From serving meals to disaster victims to briefing soldiers before deployments, Red Cross volunteers contribute throughout our communities in many ways. Flora Holmberg serves in another important role: Blood Donor Ambassador at blood drives and fixed donation centers.
What do you do as a Red Cross volunteer? I work as a Donor Ambassador in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Stillwater areas. I greet people who are coming to donate, thank them for coming in, and register them for their donation appointment.
What’s your favorite part or memory of volunteering? I enjoy meeting and visiting with all the great people who come in to donate.
Would you recommend volunteering with the Red Cross to others? Yes! Very much so!! It’s a great organization to volunteer for – it gives you such a great feeling to know that you are a part of something that helps so many people.
How does it feel to help save a life? Watch this video:
We’re always looking for volunteers to help their neighbors in need after disasters like home fires. To volunteer or for more information, click here. Or join us during upcoming 30-minute “Call to Serve” conferences calls:
Congratulations! to Barb Billmeier for receiving the 2019 Ann Magnussen Award, the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross.
Barb served as the Regional Nurse Lead in Minnesota until her recent retirement from this volunteer position. She also led the Minnesota Health Professionals Network as we strove to optimize volunteer engagement and increase capacity. Barb also serves as a volunteer disaster health services (DHS) responder helping people who need disaster assistance.
Award nominees were evaluated on four criteria: (1) provides service to others; (2) teaches and involves others; (3) exhibits compassion, professionalism, and a humanitarian spirit; and (4) demonstrates outstanding contributions to strengthening Red Cross programs and services.
Previous recipients from the American Red Cross Minnesota Region include Janice Springer in 2014. Click here to learn more about Ann Magnussen – a graduate from the University of Minnesota. Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.
The American Red Cross relies on more than 20,000 nurses and other health professionals who bring our mission to life each day. If you’re a nurse, nursing student or other health professional, we need your help! There are volunteer opportunities in direct service, leadership and behind-the-scenes. A few examples are:
• Disaster Health Services –team members and leaders
• Disaster Mental Health Services –team members and leaders
• Pillowcase Project Instructor (educating 3rd-5th graders about disasters)
• Blood Donor Ambassador Leader
• Nursing Network Regional Nurse Leaders and team members
• Service to the Armed Forces Hero Care Case Management
We hope that you consider volunteering with the Red Cross – you can have a meaningful impact by serving individuals and communities.
That’s a spot-on adage when we consider fulfilling our Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.
For example, one hundred years ago Junior Red Cross volunteers in Duluth made care packages for World War I veterans overseas.
This year our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers will distribute donated socks to veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
There are more examples and yet, whatever the year of the new year, the basics of life remain the same.
People need shelter, food and clothing. People need blood and blood products. People need to reach loved ones during emergencies.
The Red Cross helps meet these and other basic needs within the context of being impartial and neutral, of empowering volunteer service, and keeping an eye on preserving and promoting human dignity in all of our work.
With those thoughts in mind, this year we encourage you to look to the stars while keeping your feet on the ground. Make a regular commitment to:
This past fall volunteer Deb Thingstad Boe responded for the first time to a Red Cross call for nurses to support Hurricane Florence relief efforts. Deb deployed to North Carolina where she worked in a shelter. Below is an excerpt of Deb’s experience originally published in the December 2018 Minnesota Metro Medical Reserve Corps newsletter. Thank you to Deb for responding to the call to serve when you’re needed most!
I found out the deployment process moves fast! I spoke with the Red Cross on September 25, which was almost three weeks after Hurricane Florence made landfall, and six days later I was on the ground in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I was deployed through what is called Direct Deployment (DD), which is a rapid process used to ready healthcare workers for disaster work.
Once I received a call from Red Cross staff affirming my desire to deploy, I completed forms and about 15 hours of required online training and attended a deployment training in-person. At this training I received my disaster response ID, and mission and procurement cards. The mission card was used for my expenses and the procurement card was used to help clients (there is training on this!).
Along the way I also received a suggested packing list that was invaluable. Among those items were a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. I found out later that it’s more difficult if you do not own these items when you arrive on assignment without them. The best thing I purchased to prepare was a self-inflating air mattress that fit on the cot I slept on. Ear plugs are a must! If I didn’t wear them, then I worried about whether the next breath is coming for some people. I wasn’t the only healthcare volunteer that talked about that.
Although it felt like everything was moving fast, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I decided I would go with the flow, take things as they come and try to do my best.
My assignment was to work 12-hour shifts at Smith Recreation Center. This Red Cross shelter was planned to be the last to close in Fayetteville. This meant that as other shelters closed people who had not been able to find housing were relocated to Smith. The shelter had about 150 people in residence, many who were among the most vulnerable people in the city: people with mobility issues, unstable chronic conditions exacerbated by displacement, chronic untreated mental illness, addiction, in hospice care, and (previous to the disaster) long-term homelessness.
Every day was different and yet alike. Within the first fifteen minutes of the first day, I was instructed on how to administer Narcan and safety precautions related to the environment. I was informed that public health obtained Narcan for the shelters because there was a death due to opioids. The shelter had many residents who accessed Disaster Health Services on a daily basis. I learned about “shelter cough.” When I arrived many residents and staff had upper respiratory symptoms, and I wondered about influenza and whether residents had been offered flu vaccinations. Just listening was an important component of care.
My experience with Public Health came in very handy. Part of the plan to help one woman in the shelter included food as a prescription for her chronic health needs. Listening and choices were critical to helping her. During my three hours with her, I managed to work in stress management tips and the power of positive-thinking and being forward-moving in thought and actions.
I finished my time working in rural North Carolina working with the community to identify unmet needs, assess how migrant farm workers were managing, and identify where the Red Cross could help. We partnered with Spanish-speaking restaurant owners to inform the area churches of our presence. They opened up an area of their restaurant for Red Cross services and allowed a food truck to be positioned in their parking lot. People came for blood pressure and glucose level checks, OTC meds, blankets, diapers, and TLC (tender-loving care). Staff assigned included an interpreter, disaster mental health, and disaster healthcare. Listening and caring were critical elements of care.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was meeting volunteers from other places. The first night a few of us who had met at the shelter gathered together and headed out to dinner. None of us were assigned to the same place, which meant we met more people the next day. I met a retired pulmonologist and two EMTs, and we had dinner together every night starting on night two of a ten-day deployment. We had fun, and it was a good transition to sleep and the next day.
Deb Thingstad Boe is an American Red Cross Volunteer and a Dakota County Minnesota Medical Reserve Corps Volunteer (MRC). Photos provided by Deb. Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.
The arrival of the holiday season often means spending time and exchanging gifts with family and friends. But what if the gift you needed couldn’t be bought? For patients like Mike McMahon, the generosity of blood donations was the perfect gift and didn’t cost anything other than a bit of someone’s time.
Following a tragic tree felling accident on Nov. 10, 2016, McMahon, a Stillwater, Minnesota resident, suffered life-threatening injuries. He needed 11 units of blood during emergency surgery to keep him alive.
He spent the next six weeks in the intensive care unit and inpatient rehab, including three weeks during which he had to be intubated as he was unable to breathe on his own.
During his hospital stay, he also experienced an ulcer on a major artery in his intestines. The ulcer was so severe that he needed an additional seven units of blood and the artery was coiled to stop the hemorrhaging.
“I remember clearly as my nurse hooked me up to the first bag of blood,” said McMahon. “The thought of blood passing through another person’s heart and now into me, to keep me alive, was very emotional. From the first pint to the last, each one was equally moving.”
McMahon was told that he might not be able to do a lot of things ever again – his future was uncertain. However, just a few days before Christmas he was released from the hospital.
McMahon is thankful for blood donors and credits blood donation with helping save his life. “I’m grateful for the donors who gave me such an amazing gift – to spend Christmas and more holidays with my family. I was an occasional blood donor before the accident – today I donate as often as I can to help ensure others receive the same gift of life.”
You can give patients like McMahon more time and memories this holiday season by donating blood at the American Red Cross 6th annual 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive at Inwood Oaks in Oakdale, Minnesota. As a special thanks, all who come to give will be treated to free parking, complimentary gift wrapping, a special gift bag, a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, and holiday food and entertainment and will be automatically entered into hourly prize drawings including grand prizes – a large flat panel TV and a HP laptop computer.
To make an appointment to give blood at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive, donors can click here or use sponsor code 12 hours on the Red Cross Blood Donor App, online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
We hope to see you at the 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive. Happy holidays from your friends at the Red Cross!
Story and photo by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross
Heroes inspire us. They help others. They show us how courage, strength, and bravery can save the day. Each year, the Minnesota Red Cross honors local people who went above and beyond to help others — either by saving a life or enriching and transforming lives over years of service. Our heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Through January 4, we’re accepting nominations for the 2019 Heroes Awards. To learn more and to be inspired, check out our 2018 Heroes stories below.
2018 Community Hero | Scott Bissen, Orono
Sponsored by Minnesota Tiffany Circle
As the Co-Founder and Board member of the Pay It Forward Fund (PIFF), Scott Bissen was awarded Community Hero for his 13 years of committed service to aid with the demanding financial pressures many cancer patients face during their treatment period. Since inception, PIFF – a Minnesota non-profit fund of Ridgeview Foundation—has paid in total over $2.2M in household bills to support nearly 2,000 Minnesota patients who are undergoing cancer treatment.
Scott and his wife understand the pressure that families go through in such a difficult time. Through the PIFF, they can take some of the weight off for those families who struggle paying bills due to illness. For many families, even with insurance, it’s hard to maintain financial stability due to the medical bills and loss of work hours some people face through cancer treatment.
“Scott has been a devoted and passionate Pay It Forward Fund (PIFF) Board Member, thought leader, and fundraising volunteer throughout the fund’s 13-year history,” nominator Leslie Glaze mentions. His devotion to PIFF is also exemplified by the numerous successful fundraising events he’s organized. See his full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_Community
2018 Military Hero | Matthew Aeschliman, Baxter| Joshua Guyse, Royalton
Sponsored by Slumberland
When Joshua Guyse received a call from the distressed soldier, he immediately contacted his supervisor, Matthew Aeschliman, and the two traveled together from the St. Cloud, MN area to meet with the Soldier in the Twin Cities. Upon arrival, they implemented their training on Suicide Prevention—actively listened and calmly controlled the situation. Through their effort and care, Josh and Matt gained the Soldier’s agreement to be escorted to the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC).
“Suicide Prevention training is mandatory for Soldiers at all levels and across all organizations. Nevertheless, military units continue to experience suicide within their ranks. I am certain that on January 3, 2018, my unit narrowly avoided such a suicide event. It was no accident that my Soldier contacted Josh Guyse as a final effort to ask for help.” Unit Commander John Zillhardt states. “[Josh and Matts] actions directly saved a life and highlighted the training they receive in the military.” See their full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_Military
2018 Give Life Hero | Beverly Bartz, Sleepy Eye
Sponsored by Health Partners
Beverly Bartz has been a Red Cross volunteer for 65 years. She was awarded as the Give Life Hero for the incredible impact she’s made at the Sleepy Eye, MN blood drives. She’s helped give the gift of life to others by coordinating blood drives since 1964, collecting 88,000 units of blood and impacting potentially more than 24,000 lives.
For many years, she’s mobilized her community to help and promote the importance of donating blood. She herself was an avid blood donor and along with her late husband, instilled that same commitment in their children. “It is an important part of the community and part of our lives,” Bev states. See her full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_GiveLife
Vernon Taplet was moving his car in the garage when it hit something that caused a gas spill and the fire took over. Brady and Zack Houle noticed a dark cloud of smoke and ran out to help Vernon who was on the ground crying out for help. Thanks to their courage they were able to move their neighbor to safety.
Brady is currently studying law enforcement at Century Lake College. He said, “I always wanted to help people and had the opportunity to do it…At the time I didn’t realize I was falling back on my training.” He and Zack were able to convince Vern to be moved to safety despite the pain he was in from the fall. “It was an adrenaline thing. I put my shirt over my nose as I went running. We just wanted to get [Vernon] out of there. There was stuff with gas on it, things that could have blown up,” Zack explained.
They’re selflessness and bravery prevented a tragedy that day. “They pretty much saved my life and put their lives in danger to save me,” Vern stated. See their full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_YouthGoodSam
2018 Good Samaritan Hero | Van Dickerson, Minneapolis
Sponsored by CenterPoint Energy
Friends Tim Walsh and Van Dickerson were enjoying the day with a friendly tennis match when suddenly Tim began feeling ill. In a dark turn of events, Tim fell motionless onto the floor, his heart had stopped due to cardiac arrest. Van’s immediate response is one of the reasons why Tim is here today.
Van is trained on CPR for his work at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, who utilizes the Red Cross CPR class. He never imagined that those skills would save his friends life one day. Van effectively handled a critical situation and took every necessary step: dialing 911, checking his vitals and performing CPR.
Tim later learned that the survival rate for someone who has a cardiac arrest under such conditions is less than 5%. “Van is my hero and I believe he should win the Good Samaritan Hero award because he is ultimate example of the everyday heroes that are equipped by Red Cross training to save lives,” Tim mentions. See the full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_GoodSam
2018 First Responder Hero | Virginia Marsh, Crystal | Lt. Paul Stricker, Inver Grove Heights
Sponsored by Abbott
Virginia Marsh and Lt. Paul Stricker stopped on the side of Highway 394 to save the life of 6-week old Elise. Kristin Lonsbury was driving her premature daughter Elise to the doctor when Elise began choking on her vomit. She quickly stopped on the side of the road and tried to figure out what was wrong. That’s when nurse Virginia Marsh came over and began conducting CPR. Lieutenant Paul Stricker also happened to be driving by when he saw the women. He quickly got out of his car and assisted with CPR and communicating with 911 dispatch.
Out of all the people that where driving by that day on Highway 395, these two heroes didn’t think twice about stopping and rushed to help a mother and child. “Virginia ran a fair distance to get to us, arrived on scene with such grace, compassion, and confidence, and then was able to save my child’s life because she just knew what to do,” Kristin says. “Paul’s presence on-scene was one of the main reasons why my daughter is alive today. He was calmly assertive and knew exactly what needed to happen in what order.
With Elise’s every milestone, Kristin is reminded of these two heroes who stopped on the side of the road and selflessly helped her and her daughter out. They provided comfort and checked up on her after the incident. See their full story here: http://bit.ly/RedCrossHero_1stRespond