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Peggy Magnanelli is best known in DC for her role as a top-producing real estate agent; for the past 17 years, she has been a staple in the real estate community. Yet, her role in the community at large goes well beyond her role in real estate. She’s a mother, an avid community builder, and a staunch supporter of the American Red Cross.

Peggy’s journey with the Red Cross began after 9/11. She contacted the organization to give blood but discovered that she was unable to. “I wanted to help, so I called and found out that I could be trained to respond to disasters,” Peggy reflects. “I wanted to do something. But I also wanted to do something that would last, not just be immediate. So, I signed up, took the training, and signed on with a disaster action team.”

The American Red Cross
For 10 years, Peggy worked with victims of house fires. It’s a role that many aren’t aware that the American Red Cross takes on. “The American Red Cross is an international relief agency that is funded entirely on donations. They provide for immediate needs to victims of natural disasters like floods and wildfires, but locally, typically, they provide services for victims of house fires,” Peggy explains. Disaster action teams are designed to help with house fires. “[A team is available to respond] seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The disaster action teams’ objective is to take care of clients’ immediate needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. ”We typically will put the clients up in a hotel for three nights, give them money for clothes to get them through the next couple days, and money for food. We follow up the next day to help them with their plan for moving forward. If they don’t have insurance, we put them in touch with Social Services and Goodwill to help with the transition,” Peggy explains.

According to Peggy, 96% of all the money donated to the American Red Cross goes directly to the people who need help. While the American Red Cross does have paid staff, the majority of the work is done by volunteers.

Making a Difference
“When I responded to my first house fire, I was well-trained but not really sure how things would go,” Peggy reflects. ”It was gratifying to be able to help out this family in their time of need. People who have been through a house fire pretty much have a ‘deer in the headlights’ look. They are seeing possibly everything they own ruined. And honestly, they have no idea what to do next.”

It was 1:30 in the morning and 30 degrees out. Peggy and her team guided the family through the night, got them into a hotel room, and gave them a voucher for clothes and food. “We told them to call the office the next morning, when another volunteer would help with contacting their insurance company and a temporary place to live. One lady really just needed a hug and started to cry on my shoulder. After a minute, she was better and gave me a hug,” Peggy reflects.

It’s moments like these — opportunities to help in others’ time of deep need — that keep Peggy coming back to volunteer year after year. Peggy suggests that because the American Red Cross is run entirely off donations, the best way to help is cash donations. “And, in the case of a national disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, volunteers from across the country were sent to the Gulf coast to assist in sheltering and feeding the victims of the flooding,” Peggy adds. ”The donations pay for transportation, food, shelter, and all kinds of other needs as they come up.”

Just like in real estate, the most fulfilling part of Peggy’s work with the American Red Cross is in helping others. “The sense of satisfaction of being able to help someone at the worst time in their life, helping them see that there is a future and they will be able to recover [is what’s most fulfilling],” Peggy smiles.

For more information, please visit redcross.org.