Red Cross Volunteers Provide Comfort and Assistance to Family After Home Fire

Last summer, the lives of Elizabeth Morales and her family changed in a matter of minutes when a fire destroyed their home in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. “By the time I arrived, I was just watching gallons and gallons of water pouring out of our home. So, at that point, you kind of realize that everything that you have is now destroyed,” recalls Elizabeth.

A fire that began in their neighbor’s home had spread to Elizabeth’s family and in the blink of an eye, the home where Elizabeth grew up and lived for more than 20 years was gone. When the Morales were finally allowed in the house by the fire department, Elizabeth’s husband, Jose, remembers how everything was in disarray, “Everything was pretty much destroyed…everything was black pretty much from the smoke…couches were pushed over, clothes were thrown everywhere.”

Elizabeth and Jose

Elizabeth remembers how overwhelmed the whole family felt after the fire, and how comforting it was to be met by volunteers with the American Red Cross, “they met us at our level of chaos and explained to us what to expect, a list of places to call and things we needed to do next” 

Late that night, Elizabeth recalls, how grateful they were to have the basic items the Red Cross has provided, “They gave us a kit that had all the accessories like shampoo, toothbrush, deodorant, shaving cream. They thought of it all.”  Adding that the Red Cross even provided medications, something she didn’t think of and that members of her family were going to need, “the Red Cross connected us with a nurse and helped us get prescriptions by the next day free of charge.”

Elizabeth and Jose play with their two youngest sons at their temporary home

After living in a hotel for a month, Elizabeth and her family relocated to a temporary home while theirs is being rebuilt, which may take at least a year. As our conversation was coming to an end, Elizabeth reminded us once more about how crucial it was for the family to have the comfort and support of the Red Cross, “they called and checked on us to make sure that emotionally we were still doing ok. How we were settling in, and to let us know all the resources that were available to us.”

You can take two easy steps to protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

Click here to find out more about volunteering opportunities with the American Red Cross.

Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager

Red Cross Volunteer Reflects on Past as Executive Director and Serving Others

Pam Shaffer has always had a spirit for helping others, so her journey to the American Red Cross was a perfect match.

The Adams County native completed her diploma of nursing in 1975 from St. John’s School of Nursing and associate’s degree from Springfield Community College, both located in Springfield, Illinois.

She later went on to complete her BSN degree at Quincy College in 1991.

But Shaffer’s story with the Red Cross started in 1981 as a charge nurse for Biomedical Services in Illinois, and eventually serving as a board member for the Adams County Chapter.

In 1991, the executive director at the time, who was set to retire, suggested she throw her name in the hat to be the next person to fill the role.

Pam Shaffer with Senator Bob Dole and former Red Cross CEO/President and Senator Elizabeth Dole at the 1997 American Red Cross National Convention  

To Shaffer’s surprise she was selected for the role out of 16 candidates.

One of her first goals and challenges were to develop a disaster program and then the Great Flood of 1993 happened, causing major flooding across Illinois and several other states.

“We had hundreds of volunteers from all over the country and we had 14 ERVs, those emergency response vehicles in town,” says Shaffer.

“So it was a huge operation and we had a shelter open from July 5 through October, out at Quincy University North Campus.”

Going forward it helped develop a strong base for the disaster program and partnerships that still exist today ,which led to better response efforts during people’s toughest life moments, she adds.

 

Shaffer’s time as executive director ended in 2014, when she retired from the role, by then she provided leadership to 11 counties for the Red Cross.

Today, Shaffer still serves as Red Cross volunteer nurse on the Health Services team, helping people impacted by disasters including fires and hurricanes.

“I’m a nurse, so I’ve always been in the helping field, I use those nursing qualities in all of our services.”

Shaffer is reaching nearly 40 years of service with the Red Cross and says the people who serve at the Red Cross truly make a difference in the lives of others and deserve recognition for their work.

Visit redcross.org/local/illinois/volunteer to find out how you can get involved in your community.

Written by Drew Brown, Regional Communications and Marketing Manager

Red Cross Clubs Across Illinois Offer Opportunities for Youth

For American Red Cross’ youth, involvement has always been a significant part of the organization and its future growth. With many Red Cross volunteers being retirees, the Red Cross is always looking for younger volunteers to join the organization.

The Red Cross currently has 16 active Red Cross Clubs in Illinois. The Red Cross Clubs are established in numerous high schools and colleges around the country. Along with these clubs, the Red Cross provides volunteering opportunities for young adults who want to gain experience in a nonprofit setting and develop better service skills. 

One of the members contributing to the Red Cross youth programs is Rodrigo Estrada. He first began volunteering for the Red Cross as a youth volunteer in 2015 and is currently a college student at the University of Chicago.

Rodrigo currently serves as the Resources Lead for the National Youth Council which allows him to oversee all of the resources that the council prepares for Red Cross Clubs to regions across the country. Through these experiences, he has been given more responsibility in the organization and has gained more service skills.

“I really owe it to my Red Cross Clubs experiences and the leadership skills that it instilled in me for preparing me to take on the role of Resources Lead for the National Youth Council to continue to advocate for youth volunteers across the country,” Rodrigo says.

Not only did this experience prepare him for new roles in the organizations, but Rodrigo believes that this involvement at the Red Cross is something that has contributed to his success outside of the organization. 

“I was recently accepted for the Truman scholarship and I really owe that opportunity and recognition to the Red Cross. The Truman scholarship is the nation’s premier public service fellowship and through the Red Cross I have been able to continue to cultivate my passion for service and my commitment to serving my community,” Rodrigo adds.

At the Red Cross, there are also volunteers like Steve Swett who has been serving the Red Cross for 36 years. Steve is currently an advisor for the Red Cross Club at the Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby and works closely with young adult volunteers, by organizing blood drives and food drives and much more. Steve believes the impact of the youth is something that can affect everyone in the community. 

“An organization is only as good as its youth . . . When they can come and help out at a blood drive or go and help out at the veteran’s home, that gets their feet wet and makes them want to go on and do something else, so I believe it is a positive domino effect,” says Swett.

Rodrigo and Steve are looking forward to the future of the Red Cross and are hopeful. When considering ways to attract more youth involvement in the organization Rodrigo suggested more virtual based interactions that are appealing to younger volunteers.

“I think it is important that we bring youth into the organization who have a greater competency or also proficiency in virtual engagement in social media,” Rodrigo says. “Through the National Youth Council, we launched a volunteer from home guide where youth who may have not been a part of the organization can find opportunities to serve the Red Cross and to serve the community at home through virtual engagement. We’ve also launched the Red Cross Clubs in a virtual setting guide which shows how Red Cross Clubs can continue to meet and can continue to plan projects virtually.”

If you want to become more involved in your community and gain leadership skills, please consider starting a Red Cross Club at your high school or college. If you wish to volunteer at the Red Cross, please visit the Red Cross volunteer page for more information.

Written by David Astudillo, Marketing and Communications Intern and Youth Volunteer.

Red Cross Greater Chicago Chapter Honors 2020 Wesbury Award Recipients

The Wesbury Leadership Awards were established in 1991 to honor Stuart A. Wesbury, a former Chicago Red Cross Board Chair, health care professional, and outstanding community leader who epitomized humanitarianism and partnership in his professional and volunteer life. This award was created to recognize those who enhance the visibility of the Red Cross by helping us deliver our services and messages of health, safety and preparedness. 

On June 25th, the Red Cross Greater Chicago Chapter recognized a media partner, corporate donor, long-standing Tiffany Circle leader and a dedicated Red Cross volunteer in the first ever “virtual” Wesbury award ceremony at the Annual Board meeting on June 25th. Each has honored the legacy of Stuart Wesbury and has significantly enhanced the visibility of the Red Cross and our lifesaving mission through their dedication and diligence.

ABC 7 is a dedicated media partner and was honored with the Media Wesbury Award this year for their partnership to the American Red Cross and our blood services mission. 

  • Since 2015, ABC 7 has hosted the “Great Chicago Blood Drive” and has grown this drive from 430 units collected in a single location to more than 1,830 units collected in four locations across their Chicago viewing area. 
  • In 2020, the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive became the largest single day blood drive in the entire American Red Cross
  • ABC 7 promotes drive appointments by airing compelling blood stories of people in need, combined with PSA’s asking people to sign up.
  • During the day of the blood drive ABC talent – including Chicago board member Cheryl Scott, Mark Rivera (pictured left) and Hosea Sanders (pictured above right) – report from 5 a.m. to well past 7 p.m. –from the blood drive, letting walk-ins know they are welcome, reporting on the need, and interviewing government officials including Governor Pritzker and Lt. Governor Stratton in 2020. 
  • ABC 7 also involves other media partners who similarly sponsor the Great Chicago Blood Drive including Univision, I-Heart Radio and Clear Channel enabling the blood drive and its messaging to emblazon the Chicagoland area. 

John Idler, President and General Manager of ABC 7 Chicago, accepted the 2020 Media Wesbury Award on June 25th at the Annual Meeting. John is, pictured above with Red Cross Greater Chicago board member and ABC 7 Meteorologist, Cheryl Scott and Red Cross of Illinois CEO, Celena Roldán, at the 2020 ABC 7 Blood Drive.

Zebra Technologies has been a long-time partner of the American Red Cross and was awarded the 2020 Corporate Wesbury Award. Zebra is known for building enterprise-level data capture and automatic identification solutions that provide businesses with operational visibility. Their partnership encompasses significant generosity through the donation of time, blood and financial resources.

  • The Red Cross is proud to have been selected as one of Zebra’s three strategic partners. During times of disaster, Zebra activates employee giving campaigns in addition to corporate gifts.  In 2019, Zebra added a giving component to their annual sales kick-off conferences, engaging employees in the Red Cross mission, and ultimately donated nearly $50,000. 
  • Zebra also understands the importance of giving blood and has hosted several successful blood drives, and created a video to share their commitment to saving lives, and as a Lead Partner of the Missing Types blood campaign.

Therese Van Ryne, Global Director – PR, Thought Leadership & Advocacy of Zebra Technologies Corporation accepted the 2020 Corporate Donor Wesbury Award on behalf of Zebra Technologies.

Tiffany Circle member and leader, Laura Linger, was also honored with a 2020 Wesbury Award.

  • Laura has a long history of supporting the Red Cross. She joined the Tiffany Circle in 2012 and. since then, her generous contributions have qualified her for the elite recognition society named for longtime Red Cross Board of Governors Chair, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter.
  • Laura was recognized not only for her generous financial contributions, but also for her service to the Red Cross. Locally, Laura serves as a Co-Chair of the Greater Chicago Tiffany Circle Steering Committee. This chapter dates back to the founding of the Tiffany Circle in 2005. She also serves on the Tiffany Circle National Council along with other dedicated women who oversee the strategy and direction of the Tiffany Circle and serve as ambassadors of the American Red Cross. Lastly, she is  Co-chair of the Tiffany Circle National Council Chapter Chairs Forum committee!
  • Laura has introduced countless new donors to the organization, many of whom have become Tiffany Circle members like her mother, her sister, and her niece, just to name a few!

The Red Cross consists of 90% volunteers, and in the Illinois region, we have almost 4,000 volunteers. This year, we were proud to honor a key volunteer in the Chicago & Northern Illinois area, Hank Welch, with a 2020 Wesbury Award.

  • Hank has been a volunteer for four years and he regularly (pictured left) goes above and beyond to extend the reach of the American Red Cross in our community.
  • He continually leverages his connections on behalf of the Red Cross to create new partnerships and help people in need. Many of these partnerships have led to new installation events for the home fire campaign.
  • Hank is a Disaster Action Team Manager and is the Regional Lead. He also is a Duty Officer and a Public Information Officer. On top of all of that, Hank has stepped up into a leadership role as the state-wide Regional Feeding Lead, where he is utilizing his expertise in food handling and management to help us create contracts with vendors for disaster feeding. 
  • Hank is constantly mentoring and training new volunteers, is willing to join in on nearly any activity within the region and is always available with a listening ear. His positive, can-do attitude lifts others up.

