Category Archives: COVID-19 Pandemic (2020-2021)

Stretching past your comfort zone

By John Lindner

Janet Rogoff, Marin County Volunteer of the Year

American Red Cross volunteer Janet Rogoff loves books.  For over 40 years, she and her husband have dealt in rare books, specializing in tribal art and working with galleries, collectors and institutions. So, it is no wonder that when speaking with Janet, you get the impression that she is most comfortable working behind the scenes.

When asked about her recent “Marin County Volunteer of the Year Award,” Janet credits her colleagues for the success of the Marin Red Cross. “We have a really good group in Marin now,” Janet said. “We have people doing such a good job that they’re being recruited to the regional level, and a couple have even gone to national.”

Like other volunteers, Hurricane Katrina first brought Janet into the Red Cross. The scale of need motivated her to take action. She remembers the Red Cross desperately recruiting responders who were willing to train quickly and then deploy to Texas. As one of those new recruits, Janet recalls commuting from her home in Marin to the Oakland office for two consecutive days of training. After she completed training and before the call to hop on a plane arrived, Janet assumed that she was too old to deploy. Yet, once on her way to Texas, she realized not only was she not too old, but she was one of the younger responders.

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In Her Father’s Footsteps

Central Coast Chapter Volunteer of the Year Megan Erk says love of community led her to the American Red Cross 

By Marcia Antipa 

Megan during her 2020 deployment during Hurricane Cristobal in Texas

“Showing kindness and getting help to people that need it without regard to anything else – that is how I was brought up.” 

Megan Erk – the Volunteer of the Year for the Central Coast Chapter – credits her father for inspiring her dedication to the community. He was a military man who brought his daughter along on volunteer projects.  

“I kind of grew up in that environment where people just volunteered in the community to help out.”  

Now Megan is taking on multiple roles with the American Red Cross. From hurricanes to wildfires, from blood drives to blog articles, Central Coast Chapter CEO Michele Averill says Megan has more than earned her award. 

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Sharing the ‘good’ in us

Juanita donating blood.

The first time Juanita Ellington donated blood, she was in her late 20s and became a little woozy during the process. She opted not to donate for a while, but then COVID hit. In December 2020, Juanita fell ill with COVID-19, which left traces of the virus’s antibodies in her blood. So, after a 30-year hiatus, Juanita decided to donate her platelets and plasma, specifically to help those who were sick.

As Juanita explains, “I had COVID; I know what it feels like. I feel very fortunate that I was not in the hospital like others, suffering.”

Before Juanita took ill, her father experienced a rapid decline due to an unrelated, pre-existing condition. Sick and isolated, Juanita endured her father’s failing health, his subsequent admission to the hospital, and his untimely demise. After a horrific year of unrest, sickness, and death, Juanita is determined to turn her tribulations into positive outcomes through regular blood donations.

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Heeding the call and going all-in

By John Lindner

Regional Volunteer of the Year, Dave Dorman

After speaking with Dave Dorman for 30 minutes, you might wonder if he does anything else outside of the Red Cross. He’s a self-described “semi-full-time volunteer.” This same unwavering dedication earned him the Regional Volunteer of the Year Award.

While he’s officially been a proud Red Cross volunteer since 1984, Dave’s first contact with the Red Cross occurred during water safety instructor and lifeguard training in the 1950s. In the 1970s, he taught first aid and artificial respiration for his employer and discovered his Red Cross calling. He would eventually gravitate to disaster operations, and more specifically, to logistics support: acquiring, organizing, and delivering materials during a disaster. 

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Human connection: the heart of the Red Cross

Debbie Yee, Jane Jennings, and Ellen Armosino at a 2019 Red Cross event | Red Cross photographer: Ritch Davidson.

In 1991, during the Oakland Hills Fire, Jane Jennings had her first interaction with the American Red Cross. “They were running shelters for the county, and as a county worker, I was asked to be involved in the shelter. [My experience] convinced me that when I retired, I wanted to go back with the Red Cross,” says Jennings. Now, almost thirty years later, Jennings has won the Red Cross’s highest volunteer award, the Clara Barton Meritorious Leadership Award.

After retiring from a career filled with case management as a Probation Officer, Jennings found a natural transition, pivoting into a caseworker under the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Red Cross. “Now it’s called recovery,” explains Jennings, “but the normal casework is following up on DAT calls. DAT goes out, gives immediate assistance, and within the next day, casework starts following up with the client and writing referrals and assistance…it takes training and developing a comfort level. It’s not a job that’s impossible to do; it’s just, is that the role you’re comfortable doing?” Luckily for the Red Cross, it is a job Jennings has been comfortable performing for twenty years.

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Leading leaders and finding gems

Laura Hovden, San Mateo Volunteer of the Year

Laura Hovden, of Woodside, CA, recently received the San Mateo Volunteer of the Year Award during the Chapter’s annual volunteer recognition event. A born leader, Laura encourages others to expand their skills and expertise and take on leadership roles of their own. Her flexibility and high aptitude for success have led her to fulfill myriad duties across the organization, including regional and divisional appointments.

Laura took a moment last week to fill us in on her experiences.

Congratulations on the recognition as Volunteer of the Year!

Thank you, I feel so honored.

When did you first get involved with the Red Cross?

I joined when my kids were graduating from high school in 2014. I wanted to have something to do that would be meaningful after they were gone. At the Red Cross, I found all kinds of interesting people and just loved doing this kind of work.

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