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Claire Panek - Red Cross volunteer teaches others

April 23, 2006|By ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The names Clara Barton and Jean Henri Dunant might be at least passingly familiar to some, but to Claire Panek, those two members of the worldwide Red Cross movement serve to inspire her to be a volunteer.

Dunant, a Swiss businessman and philanthropist, founded the Red Cross after witnessing the horrors of war after a bloody battle in Italy in 1859. Barton brought the organization to America in 1881 following a trip to Europe. She led the organization until 1904.

"I love history," Panek said. "The more I learned about the organization, the more I admired it. It's an extraordinary organization."

A volunteer for the Berkeley County Chapter of the American Red Cross since moving from Massachusetts to Inwood, W.Va., a few years ago, Panek served as the chapter's Disaster Services chairwoman for two years, and continues to teach classes in the subject, as well as leading classes in CPR and first aid instruction. Panek also has taught classes in blood-borne pathogens, first aid for pets and baby-sitting.

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"I've been a teacher most of my life," she said. "I've always loved to teach and that's the aspect I got most involved in."

A former environmental educator with the Springfield Science Museum in Massachusetts, Panek said helping those who are in crisis situations and training those who will help others is another opportunity to serve.

"To be able to sit down with somebody in a crisis situation and know I can offer them real help to get them back to a normal life is very satisfying," Panek said. "It's very satisfying to know that I'm helping someone."

Panek was named Volunteer of the Year at the organization's annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in October, said Jon Jarrell, executive director of the Berkeley County chapter.

"She's a remarkable teacher," Jarrell said, adding that during the organization's training efforts following Hurricane Katrina last year, Panek trained 50 volunteers who later went to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region to provide disaster relief.

"She had people she was teaching every single day. She put in quite a few hours," Jarrell said. "She's been a very tireless volunteer for us over the years."

Q&A

Name - Claire Panek

Address - Inwood, W.Va.

Date of birth - Oct. 14, 1948

Occupation - Retired

Most notable achievement - Raising two wonderful children

Your proudest moment - My involvement in training volunteers who aided in relief efforts in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast following the devastation to those regions by Hurricane Katrina last fall.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - Jean Henri Dunant, who founded the International Red Cross, for his determination, compassion and humanity, which brought about changes that benefit the entire world.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - As far as the Red Cross, I'd like to continue to build our capacity to respond to disasters and help to ensure that the county is ready to meet not only everyday needs, but can also respond to unusual challenges such as a flu pandemic or a Washington, D.C., evacuation.

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