When Dave Boyles retired 10 years ago, it marked the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for him. After a technical career, Dave wanted to find something that was meaningful and would also use the “people side” of his personality. The Red Cross was the perfect match!
Dave volunteers as part of the Disaster Action Team, and over the years has served in many capacities: responding to home fires, completing client recovery casework, conducting damage assessments as the first boots on the ground post-disaster, and helping lead a team that installed more than 230 smoke detectors with the Red Cross’s signature Sound the Alarm events in locales near his home in Morrison, IL.
Numerous Red Cross disaster deployments have also positioned Dave throughout the country and beyond. He deployed to California and Oregon for the wildfires, and worked alongside Canadian Red Crossers responding to their wildfires while in British Columbia. Disaster responses to hurricanes, tornados, and floods landed Dave in North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. One of Dave’s most memorable deployments was to Saipan – twice. The first time was for immediate disaster response after Typhoon Soudelor in 2015, which led to a longer-term deployment working with FEMA to hire, train, and supervise local residents in recovery casework. The second time was for Typhoon Yutu, in 2018. Dave’s total deployment time to date equates to two and a half years (approximately 25% of his time, if you do the math!).
The bottom line for Dave: “It’s all about the people, coming face-to-face with them, and helping them find solutions to their problems, often during a crisis. My eyes have been opened to different lifestyles and a diversity of people; you realize that not everyone lives a comfortable, Midwestern life. And the Red Cross helps everyone, in a non-judgmental way.”
These humanitarian Red Cross principles are a huge driver for Dave, and they keep the Red Cross mission strong, credible, and recognizable around the world. Also appealing for him is the variety of volunteer opportunities. “No matter what your ambitions are, there’s something for you at the Red Cross.”
Thank you Dave, for your decade of outstanding service!
Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley
Anna Cebulak has been volunteering for the American Red Cross of Illinois since October of 2017. Since joining, she got involved in three different roles which include being a Logistics Volunteer, Mass Care and Sheltering volunteer , and Disaster Action Team Supervisor. Anna became a volunteer because she loves to help people. She explained that once she became an empty nester she found herself searching for purpose beyond her full-time job.
It was when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and she saw the TV coverage that she really started considering what she could do to help- and Anna saw that the Red Cross was helping and decided to join herself.
As someone with a full-time job, she volunteers when she can and uses her vacation time to deploy to big disasters outside of the Illinois region with hopes that she will be able to deploy more once she retires. Being a volunteer means you get to meet different people who are all working towards the same goal, helping others and Anna loves the fact that she is able to listen to stories and get to know others on a more personal level.
“I love meeting other Red Cross volunteers, learning from them and creating friendships.”
– Anna Cebulak
Throughout her time at the American Red cross, Anna has helped with many different events. In the past 4 years, she has assisted with the CBS Chicago Cares Disaster Relief Telethon, blood drives, Our Lady of Angels Smoke Alarm installs, and smoke alarm installations through Sound the Alarm events. Beyond local events, she has deployed to flooding in northern Illinois and south central Wisconsin as a casework volunteer.
She has also participated in relief work for Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Laura, but Anna’s work doesn’t stop there. She has also volunteered in shelters in Prospect Heights IL, Morris IL, Gibson IL, Cicero IL, and comes to the rescue as part of the Disaster Action Team to fires throughout the Chicagoland area.
When refugees from Afghanistan were coming to the Illinois Region, Anna helped secure and organize delivery of toys and stuffed animals for children to receive to help make the experience a little less frightening. When it comes to being a volunteer, Anna loves helping people at what could be the worst or often most difficult time of their lives.
Anna is a volunteer that goes above and beyond and the Red Cross is honored to have her as part of the team. Anna says that anyone who’s interested in volunteering with the Red Cross please not wait and sign up today. The American Red Cross has something for everyone, helping people is very rewarding and the Red Cross allows you to do so. Thank you for bringing your passion and skills to the Red Cross, Anna!
February is Black History Month — a time to honor the significant achievements of Black Americans while making an impact today. The American Red Cross of Illinois Region is celebrating a central figure to the Greater Chicago chapter’s success and daily activities: Roosevelt Douglas.
The Chicago sports fan has been with the Red Cross for 18 years and says that he is proud and honored to be part of an organization that is making an impact in the community and helping people when they need it the most. He has worked in many different capacities throughout the Red Cross and currently works as a Business Operations Coordinator in the Chicago headquarters building. Roosevelt’s knowledge and many years of experience continually contribute to the Red Cross volunteers and staff being able to smoothly carry out the work of our mission.
He says that he has been fortunate to work at the Red Cross as “it has taught me many skills and has helped me to see that I am always capable of learning and doing more. The people who work at the Red Cross – both the staff and the volunteers are special. It is a friendly atmosphere. We all look out for one another.”
Roosevelt also says he is proud to commemorate Black History Month in February as it offers “a time to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of black people in America and as a black man that makes me very proud.”
We are thankful to have dedicated and compassionate people like Roosevelt be a part of the Red Cross, and we celebrate him and his great dance moves!
Roosevelt with Illinois Red Cross CEO, Celena Roldán in 2019
We are very grateful for Dr. Mack’s contributions to the board and the American Red Cross. He has been a crusader in treating patients with Sickle Cell Disease and a strong proponent of blood donation, particularly within ethnic communities. Dr. Mack and his colleagues started the Blue Tie Tag Program with the Red Cross in the Chicago & Northern IL area which collects and earmarks blood for patients with sickle cell disease who are in need of constant blood transfusions. With high demand and limited sources for these rare blood types, Dr. Mack has reached out to local businesses, faith-based institutions and schools to host blood drives in African-American communities in the Greater Chicago area to match donors with the same blood type as his patients and recruit new donors. His ongoing support has helped the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive continue to thrive and expand over the last several years.
Dr. Mack also donates blood regularly and experienced a moment when he believes his blood came full circle as he followed his donated blood right back to the hospital where he works. Follow his blood’s journey here: https://bit.ly/3ugXQ4R
We are grateful for Dr. Mack’s dedication and willingness to support the Red Cross and encourage blood donation on behalf of the organization. He has regularly spoken to local media and national media to help encourage donors to give and to help answer questions and dissolve myths about giving blood including appearing on national panels as a blood expert.
The need for blood donations has not stopped amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade. Blood donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and local CBS-2 Chicago teamed up for another successful Day of Giving Telethon. Through the generosity of the public, corporate donors and sponsors a total of $316,380 was raised!
Telethons with CBS date back to 2010 when several local news stations all got together to help raise money after the devastating earthquake in Haiti for a “Chicago Helps Haiti” telethon.
Since then, there have been no lack of natural disasters to dedicate the day to alongside the 5 lines of service of the Red Cross: Disaster Relief, Biomedical Services, Training Services, International Services and Service to the Armed Forces.
We are grateful to CBS-2 for sharing so many heart-warming stories of the impact of the Red Cross; from the Chicago doctor who laced up her running shoes to run the Chicago marathon for Team Red Cross, to the local father who turned to the Red Cross after a tornado last summer left his home wrecked.
Regional Marketing & Communications Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Isis Chaverri has been with the organization for almost three years. Originally from Panama, she immigrated to the United States in 1995.
A Fulbright Scholar, her media and communications background is extensive including overseeing Univision Chicago with over 30 people reporting to her and receiving multiple Emmy awards for her work. Her and her husband are also entrepreneurs, running their own small business for 10 years following her career in news.
She feels Hispanic Heritage Month is a fun and exciting celebration because it emphasizes differences within our cultures while also bringing so many people together.
“It just makes me feel connected,” Isis said.
“It’s a way to honor the different cultures within the Hispanic community because even though we all speak Spanish, we have things that make us different from one another; even within the Hispanic community there are different cultures and think that’s important to highlight.”
Isis shared that seeing how the month is celebrated further emphasizes how the cultural differences between the Hispanic community are some of the things that make it so interesting.
“I’m so proud of my culture and being Panamanian. When you are identified as Hispanic/Latina- it just puts you together with other people who share the same values and cultural commonalities that you do… its just a way to not only celebrate Hispanics as a whole but also what makes us who we are and realize the differences culturally.”
Working at the American Red Cross, Isis is part of the team responsible for sharing the mission and message and activities with the rest of the community. It’s a role that she says has been fulfilling in multiple ways especially with her ability to connect with people of many different backgrounds in often some of their most difficult times.
“What attracted me was that I was going to be able to use my skills to help others. I learned about the many lines of service, and thought this is an organization that is not only well-known and respected, but I would be able to give back. What a better way to give back and use the skills I have than through the Red Cross?”
A meeting at the Chicago headquarters (pre-COVID-19)
In the midst of disasters, Isis says it feels good to be able to help people. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was still able to help share how Red Cross volunteers continued to meet the needs of people experiencing disasters of all kinds from home fires to hurricanes to flooding. When Freeport, IL experienced severe flooding a few years ago many people were forced to evacuate their homes, Isis met a woman living in that area who was originally from Puerto Rico and had relocated to Freeport after Hurricane Maria. Faced once again with disaster, Isis said it was nice to be able to bring even the slightest bit more comfort to the woman by not only providing Red Cross services while displaced from her home but also communicating with her in Spanish- something familiar and understandable among a confusing and complex time.
Though Isis goes back to Panama often to visit family and they often visit the US, Isis says the distance is great and she misses them deeply. When family is able to come and visit her here, she says it is a joyous reunion filled with great memories. But Isis says being a part of the Hispanic community within the Illinois community is a connection worth cherishing and sharing.
“We are here to contribute and we want to make our communities a better place…we have very strong family values. We are a very tight-knit community and we can be loud sometimes but we are a lot of fun.”
Today, the Red Cross is testing each blood donation for COVID-19 antibodies. During this uncertain time, we know that individuals and public health organizations are eager to learn more about COVID-19. And the Red Cross is uniquely positioned to offer our blood donors insight about their possible exposure to this coronavirus.
Implementing this free antibody testing to the public is costing the Red Cross an estimated $3 million per month, but the positive impacts — offering our blood donors insight about their possible exposure to this coronavirus — and providing valuable public health information – are important contributions in addressing this ongoing pandemic.
This fall, our team at the Illinois Red Cross spoke with Dr. Larry Goodman, President Emeritus – Rush University and Retired CEO, Rush University Medical Center and the Rush University System for Health, to explore why antibody testing and convalescent plasma collection is so important to our hospitals and public health systems, and how the Red Cross has worked hard to create strong partnerships with medical systems here in Illinois and around the country. The Red Cross has been the blood supplier to Rush University Medical Center for over 25 years.
Dr. Goodman is currently President Emeritus of Rush University and the retired CEO of Rush University Medical Center and the Rush University System for Health. He was a Greater Chicago Red Cross board member from 2006-2011. He says Rush’s partnership with the Red Cross is a natural fit.
“We (at Rush) see people often at the worst moments of their life, like the Red Cross,” Dr. Goodman explains. “But if you drew a diagram of where these two organizations impact the community, they overlap. Not perfectly, but complimentary. Both organizations recognize that health is far more than just treating disease (or responding to a disaster) when it occurs; it is also about prevention. Additionally, it’s about neighborhood safety, education, and the many other factors that contribute to forming healthy communities. And these building blocks to health must be available to everyone because they all factor in to extending people’s lives. It’s the basic idea of how we measure the health of our society.”
How Your Antibody Test Could Help Those in Need
Dr. Goodman’s background as an internal medicine and infectious disease physician offers him a wealth of knowledge on how the Red Cross is working together with hospital partners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this fight against the coronavirus, Red Cross antibody tests will be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies, which suggest they have been previously infected. This is useful knowledge for them and provides additional data on monitoring the extent of the disease in our community. Additionally, these previously infected individuals may qualify to be convalescent plasma donors. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation collected from COVID-19 survivors who have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus. Right now, requests to the Red Cross from hospitals for convalescent plasma is outpacing our collections of this potentially useful treatment.
