Over the years, Rick Daitchman has dedicated a lot of time to the Red Cross through volunteering and donating blood. His parents inspired him to serve others.
“My father and mother were always helping people. That’s one of the things that I remember. They treated people right and helped,” Rick says.
Rick’s drive to help others stems back to when he was a college student during the Vietnam War.
“I got lucky,” says Rick. “I had a high number in the draft and didn’t get picked. I have a lot of friends who went to Vietnam and aren’t here anymore, so I just decided to give back to those people.”
Rick’s been volunteering with the Red Cross since 2009 but has been donating blood for almost 30 years. Most recently, Rick donated his 60th unit of blood!
“I don’t really think about it as a big deal anymore. I just think of it as something I look forward to. And I like the cookies! I like the experience and I like to joke around with the staff,” says Rick.
As a volunteer, Rick has worked with Disaster Cycle Services on the Sound the Alarm campaign and was also one of the first volunteers to be part of the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). This program provides information about Red Cross services to military recruits and families before they are deployed.
Thanks to the Red Cross, Rick is trained in first aid and CPR. And since he retired at the end of 2020, he looks forward to spending more time volunteering.
Through its Service to the Armed Forces program (SAF), the American Red Cross helps members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service. One of its signature programs is the Family Contact Card program in which families of active military members are contacted by Red Crossers to make them aware of our military support programs, both at home and around the world. A case is opened for each family, and any follow-up activity can be monitored and noted in our client management system.
During our AmeriCorps Veterans Week National Service project in November, 14 Illinois Disaster Corps and Safe Families members were trained by SAF staff and through online classes to work with the Family Contact Card program. Three AmeriCorps staff members coordinated and facilitated this project with our SAF program.
“It was amazing to be a part of this outreach project,” explains Sara Stepanovich, an Illinois Disaster Corps member (pictured below). “To get to connect with military families, many of whom were first-time military families, was extremely impactful.”
Over the course of Veterans Day week, November 8th-14th, 13 AmeriCorps members contacted 638 military families statewide in Illinois and served more than 450 household members directly via telephone. Additionally, one member assisted with internal coordination activities in relation to these cases. This entailed validating 120 Family Contact Cards filled out by new recruits at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before they leave for boot camp. These cards provide the valuable contact information that is used for the Family Contact Card program and allows the Red Cross to connect with their families during their military service.
“We were not only able to extend our gratitude for their service member and their family, but also let them know the American Red Cross is there to support them 24/7 while their loved one is away,” Sara says. “You could tell that knowing the Red Cross is consistent and reliable support, when so much else was unknown, brought families comfort.”
Each AmeriCorps member committed at least eight hours of cumulative direct service time (in addition to training), totaling 112 hours served for our 2020 Veterans Week National Service project.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
you would like to learn about volunteering for the Red Cross, you can find more
by Red Cross Communications Volunteer Vicky Arias
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Kelsey 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 www.redcross.org/saf.
Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications and Marketing Intern