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Force for Good: Meet Colin Chaperon

Fri, 05/20/2022 - 15:26

Seven years ago, American Red Cross worker Colin Chaperon deployed to Ukraine to support a cash voucher assistance program. He’s once again packing his bags and heading to the region to support the current Ukraine crisis.

This time, he’ll serve as the head of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ response based in Budapest, Hungary. Colin says he’s excited and that he and his colleagues within the Red Cross Movement view themselves as a new generation of operational leaders who stand ready to meet the moment’s complex challenges.

“As humanitarians, our goal is to alleviate human suffering, and through our work at the Red Cross, we are honored and privileged to be entrusted with this responsibility,” he said.

In his regular day-to-day role, Colin is a member of the International Services department, leading the Red Cross’ global COVID-19 response as well as international disasters in Africa. In this way, he works with Red Cross and Red Crescent partners within the movement to support emergencies such as earthquakes, droughts and health epidemics and pandemics, including COVID-19. He and his colleagues work to advocate for and leverage humanitarian assistance for disasters around the world.

“We exist as part of a global community. We are surrounded by people from the diaspora of various countries within our own communities and those communities are diverse in terms of socioeconomics, culture and religion, we are more connected than ever before,” Colin said.

Colin says to do international work well empathy is key. “Often, people have lost everything, including loss of hope. I think that’s what the Red Cross is able to re-instill in their hearts in a renewed sense of hope — in those early hours, days, weeks and sometimes months following a disaster,” he said.

Colin grew up in Zimbabwe, where his first exposure to the Red Cross was in the 1970s and 1980s when neighboring Mozambique was at civil war. As many Mozambicans sought refuge in Zimbabwe, he was inspired to see how the Red Cross supported people in need.

Years later, following his studies, he immigrated to the U.S. and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally. “All I knew is that I wanted to do something internationally,” he said.

He started as a Red Cross volunteer in Gainesville, Florida and relocated to Arlington, Virginia, just before September 11, 2001. After the attack on the Pentagon, Colin got involved as a disaster volunteer assisting with the overnight shifts and then worked at the local chapter. Since 2006, he’s worked in international services focusing on disaster response.

“I guess you could say my work has followed the theme of local to global,” he said with a laugh.

Over the years, Colin has deployed both domestically across the U.S. and more than 20 times supporting response operations across the world — including roles in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Having been born and raised in southern Africa, and having worked across diverse cultures and religions, Colin says he appreciates the inherent power of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together. He considers himself to be a connector of people — and lives his life following the African proverb that says, “go alone, go fast — go together, go far.”

For Colin, there are three key components of international disaster response — equity, complexity and flexibility. He stresses that today, more consideration is given to equity — aiming to help the most vulnerable — not just in the Red Cross Movement but in humanitarian work overall.

“It’s not that everybody gets the same slice of the cake,” he said. “It’s that the person who’s the most vulnerable, perhaps qualifies to receive a bit more assistance, a bit more of the cake, because that would, in turn, help them, alleviate their suffering and increase their coping mechanisms.”

Colin says that the complexity of international disasters requires patience and flexibility. “There’s a push in our society to want to solve complex problems instantly. The challenge for humanitarians is to take these nuanced and multifaceted challenges and offer robust and dynamic solutions,” he said.

“If you’ve ever been to a disaster, you know you have to be flexible,” he added. “The situation on the ground changes, the needs change and we often need to work together to fund the best solutions possible.”

This story is part of an American Red Cross Force for Good blog series, featuring dedicated Red Cross workers whose exceptional contributions to our humanitarian mission enable us to help and support people in communities across the country.

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Force for Good: Meet Travis Moore

Tue, 05/17/2022 - 08:15

Meet Travis Moore, a team supervisor at the American Red Cross Rock Hill Apheresis Integrated Fixed Site located in the Greater Carolinas Region. In his role, he oversees the operations of a blood and platelet collection site, where his team helps ensure blood donors have a successful and pleasant donation experience.

“I lead a team of great and talented staff,” said Travis. “I’m responsible for donor care and interaction as well as providing a great workplace for my staff, and a world-class donor experience for our donors.”

Before Travis became a Team Supervisor, he was a Collections Technician, fulfilling an integral role in our organization by collecting lifesaving blood donations from volunteer donors and ensuring they have the best experience possible. Now, he manages and directs all aspects of the blood and platelet collection operation.

In addition to balancing production, customer service and compliance at the Red Cross, Travis is also an accomplished musician who has played drums for 33 years and currently plays at Rockwell AME Zion Church in Charlotte, N.C.

A fun fact about Travis is he’s a New York native who now resides in Charlotte with his wife of 12 years and two children.

While the pandemic has brought its challenges, Travis knows firsthand the enormous impact he and other frontline Red Cross workers have made in helping prevent and alleviate human suffering.

“It’s extremely tough trying to care for our donors with the same world-class professionalism while providing them with an inclusive donation experience that our donors are used to and ensuring safety protocols are in place,” said Travis. “Yet, without a shadow of a doubt, it’s extremely rewarding and humbling.”

From personal experience, Travis also knows how important blood donors are to people who need their lifesaving donations.

“Last year, my mother received four units of blood from the Red Cross,” he said. “Without donors providing those donations that are critical for patients in need, the Red Cross would not be able to provide or meet their lifesaving needs.”

Whether working side-by-side with his collections team members to complete procedures, packing donations for testing, running a blood drive, or driving a bus, Travis goes above and beyond to support his “energetic” and “goal-driven” team and to be a force for good.

“I’ve been with the Red Cross for six and a half years,” said Travis. “Just knowing that what I do on a day-to-day basis has yielded this type of recognition is humbling.”

This story is part of an American Red Cross Force for Good blog series, featuring dedicated Red Cross workers whose exceptional contributions to our humanitarian mission enable us to help and support people in communities across the country.

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Force for Good: Meet Dr. Inge Guen

Fri, 05/06/2022 - 07:38

“Pablo Picasso said, ‘Art brushes away from our soul, the dust of everyday life.’” – Dr. Inge Guen

Meet Dr. Inge Guen, a clinical psychologist and leader of the Creative Arts Program of the American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) unit at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. For the past 14 years, Dr. Guen has poured her heart and soul into her work to support wounded warriors recovering from their injuries.

She views her role as simple — to heal the soul, and she does so through art therapy.

Art therapy is one of the many programs the Red Cross offers to provide vital comfort, recovery and health care to service members, veterans and their families. Around the world, the Red Cross works with military and VA hospitals and clinics to provide a variety of services including rehabilitation therapy, morale-building activities and resiliency programs.

In these art therapy classes, Dr. Guen provides injured service members a blank canvas, where they are told to paint something. She finds that many of them are hesitant at first in knowing how to express themselves through art.“So many of our patients say, ‘I’m not an artist, I don’t know what to do. I could make everything wrong.’ I say, ‘no.’ Look at Pablo Picasso, he distorts the face totally and it is still perfect,” she said.

“After one hour, you have no idea the beauty they can create. Their self-esteem rises, and the interaction among the patients becomes intimate and personal. They are laughing with one another and after one hour, we’ve brought sunshine into their heart.”

Dr. Guen first joined the Red Cross at the request of her son, K. Peter Guen, who served as a Red Cross volunteer, providing pastoral services at Walter Reed. “He said to me, ‘Mommy, please come, and look at these incredible soldiers. They need your help. They need your love. They need your support,’” Dr. Guen recalled.

In 2018, Peter fell ill and unexpectedly died of cancer. Dr. Guen says that she’s privileged to walk on what she calls the sacred ground of Walter Reed and help injured services members in the name of her son. “I guess you could say that this is a family business. I continue this work in honor of my son’s legacy,” she said.

Today, a picture of Peter hangs on the wall in the Traumatic Brain Injury unit at Walter Reed. Dr. Guen says that after his death, she learned so many wonderful stories from patients and staff about his kindness. She said that each day she wakes up inspired by Peter’s legacy and the strength of the wounded warriors she’s serving.

“I’m surrounded by single, double and triple amputees. I’m surrounded by blind soldiers. I’m surrounded by soldiers who only have part of their brain left, who are struggling. The amazing thing is that they do not complain,” Dr. Guen said.

She said that her patients carry their wounds like a badge of honor. “This touches me so much that I have to stay and be a part of this program,” she said. With her work, she hopes to bring a bit of sunshine to these warriors.

“I want to bring that light into their hearts,” she said. “Our patients are fighting a war, not against the foreign enemies, but against the challenges they have to meet physically and mentally. Even though our patients are warriors and soldiers, they are also sensitive people. They have seen devastation. The pain is still there. The Red Cross comes in and embraces them and their pain. They come in and do everything to make these patients feel happy and relaxed,” she added.

This year, Dr. Guen was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to the Red Cross. She hopes that she can give other people encouragement to serve with the organization. “You can be 20 or 75, age has nothing to do with your ability to give back,” she concluded.

This story is part of an American Red Cross Force for Good blog series, featuring dedicated Red Cross workers whose exceptional contributions to our humanitarian mission enable us to help and support people in communities across the country.

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Knitting Together for a Cause

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 14:49

Originally published on the American Red Cross Illinois Region’s blog.

Winter hats and mittens. These are necessary items during the cold weather months that can sometimes be taken for granted. However, a group of American Red Cross volunteers in the Quad Cities do not take these items for granted. They are dedicated to using their talents for the good of other people and have spent countless hours knitting items together for children and military families who need them.

The knitting group meets weekly in Moline and got its start in 2011. The group donates an average of 200 sets of handmade mittens every year and, in total, these ladies have made and donated more than 2,000 sets of knitted items since 2011. The mittens and hats are provided to military members and their families through the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

“Hats, gloves, and scarves are distributed at stand-down events for homeless veterans, helping them to stay warm throughout the winter. These knitted items not only provide physical comfort for our veterans but also the personal touch of showing them that someone cares,” said Crystal Smith, regional director of Red Cross Service to Armed Forces & International Services.

Carol Van De Walle has been there since the beginning. She helped form the group and is glad to see it has continued through the years, even during the pandemic when they have met virtually on Zoom meetings or outdoors. None of the people in the group knew each other before joining, but consider each other good friends now.

“I think the camaraderie of the people is what I enjoy the most. In our group, we just enjoy each other a lot and we’re very supportive of each other. We have very talented people, and we have beginners. It’s a very accepting group. I really enjoy having that connection, it has been very rewarding,” she said.

Carol and her fellow group members have worked with the Rock Island Arsenal in recent years, sending their handmade items to be distributed to military families. Items ranging from lap blankets to dishcloths to pet accessories, which all have been graciously donated through the years.

“We feel like we’re helping our community and that’s important to all of us.” – Carol Van De Walle 

Carol has been a Red Cross volunteer for 20 years, formerly serving on our disaster team. She loves giving her time and is thankful to still have the opportunity to do so.

“This is something I can do to still contribute. What’s nice about the Red Cross is there’s something for everybody. When you’re young and strong you can do some of the things and when you’re not, there’s other things you can do and you can still be useful and helpful to your community and the Red Cross in general,” she said.

Trish Burnett, our executive director for the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter, has worked with these dedicated volunteers for many years and appreciates the efforts they make on a regular basis.

“Carol and the group of volunteers who selflessly give their time to knit these items by hand show true kindness and generosity, again and again. They are dedicated to serving members of the military, the Red Cross and the community and we are very appreciative of their continued efforts,” she said.

This month, we celebrated the knitting group for their efforts during a reception in their honor. Please join us in thanking this team of dedicated volunteers for all they do!


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Force for Good Blog: Meet Vicki Kavitsky

Fri, 04/22/2022 - 07:27

Meet Vicki Kavitsky, a Biomedical Services team member who works with the American Rare Donor Program in Philadelphia. As part of the national program, Red Cross workers like Vicki search across the country to find donors with rare blood types that are compatible for patients who need those rare blood donations for treatment.

For Vicki, helping other people is something she learned from her family, specifically her mother. Growing up, Vicki’s mom, Donna Kavitsky, worked at the Red Cross as the director of her local region’s Immunohematology Reference Laboratory, which screens blood donations for rare antigens. Witnessing her mother’s work inspired Vicki to make her career a force for good too.

“I became interested in working at the Red Cross because I learned at a very young age about giving back and helping others,” she said.

Vicki also learned about the challenges that some hospital patients face when it comes to finding blood donors who are compatible with them. “I learned that some of these patients have very rare blood types and sometimes it is difficult to locate blood for them,” she said. “That made me really want to help them fight their disease and live a long and healthy life.”

Vicki’s passion for helping others also led her to become a blood donor. “As soon as I became eligible, I rolled up my sleeve and would donate a pint of blood when I could. Even though I am not a rare donor, I’m still helping someone in need of a blood transfusion.”

Following in the footsteps of her mother’s 40-year career with the Red Cross has been a dream for Vicki, who started working at the Red Cross in 2010 in the Donor and Client Support Center. There, she held a few different roles until 2019, when she joined the American Rare Donor Program team.

“This is where I see many of those patients who have rare blood types,” said Vicki, “and I get to search all over the country and outside the U.S. for blood in order for them to get their treatments.”

Working closely on patient cases has made Vicki aware of how critical her work is. “It’s very rewarding to finally find people the blood they desperately need,” she said.

What Vicki loves most about her work is making a difference. Now having worked for the Red Cross for 12 years, she continues to be motivated each day to help the patients in need of specific and rare blood donor matches.

“Knowing that I had a hand in the search and giving those patients a chance to keep fighting every day is what brings a smile to my face and a desire to continue to help those in need,” she added.

This story is part of an American Red Cross Force for Good blog series, featuring dedicated Red Cross employees whose exceptional contributions to our humanitarian mission enable us to help and support people in communities across the country.

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Blood Drive Battle: How One Red Crosser Teamed Up with Red Cross Clubs to Support a Vulnerable Blood Supply

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 12:25

When the American Red Cross announced a national blood shortage crisis in January, Red Cross volunteer Sujai Jaipalli responded by hosting a blood drive battle between three schools in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. Here’s how he made helping save lives during a critical time a team effort.

How the Blood Drive Battle Materialized

Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sujai saw how successful the University of Michigan (UMich) and The Ohio State University (OSU) were in incorporating friendly competition and uniting different communities for a key purpose. They held an event leading up to their annual football game at UMich, that OSU willingly supported. It was this comradery that inspired Sujai to come up with the blood drive battle. “I thought it would be a good idea to mobilize the colleges around my region to also make a difference.”

Collaborating with Red Cross Clubs and Universities to Host Blood Drives on Campus

Sujai’s main role in organizing the event was reaching out to different clubs in the region to gauge their interest. Eventually, he was able to connect with clubs from the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and John Hopkins University. However, Sujai attributes the success of the blood battle to other Red Cross clubs for their collaboration and leadership. They were the ones who organized the blood drives on their schools’ campuses. “Each of these universities have a wide range of people. Hosting a blood battle would encourage people to donate with a bit of a competitive spirit. Though it’s obviously not about winning, it was really inspiring to see how motivated we all were.”

For Sujai the process of planning was exciting because it allowed him an opportunity to connect with other clubs. He said, “A big reason why this connection was so important was because with COVID and all the isolation that came with it, many of our clubs became distant which is unfortunate. The collaborative event was a really nice way to meet new people and get not just club members, but also other people, involved.”

How COVID-19 Restrictions Played a Role in the Friendly Battle

The most difficult part of the planning process for Sujai was adhering to many restrictions and safety precautions that were in place on college campuses due to the pandemic. “With COVID and many restrictions because of it, we wanted to make sure that everything was compliant, especially with all the different universities,” he said. “At Hopkins, where I go to school, the administration did an excellent job helping us ensure that the student body would be safe.”

The Blood Drive Battle Results

Ultimately, the blood battle was a success. Between the three schools, they collected 102 pints of blood, with George Washington University (GWU) emerging as the victor.

Dana Woodruff and Katherine Chen, the GWU blood drive coordinators said, “The Blood Battle was our first time holding an event this big, and it took a lot of collaboration and hard work to make it so successful. We’re grateful for the GWU Red Cross members for helping us out and making our drives so successful, especially during a national blood crisis. We’re so happy our work has paid off and are doing all we can to help save lives!”

For Sujai, he highlights the results as the most fulfilling moment of the entire process. “It was a lot of planning, but ultimately, a lot of lives were potentially saved, so it was really impactful to see it all come to fruition.” He was also touched by the overwhelming level of support he received from the community and the school administration, especially his Red Cross mentors in the region.

Words From Sujai: What You Can Do to Make a Difference

If you’re inspired to take action for a cause you are passionate about, Sujai’s biggest advice for you is to ask for help and make it a group effort. He described, “All this would not have been possible without the amazing support of both Hopkins and the Red Cross, as well as the other schools and their club presidents—it was truly a collaborative effort that cannot be achieved by one person individually.”

Note: During the blood drive battle, the American Red Cross was experiencing a national blood crisis. At this time, the Red Cross is not currently facing a crisis; however, the blood supply remains vulnerable. As we continue to monitor the current blood supply closely, we encourage individuals who are feeling healthy and are eligible to donate blood to help ensure patients receive the care they need.

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One Man’s Dedication: The Joseph DeRosa Legacy

Tue, 04/12/2022 - 10:14

Originally published on the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region’s blog.

The lifeblood of the American Red Cross is its volunteers, and in particular, its blood donors. Joseph DeRosa was the definition of lifeblood, having donated an astounding 165 pints of blood in his lifetime.

Valerie Stanley shared the story of her grandpa and his dedication to the Red Cross and its blood donor program last month. She and her children, Joseph’s great-grandchildren, Eva and Isaac delivered a check to the Red Cross for $1,860 in his name.

Valeria, Isaac, and Eva

Joseph DeRosa was a dedicated high school math/psychics/chemistry teacher for over 30 years. After retirement, Valerie said she and her brother spent their summers at their grandparent’s house. One day, years before he passed, her grandpa told her he had something very important to share with her. He opened a cupboard and took a white box from the shelf. It was filled with pins from the Red Cross honoring his many blood donations over the years.

“Here are all my Red Cross pins,” he said. “I want you to make sure that when I die, they are buried with me.”

It was not something Valerie wanted to think about at the time. “My grandpa was one of those people who went through so much in his life, faced health challenges and got through them, and to me he was invincible,” she said. When he passed on March 5, 2021, the first thing that came to her mind was her grandpa’s request. She went straight to his house to get that box of pins, which had continued to grow in number.

The Red Cross recommends donors wait 56 days between blood donations. Joseph kept a calendar for the year, with the first day he could donate again marked, and he always went right away to make his donation. Valerie said she never knew exactly when her grandpa’s commitment to blood donation began, or if there was a particular reason behind it. “He knew it was something he could give, to help others in need. If he could convince the world to donate blood, he would!”

If there was a word to describe her grandpa, Valerie said it would be: dedicated. “He was passionate in everything he did in life, from his dedication to his family, to the students he taught in his many years as a teacher, to his volunteering for the Special Olympics for over 35 years, to the Red Cross.”

Joseph DeRosa, lifelong blood donor.

Joseph DeRosa is survived by his wife of 66 years, Patti DeRosa, his 2 sons, Joe DeRosa and Bob DeRosa and his legacy of grand and great-grandkids.

“After his passing, I remember reading comments on his online obituary and saw so many of his former students commenting how he changed their lives. So many have successful careers that they attribute to him and I know he would be so proud of that legacy.”

Every blood donation can help save lives. Blood donations are used for patients in need of surgery, cancer treatment and transfusions for blood loss from traumatic injuries. The lives Joseph DeRosa has saved are in the thousands. Can you imagine, if everyone had such dedication to donating blood?

Learn how you can leave a legacy behind like Joseph and donate lifesaving blood here.

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Force for Good: Meet Jenny Solomon

Mon, 04/11/2022 - 14:15
Jenny Solomon and her mom supporting a Sound the Alarm event in Joplin, MO.

