Tag Archives: People we serve

A mother’s motivation

By John Lindner

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood for surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic illnesses or traumatic injuries. Because less than 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood or platelets, hospitals in the U.S. are very dependent on donations from those that are eligible to donate.

Elizabeth Crisafulli with her daughter, born prematurely at 28 weeks.

Every blood donor is motivated to do so for different reasons. Elizabeth Crisafulli discovered her personal motivation 22 years ago, when her daughter was born very prematurely at 28 weeks. The baby weighed just 2.5 pounds and needed an emergency blood transfusion. In addition to tapping into the blood products the hospital had on hand, some of Elizabeth’s friends donated blood. Her daughter is now a healthy 22-year-old.

When you speak with her, you get the impression that Elizabeth is on a mission. She has battled cancer twice, which temporarily postponed her ability to donate blood. Once she was cleared to do so, however, she was right back at it. She got frustrated once when she couldn’t donate because “something was too low.”

Like many of us, Elizabeth receives email notifications for blood donations which remind her to schedule her next donation. She goes to the same San Jose red Cross Blood Donation Center each time and sometimes brings her daughter along (her husband is not eligible to donate). Needles don’t bother her but she says, “I don’t watch it going in.”

Elizabeth praises the American Red Cross Blood Donor mobile app, stating that she “loves it,” adding that “it makes donating so simple.” The mobile app is extremely user friendly and helps you find local blood drives and donation centers, schedule and reschedule appointments and keep track of your donation history. “It even tells you where your blood went and how many lives it impacted,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve shared the app with my friends who have used it to donate.”

This writer was unfamiliar with the mobile app (called “Blood Donor American Red Cross” in the App Store and “Blood Donor” in Google Play). I downloaded the app after speaking with Elizabeth and have a feeling I will be donating more frequently, much like the others Elizabeth has influenced to do the same.

The impact of donating blood is huge – one donation can potentially save more than one life. Unfortunately, today the Red Cross is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade. The blood supply is dangerously low, which has forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgeries, including organ transplants.

It’s hard to say how many lives Elizabeth Crisafulli’s donations have impacted over the past 22 years, but it’s clear she will positively affect many more in the years to come. Thank you for your life saving donations, Elizabeth!

About the author: John Lindner is a Public Affairs volunteer with the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Looking back on 2021

Please join us as we say goodbye to 2021 with a look back at some of our favorite stories of the year from all of our lines of service.

Service to the Armed Forces

Lisa Ann Rohr was one of nine Red Cross SAF Mobile personnel who left the U.S. for overseas duty from August 2020 to April 2021. Lisa Ann was one of two Red Crossers initially stationed in Iraq, at the diplomatic post Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC).

She says: “My entire ‘boots on the ground’ experience providing virtual services in Emergency Communications Messaging Delivery and Service Member follow-up with my peers, to creative ‘no contact’ distribution of incoming holiday donations, gifts and personal care items, to organizing cooking classes, language classes, and cultural history classes for U.S. and Coalition military forces serving their deployment rotation at BDSC, was a dream come true!”

You can read more about Lisa’s experiences here.


Lifesaving Blood

Blood donor Jennifer Sahni credits the Red Cross for saving her life after a challenging childbirth. After delivery, Jennifer’s cesarean incision would not stop bleeding. She received two units of blood, which stabilized her. Two days later, she had to receive a second transfusion with an additional two units of blood. She was able to go home the next day.

“I am so grateful to the people who donated the blood I received,” Jennifer said. “Because of them, I was able to go home and be with my kids. You can read more about Jennifer’s story here.


Training Services

On Tuesday, March 16, two local residents were honored with American Red Cross commendations in a virtual ceremony hosted by the organization’s Central Coast Chapter.

“These two individuals exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies and are to be commended for their willingness to help others in distress.” – Michele Averill, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Central Coast Chapter. You can read more about Linda and Robert here.


International Services

Red Crossers and the public at large were invited to a speaker series to learn how the American Red Cross International Services team provides relief and hope in communities around the globe by reconnecting families separated by crises, helping rebuild communities devastated by disasters and working alongside health organizations to eliminated global disease. 

Featured panelists included Chris Losavio, Executive Director, Heart of the Valley Chapter American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region; Patrick Hamilton, Head of Delegation for the United States and Canada International Committee of the Red Cross; Koby J. Langley, Senior Vice President, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services American Red Cross; Christine Medeiros, Pacific Division Lead, Restoring Family Links American Red Cross. You can view a recording of the discussion here.


Disaster Services

Navy veteran Michael Ocaranza awoke earlier this year to flames engulfing his apartment. He had just enough time to grab his dog, Sparky, and race out the door as fire licked around his head.

American Red Cross volunteers and case managers, Betsy Witthohn and Cindy Jones, first contacted Mike during his hospitalization and began to put together resources for his welfare following his stay. During the recovery process, Mike says they became “like friends from the past that I never had before – it’s a good feeling all over.”

You can read more about Mike’s story here.


From all of us in Communications, Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

If you have a story lead for any one of our writers, please email us at NCCRPublicAffairs@redcross.org.

Assistance League of San Jose Donates 50 Hug-A-Bears to American Red Cross

Back Row (Left to Right): Mary Ann Reilly, Red Cross Volunteer (RCV);  Jane Earle, Assistance League (AL): Liz Dietz, RCV; Stephanie Wilde, Red Cross; Michael Nealon, RCV;
Male, left side next to Mary Ann is Shayan Shafikhani (San Jose State Nursing Student – SJSU) | Front Row (Left to Right)
An Huynh (SJSU), Anmol Sandher (SJSU), Monica Bacon-Proctor (AL): Ellen Brooks (AL), Terry Hicks (AL) Nikki Rowe (RC) and Ken Toren (RC)
Front next to boxes Ariane Dacanay (SJSU)

The American Red Cross is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of 50 Hug-a-Bears from the Assistance League of San Jose.

Assistance League of San Jose is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization whose members have had a passion for supporting vital community services since 1983. Their philanthropic programs are designed to serve unmet needs in the community. The Hug-a-Bear program was established in 1983 to provide teddy bears to children in their time of need.

Liz Dietz, 40 year Red Cross volunteer and Silicon Valley Board of Directors member is also a member of the Assistance League of San Jose and recognized how the teddy bears could comfort children who are impacted by disasters.

The bears will be given to children in need of support when the Red Cross responds to disasters. The Red Cross responds to a variety of disasters ranging from Single Family Fires to Wildfires to Earthquakes and floods. The bears will provide comfort to those children in need. The bears will also be provided to military families through the Red Cross Service To Armed Forces (SAF) and in other settings where these comforting toys are appropriate.

Liz worked with Terry Hicks, VP of Philanthropic Services of the Assistance League to coordinate the welcome donation of 50 bears. The bears were presented to the Silicon Valley Chapter on December 6 by Ellen Brooks (Hug-a-Bear Lady), Terry Hicks, Monica Bacon-Proctor, and Jane Earle of the San Jose Assistance League. Accepting on behalf of the Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter were Ken Toren, Nikki Rowe, Liz Dietz, Mike Nealon and Stephanie Wilde. The presentation was also attended by San Jose State Nursing Students An Huynh, Shayan Shafikhani, Anmol Sandher and Ariane Dacanay who are completing their Public Health Nursing rotation at the Silicon Valley Chapter.

About the author: Larry Dietz is a Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army Reserve, as well as a dedicated Red Cross public affairs volunteer in the Silicon Valley Chapter.

Carrying Clara Barton’s legacy forward

Dr. Diane Bridgeman is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who has served as a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than 30 years. In April, Diane received the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership, the Red Cross’ highest honor. A treasured member of the Disaster Mental Health Team in the Santa Cruz chapter, Diane took the time to share about her rich experience with the Red Cross and why this recognition means so much to her. 

Dr. Diane Bridgeman

What drew you to the American Red Cross, and what kept you engaged? 

I suspect my initial interest in the Red Cross, and why I stayed with it for over 30 years, stems from a matching of my core life tenets and the central mission of the Red Cross. This includes service to others and the importance of fairness and social justice – these are key lenses for my view of the world and similarly coincide with the basic principles that guide the Red Cross. It is why I chose psychology, and clinical psychology specifically, as my career choice and why I resonate with the heart of the Red Cross. The more I learned about the history of the Red Cross and its profound and inspired founder, Clara Barton, the more I embraced and wanted to give time to this humanitarian organization.  

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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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Relentless in their help

Most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to escape a home fire. 
Photo by Brad Zerivitz | American Red Cross

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Navy veteran Michael Ocaranza awoke to flames engulfing his apartment. He had just enough time to grab his dog, Sparky, and race out the door as fire licked around his head. Mike ultimately suffered 1st and 2nd degree burns on his forearms and shoulders. He was hospitalized in San Francisco for two weeks.

American Red Cross volunteers and case managers, Betsy Witthohn and Cindy Jones, first contacted Mike during his hospitalization and began to put together resources for his welfare following his stay. After two weeks of care, Mike’s brother Alonzo – also a veteran – transported Mike from the hospital back to Sonoma County.

“I picked Mike up, and we went directly over to the Red Cross office,” said Alonzo. “Betsy met us outside. She had a cash card to give to Mike, some emergency supplies and a little startup money. She was really, really nice from the beginning. Her communication skills blew me away. I had never experienced anyone who put so much effort… and as a volunteer… they were helping me, too.”

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