Rochelle Crump Honored as 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Military Hero

Rochelle Crump served in the Women’s Army Corps during the Vietnam War (ERA). She received the National Defense Service Medal for honorable service during a period of national emergency (Vietnam) and a Certificate of Recognition from the Secretary of Defense for military service during the Cold War. Rochelle has always had a heart for her veteran family and worked for 23 years for the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Having witnessed the difficulty facing many women veterans upon returning home, in 2005 Rochelle and several women veterans founded the National Women Veterans United (NWVU), a volunteer-based organization for women veterans and those in active duty, reserve duty, and national guard. The NWVU is one of few organizations across the nation with a mission that includes assisting women veterans in navigating the complicated systems of Veterans Affairs Hospitals and benefits.

“After a deployment, veterans do not come back the same (person), families don’t understand what they have been through or what they have seen. It is the role of the NWVU to help female vets understand they are not alone,” Rochelle says. “Veterans have VA benefits, but the bureaucracy is complicated to navigate, we ease this burden.”

The NWVU is a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ The organization also assists disabled women veterans through peer support programs and helps women veterans who are homeless or housing insecure to find housing, management services, and wellness support programs to help them get back on their feet. The NWVU also works with many women veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), depression and other mental health challenges, promoting hope, wellness and recovery. They also support military families, whose mother may be deployed or may have returned from active duty. The NWVU hosts a variety of programs including art therapy, plant-based healthy cooking, and financial literacy programs. In 2018, NWVU developed a partnership with the Women Business Development Center and the United Relief Foundation to assist military women entrepreneurs. 

In 2015, NWVU opened the only Military Women Veterans Center in the state of Illinois. On September 7, 2019, NWVU renamed the center in honor of Sergeant Simone A. Robinson, an Illinois soldier who died as a result of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Sergeant Robinson’s daughter was two years old at the time, and the NWVU has mentored her and helped her family for the last seven years.

The ultimate goal of the NWVU is “to make sure female veterans maintain their independence, get the support and assistance they deserve, and ensure the women veterans who served so well are included as part of history – they all deserve that,” Rochelle states.

For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.

You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.

Marty Knight: A Veteran Who Continues to Serve through Volunteering with the Red Cross

Marty Knight has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for the over 10 years. However, his experience with the Red Cross goes back to the early 1970s while serving in the United States Navy.

In 1972,  Marty deployed during the Vietnam War aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and a year later aboard  USS Kitty Hawk, as a jet and engine mechanic working on airplanes and helicopters.

Years later, while onboard USS Kitty Hawk, Marty crossed path with the American Red Cross, “In July of 1979, I was in Pattaya Beach, Thailand when I got the Red Cross message that my son was born in the city of San Diego” says Marty. Even though, he didn’t get to meet his son until February of 1980, Marty was very grateful to the Red Cross for letting him know that both, his wife and son were doing well.

Copy of the message the Red Cross sent to Marty Knight in 1979 notifying him of the birth of his son

However, this wouldn’t be the last time that Marty was going to hear from the Red Cross. While still on duty, he remembers receiving notification from the American Red Cross that one of the members of his squad needed to return home on emergency leave. “…we started the paperwork and a few minutes later the Red Cross called back to ask if he needed travelling money and I said yes…and so they gave him travel money, which I thought it was very nice of the Red Cross,” recalls Marty.

In 2001, Marty’s wife was gravely ill with cancer and once more the Red Cross was there to assist the family, helping his son, who was serving in the U.S. Navy, come home on emergency leave to be by his mother’s side.

Marty credits this familiarity and personal experience with the work of the Red Cross that prompted him to become a volunteer.  As a Red Crosser, Marty has been able to provide support to other veterans, delivering supplies from the Red Cross to a Veterans Home in Manteno whenever possible, adding that he does whatever he can to make their lives better.

As a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, Marty responds to home fires, providing comfort and assistance to families during their toughest moments. He has also deployed multiple times during major disasters to help with relief efforts. Last year, Marty deployed to Alabama to assist with logistics in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, “I was distributing supplies like shovels, rakes and water to people,” explains Marty.

Marty during his deployment to Alabama in 2018

His past deployments also include North Carolina and New Jersey after Hurricanes Florence and Sandy, respectively. Both times, Marty assisted with mass feeding in Red Cross shelters and drove an Emergency Response Vehicle to bring food to those in the affected areas.

Marty is one of the many veterans who are making a positive impact in their communities through their volunteering with the American Red Cross, being there for others in time of need, lending a helping hand and shoulder to lean on.  Thank you, Marty, for your service and for supporting the mission of the Red Cross.

If you like to know more about the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces click here.

