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

Ready To Help When Help Is Needed: American Red Cross Home Fire Response

Greg Voyles was fishing one night, when he learned his apartment was on fire. He returned home and found the building uninhabitable. He also found South Central Illinois chapter volunteers, Keith Hertenstein and Terrence Cook, ready to help him with his immediate needs.

Hear what Greg has to say about his experience in this video, and visit redcross.org/volunteer if you’d like to join the team as a disaster volunteer.

Service and Scholarships

“It’s a good way to let your school connect with your community, letting people come in and see what your school’s all about. Also, it teaches students how to reach out and be active in their community and give back; these are things everyone should know how to do, and it helps you know how to do that.”
-Lainey Campbell

The American Red Cross High School Scholarship Program gives high school students the opportunity to help others, while helping the students as they move on to higher education. The scholarship program is available for high schools that host at least one Red Cross blood drive during the year.

For 17 years, Marty Green has helped successfully run this program at East Peoria High School. The school coordinates five blood drives every year, primarily thanks to the efforts of the students who are involved in the program.

“My role is purely supplemental. If they need something, I get it for them, but other than that, it’s completely driven by students,” says Green. “They come to me, I don’t go to them.”

The larger number of units of blood a school collects, the larger the amount of scholarships are awarded to participating students.

Lainey Campbell played an integral role in the East Peoria High School program the past few years, and received a scholarship for her efforts after graduating earlier this year. She is now using that scholarship to help pay for college.

“It’s very helpful, because college is expensive, so it’s very nice,” she says.

Perhaps more than the financial benefit, Campbell says the life skills she learned while coordinating blood drives and interacting with the community were very helpful for her. She encourages other high school students to get involved at their schools.

“For people who want to work on community service but also want help with funding for college, it’s a great program for that and it really rewards you – it rewards you for doing something outside your comfort zone. A lot of schools like to push leadership, teaching students to give back to their community. If you’re looking for that, it’s a great way to do it.”
-Lainey Campbell

Green, who is retiring after this year, recalls how Campbell and other students have answered the call to take charge of this program during his time being involved with it.

“Each year, a different student steps up to be the leader. They’ll come to me and say, ‘Mr. Green, I’d really like to run this,'” he says. “At the beginning, it was some work to get things going – now, it runs itself. I am fully confident that when I leave, it’s going to keep the momentum.”

Campbell echoes those sentiments, saying other students helped her, even while she was leading the program. She received support from previous student leaders, her fellow school band members and her friends along the way. She says, “I had a lot of support from my friends. I would send them the (blood drive) flyer and ask if they would post it on their Snapchat story or Instagram, and they did.”

Campbell also recalls the positive interaction with Red Cross staff, the day of the first blood drive she hosted. In addition, seeing so many people come in to give blood that day left a lasting effect on her.

“Everyone from the Red Cross I worked with that day was wonderful, they were all so nice and they explained it all to me,” she says. “It was my first experience seeing a community come together for a good deed, giving back to the community.”

By participating in the American Red Cross High School Scholarship Program, your high school can help build a stronger community. Click here to learn more, and to find out how your school can get involved!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Baker

Angela Baker (right) receives her 10 years of service pin from
Disaster Services program manager, Jamie Beaver

10 years ago, Angela Baker was at a local church, where disaster shelter training was taking place. It was at that moment she realized she wanted to volunteer with the American Red Cross, in case a shelter were to ever open in her community.

A decade later, Angela is a dedicated disaster services volunteer for the South Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region. As part of her role, Angela frequently offers support to individuals who have gone through disasters, such as home fires.

“When you see the clients who have had such devastation, it’s nice to offer comfort and concern to them, and this is a way to do that.”
-Angela Baker

For Angela, this is a way of doing things for others that she would want others to do for her loved ones, if it were necessary.

“If anything like that, a fire or something, happened to my loved ones, I would want someone to be there to help them, so this is a way I can reach out to help others,” she says.

Angela describes the work of a disaster services volunteer as fulfilling yet challenging, as many situations can be emotional, working with individuals who have suffered losses such as homes or pets.

“Some of them break down and cry, you just kind of have to listen and see where you can help, what you can say if anything and how to respond and just comfort them as best you can,” she says.

Angela recommends volunteering with the Red Cross, as it is “a great opportunity, and a way to comfort and help other people who have gone through a hard time.”

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join her on the disaster response team. Thank you, Angela for your service to the community as a volunteer!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Dedicated to Service: Rich Dansizen

“It’s good for everyone to give back to their community and this is a great way to do that. There are lots of opportunities within the Red Cross.”
-Rich Dansizen

Rich Dansizen has spent most of his life serving others. For 23 years, he served our country in the United States Air Force, starting in the veterinary service and then spending the majority of his years doing communications work.

As part of his duties, Rich hosted radio and television broadcasts, doing everything from spinning tunes to delivering the news. “Our mission was to provide that touch of home to the servicemen and women who were serving overseas,” he says. “Quite often, I did the morning show on the radio and the TV news at six. It was a dream job, and I was so happy to have done it.”

In addition, he helped the American Red Cross during his time with the Air Force, serving as the point of contact with the Red Cross for soldier emergency communication situations, for example, if there was an emergency in a soldier’s family.

Rich recalls his mother starting a job with the Red Cross years ago, shortly after his father retired from his career. She too, worked with service members as part of her role.

Fast forward to today, and you will find Rich volunteering for the Red Cross, helping with tasks for the Communications and Service to Armed Forces teams. He says, “When I retired I was looking for some more things to do and I thought the Red Cross would be a good fit.”

Rich helps the Service to the Armed Forces team with completing follow-up work and helping with referrals for military members and their families. He helps Communications, by organizing a list of volunteers, coordinating and delegating volunteer responsibilities each week, along with other tasks.

“We are glad to have Rich on the team,” said Crystal Smith, regional director of Red Cross Service to Armed Forces & International Services. “His background and expertise as a retired service member help him provide valuable insights as a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer and relate to military families in crisis. Rich is a great asset to the Red Cross and the military community.”

When he is not volunteering his time, Rich loves to travel with his wife, Judy. He lists New York, Las Vegas, Sturgeon Bay, WI and Indiana Dunes as some of his favorite trips.

Thank you, Rich for your service to our country and for all you do for the Red Cross!

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

Coordinating the Response: Laura Templeton

Laura Templeton is a volunteer for the American Red Cross in the South Central Illinois chapter.

Laura started volunteering with the Red Cross in November 2009 and became a duty officer on the disaster response team, a couple of years later.

Duty officers play a key role in our disaster response operations. Laura enjoys coordinating the response after a disaster.

“I like speaking with the first responders and verifying the information, getting a description of the damage, then calling the volunteer responders. It’s gratifying to be able to coordinate the whole thing and just be able to get assistance to our clients. I feel passionate about it.”
-Laura Templeton

Laura adds that facilitating canteen requests for firefighters and other first responders during disaster response situations is something she enjoys doing, as part of her duty officer role.

90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. To join Laura as a duty officer, or to find another opportunity with us, visit redcross.org/volunteer and browse the volunteer opportunities.

As for activities in her free time, Laura enjoys hiking and traveling, but more than that, “I love interacting with friends and going out for a cup of coffee. That’s my favorite thing,” she says.

Thank you, Laura for all you do!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Patty Williams: Commemorating 50 Years of Volunteer Service

Patty Williams: Commemorating 50 Years of Volunteer Service

This year marks a half century of service at the Red Cross for Patty Williams and what a journey it has been! Starting at 13 years of age as a swim teacher through the Red Cross, then aiding in blood donor paperwork processing at her local hospital, providing service to the military, volunteering throughout her college, and teaching career days, and donating blood for most of her life, through today, Patty continues to deploy and respond to disasters which are too numerous to keep count.

Not only a committed American Red Cross volunteer, Patty was also as an elementary school teacher who managed volunteering while working until she retired from teaching in 2014. These days, Patty is busier than ever responding to fires in and around her community as well as deploying when disasters have struck other parts of the country.

“I have always felt compelled to serve in large part because I can’t sit still,” chuckled Patty during a recent conversation. “At a very young age, I set out to give the Red Cross 50 years and here I am – celebrating my 50th anniversary. I’m so very proud of being part of the Red Cross who whether it’s night or day, cold or hot weather, rain, or shine, will always be there during someone’s time of need. Disasters are hard to live through, but when you have someone show up and ask, ‘What do you need?’ it not only changes the affected person’s perspective, but something inside of oneself does too. One day it could be me, it could be you, regardless, having someone show up to help is life changing.”

Patty’s dedication to the Red Cross has not only been life changing for her, but her 50 years of service has also left an indelible imprint on the many people she’s helped, her fellow Red Cross volunteers, as well as the business of disaster response operations. In 2017, Patty was instrumental in establishing a food truck system that helped feed 60,000 people on a daily basis during Hurricane Harvey, a system which is still employed today when having to feed masses of people during a disaster response. And thanks to her lifesaving training, Patty has been able to save two people! One of those a student in her class who was choking on a mint.

Hurricane Harvey, 2017 – Partner food truck canteen services

Patty remains committed to answer the call for as long as she can, but emphatically notes that we will always need more volunteers, “I know there are many people out there who want to help, who feel the calling to show up and help their community, their country, when it’s needed. I call on them to join the Red Cross. The experiences, friendships, and connections I’ve made and maintain through my 50 years and counting are priceless. I’ve not only been able to put my humanitarian values to use, if I can help, I always will.”

Volunteers like Patty are the lifeblood of the Red Cross, and we are proud that 90% of our workforce are volunteers. Volunteering not only provides a sense of purpose, but it also can also improve health and happiness and for Patty, these 50 years have given her a lifetime of friends, moments she will never forget, and daily motivation to assist her community and beyond.

“Over the course of the past 50 years, I have attended to home fires, multiple family fires, tornadoes, floods, bombings, train wrecks, and so many disasters I’ve lost count. I’ve also saved lives thanks to my first aid training, but through every one of my experiences, I’ve been present because we need each other. So many times, in times of catastrophe, we just need someone there.”

These days, when she’s not responding to disasters for the Red Cross, we can find Patty piloting a hot air balloon. We applaud and profusely thank Patty for her five decades of service and look forward to continuing to work with her as she continues volunteering.

We’d love to celebrate a milestone with you! Put on a red vest and join us. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to find out how you can support your community.

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza