VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Steve Wise

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Steve Wise

Steve Wise spent his career helping others and keeping people safe in the rail industry.  After 37 years at TTX, he retired in 2016, when he began his volunteering journey with the American Red Cross.  He brings his passion for safety and wealth of experience to several roles within the Illinois Valley Region and beyond.

“Being a Red Cross volunteer and having the opportunity to help people, often on the worst day of their life, has been such a blessing.”

“Being a Red Cross volunteer and having the opportunity to help people, often on the worst day of their life, has been such a blessing,” said Wise. There are several synergies between his past and present.  At TTX, there was no better feeling than keeping people safe and making sure they went home each night injury free. With the Red Cross, he is able to bring comfort to people in their time of need.  The work is not just rewarding, it is heartwarming, and a way for Steve to payback for the many blessings in his life.

Wise covers a broad range of roles from DAT (Disaster Action Team) Captain and Lead Responder to Case Work Supervisor and External Relations, mostly as part of the Romeoville Red Cross office.   He works extensively with Jeremiah LaPlante and credits him with being an extraordinary teacher. Jeremiah is a great example of the many wonderful people Steve has met along the way.

steve swett

Steve enjoys operating as part of the DCS team, working with those in need.  “With the Red Cross you learn disasters can strike anyone, at anytime, often when they least expect it,” he said.  Steve finds his work with DCS incredibly gratifying.  He also enjoys serving in multiple roles and works with new volunteers to help them get up to speed on disaster response efforts. Steve also works with external relations helping people, organizations and municipalities prepare and respond to emergencies.  And in his spare time, he does some recruiting too.

One particular experience that really stands out for Steve took place last year during the Louisiana floods. He was working as a virtual case representative, helping people who were displaced. A call came in from a woman who was having technical trouble.  While working through the verification process it was clear that the address on file did not match.  Steve asked if there was another address it could be listed under. The woman’s response was something akin to,”you mean my home that was destroyed?” The starkness of that response really hit home.

Recently, Steve spent much of his time helping those impacted by flash flooding closer to home. He was one of many volunteers that dropped everything to do what he could to assist afflicted residents. The Red Cross’s continuing response covers everything from lodging, food and emotional support and currently includes multiple shelter locations. Volunteers have distributed over 1,000 clean up kits and continue to support people across the flooded areas.

It’s moments like those when you realize how desperately the Red Cross is needed and can see the direct impacts it has on the lives of others. Ninety percent of the Red Cross workforce made up of volunteers. Thankfully there are many people like Steve that are there to help, just when they need it the most.

Steve has been blessed in many ways which drives his passion for giving back. He loves spending time with his family.  He lives in New Lennox with his wife Bridget, who he credits as an inspiration and is incredibly supportive of his efforts. They have three wonderful sons, Brad, Mark and Chris, all living out of state, two in California and one in Minnesota, so they do a fair amount of traveling.  Steve imagined he would write and teach in his retirement.  In many ways, his work with the Red Cross fulfills his desire to teach and he has already written three e-books and plans to do more.

His advice to prospective volunteers?  “Open your heart. There are so many in need waiting for your help and so many ways to serve with the Red Cross”. You too can make a difference.

Join Steve and the 4,000 plus volunteers serving northeastern Illinois.

 

Red Cross Volunteers at the 2017 Warrior Games

Red Cross Volunteers at the 2017 Warrior Games

The annual Department of Defense Warrior Games is an event dedicated to enhancing the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors through the world of adaptive sports. This year’s Warrior Games ran from June 30th to July 8th and had about 265 service members and veteran participants. The games are sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee and are comprised of participants from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), as well as the United Kingdom Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force. This year’s games were hosted in Chicago and featured events ranging from archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball.

rco_blog_imgwg2

The volunteers at the Warrior Games numbered about a thousand. Red Cross volunteers came from all throughout the Chicago area to offer their time. Lia Morris, a disaster volunteer who has been with the Red Cross for two years, was one of them. Working in small teams, the Red Cross volunteers were divided by location and event. Lia worked as a venue coordinator and helped to check-in volunteers and direct them to their assigned areas. “Everyone was great to work with and worked hard. Even during times when we had to shift people around, people were flexible and willing to take on other responsibilities” said Morris.

Thank you to all of the Red Cross volunteers who gave their time at this awesome event!

The Red Cross offers many services to active service members, veterans, and their families. See how we can help here.

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

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