When compassion breeds compassion across a lifetime

Penny with a K-9 from the Monterey County Sheriff Department.

Penny Mount likes to have her hands full of projects and people for whom she cares. During a recent phone chat to talk about compassion calls she made on behalf of the American Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, she was also looking after her 11-month-old great-granddaughter, Jolene. “She’s headstrong, just like her mother,” Penny says. By the end of that same call, Jolene had “creatively decorated herself” and Penny’s counter with her lunch. “Her mother’s not going to be too happy with me,” Penny chuckled. 

And that’s just how it is with Penny: breezy, light and full of gratitude. 

The compassion calls were part of SAF’s month of service this past February. Volunteers from across the Northern California Coastal Region placed calls to the nearly 3,000 families served by SAF in the last 18 months. They checked on the families’ health and welfare and extended a hand of assistance should any be needed. The purpose was to deliver the Red Cross mission of providing care and comfort to service members, veterans and military families. 

Penny loved it. 

“Oh my gosh, I SO enjoyed it,” Penny says. “The team gave you a time slot of two hours and 30 names of parents of service members. It ended up being some spouses, too. I identified myself as the Red Cross, said that we were here for them, and checked to see if they had any issues that we could help them with. Some had concerns, and many were grateful that we called. We pledged that someone would follow up to address any issues, and I felt very equipped to help and offer support.” 

It’s important to note that all members of a military family serve our country, including military children. That’s why in April, during Month of the Military Child, the Red Cross focuses on the unique needs of military children. Penny’s family is one with multiple facets of military service. Her husband and son served, as did a beloved aunt, Betty Grenig, the Red Cross’s oldest and longest-serving volunteer. You can read more about the incredible Betty here.  

Betty Grenig’s crystal award for 80 years of service.

Penny’s soul satisfaction from her compassion calls might stem from her former personal experience, too. She has been on the other end of those phone calls more than once. 

“Before I was even a volunteer, my son was in the army in the 82nd Airborne on the east coast and had deployed overseas,” Penny recalls. “My father passed away while he was deployed. But due to security, the base wasn’t forthcoming on his whereabouts. My aunt Betty suggested calling the Red Cross to help reach my son. With one phone call, the Red Cross managed to find him, and he was home in two days. So that was something else I could share with the families I called: the Red Cross is here for all kinds of services, even if there’s an emergency.” 

Penny says that her experience as a military family member shows how the American Red Cross touches everybody. “I don’t care who you are – the Red Cross is going to come into your life.” 

Penny joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in January 2010. She has worked with Blood Services, Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events, community events, deployed to various disasters and even served in a food bank project for two months. As for her Aunt Betty, Penny reports that she turns 100 this year and that 2021 marks 83 years of service. 

“She has a real love for the Red Cross,” says Penny. “I’m glad to pick up a piece of it.” 


At the American Red Cross, we know support for military families as a whole develops strong, resilient military kids: 

  • To combat feelings of stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cross is offering free, confidential mental wellness classes led by mental health professionals for the whole military family.  
  • There is a wide variety of virtual courses to help military families connect during this difficult time, including tips for service members on how to smoothly reconnect with their children when they return from deployments and planning for how to manage extended periods of separation.  
  • To sign up and access these courses, contact your local Red Cross office.