Tess Sheil says being prepared is a skill she holds valuable, which has allowed her to help others in life from disaster response to helping people during medical emergencies.
She learned that at an early age, while in high school she took CPR classes through the Red Cross and was able to help clear a woman’s airway on scene of a car accident in Moline, Illinois. That incident would blaze a long trail for her at the Red Cross.
Tess continued volunteering while in nursing school during the 70’s, and says she was inspired by one of her mentors and eventually went on to receive her Red Cross nursing pin.
“My nursing instructor was a Red Cross nurse and I guess I just wanted to be like her, and I really did because she was just such a goodhearted person that I wanted to follow her footsteps,” she says.
Tess is a volunteer with the Red Cross Quad Cities and West Central Illinois and the Greater New York Chapter. She has completed more than 5,000 volunteer hours with the Red Cross!
She describes it as a pleasure to help educate and help those in need in both areas, while building memories that will last a lifetime.
While she has deployed multiple times over the last few decades, Tess shared some of her most memorable moments including helping after the September 11th attacks in New York City in 2001.
“I went for the firefighters’ families,” she explained. “I went to the armory for the families there. That was part of my community that was impacted.”
During that time, she did anything she could to help survivors and their families including helping pass out water, made ribbons and simply had conversations with them.
“I wanted to help people feel that they had some sense of direction, because people didn’t know what was happening,” Tess says.
Her experience in New York has led her to focus more on mental health support at the Red Cross. She is currently the lead for the Red Cross National Staff Support Hotline, where staff or volunteers can call and receive any kind of help or advice they may need.
Aside from her role in the support hotline, she is also the Leadership Development Lead for the Illinois Region, and the Deployment Lead for the Greater Chapter of New York.
One of her most recent deployments was the Marshalltown, Iowa tornado is 2018. She remembers the huge sense of community and the many miracles that she was able to witness after the tornado.
Tess adds during her deployments, someone special always travels with her and that is Yokum. A stuffed animal monkey, who is a Red Cross volunteer with his own name tag and gear!
Over the years, Yokum has listened to children and even adults, who may not feel comfortable speaking directly to another person after a disaster.
With her background in mental health, Tess says Yokum has served as an outlet for dozens and provided comfort for people’s darkest moments.
Now, Tess volunteers virtually helping fellow volunteers and providing training through different Red Cross programs in both states. She makes sure people realize that they are making a difference in their communities.
“It’s a place I know where I can make the world a better place. The goal for my entire career was to leave the world better than I came into it and I can do that at the Red Cross.”
To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer visit redcross.org/volunteer.
*All photos taken before the pandemic
Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang