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Carfora first in Rock County for Red Cross recognition

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Shelly Birkelo
January 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—As a volunteer client caseworker with the American Red Cross, Santo Carfora has given food, water and other basic necessities to those devastated by disaster.

The 67-year-old Janesville man has offered a caring ear, emotional support and connections to resources.

Helping gives a sense of satisfaction, he said.

“When you reach out, you actually receive more than you give in so many cases. You don't do it because you're looking for recognition,” he said.

But that's what has happened.

Carfora, who is an American Red Cross disaster responder and disaster instructor, was named the organization's December 2013 Volunteer of the Month for the western Wisconsin region.

The recognition program is only a couple months old, and Carfora is the first from Rock County to be selected, said Katie Gaynor, disaster program specialist.

“Santo shows such excellence as far as using his skills and qualities from his personal life and is compassionate with the clients and families he meets one-on-one with,” she said.

Carfora is a retired teacher and private consultant in human relations and diversity training. Gaynor said Carfora uses his leadership and teaching abilities to instruct other volunteers.

Carfora said volunteering accolades are humbling and nice, but he hopes his volunteerism will encourage others to become volunteer.

Gaynor agreed.

“Disasters happen all the time. We always have a need for trained volunteers so we can maintain our community response," she said.

The American Red Cross Western Wisconsin Region serves 44 counties, including Rock, Green, Jefferson and the communities of Whitewater and South Beloit, Ill. In 2013, its 971 trained volunteers responded to 275 disasters and helped 337 families.

Red Cross volunteer opportunities range from being a disaster responder to teaching CPR, Gaynor said.

Disaster assignments primarily involve responding to house fires and floods within local communities, she said. Yet many disaster volunteers, such as Carfora, are trained to travel to other parts of the nation to help with large-scale disasters.

Carfora trained in 2011 to become a local disaster volunteer for the Red Cross. In 2012, he became part of the disaster action team that responds to both local and national disasters.

Later that year, he was deployed to New York City to help folks uprooted by Hurricane Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

During his two-week stint, Carfora and other American Red Cross volunteers provided food, shelter, cleaning supplies and emotional support.

Carfora admitted it was emotionally difficult.

“People are really going through some emotional, stressful situations. It put tears in your heart,” he said.

That's why Carfora knew it was just as important to provide comfort in addition to filling the basic needs for disaster victims.

That's what makes him an outstanding volunteer, Gaynor said.

“He has those soft skills of compassion and understanding that are so critical in bringing comfort,” she said.



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