Red Cross Illinois Region Volunteers Respond to Hurricane Ian

Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by Hurricane Ian’s devastation. The American Red Cross and our partners are working around the clock across multiple states to provide help as people in Florida deal with the storm’s catastrophic aftermath and Ian takes aim today at South Carolina with life-threatening flooding, storm surge and hurricane-force winds.

To date, more than 1,000 trained Red Cross disaster workers are supporting the relief effort and more help is on the way. 90% of our workforce are volunteers who respond to more than 60,000 disasters every year. Large disasters like hurricanes, floods and wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity. We are grateful to all volunteers who give of their time, talent, and comfort to assist people when they most need it!

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Red Cross. Volunteers are needed everyday to assist with disasters near and far. To volunteer with the Red Cross, please visit

Our Volunteers on the Ground

Before the storm, the Red Cross mobilized 83 truckloads of additional cots, blankets and comfort kits, along with tens of thousands of relief supplies, to be prepared to help as many as 60,000 people. Emergency response vehicles are also pre-positioned across the state.

Evacuation shelters are open in Florida, South Carolina and tens of thousands of people sought refuge from Ian in as many as 100 Red Cross and partner shelters across the three states Thursday night.

Dean Otta

Volunteers from throughout the Illinois region have responded by deploying to Florida, and more are preparing to deploy later this week. Ed Johnson, a board member from the South Central Illinois chapter, is in Florida working to help those impacted by Hurricane Ian. Dean Otta, a volunteer from the South Central Illinois chapter, is preparing to deploy later this week. Dean has served in this level of capacity before – he has deployed to more than 10 large-scale disaster scenes, including the Oregon wildfires in 2020.

Ed Johnson

Yasmin Clinton of Des Plaines, a volunteer from the Greater Chicago chapter, will be deploying to Florida later this week to join other Red Cross volunteers to help those in need. Yasmin has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2017 and has responded to Hurricane Ida and other major incidents locally and across the country.

Yasmin Clinton

Marty Knight of Kankakee, a volunteer from the Illinois River Valley chapter, also will be deploying to Florida. Marty has been a Red Cross volunteer for over 10 years and has also helped with past disasters including Hurricane Sandy, the Flint water crisis, flooding in Mississippi, and Hurricane Florence.

Marty Knight

Your donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. To help people affected by Hurricane Ian, visit

We are grateful for your generous gift to support people affected by Hurricane Ian. The humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross provide comfort and hope to many in their time of need. On behalf of those we serve, thank you.

Mississippi Mud: A flavor that unites a community during disaster

When a catastrophe hit the Mississippi River in 1933, the Quad Cities suffered great loss to their community. With extensive damage to the area, the community came together to help those in need during this tragic event. 

Whitey’s Ice Cream shop has been a part of the Quad Cities community since 1933. With locations in Moline, Rock Island, and Davenport, people from all around come to eat the delicious flavors it has to offer. Becoming a true fan favorite in the community, Whitey’s strives to create and sustain an endless bond by caring for the needs of the Quad City area.           

Whitey’s decided to take action during The Great Flood of 1933 to help ease the burden of damages that were created by making a new ice cream flavor and donating the proceeds to the Red Cross.

Aptly named, the “Mississippi Mud” ice cream flavor was born: a coffee flavored ice cream base swirled with Oreo cookies and a fudge rumble. Even in the midst of disaster, people came together for something good that ultimately benefitted those affected by a disaster.

Decades later in 2019, when the Mississippi River flooded the Quad Cities area again, the Mississippi Mud ice cream fundraiser was back in full force. With endless damages to the city of Davenport, Whitey’s and the Red Cross were able to support those in need.

“Being able to have something that everyone can get behind while enjoying a dip of ice cream is a good thing,” Annika Tunberg, vice president of Whitey’s Ice Cream said. “It’s just a way that people can do something or feel connected to the situation and give back even in the slightest way.”

The Red Cross is grateful to Whitey’s for uniting the community and contributing to disaster relief. When disasters hit the area, it is so powerful to see the help that comes and the impactful way people want to help. And Whitey’s provides another opportunity to help in times of need.

“Being a part of this fundraiser has been so special, it has given both of us the opportunity to help the community in a creative way,” said Trish Burnett, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Serving the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois.

This fundraiser raised awareness and money for the American Red Cross while allowing the public to get behind something greater. 

“Over a few weeks’ time we were able to donate all profits from the sale of the flavor to the Red Cross,” Tunberg said, “We were able to raise $45,000.”

As the amazing relationship between The Red Cross and Whitey’s Ice Cream continues, so will the Mississippi Mud flavor. This fundraiser has made such a positive impact on the Quad Cities community and will continue for disaster relief when needed. Though this is a fundraiser for disasters and those in need, it will continue to be a way for the community to come together as one. Read more about the flavor’s origins here.

Written by Communications Intern Julie Piz

Women’s History Month: Heidi Mucha

“People want to help and make an impact. Our job is to build relationships, understand the kind of impact someone is trying to make, listen really well and try to find those opportunities where the impact someone wants to make on the world can be accomplished through their philanthropic giving.”
-Heidi Mucha

For 20 years, Heidi Mucha has been a vital part of the American Red Cross. She has played an integral role in developing relationships between the community and the organization and facilitating charitable giving, which has made an impact on communities near and far as a result.

In her current role of regional development officer for the Illinois region, Heidi leads a team responsible for connecting people who desire to support the mission with the best possible way to do so. She helps others understand how the Red Cross operates and what the biggest needs are, deepening their knowledge of the organization and encouraging them to get involved in the most effective manner.

“Their investment deepens. They understand the challenges we’re facing and they really want to be a part of figuring out how to make that next investment that will make a difference.”
-Heidi Mucha

Heidi and her team often lead fundraising initiatives at the Red Cross through major events such as the Heroes Breakfast, which she started 20 years ago, and through thoughtful stewardship of hundreds of donors over the years.

Erin Craghead is the director of development for corporate giving in the Illinois region. She has worked with Heidi for more than 11 years and has seen the positive effect Heidi makes through her passion for what she does.

“She is the kind of leader that is living our critical work long after ‘regular business hours’. Witnessing her inspire our team to connect donors with our lifesaving mission in the most creative and impactful ways is one of my very favorite things. ”
-Erin Craghead

Heidi defers the credit to her team members and to the people who choose to give selflessly to support the mission. She notes the importance of donors of all kinds – volunteer, blood and financial. When it comes to financial donors, Heidi has seen firsthand what this type of generosity can do for advancing our mission.

“Philanthropy is a critical part of the Red Cross. We can’t do what we do, would it not be for people who make a decision to help someone they don’t know and they’re not likely to ever meet. Imagine being helped by the Red Cross and realizing, ‘Someone who doesn’t even know me cared enough to give of their hard earned resources to make sure I have a safe place to go, food on my table, my kids are taken care of.’ That’s a really powerful thing.”
-Heidi Mucha

In addition to making a huge difference for other people through giving, Heidi says, the impact it has on the people who give is equally significant.

“It can be life-changing for people who have an opportunity to make a gift, because you get to step outside of yourself and do something that’s powerfully going to impact other people.”
-Heidi Mucha

Please click here if you would like to be a part of our mission by supporting the Red Cross.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Naperville High Schoolers Take Initiative for Tornado Fundraising

On June 21, 2021 a devastating tornado caused major damage to the Naperville/Woodridge area of Illinois- impacting hundreds of families.

The Red Cross was on the scene within moments of the weather event and opened up a reception center and a shelter for people affected to go. The Red Cross also provided guidance as the community navigated the recovery process after a tornado and helped to host a MARC (multi-agency resource center) at a local school where people could come and receive information and resources from many local groups all at once.

Three local students wanted to do more and asked Red Cross volunteers what else needed to be done. After some thought they decided a cash donation to the Red Cross would be the most impactful way to continue helping people affected by disasters like the tornado in Naperville. All three students felt the severity of what an event like this could do to someone’s life as they were all impacted by the tornado themselves.

Jeremy Zhao and Rohin Gopalka of Naperville Central and Sophia Zi of Naperville North canvased their own neighborhoods and took up a collection for the Red Cross totalling over $600.

Now the group is considering starting Red Cross Clubs at their schools and even volunteering in the future.

We are so grateful to these students for taking the initiative to do something positive for their community.

Interested in volunteering for the Red Cross? Learn more about volunteer positions here.

Young Red Cross supporters raise money for disaster relief

After seeing how Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, Matt and Heather Pleus of Geneva, Illinois, decided to make a donation to the American Red Cross.  Their children, Sam (8) and A.J. (6) overheard the conversation and were inspired to offer their support as well.

“They ran upstairs and got their birthday money,” Heather said, “They wanted to help too.”

The family then discussed other ways the boys might help.  The conversation led to a homegrown campaign to raise more money for the relief fund.

“I am fortunate to work for a company that matches gifts like these,” said Matt, “I told Sam and A.J. how they could double the support.”  Matt is a logistics manager for BP in Chicago.  The employee matching program through BP is a dollar-for-dollar match.

Sam and A.J.’s goal: $2,019 – a symbolic reference to the year the storm battered the Bahamas.

“The boys set out asking everyone they knew for a donation,” Matt continued, “They were relentless.  It was amazing to see.”

“We took time to teach them about the American Red Cross,” said Heather, “We taught them about the Red Cross Mission, Clara Barton, and all of the good work volunteers do in a time of need like the one we saw in the Caribbean.”

On October 28, Sam, A.J., accompanied by their parents, presented a $2,019 donation to Jim Roolf, Board Chair of the Illinois River Valley Chapter, and Brian McDaniel, Executive Director.  The donation included artwork the boys created for the occasion, and a history lesson of the Red Cross by Sam.

“These are the things that inspire me to volunteer for the Red Cross,” said Roolf, “The dedication of these young men to help people they didn’t know is at the heart of our mission.  This is what it means to be a Red Crosser.”

Written by Executive Director of the American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley Brian McDaniel

‘Give Something That Means Something’ with American Red Cross on Giving Tuesday

During the holidays, bring comfort and hope to people in need

ILLINOIS – In a year when disasters upended the lives of thousands of people, the American Red Cross is asking everyone to Give Something that Means Something for families in need through its 2018 Holiday Giving Campaign.

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“Every day, home fires and other everyday crises turn people’s lives upside down,” said Celena Roldan, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Families are counting on your support to remember them during this special time of year. On Giving Tuesday, please consider making a financial donation or a blood donation, or volunteering your time.”

GIVING TUESDAY Beginning on Giving Tuesday—November 27—please #GiveWithMeaning here to support people in need with a symbolic gift, which you can make in honor of the special people in your life:

  • Help disaster victims. Your gift of $250 can deliver hot meals for 25 people who need nourishment after a disaster. A donation of $100 can provide a family of two with a full day’s worth of emergency shelter with meals, snacks, blankets, a cot and hygiene supplies. Help provide warmth with a gift of $50, which can provide blankets for 10 people.
  • Help our veterans. A donation of $125 can help veterans transition back to civilian life by connecting them and their families to critical services such as food, housing, counseling and rehabilitation.
  • Help internationally. Your gift of $100 can help provide lifesaving vaccinations for 100 children who face an increased risk of measles and rubella around the world.


In addition, you can also:


GIVING HOPE EVERY DAY Every 8 minutes, someone affected by disaster is helped by donations to the Red Cross. The generosity of Red Cross donors helps provide people with necessities like shelter, food, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance.

The need is constant—and this year was no different. In Chicago & Northern Illinois, the Red Cross helped 10,766 people affected by 1,430 local disasters including floods and home fires. Home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—account for the vast majority of our responses.

In addition to helping families recover from these events, we also help save lives by installing free smoke alarms and helping residents create escape plans through our Home Fire Campaign.

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.

Local Red Cross Volunteers Help Out at Jesse Brown Food Pantry Every Week

Every week through the VA Voluntary Services Program, Red Cross volunteers help distribute food to veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry. This is their way of saying thank you to the men and women who answered to their country’s call.

IMG_1059Kelsey Smith and Adisa Suljic from the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois with Don Jackson from the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry.

Unlike most pantries, which provide fixed food selections, the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry is a self-select pantry where recipients have a variety of food to choose from. By choosing their own food, veterans are receiving food that they need, enjoy, and will use. This also enables veterans to meet their personal dietary needs.


On Tuesday, October 30, a total of 150 veterans were served fresh produce, meat, dairy, bread, and canned goods. Volunteers assisted as personal shoppers for the veterans by bagging items that veterans chose. While browsing the available food options, a veteran exclaimed, “Wow, this is better than going to a supermarket!”

The Red Cross is all about neighbors helping neighbors, and at the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry, it’s all about helping veterans. In five years, the pantry has helped over 15,000 veterans and their families; and every Tuesday, Red Cross volunteers are there to meet, greet, and support veterans.

If you know of any veterans that need help with food supplement, please let them know of this service. The pantry is located on the second floor of the Damen Pavilion in the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and it’s open every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To learn more about the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces programs, visit

Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications and Marketing Intern

American Red Cross Responds to 25 Fires and Opens 1 Shelter in the Past Week

Disaster responders with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responded to 25 fires from Monday, October 15 to this morning across the 21-county region including fires in Naperville, Blue Island, Elmwood Park, Darien, Rockford, Machesney Park and 15 of the fires happening in Chicago.

The fires affected 134 people including 80 adults and 54 children.

The Red Cross provided resources to help address the immediate basic needs of those affected such as temporary housing, food, clothing, comfort kits with toiletry items, information about recovery services, and health and mental health services. Additional information about these incidents, if available, may be obtained from the local first responding agency/fire department.

Responding volunteers are members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon any time of the day or night.

Additionally, 18 Red Cross responders were on the scene in Waukegan as a senior living facility was evacuated on Friday evening. Just before 5PM on October 19, the Red Cross was notified by the city of Waukegan that around 250 people would be without a home that night as an expanding sinkhole made their apartment building temporarily unlivable for days and sheltering assistance would be needed.


Red Cross trailer with supplies in Waukegan during sheltering response on October 19, 2018

A shelter was opened at Waukegan High School on Washington Street and the Red Cross provided food, health services, casework, mental health services, and cots for residents for the night and all day on Saturday. The Red Cross worked with the building management and local hotels to provide rooms for the residents and caseworkers will continue to follow up with the people affected by this evacuation.

Hurricane Florence: Hurricane Florence made landfall early on September 14 as a Category 1 storm just south of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Florence set tropical storm rainfall records in two states, surpassing 20 inches in South Carolina and 35 inches in North Carolina. Over the course of five days, Hurricane Florence dumped an estimated 10 trillion gallons of water across the Carolinas. More than 60 volunteers and staff were deployed for Hurricane Florence including CEO Celena Roldán and this response is on-going. Sunday night, more than 260 people stayed in 7 Red Cross shelters in North Carolina.

Hurricane Michael: On October 9, the Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois began deploying local volunteers and staff to Hurricane Michael. As of today, 19 people have been deployed for Hurricane Michael and are on the ground or are on the way to the affected area. Last night, more than 1,300 people stayed in as many as 15 Red Cross and community evacuation centers across Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP: After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

DONATE BLOOD: The Red Cross also has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. This fall, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence have forced the cancellation of about 200 blood drives, causing approximately 7,000 units of blood to go uncollected in the Southeast. The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day in Chicago and northern Illinois. The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information visit

2018 #CBSChicagoCares Telethon Raises Over One Million Dollars for Red Cross Disaster Relief

CBS Cares

CBS’s Rob Johnson and Irika Sargent hold a total board with CEO Celena Roldan


On Tuesday September 25, CBS-2 Chicago and the American Red Cross hosted a telethon to benefit the victims of Hurricane Florence. Often held in November, this year the telethon was moved up to September to focus on the response to Category 3 Hurricane Florence along the east coast.

From 6 a.m to 7 p.m the phones kept ringing with donations ranging from $1 to $1000.  A grand total of $1,155,853 was raised between check donations, phone calls, and online donations. Special thanks go to Walgreens, U.S Foods, U.S. Cellular, Conagra Brands, and Abbvie for their generous donations. Also, a big thank you to Portillos who provided a matching gift of $5,000.


Volunteers worked on the phone for hours.  “After seeing what happened in the Carolinas I just felt like I needed to do something,” said Ogechukwu Flagg-Igbo a Northwestern student.

Other volunteers felt a need for action as well. A disaster shelter volunteer, Bari Rosinski, felt like this was the next best thing she could do in order to help victims, although she really wishes she could physically be in North Carolina helping.


Staley Da Bear working the phones with CBS-2’s Derrick Young.


The Red Cross had a very special guest help out on Tuesday. The official mascot of the Chicago Bears, Staley Da Bear, not only entertained volunteers, but also answered phone calls.

Due to the generous donations of Chicagoans more than a million dollars is on the way to help the people affected by Hurricane Florence. The American Red Cross helps provide shelter, food, relief supplies, and support for people impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Contributions will continue to be accepted to assist relief efforts. Donations may still be made by calling 1800-RED CROSS or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

More than 200 blood drives have been forced to cancel due to Hurricane Florence. The Red Cross urges people in unaffected areas to make an appointment to give platelets or blood to care for patients in the Southeast and throughout the country. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications Intern with the American Red Cross

ABC7 Hurricane Harvey Telethon

In the wake of the Hurricane Harvey disaster, ABC 7 partnered with the American Red Cross to host a telethon and raise money for the relief effort. During the telethon on Thursday, August 31, people showed up with an overwhelming amount of support.


Harvey was a category 4 hurricane when it hit Texas on August 25. Texas experienced record-breaking rainfall; the storm along with the subsequent flooding have so far resulted in more than 70 deaths.

Alicia Morris is a volunteer specialist with the American Red Cross and this is her fourth telethon with the organization. “This is above and beyond what we could have imagined… we’ve had an overabundance of people wanting to step in and help and the calls have been coming in since 4:30 this morning.”


So many people showed up to work the phones, that volunteers waited on standby. By the end of the in-studio telethon at 10:35 p.m., there was more than $4 million in donations; that is four times more than what’s been raised in previous Red Cross telethons.

Morris said people have been inspired to help because of “the nature of the disaster. People are seriously affected by the hurricane and the coming events… people in Dallas and now Louisiana need our help.”

Julie Galiotto was one of the volunteers answering phones. She and a coworker came to volunteer, “we jumped at the chance to support the organization and the relief efforts… I believe in the mission and the work that they do.” Another volunteer, Ed McKeown, said, “I’m really here as a volunteer because I want to help and I’m here to help… it’s just another way to contribute. They’re our brothers and sisters down there.”



Even celebrities and local politicians volunteered, such as Rahm Emanuel and Diana Rauner. Local celebrity chef Stephanie Izard with Girl and the Goat answered phones for the afternoon, “Everyone says, ‘I wish I could give more,’ but just anything helps. Whatever you can give… There was one woman who had called and said I’m sorry I can only give $20.”

All-Star athlete Bo Jackson also stopped by. When Tracy Butler invited him, he changed his schedule so he could be there, “this is my way of giving back and helping these victims.”



With all the work already done, Texas is still focused on recovery. Flood levels have yet to subside and people continue flocking to shelters. Morris said of the current situation, “I have family in Texas, luckily they’re way far out but they’re seeing the devastation. I hope this response continues because this is going to be a long recovery period.”

Galiotto sends her help and good wishes to the victims, “I hope that they never have to experience this again. And I am happy that the American Red Cross is there to help.”

The telethon was part of the Walt Disney Company’s larger Day of Giving event in which the company raised money and awareness across it’s various television programs and platforms. In total, Disney raised more than $15 million for the Red Cross. The mouse himself even donated $1 million.


Written By: Eleanor Lyons & Laila Orazova, American Red Cross Communications Intern