Today, the American Red Cross is launching a Force for Good blog series, featuring dedicated Red Cross employees whose many contributions enable our humanitarian mission in communities across the country. Each day, Red Cross employees are collecting and processing lifesaving blood, responding to disasters big and small, training people to respond to everyday emergencies, supporting military members and their families, and helping those in crisis around the world as part of the global Red Cross movement.

Over the next few months, we’ll share incredible stories of our employees and how they use their exceptional skills and talents as forces for good. We’re grateful for their commitment and service to our mission and are honored to share their stories with you.

Meet Jenny Solomon, a disaster program manager (DPM) in Missouri for the Missouri/Arkansas Region. She experienced Red Cross services firsthand after a fire broke out in her home and the Red Cross was there to provide comfort and assistance. However, this wasn’t Jenny’s first home fire experience. As a young child, Jenny was severely burned in a home fire and spent years recovering with several operations and skin grafts.oday, she comes full circle, responding to disasters big and small, including home fires, on our local disaster team.

“My eyes were really opened to Red Cross services and the amazing reach the Red Cross has, especially, how far the help carries,” she said. “I knew as a result of these tragedies, and the care and compassion I received, that my mission was to become a helper.”

Jenny has been with the Red Cross for 10 years. She started as a disaster caseworker, helping people recover from 2011’s devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri.

“It was the best day ever when I was asked to take the Red Cross case manager class,” she shared. “I fell in love with the mission and the people. I took an AmeriCorps position, volunteered, was hired again as part of [Red Cross] Disaster Cycle Services, and am now the DPM in my region.”

As Jenny manages her area’s disaster programs, she’s proud of her team, especially of a volunteer, Effie, who also become involved with the Red Cross after a home fire to help others in the same way that she was supported.

“She was determined to become a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member [to help families after home fires] and has since been one of our most active and enthusiastic volunteers for [our home fire preparedness programs] Sound the Alarm and The Pillowcase Project,” said Jenny.

Like everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic affected her work. She says building virtual relationships has been important, though she found that returning to in-person responses has reinforced the value of the personal touch.

“How much it means to someone who has just had the worst day of their life, that there is someone there who can compassionately focus on them and their needs,” she said. “It is so much more than a comfort kit and a blanket; it is meeting people where they are and helping them see that there is a way through what they are experiencing.”

We also asked Jenny if she would encourage people to join the Red Cross and she said, “Absolutely yes! I am so proud to be a Red Crosser.”

“I get to help instill in all the staff and volunteers that feeling of privilege we get when we can help our clients replace fear and frustration with hope,” she added. “I love what I do and like working with the volunteers that are out there every day doing the work. The caliber of Red Cross volunteers is amazing. It takes compassion and dedication to become a trained DAT member or a national disaster responder.”

Regarding her work on disasters, Jenny summed it up this way: “It’s hard for people to see that they can get through a disaster. We help them see that they can, it’s a process. By focusing on the process, we can help them see the small steps that are doable now, and soon those small steps are part of the meaningful recovery. What seems overwhelming now becomes manageable.”

“There are no quick fixes, so the knowledge and experience of the Red Cross with the process of recovery is invaluable,” she added. “It provides the right connections for people to continue moving forward with the knowledge that we are there to help them along the way.”

Keep following along for more Force for Good stories here.

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Own Your Resilience During Month of the Military Child: Meet Kelsey Smith, SAF Senior Regional Specialist

Thu, 04/07/2022 - 06:41

April marks the Month of the Military Child, a time to honor and celebrate the military community’s youngest members that emulate resilience every day–children. It’s also a time that Kelsey Smith, American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Senior Regional Specialist, is no stranger to.

Kelsey is the daughter of military parents and spent her childhood at Illinois National Guard Midway Armory. While most kids played with toy helicopters and miniature airplanes for fun, Kelsey had the real deal. She grew up around life-size helicopters and spent time staring at the sky in awe as planes landed.

Kelsey’s mom. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Shannon Wilson.

Influenced by this unique environment and her family’s military background, Kelsey knew that she wanted to pursue a career of service. But instead of enlisting in the military after college, she jokes that she became the black sheep of her family when she chose to join the Peace Corps in Africa as a ??Community Based Natural Resource Management Volunteer.

After completing her service with the Peace Corps and earning her master’s degree in International Public Service, she stayed close to home and joined the Red Cross of Illinois as a SAF Senior Regional Specialist. There, she provided critical support to military personnel and their families, including active duty, National Guard and Reserve, as well as veterans. Kelsey was recently deployed to military installations around the world, including Djibouti and Romania, where she is one of five Red Cross SAF members.

Kelsey did not move around frequently and switch schools growing up, circumstances she says are typical of the “military brat” upbringing. But looking back, she recognizes that her childhood was far from normal–a realization that far too many children from military backgrounds can relate to.

Kelsey notes that military children are often born into a lifestyle that could have a significant impact on their mental health and psychological development. Trouble adapting to frequent moves, coping with parent/family separations, and feelings of loneliness are common.

Through her SAF role at the Red Cross, Kelsey joined support networks committed to uplifting children that grew up with a similar lifestyle – like Kids Rank, a nonprofit based in Illinois dedicated to the social and emotional growth of children from military families. Through skill-building activities and volunteer opportunities at Kids Rank, Kelsey saw firsthand an inclusive and welcoming environment where kids could cope, learn, and grow.

As a SAF Senior Regional Specialist, Kelsey offers a comprehensive range of services to military communities and individuals of all ages, 24/7/365. She provides financial assistance, manages in-kind donations, and facilitates emergency communications between active duty members and their families. She even processes referrals for mental health services and assists with claims for veterans’ benefits.

Kelsey’s advice for current and former military kids? Own your identity.

Being a military kid is a truly remarkable yet intense experience. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources and support networks the Red Cross offers to empower even the youngest members of the military community, Kelsey says, who are a lot more resilient and stronger than they may think.

For more information on accessing Red Cross resources for service members, veterans and their families, click here.

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How the Red Cross Supported U.S. Military Troops Serving in the Spanish American War

Mon, 04/04/2022 - 14:13

More than 100 years ago on February 15, the USS Maine exploded in Cuba’s Havana Harbor. The explosion, resulting in over 200 deaths, served as a catalyst for the Spanish American War of 1898. Here are a few interesting things you didn’t know about our response:

Clara Barton’s visit on board the USS Maine

Clara was in Cuba when the USS Maine exploded, providing impartial relief to suffering people whether they were Cuban, Spanish, or American. Clara dined on board the ship just days before the explosion.

Recruiting Hundreds of Nurses to Support Troops

The U.S. government signed the 1864 Geneva Convention in 1882, providing the mandate for the Red Cross to support the military. In 1898, the Red Cross, a fairly young organization at the time, set out to assist the troops who went off to fight the Spanish in Cuba and the Philippines. The Red Cross recruited nurses to serve with the troops, despite the Army surgeon general’s reluctance to allow women to care for the wounded. The Red Cross soon overcame the obstacles.

On June 6, 1898, Secretary of War R.A. Alger sent Clara a letter telling her that the “tender of services of the American National Red Cross . . . for medical and hospital work as auxiliary to the hospital service of the Army of the United States, is accepted” and adding that her workers would be “subject to orders according to the rules and discipline of war, as provided by the 63 Articles of War.” Within a year, the Red Cross had recruited some 700 nurses.

Clara was disheartened to see that camp conditions had not changed significantly since the Civil War, including treatment of the wounded. The soldiers wore winter weather uniforms in the tropical summer heat and countless numbers fell ill to yellow fever, typhoid fever and dysentery. Medical officers credited the Red Cross with helping them sustain their operations under very difficult circumstances.

Clara Barton (seated at center in dark clothes) waits with her entourage for U.S. Navy permission to sail the State of Texas to blockaded Cuba, where war raged. The ship departed on June 10, 1898

To this day, the Red Cross continues its proud tradition of providing service to the U.S. military, veterans and their families at home and abroad through on-base support, emergency communications and more. Learn more about how we support our military today here.

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Why I Became a Red Cross Instructor

Thu, 03/31/2022 - 14:48

What’s my reason for learning and training others in lifesaving skills? Picture this, you’re standing in line at the grocery store when you hear someone calling “help, help.” It’s a person yelling from the aisle, standing next to someone who has just collapsed onto the floor. The person on the floor is your neighbor, who isn’t breathing and is unconscious.

This is one simple example of how cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone. If not quickly recognized, it will end in death. American Red Cross training provides everyone with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize and promptly respond to an emergency. Notice, how I say everyone. Yes, everyone should get trained, and here’s why:

  1. Recognizing an emergency allows for a quick response. This can be as simple as calling 911, controlling bleeding with available resources, providing CPR, or knowing how to use an AED. As simple as it sounds, knowing how to recognize an emergency can undoubtedly help save or sustain a person’s life.
  2. Practice makes perfect. By attending in-person training, students can practice skills such as performing compressions, delivering ventilations, applying sterile dressings, and more, in a controlled environment. By having this opportunity to practice the skills prior to ever having to perform them in real-time, students can learn and feel the correct way to provide care.
  3. Providing care can be stressful. Red Cross training discusses the importance of recovery for the person who provided care, in addition to the person who received the care. Continued follow-up during the recovery process in the form of rehabilitation, therapy and support from family and healthcare providers is essential. Knowing how to cope with this stress is a valuable skill that is learned from training.
How I got started

When I was 13 years old, I enrolled in a Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED course, as part of my middle school physical education requirement. During this course, I felt like everything I was learning was something I could apply to everyday life. I began to develop an interest in providing emergency care and wanted to further my first responder training.

At age 15, I became a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. Then, I became a First Aid/CPR/AED and Lifeguarding Instructor, and eventually an Emergency Medical Technician. My passion for providing these skills was seemingly superseded by my love of teaching other people how to perform these skills. There is just something about watching people understand the skill and be able to apply it to a scenario without needing to be coached on what to do. It is even more rewarding to hear from participants, sometimes long after taking the training, that they were able to use their skills in real life.

Why You Should Get Trained

Becoming a Red Cross Instructor is a rewarding experience for all involved. You have the direct opportunity to make an immediate difference in your community. Going back to the person that collapsed in the grocery store, by becoming a trainer, YOU can provide those bystanders with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize this emergency situation, respond with urgency, and ultimately, educate them on the necessary steps to recover from the experience. YOU can influence saving or sustaining a person’s life – in your immediate surroundings and beyond. By becoming a Red Cross Instructor, you can help others not feel helpless when their neighbor collapses or a loved one seems ill, and be able to train people around you on how to provide first aid – whenever, wherever it is needed.

How to Get Started

If you are interested in becoming an instructor, get started with your training by visiting You can become a trainer, leader, and advocate in your community and help others not feel helpless when an emergency arises. No matter your interest or focus, the Red Cross offers a variety of instructor training, such as First Aid/CPR/AED, Lifeguarding, Basic Life Support, Emergency Medical Response, Babysitting, and more. But one helpful tip, be sure to take the required prerequisite training for the instructor course you’re enrolling in.

Training others to feel comfortable in providing immediate first aid care during an emergency is my reason why, what’s yours?


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Still Getting Certified: A Perspective on a Red Cross Blended Learning Training Class

Wed, 03/09/2022 - 14:37

Originally published on the American Red Cross of Illinois blog. 

Many jobs require up-to-date lifesaving skills because they address health emergencies every day – people such as health care providers, first responders, and lifeguards. Others, including teachers and babysitters, are entrusted with precious young lives that could require aid at a moment’s notice.

Those of us who don’t face health emergencies every day can also benefit from Red Cross training. With a wide array of Lifeguarding, Caregiving, and Babysitting, and Swimming and Water Safety courses, the Red Cross can provide you with the training and skills you need to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Why I Got Trained

COVID-19 has really changed the way many things are done with safety a top priority for many. This can mean limited social or in-person interactions. Thankfully, the Red Cross has done a great job of creating different formats for their training programs to better suit everyone’s needs and desires. Updated virtual and blended classes are offered, meaning you can be certified in First Aid, CPR, AED use, babysitting, and even some aspects of water safety are now offered completely online. In-person courses and blended classes, meaning partially online and an abbreviated in-person portion, are also offered.

It was important to be trained in CPR & First Aid because, at any given time, there could be an individual who becomes unconscious or facing a life-threatening injury that could need help. Knowing what to do and not feeling like a helpless bystander at that moment can be rewarding. The hope is that you will never have to use your training in real life, but if it were to happen, it’s important that you’re trained and ready. So I decided to get ready.

My Training Experience

I chose to do a blended course to get certified in Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED so I could really get a feel as to how the classes are run and how they were able to modify a portion of the learning to be online. To my surprise, the online portion was very informative. They included images and videos to help you truly understand how to perform CPR on an adult and infant, and give you scenarios of a real-life emergency so you can see how everything is done. I am now well versed in the “Check, Call, Care” mantra. They also had quizzes to ensure you are retaining the information and understanding it to the fullest. Having the training program be split between online and in-person shortened the course as well. Instead of having to go to a class that could last up to 6 hours, the class I attended was only one and a half hours. Also, the online portion is done on your own at your own pace and would probably take you around 2 hours to complete.

Joe, the instructor of the class, was highly adept at keeping the class informative and fun. He made sure to help everyone individually if they needed assistance with CPR compressions, he was there if we had any questions, and so much more. Not only was he of great aid, the CPR manikins that we practiced on were also very helpful. When practicing chest compressions, red lights would illuminate inside the manikin as a guide to know if your compressions were firm and fast enough. The goal was to always have its forehead light up for the duration of the CPR. That would ensure that we had a steady rhythm and were also going deep enough on each compression. Everything needed for the training course was provided. We did not need to bring anything other than ourselves. We also had the opportunity to help each other out. I was partnered up with two other individuals from the class and we would take turns on the manikins, while also following the guidebook to make sure our CPR techniques were correct.

The Red Cross also ensures that we’re all still following CDC guidelines when it comes to COVID including wearing face masks and spacing us out in the room. When learning what to do when someone is choking, the class has been altered to be contact-less and we practiced pelvic thrusts and back blows with chairs representing the victim or on ourselves. These changes, though minor, made the class feel safe while still learning all the needed information. Upon successful completion, a 2-year digital certificate is issued to all students.

Get Trained Today

I would recommend a blended course to anyone looking for training who also wants to minimize their in-person interactions. Being trained in what to do in an emergency can help you feel empowered to help save a life.

To learn more about available Red Cross training courses near you and online, visit


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Thanks For Your Blood Donations When Help Can’t Wait

Thu, 03/03/2022 - 16:42

Every day, blood donors make a lifesaving difference for patients in need when help can’t wait. This Red Cross Month, we’re grateful for everyone who rolls up their sleeves to donate blood, platelets or plasma.

You may not personally know those you help when you donate blood, but you give people who are battling cancer, living with sickle cell or chronic diseases, and recovering from traumatic injuries a fighting chance. Here’s how blood is making a difference in the lives of patients and their families every day.

The Hendrix Family

“People like me are eternally grateful for that sacrifice.”

In 2019, Laketa Hendrix gave birth to her first child, Ari, but never expected that she would need the help of generous blood donors to help save her life. She ended up losing a lot of blood during the birthing process and required several blood transfusions. Laketa’s husband, Brandon, recalled his initial thoughts during the traumatic event stating, “I thought I was going to gain a child and lose my wife.”

Now, the Hendrix family pays it forward by giving blood regularly and Brandon frequently gives Power Red donations, a concentrated donation of two red cell units. Recently, they had a second child, and thankfully, Laketa did not need any blood transfusions.

Barrett the Brave Little Boy “Today my baby’s health was improved because someone gave blood.”

In March of 2021, Barret Gregory’s mom, Abby, found a small lump in Barrett’s cheek. After several visits to the doctor, Abby discovered that he had a malignant tumor that was a rare form of pediatric cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Barrett was not even 2 years old yet when he was diagnosed and had to start on a rigorous treatment plan of chemotherapy, radiation, and possibly surgery, over a 12-to 14-month period.

To keep his red blood cell count up for treatments, Barrett required multiple blood transfusions during a critical time when there was a national blood shortage across the country. Although Barrett may still need blood transfusions to stay strong for chemo treatments today, he continues to have a fighting chance because of the generosity of blood donors.

Sickle Cell Warriors Britney and Nikyah

“Transfusions give me and my daughter hope. Blood donations really do save lives.”

Britney and Nikyah Woolfork are a mother and daughter duo who are living with sickle cell disease. Growing up, Britney was extremely active and played sports until she began experiencing a lot of pain. After several trips to the emergency room, doctors finally diagnosed her with sickle cell disease at 8 years old. After Britney’s diagnosis, everything changed. Now, she requires frequent blood transfusions to keep her blood oxygen levels high and decrease the risk of blood clots that may cause severe pain or a stroke.

For Britney, “some days aren’t too bad. But then some days, I’ll be hurting so bad in my arms, legs and joints that I have to go to the hospital for relief.” Sickle cell disease is unpredictable, and not only does Britney have to battle the pain every day but so does her 9-year-old daughter, Nikyah. She has also had her fair share of pain, including having her spleen removed, but she continues to stay positive and active through the process.

Postpartum Mother of Twins

“The reason why I was able to be a mom to my kids and get a chance to watch them grow up was because of donors. Without strangers’ acts of kindness, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.”

In January 2020, Kelsey Nelson experienced a smooth delivery process after welcoming healthy twin babies into the world. Unfortunately, 12 days later, she experienced a secondary post-partum hemorrhage that required her to be sent back to the hospital. During surgery, Kelsey lost so much blood that her doctors determined she needed a massive blood transfusion protocol, essentially the rapid distribution of large amounts of blood products. Kelsey required eight units of blood products to save her life. “I remember vividly my doctor trying to help me understand the gravity of the situation after the surgery.  She said, ‘To put it in perspective, you don’t have a single drop of your own blood in your body right now,’” she recalls.

Kelsey ended up spending nearly a week in the hospital and was so grateful to have a second chance at life to spend with her new family. After receiving numerous blood transfusions, she made a commitment to give blood regularly as a way to help others in need and cope with her trauma. Kelsey’s experience has also encouraged her family and friends to donate regularly and in honor of her. 

A Father of Six

“If I have not received the blood I wouldn’t be here today.”

Phillip Hanks, a father of six, started losing a lot of weight and feeling a sharp pain in 2019. That pain led to a diagnosis of multi-organ failure. Phillip underwent five organ transplants within two days, he received a new liver, small and large intestine, stomach, pancreas and kidney.  Partly thanks to the numerous blood transfusions he received, he is alive today and able to watch his children grow up.

Brook and Steve Ismail “Our family is so grateful to all of the blood donors who made time to share their good health with people they will never even meet. Their donations?helped my father survive this horrible accident.” – Lauren, Steven’s daughter

Brooke and Steven Ismail were taking a bike ride on a country road near their home in Glenburn, Maine, when a pickup truck drove right into them. They hadn’t expected to end this beautiful day fighting for their lives. Unfortunately, the driver was blinded by the sunlight and didn’t realize he hit them till he heard a large thump. Brooke and Steven were transported to the hospital by the ambulance. Fortunately, Brooke suffered minor injuries, but?Steven had internal bleeding. He required so much blood – to the point where emergency room personnel used a special device to inject blood into his body quicker.

Steve needed nearly 40 units of blood to help save his life. Partly thanks to the lifesaving blood products readily available for Steve in the hospital, he’s alive and well today.

Your Help Is Still Needed

Whether you donated for the first time or are a long-time donor, we thank you for all your support. But, your lifesaving gift is still needed as we continue to experience unique challenges through this ongoing pandemic. Sadly, blood cannot be manufactured. This means we need generous blood donors to make appointments to give in the days, weeks and months to come to ensure we can maintain a sufficient blood supply for hospitals and patients in need.

To schedule an appointment to donate today visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Fun fact: You can also make an appointment by using our Red Cross Blood Donor App here.


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One Red Crosser’s Reflections of Her Family’s Legacy and the Significance of Giving Blood

Mon, 02/21/2022 - 06:29

“Why does the Red Cross call to ask you to give blood so much?” I asked my dad while handing him the messages I took down from the family’s landline phone. At the time, I was 16 years old and amazed by the telerecruiter’s persistence to get my dad scheduled for his regular blood donation appointment.

“It’s because I have O positive blood, which can be transfused to anyone in need with a positive blood type and so do you,” he said. “One of these days, the Red Cross will be calling you too!”

We both laughed. He didn’t talk about the gallons of blood he’d donated since the age of 19, but when he proudly pulled out his Red Cross Lifelong Donor card from his black leather wallet, I was instantly inspired by his dedication to donating.

“If you’re going to give something, give life — that’s important,” said Dad.

First Blood Donation Experience

The next spring, my high school hosted its annual Red Cross blood drive, sponsored by the Student Government Association. I made my first blood donation at 17 years old. I felt good knowing I was able to make an impact just like my dad and was looking forward to the opportunity to give as a senior the next spring.

However, three months later in July, my father’s prediction came true. I received a voicemail from the Red Cross informing me of a blood shortage and asking if I could schedule an appointment to give at my nearest blood donation center. I was so focused on my upcoming senior year; I had not given much thought to giving blood outside of next spring. I jokingly mentioned to my dad that “one of these days” had come and Red Cross was calling me like he said they would. He looked at me, smiled, and said “Well, it’s time for me to donate. We can schedule to donate together.”

Making an Impact as a Family

I’ll never forget my dad’s excitement as we arrived at the blood donation center. The phlebotomists seemed to know him, and he spared no opportunity to teasingly tell them how he had to convince me to give blood by donating with me.

At the time, I did not fully understand the difference he made by gracefully teaching me to take the excuse out of giving back while lovingly showing me the significance of making an impact to serve others even in times of inconvenience.

Additionally, I had no idea my dad’s father influenced him to become a blood donor. My grandfather was a U.S. Army medic in World War II, where he saw firsthand the need for blood for both Black and white soldiers who were injured, yet witnessed the impact of segregated blood policies that extended beyond the war. Thankfully, my grandfather lived to see a day where years of activism, protests, and collaboration with the Red Cross led to an inclusive blood program rid of color lines, and over the years, my dad and grandad would donate blood together when their work schedules aligned.

Continuing the Family Legacy

Today, although my dad and I are miles apart and my grandfather is now an ancestor, I try my best to uphold our family’s legacy of giving blood when I can. During Black History Month, I am reminded of the lifesaving legacy they imparted that has stayed with me and guides the work I do in biomedical communications every day. As my dad recently shared with me, “It’s important to feel how vital you are in the world by giving blood while you’re able and while you can. It’s a lifeline of our community. It only takes a small amount of your time to give blood and when you’ve given that pint of blood, you feel like you’ve given someone life and you made a difference and that’s important.”



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Black History Month: Honoring Gwen T. Jackson

Mon, 02/07/2022 - 06:22

This Black History Month, we’re honoring Black men and women who played a pivotal role in helping the American Red Cross become the organization that it is today. Meet Gwen T. Jackson.

Gwen T. Jackson began her career with the Red Cross in 1961 as a volunteer in the Service to Military Families Department of the Greater Milwaukee Chapter. Jackson also held a number of other positions within the Red Cross, including Chairman of the Board and Executive Committee of the Greater Milwaukee Chapter, until she was appointed National Chairman of Volunteers in 1989. She was the first African American to be appointed to this position, which was established in 1953. During her tenure, she implemented the results of the Volunteer 2000 Study, completed in 1988 to study the downturn in volunteerism and provide a blueprint for future growth.

While serving with the Red Cross, Jackson provided assistance during major disasters such as Hurricane Hugo and support during the Persian Gulf War. She later became a member of the American National Red Cross Board of Governors in 1992 and was re-elected for a second term in 1995. Jackson was presented with the Cynthia Wedel Award, an award given to outstanding Red Cross volunteers, for her 50 years of dedication and volunteer leadership in 2003. She currently holds an appointment as Chair Emeritus of the American Red Cross Milwaukee Chapter.



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Black History Month: Honoring Jesse O. Thomas

Sun, 02/06/2022 - 04:45

This Black History Month, we’re honoring Black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. Meet Jesse O. Thomas, an educator who paved the way for the future of African Americans working for and with the Red Cross.

Born on Dec. 21, 1885, in Pike County, Mississippi., Jesse O. Thomas was a protégé of the well-known author and educator, Booker T. Washington. As an undergraduate at Tuskegee Institute, Thomas not only captured Washington’s attention but also the attention of board member Julius Rosenwald and President Theodore Roosevelt. His remarkable public speaking abilities led to him being hired at the Institute after he graduated in 1911. In 1918, Thomas accepted the position of State Supervisor of Negro Economics as well as the Examiner-in-Charge of the U.S. Employment Service. The next year, he resigned from both of his positions so he could further his education and pursue a degree in social work at the New York School of Social Work.

In Oct. 1919, Thomas opened the Field Secretary Office of the National Urban League in Atlanta and became the first person of color to work in an exclusively white organization. His work within the National Urban League led to the betterment of social work within that region. Thomas and his wife also opened their home to African Americans, such as Mary McLeod Bethune and W.E.B. Du Bois, due to the lack of suitable hotel accommodations for the African-American community.

During World War II, Thomas took a step back from the National Urban League to focus on the sale of war bonds in the African-American community.

Seeing his success with the National Urban League, Thomas was recruited to work with the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., in 1943. It was during this time that he became the first African American to be hired at the organization. In his role, Thomas led the racial integration of the organization. Thomas retired from the Red Cross ten years later in 1953. Due to the efficient and proactive communication carried out by Thomas for his superiors and the Black community, Thomas paved the way for African Americans to work at the Red Cross. In 1969, Thomas moved to California to be closer to his daughter, where he lived out the rest of his days in Sacramento.

Thank you, Jesse O. Thomas, for your important work to further the Red Cross mission.

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Black History Month: Honoring Dr. Jerome Holland

Fri, 02/04/2022 - 06:41

This Black History Month, we’re honoring Black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. Meet Dr. Jerome H. Holland, a passionate advocate for blood research and a leader of our Blood Services program.

Born Jerome Heartwell “Brud” Holland on Jan. 9, 1916 in Auburn, NY, Jerome was one of 13 children. In 1935, he attended Cornell University where he became the first African American to play for the university’s football team. He was even chosen to be an All-American athlete at Cornell in 1937 and 1938.

In addition to being a dedicated athlete, Dr. Holland was also an exceptional student. He graduated with his undergraduate degree from Cornell in 1939 and immediately entered a graduate program to study sociology. He graduated with his master’s degree in 1941.

In 1950, Dr. Holland continued his education and went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later he was named president of Delaware State College where he served from 1953 to 1959. In 1960, he became president of what is now known as Hampton University (formerly Hampton Institute).

During his time at Hampton University in 1964, Dr. Holland became a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors. He served as a member until he resigned in 1970 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. He was the second African American to lead a delegation in any European nation.

Dr. Holland was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1979, and was the first African American to hold this position. Because of his commitment to the Red Cross, he was appointed again in 1982. While serving on the board, Dr. Holland showed a passion for blood research and took the lead in consolidating growing laboratory operations for the Red Cross Blood Services program. He also encouraged Red Cross regions to integrate their volunteers so important services could be extended to the entire community, regardless of a person’s ethnicity or background. Dr. Holland served on the board until he died from cancer in 1985.

To honor his devotion to the Red Cross, we named our biomedical research facility in Rockville, Md., the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences. Today, this lab continues Dr. Holland’s legacy through the Red Cross Research Blood Program where blood is collected for research and used in studies for infectious diseases and testing methods to find ways to improve the collection and storage of blood components.

Thank you, Dr. Jerome H. Holland, for your important work to further the Red Cross mission.

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Black History Month: Honoring Shirley Hines-Atkins

Fri, 02/04/2022 - 05:56

This Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women who played a pivotal role in helping the American Red Cross become the organization that it is today. Meet Red Crosser Shirley Hines-Atkins, who spent more than 40 years supporting military members, veterans and their families overseas and in the U.S.

Her Red Cross career began in 1970 as a Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas staff member, affectionately known as a Donut Dollie, in Korea and Vietnam. Recalling her experience, she said “I had never been abroad before. This was my first experience out of the country.  Arriving in Korea, everything was so completely new.  Everything was exciting!”

When she returned to America in 1972, she worked as a recreation aide and caseworker in two military hospitals, Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas and the Naval Air Station in Florida.

Later, Shirley went on to work in the Birmingham Chapter as Assistant Director of Youth. There, she developed and ran youth programs in schools, two summer camps and two leadership camps for intercity youth.

After a year, she moved to the Atlanta Chapter to work as the Assistant Director of Personnel. There she recruited and placed staff in the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces department. After a year in Atlanta, she moved to the District of Columbia to manage the first intercity service center in Southeast D.C. In this position, she organized health fairs and developed programs for the elderly to assist them with transportation and shopping.

Not long after, Shirley joined the National Headquarters team to serve as the Assistant to the National Director of Personnel. Fun Fact: She later served as the Director of Personnel when she was assigned to the Red Cross European Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. She spent three and half years in that role.

After completing her assignment in Europe, Shirley returned to the National Headquarters to serve as the Director of the New Employee Assistance Program — a program she developed. In this role, she ran the first Outplacement Program in the Red Cross during a downsizing in the 1980s. Four years later, she returned back to the field to serve as a Station Manager for Service to the Armed Forces. She held a number of positions and assignments in Field Service in countries like the Philippines, Japan, and Italy before she decided to retire in 2003.

Throughout her impressive career with the Red Cross, she received various awards and recognitions including the Vietnam Service Medal, the American Red Cross Manager’s Tiffany Award, two Department of Army Commanders Awards, the Desert Storm Service Medal, the Japanese Golden Medal of Honor, the President’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Red Cross 2015 Legacy Award for Service to the Armed Forces. Her oral history is currently a part of the Veterans History Project in the Library of Congress.

We’re honored to share her story and her commitment to our mission.

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Black History Month: Honoring Mary McLeod Bethune

Wed, 02/02/2022 - 04:45

This Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. Meet Mary McLeod Bethune, whose dedication to academics and equality helped expand opportunities at the Red Cross to African Americans.

As the fifteenth of 17 children and the first child born free to former slaves in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune rose above humble beginnings to become one of the most prominent black educators, civil rights activists, and stateswomen in the first half of the 20th century.

Growing up in rural South Carolina on her parent’s cotton farm, Bethune did not immediately have access to formal education. When a local segregated Presbyterian mission school opened, Mary willingly walked in order to attend. By age 15, Bethune had taken every subject offered at the small mission school. Her enthusiasm for learning led to a sponsorship to attend the Scotia Seminary, a boarding school in North Carolina. After graduating from Scotia Seminary in 1894, Bethune received a scholarship to attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. During her continued studies, Mary’s passion for learning led her to dedicate her life to the education and betterment of African Americans.

In 1904, Bethune opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls. Over time, the school grew and merged with the all-male Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, and by 1931, became the Bethune-Cookman College.

As a leader of racial and gender equality, Bethune became president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1924 and a founding president of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. By 1936, she was serving as an advisor to President Roosevelt and she became the highest ranking African American woman in government when the President named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, making her the first African-American woman to head a federal agency.

Discussing wartime problems and the program of the American Red Cross during a day-long conference at the Red Cross National Headquarters, Mary McLeod Bethune and twelve additional African American representatives are shown here with Red Cross officials. Washington, D.C. July 1942.

As an advisor to the president, Bethune was invited to two American Red Cross wartime conferences to discuss African American representation within the organization. As a result of these conferences, the “Committee on Red Cross Activities with Respect to the Negro” formed. Bethune was one of five committee members who made recommendations on the blood plasma project, the use of African-American staff in overseas service clubs, the enrollment of African-American nurses and the representation of African Americans on local and national Red Cross committees and staff departments.

Thank you, Mary McLeod Bethune, for your meaningful contributions to the Red Cross, the U.S. government and education in the African-American community.

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Black History Month: Honoring Frances Reed Elliott Davis

Tue, 02/01/2022 - 08:00

This Black History Month, we’re honoring Black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. Meet Frances Reed Elliott Davis whose passion for nursing and helping communities led her to become the first African-American nurse at the Red Cross.

Davis was born on April 28, 1883, in Shelby, N.C. Sadly, by her fifth birthday, both of her parents had died, and she was put into the foster care system. In the system she experienced many hardships, but showed her ambition and ability to learn at a young age. She even taught herself how to read and write.

Her passion for learning led her to Knoxville College, a boarding school in Tennessee. When Davis graduated, she knew she wanted to become a nurse, so in 1910 she entered the Freedmen’s School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. There she was the first African American in the district to pass the final board exam. In 1918, her work with the Red Cross began.

That year, she became the first officially registered African-American nurse to be accepted into the American Red Cross Nursing Service. In the service she was assigned to move to Chattanooga, where she provided medical care for the families of service members during WWI. She also served as the director of nurses training at the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital in Alabama before moving to Michigan. There she accepted a position at the Detroit Public Health Department with the help of the Red Cross.

During her time in Michigan, Davis helped organize the first training school for African American nurses at the Dunbar Hospital. In the 1940s, Davis established a childcare facility that caught the attention of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who helped plan for and fund the center. Davis continued to run the facility until she was sixty-two years old. She retired seven years later and passed away in 1965.

Thank you, Frances Reed Elliott Davis, for your meaningful contribution to the Red Cross and the field of nursing.

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