The American Red Cross supports veterans and families all across the U.S., proudly serving those who serve our nation. A brief look at the reach our services have had this year includes 65,439 emergency communications to 117,580 military members and their families. 162,200 families were served this year to date. Volunteers provide home comforts and critical services on bases and in military hospitals around the world. We support military families during deployments and emergencies. We continue servicing our nation’s veterans after their service ends. We enjoy getting to know each and every individual’s personal story and look forward to participating in local events and parades aimed at honoring our nation’s heroes.
From the ashes of wildfires rise everyday heroes. Betsy Witthohn is one of them.
After reaching safety, the fire survivor recounts how time stood still two years ago until mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Her mind was preoccupied with anxiety as she feared for the worst.
Returning to the area, she found the flames spared her residence. Many nearby were not as fortunate. That experience served as a catalyst to becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Her husband joined, as well.
On October 27, nearly 400 Northern Californians sought refuge at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. People arrived in various states of readiness, some at peace, some in distress. And many of them experienced transportation issues before even reaching the Red Cross shelter. Read more
On March 16, 2019, the American Red Cross of the California Northwest Chapter honored three volunteers from Lake and Mendocino Counties at its annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Dennis Burke of Lake County was one of them.
When selected as the recipient of the 2018 New Volunteer Award for his contribution to the Red Cross in his first year of service, Burke went up to receive his award in shock.
“It did not register,” recalls Burke.
Burke felt humbled and proud of the unexpected honor even though he did not anticipate being the center of attention that day. After the award was in hand, a sense of accomplishment came over him.
“At first, I was embarrassed because there were so many other people who had been volunteering so much longer than I had,” says Burke. But when fellow Red Cross volunteers and staff clapped, the feeling of recognition kicked in. “It was a good feeling. It was nice to be recognized for a job you’ve been doing and learning along the way.”
Burke played a vital role during the Mendocino Complex Fire volunteer efforts. Familiar with the area, the Lake County resident helped “hotshot”, or returned to burned-out areas with supplies for the residents as they repopulated the area.
Burke is no stranger to public service. He joined the Hayward Police Department before taking over as the senior animal patrol officer. As a state humane officer, Burke investigated acts of cruelty against animals. In 1989, he became the Director of Lake County Animal Control. Burke found happiness later in life in the construction business. He is now semi-retired and spends his newfound free time wearing many hats with the American Red Cross.
“They keep you busy,” Burke says with a grin.
Burke organizes the volunteer calendar, detailing all events and helps communicate with the team to make sure everyone is informed and up-to-date about volunteer opportunities. He is supporting Sound the Alarm in Mendocino plus recruitment and engagement of new volunteers. The award winner has also taken on the leadership role of the preparedness team lead. From tabling events to DAT calls, Red Cross volunteers and the community are likely to cross paths with Burke at some point.
“Dennis has been an awesome team member and valuable part of driving the Red Cross Mission in Lake and Mendocino,” says Richard Goldfarb, Disaster Program Manager.
When Burke isn’t volunteering, he spends time with his three daughters, seven grandchildren, and three canine companions – Ruff, Rascal, and Reckless.
Burke looks forward to future opportunities with the Red Cross and aims to make a difference. On Father’s Day, he attended the first Red Cross event held in Comptche, a town with less than 200 people. He hopes to reach smaller communities like Comptche that have not been focused on in the past due to staffing shortages.
When asked what he would tell potential volunteers for the Red Cross, Burke replied, “It’s all about the people – working with those in need and working with others that are just as wonderful.”
For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.
Addison Patane 6, is not your average barista. After seeing a commercial urging help for California’s wildfire victims, she was inspired to serve others. Addison had prior success with a neighborhood lemonade stand. Like any savvy business entrepreneur, she changed her menu for the season. With just an art table, a few supplies, and a little help, this young miss set up a hot chocolate stand in her front yard. But, the profits made in the fall of 2018 didn’t go towards buying a new pair of dance shoes. She donated all of the proceeds to the American Red Cross.
Addison’s story began to percolate after a trip to a craft store. There, her mother purchased materials to make blankets for CHP employees that lost their homes in the Camp Fire. Addison wanted a project of her own but didn’t know how someone her age could make a difference.
The following day, Addison saw a commercial about a little girl who collected turkeys for fire victims. The story turned on a light bulb. Addison could launch a hot chocolate stand.
Kayla Patane, 26, was thrilled to learn that her daughter wanted to serve up cups of kindness for a cause. Right away, the two purchased all of the necessary supplies.
Classmate Charlotte Reineck, 7, of Cali Calmecac Language Academy joined in the fundraising efforts. Addison and Charlotte crafted a sign that read, “Hot Cocoa 50 Cents for Fire Victims.” In two hours, the first-graders made a total of $42.
There were “a lot of customers,” recounts Addison. “One person even paid five dollars for a single cup!” Customers had the option of whipped cream and marshmallows at no additional cost.
So, why does Addison help strangers? In her own words, “I think it’s nice doing nice things because it’s good to share and to be nice to other people.”
Addison’s connection to fire victims is also personal. Her maternal grandparents, Gina and Casey Meints, lost their home in the Tubbs Fire. Kayla explains that her parents lived in her family’s home after the fire. That’s how Addison first learned of the Red Cross. “They went to the Red Cross right after the fires where they were treated with so much empathy and given help,” Kayla reflects. “The resources available for whom to call for different things and their overall support were extremely helpful. We were very appreciative of everything they did.”
“GiGi and Papa had a hard time, but things are getting better,” Addison pledges. Their new house should be rebuilt this month.
When Addison is not a local beverage artisan or spending time with family, she enjoys reading, math, and dance. After school, she takes ballet lessons. When she grows up, she would like to pursue dance professionally or become a veterinarian. A career in nursing or teaching are also top contenders.
Kayla adds, “Addison has had a nurturing and empathetic nature since she was little. It will be amazing seeing all she does as she grows up.”
Addison hopes students at her school, as well as adults, read about her day managing a hot chocolate stand. She hopes her story will create more pop-up kindness projects that benefit people in need.