Tag Archives: Volunteers

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.

“I’m here to help, and I care.”

Margot Simpson, Alameda County Volunteer of the Year

By Marcia Antipa

Margot during the Lake County fires of 2015

Margot Simpson has responded to hundreds of house and apartment fires in more than a dozen years as a Red Cross volunteer. One of those Disaster Action Team (DAT) calls happened on a summer day at a 12-unit apartment building in Oakland.

“The residents were all standing outside; they were not all friendly with each other, so it was kind of a tense situation.”

Margot acted quickly, rallying her Red Cross trainees to gather information and hand out comfort kits filled with toiletries.

“It got interesting because two of the residents almost came to blows arguing out in front of the building. I had to step up to them and say ‘Look, we’ll leave and nobody gets help if you two don’t stop.’ So they did.”

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Volunteer lifts morale of all around her

Deborah Torres knew she wanted to volunteer for the Red Cross even before she retired from San Mateo County, where she ended a long career in social services and public mental health in 2013. Not long before her retirement, Torres found herself partnering with the Red Cross after two large fires destroyed two apartment buildings in Redwood City. The Red Cross had opened a shelter at the armory near Red Morton Park for people displaced by the fires and was helping them figure out their paths to recovery. “I got to see [the Red Cross] in action,” Torres said.

“I told myself when I started working with Red Cross, that when I retire that’s what I’m going to do,” she said.

Just three months after her September 2013 retirement, Torres became a Red Cross volunteer.

And this year, Torres was named the Red Cross Volunteer of the Year for San Mateo County.

“I was totally surprised [to receive the award],” Torres said. However, her fellow volunteers were not surprised. Torres’s background in social services and mental health and as a bilingual Latina with decades of experience working in the county make her invaluable.

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Red Cross responds as atmospheric river impacts California

This information was last updated on Monday October 25, at 11 a.m

In response to evacuation orders in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, and flooding and potential debris flow across the region, regional Red Cross teams mobilized over the weekend to support those in need.

The Red Cross assisted county and local officials to support evacuation centers and overnight emergency shelters in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. All evacuation centers and shelters in both counties have now closed.

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