Volunteer Spotlight: Doug Harrison

Doug Harrison of Peoria has volunteered for the American Red Cross as a Blood Transportation Specialist for the past 15 years.

As a Transportation Specialist volunteer, Doug is the critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood, platelets or other blood products to hospitals.

“This is a lifesaving job,” he says.

Formerly a printing press operator, Doug decided to start volunteering when his full-time job was eliminated. On average, he is called to deliver blood products two or three times a week – it’s a call he is always happy to take.

Doug also volunteers at blood drives and says, he just likes being able to do something for other people.

“I enjoy it. I’m giving back to the community; that there, in itself, makes me feel good.”
-Doug Harrison

Thank you, Doug! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Giving Back: Lily Leduc

Lily Leduc’s father came to live with her in 2017. She wanted to learn how to best care for him, so she took a certified nursing assistant training course, offered by the American Red Cross.

Now, Lily volunteers for the Red Cross in the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter, where she is very involved in chapter activities and disaster responses.

“It’s my way of giving back to the Red Cross, because the training I got at that time was so valuable and it made life better for my father and myself, when he was living with us. So, that’s really my ‘why’ is to give back because I felt they gave so much to me,” said Lily.

Lily has deployed three times since joining the Red Cross as a volunteer in 2021. Most recently, the former resident of Florida returned to that state to help people affected by Hurricane Ian.

During her two-week deployment, Lily served as a supervisor for teams going door to door in Estero Beach, looking for people to offer assistance to, whose homes had been heavily damaged or destroyed.

“It’s like nothing really you’ve ever seen. You could smell the mold and mildew, as you came up to the houses,” she said. “You find people and they just want to tell you their stories, and we just heard some terrible stories.”

Lily recalls the story an 83-year-old man told her, of climbing into his attic with his two cats, to escape the rising water. “He rode that out for 20 hours, he watched his wife’s ashes float off. Just terrible stories – they just want to talk and they’re just glad to see somebody.”

Lily described her deployment following the tragic event that took place in Highland Park, IL this past summer as her most difficult one.

“To hear the people talk and you could feel the fear they were trying to relay; it’s just unimaginable, you can’t even wrap your head around it,” said Lily about her role as a caseworker, talking with those affected by the event.

“If I was in that situation, I would want someone there for me. That’s what I get back out of it. I just think, if that was me, I would want someone to be there to help me when I need help.”
-Lily Leduc

While the experiences can be challenging, Lily enjoys volunteering for the Red Cross and enjoys meeting new people as part of the experience.

“I love new volunteers, and I just want to tell them, ‘Hey, there’s so much you can do.’ A lot of people don’t realize what the Red Cross does,” Lily said. “When we get a new volunteer, I’m like, ‘Look at all of these things you can do. There’s just so much you can do.'”

Thanks for all you do, Lily! Visit redcross.org/volunteer to join the team as a volunteer.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Red Cross Volunteer Helen Jackson Welcomes Everyone at Chicago Office Front Desk

<strong>Red Cross Volunteer Helen Jackson Welcomes Everyone at Chicago Office Front Desk</strong>

Helen Jackson is a Facility Service Volunteer at the Illinois Red Cross’s Headquarter office in Chicago. If you’ve stopped by, there’s a good chance you’ve been greeted by Helen at the front desk – welcoming visitors, answering the phones, and serving everyone who comes in the doors during business hours. She gets to see a little bit of everything – and all kinds of people.

Visitors come for many reasons, and that reflects so much of what the Red Cross does: they come to donate blood, to take CPR and First Aid classes, to request smoke detector installations in their homes, and to apply for recovery assistance if they’ve recently experienced a home fire or other natural disaster. Helen refers volunteer inquiries to Volunteer Services, and she recommends local charities that accept household donations if the Red Cross cannot take them. There’s also the business side that Helen facilitates: sorting the mail, responding to vendors, fielding calls from around the state, and directing blood pick-ups to Biomedical Services in the back of the building.

Every day’s different, and Helen likes it that way: “I’m their first point of entry. I talk to everyone and try to help them. I see visitors who are happy, angry, distraught if they’ve just been through a disaster. And despite this, they are friendly because the Red Cross can offer help. That’s why this work is meaningful to me.” Helen refers callers to other social services and charities beyond what the Red Cross can provide. She connects people to what they need, and where they need to go.

Helen started at the Red Cross in 2019, about a year before COVID-19 closed down the office. She was recommended to the Red Cross by Easterseals, an organization that places seniors and those with disabilities in volunteer positions. “I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life and I didn’t know about the Red Cross before I came here. It makes you want to volunteer at the Red Cross when you see all that they do.”

When the office re-opened in July 2021, Helen was back at the front desk, greeting all who enter. The post-COVID world is different, not as many people are in the office each day as before. But the Red Cross mission is just as important. “Anyone who volunteers for the Red Cross will be helping, and possibly saving a life.”

We are grateful for all you do, Helen!

Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley

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

A Life Committed to Service: Susan Hill, Lt. (j.g.)

A Life Committed to Service: Susan Hill, Lt. (j.g.)

When we think military, we oftentimes think of the 5 branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Did you know the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, or USPHS Commissioned Corps, was established in 1798 and is one of the nation’s uniformed services — a branch committed to the service of health? The USPHS Commissioned Corps works on the front lines of public health – their medical, health and engineering professionals fight disease, conduct research, and care for patients in underserved communities across the country and throughout the world. Officers in the USPHS Commissioned Corps advance our nation’s public health, serving in agencies across the government, as engineers, physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, scientists, and other positions.

The Red Cross of Illinois is proud to count a member of the USPHS Commissioned Corps, Susan Hill, amongst our volunteer ranks and this Veterans Day, we say thank you for your service and dedication to keeping our country and its people safe.

Susan, a retired environmental engineer never envisioned herself a member of the military, but a visit to her school counselor led her down a path that afforded her rewarding experiences and adventures.

“I was looking for a summer internship. Never did I imagine that I would find myself a commissioned officer with the USPHS Commissioned Corps. That first internship led to another which led to four years of service. During that time, I traveled the country, made lifelong friends and connections all the while safeguarding the health and safety of all who live in the United States,” shared Susan.

Susan was an integral member of the USPHS Commissioned Corps who to this day continues their work constructing water systems, evaluating medical devices, designing “healthy buildings,” and strengthening public health infrastructure.

Fast forward to today, you can find Susan volunteering with the Red Cross and as a  Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) in DuPage County. “When I was semi-retired, I knew I wanted to keep serving. My husband was already a volunteer with the Red Cross, so I started my training and four years later, I have responded to local home fires, volunteered at blood drives, and served as a caseworker assisting those impacted by disaster on their journey to recovery. Volunteering is so rewarding! It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to help others,” stated Susan.

Susan credits her military training and education for preparing her for a life of service and leadership. Mentorship is also top of the list, “Throughout my career, I was very fortunate to have had mentors who helped propel me along a career path that wasn’t necessarily one saturated by women. It was this experience that inspired me to also be a mentor. We all have so much to give, and our experience can build on someone else’s resulting in doing great things for the good of many. My connection to the Red Cross through its mission of alleviating human suffering is what inspires me to keep serving,” said Susan.

Retired as Lieutenant JG from the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, Susan earned a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and retired as a Senior Principal in an environmental engineering consulting firm. Susan is a devoted mother of four, grandmother to four adorable grandbabies, and a CASA advocate to three children.

“I encourage everyone, especially retirees who have the time, to volunteer. Volunteering is not only rewarding, but the feeling you get from helping others is unlike anything you’ll ever do.”

Thank you, Lieutenant Hill, for your continued service and dedication to helping advance the mission of the American Red Cross.

To all military veteran volunteers, thank you for being dedicated Red Crossers! We salute all who have served and honor the tremendous sacrifices made by members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families to preserve our freedom.

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza

Volunteer Spotlight: Ramon ‘Jay’ Castro

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

This is what motivated Ramon ‘Jay’ 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, Jay, 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. Jay 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. Jay 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 Jay 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