During her years as an American Red Cross volunteer, Ida Swartz responded to 51 disasters, providing comfort to those in need. So, when she faced a crisis of her own, she knew exactly what to do.
Swartz is a resident of Brightview Senior Living in Perry Hall, Md.
“I love it. I’ve been here almost three years now,” she says.
Swartz grew up in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and was the first in her family of eight siblings to graduate from high school. She took a job with the local Board of Education and spent her free time working for the Red Cross:
“I responded to fires in the middle of the night. Usually, I was alone. I drove a big Buick, and all I had to do to be safe was to find a group of men that was sitting down on the steps like they all do, and they loved my old big Buick. And so I say to them, ‘Watch my car for me.’ I was in the Red Cross uniform, so they knew that I was there. And I said to them, ‘Would one of you walk me down to the fire?’ and, of course, they did.”
One day, shortly before her retirement, Swartz took a shopping trip to Pennsylvania with three friends. When she returned to her Baltimore home, she was greeted by a familiar, yet terrifying sight.
“I drove around the very last, last corner to my house,” she says. “I stopped the car, I looked at my house. In front of my house were three fire trucks. My own house was on fire!”
Thankfully, most of the fire damage was contained to the living room, where a water heater overheated beside the chimney.
“We saved the house,” Swartz says. “We built a little living room… in the garage.”
Despite her troubles, Swartz continued her work with the Red Cross, helping those whose homes were no longer livable. She remembers a key conversation with her supervisor:
“My boss was talking to me one day, and he said, ‘How can you possibly be responding on here locally?’ And I said, ‘You know what? It made me realize how important Red Cross was to these people that lost everything, and they had to start over, where I didn’t have to do that.'”
“Life is helping people,” she says. “Life is loving.”