Clayton Resident Receives National Award

January 20, 2010
Red Cross Presents Volunteer With Presidential Commendation
On January 12, the American Red Cross Northern California Blood Services Region presented volunteer Virginia Cowen with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national honor offered in recognition of volunteer service.
Since 2006, Cowen has logged more than 400 hours of volunteer service with the Red Cross at the Contra Costa Blood Donor Center in Pleasant Hill, where she assists blood donors in the canteen after they’ve donated.
“[Cowen] arrives with a mission to make sure donors know how much they are appreciated,” said Mandy Lewis-Nakaya, volunteer services supervisor. “Many of our donors look forward to seeing her smiling face, and make it a point to donate [on the days when Cowen is there].”
Working in the canteen is an important responsibility. Not only do volunteers make sure donors drink plenty of fluids, eat snacks and rest for 15 minutes, but they also interact with and watch donors to ensure they are feeling well before allowing them to leave.
Cowen, a Clayton resident, began volunteering after she retired – at the request of her daughter, who also volunteers with the Red Cross. Cowen is at the donor center every Tuesday, and says it’s the donors who keep her coming back week after week.
“I’m a people person,” Cowen said. “I really enjoy interacting with the donors, and making their experience a little fun. I like joking with them.”
Cowen is so good at what she does that she’s often asked to train new volunteers – including high school and foreign exchange students.
“I guess I’m good at lighting a fire under them,” Cowen said. “I tell them to do what I do, and it gets them more involved with the donors.”
The President’s Volunteer Service Award is issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation on behalf of the President of the United States to recognize the best in American spirit, and to encourage all Americans to improve their communities through volunteer service.
For more information about volunteering for the Red Cross, please call Mandy Lewis Nakaya at 510-594-5211or e-mail her at
Schedule an appointment online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767).