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Emergencies Don’t Stop: Meet the People Behind Our Lifesaving Mission

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 11:48

Emergencies don’t stop, and neither does the American Red Cross. During challenging times like these, it’s even more important for organizations like us to be there to help those who need it most. March 25 is Red Cross Giving Day and we’re asking for your support.

Read on to meet some of the people who carry our mission and find out how your donation will enable us to continue delivering our lifesaving work — both today and in the days ahead.

Teaching Lifesaving Skills

Nate is one of our Red Cross First Aid & CPR instructors who dedicates his time to helping others learn how to save lives in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. “I love being an instructor because I enjoy seeing how the people I train are able to help others in emergencies,” he said.

Helping Hospital Patients Who Depend on Blood

Kadijah is a Red Cross Collections Technician in Greenville, North Carolina. She travels from city to city collecting blood donations for hospital patients in need. “What I love most about my job is being able to hear the different stories behind ‘why’ donors give the gift of life,” she said.

Providing Food, Shelter and Care After Disasters

As a Disaster Action Team volunteer, Pilar travels across the five New York City boroughs after local emergencies to help provide impacted residents with water, food, shelter and other emergency relief items. “I never really thought about this until I started volunteering with the Red Cross, but we are so vulnerable to lose everything in just a matter of seconds, and for the Red Cross to be there and to be able to provide that assistance, it’s just amazing,” she said.

Supporting Military Families Who Need Emergency Assistance

Hilary spent 24 years in the U.S. Army and continues to serve her country as one of our Service to Armed Forces (SAF) volunteers. She has seen the real impact of SAF, as both a service member and a volunteer. “When you give to the Red Cross, you’re giving more than just to that office or that community. You’re part of a bigger international family of giving, of serving, of just doing the right thing and giving back to the world,” she said.

Join Us

Stand with us on Red Cross Giving Day to support the urgent needs of our mission — which touches millions of lives each year. Please donate at redcross.org/GivingDay.

About our Giving Day Supporters

The American Red Cross is grateful for those donors who are making an impact by supporting our Giving Day, especially the Energy Transfer / Sunoco Foundation. Thanks to the kindness of these and other supporters, the Red Cross is able to provide hope and emergency support when people need it most.

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We Were Moved to Action Amid Unprecedented Blood Drive Cancellations

Wed, 03/18/2020 - 14:27
Jennifer Urquhart

During this time of uncertainty, one thing I knew I could do to help and make a direct impact was to donate blood. It had been so long since I last donated that I couldn’t recall the last time I set foot into a blood drive or donation center.

Helping Patients in Need

So, I recruited my daughter to come along and we made it a mom-daughter donation date! Giving blood made us both feel like we were a part of something bigger and gave us an opportunity to help patients in need during this unprecedented time. The Red Cross was so good about ensuring blood donors remained safe and healthy during the donation process. My daughter and I felt totally at ease and like our health was a priority.

Andrea Urquhart A Safe and Healthy Process

When we arrived at the facility our temperatures were taken before we were even let in. Never did we feel there was a chance of being exposed to any virus or illness. In addition to taking our temperatures, I noticed extra precautions like: hand sanitizer that was available upon entry and throughout the donation process, the staff were wearing gloves and changing them often, donation beds were wiped down after each donor as well as other areas that donors frequently touched. All these things made us comfortable to be there.

We agreed that we will make blood donation a regular act of service and won’t wait for another crisis before we roll up our sleeves to give. I would like to encourage everyone who is healthy and eligible to please go out and donate! Being a part of saving someone’s life…what could be better?

Schedule Your Appointment to Donate Blood Today

Right now, the Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage. Nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled, resulting in some 86,000 fewer blood donations.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

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How CPR Training Can Help Save Lives

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 15:12

At the Red Cross, we offer a variety of courses that cover topics ranging from first aid and performing CPR to water safety and babysitting skills. Each course was created to teach the lifesaving training and skills you need to help prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Read on to learn how this training helped save Bob Carey’s life when he went into cardiac arrest while spending time with his family.

The Power of Family

The last thing Bob remembers was helping his son and daughter-in-law prepare their van for a trip. He was charging batteries for his drill when he lost consciousness and fell to the floor. When his wife Sharon found him, he had no pulse. She immediately called 9-1-1. Thankfully, Bob’s daughter-in-law, Deann, is a Certified Nurse Aide II, and his son, AJ, took a CPR instructor course during his last year at Gardner Webb-University. Together, they performed chest compressions while they waited for first responders to arrive. Deann and AJ performed chest compressions for 25 minutes, and first responders shocked Bob’s heart with an AED three times. Fortunately, due to the unwavering commitment of his family and several first responders, including Stephanie Fraccola and her husband Tony, Bob finally had a pulse.

Recovery

When Bob was brought to the hospital, he stayed in the cardiac intensive care unit for several days. His family remembers him speaking in a loop. His wife says he would turn to her and say, “I had a heart attack,” then repeat it every few minutes. Doctors said loss of memory was to be expected, but that he and his family should be wary of a long-term risk.

“Only about 10% of people who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive,” Bob said. “After 25 minutes, the chances of making a full recovery become even lower. Several medical doctors and nurses have told me I shouldn’t be alive, or that I should at least have mental or physical impairments. Two of them told me it was a miracle I’m alive and functioning.”

Despite the odds, just a few days after he was discharged from the hospital, Bob was back in church, and soon he returned to his job as a teacher.

Bob (right) with AJ and Deann. Photo from the awards presentation are courtesy of the Gardner-Webb University.

For their efforts to help save their father’s life, we awarded AJ and Deann with Red Cross Lifesaving Awards. Thanks to AJ and Deann, Bob is alive today.

Learn Lifesaving Skills

Visit redcross.org/take-a-class to sign up for a Red Cross training class that can help you prepare for everyday emergencies and save a life.

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Solferino: The Battle that Inspired the Global Red Cross Movement

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 08:37
Vivan (far left) and Chris (far right) with Red Cross volunteers An Idea that Came to Life

If you have ever taken an interest in Red Cross history, you are likely familiar with the man who envisioned the worldwide movement, Henry Dunant. But did you know that his foresight was inspired by a single battle in Italy?

That’s right, in 1859, while he was trying to get in touch with French Emperor Napoleon III, Henry found himself in Solferino, a small town in Northern Italy. There, he witnessed the devastating aftermath of the battle between Franco-Sardinian and Austrian troops.

His shock at the rampant violence and bloodshed compelled him to develop an appeal to humanity through his publication, A Memory of Solferinowhere he argued that humane treatment of wounded people was essential and that suffering could be prevented. In the years that followed, Henry carried out his mission with the creation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement that we now know today.

Henry Dunant Traveling to Solferino

Since the Battle of Solferino 161 years ago, Henry’s message of belonging to a common humanity lives on. Every year since 1995, thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff from around the world gather in Solferino where the vision for the movement was born.

Chris Spalding, a Red Cross volunteer who has visited Solferino twice, calls it a “historical experience.” At the gathering of thousands of volunteers from around the globe, she witnessed the universal spirit of the Red Cross surpassing language barriers and connecting cultures. Today, there are 192 National Societies, one in nearly every country of the world.

Celebrating a Shared Mission

Vivian Moy has volunteered with the American Red Cross since 2013, and in 2017, she had the incredible opportunity to observe the Italian Red Cross as they provided care and compassion for migrants seeking safety on Italy’s shores. It was there that she first fell in love with the Red Cross’ international work.

For her, the Solferino gathering was a great way to become immersed in the international movement. After attending in 2019, she knew that she’d never be the same.

“This yearly celebration of our movement renews your faith in humanity like nothing else I’ve ever experienced,” said Vivian.

Vivian and Chris One word. Fiaccolata.

A fiaccolata, or a “torchlight procession,” is a beloved, centuries-old European tradition. Each year, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff follow the same route that was taken in 1859 to transport the wounded during the Battle of Solferino. They walk with a torch in hand from Solferino to Castiglione delle Stiviere in remembrance of the battle that started it all.

“During the procession we walked through the countryside, and at one point as night fell I turned around to look behind me and I literally sucked in my breath at the sight that lay before me, a sea of torches,” said Vivian. “My chest swelled with pride because it was at that moment I was reminded of the fact that I belong to something far greater than myself.”

The Fiaccolata Connecting with an International Community

Last year, more than 10,000 volunteers from 140 countries traveled to Solferino. During Vivian and Chris’s trip, they had the chance to learn how other Red Cross and Red Crescent teams approach disaster relief around the globe.

“In the end, we may face different crises, but at the heart of it, we are all humanitarians,” said Chris.

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org. You can also learn more about the Solferino trip here.

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Red Cross Month: Why Pilar Cantor Became a Red Cross Volunteer

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 14:53

March is Red Cross Month, and to celebrate, we are honoring the volunteers and services that keep our organization moving forward each day. Throughout the month, we’ll bring you inspirational stories of help and hope, highlighting the people who graciously devote their time to further the Red Cross mission. Today, you’ll meet Pilar Cantor, a Disaster Action Team volunteer who helps families recover after disasters in our Greater New York Region.

Helping Families Recover from Disasters

Pilar Cantor is a resident of Mamaroneck, New York, who has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2018. She initially became acquainted with the Red Cross through our Home Fire Campaign, created to help reduce the number of home fire-related deaths and injuries in the U.S. Red Cross volunteers help us by sharing fire safety information and installing free smoke alarms in at-risk communities.

Today, Pilar serves the community in a different way by helping families recover from disasters.

“I never really thought about this until I started volunteering with the Red Cross, but we are so vulnerable to lose everything in just a matter of seconds, and for the Red Cross to be there and to be able to provide that assistance, it’s just amazing,” Pilar said.

Reaching the Community

Pilar joined the Red Cross as a member of MIRA USA, a non-profit community organization that promotes the social integration of immigrants in the United States. MIRA volunteers team up with the Red Cross on a number of different programs that help promote fire safety and assist with disaster response efforts.

As a Disaster Action Team volunteer, Pilar travels across the five New York City boroughs after local emergencies to help provide affected residents with water, food, shelter and other emergency relief items. One of her more memorable interactions in the field was with a Spanish-speaking single mother. Being bilingual allowed Pilar to communicate with the woman on a much more personal level and inform her of the different ways the Red Cross could help.

“Being able to connect with her in her own language was a great experience, and she was so thankful and so shocked when we were able to provide her with financial assistance, especially because she had just lost everything,” Pilar said.

Personal Growth Through Volunteering

Through her volunteer work, Pilar has been able to achieve a high level of personal growth, and she attributes much of that to the strong character and compassion shared by her fellow volunteers and workers.

“Something I’ve seen from all the volunteers is that everyone seems to genuinely care about people and helping those in need,” Pilar said. “Having that supportive community from all the volunteers who are more tenured, it’s really amazing.”

Become a Volunteer

Volunteers like Pilar make it possible for the Red Cross to respond to an average of 60,000 disasters each year. You too can make a difference. Visit redcross.org to learn how to become a volunteer in your area.

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How Christine Medeiros is Restoring Family Links with the Red Cross

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 13:29

On International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women like Christine Medeiros who further our mission in communities across the globe every day. Christine is a volunteer in our Northern California Coastal Region who helps reconnect loved ones after humanitarian crises.

Making a Difference

Christine decided to volunteer with the Red Cross because she wanted to make a difference. As a California resident, Christine has seen her fair share of wildfires and knows how devastating they can be for communities. She was tired of sitting back as a spectator and wanted to find a way to get as close as she could to the frontline to help those impacted. Becoming a Red Cross volunteer was her answer.

In her first year as a disaster response volunteer, she deployed for the Mendocino Complex fire and responded to local fires as a Disaster Action Team lead. During this time, Christine also learned about our Restoring Family Links program, an initiative that helps reconnect loved ones separated by war, natural disaster, forced migration or other humanitarian emergency. After attending a workshop about the program, she was blown away by the international impact of the Red Cross and how the organization brings families together all over the world.

“Once I found out about the help we provide to so many through our international services, I knew that was where I wanted to stay,” said Christine.

Reconnecting Families

Today, Christine helps reconnect families as the Restoring Family Links Casework and Outreach Lead for her region and assists other regions in the Pacific. In her role, she receives requests from people searching for their family members. From there, she gets to work: making calls and working alongside the Red Cross and Red Crescent network to trace family members a world away. Once the Red Cross finds the person she’s looking for, she shares their contact information to facilitate communication. With each connection, Christine feels like her work is genuinely impactful.

“I love what I do at the Red Cross,” said Christine. “The Red Cross is helping protect and keep families whole, and I’m glad to be a part of a service that has been around for over 100 years.”

Growing with the Red Cross

Christine continues to volunteer with the Red Cross because she loves to learn.

“The Red Cross will always be relevant because our work is constantly evolving,” said Christine. “As a Red Cross volunteer, I believe I’m constantly evolving too because I’m always learning new things and finding things that interest me about our work. And then I get to spread that good word when I tell our partners about Restoring Family Links.”

Become a Volunteer

In the face of international crises and natural disasters, the American Red Cross and global Red Cross Red Crescent network join together to ease people’s suffering. Find out how you can volunteer like Christine to help disaster victims at home and across the globe at redcross.org.

For more information about American Red Cross’s work around the world, visit redcross.org/international.

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Red Cross Month: Why Marilyn Vallejo Became a Red Cross Volunteer

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 04:00
Photo credit: Lori-Ann Pizzarelli, American Red Cross in Greater New York

March is Red Cross Month, and to celebrate, we are honoring the volunteers and services that keep our organization moving forward each day. Throughout the month, we’ll bring you inspirational stories of help and hope, highlighting the people who graciously devote their time to further the Red Cross mission. Today, you’ll meet Marilyn Vallejo, a long-time volunteer with Services to the Armed Forces (SAF), whose expertise as a mental health professional has led her to military bases across the world to support our service members.

Growing up in a Military Family

When Marilyn started volunteering with members of the military and their families 23 years ago, it was not the first time she had been introduced to the Red Cross. In fact, nearly two decades before, the Red Cross came to her family’s aid when they flew her mother from Louisiana to Germany so she could visit Marilyn’s injured brother, who was deployed overseas.

“The Red Cross had me at hello,” Marilyn said.

Marilyn also witnessed just how crucial Red Cross programs are to the wellbeing of service members when both her husband and her brother received emergency assistance during their military deployments. These personal connections inspired her to become a Red Cross disaster volunteer in 1996; at the time, she was working as a licensed clinical social worker for the State of New York.

In the years that followed, Marilyn volunteered as a caseworker with families recovering from disasters, helped young children prepare for disasters through the Pillowcase Project, led her local Red Cross chapter’s mental health team in Long Island, and supported those entering military service, leaving for deployment, and returning home to their loved ones.

Supporting Mental Health

As a volunteer today, Marilyn uses her background in social work and the mental health field to help veterans, service members and their families cope with the challenges of military service. Through Red Cross Reconnection workshops, she facilitates group discussions covering a wide array of topics, from anger management to effective communication.

“These group discussions allow people to share what they’re going through,” Marilyn said. “There are always people in the group who are going through a similar situation, so they’re able to talk to each other and relate to each other on a deep level.”

The workshops also help build a meaningful sense of community among the participants that they’ll never forget. After one of Marilyn’s most memorable workshops, one of the participants shared that the experience had even helped save her marriage.

“When I first joined the team, I enjoyed volunteering with SAF because serving members of the military has always brought me joy,” Marilyn said. “Now I know just how much of an impact this program can have and that it’s helping so many people.”

Become a Volunteer

“I think volunteering makes you a better person,” Marilyn said. “We all want to be the best we can, and we don’t always have the opportunities to do that. Volunteering is a reward that helps with your self-esteem and allows you to give back at the same time.”

Interested in becoming an SAF volunteer like Marilyn? Visit redcross.org to find opportunities to support service members in your region. To learn more about the services we provide, download our free Hero Care App.

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I am Alive because of Donated Blood

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 05:11

February 10, marked the start of the Give Blood to Give Time partnership. The American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society have joined forces to raise awareness about how giving blood can help give patients more time, strength and support to battle cancer.

This movement is especially close to my heart because I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on April 28, 2015—exactly ten days before the commencement ceremony for my Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Unknowingly, I had been exhibiting symptoms for a few months—but finally made an appointment with the University Health Center after I noticed lumps around my neck. That entire next month was filled with tests and procedures.

Then, it was official. I had cancer

Almost immediately everything started piling up. How would I finish my finals? Would I still graduate? It was overwhelming, stressful and scary.

My professors were great and worked with me to make sure I finished my exams. Then, my medical team and I got ready to begin chemotherapy. Before graduation, a chemo-port was put into my chest – complete with a catheter to a central line that went into my neck. In fact, the bandage over the catheter was quite visible in most of my graduation photos. One week after receiving my diploma, my treatments began.

Here’s the thing you need to know about chemotherapy: it makes your red blood cell count go way down. So, because of my chemotherapy treatments, I needed blood transfusions. A lot of them.

I also went through two stem cell transplants and you guessed it—I needed blood transfusions and platelets for those procedures, as well. During certain types of cancer treatments, like many of mine, your immune system just gets so low that doctors have to feed you with healthy red blood cells and platelets – until it starts to bounce back.

I don’t even know how many units of blood I’ve received—but I know all of that blood came from selfless individuals who made the decision to make an appointment and donate.

During the evening of February 8, 2018, Justin and I got the good news: my cancer was in remission! The very next day (and unbeknownst to me) Justin told his boss he had something to do, left work early, and went to the jewelry store. That evening, as soon as he walked through our front door, he got down on one knee and proposed. And you guessed it—I said yes!

I still have bouts when my red blood cell count gets low. When that happens, those times when I feel more than tired, when I feel like my blood is tired, I go in for another blood transfusion. During these visits I usually receive two units of blood. The procedure alone takes about four hours; but during those four hours I count my blessings because I know how much better life feels after I am replenished with healthy blood from kindhearted donors.

So, I think it’s safe to say that my successful battle with cancer largely depended upon the generosity of complete strangers and their donated blood. For this, I am grateful! Justin and I were married last September and recently spent our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple.

Sometimes I hear stories from friends about people who are scared of needles or afraid to donate blood. I wish I could stand face-to-face with those people and tell them there is nothing scary about saving a life—a life like mine.

Give Blood to Give Time

Together, we can all support patients battling cancer. When you donate blood to the Red Cross or make a financial gift to the American Cancer Society or Red Cross from Feb.10-29, you’re helping to give patients and their families time, resources and the hope they need to fight back. To schedule a blood donation appointment or make a financial gift, visit GiveBloodToGiveTime.org.

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Red Cross Gets Soldier Home in Time for the Birth of His Son

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 10:31

Originally posted on the Red Cross Minnesota Region blog

“They hold each other up,” says Janelle France about the relationship of her daughter Sergeant Shanyn France and Sergeant Cory Hicks. (Family photo)

Late on January 25, Sergeant Cory Hicks was preparing for the next day of training in Virginia when he answered a call from his fiancé, Sergeant Shanyn France in Minnesota.

Cory remembered his training packet and a Red Cross brochure tucked inside. The ‘Hero Care Network’ brochure explained the steps for requesting emergency communications assistance. Cory reached out to his course instructor who said maybe the Red Cross could help.She had just taken a shower but could not get dry. “Just dry off, I told her. I can’t, she said, water is running down my leg. I got a call back later that said her water broke and that she was going into labor.”  This was one month before their baby was due.

Once the test results confirmed Shanyn’s water had definitely broke, her mom Janelle France made the call to Red Cross that would get Cory home. She provided all the information needed to give him the best chance of getting home. “We were also texting Cory to try to not have him panic,” she says.

Cory rarely panics these days. He has served 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves with the 353rd Transportation Company based in Buffalo, Minnesota. When he was 19 years old, he deployed to northern Iraq where he supported fuel missions. “If you get me behind the wheel of a trailer, I’m phenomenal at it,” he says. The premature birth of his first child was another matter. “It was nerve racking because Shanyn was dilating a centimeter every hour.”

At around 4 a.m. on January 26, a verified Red Cross message arrived and requested his return. He’d have to drop leadership training for now. It was, his instructor said, Cory’s decision. That day, he got the last seat on the last flight going to Minnesota. Word of the crisis made its way to the Delta pilots, who asked everyone to stay seated while Cory exited. “The whole plane erupted, and I got to run off the plane. It was pretty cool. That could have been the difference between me making the birth because I had just an hour to spare until baby Cory was born.”

Sergeant Shanyn France, Cory Junior, and Sergeant Cory Hicks together as a family for the first time. (Family photo)

Shanyn was scared. “I was excited, but I was scared that he was not going to make it in time because airports are always tough to get through.” She hung on while Cory raced to the hospital in Coon Rapids. “He didn’t have time to change out of his uniform. I don’t even think I gave him a hug because I was so miserable.” She then asked for an epidural after 23 hours in labor.

Being there for the birth of his child was only part of Cory’s urgency. The other part was “just being able to comfort Shanyn while she was in a lot of pain,” he says.

Baby Cory, also known as “CJ” for Cory Junior, is doing well at home after spending six days in a neonatal intensive care unit. Cory was there throughout each. He’s grateful for what the Red Cross does for service members. “Over the 12 years of my military experience I’ve heard about Red Cross, saw it work for others. I was skeptical until I had to use it. Someday I hope to give back.”“They hold each other up. And there’s nothing these two won’t do for that little boy,” says Janelle, who has worked every reserves drill weekend at unit headquarters since her daughter joined in 2016. “Without the Red Cross he would not have made it home.”

Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military and veteran families.

Baby Cory arrived one month early. “It’s pretty amazing,” says his dad Sergeant Cory Hicks who arrived with only an hour to spare before Cory Jr.’s birth. (Family photo)

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Cindy Crawford Shines a Light on the Need for Blood Donations with Give Blood to Give Time

Mon, 02/10/2020 - 07:34

“I was 8 years old when my brother was diagnosed with leukemia,” said Cindy Crawford. “I remember my parents coming home and telling us that. I didn’t really know what it meant. What I saw was that Jeff’s cancer diagnosis instantly took over the whole family.”

Cindy’s brother Jeff passed away when he was almost four. Today she honors his memory by shining a light on meaningful causes like the Give Blood to Give Time partnership.

“I was very honored when the American Red Cross and American Cancer Society asked me to help raise awareness about how blood donations help patients fighting cancer,” she said.

This February, the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society are teaming up to encourage people across the country to Give Blood to Give Time. When you donate blood to the Red Cross or make a financial gift to the American Cancer Society or Red Cross, you’re helping to give patients and their families time, resources and the hope they need to fight back.

Not Enough Blood Donors

Not many people know that nearly one quarter of the nation’s blood goes to help cancer patients in treatment, and there simply aren’t enough people donating regularly to meet the need.

“We don’t have enough people giving blood,” said Cindy. “Only 3% of our population gives blood.”

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Many of these people, especially those undergoing chemotherapy, will likely have a need for blood. Five units of blood are needed every minute to help someone going through cancer treatment. We need more people to donate regularly to help meet the need.

Reasons to Roll up a Sleeve

Cindy sat down with Red Cross blood donor Sam Taylor who talked about why she is so committed to donating blood.

“My best friend lost her father to cancer when we were still in high school. Watching that process made me feel really helpless,” said Sam. “So, when I learned that donating blood could help people who are going through cancer and experiencing all of that, it really drove me to get over my fear, and get in there and start donating.”

Donate Blood to Honor a Loved One

Give Blood to Give Time is a meaningful way to honor someone you love who is battling or has battled cancer. Please give in honor of your loved ones and roll up a sleeve in tribute. A loved one’s cancer diagnosis often makes families and friends feel helpless, but individuals can make a difference by giving blood to give time.

Together, we can all do our part to help ensure loved ones have the strength and support to battle cancer. For more information, visit GiveBloodToGiveTime.org.

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From Youth Volunteer to Red Cross Employee: Meet Hanna Malak

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 08:26

Originally published on redcrossyouth.org

“I drank the Red Cross Kool-Aid and will be a Red Crosser for life.” 

Meet Hanna Malak, Regional Donor Services Executive in Rochester, New York. Hanna started out in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics ( NAIA)/ Red Cross Collegiate Leadership Program. After the program, he went back to Menlo College, and founded a Red Cross club, holding several blood drives on campus. Hanna was able to collect 65 units of blood, tripling the number of units collected by the college before his founding of the Red Cross club! 

As a part of the Red Cross Collegiate Leadership program, Hanna was able to join the Board of Directors for the Northern California Blood Region. Hanna presented to youth and sat on a few committees, including a Donor Recruitment committee that was focused on holidays and summer vacations. During this time, he worked closely with Red Cross staff to get a list of all blood drives open to the public and spread the word. His approach was especially effective, as the number one reason why people do not donate blood is that they are not asked to do so!

During his college years, Hanna also joined the National Youth Council. He was a part of the Communications Working Group, working on various marketing campaigns and helping develop a new layout for redcrossblood.org.  He ultimately served as the Vice Chair before becoming an advisor for the council.  

Hanna soon began his career with the Red Cross as an employee in the Donor Recruitment Department. In this position, Hanna was responsible for recruiting new groups to hold blood drives and educating them on the need for blood and the process of donating. He also joined the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program, which helped him grow and explore different lines of service. In the LEAD program, Hanna served for two years as a Fundraiser Officer and an additional two years as a Regional Volunteer Services Officer. Two years later, he joined the Silicon Valley Club Red at his local chapter, which is the young professionals club that helped him stay involved with the Red Cross after graduating college.  

National Blood Donor month means a lot to Hanna. Growing up, Hanna’s brother had cancer, and blood is what saved his life. This, along with generosity of the American people, inspires Hanna to serve in the Biomedical Services line of the Red Cross. His favorite aspect of the Red Cross is seeing the great outpour of support of the American public during times of need. Whether it is a disaster or the need for blood, Hanna loves to see people donating their blood, time and money to the Red Cross mission.  

