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Kirtland Base Exchange Pharmacy: Red Cross volunteers making a difference

Pharmacy Nurse

Nancy Townsend, a registered nurse, volunteers at the Kirtland Air Force Base Exchange Pharmacy with the 377th Air Base Wing Medical Group, Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 3, 2020. Townsend volunteers eight to 10 hours, two days per week and is a member of one of largest Red Cross volunteer groups in the Albuquerque area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins) (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out Personally Identifiable Information on medications in the background.)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

As you walk into the east entrance of the Kirtland Air Force Base Exchange most days you will see a crowd waiting to pick up medication from the pharmacy.

Customers grab a number, have a seat and wait to be called. The pharmacy team, including members of the 377th Medical Group (MDG) Airmen, civilians and volunteers serve about 70,000 customers and fill nearly 210,000 prescriptions per year.

Volunteer Nancy Townsend, a registered nurse, greets everyone with a big warm smile and an immediate eagerness to help. Townsend has been volunteering with the Red Cross in medical related specialties for 42 years.

Her current Red Cross assignment is at Kirtland’s Exchange Pharmacy. Townsend volunteers on average about eight to 10 hours, two days per week. She is a member of one of largest Red Cross volunteer groups in the Albuquerque area.

She said the people she works with in the busy Exchange Pharmacy are all about helping people.

“The staff here, even though some of these folks are so young, they truly care about and are very dedicated to helping people in a lot of difficult situations,” Townsend said. “We just need to have that extra compassion and these people have such compassion. They try to help you whether you are active duty, reserve [or retired], everyone goes out of their way to help.”

Townsend has been through a total of 61 military moves as a military child and spouse. She has tried to volunteer at nearly every location, beginning when she was 13. She said the pharmacy stands out as a great place to volunteer. 

“It is a true pleasure to volunteer here, and I could not have said that about a lot of places I’ve been,” said Townsend.

Volunteering through the Red Cross at the 377th MDG gives people the opportunity to accumulate valuable experience and get training along the way. Based on her experience, Townsend said it provides career development and advancement.

“If anyone would like to come and volunteer that has compassion, we can use them,” she said, explaining that she also worked as a dental technician, nurse and volunteer when full employment as a military spouse was not always possible. “Even when I went back to working, I still volunteered. The blessing is that as you are going back and forth, you were given more consideration for jobs.”

Townsend believes potential employers see Red Cross volunteering as a deciding factor when looking at applicants, because it shows “dedication.”

“It’s a great way to start for kids in high school to come and do the Red Cross short training. They can do it online, come and volunteer and you [acquire] skills,” Townsend said.

Red Cross volunteers are referred to volunteer program managers in the MDG, they then go through training necessary to work within the military medical environment, from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to Personnel Reliability Program requirements.

Ultimately, volunteering at the MDG via the Red Cross is a great way to learn.

“I wish I could encourage people, because this group of people is very kind, understanding and willing to help teach,” she said. “We’ll take you for as little time as you want to give or as much time as you want to give.”

To begin your journey as a Red Cross volunteer, visit https://volunteerconnection.redcross.org/?nd=rco_opportunity_detail&opportunity_id=114067&postal_code=87108&return_nd=rco_opportunity_browse_list.