Women’s History Month: Lyn Hruska

Lyn Hruska joined the American Red Cross nearly 25 years ago, in 1997.

Lyn has served in numerous important roles during her time with the Red Cross, starting as executive director in Bloomington. Little did she know, that was just the beginning of her career with the organization.

“I joined the Red Cross, thinking it would be an opportunity that might last a couple of years. But, obviously, 25 years later, you can see that once you are immersed in the Red Cross mission, you can’t leave,” she said.

Currently, Lyn is executive director of the Central Illinois chapter, which serves more than 900,000 people in 17 counties. She enjoys being able to cultivate relationships with staff and volunteers in her chapter.

The chapter is where those really strong connections and bonds can happen, and where people are serving their own communities.”
-Lyn Hruska

Lyn has seen changes happen during her time with the Red Cross. But, she embraces the changes and says it is a critical part of how an organization succeeds in the long run.

“The Red Cross is all about change and that is why they are so successful, even on a grand scale. We have been able to change as change has been needed,” she said.

Among the many things Lyn has contributed during her 25-year tenure with the Red Cross, in 2020, she led the Red Cross partnership with the United Way of McLean County to support a community care fund feeding more than 500 families a week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Lyn also leads two active Red Cross chapter boards in Central Illinois, one based in Bloomington and the other based in Peoria.

She has a heart for her team and has seen the power of compassion at work in the people who represent the Red Cross, during everyday operations and during times of extreme need.

“The reason I am still at the Red Cross after 25 years is our volunteers and community partners. These are people who truly want to help. We see the best of people during the worst of times. These individuals want to be part of that.”
-Lyn Hruska

Lyn and her husband live on a corn and soybean farm, west of Normal in McLean County. She rescues cats on their farm, socializing them and helping them get healthy so they can find new homes.

You may find Lyn on a tennis court as well. She has played since high school and continues to play local club competitive tennis.

Thank you, Lyn for your dedicated service and commitment to the Red Cross and its mission!

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Red Cross Month: Getting Involved and Making a Difference

Shelly Oliver started volunteering for the American Red Cross in 2018, shortly before Hurricane Michael made landfall in the U.S. She has traveled to Florida, Oregon, Louisiana and elsewhere to provide disaster relief after hurricanes, wildfires and other disaster scenes.

Shelly lives in Macon County, near Decatur and responds locally to home fires and other incidents, providing immediate assistance to people who have been impacted by disasters. She also helps install smoke alarms as part of our Sound the Alarm program.

“I like the disaster response work, being on scene with the clients. You take these people with you. I call to check up on them and they will call me sometimes,” she said.

Despite the challenges presented during the COVID pandemic, Shelly still has been able to assist in a virtual setting, and she is glad to have had to have been able to serve during this time.

“I love the virtual intake process because I am still able to meet with the clients, even though it has not been in person during the pandemic,” she said. “When we do intake over the phone, we’re able to connect a little deeper because we have more opportunities to talk after the initial response.”

Shelly has been a great asset to the Illinois region and beyond. Her positive attitude and strong work ethic have helped people in numerous situations during her time as a volunteer. For Shelly, it is something she enjoys doing.

“I love everything about Red Cross. I wish I had known what the Red Cross did a long time ago, I would have gotten involved long before I did. Four years ago, I had no idea all they did; it just amazes me.”

If you would like to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer, please click here.

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

Red Cross Month: Family Hosts 5th Blood Drive in Honor of Seven-Year-Old

Photo credit: Kelly Harrigan

A seven-year-old is now responsible for five successful blood drives. This week, nearly 50 units of blood were collected in honor of Anthony, a child who has relied on donated blood to keep him alive.

Anthony’s blood drive at the Mount Prospect Police Department also served as a celebration. He recently turned seven years old, and he just celebrated his two-year anniversary of being cancer free.

Anthony was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) in 2019. It is a rare blood disorder in which the blood does not clot normally. This can cause excessive bruising and bleeding, due to the blood not clotting as it normally should. Anthony has received weekly platelet transfusions, because of this condition. He also needed nearly 20 rounds of chemotherapy treatment, while fighting leukemia.

Anthony’s mother, Kelly, has been coordinating blood drives since then, as a way to help other people who need blood and platelets. She is grateful for everyone who participates and plans to hold two more events, later this year.

As for Anthony, he is doing well and one of his favorite things to do is ride the bus – with his mom. We celebrate his good health and thank his family for their continued efforts to support the mission of collecting lifesaving blood!

Please visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment to donate blood, to volunteer at blood drives or to host a drive of your own.

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

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 Tia Jackson

Tia Jackson is a business operations specialist and started working for us as an executive assistant in 2016. In her current role, she manages operations at American Red Cross facilities in Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield and Decatur and she is responsible for making sure facility needs are met.

“I like being able to help the Red Cross and people who are working in the buildings and it makes me feel good when someone tells me a facility is clean and in good condition,” she said.

Part of Tia’s role is recruiting, training and working with volunteers. She is quick to compliment them for being great partners in what she does on a daily basis.

“Volunteers are very helpful to me, because they can be my eyes and ears in the buildings when things need to be fixed. It’s satisfying when volunteers feel they can come to me and talk about any issues they’re having and talk about their accomplishments. It’s great when the team and I can get together and work through things and talk about fun things, too,” she said.

Five years after starting here, Tia says she enjoys her role and is looking forward to what the future holds.

“Business Operations is a great team and it’s amazing working for the Red Cross,” she said.

Tia lives in the Peoria area with her family and loves to travel. Her favorite travel memory is from a trip to Mexico, when her husband proposed to her.

You might find Tia wearing green and gold, because she is an avid Green Bay Packers fan – a team she roots for in honor of her uncle, who was a lifelong fan.

Thank you, Tia for all you do!

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

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser – Blue Sky Efforts – February 2020

The Regional Sheltering Team recently conducted five classes with External Partners in Shelter Training. 

Three local organizations – Benedictine University, Hoffman Estates Emergency Management and the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management – reached out to the Red Cross and requested Shelter Training for their people.

Five Red Cross Instructors over the last month – traveled out to their locations and instructed their people in both Shelter Fundamentals and Shelter Operations Simulation.  A total of 120 people were trained in these classes. 

Steve Wise and Lauren Zimmerman (RC Sheltering Instructors) – and Sarah Marcucci / Emergency Management Coordinator for the Village of Hoffman Estates

Such efforts help the Red Cross extend both our Partnerships and our reach in times of need.  If there ever was a local large-scale disaster – there easily could be the need to stand up numerous Shelters across the Greater Chicago and Northern IL Region.      

A big shout out goes to those Red Crossers who helped out with this instruction – Terri Cunningham, Lauren Zimmerman, Jackie Speciale, and Danny Portman.  Thru their efforts – we now have External Partners to call on for Sheltering Assistance.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, please go to redcross.org/volunteer to join us.

This picture was taken at the Shelter Training held at the Hoffman Estates Police Department last Saturday, February 1st. A total of 37 people attended this training.

Written By: Steve Wise, Disaster Volunteer

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.

 

 

 

“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

 

 

Blood Drives and Biking Motivate Volunteer

Two things really Kathy Schubert bikerget volunteer Kathy Schubert moving – riding bikes and giving blood.

“I need a destination on my bike, so I’ll ride to a Red Cross blood drive,” Kathy said.

The avid cyclist has been a Red Cross blood drive volunteer coordinator since 2001, organizing one of her first events for the organization days after 9/11 when there was an urgent need for blood.

Kathy continues to bike to blood drives around Chicago and the DePaul University campus, recruiting donors and helping collect more than 5,000 pints over the years.

“I volunteer because people out there need my help,” she said.

Story and photo by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago