Dedicated to Volunteering: Jim’s Story

“I’ve probably helped hundreds of people. It’s a good feeling.”
-Jim Maloney

Jim Maloney started volunteering for the American Red Cross in October 2012. Nearly a decade later, his enthusiasm for volunteering shines brightly, through his tireless efforts as a duty officer in the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region.

Jim came to the Red Cross after serving as a crisis line advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. He started out answering phones at the local office, then learned about the disaster services duty officer position. For Jim, it seemed like a great fit.

“I’ve always wanted a chance to help people who have been in disasters or emergencies. I like dealing with things that need to be done right now. People reach out to you in their most desperate times of need and we are like a lifeline for them,” he said.

One night, Jim checked the disaster services agenda and it showed a significant need for duty officers. He took a 12-hour shift and was on his way, from there. Soon, it became every other Saturday, then every week. Jim’s passion for helping people was a perfect fit for his role as a duty officer.

“We serve dozens of counties and I like the fact we serve all of those areas. I like to do something where you can serve a whole bunch of people,” he said.

As a duty officer, Jim has received numerous calls for assistance after home fires – the leading cause of disaster in the U.S. Some of the calls that come in involve other emergencies – for example, individuals who are have their utilities turned off. Jim does not hesitate to go out of his way to find avenues of assistance for the people he speaks with, regardless of the time it takes to do so.

“I try to go the extra mile. If you take the time to help somebody during their time of need, they remember that. It just gives me a good sense of accomplishment and a good feeling to know that I am here to help others.”
-Jim Maloney

Jim describes the role of duty officer as rewarding, yet challenging. “It’s not a piece of cake,” he said. But, on the more difficult days, he said he remembers the people he has helped, and the team of volunteers and staff members around him. Jim also enjoys the freedom he has with scheduling. “As a duty officer, I can decide when I am able to be on-call and when I can’t do it. I like the flexibility.”

The need for volunteers is ongoing. Jim has some words of encouragement for people looking to volunteer and get involved.

He says, “Especially if you’re going to get into social work and are looking for experience, this is a great role. Red Cross is the place to do that. If you find being a duty officer isn’t for you, maybe you can try casework or disaster response, logistics or other roles. If you want to learn any type of skill, you can do that with the Red Cross.”

Trish Burnett is the executive director for the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter. She is thankful for Jim and his service to the organization and the local community.

“Jim is a true humanitarian,” she said. “We are so glad to have him on the disaster team in our area, and our community is a better place for his efforts. Jim’s devotion to helping people and making a difference is contagious, and it is a privilege having him as a loyal volunteer.”

Thank you, Jim, for being a dedicated Red Crosser! Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Rochelle Family of 4 People & 4 Pets Alerted to Basement Fire from Smoke Alarms Installed Just 8 Days Earlier

A Fire Below

On the afternoon of May 22, 2022, Clarence Weber and his family stood outside the Rochelle, Illinois home he has lived in for 41 years and watched as local firefighters arrived and starting putting out a fire raging from the basement. Clarence says it was the smoke that he remembers most; thick, dark that he couldn’t see through and toxic, especially after he got a few whiffs of it.

Clarence had heard a small explosion in the basement followed by the high-pitched tone of two smoke alarms going off. At first, he used a fire extinguisher to attempt to put out the fire growing in the basement but soon realized it was getting too big too quickly for the small hand-held extinguisher alone to smother.

“All I saw was flames that I thought I may have been able to put out but the things that were on fire became toxic smoke immediately,” Clarence remembered.

He quickly got himself and his wife, daughter and granddaughter out of the home safely. The four pets of the family including two dogs, a cat and a lizard also all got out with the help of of the firefighters.

Smoke Alarms Above

Just eight days before, on May 14th, 2022 Clarence and his wife had been at home when a knock at the door revealed several volunteers offering to install some new smoke alarms in the house at no cost. They considered if their current alarms were sufficient but determined they had to be at least 20 years old and likely outdated technology, so they welcomed the volunteers.

“I saw it as a gift,” he said. “As a homeowner for many, many years there’s so many different things you keep up on and you’ve got to remember and sometimes the files get crowded [in your mind] ….did you change that battery?”

Red Cross volunteer Jan Fulfs and a partner volunteer from the city of Rochelle installed two 10-year smoke alarms and reviewed some home fire safety information with the family as part of the national Red Cross initiative “Sound the Alarm” where volunteers canvas neighborhoods across the country providing fire safety education and installing new, free smoke alarms.

“I saw it as that, something brand new for me that I didn’t have to pay for at my own cost to upgrade it to brand new technology. That caught my ear right there and it had a ten year battery life,” he said.

Clarence says he feels grateful to have had the new smoke alarms, unsure if the old ones would have gone off in the same situation or if the family had been asleep when the fire started in the basement, where fires often burn for a while undetected.

Resilience Within

During the fire, paramedics, firefighters and neighbors arrived to help including a pair of Red Cross volunteers; Tracy and Tony Bustos, a husband and wife team from Freeport, IL. The Red Cross provided emergency financial assistance, basic essential items, medication refills and connections to many resources to make sure the family had what they needed while dealing with the aftermath of a home fire.

Though mostly contained to the basement, much of Clarence’s house was damaged by either fire, heat, smoke or water including many of the family’s materials related to hobbies. Through it all, Clarence maintains that his whole family and all their pets are safe and he’s thankful for the outpouring of support from the community.

“This little fire is just a bump in the road. We’re blessed at the response and all the things that have fallen into place.”

Rochelle Fire Department Chief Dave Sawlsville says having working smoke alarms and knowledge of multiple ways to escape your home could be the critical difference for families who experience a home fire which is why partnering with the Red Cross for “Sound the Alarm” aligned with their goals for the community. He says it was “eye-opening” to see how many families did not have smoke alarms that worked or did not have any at all.

“Today’s fire house fire is so much different than the house fire of ten years ago or 15 years ago. It’s it’s so much hotter and so much faster and and the black smoke is so much thicker, you know, that it’s it’s an entirely possible for you to get turned around in your own house and that’s the message we’ve been trying to tell people,” Chief Sawlsville said.

The Rochelle Fire Department and the Red Cross continue to install smoke alarms, a small device that can increase a person’s chances of surviving a home fire by 50%. In the event of a fire, you may only have 2 minutes or less to get out of a home.

“It makes a difference; it could have been my entire house without them and possibly the loss of a life or a pet,” Clarence said.

Clarence and his family are staying with a relative until they can move back into their home and says he is “thankful for not only the gift of the smoke alarms but the relief that was brought forward immediately,” he said. “It raised my level of belief in humanity quite a bit that day and the following weeks after that; all the surrounding people and the support from this incident has been overwhelming and I’m grateful, very grateful.”

To learn more about the “Sound the Alarm” initiative or to get involved as a volunteer with the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org/soundthealarm

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Holly Baker

World Blood Donor Day: Gary’s Story

When you hear about the need for blood, what do you think about?

United States Air Force Major Gary Novak (Retired) thinks about the times he cared for wounded soldiers, while flying thousands of feet in the air and having no time to wait for administering lifesaving blood.

Major Novak completed several tours as a Critical Care Flight Nurse for the Air Force Nurse Corps. His dedication and talents helped keep injured service members alive, as did the blood kept on board the aircraft.

We always made sure we took blood with us. A lot of the patients, we had to give so much blood to keep them alive. I saw such a need for that and, because of that, I just feel it’s my duty now to give blood.”
-Major Gary Novak

Major Novak went on to a career as a nurse and continued to see the need for blood on a daily basis. He regularly donates blood, and recently did so at the Danyel Pitts blood drive in Springfield.

He says, “You just never know. The blood you give may save somebody’s life that you know and love. It’s always good to help out where you can.”

Thank you, Major Novak for your brave and selfless service to our country, and for giving the gift of lifesaving blood!

If you would like to give blood, please visit redcrossblood.org.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Giving Blood for the First Time

“I had never donated blood before. I was a little nervous, but I feel good, now.”
-Nahum Rabin

24-year-old Nahum Rabin is a Springfield, Illinois resident and recently gave blood for the first time at a local American Red Cross blood drive. His friend had suggested giving blood, after doing so numerous times herself.

“She was just telling me about donating blood; she’s done it a few times in the past,” said Rabin. “After she told me about it, I realized it does help people and it is something good to do, to give back to the community. I decided to do it.”

When asked if he would consider a repeat visit to give blood in the future, here was Rabin’s reply:

“For sure, I would definitely do it again, especially if it could help somebody. It felt like I was only in there for 10 minutes, tops. I’m young, I have enough blood. It’s always good to help somebody.”

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. If you have never donated blood before, here are some resources for you, and a look at what to expect when you go to donate.

Visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment at a blood drive or blood collection facility near you. Thank you to Nahum and all who give the gift of lifesaving blood!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Inspirando a los latinos a donar sangre que salva vidas

Inspirando a los latinos a donar sangre que salva vidas

Para las hermanas Cynthia e Irma Torres, su dedicación a la donación de sangre nació por amor y en memoria de su padre Luis, quien falleció de linfoma en 2013.

Nacidas y criadas en La Villita, un vibrante barrio mexicano-estadounidense en Chicago conocido como La Villita, entre una familia y comunidad muy unida, ambas hermanas sostienen el significado de comunidad y atienden a la necesidad cuando esta se presenta. Este fue uno de los valores familiares fundamentales que ambos padres les inculcaron: ustedes se unen para servir a los necesitados. Desde 2013, ambas hermanas responden a la necesidad donando sangre.

“Después de mi primera donación, realmente sentí que estaba haciendo una diferencia y solo me hizo querer seguir ayudando a los demás. Gracias a las muchas personas que donaron antes que yo, mi padre pudo recibir lo que necesitaba en su momento de necesidad”, explicó Cynthia. “Busco continuamente campañas de donación de sangre que estén cerca de casa y programo tiempo libre en el trabajo para asistir. Mi padre era un hombre desinteresado que siempre estaba disponible para familiares y amigos en su momento de necesidad. Él sin duda apoyaría y animaría a mi hermana y a mí a donar tan a menudo como podamos, especialmente porque los latinos no donan sangre de forma rutinaria”.

Los hispanos son la parte de más rápido crecimiento de la población de los Estados Unidos, sin embargo, solo un pequeño porcentaje de hispanos dona sangre. Las poblaciones afroamericanas y latinas tienen una mayor frecuencia de sangre tipo O que otras etnias que pueden tratar una representativa más amplia de pacientes.

“Los grupos minoritarios no son donantes de sangre de rutina como podríamos serlo, y puede ser algo tan simple como el miedo a lo desconocido. Si podemos inspirar a los estudiantes latinos de secundaria y universitarios a donar, generar conciencia y llevar este mensaje a sus vecindarios, el proceso sería menos desalentador”, afirmó Irma. “Donar sangre es como votar por mí, es mi deber proporcionar sangre a los muchos que la necesitan”.

Irma y Cynthia en su donación de sangre más reciente muestran con orgullo sus botellas de agua de la Cruz Roja.

El legado de su padre incluye un hijo, cinco nietos y preciados recuerdos de risas, familia y unidad. Tanto Cynthia como Irma están comprometidas a seguir siendo donantes de sangre en memoria de su padre durante todo el tiempo que puedan y desean inspirar a sus familiares y amigos a hacer lo mismo.

Es importante saber que, como donante de sangre hispano, realiza una poderosa contribución a muchos pacientes que lo necesitan. Víctimas de accidentes y quemaduras, pacientes de cirugía cardíaca y trasplante de órganos, y aquellos que reciben tratamiento para la leucemia, el cáncer o la enfermedad de células falciformes cuentan con donaciones de sangre para combatir enfermedades y lesiones.

En este Día Mundial del Donante de Sangre, la Cruz Roja de Illinois extiende su más profunda gratitud a todos los donantes de sangre que desinteresadamente dan el regalo de la vida y alientan a las personas de todas las razas y etnias a donar sangre para ayudar a garantizar que el producto sanguíneo correcto esté disponible para aquellos wue lo necesitan. Las donaciones de sangre disminuyen a fines de la primavera y principios del verano, especialmente durante las semanas de vacaciones, ¡pero la necesidad de transfusiones de sangre y plaquetas no se toma un descanso de verano!

Visite redcrossblood.org para encontrar una cita de donación de sangre abierta cerca de usted.

Escrito por la Gerente de Comunicaciones de la Región de Illinois de la Cruz Roja, Connie Esparza

You May be the Lifeline for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

You May be the Lifeline for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

The need for blood is constant. We’ve all heard this repeatedly over the years and in crisis shortage levels earlier this year. However, for sickle cell disease patients, blood transfusions are oftentimes part of their routine on a weekly or even daily basis. Now imagine being told that matching blood was not available.

For Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller, this scenario is one she’s been managing alongside her sister who suffers from sickle cell disease for decades. And there have been many instances where her sister was hospitalized waiting for that matching blood supply to help her live. Cook County Commissioner Miller endeavors to address this need so that sickle cell patients don’t have to face this scenario…hopefully ever.

“It has to start at birth with testing to learn whether or not we are sickle cell disease carriers. And we have to talk about this disease and raise awareness at all levels—our communities, our doctors’ offices, our families,” stated Cook County Commissioner Miller. “My sister is 40 years old, and she grew up thinking she would never live to see her adult years. She grew up not knowing anyone else who was living with sickle cell—she felt isolated. For her and all other sickle disease patients I am driven to raise awareness and encourage the African American community to show their support by donating blood.”

Pictured are Cook County Commissioner Miller and her sister, Imani Scott.

The Red Cross is committed to maintaining a diverse blood supply to ensure the right product is available at the right time. Red blood cell transfusions are higher among hospitalized Black patients, yet only about 4% of blood donors are Black. Because some patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or ethnic group, it’s important for individuals of all races and ethnicities to give.

“I invite my African American Community to join the group of recurring blood donors. Your gift gives life,” stated Cook County Commissioner Miller.

Donna Miller is a Cook County commissioner, representing the board’s 6th district.

Let us know you are attending the blood drive. Book your appointment here, https://rdcrss.org/3tgnKnX.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza

Inspiring Latinos to Donate Lifesaving Blood

Inspiring Latinos to Donate Lifesaving Blood

For sisters Cynthia and Irma Torres, their dedication to blood donation was born out of love and in memory of their father Luis, who passed away from lymphoma in 2013.

Born and raised in Little Village, a vibrant Mexican-American neighborhood in Chicago known as La Villita, amongst a tight-knit family and community, both sisters embrace and sustain the meaning of community and attending to a need when this presents itself. This was one of the fundamental family values both parents instilled in them—you come together to serve those in need. Since 2013, both sisters have been answering the need by donating blood.

“After my first donation, I truly felt like I was making a difference and it only made me want to continue to help others. Thanks to the many people that donated before me, my father was able to receive what he needed in his time of need,” explained Cynthia. “I continually look for blood drives that are close to home and will schedule time-off of work to attend. My father was a self-less man who was always available for family and friends in their time of need. He would certainly support and encourage my sister and I to donate as often as we can especially because Latinos don’t routinely donate blood.”

Hispanics are the fastest growing part of the United States population, yet only a small percentage of Hispanics donate blood. African American and Latino populations have a higher frequency of type O blood than other ethnicities which can treat a broader cross-section of patients.

“Minority groups are not routine blood donors as we could be, and it may be something as simple as fear of the unknown. If we can inspire Latino high school and college students to donate, raise awareness, and bring this message home to their neighborhoods, the process would be made less daunting,” stated Irma. “Donating blood is like voting for me, it’s my duty to provide blood for the many who need it.”

Irma and Cynthia at their most recent blood donation proudly display their Red Cross water bottles.

Their father’s legacy includes a son, five grandchildren, and cherished memories of laughter, family, and unity. Both Cynthia and Irma are committed to remain active blood donors in memory of their father for as long as they can and wish to inspire their family and friends to do the same.

It’s important to know that as a Hispanic blood donor, you make a powerful contribution to many patients in need. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease all count on blood donations to battle illness and injury.

On this World Blood Donor Day, the Red Cross of Illinois extends our deepest gratitude to all blood donors who selflessly give the gift of life and encourage people of all races and ethnicities to donate blood to help ensure the right blood product is available to those in need. Blood donations decline in late spring and early summer –especially during holiday weeks – but the need for blood and platelet transfusions doesn’t take a summer break!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza

Employee Spotlight: Shaquetta Booker

I love my job, because I love the fact we are saving lives. I definitely enjoy being on the front line. I like to serve people and make people feel great.”
-Shaquetta Booker

Shaquetta Booker is a team supervisor at the American Red Cross blood donation center in Bloomington, Illinois.

Shaquetta started working for the Red Cross five years ago, and it was family that led her to go into this career. Her mother passed away due to cancer and needed blood during her battle with the disease.

Shaquetta learned how the Red Cross works to help provide that blood, while caring for her mother. She wanted to be a part of this process and help others.

“There is definitely a need for blood every day. Someone needs blood all the time. I love that people come out to help others,” she says. “When we are out here helping people, that’s a great thing to do. If that’s something you are willing to do, it doesn’t take much, it doesn’t cost anything and it’s definitely something that is needed.”

When she is not working, Shaquetta enjoys spending time with her children and family in Decatur. Thank you, Shaquetta for being an important part of our biomedical team!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Red Cross provides basic needs, shelter after Calumet City Memorial Day Fire

The American Red Cross has volunteers on the ground in Calumet City continuing to provide support after a large fire broke out on Monday at an apartment building on Park Avenue. Volunteers responded to the fire and provided comfort and hygiene items, snacks and food, mental health support and resources including helping people get basic items they need like medications and eye glasses.

