Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Lee Powell

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Lee Powell

If you have not introduced yourself to Sara Powell yet, you can easily give her a friendly hello, as she currently volunteers every Tuesday at the Rauner Center. Sara embraces getting to know other volunteers and seeing them at Red Cross events.

Having worked previously as a fundraiser for a variety of non-profits pertaining to higher education and cultural programs in Chicago, Sara was looking for an organization to be a part of after she retired. Sara finds that volunteering with the Red Cross completely satisfies her needs to give back to the community.

“It gives me great pleasure that I can do these things and do them well for the Red Cross,” Powell said.

Having only volunteered with the Red Cross since last October, Sara has already made a huge impact. She currently assists with fundraising efforts by assisting with the production of our special events including the CBS Telethon, the Red Cross Classic and the Heroes Breakfast. Sara recognizes the importance of the Red Cross’s fundraising, asserting, “all of this takes money, so it’s important to raise funds.”

Her favorite event that she assisted with, so far, was the Heroes Breakfast. All before the event, Sara was tasked with ensuring that each application fit under the appropriate category they were nominated in. Sara neatly cleaned up the language of each submission and attached a synopsis for the judges to read with every application.

“What was really cool was reading the applications that came in, and a few of my personal favorites actually were picked,” Powell said.

She notes one story of a hero driving along the expressway, pulling over and rescuing passengers from a limo before it combusted. Expanding upon the stories evinced a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the work she put in to honoring their actions.

“…They were just everyday people like me and you,” she’ll comment in awe.

But as Sara continues to volunteer at the Red Cross, she finds herself noting all of the opportunities and training that Red Cross provides online, and knows she will continue to seek out new volunteer opportunities outside of her current fundraising efforts. Because of the training and information that the Red Cross provided her, Sara is confident in whatever volunteer effort she pursues.

“I love how the Red Cross treats the volunteers. When there’s a disaster there’s a system in place, they have the right tools.”

By: Tyler Bieschke, Communications Volunteer at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Making a splash with the World’s Largest Swim Lesson

The Red Cross is proud to have partnered with the Chicago Park District to help thousands of kids and families be a part of the World’s Largest Swim Lesson. on June 22, 2017. It’s part of a global initiative to spread awareness about the importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning.

This was the eighth year of the event, and the Chicago Park District invited families to take the lesson at 76 pools across the city.

A class of swimmers in Norwood took to the water yesterday, joining the thousands of other swimmers around the world.

Research shows risk of drowning can be reduced by 88 percent if children participate in formal swimming lessons between the ages of 1-4. Yet, a survey conducted by the American Red Cross in 2014 found that more than half of Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills.
Whole Class WLSL 2017 NorwoodLifeguard and boy WLSL 2017 NorwoodKicking WLSL 2017 Norwood
Swimming lessons for Chicago kids and families are still available this summer. The Red Cross offers Life guarding training classes as well as swimming and water safety.

Restoring Family Links: Connecting Susan Stevens

Restoring Family Links: Connecting Susan Stevens

Hugh and Susan Stevens are on a mission to preserve part of their family history. A few years ago, the couple visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin and after reading about the people and families impacted, she felt it was time to dig further into her own untold family story.

While cleaning out some items that belonged to her late aunt, Vera Rosenthal, Susan stumbled upon two well-preserved typed letters emblazoned with the American Red Cross logo.

Dated June 14th and November 30th of 1943, the letters showed the Chicago Chapter of the American Red Cross was trying to reach Susan’s father, Hans Friedman, to deliver personal messages. These letters would show the lengths family members went to in hopes of reaching loved ones across the sea they feared had forgotten them.

Hans left the city of Berlin as well as his mother, Lotte, and his sister and her husband, Vera and Kurt Rosenthal, in 1938 to begin a new life in America. Hans did not believe Vera nor Lotte had survived the war in Germany.

It wasn’t until a few years later when the Red Cross aided Lotte and Vera in trying to locate Hans that he even knew they were still alive. Susan says her father was so happy to learn his mother and sister had survived, and amazed that the Red Cross was able to track him down.

“It gave them great hope,” said Susan Stevens. “It was very exciting for my parents to receive these letters and then obviously significant since they kept them all these years.”

About 70 years after the letters were delivered to Susan’s father, her husband Hugh noticed another personal connection to the Red Cross. Listed under the Board of Directors was Elmer T. Stevens, a relative of Hugh.

There is much more to this family’s story of survival, but the Red Cross was there to help reconnect them when their fate was uncertain.

The American Red Cross has been working to reconnect families after the chaos and confusion of war and disasters for decades. Whether it has been weeks or years, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago can help you find and reconnect with loved ones around the world after natural disasters, armed conflict, migration or other humanitarian emergencies. The American Red Cross works with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations to reconnect nearly 5,000 families each year through tracing, certificates of detention, migration and other forms of documentation.

To learn more about the Red Cross mission to Restore Family Links, please visit our website at redcross.org/familylinks.


Local Military Family Receives Red Cross Resources

Local Military Family Receives Red Cross Resources

Flora Martinez, 55, received a surprise call from the local Red Cross after her son deployed with the U.S. Army. During the call, Michelle McSweeney, Manager of Service to the Armed Forces Programs, had a conversation with Flora in Spanish about the support that the Red Cross offers to military families.

“I didn’t know about any of these programs and I was very happy to hear about them,” said Flora, who recalled another time, years ago when she lived in Mexico, when the Red Cross helped her. Her mother was sick and a Red Cross ambulance helped their family at no charge. Flora even volunteered for the Red Cross as a teenager when she lived in Mexico.

Flora immigrated to the U.S. thirty years ago. Her son, Cristian, is 23 years old and currently stationed in Bahrain, a small island between Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He has been in the army for two years, having decided to pursue a U.S. military career at the age of 21 to do something remarkable for him, his family and his country.

The Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service. The call Flora received was assurance that help is always available to her. One of the most common things military families need, is assistance in reaching their service member in the case of an emergency at home, such as an unexpected illness of a family member or the passing of a loved one.

The Red Cross is available 24/7 to ensure these urgent messages are sent as quickly as possible to the service member, no matter where in the world they are stationed. At times, the Red Cross may also assist in helping the service member get back home on emergency leave to spend time with their family when they need it most.

Cristian is currently able to communicate with his family from Bahrain through text messages, FaceTime calls, and handwritten letters. He always reminds his family how much he misses them and how good he feels being in the military because he is doing something important.

Thanks to Cristian’s hard work, he’s able to help his sister go through medical school at Loyola.

Flora fondly remembers her most recent birthday, when someone knocked on the front door and she opened it to find Cristian proudly standing there in his army uniform.

“I immediately started crying. It was a very emotional moment for both of us,” said Flora. “It was the best birthday present I could ever imagine.”

He had come home for three weeks and they spent both Flora’s birthday and Thanksgiving together as a family.

Years after she volunteered for the Red Cross in Mexico, Flora is now planning to volunteer for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, starting by helping to install smoke alarms in her neighborhood in Waukegan.

To learn more about how Red Cross helps military families, please visit our website at redcross.org/emergencycommunication.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dominic Poggi

Volunteer Spotlight: Dominic Poggi

Ninety percent of the work of the American Red Cross is done by a massive group of dedicated volunteers from all backgrounds and career paths. Dominic Poggi (pronounced Poe-ghee) is one of those trusted volunteers.

Dominic credits his father for inspiring him to work in disaster response. His father did disaster planning for school districts.

“I chose to volunteer for Red Cross because I like seeing the immediate impact of the work,” Dominic said.

Dominic ARCGC

It all began when Dominic signed up to install smoke alarms, and then joined the Disaster Action Team. When tornadoes recently hit Ottawa and Naplate, IL, Dominic was there to provide casework support. In addition to all those roles, he is currently completing his training to be a dispatcher as well.

Within these roles, Dominic has faced difficult situations and conversations especially after Hurricane Matthew.

“The woman was distraught and giving up on her recovery. She wasn’t motivated. I talked her through it and got her to agree to speak with disaster mental health. I got her to take a step forward, and I was really proud of that,” Dominic said.

He acknowledges that asking for help is hard for many people, but being able to provide immediate assistance in that critical time is huge!

“I like giving people the confidence to take the path forward and take steps to help themselves, with some assistance along the way,” Dominic said. “It’s great to know that nobody falls through the cracks and that we’re not settling for waiting for them to reach out to us.”

Dominic MARC.jpgDominic says volunteering with the Red Cross at the Rauner Center also makes for a fun workplace environment. He recalls one afternoon when he and an intern were heading out for lunch and caught a wonderful aroma of good food. They turned around and “sniffed out” lunch being served right in the building and helped themselves!

Dominic is a driven, dedicated and loyal volunteer for the American Red Cross. And, in May 2017, Dominic joined the team as a staff member! He is excited to make a career out of his passion in fulfilling the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Photo Jul 21, 6 19 54 PM.JPGOutside of his generous volunteer time with the Red Cross, you may find Dominic spending time with friends or family. Or, he may be playing hockey, but not on ice, a floor, or concrete. Dominic plays hockey under water! Yes, underwater hockey is a real thing, and it makes for a great workout too.

Dominic has a background in sales and a marketing degree from Northern Illinois University. He started the Toastmasters Club in Evanston four years ago. And, he recently completed Seth Godin’s altMBA program.

But, sales wasn’t enough for him, “Money is good, but it’s not everything,” he said.
Thank you for all you do, Dominic. The American Red Cross is proud to have you.

By: Susan Westerfield, Major Gifts Officer at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute Honored with American Red Cross 2017 Heritage Award

Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute Honored with American Red Cross 2017 Heritage Award

In recognition of more than a century of support to the American Red Cross and the greater Chicago community, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is proud to honor The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute with the Heritage Award.

The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded in 1911 with a mission to pursue the investigation of the causes of disease and the prevention and relief of human suffering in Chicago. A few years after The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded, the Red Cross established a Chicago chapter. The son of Otho, A.A. Sprague II, was the first chairman of the board of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago when it was chartered in 1915. Organized just six weeks before the infamous Eastland Disaster, when a passenger ship rolled over onto its side while tied to a dock in the Chicago River, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago was able to respond immediately.

The Institute’s early research programs investigated cancer, the effects of chemotherapy on tuberculosis, industrial diseases and the metabolism of carbohydrates affecting diabetes. The Institute funded and created a biomedical research program, which was considered bold at the time. This early research resulted in many important findings,
including the cause of scarlet fever.

“The early 1900s reflected a time when so many institutions were being created,” said James Alexander, executive director of the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute. “This great family was at the center of a lot of that. The earliest work of the Institute reflected an innovative mindset.”

In 1995, the Institute created the Chicago Asthma Initiative, funding a diverse group of researchers, providers, community and patient initiatives to highlight the growing health problem, collect data, apply innovative solutions and share outcomes.

In 2002, the Institute re-focused its grant-making energies on obesity prevention. It created The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), which has become a globally recognized model. Longitudinal research shows obesity rates in pre-kindergarteners have been reduced by two percent due to CLOCC’s efforts. Initiatives in
Oral Health, Public Health and Behavioral Health continue the Institute’s model of fostering collaborations.

The Institute continues to fund the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, specifically the Patient Connection program, a central hotline that expedites the ability of family and friends to connect with each other after a disaster.

“More than a century has passed since the Sprague family helped charter the Chicago chapter of the Red Cross. Our founding members set the stage for years of important work to come,” said Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Both the Red Cross and the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute work
to prevent and alleviate human suffering. It is a joy to honor their connection to the founding of our local Red Cross and to celebrate their impact on the city of Chicago.”

The Heritage Award is given to an individual or organization whose leadership and actions greatly enhanced the welfare of our community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Mr. Mark Buciak Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Blood Services Hero

Mr. Mark Buciak Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Blood Services Hero

In 1996, Mark Buciak was devastated when his father died right before the holidays. “He was my biggest supporter. I knew I could let this be the lowest point in my life.” But Mark didn’t do that.

During his life, Mark’s father had instilled in him the importance of giving back, helping those in need and sharing one’s gifts. “My father was a regular blood donor because he knew blood was the gift of life.”

As an elite distance runner, Mark ran regularly to clear his head. On December 31, during his last run of the year, Mark decided to start the New Year right and do something to keep his father’s spirit alive. Soon after, Mark established the John Buciak Memorial Blood Drive to honor his father’s memory.

The blood drive is held annually at Old St. Pat’s Church and has become one of the largest in Chicago, collecting more than 1,500 units of blood since its inception 20 years ago. Each year, Mark and his family make the blood drive a celebration of life. Mark’s seven-year-old daughters dress as blood drops, participants enjoy raffles, therapy dogs are there to calm nerves and masseuses even provide pre-donation relaxation.

As an elite runner who has completed more than 60 marathons, Mark understands the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In 2004, after more than 30 years of distance running, Mark was told he had a congenital heart defect. Two years later, doctors told him he needed heart surgery to save his life. As he headed to surgery, Mark reflected on the, now very personal, value of the blood he had been collecting.

After surgery, Mark began the slow climb back to health. Having run 26 consecutive Boston Marathons, Mark was determined not to let his heart surgery deter him from his 27th. Despite doctors’ recommendations, 11 weeks post-surgery, Mark flew to Boston. He finished the marathon as they were shutting down the course. “It was not my personal fastest, but it was my personal best,” he said.

In 2013, Mark and his wife Barrie were running the Boston marathon when two homemade bombs killed three people and injured more than 260. Barrie had just crossed the finish line and Mark had a quarter of a mile to go when the race was stopped. Mark said being in the thick of that tragedy reaffirmed his commitment to the gift
of life.

“It was more than a marathon, it was a race of good versus evil,” he said. “And how could good win the race?” Upon arriving back home, Mark and Barrie both donated blood. “Technology can keep people alive and cure many diseases, but it cannot manufacture blood. There is only one source and that is you.”

The Blood Services Award is presented to an individual(s) or organization that is involved in activity that creates awareness of the importance of blood donation, helps to ensure a sufficient and safe blood supply is available to patients, and/or serves as an advocate for the blood community

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.