We are humbled to honor these outstanding individuals on behalf of the Greater Chicago Board of Directors with a 2020 Wesbury Award. Each recipient serves the Red Cross in so many different mission capacities and embodies the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Loves Park Woman Fights Rare Heart Condition with Help from Illinois Red Cross

Four years ago, Brenda Hill was working hard at a job she absolutely loved. She worked in the billing department at Metro Medical Services, an ambulance company in Loves Park, IL, a neighboring town to Rockford. It’s a company, she says, that felt like family.

That same year, 2016, Brenda began volunteering at the Red Cross, even getting certified in CPR. She was happy and healthy. At 57 years old, she went to the gym three days a week, mowed her grass often, but by August of 2016, she could hardly get through her lawn without feeling short of breath. That’s when she started having health issues.

She was originally misdiagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and underwent six months of chemo. By January of 2017, she was diagnosed with a rare heart condition called Cardiac Amyloidosis, a condition where your body makes too much protein, attaching to vital organs. It stiffens the heart so it can’t pump. Only One out of 5,000 people are diagnosed with it.

Brenda says, “I remember saying to my doctor, ‘Well at least I don’t have cancer.’ And she said, ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but you probably wish you had’.”

One month later, would be a day she’ll never forget. Brenda says she woke up with horrible stomach pain and began throwing up blood. Immediately, she called her team at Metro. They came lights and siren to take her in the ambulance to the hospital. She arrived at the ER, and woke up three days later, intubated. She went into cardiac arrest, twice, and couldn’t walk.

The Red Cross was there to help save her life, as she received six units of blood.

“If I didn’t have blood, I would’ve died,” Brenda says. “I have a strong faith, but if you look at the big picture, I would’ve died.”

Today, Brenda gets chemo every two weeks, to keep the protein levels in check. She says that most people with Cardiac Amyloidosis often don’t make it more than 10 years. Some don’t make it past a year.

“It’s hard living with a terminal disease,” Brenda says. “I look at things differently. I always tried to be a decent human being. Now, I try to give back. Everything means so much more, time spent with my grandchildren, my kids, my friends.

“It (an illness like this) messes with your head, and you have to be really strong to not let it get you down and to try to maintain as much normalcy as you can,” Brenda says. “I wake up each day and thank God each day that I’m awake.”

Talking to her, you can tell her faith plays a major role in her outlook on life. She says her pastors and counselors have helped her through it. Her children and grandchildren are who she lives for.

While she can no longer volunteer on site, she’s stayed busy during the coronavirus pandemic, sewing masks for people and assisting the Red Cross, from home, in any way she can. This also includes administrative work for the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois.

“From the moment I met Brenda, I felt the warmth and sincerity of her spirit,” says Leslie Luther, Executive Director of American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois. “She is a grateful and proud recipient of the Red Cross blood products. It was for this reason she wanted to give back to the Red Cross. I couldn’t ask for a more compassionate person willing to help wherever needed.”

Once the coronavirus pandemic slows, Brenda plans to continue speaking to medical schools about Cardiac Amyloidosis, to help educate future doctors on the disease. This week, she’ll attend the Brenda Hill Red Cross Blood Drive, in Rockford, on June 30th, and hopes to encourage those who are healthy to donate blood. It saved her life, and it could save others, too.

“There’s always someone that’s worse off than I am, that’s going through 10 times what I am,” Brenda says. “So, I try to be humble and grateful for what I have.”

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

American Red Cross Always There in Times of Need: Meet a Volunteer Behind our Lifesaving Mission

Emergencies don’t stop, neither does the American Red Cross. To carry out our mission, we rely on dedicated volunteers who are committed to serving others in time of need.    

