Olivia Dennard loves to smile, loves to cook and loves to be there for others.
Recently Ken Garcia, regional director of communications for the American Red Cross’ Central and Western Oklahoma Region, shared insight into a few of their numerous volunteers.
Of Dennard, he said, “She is one of our most dependable and active disaster action team members, having responded to 12 calls so far this year. Her attitude is always bright and she leads by example. She is a role model in terms of her dedication and knowledge.”
And all of that can be traced to love — a love that is at least a couple generations deep.
Dennard, 64, of Oklahoma City, was born and raised in San Antonio. She describes her parents, Dan and Tillie Chapa, as “loving and giving people, helping anyone in need, especially children.”
They raised six children, but “with a loving heart we had room for one more when they adopted my brother Rene Chapa.”
“We learned by example that our blessings were bountiful and to give of ourselves to those in need,” Dennard said. “I witnessed my mother cooking extra food because homemade tortillas would surely bring someone in the neighborhood to the table.
“Anyone who knows me will tell you I love to cook for others.”
Again, Dennard just loves to be there for others.
“I decided to become a Red Cross volunteer and use my bilingual Spanish speaking skills to help my community,” she said. “It is very important to me not only to remain a part of my culture but also my nature to pay it forward.”
Disaster action team
Dennard is a member of the Red Cross’ disaster action team. These first responders to disasters such as house fires, apartment fires, wildfires, ice storms, snowstorms, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes assist “our clients with their immediate emergency disaster-caused needs and assist through their recovery period.”
“We also ... take care of our firefighters’ with beverages, food and snacks during fires and law enforcement during a standoff,” she said.
Dennard serves as an emergency response driver for the vehicle used in a disaster for mobile feeding in neighborhoods and rural areas. She is a mass care feeding manager, shelter manager and a disaster specialty training instructor.
Dennard is certified in CPR-first aid and conducts community disaster education presentations at senior centers, public libraries, schools, community health fairs and businesses.