There are countless of ways to get involved with the Red Cross. You may see Red Cross volunteers responding to disasters in your neighborhood or across the country. Perhaps you are a blood donor and you’ve been greeted by a blood ambassador, maybe you had a free smoke detector installed in your home through our Sound the Alarm program, or maybe you took a First Aid Training Course. In addition to the more visible volunteer roles at the Red Cross, there is a core group of volunteers that dedicate their time and expertise in the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program and you don’t often hear about their work.
For more than 150 years, the Red Cross’s Restoring Family Links program has helped reconnect separated families and address the issue of missing persons as a result of armed conflict, natural disasters, migration, and other situations. Families suffer greatly when their loved ones remain unaccounted for, and families must learn to live with uncertainty. It is this uncertainty that Red Cross Restoring Family Links caseworkers work ardently to resolve.
The Red Cross of Illinois is proud to have a stellar group of volunteers whose behind-the-scenes work brings joy and closure to families around the world. Meet Restoring Family Links Caseworkers Margo Dudewicz, Susie Mazaheri, Monica Agler and Mallory Smith.
Monica Agler has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for over 12 years. Monica started with the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and moved to Restoring Family Links when this program evolved.
“Every role I’ve had with the Red Cross has been gratifying. Through Restoring Family Links, I have had the opportunity to resolve cases by locating loved ones and providing closure to families who’ve lived in anguish over not knowing what happened to their family member. Most currently, I was assigned to a case of a family who fled Iraq and they lost touch with their son who went back to Iraq to retrieve his grandmother. I have 15 years of tracking to follow, but I’m determined to bring this family peace.”
Susie Mazaheri is the Restoring Family Links Regional Lead for the Red Cross of Illinois. Susie has been with the Red Cross since 2008 with the majority of her time as a Disaster Mental Health professional. You can find Susie volunteering locally or across the country aiding those affected by disasters, but her work in Restoring Family Links is always in the back of her mind and part of her days. See more from Susie here.
“Our work through the Restoring Family Links program is so important and can be done from any part of the country. My motivation is knowing that the people we help have been through so much trauma, yet they maintain that glimmer of hope of locating and reuniting with their loved one. Like the mother in Honduras who lost touch with her young son as he migrated and found himself in a detention center. Because of the incredible Red Cross network, we were able to give that mother the closure she had been waiting for, for so long. I put myself in her shoes and can only hope that someone would want to help me find the ending to my story if ever I found myself in a similar situation.”
Margot Dudewicz has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross serving the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois since 2017. Margot, whose husband is a member of the U.S. Army, first joined the Red Cross through its Service to the Armed Forces. Margot’s love for research, genealogy, and helping people connected her to Restoring Family Links.
“The Red Cross is so much more than what people think they are — globally, the Red Cross cares about families — especially families who become separated. Like the Ugandan sister living in DeKalb whose brother was missing for 20 years. After connecting her with her brother who she thought deceased – the emotions and joy I witnessed when they connected is something I will never forget and are my motivation to do everything I can when I get a case to make the connection or find that family more information. The stories and people I get to work with are so powerful and inspire me to give back.”
Mallory Smith has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2019. Mallory is an aerospace engineer and contractor with NASA. During her free time, Mallory works on reconnecting families and uses her engineering and love of data mining to help connect families. Hear more from Mallory here.
“Working in Restoring Family Links takes perseverance—not giving up on a lead because you know that your work, when successful, will have a massive impact on someone’s life.”
“We could absolutely not do this work without our volunteers. The passion and dedication they have for helping families is incredible. The creativity and resourcefulness shown by our entire Restoring Family Links team makes a huge impact in the lives of families all around the world,” shares Crystal Smith, Service to the Armed Forces/International Services Regional Program Director.
The American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program assists individuals and families who are separated internationally by war, disaster, migration, political events and other humanitarian circumstances in re-establishing contact.
When families are separated internationally by armed conflict, disaster, migration and other humanitarian emergencies the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network can help to do the following:
- Locate missing family members
- Restore and maintain family communications
- Provide war-time documentation of internment and/or documentation on the fate of missing family members
If you live in the United States and are seeking information about someone you’ve been unable to contact due to a recent disaster in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, please visit American Red Cross’s Contact and Locate Loved Ones page. This information is also available in Spanish to search for your loved one.
If you are looking for a family member living abroad who is not a US citizen, please submit your inquiry here.
To all of our dedicated Red Cross Volunteers, thank you. Your dedication, compassion, and willingness to give your time and service upholds the mission of the Red Cross to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.
To volunteer with the Red Cross, visit RedCross.org/volunteer.
Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza