“I’ve always been a water bug,” says American Red Cross of Alaska Board of Directors member Buddy Custard. He’s always been a Red Crosser as well, and the two identities have been long intertwined.
History with the Red Cross
As a Boy Scout attending first aid classes and a college student maintaining his lifeguard certification, Buddy first depended on the Red Cross for lifesaving education.
He then turned the tables during his 30-year career with the Coast Guard, serving as a First Aid instructor to Coast Guard personnel. It was during his time in the service that Buddy had a front-row seat to the vital work done by the Red Cross.
Coast Guard Days
From a Coast Guard command center in Virginia, Capt. Custard oversaw large humanitarian relief operations and was able to witness the Red Cross providing food, shelter, clothing, and clean water to those in need.
From hurricanes in the Southern United States and Caribbean to the earthquake in Haiti and flooding along the Mississippi River, service personnel on the ground related to Buddy how the Red Cross delivered necessary aid to devastated communities.
Home to Juneau
In 2010, Buddy and his wife Patricia moved back to Alaska. When they retired two years later, they decided to remain, having fallen in love with the state during their time in the service.
While working as Operations Manager and Emergency Response Superintendent with Shell Oil Alaska, Buddy was asked to present a Shell-sponsored Red Cross of Alaska’s Real Heroes award, and his interest in the Red Cross was rekindled.
“It’s a great organization. It’s that simple,” Buddy says, adding, “The Red Cross mission is just what I believe in.”
Red Cross Full Circle
Buddy now serves as secretary on the Red Cross of Alaska Board of Directors, and as a Juneau resident, he is one of three board members from Southeast Alaska.
Of representing his region, Buddy says, “I’m able to say ‘here are our unique concerns.’” A limited transportation infrastructure and a small population dispersed among remote villages are two factors leading to a different dynamic of aid distribution along the panhandle than in other parts of the state.
Now the President and CEO of the non-profit Alaska Maritime Prevention and Response Network, Buddy works to reduce the risk of marine casualties and oil spills. He is committed to the mission of the Red Cross, saying, “I want to see the Red Cross remain vibrant so that it can continue to provide its stellar service to all the communities of Alaska.”