Not many people answer their true calling in high school.
But, in 1941, Genny Sheridan responded to a loudspeaker announcement for volunteers to help the American Red Cross roll bandages for World War II soldiers.
She was a high school junior living in Alexandria, where she was born and raised.
“I kept it up,” Sheridan said of her volunteer work — kept it up for 70 years and still going.
“The Red Cross office was a few blocks away from my house,” explained Sheridan, who over the years has managed health services for the Red Cross during hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Gustav.
Her touch has also been national: she has responded after tornadoes in Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, floods in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was kind of weird — being from Louisiana and getting off the airplane in New York City,” she said.
One of her most memorable assignments, however, was traveling to St. Louis during Midwest flooding, she said.
Sheridan was initially supposed to go for three weeks. She stayed for six months, until she saw that life was improving for local residents and they were returning home.
“I just felt so sorry for them,” Sheridan said. “You see the tears. You know some of them had nice places.”
Sheridan, who turned 85 in June, was honored for her 70 years of volunteer service with the American Red Cross at the Louisiana Capital Area chapter’s annual meeting held recently.
Sheridan earned her R.N. diploma at Mercy Hospital in New Orleans in 1951.
She moved to Baton Rouge after she married in 1952, and worked in pediatrics at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.
She took off eight years, and had two children four years apart, a daughter, Sylvia, and a son, Edwin.
She returned to work in 1965, working two and a half years at Greenwell Springs Hospital waiting for Earl K. Long to open. She stayed at EKL from 1968 until her retirement in 1986.
Sheridan raised her children during the day, supervised nurses at night and still found time to volunteer with the agency she loves.
Today, volunteering is her full-time calling.
She has a fold-up card that she carries in her purse, containing a log of most of the disasters she’s worked.
It was probably during her time in St. Louis that Sheridan met a woman whose daughter had drowned.
“I just let her cry on my shoulder,” Sheridan said.
When it was time for Sheridan to go home, the woman gave Sheridan a memento to thank her.
“I have a little angel (pin) I wear every day on my lapel,” Sheridan