The fire affected hundreds of units and nearby buildings have also had utilities shut down in the days following. Local officials from the city stepped in to provide lodging at a nearby hotel for many of the people displaced for two nights. Since their apartments sustained much damage, many people may be out of their homes for much longer and the Red Cross opened a shelter at a local community center to offer a safe place to sleep for more days ahead if people needed it.

Volunteers like Jackie, Thomas and Ruthann assisted in setting up and coordinating meals and connecting individually with people affected to provide casework and additional resources. As of June 1, seven people were registered guests at the shelter, but ultimately utilized additional resources provided by the city for alternate accomodations.

Sonia, Joy and Diane are three people who came to the Red Cross shelter. Sonia and Diane are sisters and neighbors. Joy is also a neighbor and cares for Sonia who has cancer. Sonia credits hearing the alarms for getting out safely. Her sister on the other hand was in a deep sleep and did not hear the alarms but woke up to a lot of commotion and fire on her balcony. They reunited and waited from 6 pm to 1 am before finally going to a hotel. Despite the circumstances they are in, they smile and laugh and are happy they are together and alive.

Sonia, Joy and Diane

Meet Agnes and Mel. Both residents of 300 Park Avenue. Agnes lives on the 2nd floor and Mel on the 5th floor. Agnes was sitting by her patio and saw the fires start in one section and pop over to the next. Her daughter was with her and ran out to alert everyone on the 2nd floor and ran up to the 5th to get Mel who is almost immobile. She found someone who carried Mel down from the 5th floor. They are both eternally grateful to the fire department for their professionalism and dedication. They wish to express their gratitude to them and to all who have the calling to serve. And they’re still smiling because they have today and they are alive.

Agnes and Mel

Those interested in helping the people affected should coordinate with the Illinois COAD by emailing neilcoad@gmail.com.

Anyone displaced by the fire and in need of shelter or additional resources can contact the Red Cross at 312-729-6100.

Learn more about volunteering for the Red Cross here.

Former Peace Corps Volunteer Brings Lifetime of Experience to the Red Cross

“It’s a privilege I take very seriously,” is how Caroline Roberts reflects on her position as a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. But serving others in volunteer roles and beyond has been part of her life for decades.

In 1989 Caroline went to Malawi, Africa as a volunteer with the Peace Corps and stayed there for three years working as the Chief Graphic Artist for Malawi’s National Health Education unit. She found herself striving to promote local workers toward work opportunities and the experiences she gained during that time further solidified her passion for serving others and working in teams to accomplish things.

Caroline is not one who takes the spotlight, and does so much work away from the eyes of others, always looking to help the people around her along their own journeys by providing compassionate support and professional know-how.

“I’m really good in behind the scenes work and knowing when to step back and when to step forward,” she said.

After returning from overseas, she worked as a transition coach for young adults with special needs; helping them learn to cook, how to travel and other life skills to help them gain independence. She also worked as a substitute teacher for special education for students of many ages for the past 20 years.

Now in her 70’s with a lifetime of experience, she chose to volunteer with the Red Cross in 2021 on the Disaster Action Team responding to home fires and assisting the people affected. She is one of just a few volunteers in her area near Grayslake, roughly 15 miles from the Wisconsin border.

Expanding from local disasters, Caroline trained to become a shelter volunteer in addition to a disaster volunteer. She then signed up for her first deployment to Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin for three weeks in September of 2021 to assist the thousands of refugees from Afghanistan temporarily placed there.

During that deployment, in additional to providing temporary housing, food, clothing and other everyday essentials, the Red Cross brought in a supply of wheelchairs. Caroline says she knew of one child, in particular with cerebral palsy who she usually saw being carried around by family members. But when the wheelchairs arrived, Caroline and a soldier walked down to the barracks where his family resided and presented them with a brand new, bright yellow, child’s wheelchair.

She says it was truly inspiring to see the joy the gifted wheelchair brought to the family. Friends and others joined to make the moment a memorable, happy gathering. She remembers his smile from ear to ear once he was placed in the chair. It was an experience that left her beaming as well.

Being a volunteer is to be a part of something bigger, and volunteers like Caroline enjoy the camaraderie and sharing of a positive goal. Meeting and working with other volunteers is part of the experience of helping others. She continues to widen her skillset and is now a Shelter Supervisor and also a Reunification volunteer.

“I always say we’re in this together, it’s a team effort and you have to keep remembering that,” Caroline said.

Giving back as a volunteer has been a common thread through her life, whether it is volunteering locally or leaving home for weeks at a time to help refugees.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Thank you for volunteering for the Red Cross, Caroline.

Written by Illinois Red Cross Communications Manager Holly Baker