Each year, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon hosts thousands of runners who choose to make their Chicago Marathon experience more meaningful by running on behalf of a charity, with hundreds choosing to run for the American Red Cross.
A long-time partner of the Chicago Marathon, American Red Cross volunteers are stationed each year along the course to assist with the Runner Reunification through the Red Cross Safe and Well Program.
In the event a runner is transported to a local area hospital at the discretion of the Chicago Marathon medical team, volunteers with the Red Cross are stationed at medical and informational tents across Grant Park to provide information regarding that runner’s location to their family or friends. Our trained volunteers help families quickly and efficiently connect with their runner in their moments of highest anxiety and concern.
Volunteers helping with Runner Reunification are located in the informational tents throughout Grant Park and at the Medical Family Waiting Tent.
If a runner’s family member is looking for information, they can also call Runner Reunification at 888-659-9877 to speak with a Safe and Well Operator to inquire about a patient.
Regional Marketing & Communications Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Isis Chaverri has been with the organization for almost one year. Originally from Panama, she immigrated to the United States in 1995.
A Fulbright Scholar, her media and communications background is extensive including overseeing Univision Chicago with over 30 people reporting to her and receiving multiple Emmy awards for her work. Her and her husband are also entrepreneurs, running their own small business for 10 years following her career in news.
She feels Hispanic Heritage Month is a fun and exciting celebration because it emphasizes differences within our cultures while also bringing so many people together.
“It just makes me feel connected,” Isis said.
“It’s a way to honor the different cultures within the Hispanic community because even though we all speak Spanish, we have things that make us different from one another; even within the Hispanic community there are different cultures and think that’s important to highlight.”
Isis shared that seeing how the month is celebrated further emphasizes how the cultural differences between the Hispanic community are some of the things that make it so interesting.
“I’m so proud of my culture and being Panamanian. When you are identified as Hispanic/Latina- it just puts you together with other people who share the same values and cultural commonalities that you do… its just a way to not only celebrate Hispanics as a whole but also what makes us who we are and realize the differences culturally.”
Working at the American Red Cross, Isis is part of the team responsible for sharing the mission and message and activities with the rest of the community. It’s a role that she says has been fulfilling in multiple ways especially with her ability to connect with people of many different backgrounds in often some of their most difficult times.
“What attracted me was that I was going to be able to use my skills to help others. I learned about the many lines of service, and thought this is an organization that is not only well-known and respected, but I would be able to give back. What a better way to give back and use the skills I have than through the Red Cross?”
In the midst of disasters, Isis says it feels good to be able to help people. Last year when Freeport, IL experienced severe flooding many people were forced to evacuate their homes, Isis met a woman living in that area who was originally from Puerto Rico and had relocated to Freeport after Hurricane Maria. Faced once again with disaster, Isis said it was nice to be able to bring even the slightest bit more comfort to the woman by not only providing Red Cross services while displaced from her home but also communicating with her in Spanish- something familiar and understandable among a confusing and complex time.
Though Isis goes back to Panama often to visit family and they often visit the US, Isis says the distance is great and she misses them deeply. When family is able to come and visit her here, she says it is a joyous reunion filled with great memories. But Isis says being a part of the Hispanic community within the Chicago & Northern Illinois community is a connection worth cherishing and sharing.
“We are here to contribute and we want to make our communities a better place…we have very strong family values. We are a very tight-knit community and we can be loud sometimes but we are a lot of fun.”
Tanya Toribio is
a disaster program specialist with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.
In that role, Tanya works closely with volunteer services to ensure that the
organization has the volunteer workforce to respond to home fires.
Born in Florida and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada by Mexican parents, while attending college in Reno, a friend who was a disaster program manager for the Red Cross encouraged Tanya to become a volunteer with the organization, “I grew up volunteering…so I always enjoyed helping people. And then when I did my first [disaster action team] DAT call…I was hooked. I was like, wow! this is such a great feeling.”
After college, Tanya joined AmeriCorps
for a year, helping advance the mission of the Red Cross by teaching disaster
preparedness to underserved communities in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During her
time with AmeriCorps, Tanya deployed to North Carolina to help with relief
efforts after Hurricane
Florence. In North Carolina, she worked with displaced residents in
the shelters and make sure people were aware of resources available to them. She
tells me the story about a family that she met at one of the shelters and that only
spoke Spanish and how relieved they were when Tanya was able to let them know
about the long-term assistance that was available to them, including resources
that they could access through FEMA. Tanya was able to connect them with
representative of that organization that spoke Spanish, and that was able to
continue assisting them with the recovery process.
Tanya is first generation Mexican American, and she sees Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to highlight the different contributions Latinos have made to the country, particularly the many cultures that they represent, adding to the diversity of the United States.
You can find more information about volunteering with the American Red Cross here. To sign up for an appointment for a free smoke alarm installation at your home, visit www.getasmokealarm.org.
Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager
Born in Illinois and raised in Mexico until the age of 12, Isamar Moctezuma came to the Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois two years ago. As Senior Recruitment Specialist for Volunteer Services, Isamar is responsible for recruiting new volunteers and bring awareness about the American Red Cross.
For Isamar working for the Red Cross was a natural choice, “Something that appealed to me in the Red Cross is that we train our volunteers to take the services that we have and trainings that we have and share them within the community…helping to build stronger communities.”
Isamar is also a member of the Red Cross Latino Outreach committee, and as part of this effort, she helps educate the Latino community about the Red Cross and the services the organization has to offer.
Being able to speak Spanish has allowed Isamar to bring comfort to people affected by disasters as was the case with evacuees from Puerto Rico arriving in Chicago. During her second week with the Red Cross, Isamar was one of many Red Cross staff and volunteers providing comfort and information to those who came to Chicago seeking refuge after Hurricane Maria, “ It was very impactful to see what the Red Cross does by being there, supporting them,” remembers Isamar. Adding that just being able to communicate with someone in Spanish meant so much for the evacuees after being through such a stressful event in their lives.
At the end of our interview we talk about Hispanic Heritage Month, and the importance of this celebration for her. I am not surprised when Isamar reminds me how proud she is of her Latino roots, and all that Latinos have overcome and accomplished. She concludes by encouraging other Latinos to get involve with organizations like the American Red Cross to help their communities better understand of the mission of the Red Cross.
If you would like to learn more about volunteering for the American Red Cross, you can find more information here.
Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager
Over the weekend, the last weekend in September, volunteers with Services to the Armed Forces of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois teamed up with Disaster Mental Health volunteers to support “The Moving Wall” exhibit at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
“The Moving Wall” is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and it has toured the U.S. since 1984. The exhibit serves as a way for those who cannot travel to Washington D.C. to still pay tribute to all veterans- especially Vietnam War veterans. Two Moving Wall exhibits travel the U.S. from April through November, spending a week at each site.
American flags, 1,587 of them, were placed at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, with each one representing a military member who is Missing in Action. In addition, 50 state flags were placed to indicate that the service members displayed on the wall were from all 50 states in the U.S.
Valerie Moreno-Tucker, an SAF volunteer, wore a POW MIA bracelet that she received in college to the exhibit. As Valerie was offering mental health support to local veterans she was able to find the name of the service member that was on her bracelet on the wall. She says the experience was very touching for her and the other volunteers to be part of such a powerful remembrance.
The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program dates back to the establishment of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton in May 1881. Not only did the “Angel of the Battlefield” risk her life tending to soldiers wounded in the Civil War, she bolstered their morale by writing letters for them to send to their families. Today’s American Red Cross workers proudly carry on this tradition through the SAF program, which serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families.
Raul Mora is the manufacturing director in blood services. I meet Raul on the first floor of the American Red Cross headquarters in Chicago for our interview. He is sitting in front of his computer and greets me with a smile. Raul tells me that he has spent most of his career in blood banking, including 19 years with the Red Cross and enthusiastically says, “…it means a lot to me that we are helping the community, [that] we are saving lives day in and day out.”
Whenever I meet Raul in the office, he often speaks to me in
Spanish. He learned the language from his parents who were both from Mexico.
He talks proudly about them and tells me a story about his dad when he first
immigrated to the United States, “He lived in New York with one of my uncles,
and someone stole his visa and his passport, so my dad joined the 82nd
Airborne so that he could make right and get his papers in order. My dad was a
paratrooper in the late 50s.”
Raul is very proud of his Mexican roots and sees Hispanic Heritage Month as a celebration of the many contributions Latinos have made to the country, and adds that it is a celebration of all the Latino community has accomplished. He talks about the sacrifices that his parents made to raise him and his six siblings, and with certain melancholy in his voice he tells me about his father’s dreams and aspirations of one day returning to Mexico with the family to start a business. Even though this never became a reality for his dad, for Raul it is a reminder of how hard workers Latinos are.
As a Red Crosser, Raul understands the importance of helping those in need and building stronger communities. He realizes how crucial volunteers are to the humanitarian mission of the organization and explains, “…disasters don’t take a break. They are constantly happening, and the only way we can help people is through people.”
Harold Cubillo, born and raised in Costa Rica, joined the American Red Cross three years ago. When asked why he chose to work for the American Red Cross, Harold promptly replies that he loves to help people then adds ,“I love to work in a team of people that are united by the common desire to help others.”
As Lead Disaster Program Manager for the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois, Harold is used to responding to fires and flooding in the chapter. However, he recalls the time he was deployed for three weeks to Saipan after the devastation brought to the island by Typhoon Yutu.
“People were just so kind, so grateful. [They] were willing to put themselves aside, even though they were suffering themselves to help others,” says Harold. He and his team provided most needed relief supplies, including water to those impacted by the typhoon.
The time that he spent in Saipan will live in his memory forever, says Harold, as he encourages others to volunteer with the Red Cross, “If it is in your DNA to help others, to put a smile in people’s faces, and if you can put yourself aside and worry about somebody else, this is the right organization for you.”
As we are about to conclude our conversation, we discuss Hispanic Heritage Month which for Harold brings great memories from his childhood, growing up in Costa Rica, particularly because on September 15, Costa Rica celebrated its independence from Spain. “It’s a moment to think about your culture and the values that your ancestors instilled in you. The values of hard work, humility, sacrifice, respect, integrity, love, and always united around the nucleus of the family,” concludes Harold.
You can find out more about volunteering with the American Red Cross here.
Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager