My son’s superheroes are Red Cross volunteers

Story and photos by Kristen Threinen, Nurse Assistant Training Program Manager, American Red Cross 

rco_blog_img_noah-t-shirt-2Following a quick visit to our Red Cross centennial kick-off celebration in Minneapolis, my son Noah has had a lot of questions about the Red Cross.

And then, several days later, Noah’s 2nd grade class was given the option to dress-up as their favorite superhero. When I asked him that Tuesday evening (the day I received communication about dress-up day) if he wanted to dress-up he promptly responded, “YES!” He then stated he wanted to dress as a “real-life superhero,” a Red Cross volunteer.

img_0650-3I frantically emailed a co-worker, asking if there was any way I could purchase a Red Cross T-shirt. The co-worker came through as my Red Cross superhero with the shirt Noah’s wearing above.

Noah was beyond proud going to school dressed as a Red Cross superhero. And then, having the opportunity to walk with me in the St. Paul Winter Carnival parade was the icing on the cake!

rco_blog_img_noahI’m so grateful to have the opportunity to expose my son to the Red Cross mission to reduce human suffering…it’s humbling and inspiring.

Click here to learn more about Minnesota Red Cross Century of Service events throughout 2017. Also, use the social media hashtag #MNRedCross100 to share your Red Cross stories with us.

Vonnie Thomas, a courageous Red Cross volunteer for 65 years

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Vonnie Thomas on her official day, June 28, 2016. Photo: Lara Leimbach

June 28, 2016 was officially Vonnie Thomas Day in Minnesota after Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed it so in honor of Ms. Thomas’s sixty-five years of courageous Red Cross volunteer service. Read the proclamation below to learn about this remarkable woman and how she has helped and inspired many people in many ways. 

State of Minnesota Proclamation for Vonnie Thomas

Whereas, the American Red Cross depends on the power of volunteers to accomplish its mission of preventing and alleviating suffering; and

Whereas, Nurse Vonnie Thomas has generously volunteered thousands of hours in distinguished leadership service through the American Red Cross over the past 65 years; and

Whereas, she courageously cared for those hurt by more than 40 local, national and international disasters such as the 2012 tornadoes in Minneapolis, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, Hurricane Katrina and the 35-W Bridge Collapse; and

Whereas, she has served in many roles on a local, division and national level and is currently a member of the Minnesota Region volunteer leadership team and Disaster Health Services lead and a Staff Wellness Consultant for 13 states;  and

Whereas, she is an exceptional leader, innovator, medical professional, skilled instructor, and humanitarian and mentor, and is beloved by staff and volunteers alike; and

Whereas, she is a vibrant, engaged and active volunteer leading a statewide effort to build Integrated Care Teams in Minnesota to help families who’ve lost a loved one, and greatly contributed to the  development and implementation of the training materials; and

Whereas, her tremendous voluntary service has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international honor awarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, which celebrates the contributions of nurses and nursing aides to the work of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement;  and

Whereas, she finds inspiration in the words of the founder of the American Red Cross, Nurse Clara Barton: “You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”; and

Whereas, she embodies the principles and spirit of the Red Cross and is a wonderful example of unselfish, humble and dedicated service, and an inspiration for us all;

Now, therefore, I, Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim June 28, 2016 Vonnie Thomas Day in the State of Minnesota.

Peter Spokes, a wholehearted Red Cross volunteer for 65 years

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Peter Spokes has served 65 years as a Red Cross volunteer. Photo: Lara Leimbach

The Governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, declared June 28, 2016, as Peter Spokes Day in recognition of 65 years of volunteer service to the American Red Cross. Read below the proclamation words to learn more about the wholehearted leadership Mr. Spokes has given to us all. 

State of Minnesota Proclamation for Peter R. Spokes

Whereas, the American Red Cross depends on the power of volunteers to accomplish its mission of preventing and alleviating suffering;

Whereas, Peter R. Spokes has generously volunteered thousands of hours in distinguished leadership service through the American Red Cross since 1950; and

Whereas, he was recognized and appreciated by the British Red Cross Society for his valuable services rendered during World War II; and

Whereas, he has served as a division and national level volunteer leader, including as a member of the Northwest Division Advisory Council, a member and chair of the National Red Cross Committee on Nominations, as Chairman of the 1974 National Convention in Minneapolis; and

Whereas, he accepted and embraced wholeheartedly his Lifetime Board Membership with the American Red Cross in 1980; and

Whereas, he has led in multiple officer positions on the Board of Directors in Minnesota, including Chair, Vice Chair and Treasurer, and has served on a dozen Board Committees throughout the years, and continues committee service to this day; and