Let me introduce you to Betty Jumonville, R.N., who for nearly 30 years, has dedicated her life to the service of others as a volunteer with the Red Cross. She began volunteering with the Adams County Chapter in Quincy, Illinois in the early 1990s.  Betty first joined as a board member and Blood Services volunteer and later joined disaster operations as a member of the Disaster Action Team, providing assistance to families affected by home fires and other disasters.  Betty along with her husband, the late Dr. Alcee Jumonville, responded to many disasters locally and nationally, including the Great Flood of 1993.

As a Red Crosser, Betty continues to wear many hats! She has educated families about fire safety through our, Sound the Alarm Campaign. Betty is the Chapter Disaster Health Services Lead and Regional and National Disaster Health Deployment Coach, training health workers who are new to the Red Cross. She is also a Disaster Health Services Instructor, teaching Blessing-Rieman College Student Nurses about the process involved in helping people affected by disasters and have a better understanding of deploying as a healthcare worker.

Through Betty’s experiences with many different activities at the Red Cross, she is able to mentor other volunteers and new paid staff, one of them being myself.  I find her to be a valuable resource because she is always willing to share her knowledge and experience. 

Betty has an inspirational story of help and hope.  She graciously devotes her time to further the Red Cross mission every day. “It sounds selfish, but my Red Cross work helps me as much as it helps others,” she stated.

Thank you, Betty for your many years of service and loyalty to the Red Cross.  Working with you is a privilege.

Interested in becoming a volunteer like Betty?  Visit redcross.org/local/illinois/volunteer to find opportunities to support people affected by disasters big and small.

Written by Red Cross Volunteer, Pam Shaffer

Happy Birthday, Dr. Drew!

It’s hard to understand the work of the American Red Cross without learning where its system came from. The American Red Cross blood program of today is a direct result of Dr. Charles Drew’s groundbreaking work in developing large-scale collection and processing and storage of human blood and plasma products during World War II. Today is his birthday!

1947. Washington, DC. Dr. Charles R. Drew medical director of the first American Red Cross blood bank. Credit Scurlock/NMAH.

Dr. Drew was an African American physician and blood transfusion researcher in the early 20th century. He was a dedicated scientist and educator pioneering in blood collection and plasma processing. He laid the foundation for modern blood banking and revolutionized the medical profession.

In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, Dr. Drew’s daughter says her father felt called into medicine after his sister died in the 1918 Spanish Flu.

In 1938, Drew received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at Columbia University and train at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. There, he continued his exploration of blood-related matters with John Scudder. Drew developed a method for processing and preserving blood plasma, or blood without cells. Plasma lasts much longer than whole blood, making it possible to be stored or “banked” for longer periods of time. He discovered that the plasma could be dried and then reconstituted when needed. His research served as the basis of his doctorate thesis, “Banked Blood”.

In 1940, Drew received his doctorate degree, becoming the first African American to earn this degree from Columbia. He was also the first African American examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

September 1940. New York, NY. Dr. Charles R. Drew (left) is shown here with doctors, nurses and drivers from a mobile unit of the New York Presbyterian Hospital. The purpose of this mobile unit, the first of its kind, was to collect blood plasma under the “Plasma for Britain” program. The only other person identified in this photo is Dr. Darrell Shaw (second from right), of the Presbyterian Hospital.

During World War II, the American Red Cross called on Drew to head up a special medical effort known as “Blood for Britain.” As the first medical director of the Red Cross blood bank, he organized the collection and processing of blood plasma from several New York hospitals, and the shipments of these life-saving materials overseas to treat causalities in the war. According to one report, Drew helped collect roughly 14,500 pints of plasma.

The “blood mobiles” you see today were also a creation of Drew’s. His discoveries, and his work in organizing and administering blood banks, continue to save countless lives today.

Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, we’re seeing the experimental procedure that transfers blood plasma from a coronavirus survivor into the bloodstream of a patient still battling the disease is among the most promising treatments amid the pandemic. We can credit Dr. Drew for this, as well.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

Feeding Bloomington-Normal: American Red Cross of Illinois teams up with United Way of McLean County to feed thousands during coronavirus pandemic

The American Red Cross has been a longtime partner of United Way, dating back to the 1950s. So, when they saw an opportunity to jump in and help feed thousands in the Bloomington-Normal community during the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t waste a minute. The American Red Cross of Illinois is assisting, logistically, to feed folks, offering their vehicles and volunteers to help pick up food from stores, pack food in warehouses and deliver it where it needs to go.  

With the help of the American Red Cross of Illinois, United Way of McLean County (UWMC) has established a successful COVID-19 Community Care Fund, addressing urgent needs. Food access and food insecurity were two of the biggest issues. Since March 30th, UWMC and existing initiatives in the community have provided meals to school district food programs, including five school districts, purchasing over 900 pounds of fresh produce from local farms for LeRoy, Unit 5, Lexington, Olympia and Ridgeway. They’ve also purchased bread and chicken broth from Meijer and Kroger to help feed over 500 families a week.

Lynda Hruska is the Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Central Illinois. She says this partnership has been impactful to the volunteers.

“It has really been a way for our volunteers to be a part of this incredible work that this team is doing. Often times in a disaster, we’re in the lead role. We’re sheltering, feeding, and in this one, we are using volunteers to plug in to a community-wide project. It’s been very heartwarming to be part of this huge network seeing different people playing different roles and truly making a difference.”

Aside from school food programs, the Red Cross and United Way are partnering with existing initiatives to purchase boxed meals from local restaurants to support their employees and distribute those meals through local non-profits. As of May 8th, they’ve served more than 44,575 meals!

And of course, nothing goes to waste. The Red Cross volunteers go back to the warehouse and pick up any unused perishables and deliver them to Home Sweet Home Mission so they can be utilized without waste.

But UWMC and the Red Cross agree the effort doesn’t stop here. This team has continued to look at not only the initial food insecurity issue, but other human issues that are facing the community as a result of this pandemic. With help from partners in the community, they’ve provided and distributed over 500 food boxes, locally, and more than 300 face masks to distribution volunteers, to keep them safe and protected during this project.

The need continues. The Red Cross is here, and will be here, to help our communities.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

National Nurses Week: Dan Luthi uses compassionate approach to assist in disaster relief

Dan Luthi, BSN, RN is a volunteer for the American Red Cross of Central Illinois Chapter in the Illinois Region. He serves several critical Red Cross functions to deliver vital services, providing relief and support to those in crisis.

Luthi is a Regional Disaster Action Team Coordinator and dispatch officer who takes both daytime and nighttime shifts. He calls down volunteer teams for disaster response to families and individuals, often for home fires at all times of day and night. He also serves as a responder himself, using his nursing skills as he visits with disaster clients needing health services. In this fiscal year alone, he has responded to 21 disasters. Out of 501 open response cases, Luthi helped on 167 of them. During 2019, he answered 20% of all disaster calls.

Individuals and families are in dire need of care, resources and support during and after these devastating events. Families end up displaced from their homes as a result of these disasters. The Red Cross provides immediate care and support, and with Dan Luthi’s leadership, we are able to carry out our mission with utmost compassion and excellence. His leadership is also a forced multiplier as he trains additional volunteers in response roles that serve all 78 counties within our region.

Luthi has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2013; he is one of the region’s most dedicated volunteers, frequently putting in 20+ hours per week volunteering while still working full time as a pediatric nurse and continuing his education. Since the beginning of 2020 alone, he has already served almost 250 hours of volunteering for the Red Cross.

Dan Luthi started his volunteer career with the Red Cross during a tornado that struck Washington, IL in 2013, assisting in the shelter that was opened.

At the time he was quoted saying, “I’m here because I’m interested in helping my local community. It’s important for me to see that neighbors are taken care of and that they get what they need, whether it is medication or a hug.”

From that point onward, Luthi has dedicated his time, incredible service and talents to serving those in need in his community. But his community has broadened through service to all 78 counties in the region as well as support for volunteers who deploy nationally.

Luthi also acts as a mentor and teacher to Red Cross staff and volunteers. His style of sharing information and knowledge is thorough, contextual and kind.

More recently, Luthi responded to a fire that occurred in a trailer park in Goodfield, IL. Five individuals perished in the fire, including three small children. He responded to the incident with much compassion and worked with the surviving clients for several days to ensure all their health services needs were met. The following month, the trailer park manager requested that the Red Cross come out to be sure that everyone in the park had working smoke alarms. This was an important step to the community’s healing. With Luthi’s ability to be compassionate, professional and thorough, he was the ideal person to send on this important mission. He led a group of Red Cross volunteers who went into the community and installed free smoke alarms.

Dan Luthi was nominated for a Governor’s Award for his service, which he truly deserves, as proven by his extraordinary record of compassionate volunteer services to the people in need in his community and beyond.

During COVID-19, our mission hasn’t changed, but the way we carry out services looks different. Dan is part of that continued effort, serving as the Southern District’s Response Lead. He oversees the responses for COVID-19. He makes sure the team is following protocol by wearing masks, while also preparing exercises to be done. His additional support for Health Services is also valued.

We are always looking for hardworking volunteers to fulfill our mission at the Red Cross. If you’re interested, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Written by Kendra Henson, Regional Volunteer Services Officer Sondra Hayes, Regional Direct Services Program Manager Katelyn Trunnell, Individual & Community Preparedness Manager

National Nurses Week: Tina Johnston Reflects on Four-Decade Journey as Red Crosser

Most people would say 44 years is a long time to be with one company. But for Red Cross Volunteer Nurse, Tina Johnston, her time with the Chicago chapter has been well spent.

She started in 1976 as a staff nurse in Nursing and Health Programs, teaching mother and baby care, supervising student nurses, teaching families how to care for loved ones at home, even blood pressure clinics. After years on staff, she transitioned to a volunteer nursing role, and it’s been that way ever since.

“Hearing stories about nurses that went to war and nurses that did all these wonderful things, I wanted to have a career outside of what seemed to be the careers at the time, which were teaching and secretarial work,” Tina says. “I didn’t want to do either of those things.

Her nursing journey started long before the Red Cross. In 1957, Tina graduated from LA County Hospital’s nursing school in California, got married, and later moved to Washington D.C., earning her bachelor’s degree from Federal City College in 1975. One year later, she and her family moved to Illinois.

“The local hospital would only hire me for nights, and I didn’t want to work nights,” Tina says. “There was an ad for a nurse for the Red Cross, and I applied. I went on an interview and they hired me.”

She hit the ground running with the Disaster Health specialists team. Since then, Tina has traveled across the U.S. and internationally to provide disaster relief, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Hurricane Iniki in 1992, the Mississippi floods in 1993, Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, and 9/11. During 9/11, Tina led the health service group that traveled to New York City, working with patients in the hospital and their families. The work included medical care, but personal care as well. She remembers one woman in the hospital asking if anyone could wash her hair, so she could get the grit from the buildings out of it. The Red Cross paid the bill.

Tina says, “It’s about the contact with the clients, their problems, the things they need for us to solve, and being able to reassure them. You get so much variety. You see so many things. The good, the bad and the ugly. But most of the time it’s the good and the very good.”

It may be 44 years since she’s started, but if you know Tina, she isn’t slowing down. Before COVID-19, she was still going into the office two days a week to manage the health service team, organizing trainings, and working from home the rest of the week. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s staying busy, too, with plenty of phone calls at home. Oh, and did we mention she has five grandchildren? She’s very proud.

Four decades as a nurse, you can imagine she’s seen it all, but Tina says being a Red Cross Nurse has opened her eyes to the good in the world.

“There are a lot of really good people in the world, and there are needy people in the world,” Tina says. “And there are needy people that are just as anxious to help other people as they are to get help for themselves.”

The Red Cross is always looking for eager volunteers to fulfill our mission. If you’re interested, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager