Ideas for the Next Century to Serve Chicago are Put “On the Table”

Around the table this afternoon, members of the American Red Cross shared stories of giving andphoto receiving. Many said inspiration comes through a personal connection. Volunteering or supporting a cause is also something that’s been passed on to us through many generations.

“My dad set a really good example for me,” said Jennifer Alt, new to the Red Cross resource development team this month. “He instilled in me the importance of giving back.”

Like Jennifer’s dad, Red Crossers around the table who have children are teaching their kids the value of volunteerism and giving back, whether it’s dividing up a dollar in four quarters to give to people who need it, or bringing them to places, such as Leader Dogs for the Blind, like Susan Westerfield did with her daughter. That spirit of giving is how Susan is setting a good example for the next generation and why she joined the Red Cross after many years in corporate sales.

“I’m awestruck by the work we do,” said Susan Westerfield. “You really can make a difference. I love talking about it.”

2015 is a special centennial year for charities in Chicago. Both the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago chapter of the American Red Cross were established 100 years ago in 1915. As a kickoff to The Chicago Community Trust’s Centennial, organizations across the region participated in an open dialogue about the future of our community where we put our ideas “on the table.”

Many of these conversations were shared on social media via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which helps bring our community a little closer in the digital age.  Downtown at the Willis Tower, the Red Cross held a blood drive to draw in donors for the constant need for blood. At our headquarters in the Illinois Medical District, the discussion was about supporting other agencies in our network, whether we’re running a race for a cure, or asking a friend for a few dollars to help send a kid to summer camp.

These are investments our team believes in. That’s because we know the Red Cross can’t do it alone – we need help from the entire philanthropic community.  We’ve been serving Chicago for 100 years, and we’re looking ahead to serve 100 more. Together, with our community partners, we can accomplish so much in the next century. For more information on the Chicago Red Cross centennial go to

“It feels really good to give,” said Heidi Mucha, Chief Development Officer. “We all know that feeling and that’s why we’re part of the Red Cross. It’s in our power to help others have that same experience so they’ll be inspired to give back to our community.”

Story and photo by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Volunteers and Therapy Dogs Comfort Fairdale Families

Bekah & Bekah 4.15.15Meet Bekah and Bekah. Together, they make a great team.

Bekah Kinsella is a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer. Golden Retriever Bekah is a therapy dog from Addison, Illinois-based Lutheran Church Charities.  Whether offering a hand or a paw, both Bekahs were a comfort to Fairdale families arriving at the tornado survivor center at First Lutheran Church in Kirkland.

As a Red Cross mental health volunteer, Bekah helps people talk through their emotions so they can cope with disaster and loss. Bekah, the therapy dog, also helps the healing process as furry friend to hug.

Dog trainer Helga Berutti said Bekah started training as comfort dog when she was a puppy. And even through the three-year old Golden Retriever likes to run and play, “when she has her vest on, she knows she’s working.”

Volunteers, like Bekah Kinsella, have the same call of duty, too. Every time they put on their Red Cross vest, it’s an opportunity to comfort those who need our help.

Story by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Photo by: Ira Meinhofer, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross is the “One Constant Through This Entire Disaster”

Chris Thick and Jackie Jordan are heroes. At first they tried to outrun the storm about to strike Fairdale April 9 with their two childrenJackie-Chris-Charlie
in the car, but decided to turn around when the top of a house blew across the road.

They returned home to seek refuge and brought a handful of dazed neighbors inside with them. With the family safe for the moment when the fierce winds passed, Chris joined others in the search and rescue for other neighbors who needed help and were injured.

The couple has two sons Oliver, 2, and Ryder, 1. The boys are exactly one year apart and share the same birthday – April 10; the day after the tornado hit. So there wasn’t much of a celebration for them this year.

Gov Rauner visits fairdale 4.17.15Governor Bruce Rauner visited Chris and Jackie and their boys at their home on April 17. “It’s been a privilege for me just to come and offer condolences and emotional support and financial support, in the future, to the families here, as we’ve walked through the community,” Rauner said.

Chris and Jackie are also grateful to Red Cross volunteer Charlie Sharpe from nearby Sycamore. The couple first met Charlie on White Street when the Red Cross was handing out supplies. They’ve run into Charlie several more times.

Charlie was also Chris and Jackie’s ambassador at the tornado survivor center at First Lutheran Church, helping them navigate the paperwork and casework process.

The couple said Charlie and the Red Cross are the one thing that’s been constant through this entire disaster. “We’ve had more help than we ever thought possible,” said Jackie. “It’s just amazing there’s been a lot of help for just this little town.”

Story and Photos by:

Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Future Volunteers Lend a Helping Hand

ERV kidsFour-year-old Hope Marston survived the tornado that hit Fairdale April 9. A few days later, Hope and her older siblings, Mikey, 7, and Shayna, 5, wanted to help. So they climbed aboard a Red Cross feeding truck stationed at that the tornado survivor center at First Lutheran Church in Kirkland.

They handed out snacks and water with Red Cross Volunteer Services Manager Peggy Pirovano. “They were so eager to help,” Pirovano said. “I can see they have a future with the Red Cross.”

Story and Photo by:

Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Meet the Families of Fairdale: Tornado Survivors

Davis Family Fairdale_4.15.15

The small, tight-knit community of Fairdale is surrounded by cornfields in Northwest Illinois. On April 9, the town of about 150 people took a direct hit by a tornado that leveled many homes.

The families that call Fairdale home are strong and determined to recover. Through the help of the American Red Cross and other community and government agencies, they are getting a good start.

Janet and John Davis live with Janet’s adult daughter, Bridgette Wittenholt in Fairdale. They listened to weather warnings on Bridgette’s cell phone and took cover in the basement when the storm hit. They stayed there for two hours until they felt it was safe to come out.

Even through all three are disabled, they wanted to go home after staying several days with family. They were able to once the electricity was turned back on. The Red Cross has been delivering meals to them.

John is a retired construction worker and a Vietnam vet. Janet is a big Chicago Bears fan, and lived in the Fairdale home for 44 years. Bridgette said when the storm hit, the glass breaking was something she would never forget.Beverly Richardson Fairdale_4.15.15

Their neighbor, Beverly Richardson lived in her Fairdale home for 41 years. Her home was sliced in two; the upstairs was ripped off and landed on the ground next to her living room. Beverly salvaged a few items she recognized – a green dish, a few tools, and the cast-iron “Welcome” sign that used to hang on her front door.

Across the street, Charlene and Ray Roach’s home is still standing, although the inside is in shambles. They have great pride in their home, which they built in 1959. Ray painted the green shutters and Charlene sewed the curtains. All the little details about what makes it their home. Now, glass litters the living room and kitchen from the windows blown out, although remarkably her entire glassware collection remains intact.

The Roaches are fortunate as many of their neighbors’ homes were destroyed. Charlene said,” We’re survivors.”

The Red Cross is helping all families who need support and identifying resources for their long-term recovery needs. It’s a long road to recovery, but the Red Cross is here to help.

Story and photos by:

Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Blood Drive Birthday Party – “It’s the Best Gift to Give Back”

photo 4Rather than toasting champagne on her 50th birthday, Beth Dustman raised a cupcake to raise her blood sugar level with friends at the American Red Cross.

“We wanted to do something meaningful on our birthdays,” said Beth, joined by Winnetka friends Beverly Petersen, Midge Hano and Kim Falk, who all rolled up a sleeve with Beth to give blood. Kim arranged for the birthday party at a blood drive by the Red Cross in Chicago where her husband, Scott Falk, serves on the organization’s Board of Directors.

“It’s the best gift to give back,” said Beth, surrounded by her friends, and a nod to her father who had leukemia and needed blood.  She holds a sign she wrote that reads, “In celebration of life and friendship.”

Like Beth, the Red Cross is also celebrating a milestone birthday this year marking 100 years of service to Chicago. You can give the gift of blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Every 2 seconds someone needs blood and 1 pint can save up to 3 lives.

Story and photo by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Nanny Saves a Life With Infant CPR: “Training Turns Helplessness Into a Fighting Chance”

Health and Safety Stock ImagesLynn Lindquist took a pediatric first aid class so she could be a good nanny to six-month-old Jack.

One day Jack was feeding himself pieces of watermelon when he began choking. Lynn allowed Jack to cough at first, but when his breathing became labored she snatched him from the high chair, and turned him over to start the back blow maneuver she learned from her American Red Cross instructor. The piece dislodged and Lynn was relieved to hear Jack cry. A few calming breaths and many hugs later, Jack was happy and giggling again.

“The steps drilled by our instructor, Ed, kicked in when I needed them,” said Lynn. “Red Cross CPR training turns helplessness into a fighting chance. You need to be able to do the best you can for children.”

Lynn is one of many child care providers who have completed a Red Cross class in the Chicago region who would agree infant first aid is a vital skill to know. Even with constant supervision, babies can choke on food or a small toy. They can slip under water in a bathtub or a shallow pool. Infant CPR training ensures you’re prepared, like Lynn was for baby Jack.

“The thing about learning CPR skills from the Red Cross is that it prepares you to act without over thinking it,” she said. “It’ll give you courage to act when you might not have the confidence to help someone in need.”

CPR uses chest compressions and rescue breaths so oxygen-rich blood circulates through the brain and other vital organs until emergency medical personnel arrive.

Lynn encourages everyone to take a Red Cross CPR class to be prepared to help save a life of any age. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers a variety of First Aid/CPR/AED courses and safety tips. Visit for more information.

Written by: Amisha Sud, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer


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