Whereas, his inspirational leadership, wisdom, energy, and generosity led to the successful capital campaign and construction project to complete the regional chapter headquarters building in Minneapolis; and

Whereas, his steadfast commitment and incredible vision played a vital role in unifying the Minneapolis and St. Paul Chapters into the Twin Cities Area Chapter; and

Whereas, he is described by his fellow Red Crossers as a bright, shining example, and as having a true sense of servant leadership; and

Whereas, through his kindness and compassion, dedication and leadership, thousands of people around the state, across the country and around the world have been helped through the American Red Cross;

Now, therefore, I, Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim June 28, 2016 as Peter Spokes Day in the State of Minnesota.

Red Cross volunteers deserve our thanks

Red Cross volunteer Susan Cebelinski checked in at the Red Cross office in Duluth, Minnesota, on April 6, 2016, before going to Louisiana where she will provide emotional support to people impacted by the flooding. Thank you Susan!
Red Cross volunteer Susan Cebelinski checked in at the Red Cross office in Duluth, Minnesota, on April 6, 2016, before going to Louisiana where she will provide emotional support to people impacted by the flooding. Thank you Susan!

Volunteer /välənˈtir/
Noun
someone who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task

American Red Cross Volunteer
/əˈmerəkən/ /red/ /krôs/ /välənˈtir/
Person
someone who freely donates time to community and country by participating in life changing and saving service 

Without volunteers the American Red Cross and its mission to help others would never be fulfilled. The Red Cross depends on volunteers to embrace service within their communities and to come together in times of crisis. During National Volunteer Week, April 10-16, we have the chance to express our gratitude to the women and men, heroes and leaders, and old and young, who voluntarily give their time and expertise, and wear the Red Cross on their shirt sleeves, while working to reduce human suffering.

National Volunteer Week is important to the Red Cross because it has nearly 330,000 volunteers nationwide. From a disaster worker helping one or hundreds, to a military responder comforting an injured solider or family member, or to a blood donor ambassador welcoming someone who’s about to roll-up a sleeve for a cancer patient waiting for lifesaving blood, the Red Cross offers a range of volunteer positions that serve others, both neighbor and stranger. Whether Red Cross volunteers are waking up in the night to assist a family after a fire or teaching a class on how to give first aid, all of them deserve a sincere thank you from us and many others.

To this we say, THANK YOU RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS! Without you, who knows where so many people in need would be today. You’re the light that shines from this organization and you continue to make a difference in your local communities, and across our country, one voluntary service action at a time. Thank you for the hours and hours you’ve given and the number of lives you’ve made better. We know that you generally take the humble path, but during National Volunteer Week it’s your turn to take a bow and accept our applause. We’re grateful for all that you do!

If you’re not a Red Cross volunteer but you know someone who is, give them a hug and say thanks. Ask them about their volunteer service. The many hours they spend helping others is remarkable and worth hearing about. Maybe their stories will inspire you to become a Red Cross volunteer and be the hero in someone’s life.

What does a Red Cross nurse do during disaster?

Story and photos by Vivi Engen, American Red Cross Intern, Minnesota Region

The Disaster Health Services Nursing kit is condensed into one duffle bag and can serve up to 50 people at a shelter.
The Disaster Health Services Nursing kit is condensed into one duffle bag and can serve up to 50 people at a shelter.

During large-scale disasters, Red Cross nurses serve as the initial medical response at a shelter. They assess basic medical needs of clients and address quick and easy fixes, such as a cut or sprain. Anything more severe is treated at a hospital.

To speed nursing response during disaster, the Disaster Health Services team in Minnesota recently introduced a nursing kit that will be used at shelters during responses across the state.

The kit, which is condensed inside a single duffle bag, provides a quick-response supply for up to 50 individuals. Supplies include over-the-counter medication, wound dressings, CPR masks, bandages, protective gear and more.

Kami Buccellato goes through the supplies inside the Nursing Kit.
Kami Buccellato goes through the supplies inside the Nursing Kit.

“The kit provides the nursing staff with the materials needed to serve as a starting point for clients,” says Kami Buccellato, the Twin Cities Deputy Lead for Disaster Health Services and one of the creators of the nursing kit. “It’s still a work in progress, but we have already seen good results.”

Earlier this year, the kit was used for the first time at a shelter after an apartment fire. Disaster Health Services received positive feedback on the condensed bag and was happy to report that the kit contained its critical response supplies.

The idea for a nursing kit surfaced when responders showed up to shelters with duplicated supplies. “Duplicated supplies decreases efficiency,” says Buccellato. “In a disaster setting, everything is already chaotic, so anything that we can do to increase organization helps.”

A look at the contents inside the Nursing Kit.
A look at the contents inside the Nursing Kit.

The American Red Cross is always looking for new nurses who are ready to be put on the disaster scene. “Any nurse looking to gain experience, meet new people, and share knowledge is welcome in Disaster Health Services,” says Buccellato.

Are you a nurse? Have you ever thought about volunteering? If so, the Red Cross wants you. To apply, click here.

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation’s blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. The Minnesota Region serves 5.2 million people across Minnesota and part of western Wisconsin with offices in Duluth, Mankato, Minneapolis, Rochester and St. Cloud. For more information, please visit redcross.org/mn.  Like us on Facebook: American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Follow us on Twitter: @mnredcross

Wonderful is a life filled with volunteer service

Story by Ellie Decker, American Red Cross Volunteer Services

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Red Cross volunteer Alice Tomaschko recently received her 60-year service pin in Austin, Minn. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest.

“I’m never speechless.” But after receiving her 60-years of service pin from the American Red Cross, followed by a Volunteer of the Year Award, Alice Tomaschko was without words. Her fellow volunteers, who attended the volunteer recognition event in Austin, Minnesota, were not. They had much to say about Alice. They described her as a mentor, friend and inspiration. Looking around the room it was clear that Alice had made an impact during her decades of Red Cross volunteer service.

A few days later, I talked more with Alice about her life and volunteer work with the Red Cross. Throughout our conversation Alice laughed. She told me about her children, and late husband, and how volunteering always had been a part of her life. Wonderful is the word Alice uses to describe her life, a life filled with service. Simply, she enjoys volunteering.

Alice started volunteering with the Red Cross in 1955 when she was pregnant with her first daughter. First, she volunteered at local blood drives. She used a typewriter to record donor information. Later, she trained to work with military families, which she describes as one of the greatest things she has done with the Red Cross. Through volunteering with Service to the Armed Forces, Alice witnessed the help Red Cross gave to families. Alice’s husband and his family experienced this assistance firsthand when the Red Cross helped her husband get home for his grandmother’s death. That help is why she chose to volunteer with the Red Cross.

Alice’s work has continued to help people in multiple ways. In addition to those who received Red Cross services, she has helped other volunteers. Being described as a mentor, she says, is the best compliment she could ever receive. Even though it’s impossible to measure the impact Alice has had on others, her impact is here to stay. (She even helped plan the volunteer appreciation event.) The reverse is true, too: the Red Cross has had an impact on Alice. “I’ve had absolutely one of the best lives with the Red Cross I could imagine.”

For more information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Melinda Wittmer

MelindaMeet Melinda Wittmer, a Disaster Services volunteer for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota.

Melinda has been a Disaster Services volunteer since 2011, and is part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT). She also has recently taken on a new role with Volunteer Services – she’ll be interviewing prospective volunteers to introduce them to the volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross and help them find a good fit.

As a child, Melinda was introduced to the Red Cross as part of her home-school curriculum, in which her mother made the Red Cross a recurring theme. What Melinda took away from that was that the Red Cross “is a solid entity that is always there to help.”

Fast forward to Melinda’s adult life when she was working at a group home and became very close to an individual who turned into one of her favorite clients. His health declined and he was put on life support, and then eventually taken off. At that moment Melinda decided she wanted to do something good and help people. She went to the Red Cross office in Duluth, Minnesota, to ask a few questions, and was immediately “roped in.” Within minutes she was filling out an application, and the rest is history!

Melinda went on her first home fire call with one of the chapter’s most experienced volunteers.  Since then Melinda has responded to over 30 home fires.  Melinda says that the most satisfying part of being a disaster volunteer is “helping people who have experienced a devastating loss and seeing how grateful clients always are for the services of the American Red Cross.”

A few months ago Melinda went through the difficult experience of responding to an incident that involved a fatality. Additionally, it turned out that she was familiar with the person who died. Despite the difficulty involved in this response, Melinda took away the feeling that she was there for the family to help them with the “begin-again phase” of their lives.

The Red Cross has made Melinda more confident, and through her interactions and meeting other volunteers she has become interested in pursuing a career in Emergency Management.

Melinda certainly embodies the mission and fundamental principles of both the American Red Cross and Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement around the globe.  She’s always ready, willing and able to assist and a great comfort to those who have suffered a loss because of home fires and other disasters.

Story and photo by Nancy Rogers, Volunteer Services Coordinator for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota.

To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here.