The Red Cross of Illinois is fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers who have been working with us for years. One of this volunteers is Neil Levin, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for 51 years!
Neal being recognized for his milestone of 50 years by American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois CEO Celena Roldan (L) and Chief Disaster Officer Adam Runkle (R)
Neal Levin is a retired nurse who currently supports the Disaster Health Services as a lead volunteer for the Greater Chicago chapter, especially focused on narcan training for our workforce and likes to volunteer when we open shelters locally.
Currently, Neal has taken one more responsibility as we navigate this public health crisis. He is helping to recruit, schedule and train nurse and physician Red Cross volunteer vaccinators for the COVID-19 vaccination sites across our region. A former army nurse in Vietnam, Neil goes above and beyond, traveling to the sites to make sure the Red Cross volunteer vaccinators are ok with their duties.
He also supports deployments by leading the Health Professional Direct Deployment program, taking health workers who are new to the organization and getting them ready to deploy within a week.
Neal started with the Red Cross on New Year’s Day in 1970. At the time, he was a student at the University of Illinois studying to be a Registered Nurse. He walked into his first meeting at the Red Cross being greeted by one of the guys he went to high school with, and immediately felt comfortable. He would end up staying on to respond to home fires, work as a Driver, Driver Trainer, Disasters Health Services Lead, Disaster Health Services Responder, Regional Health Professional Deployment Coach, and Vice Chairman of Disaster Transportation.
Through his experience with many different activities at the Red Cross, he was able to mentor other volunteers. One of them being, Tina Johnson, who is our current Regional Health Services Lead. When Tina first started volunteering, the chapter was not doing much in the health services department, so together Neal and some other volunteers worked to build out a client-focused program, which is still used today.
“I found Neal valuable because he was a part of the Disaster Response Team and was always willing to share his knowledge of the chapter structure and experiences on scene with the clients” Tina Johnson, Regional Health Services Lead said.
What has kept Neal volunteering with the Red Cross for so long has been the fact that he can make a difference. “You see people at their most vulnerable. You connect with them. I know I can give them a blanket or water or even a warm hug. It sounds selfish, but it helps me as much as it helps them,” he said.
There have been too many memorable moments for Neal in his 50 years with us. One of the most special moments was when he met his wife, Marcia, here at the Red Cross. Along with that moment, a few more of his most memorable moments have been working on the Flight 191 crash, Eddy Schwartz’s Toy Drives, the Plainfield Tornado, helping with the Earthquake in Mexico City, and the Robin Community Shelter. “Every year there was flooding in the Robin community, and we would open a shelter for the people there. It was usually the same people every year. It got to the point where the kids would run up to me yelling, “Neal! Neal!”
Neal was also featured in several marketing materials to recruit Red Cross volunteers with his first wife, and even a United Way campaign.
One thing that Neal Levin would like everyone to know that the Red Cross is always there. “If there is a fire or disaster, they are not without shelter, food, or clothing. You won’t see it on the news, but the Red Cross is there.”
Happy 50th Anniversary, Neal!
Written by Disaster volunteer Alysen Andrews