Volunteer Spotlight: Terrence Cook

“I like to get out and mingle with the people and find out exactly what their needs are, try to resolve it and help them out as much as I can.”
-Terrence Cook

Terrence Cook of Mount Vernon, Illinois has been an American Red Cross volunteer for approximately 10 years. During his time volunteering, Terrence has responded to home fires, along with deploying to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other disasters.

After a home fire, Terrence arrives on scene and helps individuals with providing comfort kits, financial assistance to help with lodging and food, assistance with referrals for replacing medications, information about case work and additional assistance.

“You always run into different people, different families and situations,” he says. “Our main goal is to help them with their immediate needs.”

Terrence has deployed to numerous parts of the country for large-scale disasters, including California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. He spent time helping before and after a hurricane in Mississippi in 2017, where he worked as a supervisor during the Red Cross disaster response, there.

“It is good to work with people after disasters. I was surprised at how many people were willing to help, even though they were thinking about, ‘Is my home alright?'”

Terrence says, numerous people thanked him for being there. He recalls a story of two children sharing their concerns about the impending storm. They asked Terrence, “Are we going to have a home to go home to?” Terrence tried to comfort them and the boys thanked him for listening.

For Terrence, his favorite parts of volunteering include working with his fellow volunteers and helping people. He likes the camaraderie and says he truly enjoys being able to talk with the people he meets as part of his duties.

“My life goal is to keep helping people like that,” he says.

Here is a short video that highlights a recent Red Cross home fire response in the South Central Illinois chapter. Terrence is one of our volunteers who responded to help.

Thank you, Terrence! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join the team as a disaster volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Spotlight: Ramon ‘Ray’ Castro

“I just wanted to make a difference in my community.”

This is what motivated Ramon ‘Ray’ Castro to become a volunteer with the Northwest Illinois chapter of the American Red Cross Illinois region.

Since becoming a Red Crosser 11 years ago, Ray, a U.S. Navy Veteran and retired art teacher, has deployed four times. His first deployment was to North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew, which coincidentally he told us is the name of one of his sons. Ray drove an emergency response vehicle from Chicago to North Carolina to provide much needed relief to those impacted.

He lives in Freeport, Illinois with his wife who also volunteered with the Red Cross for 12 years. Ray is an accomplished artist who created a seven-foot bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (pictured here), which is located at Blackhawk Battlefield Park in Stephenson County, Illinois.

When asked why others should consider volunteering with the American Red Cross, he quickly replied, “because the Red Cross makes everything better.”

Thank you Ray for your service and for making a difference in the lives of those in need! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer.

Written by Communications Volunteer Isis Chaverri

Volunteer Spotlight: Tina Martin

“I just want to give back to the community, because the Red Cross was there for me, and if they hadn’t been, I would probably not be here.”
-Tina Martin

Tina Martin is a Red Cross volunteer in the Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region. She serves, because others chose to serve before her.

In 1973, Tina needed a blood transfusion. She says, donated blood helped save her life. From that point on, Tina has felt motivated to help others.

“That’s the reason why I got started in volunteering, was to give back to the community,” she says. “I just really appreciate how everything worked out.”

Tina has been serving as a volunteer in Florida this week, helping people affected by Hurricane Ian. She has helped with serving food and distribution of supplies, among other tasks.

Tina says, it has been a rewarding experience, being able to help others who need it. She is enjoying working as part of the disaster response team serving the community, there.

“People are very nice and friendly. Everyone is just working together to help out and doing their very best. I just enjoy being here an part of the team as a volunteer,” says Tina.

Thank you very much, Tina for volunteering your time and helping others.

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join Tina as a disaster response volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Making the Most of His Time: Kaleb Hall

“I feel like it’s good to always help people. If you help people, they’re going to end up helping someone else, and it’s just like a cycle of helping people.”
-Kaleb Hall

Kaleb Hall is a high school senior in Decatur, Illinois. He volunteers for the American Red Cross in the South Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region.

Having completed the necessary credits to graduate, Kaleb has extra time during this semester and wanted to devote it to doing something productive.

“I only have two classes and get out of school early, so I have more time. I wanted to volunteer my time, instead of just sitting at home watching TV,” Kaleb says. “I have a whole semester of free time, so I am going to be doing this a lot.”

Kaleb’s father, Xavier inspired him to get involved with the Red Cross. Xavier served on the disaster team, installing smoke alarms and performing other tasks as a volunteer.

Recently, Kaleb served as a blood donor ambassador at a Red Cross blood drive in Decatur. He helped sign blood donors in as they arrived for their appointments, provided them with helpful information and answered questions.

Kaleb enjoyed the assignment and is looking forward to getting involved even further, in the weeks and months ahead.

“Everybody is nice, it’s a good environment. There are a lot of options,” he says.

Thank you, Kaleb for choosing to give your time and serve as a Red Cross volunteer! To join Kaleb as a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Tess Sheil: Selfless Service

For half a century, Tess Sheil has faithfully volunteered her time and talents for the American Red Cross.

Tess is a volunteer with the Red Cross Quad Cities and West Central Illinois and the Greater New York Chapter. She has helped countless people as a registered nurse and health services volunteer and as a disaster mental health volunteer, logging thousands of volunteer hours in the process.

Tess calls both Illinois and New York home. She was working in a school in New York the day the Twin Towers were hit during the 9/11 attacks, and responded to try and help as many people as she could.

Tess did anything she could to help survivors and their families including passing out water, making ribbons and having conversations with them.

“I went for the firefighters’ families, I went to the armory for the families there. That was part of my community that was impacted,” she said. “I wanted to help people feel that they had some sense of direction, because people didn’t know what was happening.”

Her experience in New York led her to focus on mental health support at the Red Cross. She has served as the lead for the Red Cross National Staff Support Hotline, where staff or volunteers can call and receive help and advice.

Tess has helped fellow volunteers and provided training through different Red Cross programs in Illinois and New York. She makes sure people realize that they are making a difference in their communities.

“Tess is such a great asset to the people of this community, and far beyond,” said Trish Burnett, executive director of the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter. “It is truly heartwarming to see how much she cares for others and their needs, and it shows in the volunteer work she does for the Red Cross.”

Thank you, Tess for your dedicated service, hard work and true compassion for others.

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer.

World Blood Donor Day: Gary’s Story

When you hear about the need for blood, what do you think about?

United States Air Force Major Gary Novak (Retired) thinks about the times he cared for wounded soldiers, while flying thousands of feet in the air and having no time to wait for administering lifesaving blood.

Major Novak completed several tours as a Critical Care Flight Nurse for the Air Force Nurse Corps. His dedication and talents helped keep injured service members alive, as did the blood kept on board the aircraft.

We always made sure we took blood with us. A lot of the patients, we had to give so much blood to keep them alive. I saw such a need for that and, because of that, I just feel it’s my duty now to give blood.”
-Major Gary Novak

Major Novak went on to a career as a nurse and continued to see the need for blood on a daily basis. He regularly donates blood, and recently did so at the Danyel Pitts blood drive in Springfield.

He says, “You just never know. The blood you give may save somebody’s life that you know and love. It’s always good to help out where you can.”

Thank you, Major Novak for your brave and selfless service to our country, and for giving the gift of lifesaving blood!

If you would like to give blood, please visit redcrossblood.org.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Giving Blood for the First Time

“I had never donated blood before. I was a little nervous, but I feel good, now.”
-Nahum Rabin

24-year-old Nahum Rabin is a Springfield, Illinois resident and recently gave blood for the first time at a local American Red Cross blood drive. His friend had suggested giving blood, after doing so numerous times herself.

“She was just telling me about donating blood; she’s done it a few times in the past,” said Rabin. “After she told me about it, I realized it does help people and it is something good to do, to give back to the community. I decided to do it.”

When asked if he would consider a repeat visit to give blood in the future, here was Rabin’s reply:

“For sure, I would definitely do it again, especially if it could help somebody. It felt like I was only in there for 10 minutes, tops. I’m young, I have enough blood. It’s always good to help somebody.”

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. If you have never donated blood before, here are some resources for you, and a look at what to expect when you go to donate.

Visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment at a blood drive or blood collection facility near you. Thank you to Nahum and all who give the gift of lifesaving blood!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Employee Spotlight: Shaquetta Booker

I love my job, because I love the fact we are saving lives. I definitely enjoy being on the front line. I like to serve people and make people feel great.”
-Shaquetta Booker

Shaquetta Booker is a team supervisor at the American Red Cross blood donation center in Bloomington, Illinois.

Shaquetta started working for the Red Cross five years ago, and it was family that led her to go into this career. Her mother passed away due to cancer and needed blood during her battle with the disease.

Shaquetta learned how the Red Cross works to help provide that blood, while caring for her mother. She wanted to be a part of this process and help others.

“There is definitely a need for blood every day. Someone needs blood all the time. I love that people come out to help others,” she says. “When we are out here helping people, that’s a great thing to do. If that’s something you are willing to do, it doesn’t take much, it doesn’t cost anything and it’s definitely something that is needed.”

When she is not working, Shaquetta enjoys spending time with her children and family in Decatur. Thank you, Shaquetta for being an important part of our biomedical team!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood donation appointment opening near you.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Spotlight: Valentina Logan

Valentina Logan is a devoted volunteer from Macon County, Illinois near Decatur. Though she is new to the Red Cross community, she has been an advocate for volunteering most of her life.

Her passion for volunteering came from working with the Special Olympics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Valentina got the opportunity to follow her dream of working for the Red Cross. 

With her love for helping people, she found a role as a community volunteer leader. Her job includes installing smoke alarms, responding to disaster action calls and leading her teams after disasters. As Valentina reflected on her role in the Red Cross, she was reminded of how much joy this job can bring – not only to the people in need, but to those who are sent out to help. 

“I handed the family in need a gift card and when I did that, I saw them get emotional. Giving them this gift and seeing their emotion made me emotional. This was my first time helping a family that was in dire need of assistance and a place to stay.”
-Valentina Logan

This scenario is what Valentina strives for others to feel. She is motivated to get others to experience the joys of what the Red Cross can bring to people. 

“There is no price you can put on the feeling of helping people,” she said. “The Red Cross was the ultimate helper. They help in so many ways.” 

Valentina plans on recruiting as many people as she can and learning more about the different facets of the Red Cross. As a supporter of what this organization does, she hopes others will take a chance to “feel the love” that comes with volunteering.

To browse our volunteer opportunities, click here.

Written by Communications Intern Julie Piz

Getting Involved: Beverly and Emilie

Beverly Tomita and Emilie Lemieux

Getting involved and helping other people are priorities for Beverly Tomita and Emilie Lemieux. Now, they are encouraging their peers to get involved and join them as volunteers.

Beverly and Emilie are medical students in the Champaign-Urbana area. Together, they are working to build up a base of volunteers at their school, with a focus on disaster and emergency medicine.

Both have volunteered with the American Red Cross before; most recently during a Sound the Alarm home fire safety event. The duo visited numerous homes in the Bloomington-Normal area this May, installing smoke alarms and sharing home fire safety information with residents.

“This is a very valuable learning experience for us, because we are learning about fire safety as well as teaching the community about important disaster preparedness tips, and getting some life skills, too.”
-Beverly Tomita

“It’s awesome to see how excited people are to see you help them. It’s a very rewarding feeling inside, to see how the community opens their arms to you.”
-Emilie Lemieux

Beverly and Emilie hope to spark interest in volunteering in their fellow students, while continuing to serve others by helping the Red Cross.

For Emilie, volunteering gives her “valuable exposure and experience with different aspects of serving.”

Beverly enjoys the opportunities available to serve others, both locally and around the world. She says, “It’s a really great way to get involved and give back to the community, while living the student life.”

We are thankful for Beverly and Emilie’s time and efforts in supporting our mission! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to find a volunteer opportunity in your community.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen