Veterans Week: Serving Those Who Serve Our Country

Through its Service to the Armed Forces program (SAF), the American Red Cross helps members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service. One of its signature programs is the Family Contact Card program in which families of active military members are contacted by Red Crossers to make them aware of our military support programs, both at home and around the world. A case is opened for each family, and any follow-up activity can be monitored and noted in our client management system.

During our AmeriCorps Veterans Week National Service project in November, 14 Illinois Disaster Corps and Safe Families members were trained by SAF staff and through online classes to work with the Family Contact Card program. Three AmeriCorps staff members coordinated and facilitated this project with our SAF program.

“It was amazing to be a part of this outreach project,” explains Sara Stepanovich, an Illinois Disaster Corps member (pictured below). “To get to connect with military families, many of whom were first-time military families, was extremely impactful.”

Over the course of Veterans Day week, November 8th-14th, 13 AmeriCorps members contacted 638 military families statewide in Illinois and served more than 450 household members directly via telephone. Additionally, one member assisted with internal coordination activities in relation to these cases. This entailed validating 120 Family Contact Cards filled out by new recruits at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before they leave for boot camp. These cards provide the valuable contact information that is used for the Family Contact Card program and allows the Red Cross to connect with their families during their military service.

“We were not only able to extend our gratitude for their service member and their family, but also let them know the American Red Cross is there to support them 24/7 while their loved one is away,” Sara says. “You could tell that knowing the Red Cross is consistent and reliable support, when so much else was unknown, brought families comfort.”

Each AmeriCorps member committed at least eight hours of cumulative direct service time (in addition to training), totaling 112 hours served for our 2020 Veterans Week National Service project.

To learn more about our AmeriCorps program at the Illinois Red Cross, visit https://www.redcross.org/local/illinois/volunteer/americorps.html.

Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager

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