Hilo woman honored by Red Cross for volunteer work

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Niralyn Hocson first began her work with the Red Cross in 2014.

As a volunteer with the American Red Cross, Niralyn Hocson of Hilo is ready to help.

Because of her work, Hocson was recently recognized as one of seven “Volunteer of the Year Heroes” from the state of Hawaii.

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She was honored with the other six at the 2019 Heroes Breakfast on March 16 on Oahu, and recognized separately on the Big Island on April 13.

Hocson’s work with the Red Cross began in 2014.

When Tropical Storm Iselle hit Puna that year, Hocson began making donations to the Red Cross — water and whatever else was needed.

“I just supplied it, drove out to Pahoa, and dropped it off.”

A friend suggested she join as a volunteer, so she did.

Hockson, 42, has been a Red Cross volunteer for three years now and is currently Hawaii sheltering lead for the organization.

“I signed up and did online classes,” she said, and thereafter began installing smoke alarms on the Big Island and assisting locally when there were fires.

As a volunteer, she first deployed to Puerto Rico after the Caribbean island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. She helped distribute food, water, tarps and other items to those affected by the disaster.

“It was nerve wracking,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but they do prepare you for whatever happens. I kind of went with that, and I stayed for five months.”

Her volunteer efforts brought her closer to home last year, when the Kilauea volcano eruption began May 3 in Leilani Estates.

She was first just a “regular volunteer,” called to work on May 3, but eventually became the night manager supervisor at the emergency shelter established at the Pahoa Community Center for those who had to evacuate.

She sometimes worked six days a week, 12 hours a day.

“It’s just my island,” Hocson said. “… After seeing Puerto Rico, this is my island, and I’ve got to help my island.”

It was hard to see the residents sad and confused, she said, “but I tried to cheer them up and give them love and support the best way I know how.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Nira for all that she does for the Red Cross and the warmth and compassion she provides to those in need,” said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, CEO of the American Red Cross of Hawaii. “She is a shining example of humanitarian at its best. We are so proud to honor Nira as our Big Island Volunteer of the Year!”

Hocson said she was happy to be recognized.

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“I was just shocked because it was only three years (as a volunteer). I really was shocked.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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