With over 10 years of experience in the Red Cross, Hanna has met many blood donors, and the need for blood continues to hit home. He has also observed multiple changes that have taken place in Biomedical Services, one of the most prominent being the willingness of the organization to adopt and use state of the art technology. Mobile applications allow donors to make financial donations and appointments to donate blood easily. Find out more about Red Cross’s mobile applications here

Hanna has some words of wisdom to offer our youth of today. He encouragingly says, “continue to touch the mission. Whether you are in a club or volunteering individually, volunteer at blood drives, donate blood when you are of age. Go out to Sound the Alarm events to volunteer.” 

Hanna is forever grateful to the Red Cross and the National Youth Council for the opportunities he has gotten to give back to his community, and for being able to make lifelong friends. Thank you, Hanna, for serving as an excellent role model and inspiring youth volunteers! 

Our mission is so powerful – so continue to touch it.

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One Red Cross Blood Donor Wins Tickets to Super Bowl LIV!

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 12:34

Last Sunday blood donor Manolita Gude enjoyed a getaway to Miami where she watched the Kansas City Chiefs rally against the San Francisco 49ers in a fourth quarter surge to win Super Bowl LIV. Although she’s been to NFL games before, she’s never had the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. And she had no clue that her desire to give back would allow her to win tickets to the big game.

“It is a lifetime experience that I would not have enjoyed but for the generosity of the American Red Cross,” says Manolita.

To help tackle the critical need for blood, we teamed up with the NFL to offer anyone who presented to donate blood from Jan. 1-19, the chance to win two tickets to Super Bowl LIV, entry to the official NFL Tailgate, tickets to the Super Bowl Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center, round-trip airfare to Miami, three-night hotel accommodations at The Alexander® – All Suite Oceanfront Resort (Jan. 31 to Feb. 3), and a $500 gift card for expenses. We’d like to extend a big thank you to all the donors like Manolita who came to give.

Before moving to Connecticut less than two years ago, Manolita was a long-time blood donor. To get back on track with donating blood regularly, she downloaded the Red Cross Blood Donor App on her phone and found a blood drive near her area. Moving forward, she doesn’t plan to take another hiatus from giving blood because she knows just how much patients in need rely on blood products. Patients like her father and brother.

Gude’s father relied on blood during his battle with lung cancer and more recently her brother received a number of plasma, platelet and whole blood transfusions to keep up his fight with liver disease.

“Donating blood is such a small, painless gesture that has such a big reward,” says Manolita. “I know it can truly make a difference for people who are ill.”

Give Back by Donating Blood

Like Manolita you can donate blood to make a difference.

“Your blood donation makes a difference in the wellness of patients,” says Manolita. Giving blood is painless, quick and the American Red Cross staff are wonderful, kind and understanding. And you get to eat cookies when you are done!”

Schedule your donation appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the blood donor skill on any Alexa Echo device by saying, “Alexa, find a blood drive.” To make the donation process even easier, you can also complete a RapidPass® online health history questionnaire at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass on mobile devices.

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Red Cross helps find a sister and best friend

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 08:32

Originally published on the Minnesota Red Cross blog

Felipe and Nila left Havana in 1966 and moved to the United States where they joined her mother. Photo: Susan Bourgerie/American Red Cross

In one way, it took hardly any time at all to find Felipe’s sister in Cuba. Just months, in fact, once the Red Cross search formally started. In another way, it lasted years: Felipe lost contact with his sister Carmela in 1992 when he and his wife moved to Minnesota. Around that time, they exchanged their last letter with Carmela.

There was no phone number to call. More letters were sent. They received no replies. Maybe she was sick. Or worse. They assumed something bad had happened. This struck Nila the hardest. “I love her too much,” she says. For her, Carmela was more than her husband’s sister: Carmela was her sister, her family, her best friend.

JoAnn, a long-time family friend in Minnesota, alerted Felipe to the possibility of working through the Red Cross to find Carmela. JoAnn knew that every day for years Felipe wondered about his sister. Papi and Mami are “like my parents,” she says.

JoAnn reached out through email to the Red Cross to learn more about family tracing. Once Felipe agreed to search, local volunteers moved the process forward, informing JoAnn, who updated Felipe. When she knew it worked – meaning, when she knew Carmela was found and, most importantly, alive – JoAnn went to Felipe and Nila at once with the great news.

Married 60 years, Felipe and Nila have 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. For five years in Cuba, they went on dates always with a chaperone.

The first phone call was short. Felipe’s sister used a friend’s phone to reach him. Nila was on the call too. They shared short phrases. Hardly said anything in word count. And yet the meaning of Nila’s basic words — my sister, I miss you, I love you – say everything. “Are you well?” Felipe asked Carmela. They’ve had several more calls and exchanged more email messages with JoAnn receiving and translating them.

Red Cross volunteer Kalay helped reconnect Felipe and Nila with their sister in Cuba. Photo: Susan Bourgerie/American Red Cross

“I appreciate the Red Cross,” says Felipe, who was excited and happy to learn that his sister was alive and well. His sister Carmela was excited, too. Her blood pressure went up, he says. They’ll have more calls, emails and letters. They’ll not lose contact again.

To learn more about our family reconnection services, click here.

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Veteran comes full circle with the Red Cross

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 12:10

Originally published on the Red Cross Northwest Region blog

He’s not sure whether he would’ve ended up working for the Red Cross had an emergency communication not come while he was deployed in the Middle East. But Aaron Slattery, who now is an Service to the Armed Forces AmeriCorps member for the Red Cross, said he can’t think of a better position.

It’s taken a while to get there.

Slattery, who grew up in California and Oregon, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994 for several reasons, including having relatives in the military and remembering how Vietnam veterans were thought of by that point.

“I think I always kind of knew I wanted to go into the military,” Slattery said. “And basically, I saw a lot of guys who went to Vietnam get respect.”

His grandfather was a prisoner of war in World War II and battled the Japanese Navy before capture. His life was spared only because a rain storm flooded the Japanese guns, disabling them and allowing enough time for the Emperor to call off his troops.

Inevitably, Slattery faced enemies as well. He was deployed to Camp Kalsu in Iraq and elsewhere, including Kuwait in 2003, and stayed for about 15 months.

Major explosions were part of Slattery’s norm while deployed. “At some point, you just get used to it,” he said.

Another thing he had to get used to was sleeping outside, with just a cot and mosquito net, as it was too hot to stay in tents and there were no barracks. Soldiers built a makeshift shower from plywood and other materials, still, the water wasn’t cool enough to shower in until around 2 a.m.

Although Slattery adjusted to much in his military career, he wasn’t quite ready to get an emergency message through the American Red Cross saying his father was facing surgery in Utah due to a recent brain cancer diagnosis.

“Within a short time I was on my way home to be there and support my family as my dad went under the knife — and it was thanks to the Red Cross,” he wrote in an email.

His father’s surgeons helped him recover fully, and Slattery returned to combat.

But soon, Slattery was on his way back to the U.S. where he became an Army National Guard member in 2005 and was deployed to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, getting his first taste of disaster relief.

When he retired from the military in 2015, Slattery began volunteering for the American Red Cross serving Snohomish County.

“While my thinking was focused on disaster relief, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer with Service to the Armed Forces,” he wrote. “Now I could help bring others home just like the Red Cross did for me so many years ago. Then, the position for the AmeriCorps’s SAF caseworker became available and I couldn’t pass up the chance to help out full time.”

He’s had the position since Oct. 1.

“I just thought it was an interesting story about how somebody comes full circle,” he said.

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After years of direct service to clients, Lorraine Jacobs now trains other volunteers

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 10:19

Originally published on the Northern California Coastal Region blog.

Last year, American Red Cross volunteer Lorraine Jacobs received the 2019 Clara Barton Award given by the Central Coast Chapter. Named after the organization’s founder, the award honors a volunteer for service in Red Cross leadership positions over many years. In Lorraine’s case, one look at her Red Cross resume makes it clear why she received the prestigious award.

Beginning with a deployment in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lorraine has exemplified outstanding service through her work with the Central Coast Chapter, our region, and beyond. She has devoted her time and care through long-distance deployment in shelters, training, information and planning, fundraising, and Volunteer Management. Lorraine, who has supported Red Cross staff and clients as both a full-fledged volunteer and employee, is currently volunteering as part of the regional Workforce Team.

Before beginning her Red Cross service in response to Katrina, Lorraine first came in contact with the organization following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. When the destructive quake caused significant damage to her and her family’s Soquel area home, Lorraine remembers the Red Cross sharing resources to help them with short-term rental expenses. The memory of that support has stayed with Lorraine in the years since, motivating her to continue to help people facing similar devastation and displacement.

In the following Q&A, Lorraine discusses those and other Red Cross experiences, what inspires her to respond to those in need, and what motivates her now to encourage other volunteers to do the same.

What inspired you to start volunteering with the Red Cross?

I began my work with Red Cross as a volunteer in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. The images of the devastation, scope of the disaster, and the need for volunteers coincided with my ability to deploy at that time in my life. From a young age, I had volunteered for humanitarian causes. So the Red Cross work felt like a good fit.

What lines of service have you participated in?

In the Hurricane Katrina disaster response, I began working in a shelter and continued on to what is now called Recovery. During subsequent deployments, I worked in Information & Planning, Logistics, Staffing, Training, Emergency Response Vehicle driving, and continued with Recovery. My concentration now is on Training, and I really enjoy it.

What are some of the more challenging and uplifting moments you’ve experienced in your various roles with the Red Cross?

My experience has helped me hone my listening skills. After 14 years of Red Cross work, I am not done developing this skill. But I see it more as an opportunity for growth rather than a challenge.

My work with our clients, with people who have been affected by disasters, has also been both challenging and rewarding. The losses our clients sustain are sometimes life-changing. The challenge has been trying to figure out how I can best work with a client and help him or her move through the maze of other agencies set up to help. The reward is less simple to articulate. In fact, it is somewhat indescribable for me. When I listen to a client’s story, or help a person through difficulty, it translates to a feeling of hope. I really believe that connecting with and understanding others builds a network of common ground for shaping our future.

These days my work is more in the area of preparing other volunteers. After working in many other areas of Red Cross, I feel my skills now are best utilized in the facilitation of disaster training at Red Cross. I treasure the Principles, Values, and Mission Statement of Red Cross. Our learning platforms support these well. The opportunity exists to help volunteers find their way in our large organization by facilitating an understanding of how the Red Cross mission translates into care for others.

It is so uplifting to see volunteers progress through training and their disaster-response experiences, learn how to do the best job possible helping meet clients’ needs, and — in the process — learn a lot more about themselves.

What advice would you give people interested in volunteering with the Red Cross?

There are several things I would recommend prospective volunteers do. I would recommend they start by educating themselves by utilizing Red Cross classes to choose a starting place. I think it can be very helpful to find a mentor in their chosen field. Listening to experienced volunteers and staff members is also an important step. I also always tell prospective volunteers to be flexible, as Red Cross disaster work often happens in real-time under pressure. And last but not least, I advise people to regularly re-evaluate how the work is going for them. The Red Cross is a big organization with a lot of different opportunities for service.

What does being a recipient of the Clara Barton Award mean to you?

As this award is in recognition of Red Cross work I have done for many years, receiving it from my local chapter is a particularly great honor. I am more appreciative of it than I can say.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer

Volunteers carry out 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Find out how you can become a volunteer here.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Tami Cowen

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 09:18

Originally published on the Texas Gulf Coast Region blog


If you’ve been on a disaster in the Texas Gulf Coast Region within the past thirty years, the name Tami Cowen might sound familiar. Leading more than twenty disaster response operations, Tami has made her mark as a Red Cross volunteer. It’s ironic that a disaster led her to help people affected by disaster.

Trained as a nurse, Tami gained experience in the emergency room, “I was exposed to the fast paced, rapid environment where you need to make decisions as you go,” she says.

Eventually she became chief nursing officer at hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley. “I like to create a vision and set the pace where we are going to go.”

A building collapse that left 17 dead in Brownsville, Texas in 1988 was the beginning of Tami’s engagement with the Red Cross. When she arrived on the scene of the devastation, she stared at a big pile of rubble and asked herself: What can I do? Where do I start? The call to serve came when a doctor turned to her and asked her to set up a clinic. So, she setup a clinic, established a partnership with the Red Cross and the rest is history.

“My mother used to tell me, sitting on your hands is not volunteering,” Tami recalls, and she has taken her advise seriously. With a lengthy series of leadership positions at the Red Cross, she has excelled in emergency response operations big and small.

Her formula for being a long-term Red Crosser is being able to identify the strengths of each team member and enjoying being part of their success. She finds invigorating “setting up a structure and delivering services from that,” she proudly states.

For Tami, mentoring plays a big role in leadership. “On a disaster assignment, mentoring means helping people achieve what they want to accomplish,” she says, “and I am looking for that opportunity for them to grow, I will back them all the way through.”

Having received many awards and recognition, Tami is honest when it comes to her real motivation: “I love being able to help people in need, it just speaks to my heart.”

Like Tami, you can become a Red Cross volunteer. Visit us a redcross.org/volunteer for more information.

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Marty Knight: A Veteran Who Continues to Serve through Volunteering with the Red Cross

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 07:03

Originally published on the Chicago Red Cross Stories blog

Marty Knight

Marty Knight has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for the over 10 years. However, his experience with the Red Cross goes back to the early 1970s while serving in the United States Navy.

In 1972, Marty deployed during the Vietnam War aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and a year later aboard  USS Kitty Hawk, as a jet and engine mechanic working on airplanes and helicopters.

Years later, while onboard USS Kitty Hawk, Marty crossed path with the American Red Cross, “In July of 1979, I was in Pattaya Beach, Thailand when I got the Red Cross message that my son was born in the city of San Diego” says Marty. Even though, he didn’t get to meet his son until February of 1980, Marty was very grateful to the Red Cross for letting him know that both, his wife and son were doing well.

Copy of the message the Red Cross sent to Marty Knight in 1979 notifying him of the birth of his son

However, this wouldn’t be the last time that Marty was going to hear from the Red Cross. While still on duty, he remembers receiving notification from the American Red Cross that one of the members of his squad needed to return home on emergency leave. “…we started the paperwork and a few minutes later the Red Cross called back to ask if he needed travelling money and I said yes…and so they gave him travel money, which I thought it was very nice of the Red Cross,” recalls Marty.

In 2001, Marty’s wife was gravely ill with cancer and once more the Red Cross was there to assist the family, helping his son, who was serving in the U.S. Navy, come home on emergency leave to be by his mother’s side.

Marty credits this familiarity and personal experience with the work of the Red Cross that prompted him to become a volunteer.  As a Red Crosser, Marty has been able to provide support to other veterans, delivering supplies from the Red Cross to a Veterans Home in Manteno whenever possible, adding that he does whatever he can to make their lives better.

As a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, Marty responds to home fires, providing comfort and assistance to families during their toughest moments. He has also deployed multiple times during major disasters to help with relief efforts. Last year, Marty deployed to Alabama to assist with logistics in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, “I was distributing supplies like shovels, rakes and water to people,” explains Marty.

Marty received 2018 Clara Barton Award for the Chicago & Northern Illinois Region.

His past deployments also include North Carolina and New Jersey after Hurricanes Florence and Sandy, respectively. Both times, Marty assisted with mass feeding in Red Cross shelters and drove an Emergency Response Vehicle to bring food to those in the affected areas.

Marty is one of the many veterans who are making a positive impact in their communities through their volunteering with the American Red Cross, being there for others in time of need, lending a helping hand and shoulder to lean on.  Thank you, Marty, for your service and for supporting the mission of the Red Cross.

Learn More

Visit redcross.org to learn how to become a volunteer. You can also learn more about how the Red Cross supports members of the military and their families here.

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Blood Donation was my Rite of Passage

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 09:27
Jacob during his first blood donation appointment.

Well before I was old enough to donate blood, I remember visiting my grandfather and being fascinated with his collection of American Red Cross blood donor pins. The average whole blood donation is about one pint of blood, and eight pints equals a gallon. For every gallon of blood my grandfather donated, he was awarded with a pin from the Red Cross. Initially I just thought the pins were cool, but now I realize they helped to fuel my passion for blood donation.

I considered blood donation like a rite of passage. For years I joined my mom and three older brothers while they donated blood. I would enviously watch the four of them roll up their sleeves to give and sit waiting for my opportunity. For most teenagers turning 16, they are excited to take their drivers test, for me it was donating my first unit of blood at a Red Cross blood donor center. It was a proud moment.

Standing with my mom and brother after my first blood donation. My Blood Type is Kind of a Big Deal

After I was finished, I realized the donation process is painless and easy and didn’t understand why more people aren’t motivated to donate blood. Here’s the cool part, from my initial blood donation, I learned that my blood type is O negative, and that it is the universal blood type. Emergency rooms rely on O negative blood to help patients with urgent needs when there is no time to determine their blood type.

Even cooler, my blood is also CMV negative, which means that I have never been exposed to a flu-like virus that is present in as many as 85% of the adult population by the time they reach the age of 40. This status makes me a hero for babies that are in need of blood transfusions for their medical care. CMV is generally harmless to adults but can be fatal to babies, so any blood transfused to them must be free of this virus or the antibodies that it leaves behind.

Me sitting with my family. Answering the Call to Donate is a No Brainer

When I receive emails from the Red Cross indicating there is a need for blood, I feel an even greater sense of responsibility to show up to donate because my blood type is essential to assisting patients during emergency situations and can help babies in need.

As a college student it’s nearly impossible to make a financial contribution to the causes I want to support. With blood donation I feel like my volunteer efforts are really helping individuals through each unit of blood that I give. Using the Red Cross Blood Donor App makes the process even more rewarding because I can use it to find out when my donation reaches a hospital to help a patient in need.

Give Now for a Chance to Attend Super Bowl LIV in Miami

Give Now for a Chance to Attend Super Bowl LIV in Miami

The Red Cross has a critical shortage of type O blood and urgently needs blood donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors to make an appointment to give and help replenish the blood supply after the holiday weeks. To thank you for helping tackle the shortage, we’ve teamed up with the NFL to offer one lucky winner a trip to Miami! Come to give [blood/platelets/AB Elite] by Jan.19, and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip for two including two tickets to Super Bowl LIV, entry to the official NFL Tailgate, tickets to the Super Bowl Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center, round-trip airfare to Miami, three-night hotel accommodations at The Alexander® – All Suite Oceanfront Resort (Jan. 31 to Feb. 3), plus a $500 gift card for expenses. * Your chance to experience the Super Bowl live awaits! Schedule your appointment to suit up and give ASAP.

*Terms and conditions apply. Valid email address is required. Limit three (3) entries per presenting donor. Winner will be selected and notified via the email listed in their American Red Cross donor profile on or around Jan. 24, 2020. Offer is non-transferable and not redeemable for cash. Void where prohibited. Giveaway begins Jan. 1, 2020, and ends Jan. 19, 2020. The prize shall not be sold on any internet site and any ticket that has been re-sold via the internet will be nullified. The National Football League’s licensed marks (“NFL”; “National Football League” and the NFL Shield design, “Super Bowl” and the Super Bowl LIV logo) on any giveaway related materials have been reviewed by NFL and are used with permission. The NFL Entities have not offered or sponsored this giveaway in any way.

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Youth and the Power of Humanity

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 09:55
Sitting with my fellow youth delegates at the Youth Forum welcome.

The American Red Cross is just one of 192 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies that gathered in Geneva, Switzerland last December. As the Chair of American Red Cross’s National Youth Council and the Youth Engagement Lead for the Desert to the Sea Region, I was nominated to represent American Red Cross youth at what are called the Statutory Meetings.

Every four years, national societies from around the globe, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), national governments, and all other high contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions gather to make decisions and engage in debates on key issues of humanitarian concern.

Being at the Statutory Meetings allowed me to see not only what the American Red Cross contributes to the world, but how all of the pieces of the global Red Cross Red Crescent network fit together. I’ve been using the phrase, “Down the street, across the country, around the world,” for years. I didn’t fully appreciate it, though, until I met youth delegates from all over the world who were volunteering in their local communities or working together with the American Red Cross following natural disasters. This organization truly does work everywhere, and youth volunteers are such a huge part of that work wherever they go!

Youth delegates during the Youth Forum welcome. Reaching Historic Milestones

This meeting also marked two historic milestones: the IFRC turned 100 years old and it admitted two new national societies—the Bhutan Red Cross and the Marshall Islands Red Cross—to join in our life changing work. The decisions made at these meetings have an immediate impact on our work and will continue to do so for years to come. Through it all, youth played a key role in what happened in Geneva.

Called the Statutory Meetings, each segment of the two-week-long discussions build upon one another. There are four parts, the: 1) Youth Forum; 2) General Assembly; 3) Council of Delegates; and 4) International Conference. Throughout the course of the meetings, our work was driven by the unifying theme of, “The power of humanity.”

Humanity can be powerful, but only as powerful as our emphasis on it. At a time when the number of people fleeing violence is the highest recorded since WWII, and when natural disasters displace millions, the need to leverage the power of humanity has arguably never been greater. This theme covers the humanitarian work that each of our Red Cross and Red Crescent societies provide to our local communities, and it describes the unique ability of the global Red Cross Red Crescent network to garner consensus among our partners around the world. Humanity is one our fundamental principles, and one that youth volunteers are particularly good at embodying.

A group photo of the youth delegates. A Seat at the Table

This event was the first time that youth volunteers had a place at the table and a vote to match it. The Youth Forum, a two-day kickoff to the meetings, was designed to allow youth delegates to come together, learn from one another, share best practices in supporting youth volunteers, give feedback on the IFRC’s new Strategy 2030, and coordinate regionally. I was part of the Americas region, covering everywhere from Canada to Chile, and I was able to see how the American Red Cross plays into the delivery of our mission in this part of the world. I also  learned from others who are already working together to share resources and develop leadership potential across borders.

The Youth Forum also set the stage for the historic first election of the Global Youth Commission of the IFRC. For the first time ever, youth were able to take power into their own hands by selecting the young people who will be representing them and making decisions that impact the entire Red Cross Red Crescent network. This election was launched by IFRC President Francesco Rocca, who encouraged youth volunteers to “see the power that we have in our hands to help humanity as the largest humanitarian and volunteer network for the world.” The newly-elected Youth Commission will help advocate and develop resources and policy to improve youth engagement in the coming years.

Standing with IFRC President Francesco Rocca. Shaping the Future of the Red Cross

National societies took the gathering as an opportunity to sign pledges on collaborative efforts.  One pledge that the American Red Cross signed was to increase the effectiveness of our cross-border response to disasters and other emergencies in North America with the Canadian Red Cross and Mexican Red Cross. This was a special pledge for me because the youth delegates at the Statutory Meetings were engaged in the signing ceremony with our Presidents. This exchange also created a platform for the youth delegates to start discussing the strengths of our youth engagement efforts in each of our national societies and to brainstorm what that collaboration could look like in the future.

Red Cross Society presidents and youth delegates.

In addition to monitoring the progress of the pledges that were made in Geneva, I am brimming with ideas on how to act today to shape tomorrow. I know so many youth volunteers in the United States are making a difference in Red Cross Clubs through disaster preparedness, fundraising, blood drives and so much more.

Any action that you take today to improve your community will help shape the future of our organization. You can learn more about youth engagement at the American Red Cross by visiting redcrossyouth.org. You can also learn more about the global Red Cross Crescent network at https://www.ifrc.org/en/who-we-are/the-movement/.

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Father and Son Team Serve Veterans this Holiday Season

Tue, 12/24/2019 - 06:29
Bill and his father William.

Bill and his father William are a dynamic duo. This holiday season, they’ll be supporting their community in Eastern Pennsylvania with their local Veterans Food Basket Program. Their journey of working together at the Red Cross started after they retired from their respective careers in the U.S. Army and Air Force.

“It feels very good to work with my son. He was away from home for 20 years serving in the Army and to have him in the area is surreal,” William Rodebaugh II said. “I am enjoying every minute of it.

In retirement after a 20-year military career, Bill Rodebaugh III wanted to give back in his community. After two years of volunteering with displaced children and hospice care residents, he found a permanent position as the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Director for our Eastern Pennsylvania Region.

Serving with the Red Cross

“When I found out that I could come back home to be with my family and give back, it was almost like the perfect job,” Bill said. “They were going to pay me to do something I really wanted to do, which was to help others.”

In his current role, Bill ensures that members of the military, veterans and their families living in the area have access to SAF programs and services like the Red Cross Hero Care Network and Mind Body Workshops. He also works with volunteers who are providing support for wounded warriors at military hospitals.

And he’s thrilled at the opportunity to get to do this work with his father.

William served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. Today he works alongside his son as their region’s volunteer engagement lead.

In his role he helps volunteers find their best fit within the Red Cross. He also attends veteran outreach events with Bill and helps to recruit volunteers every opportunity he gets.

“At times it takes a veteran to get through to another veteran because of our shared experience,” William said. “So, reaching out to veterans and placing them in a position where they can help other vets for me is really meaningful.”

Making a Difference

Over the holidays the father and son duo will be serving with the Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region’s Veterans Food Basket and Transportation Programs. Through the Veterans Food Basket Program, volunteers will be delivering food straight to veteran’s homes. Last year they distributed 350 baskets in their community. Volunteers will also be driving veterans, who otherwise wouldn’t have transportation, to local VA hospitals for appointments through the Veterans Transportation Program.

We’re grateful for Red Crossers like Bill and William who have not only served in the military themselves, but continue to support service members and their families in the community during the holidays and year-round.

“I’m grateful to be able to do the work that I do every day,” Bill said. “If I can help give someone a little rest or piece of mind by connecting them to a Red Cross program or service, it’s more important than anything else. I love knowing that a large part of my day goes toward doing something good that helps people move forward.”

Helping Military and Veteran Families

Learn more about how the Red Cross supports military families here.

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