Norma Perlstein, American Red Cross
Berkeley resident Norma Perlstein, 94, has been volunteering for the Red Cross since 1942.

On any given Tuesday, Berkeley resident Norma Perlstein can be found at the front desk of the American Red Cross‘ blood donation center in Oakland.

The 94-year-old has been volunteering for the Red Cross since 1942, when she signed up as a first aid instructor. In the 70 years since, she’s received signed certificates of recognition from presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

This week, National Volunteer Week, the organization took a moment to recognize Perlstein for her lifetime of service.

Perlstein is a relatively recent transplant to Berkeley, where she moved in 2011. One of the first steps she took to get acquainted with the area was to sign up to volunteer with her local Red Cross. The organization said she’s been a model of dedication and reliability, volunteering at the registration desk and in the canteen at least once a week.

“I just love being here; and I think it is part of my responsibility to be of service to others,” Perlstein said, in a statement released by the Red Cross. “My parents were always philanthropic and ready to help others in need.”

Over the years, Perlstein has volunteered in many ways: as a nurse’s aide, on a board of trustees, through administrative work and more. And her efforts led to numerous awards and honors in her former home state of Connecticut. Perlstein also has been recognized for her assistance with Red Cross disaster relief efforts during the 2005 hurricane season, the storms of 2007 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“The Red Cross has always been a part of my life,” Perlstein said. “The mission and purpose of the Red Cross was appealing. And the people I met – both volunteers and staff – were remarkable.”

Norma Perlstein, American Red Cross
Perlstein’s efforts have led to numerous awards and honors in her former home state of Connecticut.
Perlstein’s efforts have led to numerous awards and honors in her former home state of Connecticut.

Volunteers constitute approximately 94 percent of the American Red Cross workforce and play an integral role in its life-saving mission, according to a statement from the organization.

“We could not accomplish what we do without people like Norma,” said Anne Blackstone, Red Cross volunteer coordinator, in a statement. “By helping every donor feel welcome, comfortable and appreciated, volunteers encourage donors to come back and donate again, and our local blood supply depends on repeat donors.”

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit or

The Red Cross is actively seeking more volunteers to support local blood drives throughout Alameda County. Please contact Anne Blackstone at 510-594-5165 or for more information.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...