The Red Cross of Chicago and Greater Northern Illinois is fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers who have been working with us for years. One of those volunteers, who has worked with the Red Cross of Chicago for about 17 years, is Sue Brenner.
After getting her masters in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy, Sue and her husband moved to Chicago where she worked as a preschool teacher and as a director of a preschool for many years. “When I was ready to leave that job, I knew I wanted to do something hands on, and the Red Cross seemed like it would give me that opportunity,” Sue said.
Sue started out as a Disaster Action Team volunteer, which meant being on-call to respond to fires and help the people affected. Eventually, Sue and several other team members decided that they needed more volunteers to respond to fires. Together, they helped develop a program to build up the volunteer corps, which Sue now describes as a “robust volunteer corps put together over the years.”
After 10 years of working 2-3 days a week in Volunteer Leadership, Sue decided to scale back a bit. She now works once a week on casework for victims of fires. “I call clients who have had a fire and I ask how they are doing, if they were able to move back in, if they have insurance, or any other disaster related needs.” Through working with partners, Sue is able to provide victims with resources to help them get back on their feet. This can be anywhere from a week to a multi-week process depending on the case.
One aspect that Sue emphasized as crucial for recovering more quickly from a fire, is by having insurance. “I am a big fan and cheerleader of insurance and rental insurance! It is really important and not expensive, and people get back on their feet so much quicker.”
Some of the biggest obstacles for Sue’s clients can often be finding new housing. “Once they find something we can give them referrals to partner agencies who might be able to give them furniture. But a lot of times just getting a client placed in a new home can be quite challenging.”
In addition to casework, Sue is involved in many other areas of the Red Cross: “I teach a Disaster Supervision class for people working in Disaster who are going to become supervisors. I’ve also participated in the Home Fire Campaign to put smoke alarms in people’s homes- which is always a really worthwhile thing to be doing.”
Out of all of Sue’s involvement in her 17 years of working with the Red Cross, she did not hesitate when asked what stands out to her the most: “I think the building up of the volunteer base is the thing that I would be the most proud of. And I didn’t do that by myself- it took a lot of work from a lot of people. But of all the things we’ve done that would be one I am the most proud of.”
Thank you, Sue for all of your hard work over these past 17 years!
Interested in volunteering with the Red Cross and helping with events like these? Visit www.redcross.org/volunteer to find a volunteer opportunity for you!
Written by Sophie Kendrick, Communications and Marketing Intern