In less than five years Bellingham's Stacy Rice has gone from volunteer to executive director of the Mt. Baker Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Rice, 44, succeeded longtime executive director Maureen Enegren and assumed her permanent post in November. Rice served as interim executive director for three months after working three years as the chapter's emergency services director.
She grew up in Blacksburg, Va., and is a graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina, where she majored in Spanish and international studies.
Question: Stacy, what would you have said as a new Red Cross volunteer if someone told you that you would someday become executive director of your chapter?
Answer: I would never have expected that. But as emergency services director I could not have asked for a more supportive, encouraging and validating mentor than Maureen Enegren.
Q: So you feel well-prepared?
A: Yes, thanks to Maureen, our staff and our more than 350 volunteers. I've gotten to establish strong relationships with so many first responders in Whatcom and Skagit counties. We're nationally known for our volunteers. We like to say we're small but we're mighty!
Q: How did your previous work prepare you?
A: As an ordained minister at a nondenominational church before I came to the Red Cross, I learned much about meditation and what an amazing de-stressor meditation can be. I'm at my phone and pager 24/7, so meditation comes in so handy.
Q: What does the Red Cross emphasize?
A: We focus on disaster services, along with services to families involved in our armed forces and international services, such as efforts to trace people and a measles initiative. Much of our work in local disasters involves house fires or flooding. We really push preparedness. Our services to military families can be especially important because there is no military base in either Whatcom County or Skagit County.
Q: What do you remember about your first assignment?
A: It was a house fire in Ferndale at 3 a.m. I remember how excited I was to be able to help people, and then how sobering the experience was. This is one of the most rewarding jobs you can imagine - to see people on one of the worst days of their lives and to walk with them as they recover.
Q: How did your early adult life prepare you for this new challenge?
A: I was a Big Sister in college. I loved studying in Spain and Mexico. I love skiing and I worked at a resort in Breckenridge (Colo.) translating for guests from Latin America. I went back to Davidson for a while to work with student programs and leadership. Then I worked in Guatemala, focusing on public health issues. I founded a medical clinic when we saw the need.
Q: Is there room for more volunteers at the chapter?
A: Absolutely. We are 98 percent volunteer; we have only five employees. We always invite people to explore how many different types of volunteer opportunities we have. As for donations, 100 percent of our funding comes from our donors. We have a very generous community. We've met our $1 million yearly goals longer than I've been here.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.