Red Cross Month: Service to the Armed Forces

The American Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans, their families and caregivers cope with the challenges of service, providing more than 513,000 services each year through a worldwide network of volunteers.

Military and veteran communities face unique circumstances. The Red Cross offers a variety of resiliency workshops with effective tools for the whole family to help improve communications, face challenges and manage stress. These programs are free, confidential and offered in person or online by licensed mental health professionals.

The “Coping with Deployments” program helps military families to manage stress and communicate effectively while their service member is deployed. Participants learn how to help their children cope with stress, in addition to building a family communication plan and discussing psychological tips on handling separation. These workshops are available in person or as a self-guided online course.

Reconnection workshops are designed to help service members, veterans, their families and caregivers learn how to cope with military-specific challenges and are available for adults, teenagers and children. These discussion-based workshops encourage participants to share their experiences and practice resilience-building activities to help reconnect with family members, work environments and communities.

Mind-body workshops focus on how emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors can directly affect physical health, and provide tools to stay grounded and refocus during times of stress. One workshop teaches participants foundational techniques like mindfulness, breathing and stretching, which are proven to lower stress and improve well-being. Another workshop guides participants through techniques for personal and professional growth, such as drawing, journaling and meditation. These workshops were developed and reviewed by a team of experts in mental health, mind-body practice, military culture, and complementary and integrative healing.

The Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network offers peer-based support to those providing care to wounded, ill or aging service members and veterans. This is a global network created by caregivers for caregivers, supporting one another to decrease feelings of isolation and increase feelings of connection, hope and well-being. The network also supports veterans who are caregivers.

The Red Cross works with military aid societies to connect eligible military, retired military, veterans and their families with financial assistance in times of hardship. This assistance can include funds for emergency travel, food and shelter and more.

Volunteers are needed to support the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces mission. Please visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a volunteer. Also, visit redcross.org/saf to learn more about how the Red Cross serves members of the military and their families.

In March, the American Red Cross of Illinois is honoring the people who make its mission possible every day during its annual Red Cross Month celebration – a national tradition started nearly 80 years ago when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national Red Cross Month proclamation recognizing those who give back through the American Red Cross. Each U.S. president has issued a proclamation ever since. Join Red Cross Month by visiting redcross.org to make a financial donation, sign up to give blood, become a volunteer or take a class in lifesaving skills, such as first aid and CPR.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Celebrating Black History Month: Employee Spotlight on Darren Thompson

Darren Thompson has worked for the American Red Cross of Illinois for 25 years.

Darren’s brother gave him the inspiration to start working for the organization in 1996; he worked for the Red Cross and sparked Darren’s interest in coming on board. Darren started as a technician and, most recently, has been a manufacturing supervisor for the past 17 years. He enjoys being a part of the mission of the Red Cross and has played a big role in the impact Blood Services has made on the community, specifically Peoria and the Central Illinois Chapter.

Darren oversees a team of three staff members and six drivers on his shift and credits his time working in other roles for the effectiveness he is able to have as a supervisor. “Coming from the floor, you have seen every aspect of the job, so that helps a lot,” he said.

The Red Cross provides hospitals with lifesaving blood products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including: red blood cells, platelets, plasma, whole blood and blood products for research. Darren oversees the distribution of blood products on a daily basis. There can be a fluctuation in the amount of these products coming through his area and the COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on that supply. As Darren says, “We go as the inventory goes.”

Darren and his team inspect the products as they come through their area and make sure they are packed and delivered in a timely fashion to hospitals who need them. It is a job Darren loves and one that gives him a great sense of satisfaction.

“I’ve seen it so many times, where we have products that need to get to people – lifesaving products. You just feel like you’re making some kind of difference. I always visualize myself being at that hospital and needing these products, so it kind of helps you understand the importance of making sure customers get what they need.”

In his spare time, Darren is a deacon at his church, volunteers his time and loves to go fishing. You might find him reeling in a catfish if you are ever at a lake in the Peoria area.

Thank you, Darren for 25 years of service to the Red Cross and for all you have done and continue to do to make a difference!

The American Red Cross continues to face a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in over a decade, posing a concerning risk to patient care. Doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments. During this blood crisis, the Red Cross asks the country to roll up a sleeve to help ensure people in their communities receive the care they need. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen