Honoring Military Heroes and their Families

Honoring Military Heroes and their Families

Every day at the Red Cross, we honor those who served in the armed forces and their families by providing support before, during, and after military deployment.

Today, we offer special thanks to those who have served and those who continue to serve their country through the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

Listen to a message from the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

Learn about a few veterans who continue to serve through the American Red Cross.

aliciatatenadeauSaving lives, love for family, and call to duty are three life missions for U.S. Army Brigadier General Alicia Tate-Nadeau that forever have tied a piece of her heart to the American Red Cross.

As the top commander at the Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC), Alicia is charged with protecting the lives of more than three million people and property in Chicago. Appointed as OEMC’s Executive Director in June by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alicia, who also represents the city on the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Board of Directors, brings leadership to these roles from both her personal and military life.

While stationed in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2014 as an Army liaison officer, Alicia was walking near the Mediterranean Sea when she noticed a crowd gathered around a man on the ground. Her instinct was to help. Trained in first aid by the Red Cross, she administered CPR until first responders arrived.

Around the same time, halfway around the world, another heart close to her was ailing. Notified through the Red Cross Hero Care Network, the organization’s Service to the Armed Forces emergency message system, Alicia learned her brother, Ryan, was scheduled to undergo major heart surgery. Doctors were uncertain if Ryan would survive, and she wanted to be there, holding his hand at his bedside.

Two years later, while Ryan still waits for a new heart, Alicia is grateful the Red Cross helped her family – never thinking she would be the one to get that call for request for leave. She advises hundreds of relatives of service members before deployments to save that Red Cross refrigerator phone number magnet as a lifeline to keep families connected in any part of the world.

Joining the region’s Red Cross Board of Directors this year is an extension of her heart to serve the community she loves.

“Everything I’ve done—from working with people, technology, foreign affairs, humanitarian assistance and civil support—has brought me here.” she said. “I’m connected to the mission.”

howardgoldsteinHoward Goldstein is known among the Chicago Red Cross casework unit as “the closer.”

When volunteers connect with residents after a disaster, like a home fire or flood, the Red Cross immediately starts the navigation process to help families recover. Once those services are identified, Howard steps in to ensure people receive medication replacements, counseling, housing resources, etc.

Howard’s motto is, “Every case that gets opened, has to get closed.”

Howard also serves as the Veteran’s Administration Volunteer Services (VAVS) Red Cross liaison to Chicago area VA hospitals. When he’s not attending yellow ribbon events, you’ll find him at the Hines VA food pantry in Hines, Illinois. He feels at home there, among his comrades, having served a medic in Vietnam field hospitals from 1968-1969 as Specialist 5th Class in the U.S. Army.

TyraOliver.jpgCaptain Tyra Oliver has devoted her military career and volunteer service to helping others feel better – inside and out.

The U.S. Army veteran serves as a Reservist at the 55th Medical Detachment Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) unit in Indianapolis, Indiana. While stationed in Kuwait, she ran a behavioral health clinic at Camps Arifjan and Buehring.

Back home, Captain Oliver helps those battling trauma as a member of the Red Cross disaster mental health team in Chicago. She also responds to home fires and helps families cope with loss.

A volunteer since 2014, Captain Oliver also facilitates reconnecting workshops offering emotional support for service members and their families.

“I love the vibe of Race Day:” Team Red Cross runner laces up for Chicago Marathon

rco_blog_img_raceThe Chicago Marathon day is my favorite day of the year. There’s truly nothing like it! This year’s marathon will be my 8th overall and my 6th Chicago Marathon. I keep coming back year after year because I absolutely love the vibe of race day and the energy of the crowds on the course.

I run for Team Red Cross because I believe in the work they do around the world. Whenever there is a need for help, the Red Cross is always among the first to respond.  It’s great to see that the money I raise is going to help those who need it the most.

29902440510_6ffc89e017_oAt the end of July, I was struck with a stress fracture in my shin. It seemed to come out of nowhere but it left me unable to do high impact exercises for almost two months. In the meantime, I have been trying to keep up my fitness by going to spinning classes and strength training. Thankfully, my leg is better now. Just in time for race day!

The night before the race, I like to relax at home with a viewing of “Run, Fatboy, Run.”  Definitely a running classic!  On race day, I have a couple of friends who live along the course so I always look forward to seeing them when I pass by. The faces I most look forward to seeing, though, are those of my boyfriend and his son, who always come to see me around mile 24. Seeing their smiling faces is just the boost I need to make it to the finish.

Andrea Hamilos of Chicago is one of 80 members of  Team Red Cross athletes running the 2016 Bank of Chicago Marathon. Want to run for a good cause? Those who missed the registration for this year’s marathon can sign up for next year to run with Team Red Cross. Registration opens Oct. 10, 2016 and includes a guaranteed entry to the 2017 race. Email stephanie.patton@redcross.org for more information.

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

I remember the exact spot I was standing when I checked my phone on July 20, 2015 and read the text: “headed to Lake Forest ER, please pray.” Right then I knew something big was happening; change was coming, but I had no idea what an impact it was going to have on my life. I drove right from work to the hospital.

Stage 4 cancer. You could physically feel the ache in the room. My grandma, the center of our entire family was diagnosed with the unimaginable. For 17 weeks we watched the brave woman we knew battle this unrelenting disease. Throughout the entire process, I was in denial—this wasn’t happening, she would beat this, it’s not that bad. But it was bad. I watched the strongest person I know, become physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak.

My cousin Nolan, a US Marine, left three days before we found out about the diagnosis for Okinawa, Japan, where he would be stationed for the next two years. Every day, my grandma would open her iPad and say to the picture of my cousin on the screen saying, “Hi Nollie, I hope I can see you just one more time.” Her one, final wish was to have all her family together just one more time.

The American Red Cross made that wish a reality. My aunt and uncle contacted the Red Cross on Friday, Nov. 20, to explain the situation hoping to set up a time within the next several weeks to get Nolan back to the United States. Instantly they got a response that Nolan would be on a plane the next Monday and would land in Chicago on Tuesday.

On Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, we rushed my grandma to the ER once again where she would leave hours later; sent home on Hospice for her final days. Nolan landed the next day reuniting with my grandma and my entire family. That day was the best she looked in months.

Then she began slipping away from us, beginning her journey to heaven. Those days are the best and worst days of my life. The best, in the sense that I have never felt such a strong, united bond with my family. We laughed together, we shared stories of the past, we cried, we sang, and we prayed. On Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, at 6:50 a.m. my grandma left her weak, diseased body and entered the Kingdom of God.

There are no words I could ever say to express the gratitude I have for the American Red Cross. They gave my family a priceless gift that truly is irreplaceable.

This year I have the honor and privilege to run the 2016 Chicago Marathon with my mother and best friend. I am excited and somewhat nervous to push my body both physically and mentally beyond anything I have ever done.

I am not doing this for myself, but in hopes to give back to an organization that helped me and my family in our darkest time.

Runners who are interested in participating in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon can join Team Red Cross, the official race team of the American Red Cross. General registration for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 is closed, but limited spots are still available through charity partners like the Red Cross until Sept. 15. Team members pledge to raise at least $1,500 to support Red Cross humanitarian programs and services. Register to join Team Red Cross online or email stephanie.patton@redcross.org. For more information about Team Red Cross click here.

Janelle Johnson, 25, of Lake Bluff, Illinois is a first-time marathon runner and member of Team Red Cross running in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9.

Postcards From Louisiana: “Keep People in Your Prayers”

IMG_20160815_091537529_HDRHi Friends & Family-

Fran and I were traveling home from a RV Rally in Elkader, Iowa on Aug. 21 and got a call from the American Red Cross asking us to drive an emergency response vehicle to Louisiana to help with the floods.

We left the next day.

Nearly 10 hours later, we drove 600 miles to Blytheville, Ark. After a few hours rest, we drove another 420 miles and arrived in Baton Rouge. We stayed overnight in a Red Cross shelter.

DSCF4960We got to work the next morning. Our day begins about 7:30 a.m. We deliver food, water and supplies to families. The weather here is very hot and muggy and the smell of wet trash is overpowering at times.

Of all our previous deployments, this is the first time for us in a disaster that is still on going. We see the massive effort made to help people.

Fran and I take hot meals and water to people. We’re working with the Southern Baptist, who partner with the Red Cross during these big disasters. They bring in trailers with stoves and ovens to cook meat, vegetables and pasta. In a single day, meals are prepared for thousands of people a small kitchen.

Be sure to keep the people of Louisiana in your prayers as they have lost so much and it will be a long and difficult recovery.

Our Best,

Frank and Fran

Frank & Fran Cornwell are American Red Cross volunteers from Fulton, Illinois deployed to Louisiana to aid relief efforts.

 

 

 

How Safe Are We? Disaster Preparedness Summit Targets Cyber & Workplace Security

CHICAGO, IL – Technology touches every aspect of our lives from social interaction to managing personal finances. The cyber world makes life easier to manage, but it also exposes us to threats that can cross the wire. At the same time, we’re also seeing the workplace as a new target of attacks increasing at an alarming rate.

So how safe are we?29108317925_378f4bbd43_o

That’s what participants at this year’s annual American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit investigated Aug. 18 through engaging workshops and discussions.

The event, held at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center, provided a forum for shared learning and experiences among local leaders representing more than 100 business, government and community organizations. This year’s summit focused on cyber and workplace security to improve the resiliency of the Greater Chicago region in responding to disasters, in whatever forms they take.

29031066061_ab1514a56d_oWeeks before we are about to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Patrick G. Ryan, Founder, Chairman & CEO of the Ryan Specialty Group, spoke about his personal and corporate experiences leading the Aon Corporation during the disaster.

Moderating the day-long discussions were Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer and of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, and board member and chair of this year’s summit, Brenda Battle, Vice President, Care Delivery Innovation, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“We have great collaboration among our corporate and government partners, in addition to all the agencies that have a hand in helping to make our community safer and more resilient to any type of hazard,” said Battle.

28489667643_6f66812842_oDiscussions covered cyber and workplace security issues affecting both public and private sectors. Speakers emphasized organizational self-awareness of the human, physical, and network components of a cyber system. In particular, the ability to identify the data susceptible to attack, potential adversaries, and individual and organizational points of vulnerability is key in the maintenance of cyber security.

Experts also discussed effective response tactics in the event of a workplace security breach and the importance of preparing a carefully prescribed plan. Speakers addressed the significance of issues beyond IT: human resources, legal, privacy, public relations, and most importantly, communication. These were among the critical considerations mentioned in successfully responding to cyber security breaches.

29031147181_8832a58d86_oSpeakers and other topics included:

  • The Hacker/IT Professional (Sharyn Menne, Brandon Fason, James McJunkin)
  • Cyber Security: Protecting the Public/Private Sector, Defending Against an Attack and Closing Trap Doors (Ricardo Lafosse, Kirk Lonbom, Bryan Salvatore, Robyn Ziegler)
  • Cyber Risk: Who Owns It? (Marcus Christian, Jim Hartley, Paul Hinds)
  • Cyber Extortion (Kirk Havens, Thomas F. Minton, Richard Spatafore, Judy Quinton)
  • The Intersection Between Privacy & Security (Gino Betts, James K. Joseph)
  • The Intersection Between Privacy & Security (Paul Steinberg, Alicia Tate-Nadeau)
  • The Fallacy of Workplace Security (Brian Baker, Thomas Henkey, Paul Huerta, John Kiser)
  • The Financial and Legal Impact of Workplace Violence (Keith D. Blakemore, Ann Bresingham, Thomas Byrne)
  • The New Face(s) of Workplace Violence (Thomas R. Mockaitis, Ph.D., Jenna Rowe, John Walsh).

“While nature can wreak havoc on a community, the same is true with cyber breaches and workplace violence. As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, much of our work at the Red Cross on local level is to help build more resilient communities in Northern Illinois, such as through the dialogue and partnerships we form at this conference,” said Roldán.

Next year’s summit will cover topics of public health and bio-terrorism.

The event was possible thanks to the generous support of Presenting Sponsors: Aon, CSX, Motorola Solutions, and Zurich of North America; Readiness Sponsor: Grainger; and Community Sponsors: Illinois Medical District, JLL, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; with additional support from Discover and the United Way.

Go here to view more photos of the 2016 American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit.

29108254835_c77f7128d7_oStory by: Jessica Hayashi, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

 Photos by: Christopher Doing, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

“We Have Our Hands in the Community:” GAGDC Joins Red Cross for Smoke Alarm Rally in Auburn-Gresham

CHICAGO, IL – As part of a nationwide fire prevention campaign, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois teamed up with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) on Sat., July 23 to install smoke alarms and teach families about fire safety.

Linda Johnson is the program manager for the GAGDC and said, “it was a necessary partnership. We have our hands in the community and have established relationships in the community so it was easier to transition into the homes from a partnership level.”

28471828816_e75f5f1373_oTogether, 60 volunteers from both organizations installed more than 400 smoke alarms in the South Side neighborhood.

Christa Hunt lives in the neighborhood and volunteered through GAGDC. She said she was glad to be part of the smoke alarm rally, “there definitely are a lot of homes that need it in the neighborhood.”

As volunteers went door-to-door installing alarms, residents welcomed them into their homes. They called neighbors who also needed the alarms to tell them about the Red Cross.

“Usually people my age they get out just fine, but children and seniors, those are the biggest casualties and I would hate for something to happen when I could have prevented it,” Hunt said.

The American Red Cross is known for responding to emergencies, but will continue its effort to install alarms and prevent them before they occur.

“Because of the tremendous efforts of our volunteers working alongside our partners like the Greater Auburn-Gresham Community Development Corporation, hundreds of families are now safer and know how to escape their home in less than two minutes if a fire should occur,” said Harley Jones, Regional Disaster Officer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

28242657960_26df0d6f94_oState Senator Jacqueline Collins, Alderman David Moore of the 17th Ward, and Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr. of the 21st Ward also stopped by to thank volunteers from the GAGDC and Red Cross.

See more photos of the Auburn-Gresham Smoke Alarm Rally here.

 WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO People can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from a fire. They can become a Red Cross volunteer. They can also help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visitingredcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

28220493950_3dbe62bcc5_oWritten by: Eleanor Lyon, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by: Danny Diaz and Ira Meinhofer, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

 

 

Four Generations of a South Side Family Safer with Smoke Alarms

28420460352_0285211dc6_oCHICAGO, IL – In a four-story apartment building on the South Side, four generations and 10 members of the French family received a visit July 23 by the American Red Cross.

From the basement to the top floor, volunteers installed 15 smoke alarms in the building and planned an escape route for everyone inside in case of emergency.

Apartment complex owner Larry French heard the Red Cross and the Greater Auburn-IMG_0310Gresham Development Corporation was coming to his neighborhood and opened the door to have his entire building equipped with new, 10-year battery smoke alarms.

“Anything to protect my family,” said Larry, whose elderly parents, Howard and Queen, live below him on the first floor. “I look out for them all the time, you only got one parents; and we all have to help out one another.”

28494225916_a8d4c13e2e_oInside each residence, the Red Cross installed smoke alarms near the kitchen and sleeping areas. In the common stairwell, an old smoke alarm was chirping, so the installation team replaced that one too.

“You never know when a fire will happen, you could be in your pajamas and it’ll just happen,” Howard said.

Larry’s cousin, Crystal French, lives on the top floor with her young boys and felt better knowing her family was safer and knows what to do to help all members of her family on all floors during an emergency.

“It’s all about keeping constant contact, it’s important to ask family: Are you okay? Do you need anything? Since the Red Cross gave us this education, we now might be able to work out a good safety plan,” she said.

28425716871_ecb6af6faf_oIn addition to the 15 smoke alarms installed in the French family’s complex, the Red Cross, joined by community volunteers from the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, went door-to-door in the Auburn-Gresham community and installed more than 400 smoke alarms in a single day. More than 60 volunteers from both organizations also educated residents about fire safety and helped families create a personalized escape plan to exit their home during an emergency.

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home IMG_3018fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Working with fire departments and community groups across the country, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and teaching residents about fire prevention and preparedness. Locally, the Red Cross will install 6,600 smoke alarms in the coming months in communities across Northern Illinois.

See more photos of the Auburn-Gresham Smoke Alarm Rally here.

WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO People can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from a fire. They can become a Red Cross volunteer. They can also help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visitingredcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

28220493950_3dbe62bcc5_o

Story by: Tyler Bieschke, Public Affairs Volunteer & Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by: Danny Diaz and Ira Meinhofer, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

 

Red Cross Volunteer Honored for 45 Years of Service

13166128_10154149586548334_706572018836577024_nJOLIET, IL – For 45 years, Dorothy Dodendorf has given her time and blood to the American Red Cross.

Dorothy was honored for her decades of service to humanitarian organization with the Clara Barton Award on May 12 at the American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Harrah’s Joliet Hotel. The award is named for Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. It is the highest award a Red Cross volunteer can receive.

Dorothy first became involved with the Red Cross in high school, when she joined the youth Red Cross club and then continued on in college. However, she believes that her work really began in 1970 when she started volunteering in blood donation. At the time, Dorothy was pregnant and unable to give blood, so she helped by coordinating blood drives.

In 1985, Dorothy joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT) and has been responding to help families affected by home fires, floods and tornadoes ever since. She remembers her first deployment to Miami during Hurricane Andrew.

“I was struck by how much we can come together and get something accomplished in the midst of mass destruction,” she said.

13173696_10154149587083334_5830172271477261960_nThis award does not mark the end of Dorothy’s Red Cross career, but it is a major milestone. She plans to continue her volunteer work until she says she “can’t manage to do it.” Most recently, she was deployed to Louisiana earlier this year for the floods.

Three other individuals also received recognition at the event: Steve Swett received the Volunteer Leadership Award; Vicki Klups received the Disaster Services Leadership Award; and Bill Brady received the 5 Years of Service Award. The 11 youth members of the Illinois Valley Community College Red Cross Club received the Red Cross Club Award.

Volunteers carry out more than 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. More than 2,000 people volunteer for the Red Cross in Northern Illinois. They staff blood drives, teach lifesaving First Aid & CPR skills, respond to home fires, work with military families and much more.

The Red Cross is always looking for new volunteers and you don’t have to have 45 years under your belt, like Dorothy, to make a difference. All it takes is the desire to help.

Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members, like Dorothy, are a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon at any time of the day or night.

You can be trained to be part of this lifesaving work and volunteer. Across the 21-county region the Red Cross serves in Northern Illinois, volunteers respond to 3 to 4 home fires every day, providing food, shelter and comfort to more than 1,400 families affected each year in our community.

Red Cross volunteer training is free and open to the public. For more information on volunteer opportunities and to sign up go to www.redcross.org.

Written by: Eleanor Lyon, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Photos by: Susan Westerfield, America Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Community Comes Together to Honor Local Heroes

(CHICAGO, IL) – The  American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois recognized people who demonstrated incredible courage, compassion and kindness to help both neighbors and strangers at the 2016 Annual Heroes Breakfast April 28 at the Hilton Chicago. The event brought together people of all ages and backgrounds, representing the diversity of the Red Cross community.

Recipients displayed their passion for preventing human suffering and gratitude for the opportunity to acknowledge people who are underserved and overlooked. Dr. Samer Attar of Northwestern Medicine, honored with the Global Citizenship Award, travels to war-torn Syria to provide medical care at underground hospitals. He also thanked the doctors, nurses, and countless others who join him in risking their own lives to help others.

While Dr. Attar’s service takes him to the other side of the world, other honorees, such as the Law Enforcement Hero, Officer Lourdes Nieto of the Chicago Police Department, has dedicated herself to helping young people in our own backyard. Officer Nieto is an advocate for human trafficking victims and gives these victims a voice by educating the public about these crimes in Chicago.

Lt. Hans Ziegenbein and Felix Serrano, honored with their team from Fireboat 688 of the Chicago Police Department with the Firefighter Award, expressed gratitude for the honor as well as their desire to recognize other members of the firefighting community.

Such remarkable humility was a common theme among all recipients, which included:

  • Good Samaritan (Mike Robeson)
  • Blood Services (Diane Calamaras, APN)
  • Heritage Award (David D. Hiller)
  • Community Impact (Dr. Daniel Ivankovich)
  • Law Enforcement (Officer Lourdes Nieto of the Chicago Police Department)
  • Emergency Medical Assistance (Sergeant First Class Tony Genovese & Staff Sergeant Jeremy Adkins of the Illinois National Guard)
  • Global Citizenship (Dr. Samer Attar of Northwestern Medicine)
  • Disaster Services (Lazenia Adams)
  • Firefighter (Lt. Hans Ziegenbein, Engineer Robert Bloome, Firefighter Christopher Heinz, and Firefighter/EMT Felix Serrano of the Chicago Fire Department)
  • Youth (Caley Trepac), and
  • Nurse (Darice Bohne, RN, BSN).

The extraordinary contributions these heroes have made to the community, their personal commitment to helping others, along with their incredible humility, truly exemplify the spirit of the Red Cross.

Young volunteers were also present. A group of senior and junior high school students from Geneva, Illinois included a group who work with special education students, help tutor younger students, and take action as part of Operation Snowball to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and drug use among youths.

The 2016 Heroes Breakfast was made possible thanks to the generosity of our key sponsors: Anixter, Bank of America, BMO Harris Bank, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Boeing, Mesirow Financial, Motorola Solutions, Northern Trust, Walgreens, Aon, CDW, ComEd, Grainger, ITW, NES Rentals, PwC and USG.

Story by: Jessica Hayashi, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by: William Biederman, Christopher Doing and Danny Diaz, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Chicago Police Officer Lourdes Nieto Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Law Enforcement Hero

IL-Law-Enforcement-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – For young people who’ve been abused and traumatized, Lourdes Nieto gives them hope. At a safe house in Chicago for young girls and teens, the Chicago police officer is working to stop human trafficking in the community.

“It’s never been about what they’ve been through – if they want to share, that’s their process,” she said. “Recovery shouldn’t be reliving their story over and over again.”

Many of the stories are the same for the young people she helps, who were sold into prostitution and pornography by people they trusted. The commonalities they share are vulnerability, neglect and low self-esteem. Police and law enforcement officers are some of the last people they trust, but Lourdes has been able to break down those barriers.

“They’re used to people exploiting them, pimped out by boyfriends, gang members, teachers, even their own family members – people who were supposed to protect them and then sell them for sex in exchange for drugs or money,” she said. “Their trust was at zero, but you can rebuild it when they see that you care.”

A 12-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, Lourdes joined the force in 2003, patrolling the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the city’s South Side. She responded to robberies and homicides, but it was the girls on the street and those who were recovered in raids that opened her heart to stop human trafficking.

Lourdes brings her own 16-year-old daughter on safe house visits to cook meals and interact with girls whose lives took a drastically different turn. She wants her daughter to see it’s a tough world but also a compassionate one. She teaches anti-trafficking courses at the Pilsen library and hopes to bring more awareness and training to schools, as well as to her fellow police officers. She also wants others in the community to speak up.

“If you see something that doesn’t seem right, say something,” she said. “Call us at the Chicago Police Department, so victims don’t fall through the cracks and they are not forgotten.”

The Law Enforcement Award is presented by Motorola Solutions Foundation to a professional police officer(s) or related law enforcement official(s) who exhibited heroism either in response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois