Tag Archives: Silicon Valley

A Day at the San Jose Blood, Platelet and Plasma Donation Center

Story and photos by Alex Keilty/American Red Cross

American Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador Volunteer Yichen Shi

Our Volunteers

As an American Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador, Yichen can easily fit volunteering into her schedule as a pre-nursing student. “It’s really flexible and convenient to sign up for the time you want to do it,” she says.

She greets people who arrive to give blood at the Red Cross Blood, Platelet and Plasma Donation Center in San Jose and she keeps the donors’ snack table full of juice and cookies.

For Yichen, volunteering for the Red Cross looks good on her resume, and she also feels good about helping an important cause.

American Red Cross Blood Services Phlebotomist Astrid Savov

Our Staff

“The best part is when donors are happy,” says Astrid as she prepares to collect blood from a donor in San Jose. “When they say, ‘That was painless,’ it feels good.”

As a Red Cross Phlebotomist, Astrid collects blood from donors who visit the blood donation center. She admires those who donate because, as she says, “It’s people trying to do good.”

American Red Cross Blood Donor John Ahn

Our Donors

“I saw in the news that there is a nationwide shortage,” said John, as he gives blood in San Jose recently.

John is right, the Red Cross recently faced its worst shortage in more than a decade. Such bad news is what prompted John to make an appointment to donate.

During his donation appointments, John puts on earphones and enjoys the streamed shows available at the blood donation center.

Join us!

If you are interested in volunteering your time in support of your community, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

If you’re interested in joining the Red Cross – where your career is a force for good – visit redcross.org/careers.

To make an appointment to donate blood, platelets or plasma, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Mo Ghandehari – Disaster Action Team Volunteer Extraordinaire

By Larry Dietz

American Red Cross Volunteer Mo Ghandehari is an incredible example of the Red Cross mission – and of the caring and dedicated individuals who do what it takes to accomplish that mission.

Mo started with the Red Cross in 2000, first in Las Vegas, then in Salt Lake City, before moving to California and joining the Silicon Valley Chapter in 2007.

Mo Ghandehari on a Disaster Action Team response.

One of Mo’s first positions as a Red Cross volunteer was on his local Disaster Action Team (DAT). In this role, he responded to the full range of disaster calls ranging from fires in homes, mobile homes, condos, and even a ski resort. He even had the unique experience of responding to a home fire where he and the team installed smoke alarms only a few months earlier.

Red Cross volunteers from the Northern California Coastal Region respond to between 30 and 40 disasters a week where a small handful of local DAT volunteers are some of the first on scene to assist families that have been affected.

The first job of the DAT volunteer on site is to help make the affected residents comfortable and to get them the immediate assistance or materials they might need. This could include simple things like blankets or water. Though, the needs of those affected varies from disaster to disaster, and DAT volunteers also help arrange lodging or financial assistance, which allows families to pay for immediate needs and get back on their feet.

DAT volunteers are also general volunteers and can work in other Red Cross areas. In particular, they can work in their local chapter to perform inventories or make sure that supplies and vehicles are ready to go where they are needed.

There are constant training opportunities for DAT volunteers to learn more about the latest in Red Cross systems, or improve skills with courses like Psychological First Aid: Helping Others in Times of Stress.

DAT volunteers are committed. Many sign up for frequent shifts and are always ready to answer the call, no matter what time of the day or night. When disaster strikes, speed is of the essence, whether it is a major wildfire or a single-family home fire. DAT volunteers have the enthusiasm and confidence to deal with a variety of situations.

Mo advises new DAT members to be proactive in seeking initial training. You can start with your chapter’s DAT lead, or the workforce engagement lead, or the Disaster Program Manager for your area to enroll in training. Though, he says there is no substitute for being on-call and responding.

“It is truly gratifying to help a family that needs a place to stay for a few days, before figuring things out,” he said. “When you are on the scene it is very important to be patient, and respectful of those who were affected and to work closely with your supervisors and managers.”

While the core of being a DAT volunteer is at the local level, there are also many opportunities to expand one’s volunteer career path and deploy to a major disaster as a shelter volunteer as well. It comes as no surprise that Mo has seized many opportunities to deploy and lend his talents across the nation.

When asked about which of his deployments captured the essence of really being on a deployment, he said his time as a shelter supervisor during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 would have to be the one.  It was Mo’s first assignment as a shelter supervisor on a disaster response. The shelter was in an elementary school in Pearl River, Louisiana.

“The experience taught me to treat shelter residents just like you would treat your own house guests,” he said. “Our crew did just that! The shelter experience was a team effort between the Red Cross and local volunteers. They opened and operated this shelter for two to three days, and were exhausted and very happy to see us. Residents had already been pitching in – helping the team to prepare breakfast, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing other chores.  We had no electricity and water for the first few days. The new shelter team, which consisted of four volunteers, plus residents (before others arrived), were literally like a family (the shelter had about 50-80 residents), helping each other to make it through.” 

Not only did Mo develop is shelter management skills and style on this deployment, it also taught him about the satisfaction of serving.

“As I was leaving the job – after two weeks – I noticed a hand-written thank you note on the board, on behalf of the shelter, saying that I provided good care during my two weeks as shelter manager,” he recalls. “This, to me, was heartwarming – a very good rewards for two weeks of hard work.”

When asked about what it takes to be a successful shelter manager, Mo said, “Being compassionate, friendly, and able to relate to people from all walks of life, able to establish trust with supervisors and shelter workers, and being a coach and mentor to other team members.”

Mo is a shining example of a Red Cross volunteer. He has won a number of awards, including the Chapter International Services Award (2021), the Extraordinary Commitment and Dedication Award for Chapter Disaster Cycle Services (2016) and the Chapter Clara Barton Award (2012).

You too can become a Disaster Action Team or Sheltering Volunteer and serve your community in their time of need. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.

Red Cross volunteer: “This is what we do; we go where we’re needed.” 

Dawson Springs, Kentucky was just one of the communities that was severely damaged by a series of tornadoes that swept through several states on Dec. 11. Photo by Jodi Wallace/American Red Cross

It was Dec. 11, and Jodi Wallace, a 16-year veteran Red Cross volunteer from California’s Silicon Valley chapter, was already tired when she got the call to go to Kentucky after a series of tornadoes had devastated broad swaths of that state.

Wallace, 60, had spent most of August responding to California’s Gold County fires and then moved on to assist with the hurricane response in Louisiana. After that, she had helped with the flood response in Washington state. She had been home for only a little more than a week, ready for a well-deserved break, when the call came in.

She knew the scale of the disaster meant the Red Cross would be needed more than ever, so she asked her husband what he thought. “He always tells me, ‘this is what you trained for,'” Wallace says. He’s even teased her: “Would you like me to pick a better month and schedule a disaster for you?”

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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.

Local Red Crossers receive prestigious national recognition

From left to right: Colleen M. Sasso, Terry Unter, Patty Montmorency, Katie Pierson, Christine Medeiros and Shivum Kapoor

In an unprecedented year of challenges, we have made adjustments in many aspects of our lives. Most of us at some point over this time have faced postponement or cancelation of important events celebrating life milestones, traditions and special occasions. At the American Red Cross, this has included the National Awards and Recognition Ceremony we hold annually to celebrate our outstanding recipients.

In response, the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region celebrated the national recognition of six local volunteers yesterday in a virtual ceremony, presented by the Regional CEO. The prestigious Red Cross National Awards represent and honor the highest level of achievements in their respective fields. Nominated by their peers, each recipient embodies the true spirit of the Red Cross and has dedicated their time and talent, resulting in noteworthy success.

“Now more than ever, it is important we take time to pause and recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices made by our teammates,” says Jennifer Adrio, CEO of the American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region. “It’s time to celebrate this spectacular group of volunteers and employees who have given the best of themselves to deliver our lifesaving mission!”

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