ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Tuesday is Red Cross Heroes Day. It’s a time to celebrate the people in our community who give back and make the Stateline and the world a stronger place.

Dave Boyles has been a Red Cross volunteer for 8 years. He’s helped pick up the pieces following some of the most devastating natural disasters in the world. That’s what makes Dave a Red Cross Hero.

“I didn’t understand how cool it would be, and then once I retired I realized this is an awesome way to spend retirement. I was hooked,” said Boyles.

Dave Boyles answered to call to volunteer and at the American Red Cross the phone is always ringing.

“It’s kind of two ends of the spectrum, if you like sitting at a desk and doing techy type stuff, that works and if you like handing out water and greeting people, that works too,” said Boyles.

Boyles is a Byron nuclear plant worker turned Red Cross disaster response volunteer.

“You’ll get a call, and they expect you to be on a plane within 24 hours,” said Boyles.

He’s rushed to help families in California, Louisiana, and most recently, Oregon during the September 2020 forest fires.

“I drove our emergency response vehicle from here out there, which was a 30-hour drive… We would load meals into our response vehicle. We would drive to the location where we were housing the clients, deliver the meals to them, come back get everything cleaned up and ready for the evening run.”

Red Cross services are often the pinnacle of hope for families coping with destruction.

“When I was in Northern California, I’m driving through areas where there is literally nothing on the sides except foundations from houses that used to be there. And, when you see that gray countryside and those foundations, fear is not the word that comes to mind, it is just more, you just realize the devastation these families have gone through,” said Boyles.

“Getting folks from where their deepest, darkest hour has been, to when they move forward and those next steps, and to be a part of an organization that can help,” said Leslie Luther, the executive director for Northwest Illinois Red Cross.

Luther says there is nothing like helping others during times of crisis. It’s something she’s experienced first hand.

“It grounds me, it makes me really be appreciative of what I have, and the small things that we talk about that are really insignificant based upon what’s really happening,” Luther explained.

“We’re always asked to talk about how much it helps the people we’re helping, but it actually benefits us greatly as volunteers, as people,” said Boyles.

Working with the Red Cross can fit into almost any schedule. It can be as in-depth as deploying to the site of a natural disaster or a few minutes rolling up your sleeve to give blood.

Click here to donate.