By EILENE E. GUY
American Red Cross volunteer
AKRON, July 28, 2016 – “Oso” the toy monkey reported for duty at the American Red Cross operations center in Akron, alongside disaster responders in connection with the Republican National Convention in nearby Cleveland.
Oso is a veteran Red Cross volunteer. “She’s been to one disaster in Indiana, three in Kentucky, one in Wenatchee, Washington, a flood in South Carolina and hands-on training sessions all over,” said Jim Aldridge, Oso’s “service human.” (Without him, Oso is mobility challenged.) Aldridge was one of several dozen volunteers who geared up, just in case anything happened in connection with the RNC that created a need for Red Cross services.
Photo credit: Mary Williams, American Red Cross
When Oso wasn’t peeking out of a pocket on the front of Aldridge’s bright red Red Cross vest, she was relaxing at the Disaster Services Technology desk, where Aldridge – an 18-year disaster responder from Lowell, Ind. – helped keep the response communications and computer networks operating.
Oso was born in Manitoba, Canada, lime green polyester fur with yellow felt paws and face. She joined Aldridge in 2014 as he finished a challenging assignment in Oso, Washington. “I had always been goofy in the Red Cross,” Aldridge admitted, so when a fellow Red Crosser handed him the long-limbed monkey, he took her on as his traveling companion.
Oso thrives on a high-octane disaster diet: “She loves Nutter Butters,” Aldridge said with a grin. And she’s been spotted hugging a cup of lukewarm Red Cross coffee.
Aldridge is pleased that his buddy’s never-failing smile lifts the spirits of disaster victims and Red Cross responders alike. She has followers across the country on an on-line Red Cross users group. “Oso, where are you, you little squirt,” a fan asked recently.
Now, Oso and Aldridge can add preparedness for the 2016 RNC to their joint Red Cross resume.