Volunteer spotlight: Blood Donor Ambassador Flora Holmberg

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.

Flora Holmberg

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:

  • Tuesday, April 23, 12-12:30 pm
  • Thursday, April 25, 4-4:30 pm
  • Wednesday, May 1, 12-12:30 pm
  • Sunday, May 5, 2-2:30 pm

RSVP to MNRecruit@redcross.org.

National Red Cross award goes to Minnesota nurse

Barb Billmeier (center) received the Ann Magnussen Award at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2019. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

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.

Wishing Marian the happiest of birthdays

Earlier this year Marian Krinke turned 104 !

To mark this occasion, American Red Cross
President and CEO Gail McGovern sent Marian a letter expressing
gratitude and best wishes for reaching this milestone.We’d like to share our appreciation as well.
And say Happy Birthday Marian!  You’re a remarkable woman.
Thank you for your service to the American Red Cross !

 

Volunteer spotlight: Desiree Haupert

Desiree with her son, Dylan, volunteering at Home Fire Campaign event in Marshall, MN. Photo courtesy of Desiree Haupert.

“This is an excellent way to give back to the same community and with our surrounding communities.”  Desiree Haupert, Red Cross Home Fire Campaign volunteer team lead for Marshall, Minnesota 

Story by Zabiba Sameru/American Red Cross

When I listen to Desiree Haupert, a mom and volunteer, speak about her experience with the American Red Cross, I can hear the excitement in her voice as she tells her story about being fulfilled as she continues to give her time to the Red Cross.

What started out as future planning to keep busy for Desiree in April of 2018 is turned into a lifetime rewarding experience. In her time volunteering at the Red Cross, she has been involved in many activities, such as Sound the Alarm by installing home smoke alarms and sharing fire safety tips in Slayton.

Red Cross volunteers responded to flooding in southwest Minnesota during 2018. Photo: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

During the flood in Tracy, Desiree also was involved in helping residents find shelter, food and additional resources that could support them during their recovery from the flooding. She also is involved with the Pillowcase Project, campaign that teaches kids in grades 3 to 5 how to prepare for home fire emergencies and other disasters like tornadoes and blizzards.

As a duty officer, she takes calls for assistance requests, and then responds by reaching out to local Red Cross volunteers who give assistance to people who are affected by disasters. To top it all off, Desiree attends youth preparedness conferences to learn about engaging communities and provide support to them in the face of a disaster.

This year Sound the Alarm takes place April 27 – May 12.

It’s important and rewarding for Desiree to give back to her community and be an example for her kids with all the work that she’s doing with the Red Cross. Being a Red Cross volunteer gives you an opportunity to help your local community, says Desiree. “It gives me the opportunity to take ownership of something and grow in a way that I didn’t know I was needing. It’s amazing.”

On Saturday May 4, 2019, Red Cross volunteers and their partners will be installing free smoke alarms in Worthington.  Join us! Click here to learn more about the campaign. Click here to become a Red Cross volunteer. 

Red Cross needs health professionals

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.

Get started here.

The more things change …

…. the more they stay the same.

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.

Donated socks ready for distribution to military veterans in nursing homes. Photo by Jennifer Landeros

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:

  • supporting people affected by disasters
  • providing safe lifesaving blood and blood products
  • helping military members of our armed forces and their families
  • being trained in life-saving skills for emergency response
  • giving resources that help neighbors around the world

This quiz will help you choose which action is best for you.

Story by Lynette Nyman — pictured above last year with women living in Bangladesh in camps for people who have fled violence in Myanmar.  

Volunteer spotlight: Disaster responder Willen Korkowski

Red Cross volunteer Willen Korkowski. Photo: Carrie Carlson-Guest

Recently we were pleased to speak with Willen Korkowski about her volunteer experience. A transcript of the conversation is below. To see Willen tell it, click here. Thanks Willen for your service helping others!

Please introduce yourself and your role with the Red Cross.
Hi. I am Willen Krokowski. I am a Disaster Action Team volunteer with the Red Cross since 2004.

What do you do as a Red Cross volunteer?
As a volunteer I respond to local disasters such as house fire, could be a single house unit or multiple units in an apartment. What we do when we respond to a fire is we make sure that the clients have what they need. Is there an immediate need that we are so concerned for; could be a safe place to stay for the night, food and clothing, or for the kids to let them know that there is someone there that cares for them especially when they are in need.

What’s your favorite part or memory of volunteering?
My favorite part is when the clients smile and you see the hope in their eyes. So it’s, to me, it’s giving back to my community.

Would you recommend volunteering with the Red Cross to others?
If you care about your community, you care about your neighbor, if you want to live in a place where it is safe and loving then I would suggest you volunteer for the Red Cross. You would love it too.

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.

Dates and times:

  • Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8:00 a.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 8 at 12:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 6:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m.

RSVP to MNRecruit@redcross.org or call 612-460-3670 for details. 

Hurricane Harvey – Close Up

By David Schoeneck, American Red Cross Volunteer

As the winds, rain, and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey last week pummeled Southeast Texas, first hundreds, then thousands of residents sought refuge at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. By Tuesday night, August 29, more than 9,400 people had sought shelter at the center, a mammoth 5-block long structure with five large halls covering over half a million square feet.

They came as individuals, as families, as extended families, as neighbors. Often with only the wet clothes on their back, they needed a safe, secure place to stay, dry clothes, a hot meal, and most of all, hope. And the Red Cross was there for them. Working closely with government partners such as the city, the county and the state, Red Cross shelter workers welcomed them in, helped them dry off, fed them a hot meal, and saw to their health needs and concerns.

Dave Schoeneck, Red Cross Volunteer

Where only a few days before, there was an empty cement floor, within 48 hours a village, then a town, then a city of over 10,000 residents sprang up. Neighborhoods developed. One hall was reserved for people with pets, another for families. People of many different heritages and backgrounds from all over Texas were united as survivors of a terrible natural tragedy. All entered this giant “lifeboat” mega-shelter knowing that they would now be safe and cared for.

The Red Cross rushed workers from across the nation to Houston, even before Harvey struck. By the end of the week, more than 2,700 trained disaster workers were on the ground, and another 800 were on the way, along with more than Red Cross 200 emergency relief vehicles. Over 37,000 people stayed in 270 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas on Saturday.

At the George Brown Shelter, hundreds of local Houstonians reached out to help their neighbors. They sorted donated clothes, provided meals and food service, and rendered medical assistance. Boy Scout troops served up an oatmeal breakfast, and were introduced to folks who live outside of their middle-class neighborhoods.

Stories were shared of rescues by strangers from rising flood waters, as neighborhoods were suddenly inundated. Travel around the area was difficult, as major freeways were under water for several days. Sad stories were also shared of relatives who had tried to drive to safety, but were swept away by the floods. Red Cross Mental health and health services professionals have provided over 11,000 contacts to provide support and care for the evacuees.

Shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees

Journalists from all over the world rushed to cover the story, with TV crews based here sending stories and pictures back to networks in countries such as Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, and Denmark. In addition, all of the national networks, the local and regional television and radio stations, were well represented, as well as many Texas and national newspapers.

While squeezing nearly 10,000 people into one shelter isn’t optimal, everyone there was safe, out of the weather, and had access to hot food and medical assistance. Additional shelters opened up the next day and relieved pressure on the George R. Brown Convention Center shelter.

One survivor summed it all up. When told to make sure she held on to a certain document, as she slide it back into a large manila envelope, she simply said, “Don’t worry. My entire life is in this envelope.”

Thanks to dedicated and caring volunteers

During National Volunteer Week (this year, April 23-29) we like to do an extra shout out of appreciation for our volunteers who help fulfill the American Red Cross mission to reduce human suffering in the face of emergencies. The generous donation of time, expertise, and compassion make our hearts swoon with gratitude. Below, check out several spotlights featuring volunteers from selected areas around our Minnesota Region. Thanks!

Northern Minnesota

Tim Rose

Two northern Minnesota volunteers, Tim Rose and John Keith, have gone above and beyond our expectations with their diligent work in making appointments and installing smoke detectors in people’s homes. Within the last few months they have installed 419 alarms in 130 homes in our 17 county northern Minnesota chapter jurisdiction. We find this mission extremely important as our chapter alone has had 8 people perish due to a home fire this past winter season.  We could hot ask for more dedicated and caring volunteers, like Tim and John, to help carry out this important initiative of the American Red Cross!

John Keith

We are assured when they go to someone’s home that they provide them with the preparedness information needed for making a plan to evacuate in case of an emergency. From hearing their stories on their return from a smoke alarm installation, we also know they make a personal connection with the homeowner. They went to one home to install free smoke alarms where a World War II veteran mentioned the story of the Red Cross charging for donuts and coffee to active service members when in Europe. The veteran told John he had to walk 10 miles to get coffee and a donut and paid a nickel for it.  After John told him that the Red Cross started charging only because the U.S. Secretary of War asked it to do so because free Red Cross donuts caused tension with British soldiers who had to pay for theirs. The Red Cross complied, after protesting to no avail. The veteran said with a big smile “looks like I got my nickel back.”

Southwest Minnesota

Don and Betty Gedrose

Don and Betty Gedrose from Southwest Minnesota have been hard at work supporting the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Together, they have installed over 130 smoke alarms in the Brown County area since mid-December. They’re also taking a huge role in helping to plan a Brown County Home Fire Campaign on April 22. “We encourage people to take advantage of this free initiative, to check their smoke alarms regularly, and to regularly conduct two-minute fire drills at home,” says Betty Gedrose.

Biomedical Services

Mark Steffer

Since joining the Biomedical Team as a Transportation Specialist in December 2016, Mark Steffer has far exceeded the commitments placed before him. Not only has he managed to accrue twice as many work hours required, he has become an integral member of our volunteer driving force. His dedication to the driving program, and to the Red Cross in general, has enabled us to deliver life-saving blood products to area hospitals during  critical need asks—and has helped save and improve countless lives. Mark has continuously gone above and beyond as a Red Cross volunteer, holding an impressive 30+ positions within the organization as both Biomedical Services and Humanitarian Services volunteer. In the last year alone, Mark has donated over 700 hours of his time to helping our organization provide support to those in need. Throughout it all, Mark has exhibited a passion for the humanities—both through his volunteer work, and in the arts. He, like all of our volunteers, remind us every day of how lucky we are to be able to give back to the communities we serve. Thank you, Mark!

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

Charitable Work Does Everyone Good: Spotlight on Anna Sullivan Kyle

rco_blog_img_annakyleThis 1944 Myron Hall photo shows St. Cloud Area Red Cross officials planning for their next project. Anne Kyle is sitting at her desk, John Henry standing on the right and Mrs. J. L. Rivard is off to the left.

Story by Steve Penick, Head Archivist at the Stearns History Museum

Volunteers make a difference in any community. These generous individuals help the homeless, teach kids to read, and provide assistance during a natural disaster. This dedication helps not only those in need but inspires others to contribute what they can to make the world a better place.

Anna or Anne Sullivan Kyle (1891-1963) was one such person. She moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota from Minneapolis in 1926 and began volunteering for the American Red Cross. Anne reflected on what volunteering meant to her. She stated in a 1957 St. Cloud Times article, “It’s self-satisfying. And you get pleasure out of knowing that you have really helped others.” Even though the Red Cross was her primary concern, she did not limit herself to just one organization.

In this world, people should be kept busy on something worthwhile, either church work or some charitable work. It does everyone some good.

Kyle also volunteered for the Auxiliary at the Wallace S. Chute Post in 1927 and rapidly worked her way toward president of the Sixth District several years later. Soon Anne reached the state level as a member of the Rehabilitation Committee, one in which she chaired. In her spare time, Anne became president of the Women’s Guild and the St. Cloud Area Council of the Parent and Teachers Association.

Anne’s work with the Red Cross would in time transition into a staff position. Despite the death of her husband Edwin in 1938, she continued her efforts to help the St. Cloud community. In 1942, Anne was appointed Executive Secretary, encouraging others to volunteer and help in the war effort. Her humble philosophy, though, continued to be a model for others. “In this world, people should be kept busy on something worthwhile, either church work or some charitable work. It does everyone some good.” Almost sixty years later, Kyle’s words ring true about her commitment in making a better community.

Originally published on the Stearns History Museum Facebook page, this story appears here with permission. Thank you!