To find out more information about volunteering with the American Red Cross here.

Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager

Local SAF volunteers support “The Moving Wall” exhibit for veterans

Over the weekend, the last weekend in September, volunteers with Services to the Armed Forces of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois teamed up with Disaster Mental Health volunteers to support “The Moving Wall” exhibit at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

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“The Moving Wall” is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and it has toured the U.S. since 1984. The exhibit serves as a way for those who cannot travel to Washington D.C. to still pay tribute to all veterans- especially Vietnam War veterans. Two Moving Wall exhibits travel the U.S. from April through November, spending a week at each site.

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American flags, 1,587 of them, were placed at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, with each one representing a military member who is Missing in Action. In addition, 50 state flags were placed to indicate that the service members displayed on the wall were from all 50 states in the U.S.

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Valerie Moreno-Tucker, an SAF volunteer, wore a POW MIA bracelet that she received in college to the exhibit. As Valerie was offering mental health support to local veterans she was able to find the name of the service member that was on her bracelet on the wall. She says the experience was very touching for her and the other volunteers to be part of such a powerful remembrance.

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The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program dates back to the establishment of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton in May 1881. Not only did the “Angel of the Battlefield” risk her life tending to soldiers wounded in the Civil War, she bolstered their morale by writing letters for them to send to their families. Today’s American Red Cross workers proudly carry on this tradition through the SAF program, which serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families.

Learn more about the American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces here.

Written by Services to the Armed Forces Regional Specialist Kelsey Smith

Jamie Wildman: Dedicated to the Red Cross

Originally from Ohio, Jamie Wildman has resided in the Chicagoland area for the past 20 years.  For about half of that time, almost a decade, he has served as an American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois board member.  Before coming to Chicago, Jamie graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and proceeded to receive his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.  He currently works as a Managing Director in Healthcare Coverage for William Blair, an investment banking and wealth management firm. 

Jamie’s connection to the Red Cross extends back through time – all the way back to the early 1900’s, in fact.  His grandfather was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in France during World War I.  This connection with his grandfather is something that he is very proud of as he continues the family legacy of service to the organization.

Jamie is one of the leaders behind many of the Red Cross events, such as the Heroes Breakfast and the Red Cross Classic, saying that “they get better every year.”  He has a deep appreciation for the Breakfast and the fact that it honors and spotlights local heroes each year, giving them a platform and much-deserved validation for their efforts and contributions to the community.

For Jamie, the Red Cross represents a vast array of support and assistance to so many people.  He said that the reason he’s become so involved in the organization is that it helps “people experiencing the most dire circumstances [of their lives].”  He explained that he is particularly fascinated by “so many different areas” where the Red Cross steps in to help.  Specifically, the biomedical and military services that the organization provides is what motivates Jamie.  This year alone, the Red Cross has delivered over 65,000 emergency communications to military troops and their families and held countless blood drives to provide hospitals with life-saving plasma, platelets, and whole blood.  All of this is in addition to the classes offered by the Red Cross on CPR, first aid, AED, lifeguarding, and its work in disaster relief services.

Funds raised are crucial to carrying out the many humanitarian missions of the organization, and as Jamie pointed out, there is “compelling [reason] to donate.”  He says the Red Cross is proud that an average of 90 cents of every dollar spent is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need.  When reflecting upon the scope of the organization, Jamie summed up his feelings, saying that “the more you learn about what the Red Cross does, the more you want to help.”

We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jamie Wildman for his years of service to the Red Cross on the Chicago & Northern Illinois Board of Directors!

If you would like to learn about volunteering for the Red Cross, you can find more information here.

Written by Red Cross Communications Volunteer Vicky Arias

A look back at Red Cross history in 1943

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This historical photo shows some of the women in the Red Cross Motor Corps Station at Navy Garge in 1943. It is believed to have been taken outside of Washington, D.C. The woman on the far left is a Chicago woman, Josephine McCarthy. Her daughter, Joanne, shared this photo with us of her mother volunteering on the weekends for the Red Cross while she was working for Illinois Bell and has been transferred to Washington D.C. for 6 months. Josephine then raised her family in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.

We are so proud of the many men and women who have volunteered for the American Red Cross throughout history. Do you have a photo to share? Email us at ChicagoMC@redcross.org

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‘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 redcross.org/il/chicago 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.

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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 www.redcross.org/saf.

Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications and Marketing Intern

How the Red Cross Helps Veterans

Why the Red Cross Helps

I remember visiting Washington D.C. with my family in high school. We went to the Vietnam War Memorial, and I felt dwarfed by the long black wall with so many names engraved into it. At that time, I did not grasp the immense significance of the names; how each represented a soldier with a family, memories of home and childhood, and plans for what they would do if they returned home. As I get older, approaching college graduation, I learn more and more about everything soldiers risk when they choose to serve our nation. On the Vietnam War Memorial, each name is a reminder of those who died because of the war, who paid the greatest sacrifice a person can make in life.

Our nation goes to great lengths to honor our soldiers, fallen heroes and veterans. Both government programs and non-profit organizations provide aid to veterans throughout their life. One of these non-profits is the Red Cross, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to serve those who have served us first, risking their lives for our safety.

How the Red Cross Helps

Emotional Support

The Red Cross serves our nation’s military in multiple ways. One of these ways is through emotional support. When a soldier leaves home for deployment, both the soldier and his/her family are likely to experience some sort of emotional distress. The soldier may experience the pain of separation from their family or anxiety over their own safety and transitioning into a new realm of life. Many times these soldiers have spouses and children and may fear for their beloveds’ well being. Likewise, the family may experience the pain of separation and fear for their loved one’s safety.

To help people through this, the Red Cross offers workshops to help people cope with deployments, PTSD and trauma. The Red Cross also offers workshops specifically geared towards helping children deal with the deployment of a parent or sibling. The Red Cross has many volunteers who are trained to reach out to and care for soldiers, veterans, and their families when tough times come.

Working with Veterans Affairs

The Red Cross also works together with the Veterans Affairs Health Care Centers, which are government-run clinics dedicated to serving veterans. The Red Cross goes to these locations and helps with weekly food pantries for veterans, in addition to running the No Veteran Dies Alone program. In this program, the Red Cross ensures that veterans without families are not left alone in a hospital, but instead sends volunteers to talk with and care for the ill veterans. Being stuck in a hospital alone is an awful experience, and the Red Cross ensures that this does not happen.

Emergency Communications

The Red Cross also works with the government to help families communicate with their soldiers in a time of emergency. Even when soldiers are overseas, problems can arise back home. Loved ones may become sick or pass away, for example. In these times, the Red Cross gives information to the military about the emergency. This allows the soldier’s commander to make an educated decision about whether emergency leave should be given to the soldier to return home.

Military Entrance Processing Help

The Red Cross also helps at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) for soldiers preparing to serve the country. These are locations where soldiers go to swear in and complete the enlistment process. When soldiers and their families come, the Red Cross also come and informs the families of the services they offer, as discussed above. The Red Cross also provides details about how families and soldiers can communicate (good days and times for phone calls, for example) and informs every one of the Hero Care App, a phone app that allows the Red Cross’ services to be accessed easily.

How to Volunteer or Get Help

You can see volunteer opportunities for the Red Cross by going to www.redcross.org. Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces Dept. should contact Breanna Rodriguez at breanna.rodriguez@redcross.org. Dedicated volunteers are the only way that the Red Cross is able to offer the amount of services that it can to those in need, and we are extremely thankful for their help, and love having new people join our team.

Those who need help can call 1-877-272-7337, the phone number for the Red Cross Emergency Communication Services. This dispatch service will connect you with the people that can help you in the way you need most.

 

Written by Gordon White, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Remembering Bonnie Knight

The Red Cross of Chicago would like to share loving memories of Bonnie Knight, who passed away Friday, March 30, of this year. Bonnie Knight was an exceptional volunteer who served alongside her husband, Marty Knight, since 2010. She originally focused on disaster relief but quickly transitioned into volunteering in the Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) department, her true passion.

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Bonnie is pictured here with her husband, Marty, volunteering at the Manteno Veterans Home.

 

Bonnie and Marty went above and beyond in their participation in the SAF program. Each month, they drove 140 miles round-trip from their home to the Chicago Military Entrance Processing Station. There, they spoke with newly enlisted service members and the members’ families. They prepared soldiers for the difficulties of entering the military, and also prepared families for a life where their loved one has moved away from home and into the armed forces. They also taught the families how to use the Red Cross emergency communication service in the event of an emergency at home.

Bonnie and Marty served as SAF Leads for the Manteno Veterans Home and Prince Home, a position that included shopping with veterans for items like winter clothing. Bonnie also volunteered as a Site Lead at the 2017 Warrior Games, where wounded Service Members participate in athletic events.

As Bonnie’s health grew worse, she maintained an indomitable passion and a positive outlook on life. Michelle McSweeney, formerly with the SAF program, said, “We often got pictures of Bonnie and Marty with the veterans while they were passing out the items, and every person – especially the veterans – has a beaming smile on their faces. Bonnie always had such a bright and positive personality and smile on her face.”

Thank you, Bonnie, for helping us serve our military, their families, and veterans. Your service will not be forgotten.

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.

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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.