From 1970 to 2018, Red Cross Volunteer Shares Her Story

When a disaster strikes, Red Cross volunteers work around the clock to provide food, comfort, and shelter for disaster victims. Dorothy Dodendorf, a disaster workforce volunteer, is one of the many volunteers who assists in disaster relief behind the scenes. In her staff relations position, she helps guide and support Red Cross volunteers with any hurdles they encounter.

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Dorothy on deployment for Hurricane Florence

Dorothy recalls being associated with the Red Cross as early as junior high. She took First Aid, babysitting, and home nursing courses that the Red Cross offered at the time. She was also part of the Red Cross youth club in high school, but her life-long commitment started years later after graduating from college and getting married.

dorothy dodendorf

In 2016, Dorothy was recognized for her service with the Clara Barton Award, the highest award a volunteer can receive.


Since Dorothy couldn’t donate blood while she was pregnant, she did the next best thing she could by becoming a blood service ambassador for the Red Cross.  Since then Dorothy has volunteered in various positions including but not limited to: disaster instructor, pillowcase project trainer, and disaster workforce engagement specialist.

Dorothy’s very first deployment was to Florida in 1992 to help with relief efforts for Hurricane Andrew. One of her more recent deployments include a three-week deployment to North Carolina for Hurricane Florence relief efforts. When asked how many times she’s been deployed, Dorothy stated, “I have no idea, I lost count years ago, but definitely well over 30.”

“When I sit on the plane, and look out the window and see the disaster from above, I realize how much more still needs to be done,” said Dorothy about the most challenging aspect of deployment for her, leaving.  She describes this moment as bittersweet because she knows she helped as much as she could while there, but realizes how much more work is still required.


When asked if Dorothy would consider being deployed again, she responded saying, “Definitely, I’ve been doing this for 48 years, and I’m shooting for 50!”

Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois


The need for blood donors

As summer winds down, the American Red Cross urges people to give blood now and help end an emergency summer blood shortage that began last month. A critical need remains as many regular donors delay giving to take final summer vacations and prepare for school to start.

One blood donation can save up to three lives, yet each year only a small percentage of people eligible to donate blood actually do it.

The statistics make me wonder if it is the actual process of donating that is holding eligible donors from taking that extra step?

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There are a variety of obstacles that people may face when donating blood whether its transportation issues, work conflicts, religious beliefs, binge-watching ‘The Office’ for an entire year straight- but I will not and cannot contest these conflicts…

What I can do is endorse the easy and meaningful process itself which, through its ease, execution, friendly staff and accommodation prove to be well worth the investment.

Recently, when I donated blood at the local Chicago Red Cross chapter office I remember coming to the decision to donate wasn’t a tough one, but there still existed a few impediments. My thought process was probably similar to most when asked to give blood, I immediately wondered:

“Is it safe?”, “Will it take up the entire day?”… essentially…“Is it worth it?”.

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 1.18.24 PM.pngPersonally, the opportunity to save a life rendered all those questions to be inconsequential- but the process was anyway a pleasant surprise in its comfortability and execution.

The staff who worked the blood donation; from the phlebotomists to the administration, to the volunteers who handed out cookies, sandwiches, and hospitality after the donation was given, were there to make the process go as pleasantly as possible. It was not even a bump in my day as I went back to finish some work fifteen minutes after the donation after taking time to indulge in snacks and water in the post-donation part of the process.

When it was over, and I was sitting at my desk- I remember thinking, I could have just helped save a life in the future, and I didn’t have to do anything but answer a quick questionnaire and drink water beforehand… 

It’s was so easy, and so worth it.

Whether it be the thousands of people in the U.S who suffer from Sickle cell disease, people fighting caner, or car accident victims- many people need blood.

The American Red Cross provides roughly 40% of the United States’ blood and blood components. Blood is the first line of defense against many diseases and tragic accidents.

You’ve read this far, and hopefully, you want to give the experience of giving blood a try if you have not before, or perhaps go back again when eligible. If this is you, please click here to find a blood drive near you and make a difference to the people waiting for blood.

Written by Cameron Macpherson, Red Cross communications intern



Where Your Blood Goes After You Donate

In the Chicago Red Cross office, there is a poster stretching down the length of a wall. On the right side of the poster, printed in white text on a red background, a paragraph tells the story of Amy. At the age of ten, Amy was told that she had leukemia. As she battled this, she went to chemotherapy every six weeks. Also during this time, Amy received over 100 pints of blood from donors to help as she fought the disease.

Heidi Reed sits in a chair after her donation

When people donate blood to the Red Cross, it can be easy to forget the impact that their blood is having. Volunteers give their blood at a blood drive, and once the drive ends, the Red Cross packs up and leaves. The donors walk away and continue on with their normal day, and they do not get to see where their blood has gone or, more importantly, to whom. Part of the nobility of blood donation is that those giving blood, without knowing where their blood will go or whom it will help, give anyways.

At the Chicago Red Cross building, I learned about the great lengths the Red Cross takes to maintain the integrity of their blood services branch.

For instance, after donation, donated blood is given a unique identification number, and samples of the blood are sent to a national testing center. There, the Red Cross catalogs the blood type of the donation and ensures that it is pure of disease. While the sample is being tested, the donation is spun in a centrifuge and divided into three parts: The red cells, the platelets, and the plasma. Each of these three can be donated to different people for different situations. In this way, one blood donation can save the lives of three people. Once the testing center confirms that the donation is free of disease, it is delivered to a hospital, where it is given to people who need it.

Nicole Thompson finishes her donation

Every two seconds, someone in America needs blood. This could be a mother experiencing complications in childbirth, a car accident victim, or someone, like Amy, who require regular blood transfusions to battle cancer. Donations save these people. Donations saved Amy.

After many rounds of chemotherapy and many transfusions, Amy defeated cancer. She has been cancer-free for almost twenty years now, is married, and has a son. “I hope people realize that blood and platelet donations cannot only help a patient in need, but can have an impact on future generations,” she once said. “My family and I are living proof of that.”

It is unlikely that any of the people who donated to Amy know of the effect that they have had. And Amy is not alone. Everyday, there are people who require blood to survive, people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or undergo a medical emergency. It is donations from normal people with normal lives, who may never meet the people they donate to, that save lives.

To all of our blood donors, thank you.

Written by Gordon White, American Red Cross Communications Intern

College kids and community members give blood at DePaul

The American Red Cross hosts many blood drives throughout the Chicago and northern Illinois area every week. Recently, a drive was hosted at the DePaul’s Ray Meyer Fitness Center and brought out students and Lincoln Park community members alike. Some donors, like DePaul junior Sophia, were giving blood for the first time. Others, like Ri who lives down the block, give regularly.

Sophia signed up to give blood last minute when her friend Desirae, who donates regularly, invited her to tag along. Sophia went in confidently and came out feeling good and excited to donate again.


Giving blood across the room from Sophia was Ri. Despite her fear of needles, Ri began giving blood when she turned 18. She remembers her father needed surgery to remove part of his small intestine when she was a child, and that procedure required a blood transfusion. After he recovered from surgery he began giving blood, always making sure to bring his daughter Ri along in hopes of teaching her the importance of giving back. Clearly, the lesson stuck because Ri gives blood every ten weeks.

Checking everyone in before they gave blood was volunteer Dennis Strode. Dennis began volunteering at blood drives last year after he spent five years battling lymphoma and needed multiple blood transfusions. To give back, Dennis travels all around the Chicago area from Orland Park to help out at different blood drives.



Donating blood is an easy way to make a big difference to someone else. It’s something many people can spare, yet there often isn’t enough to go around for all the people who need blood. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. By donating regularly, your blood will help ensure that there is enough on the shelf when it’s needed. Just one donation can save up to three lives. To donate, all you have to do is be at least 16 years old or 17 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 lbs and be in good general health. Everyone goes through a mini-physical and medical history before the donation, and are given lots of snacks, water and juice afterwards. The entire process takes about one hour.

The Red Cross blood drives at the Ray are held in a small room in a corner yet, the drives always fill up with lots of donors wanting to give back. It is because of these donors and volunteers giving up their time to roll up a sleeve that patients are able to receive lifesaving blood transfusions.

If you’re interested in finding an upcoming blood drive near you or learning more about how to host a blood drive, visit

Written by Hannah Nicholson, Communications & Marketing intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Over 800 Pints Collected at 2018 ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive

“It’s the right thing to do… you don’t really know who you’re going to help and maybe they’ll give back someday,” said Michael Matura as he donated blood at the 2018 Great Chicago Blood Drive. This is the fourth annual drive and it is a product of the teamwork between the American Red Cross and ABC 7 Chicago. Radio station, iHeartMedia, and the Univision news station also partnered with the Red Cross on this event.

Over the one-day blood drive, 824 pints of blood were collected between the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook. That amounts to thousands of people who can be helped as one pint of blood can help save up to three lives.

Each donor had their own motivation. Marlow Hicks said, “In the past year, in the U.S. alone, we’ve had a need because of the natural disasters. When Hurricane Harvey hit last summer, blood banks were in need of donors to keep up with the demand coming from those injured in the storm and its aftermath. The need was even greater because blood drives in Texas were cancelled due to flooding.”

However, there were also repeat donors, such as Matura, who came in to donate because they feel that donating regularly is the right thing to do. Ryan Treaseh is a regular donor and said, “I’m a giving person and I like helping others.” For one woman, Nirali Vora, her donation was part of a larger personal goal, “I turn 35 next month and I told myself I would do 35 good things.”

Jim Piacentini has been donating blood regularly for more than 30 years and is also on the bone marrow list. For him, the experience became more personal a few months ago when his mother needed a blood transfusion. “Her hemoglobin count was low, so they needed to boost it up… I said to the nurse right there, ‘can I donate now?’” Though he was not able to at that moment, he did return later to make a blood donate. He said, “she’s doing well now. Her hemoglobin is up. Whoever’s blood it was, I’m thanking them.”

Briget Sanfilippo

Briget Sanfilippo’s daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of five and has had many blood transfusion during her treatment.

The need for blood also hit Briget Sanfilippo’s family, whose daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of five. Aplastic anemia is caused when damage to one’s bone marrow prevents the production of new blood cells. Sanfilippo said her daughter “had a relapse about three years ago and she’s lived on and off of transfusions.” According to Sanfilippo, her daughter’s disease was so bad that she could have died from a hit to the head. While her daughter still needs a bone marrow transplant to fully recover, “she’s doing well, she’s just above transfusion levels.”

Sanfilippo recalled a moment during her daughter’s transfusions, “I looked up at that bag and thought that someone went out of their way to save my family.” This was Sanfilippo’s first time donating blood, she said, “I feel like it’s something I’ve always wanted to do because someone did it for me… hopefully I can be a regular donor.”

Each person who donated during the blood drive left with a donor sticker, a cookie and a smile. After donating, Hicks said, “I think if you can do it, you should. It’s super easy. I feel good about it.” The American Red Cross has blood drives almost daily in the Chicago and northern Illinois area throughout January and February. You can visit to find a drive based on your zipcode.

Written By: Eleanor Lyons, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Roller Derby’s Make em’ Bleed Kicks Off In Chicago

Known for being a tough contact sport, roller derby has a soft spot for giving back.


August 13th kicked off World Roller Derby week with the sport’s 82nd birthday celebration at Coliseum Park in Chicago where the sport was invented by Leo Seltzer, a Chicago native. World Roller Derby week pays homage to its Chicago roots while giving back to the community. During the celebration, donor registration was open to attendees for the blood drive “First Blood.”

The “First Blood” blood drive will be hosted at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois on Sunday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roller derby athletes will be there in full uniform (skates too!) signing autographs, taking photos, handing out buttons, giving temporary tattoos and hosting some fun giveaways. You can register to donate by going here and entering the code DERBY to find the Chicago drive or you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-773-2767).

Roller derby is giving back nationwide! In collaboration with Brown Paper Tickets and the American Red Cross, roller derby will be hosting a series of blood drives across the country, called Make em’ Bleed. Over the past 4 years, this collaboration has collected more than 900 units of blood.


By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive
Monserrat Figueroa spent her 10th birthday up close with a southwestern hawk while her mother rolled up a sleeve to help save lives. She and her siblings gathered around Saguaro the hawk with wide eyes to learn more facts about the bird. As her mother exited the blood donation room, Monserrat detailed the experience. The 3rd Annual Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive gave the chance to donate life-saving blood while also enjoying a day at the zoo with family. 

35503184044_bf34042c07_o Monserrat and Red Cross Volunteers pose with Saguaro the hawk.

“Are you proud of your mom for helping people today?” I asked Monserrat. She nodded her head excitedly. Her mother, Rocio Figueroa, was one of over 200 people who donated blood at the event on August 2nd. 
Many of the donors had given blood before. A couple donated together for the second time, a young girl donated for the third time, and an elderly man shared that he had donated to the Red Cross over 15 times before. When asked about his reason for donating, he answered that it was because he felt like he should. Without a direct connection to someone in need of blood, he had the empathy and the drive take action.

36338052695_3c759f4677_o Woman donates blood for the third time.

Thank you to all of the donors who found their reason to donate to blood at the Brookfield Zoo.
Join the American Red Cross at a blood drive near you to help save lives.
By: Lucia Varlotta, American Red Cross Communications Intern