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

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.

Red Cross Volunteer Nancy Luckenbill Celebrates 55 Years of Service

“I was inspired by a fellow freshman at college, and figured if she could donate blood, I could too.”

That was just the start for Nancy Luckenbill in the mid-1950s, who has dedicated a life of service to the Red Cross – no matter how you measure it. She just received Red Cross pins to commemorate 55 years of volunteering and for donating 18 gallons of blood.

Involvement with the Red Cross was a true partnership with her husband Fred, who spent a 40-year administrative and fundraising career with the organization nationally. After working for the Red Cross in Nebraska and Wisconsin, they settled in the Quad Cities in Illinois. Nancy’s background as a teacher was a perfect fit for volunteering to teach life-saving skills to high school home nursing classes, scouting groups, and Junior Red Cross clubs in local elementary schools.

Together Nancy and Fred attended Red Cross conventions and met fellow Red Crossers from all over the country, befriending many other volunteers and joining with a Red Cross retiree social group in St. Louis. The Red Cross mission has been a big part of their lives and made a difference for their children, one of whom has chosen a career in social work.

Nancy retired early from teaching and became a Red Cross volunteer receptionist in the Quad Cities office. She was there each week before COVID-19. Now she goes to the office to donate blood when she can, and to make calls for blood drives and other Red Cross events. “It’s a volunteer job where you feel like you’ve helped someone. It’s worthwhile and one of the best places to donate to, especially with all the recent disasters the Red Cross has responded to.”

Thank you, Nancy – we are honored by your 55 years of service!

To view Red Cross volunteer opportunities, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley

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.

Dedicated to Volunteering: Jim’s Story

“I’ve probably helped hundreds of people. It’s a good feeling.”
-Jim Maloney

Jim Maloney started volunteering for the American Red Cross in October 2012. Nearly a decade later, his enthusiasm for volunteering shines brightly, through his tireless efforts as a duty officer in the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter of the Illinois region.

Jim came to the Red Cross after serving as a crisis line advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. He started out answering phones at the local office, then learned about the disaster services duty officer position. For Jim, it seemed like a great fit.

“I’ve always wanted a chance to help people who have been in disasters or emergencies. I like dealing with things that need to be done right now. People reach out to you in their most desperate times of need and we are like a lifeline for them,” he said.

One night, Jim checked the disaster services agenda and it showed a significant need for duty officers. He took a 12-hour shift and was on his way, from there. Soon, it became every other Saturday, then every week. Jim’s passion for helping people was a perfect fit for his role as a duty officer.

“We serve dozens of counties and I like the fact we serve all of those areas. I like to do something where you can serve a whole bunch of people,” he said.

As a duty officer, Jim has received numerous calls for assistance after home fires – the leading cause of disaster in the U.S. Some of the calls that come in involve other emergencies – for example, individuals who are have their utilities turned off. Jim does not hesitate to go out of his way to find avenues of assistance for the people he speaks with, regardless of the time it takes to do so.

“I try to go the extra mile. If you take the time to help somebody during their time of need, they remember that. It just gives me a good sense of accomplishment and a good feeling to know that I am here to help others.”
-Jim Maloney

Jim describes the role of duty officer as rewarding, yet challenging. “It’s not a piece of cake,” he said. But, on the more difficult days, he said he remembers the people he has helped, and the team of volunteers and staff members around him. Jim also enjoys the freedom he has with scheduling. “As a duty officer, I can decide when I am able to be on-call and when I can’t do it. I like the flexibility.”

The need for volunteers is ongoing. Jim has some words of encouragement for people looking to volunteer and get involved.

He says, “Especially if you’re going to get into social work and are looking for experience, this is a great role. Red Cross is the place to do that. If you find being a duty officer isn’t for you, maybe you can try casework or disaster response, logistics or other roles. If you want to learn any type of skill, you can do that with the Red Cross.”

Trish Burnett is the executive director for the Quad Cities and West Central Illinois chapter. She is thankful for Jim and his service to the organization and the local community.

“Jim is a true humanitarian,” she said. “We are so glad to have him on the disaster team in our area, and our community is a better place for his efforts. Jim’s devotion to helping people and making a difference is contagious, and it is a privilege having him as a loyal volunteer.”

Thank you, Jim, for being a dedicated Red Crosser! Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

Volunteer Dave Boyles Dedicates a Decade to Disaster Response, Recovery 

When Dave Boyles retired 10 years ago, it marked the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for him. After a technical career, Dave wanted to find something that was meaningful and would also use the “people side” of his personality. The Red Cross was the perfect match! 

Dave volunteers as part of the Disaster Action Team, and over the years has served in many capacities: responding to home fires, completing client recovery casework, conducting damage assessments as the first boots on the ground post-disaster, and helping lead a team that installed more than 230 smoke detectors with the Red Cross’s signature Sound the Alarm events in locales near his home in Morrison, IL. 

Numerous Red Cross disaster deployments have also positioned Dave throughout the country and beyond. He deployed to California and Oregon for the wildfires, and worked alongside Canadian Red Crossers responding to their wildfires while in British Columbia. Disaster responses to hurricanes, tornados, and floods landed Dave in North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. One of Dave’s most memorable deployments was to Saipan – twice. The first time was for immediate disaster response after Typhoon Soudelor in 2015, which led to a longer-term deployment working with FEMA to hire, train, and supervise local residents in recovery casework. The second time was for Typhoon Yutu, in 2018. Dave’s total deployment time to date equates to two and a half years (approximately 25% of his time, if you do the math!). 

The bottom line for Dave: “It’s all about the people, coming face-to-face with them, and helping them find solutions to their problems, often during a crisis. My eyes have been opened to different lifestyles and a diversity of people; you realize that not everyone lives a comfortable, Midwestern life. And the Red Cross helps everyone, in a non-judgmental way.” 

These humanitarian Red Cross principles are a huge driver for Dave, and they keep the Red Cross mission strong, credible, and recognizable around the world. Also appealing for him is the variety of volunteer opportunities. “No matter what your ambitions are, there’s something for you at the Red Cross.”  

Thank you Dave, for your decade of outstanding service! 

Written by Communications & Marketing Volunteer, Virginia Hopley  

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

Jackie & Manooch: Former News Photographers Now a Driving Force Behind Biomedical Delivery

“I can’t think of any place in the city where we haven’t done a live shot.”

Manooch Shadnia points to the familiar places among the city streets of Chicago as friend and colleague Jackie Denn navigates the Red Cross car through traffic.

“I may not remember the stories….” He laughs and trails off his thought. After nearly 40 years each as news photographers, the people behind the camera at Chicago’s ABC-7 station, they’ve both covered nearly every type of story imaginable in the Windy City including many late-nights covering various elections over the years. Between assignments and deadlines, they also struck up a life-long friendship along the way.

Jackie started working at a small TV station at Michigan State as a studio camera person before coming to ABC-7 in 1980. Born in Iran, Manooch came to America in 1977 and joined the staff at ABC-7 in 1982. For decades they were reliable and creative members of the well-known news team bringing coverage of current events and moments of history to local news viewers. Then in 2019, they both decided it was time to hang up the microphone and put the camera away one last time.

After a fond farewell from their team, they are fully embracing their lives in retirement. Even with their days now filled with hobbies, family time and fun, Jackie and Manooch still managed to find just enough space in their new lives to give a little bit back.

Jackie got started right away volunteering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Lakeview Food Pantry,  and even as an election judge. But after many years at ABC-7 she couldn’t ignore the partnership and incredible event created through the ABC-7 Great Chicago Blood Drive with the Red Cross. In its 8 years, thousands of units of blood have been collected. So it seemed like the perfect place to start as a Red Cross volunteer; helping with the blood drive and bringing Manooch along as well.

“I thought the Red Cross seemed like a great organization to volunteer for,” Jackie said.

Manooch stepped out of the news van and onto a bicycle for his retirement riding many miles a day as a “long hauler,” and enjoying other sports like snow shoeing- thanks to a new set of snowshoes gifted by Jackie. He also has a goal of running a marathon in a different state each month. Manooch has already crossed Louisiana, Illinois and Indiana off the list among others.

Volunteering at the Great Chicago Blood Drive wasn’t enough though, and soon Jackie realized there was more that needed to be done. She started volunteering as a Red Cross Biomedical Transportation Specialist, basically the drivers who take the blood products from the Red Cross to the hospitals that need them. After covering many health and medical stories over the years and getting familiar with the area hospitals, it sounded like the ideal fit.

It was.

Jackie quickly picked up the responsibilities of the volunteer role and was hitting the road each week. The shifts start in the morning picking up the blood in big, insulated boxes from the Greater Chicago headquarters, determining the route to the hospitals and hand delivering the boxes to the blood banks within them. Her role as a volunteer Biomedical Transportation Specialist plays a critical role in the process of getting donated blood to the people who need it.

“It’s a meaningful thing to do with my time,” she said.

Enjoying the experience and interactions with the other volunteers and hospital staff, she thought, “I think Manooch might like this.” She recruited her old work buddy to join her in the job, and they were reunited on the road once again. After Jackie showed Manooch the ropes a few times, they’re now covering the routes several days a week for the Greater Chicago chapter, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city and staying connected to the downtown area in the process.

“I’m proud to do this,” Manooch said. “When we arrive at the blood banks sometimes someone is waiting for that blood which means someone’s life depends on it.”

Even with separate scheduled days, occasionally they’ll tag along on each other’s routes and reminisce about the news days behind them, and the open road ahead of them.

Find your fit at the American Red Cross. Take a look at open volunteer positions here.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Holly Baker