“When we’re infected with organisms, we make antibodies to those organisms,” Dr. Goodman explains. “We make a small army that is sent out to destroy the virus. However, it takes 10-14 days to make antibodies. During the period that antibodies are produced, you are left with your other host defenses, like white blood cells and other factors, to stave off infection. If we could find a way to get patients antibodies earlier during that 10-14 day window, it might make a difference. So if somebody already made those antibodies against COVID-19 and survived the infection, we can draw blood off (the convalescent plasma), separate the blood and antibodies, and infuse that into the ill person to be available in the early days of infection prior to that patient’s own antibody formation.”
While logical, the efficacy of convalescent plasma is still under investigation in the treatment of COVID-19, but it has been useful in other illnesses. This is the same concept behind the recently released monoclonal antibody therapies. Dr. Goodman believes it has been important that the Red Cross paved the way in offering this antibody testing free of charge to donors because of its trusted brand and reputation in communities.
“The Red Cross has a great reputation, and I think it comes back to some of the values of impartiality, neutrality, and commitment to the community,” Dr. Goodman explains. “Those are values that every organization is reexamining. The Red Cross makes a major effort to serve diverse populations and that’s very valuable.”
“People remember who’s showing up,” Dr. Goodman said. “The Red Cross shows up to fires or floods, regardless of where they occur. To have a nonprofit also participate in answering critical research questions that might lead to new therapies concerning this pandemic is another important contribution added to the invaluable gift of blood.”
New Red Cross Blood Donation Site Opens in Heart of Illinois Medical District
With the addition of The R. Scott Falk Family Blood Donation Site (Falk family pictured left), located at The Rauner Center, right in the heart of Chicago’s medical district, the Red Cross is able to collect convalescent plasma and test every blood donation for COVID-19 antibodies, while also ensuring that our hospital partners receive these and other critical blood products as swiftly as possible. Considering most of the blood that hospitals like Rush uses comes from the Red Cross and the density of hospitals in and near the Illinois Medical District, this proximity is critical.
“Timing is important with most types of blood transfusions,” Dr. Goodman says. “Availability is critical. Hospitals can’t keep all the blood they need on hand. They can go through 10-20 units in a transplant. In addition, this new site has capabilities that weren’t available previously in the medical district. Different kinds of blood products are now available. Almost all the blood products from Rush come from the Red Cross. There are also trauma centers at Stroger and other nearby centers. There’s a lot of need. Minutes mean everything. It’s a valuable use of the space at the Rauner Center.”
Now more than ever, the need for blood remains constant. Emergencies don’t stop during COVID-19, and every donation makes a direct impact on people that can’t wait for lifesaving blood.
“This is the time. While COVID-19 happened and is a dominant factor in health care and our everyday lives, while all that is happening, all the rest of the chronic and acute illnesses continue,” Dr. Goodman explains. “People still have heart attacks, tumors, strokes, and need organ transplants. Blood transfusions remain a critical need and something that has become more acute at a time like this. That same critical quality of life, which is blood, has so many capabilities in it. This is a moment when people try to decide what they can do. There’s a lot they can do to reduce their own risk and improve the health of the community through blood donation to ensure that the supply is there when any of us might need it.”
Need for Blood and Convalescent Plasma Donors
The Red Cross is encouraging individuals who have fully-recovered from COVID-19 to give convalescent plasma but, most importantly, if you are healthy and feeling well, we encourage you to donate blood. Visit redcrossblood.org to schedule your appointment today. To learn more about donating convalescent plasma, visit redcrossorg/plasma4covid.
Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager
The American Red Cross has a history of supporting our armed forces that dates back to our founder Clara Barton, who provided assistance to soldiers during the Civil War. Today, the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces delivers support to over one million active-duty personnel and over one million members of the National Guard across the United States. The Red Cross also ensures that veterans and military families are receiving the proper assistance they deserve. Along with these services, the Red Cross also helps military installations around the world.
Kelsey Smith is a staff member on the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) team of the Illinois Red Cross region and is one of 200 mobile SAF personnel across the country. Kelsey is mainly involved in volunteer management and in her two years with the Red Cross, she has been working closely with over 130 volunteers who assist with Service to the Armed Forces. Kelsey, will be deploying to Djibouti to support our armed forces on the ground this August.
“My (current) job is making sure volunteers are happy, because the Red Cross work force is 90 percent volunteers and only 10 percent of paid staff,” Kelsey says. “We want to make sure that the volunteers feel fulfilled in their role and that they feel supported.”
Kelsey comes from a military family which is what prompted her to be interested in this role at the organization. This trip will be unique for Kelsey as it will be her first-time teaching CPR to soldiers. Although she is nervous about traveling far from home, she is excited about the opportunity to work abroad and provide support to members of our military.
“It will be really interesting to understand the experience of the service members,” Kelsey says. “Just because they have so many unique challenges and struggles that they go through, and I am very excited just to further the mission of the Red Cross while I am there.”
Kelsey leaves on August 23rd, flying from Baltimore to Germany on a military plane. But before she arrives in Djibouti, she will undergo orientation to prepare for her deployment. During orientation, she will receive her uniform, equipment for Djibouti, and will do casework training. She’ll arrive in Djibouti in mid-September and stay until mid-March of 2021.
While she’s there, Kelsey will assist with morale-boosting activities for service men and women such as 4K races, and movie nights. She will also be managing and distributing in-kind donations to soldiers, and providing emergency communication services for service members who may need to quickly travel home to a family member in need. Kelsey believes that the presence of the Red Cross on base will have a positive effect on soldiers during these critical times.
“Obviously during times of COVID-19, I think this process is probably even harder than usual because you don’t know if your family is safe, you don’t know that your kids are safe, you don’t know that you are safe, yourself,” Kelsey says. “I think, above all, just knowing that the Red Cross is there is comforting.”
While assisting active service members is a large part of the effort, the Red Cross also supports veterans and military families. This includes providing referral services for veterans and assisting with veteran appeals. During a difficult deployment, the Red Cross will provide military families with courses that allow them to cope with deployment, as well as pre-deployment preparedness information. The Red Cross also helps families stay in contact with an armed force family member wherever they are deployed. Kelsey believes the Red Cross offers more than just supplies or skills to soldiers. It provides trust.
“I think people count on the Red Cross for a comforting presence, and it also makes people feel better knowing they can be in communication with their family,” Kelsey says. “I think it is important that someone is there just so that the service members feel constantly supported.”
For more information on how the Red Cross supports the armed forces click here.
Written by David Astudillo, Marketing and Communications Intern
For American Red Cross’ youth, involvement has always been a significant part of the organization and its future growth. With many Red Cross volunteers being retirees, the Red Cross is always looking for younger volunteers to join the organization.
The Red Cross currently has 16 active Red Cross Clubs in Illinois. The Red Cross Clubs are established in numerous high schools and colleges around the country. Along with these clubs, the Red Cross provides volunteering opportunities for young adults who want to gain experience in a nonprofit setting and develop better service skills.
One of the members contributing to the Red Cross youth programs is Rodrigo Estrada. He first began volunteering for the Red Cross as a youth volunteer in 2015 and is currently a college student at the University of Chicago.
Rodrigo currently serves as the Resources Lead for the National Youth Council which allows him to oversee all of the resources that the council prepares for Red Cross Clubs to regions across the country. Through these experiences, he has been given more responsibility in the organization and has gained more service skills.
“I really owe it to my Red Cross Clubs experiences and the leadership skills that it instilled in me for preparing me to take on the role of Resources Lead for the National Youth Council to continue to advocate for youth volunteers across the country,” Rodrigo says.
Not only did this experience prepare him for new roles in the organizations, but Rodrigo believes that this involvement at the Red Cross is something that has contributed to his success outside of the organization.
“I was recently accepted for the Truman scholarship and I really owe that opportunity and recognition to the Red Cross. The Truman scholarship is the nation’s premier public service fellowship and through the Red Cross I have been able to continue to cultivate my passion for service and my commitment to serving my community,” Rodrigo adds.
At the Red Cross, there are also volunteers like Steve Swett who has been serving the Red Cross for 36 years. Steve is currently an advisor for the Red Cross Club at the Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby and works closely with young adult volunteers, by organizing blood drives and food drives and much more. Steve believes the impact of the youth is something that can affect everyone in the community.
“An organization is only as good as its youth . . . When they can come and help out at a blood drive or go and help out at the veteran’s home, that gets their feet wet and makes them want to go on and do something else, so I believe it is a positive domino effect,” says Swett.
Rodrigo and Steve are looking forward to the future of the Red Cross and are hopeful. When considering ways to attract more youth involvement in the organization Rodrigo suggested more virtual based interactions that are appealing to younger volunteers.
“I think it is important that we bring youth into the organization who have a greater competency or also proficiency in virtual engagement in social media,” Rodrigo says. “Through the National Youth Council, we launched a volunteer from home guide where youth who may have not been a part of the organization can find opportunities to serve the Red Cross and to serve the community at home through virtual engagement. We’ve also launched the Red Cross Clubs in a virtual setting guide which shows how Red Cross Clubs can continue to meet and can continue to plan projects virtually.”
If you want to become more involved in your community and gain leadership skills, please consider starting a Red Cross Club at your high school or college. If you wish to volunteer at the Red Cross, please visit the Red Cross volunteer page for more information.
Written by David Astudillo, Marketing and Communications Intern and Youth Volunteer.
The American Red Cross has been a longtime partner of United Way, dating back to the 1950s. So, when they saw an opportunity to jump in and help feed thousands in the Bloomington-Normal community during the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t waste a minute. The American Red Cross of Illinois is assisting, logistically, to feed folks, offering their vehicles and volunteers to help pick up food from stores, pack food in warehouses and deliver it where it needs to go.
With the help of the American Red Cross of Illinois, United Way of McLean County (UWMC) has established a successful COVID-19 Community Care Fund, addressing urgent needs. Food access and food insecurity were two of the biggest issues. Since March 30th, UWMC and existing initiatives in the community have provided meals to school district food programs, including five school districts, purchasing over 900 pounds of fresh produce from local farms for LeRoy, Unit 5, Lexington, Olympia and Ridgeway. They’ve also purchased bread and chicken broth from Meijer and Kroger to help feed over 500 families a week.
Lynda Hruska is the Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Central Illinois. She says this partnership has been impactful to the volunteers.
“It has really been a way for our volunteers to be a part of this incredible work that this team is doing. Often times in a disaster, we’re in the lead role. We’re sheltering, feeding, and in this one, we are using volunteers to plug in to a community-wide project. It’s been very heartwarming to be part of this huge network seeing different people playing different roles and truly making a difference.”
Aside from school food programs, the Red Cross and United Way are partnering with existing initiatives to purchase boxed meals from local restaurants to support their employees and distribute those meals through local non-profits. As of May 8th, they’ve served more than 44,575 meals!
And of course, nothing goes to waste. The Red Cross volunteers go back to the warehouse and pick up any unused perishables and deliver them to Home Sweet Home Mission so they can be utilized without waste.
But UWMC and the Red Cross agree the effort doesn’t stop here. This team has continued to look at not only the initial food insecurity issue, but other human issues that are facing the community as a result of this pandemic. With help from partners in the community, they’ve provided and distributed over 500 food boxes, locally, and more than 300 face masks to distribution volunteers, to keep them safe and protected during this project.
The need continues. The Red Cross is here, and will be here, to help our communities.
Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager