings the life-saving collection back to the donation center in Omaha. He also drives blood products to hospitals-in-need across Nebraska and into Kansas and Iowa. Particularly powerful, for him, was a recent trip to York, Nebraska, where he learned his delivery was for a 2-year-old headed into surgery.
“Hopefully you’re helping to save someone’s life,” he says.
Service is something of a profession for Henning. A 35-year career in telecommunications ended in 2011 when the facility he was working in closed. His pension gives him the freedom to explore what he feels is his mission in life: “I like to serve people.”
Henning is an active member of St. John Vianney Catholic Church and its Knights of Columbus chapter. That’s how he first learned about the Red Cross driving opportunity – a couple of Knights were talking about it. Ever since applying and being accepted for the volunteer position, he’s been all-in.
“Darrell is one of our ‘go-to’ transportation specialists. He is always open to new jobs, is willing to talk about what we do to recruit new volunteers and is the epitome of dependable,” says volunteer manager Meghan Campbell.
More than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce nationwide is volunteer, according to external communications manager Samantha Pollard. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how volunteer-based the Red Cross is. Without volunteers, the Red Cross doesn’t exist.”
The Red Cross has 505 volunteers in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area and more are needed, she says, particularly as Disaster Action Team members, blood donor ambassadors who assist at blood drives and blood transportation drivers like Henning.
“If you can think of something that has to do with the Red Cross, there’s probably a volunteer position for you,” Pollard says.
Whether it’s driving for a non-profit or serving in some other capacity, Henning says, “You just have to see what your niche is and find something out there that’s going to satisfy you.”
For him, that’s getting behind the wheel of a Red Cross vehicle – and paying tribute to a humble, hard-working father.
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same. See more on omaha.com.