Local Disaster Relief Rolling Snapshot – 2022

When the worst happens, we’re there. After disasters, mostly home fires in our region, Red Cross volunteers work with fire departments and other response partners to connect with families and support needs like emergency lodging, financial assistance and emotional support.

We’d like to share our deepest gratitude with our volunteers for their abiding devotion to helping people rebuild their lives after devastating home fires.

January

🔥 Our winter home fire season continued to disrupt lives during this difficult time. In January across the Minnesota & Dakotas Region, our disaster relief volunteers responded to 115+ home fires, helping 560+ people.

February

🔥 Across our three-state region during February, we responded to 90+ home fires and helped 290+ people affected by these fires. Help us change these statistics. Learn what to do before, during and after a fire! Visit redcross.org/mndaks for fire prevention and safety tips! #endhomefires

March

🔥 During March, our Disaster Action Team was as busy as ever helping people affected by the devastation and trauma that a home fire brings. Across our region, comprised of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, our relief workers (90% volunteers) responded to nearly 80 home fires and helped 300+ adults and children. Some families were displaced for a short period of time while others needed to find new housing. Many thanks to all for being there for people when they needed you the most.

April

🔥 During April, responding to help people affected by flooding, freezing weather, home fires and even a tornado in Taopi, MN, filled the hands of our disaster services volunteers. Our trained volunteers supported 60+ disasters and helped 225+ people. Their efforts included working with local partners to support shelters in northwest Minnesota and western North Dakota. Thank you to everyone, especially our volunteers, for stepping up to help people when they needed you the most.

May

🔥 Our trained disaster responders (90% volunteers) responded to 70+ home fires and helped 260+ people.

June

🔥 Home fire relief doesn’t take a summer break. Our trained disaster responders (90% volunteers) helped around 100 people affected by nearly 430 home fires.

July

🔥 Home fires continue this summer throughout our three-state region. Our trained disaster responders (90% volunteers) helped more than 260 people affected by nearly 70 home fires. More trained volunteers are needed to serve on local “Disaster Action Teams” who help people affected by disasters. Apply here.

August

Most of us have not lost a home to fire in the middle of the night. Those who have know the uncertainty that such a disaster can bring. In August, our disaster responders helped more than 300 people affected more than 70 disasters, nearly all home fires, in our three-state region. More than 90 percent of our responders are volunteers. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting people during terrible times in their lives.

September

Our region responds to multiple home fires every day. These are mostly fires affecting single-family dwellings. This month, our Disaster Action Team workers (more than 90% volunteers) supported 71 home fires and helped 325 adults and children. We encourage everyone to practice home fire safety and have a plan. Find helpful resources here.

October

This month was on par with September for home fires responses across our region. Our trained Disaster Action Team responders helped 280 people affected by 77 home fires, including several multi-family fires. More trained volunteers are needed in local communities. Click here to find opportunities in your area.

You Can Help

DONATE – Thanks to donations, our services are free and available for all those in need. Visit here to support our lifesaving work.

VOLUNTEER – The need is constant to help families affected by home fires and other disasters. Click here to become a volunteer.

Putting life back together ‘slowly but surely’ following a home fire in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota

Stone Street multi-family apartment fire, Lead, SD, July 10, 2021. Photo: Richard Smith/American Red Cross

Every day, the Red Cross helps people affected by home fires big and small. During 2021, for example, the Red Cross in South Dakota responded to more than 200 home fires and helped nearly 800 people.

Among them was Alisha Baudino and her son. On July 10, 2021, they were home and asleep when a fire started in the walls of the building where they rented an apartment on Stone Street in Lead, a small city founded after the discovery of gold in the northern Black Hills.

“I woke at 5 a.m. smelling smoke and just trying to figure out where it was coming from,” said Baudino. “I couldn’t see smoke or anything, but I could smell it.”  

Alisha went outside and still she saw nothing. Miners working across the street saw flames and pointed them out to her. “They yelled there was fire so I turned around to get my son out of the apartment.”

The apartment was already filled with smoke. Thankfully her son, who had recently turned 18, made it out on his own. They then helped account for those living in other units.

“There ended up being 11 different fire companies. After that it was just downhill. There was nothing we could do about it. We just sat there and watched while they tried to get it out.”

The building originally was a single-family house later turned into five apartments. It was declared a total loss and demolished. Only items stored in the garage, like her son’s work tools, were spared from the blaze.

“We’re doing good just working, trying to put life back together slowly but surely,” said Alisha Baudino, pictured with her son. Submitted photo.

Community members rallied to help. The Red Cross responded as well within hours after the fire started. “The Red Cross was there immediately. It was really quick.”

The Red Cross assistance gave everyone options to help themselves do what each needed most. Alisha, for example, used some of the relief to pay for a hotel room for her and her son. From there, they went to a cabin rental found by a friend, and then to a house they’d already planned to move into at the end of July.

Since the fire, life is gradually getting back to normal. She has two full-time jobs and takes each day one at a time going from home to work and back again.

“We’re doing good just working, trying to put life back together slowly but surely.”

To support Red Cross disaster relief through volunteer service or financial donation, click here. To learn more about the Red Cross home fire campaign, click here.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photo by Richard Smith/American Red Cross.

Three friends, one mission

How Annie, Liana and Katie are turning their life-threatening childbirth experiences into advocacy and awareness for blood donation.

Annie, Liana and Katie (pictured from left to right) all experienced devastating amniotic fluid embolisms during childbirth and collectively needed over 100 units of blood products.

Most of us have never heard of amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). Neither had Annie, Katie and Liana, three women from the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. They met through the AFE Foundation because they all experienced an AFE during childbirth. Their stories are different, but they all credit blood with helping to save their lives. Together, they needed over 100 units of lifesaving blood products. To raise awareness about AFE, they are sharing their stories and hosting a blood drive to help ensure blood products are available for others who need lifesaving transfusions.

AFE is a rare and serious condition – occurring in about 1 in 40,000 births in the U.S. It’s sudden. It’s unexpected. It’s life-threatening. AFE causes birth complications that affect both mother and baby during labor or shortly after delivery. It’s thought to be the result of an allergic-like reaction to the amniotic fluid that enters the mother’s bloodstream. It can result in the mother going into respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and DIC. Some women also experience strokes.

Meet these three strong, brave and remarkable women who are AFE survivors and who, not too long ago, were total strangers.

Meet Annie – On March 23, 2020, just 12 days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Annie had an emergency cesarean section and went into cardiac arrest. A code blue was called, CPR and shocks were administered, but her heart continued to fail. She entered disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which causes blood to clot where it shouldn’t and then hemorrhage where clotting is necessary.

A massive blood transfusion was called for. Annie received about 25 units of blood products to replace the blood she lost.

“You just never think you’ll be the one in need. I had never donated blood before but made my first donation last September after I knew how important it was.”

Her son Henry was born without a pulse and quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit for treatment.

After over two weeks of unresponsiveness, Annie woke up and had paralysis on her right side and confusion about what had happened – she had no memory of going to the hospital to give birth and even thought she had miscarried.

An MRI revealed that Annie had suffered numerous strokes and bleeds. Following additional complications, set-backs and being isolated from her husband and family due to COVID-19 restrictions, the doctors said she would likely have long-term physical and cognitive disabilities and would require months of treatment in a rehab facility.

Annie met Henry for the first time in the rehab facility and six days later was able to go home. Henry doesn’t seem to have been impacted by the circumstances of his birth – his MRI was normal, and he is developing beautifully.

Although Annie has survived AFE physically unscathed and has returned to work recently, she says the “emotional wounds are deep and ones I’ll likely carry for the rest of my life. Something like this shouldn’t happen on the best day of your life.”  

Meet Katie – In August 2017, at 41+ weeks pregnant, Katie went in for her scheduled induction – anxious to meet her baby daughter. Once her water broke, everything went dark. Katie went in and out of consciousness but remembers the chaos going on around her as they wheeled her into the operating room for an emergency cesarian section.  

Three days later she woke up in the ICU and found out that she had an AFE followed by DIC, which required her to receive 50+ units of blood products. 

“I’ve donated blood once or twice before – and I’m filled with tremendous gratitude on how many people had to donate for me and how much more need there is out there.”

Her newborn daughter had suffered complications too and was transferred to a local children’s hospital for treatment. A week later, Katie was finally able to meet and hold her precious girl. It was the most unbelievable moment — “one I’ll never forget,” she says. On day 10, her daughter was cleared to go home, and Katie was hospitalized for an additional 15 days.

Once home, the littlest tasks were difficult – going up and down stairs, taking a shower, or changing one diaper. After two weeks at home, Katie was back in the hospital with bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms and was in and out of the hospital for a couple months with various other complications.

Katie went on to have a subsequent pregnancy and complication free delivery with her second child in April 2020.

Meet Liana – In January 2019, right before her delivery, a very pregnant Liana recalls a feeling that something was wrong. Her husband tried to reassure her, saying that the humans have been having babies for millions of years and that all would be okay. She wrote off her feelings as the jitters for a first-time mother.

Liana was induced at 38 weeks and was excited to meet her baby. Her fear turned real when she experienced complications during delivery. Liana’s blood pressure plummeted followed by massive hemorrhaging, coding, seizing and a stroke. Doctors performed an emergency cesarean section and Liana required more than 10 units of blood products. Her daughter Lydia was born with no heart rate.

“Blood is the ultimate gift – it helped save my life!”

When Liana woke up in the ICU she could hardly move or speak. She tried, but nothing came out. She was told she had given birth and had a daughter named Lydia. “So many thoughts were racing through my mind. No matter how much I wanted to talk, I couldn’t. So, I just cried.”

Liana spent 17 additional days in the hospital going through speech and occupational therapy.

Although AFE caused significant and lasting health complications that affected her memory, speech and motor skills, it hasn’t stopped Liana from keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor. With great determination and many hours of rehab she’s been able to resume her passion to do the things she loves.

“I’ve physically made a full recovery, but am mentally dealing with the trauma.”

Liana has donated blood in the past and plans on being a regular blood donor.

——————————

To help build awareness for the importance of blood donation and AFE, their first-ever “friends of AFE blood drive” will be held February 18, 2022, for their families and friends.

Learn more about AFE on the Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation’s website and read Annie’s, Katie’s and Liana’s stories on their blog.


Story by Sue Thesenga and Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Annie, Katie and Liana.

What’s truly Precious

Katryna Hunt had a bad feeling the morning of September 20, 2021 in Minot, North Dakota, but she left for work early anyway to make sure she was on time.

Her fiance’ TJ had just gotten home from his night shift and headed to bed. Soon after, the blaring sound of smoke alarms woke him. Maybe, he thought, their roommate Nick was cooking but then he saw the smoke and flames.

TJ called Katryna and all she could make out before they were disconnected was the word “fire”.  She immediately rushed home and when she arrived, she could see her home in flames – a fire had started outside on her porch.

Fortunately, TJ, Nick, her 11-year-old cat Precious and their pet lizard had safely evacuated with a few valuables.

Katryna Hunt’s mobile home in Minot, ND was destroyed by a fire that started on the porch.

Soon the Red Cross was on scene offering comfort and disaster assistance, including financial support, comfort kits, cleaning items and help finding immediate shelter. Red Cross assistance helped cover a two-week hotel stay that allowed for Precious to be with her.

“I was so worried about Precious because she has separation anxiety and would not have done well without being close to me. I was so grateful that they were able to find a hotel that allowed Precious!” said Katryna.

Katryna was happy that 11-year-old Precious made it out of the fire safely.

She credits working smoke alarms with saving their lives. “When I went back to get a few things and clean up I could hear the smoke alarm that was by the back door still faintly beeping –without these things could have ended much worse.”

Katryna feels fortunate everyone was safe. Despite soot covering their belongings, she was able to recover a few meaningful items, including her porcelain doll collection.

Red Cross volunteers were able to refer Katryna to another agency who helped her with a deposit for a new rental unit and the first month’s rent. In October, Katryna moved into her new home. One of her first calls she got was from the Red Cross congratulating her and checking to see if she needed anything.

“Red Cross volunteers followed up with me every day! It was so comforting to have someone check up on me because all my family is in Tennessee. I knew I wasn’t alone.”

Katryna feels lucky and hopes that her story helps raise awareness of the need for working smoke alarms. “Home fires can happen to anyone, anytime – having working smoke alarms is an easy thing we can all do to avoid the unthinkable.”

Make sure you and your loved ones are prepared for home fires, visit soundthealarm.org/mndaks.

Story by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Katryna Hunt.

Living with sickle cell disease

Bathesheba Benson, a sickle cell warrior, keeps her eyes on the future

Bathesheba Benson knows hope and pain more than most. Known as Sheba, she’s among the estimated 100,000 people in the United States living with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease turns soft and round red blood cells into hard and crescent-shaped cells that clump together, reducing blood flow.

Sheba’s first sickle cell crisis happened when at home in New Hope, Minnesota. She was just five years old and had a stroke. It was then that her family learned she had inherited the sickle cell trait from both of her parents.

“My parents kind of knew because I would swell up. They knew something was wrong, but they didn’t know I had sickle cell,” she says.

“I want to see the world. There’s so much to do. ” – Sheba Benson, a sickle cell warrior

Now thirty-seven years old, Sheba knows well the challenges facing ‘sickle cell warriors’ who shape their days, weeks, and years into a life that prevents pain and reduces crises to the best of their abilities.

Sometimes a crisis can’t be prevented. Certain factors, like extreme cold, elevate risks. Even something quite ordinary, such as five-minute walk to a nail salon, can ignite the spiral.

“Oh, my goodness, it’s so hard,” she says. “I have to plan life out ahead of time. I have to double think about my decisions that I take in life.”

One decision – staying in college to study childcare – came to halt when she was twenty-one years old. She suffered a second stroke. The event also triggered a bout of depression so she went with her mom to visit relatives in Ghana. 

“I feel healthier once I get blood in my system – I feel brighter, stronger and healthier – you can see it in my face – my sister says ‘you look better’.”

Sheba Benson – Sickle Cell Warrior

“I was depressed there, too, because I wasn’t doing anything and not going anywhere. So, I decided to come back to Minnesota,” she says.

A critical, lifesaving treatment through all of this is blood transfusion. Red cell transfusion increases oxygen in the blood, boosting her immune system and reducing a severe pain crisis, stroke or other life-threatening conditions. Sheba’s transfusions have been numerous throughout the years, including more intensive apheresis therapy.

“They always transfuse me when my hemoglobin is low. Sometimes they give me an apheresis transfusion when I’m very very sick. They place a tube in my neck or groin area, and then hook me up to a big machine where they exchange blood,” she explains.

The transfusion transforms her in moments.

“I feel a lot lot better, like instantly – I feel stronger instantly – I feel healthier once I get blood in my system – I feel brighter, stronger and more healthier – you can see it in my face – my sister says ‘you look better’.”

“I feel healthier once I get blood in my system.” – Sheba Benson receives blood transfusion when she has a sickle cell crisis.

Sickle cell warriors like Sheba rely on blood donors for this crisis mitigating and lifesaving therapy, which could be needed any day of the year. Finding a blood match beyond well-known blood types like A, B and O is essential.

The hardship of finding a match lessens with a more diverse blood supply. The most likely matches are with donors who are Black. And because blood compatibility decreases with each transfusion, ongoing diversity from new and regular Black donors makes the difference for Sheba and other sickle cell patients.

“My blood bags always have Red Cross on it,” she says. “Please donate because it really goes along way – it helps me, it helps other patients out there. If I could donate, I would donate. Please go out there and donate if you can.”

When feeling well, meaning her pain is okay, Sheba holds her gaze on happiness, especially being with her friends and family. Meeting new people brings her joy, too.

“I want to see the world. There’s so much to do. My dream for 2022 is to stay out of the hospital and travel more. The ocean is my peaceful place. I want to be on the beach somewhere!”

To learn more about sickle cell disease, click here. To find a donation appointment, click here.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Photos provided by Sheba Benson

“The Essential Meaning of Resolve”

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has several meanings for the verb ‘to resolve’. We’re most interested in number two.

This time of year, many people reflect back and look ahead, taking stock, so-to-speak, of gains, losses, regrets, successes and failures during the past year, and then planning ahead for change: how they want to be or what they want to do (or not do) going forward.

They ‘resolve’ to do things differently. They, like the second definition of the verb in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, decide “to make a definite and serious decision to do something”. With that in mind, resolutions appear to be earnest undertakings requiring at times deep effort and commitment, resiliency to work through or overcome obstacles on the way to fulfillment and, perhaps most of all, offer profound feelings of purpose once accomplished.

We encourage these undertakings even during times of great challenge like, for example, a global pandemic. As you prepare your list of resolutions for 2022, we ask that you consider taking up one or more of those listed below and making your choices a habit in the new year and the years ahead. We promise to be there with you all the way – sleeves up, hearts open, all in.

Volunteers make up 90 percent of our Red Cross workforce. New dedicated and trained volunteers are always needed to maintain response capacity for providing disaster relief, delivering lifesaving blood, supporting military families during crisis, and other critical roles. In-person and virtual opportunities are available in multiple lines of humanitarian services. We’ll train you and together we’ll do the rest. Become a Red Cross volunteer.

Blood donations are needed every day to help patients. This could be a patient who needs around 100 units following a car accident or a patient in cancer treatment or sickle cell crisis who needs transfusions to continue treatment or ease debilitating pain. Platelets are also essential, especially for people in chemo treatment. We provide nearly 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply. This essential service relies on regular donors. Become a Red Cross blood and/or platelet donor.

Money, as they say, doesn’t grow on trees. (Thankfully, because we much prefer leaves on trees.) Every dollar counts when it comes to providing relief following tornadoes, hurricanes, other natural disasters and home fires. We’re proud that an average of 90 cents of every dollar we spend is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need. We see first-hand the gratitude from those who welcome help when they need it most. Become a Red Cross supporter.

For inspiration, we turn to Suzanne Sudmeier, one of our disaster health services volunteers. Reflecting upon Clara Barton, our American Red Cross founder who was born 200 years ago, Suzanne she feels honored to continue Clara’s legacy of easing the suffering of others.

I am always in awe of people who have the foresight, courage and energy to be trailblazers for the sake of humanity. Certainly, Clara Barton is one of those people. I can only imagine the personal sacrifice she took upon herself to be true to her principles and vision.
I live such a comfortable life – even when deployed we cannot compare any of our discomforts to those she must have faced. I honestly do not know if I could ever do what she did – but I am privileged to be a follower.

– Suzanne Sudmeier, Red Cross disaster health services volunteer and registered nurse based in central Minnesota

Dedicated Red Cross worker retires after 46 years

“It was a nice feeling that I could be there to help someone in their time of need. ” – Nancy Rogers

Nancy Rogers is passionate about the mission of the American Red Cross and helping veterans.

Rogers, a former longtime employee of the Red Cross serving northern Minnesota, has spent nearly her entire professional career assisting military members, their families and Red Cross volunteers. In July, Rogers retired after 46 years with the Red Cross.

Her former supervisor, Dan Williams, executive director of the northern Minnesota chapter, called Rogers’ appreciation of Red Cross volunteers and veterans “unmistakable.”

Her famous chocolate chip cookies weren’t the only reason people were drawn to her, according to Williams.

“I think (Rogers) took it that people were thankful for her cookies, but really what they were thankful for was her hospitality; her welcoming nature; her wanting our volunteers or partners to be there,” Williams said.

Rogers started working as a receptionist for the Red Cross, but over the years she took on other duties, such as disaster relief services and casework for military families. The northern Minnesota chapter, which is based in Duluth, serves several counties in Minnesota and along the Wisconsin border.

Nancy Rogers retired after 46 years with the Red Cross. Submitted photo.

Rogers said she enjoyed the Red Cross’s Services to the Armed Forces work she was involved in, including providing support to military families during deployments and emergencies.

“It was a nice feeling that I could be there to help someone in their time of need,” she said.

She is also a guardian for the Honor Flight Network, which transports American veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit veteran memorials. She also goes on the flights in honor of her late father, who was a World War II veteran.

“You can tell my heart is with the veterans,” Rogers said, adding that she’s been on five Honor Flights.

Despite retiring, Rogers is continuing her work with the Red Cross as a volunteer, organizing the Holidays for Heroes Program, which involves collecting holiday cards and gifts for veterans and military members.

Rogers said she’s committed to the vital work of the Red Cross because she believes in the organization’s mission: to help people in need.

“I believe in the mission of the Red Cross and everyone does a great job at helping folks in fires and the military and all that. We’ve got everybody covered,” she said.

Story by Blair Emerson, American Red Cross Minnesota and Dakotas Region. There are many rewarding career opportunities supporting the Red Cross humanitarian mission. Start your search here.

Keeping her promise to save lives

Three months ago, Jenapher Blair made a promise to give blood. After being on the receiving end of blood donation following the birth of her child, Jenapher hoped to become a blood donor herself.

Feeling a little emotional and filled with anticipation, Jenapher and her husband Steve arrived for her appointment at an American Red Cross blood drive in Hutchinson, Minn. on Nov. 9. “I’m wondering where my blood will go and who it’s going to help – I’ll be watching my blood donor app to follow the journey of my donation,” said Jenapher.

First-time blood donor Jenapher Blair rolled up a sleeve at a Red Cross drive on Nov. 9, 2021.

In just a little over five minutes, Jenapher’s donation was finished and she proudly held her blood bag close to her heart. “Wow, I can’t believe how quick that was – it’s such a great feeling to know that I’m going to help make a difference for someone, just like the people who’s blood I received did for me and my family!”

Jenapher Blair holding baby Adalyn with her husband and children.

Everything was going well…until it wasn’t

Following the birth of baby Adalyn in July, Jenapher started to hemorrhage and was losing blood quickly. It was a matter of life and death. Doctors couldn’t control her bleeding and the nearest blood was 80 miles away. The hospital called the Red Cross and in-turn the Minnesota State Patrol was immediately contacted to help rush four units of type O-negative blood to the hospital.

The lifesaving blood was delivered in just 65 minutes. Doctors told Jenapher “we were on borrowed time while waiting for the blood to arrive” and that she would not have survived had the blood arrived even minutes later.

Grateful and giving back

Jenapher left the blood drive pumping her fist in the air with excitement and thanking everyone in the room for giving the gift of life.

“Paying it forward doesn’t stop here for me,” she said. “It’s more personal. I want to be an example for my kids. We want to do our part and spread the word about the need and help get the numbers up because I realize how important it is to have blood available – if I hadn’t received the blood I needed, things could be very different.”

An exuberant Jenapher Blair after donating blood for the first time.

Jenapher, Steve, and their kids are also gamers who are raising funds through Mission Red, the official gaming and streaming charity program of the Red Cross. Learn more here or join their fundraising campaign TheOasisFam.

“The more we can do to be advocates for the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, the better!”

Story by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross. To find a blood drive near you click here.

St. James showing thanks through blood donation

On Thanksgiving Day, people from St. James and surrounding areas will continue their annual tradition of showing thanks through blood donation. This blood drive, now in its 17th year, collects the most blood of any American Red Cross Thanksgiving Day community-sponsored drive in the U.S.

“It’s really amazing that our annual Thanksgiving Day blood drive is the largest in the country!”

Diane Dannen, St. James resident and long-time Red Cross blood program volunteer.
2020, Red Cross phlebotomists collected nearly 200 units of lifesaving blood at the annual St. James Thanksgiving Day Blood Drive. Photo credit: American Red Cross

The drive will take place on Thursday, Nov. 25, at the National Guard Armory, 521 Armstrong Blvd. N., from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. This year, more than 50 Red Cross staff and volunteers will be on hand to help run the drive. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – are urged to make an appointment to help overcome the current blood shortage.

“This blood drive comes at a critical time for the Red Cross,” says Leah Pockrandt, Executive Director for the American Red Cross serving Southwest Minnesota. “It’s essential to shore up the nation’s blood supply as we move into the holiday season, especially while we have an ongoing national blood shortage.”

Rolling up a sleeve on Thanksgiving morning has become a holiday tradition for many over the past 16 years – collecting nearly 3,200 blood donations that have helped ensure a stable blood supply over the holiday season. Keeping on with the tradition, all presenting blood donors will be thanked with an exclusive pair of Red Cross holiday socks and a pumpkin pie courtesy of SuperFair Foods, while supplies last.

“It’s really amazing that our annual Thanksgiving Day blood drive is the largest in the country!” says Diane Dannen, St. James resident and long-time Red Cross blood program volunteer. “We should be very proud that our community continues this tradition and gives back in such a meaningful way. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone who makes giving the gift of life a priority during the holiday season.”

“We are thankful for the giving spirit of the St. James community who have made this Thanksgiving Day blood drive successful year after year. Blood donation is essential to ensuring the health of our communities, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need,” adds Pockrandt.  

Not in the St. James area on Thanksgiving? Healthy individuals who are feeling well are urged to make an appointment to donate blood this holiday season. Find a convenient blood drive near you by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.  

From Army Correspondent to Red Cross Volunteer – A 48-Year journey

Military veterans have a critical role in their local communities, often times continuing to serve in both small and large ways.

Take the example of David Schoeneck who uses skills he learned early in his career to continue serving through the American Red Cross. In September 1964, while a freshman in college, he began working as a reporter and photographer for his hometown newspaper – the New Ulm Daily Journal in southern Minnesota. Four and a half years later, after graduating from Minnesota State University in Mankato, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

He served a tour of duty with the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, first as a combat correspondent and later as editor of the Division’s weekly newspaper, The Ivy Leaf. He returned to the U.S. and was discharged in July 1970.

Veteran David (Dave) Schoeneck served a tour of duty with the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. Submitted photo.

Back in civilian life, Schoeneck worked in public relations and communications as a manager and director for a number of Minnesota-based corporations. Upon retirement in 2002, he was approached by a long-time friend, David Therkelsen, who was serving as executive director of the Red Cross St. Paul Chapter.

“David explained to me that the Red Cross had very important public affairs activity during disasters, as well as on-going public affairs needs,” Schoeneck said. “I had been actively involved in community affairs as part of my work, and working with the Red Cross very much appealed to me.”

Since joining the Red Cross 20 years ago, Schoeneck has been involved in local public affairs responses, supporting countless home and apartment fires, floods in various parts of Minnesota, four tornado responses in the state and six national deployments. He has worked as a Red Cross public affairs service associate, supervisor or manager for Hurricanes Irene, Sandy, Mathew, Harvey and Florence, as well as during the eastern Washington state wildfires.

Since joining the Red Cross 20 years ago, David Schoeneck has been involved in countless national and local public affairs responses during disasters. Submitted photo.

In 2015, Schoeneck was invited to join the Red Cross National Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT). More recently, he was selected to join the Red Cross North Central Division’s Disaster Resource Management Team (DRMT), which provides qualified and experienced management teams to supplement local resources when larger scale disasters occur.

“The fundamental principles of the Red Cross – humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality – appealed to me,” Schoeneck said. “It fit very well with my belief that everyone needs to give back to the community and serve others. Working with the Red Cross also allows me to use the skills I have developed over many years in a very positive way.”

“The Red Cross is an amazing organization. It aids victims of home fires and other smaller disasters on a local level, but also comes together when needed to answer the call for large scale disasters such as Hurricanes Florence and Michael,” Schoeneck noted. “In addition to disaster services, the Red Cross has a long-standing role in providing service to our Armed Forces.”

David Schoeneck – Red Cross volunteer for 20 years. Submitted photo.

“I have met and been privileged to work with wonderful people from all over the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Canada who, as part of the Red Cross, respond to disasters. Their spirit of service and dedication is very inspiring. Many of the Red Cross volunteers I have met are also veterans who continue to serve their country and community, long after their active military duty ended.”

A version of this story originally was published on the Red Cross Chat. To learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities, click here.

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