Small Gestures, Big Rewards

Post by Kelly Vetter/American Red Cross

Kelly Vetter holds and cherishes her grandma Nana's 10-year American Red Cross volunteer pin. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Kelly Vetter holds and cherishes her grandma Nana’s American Red Cross 10-year volunteer service pin. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

If you were lucky enough to have known my grandmother Eileen, warmly referred to by her eight grandchildren as Nana, you would know that volunteering at the American Red Cross was a perfect role for her.  She was a “people-person,” and I think of the Red Cross as the ultimate “people-organization.”

My Nana made you feel like you were the most important person in the room.  That must explain why each of us grandchildren can proudly proclaim, “I was her favorite.”  I envision the people she sat with, perhaps after donating blood or after learning the steps they would need to take to recover from a home fire, left the building knowing without question that they mattered to her and that they mattered to the Red Cross.  She could sit, listen and empathize better than anyone else I know.

And isn’t it surprising how a few simple words or actions can lighten one’s suffering?  One of the many lessons I learned from my Nana is that small gestures can be as powerful and meaningful as grand gestures.  The finer details, which my Nana never overlooked and which the Red Cross is so good at (being available day or night, offering an assuring smile and hug, treating every person’s experience like the lead story of the day), can produce such great comfort.

Kelly Vetter's grandma Nana holds her 2-day old granddaughter. Also pictured is Kelly's grandpa Walter. Photo provided courtesy of Kelly.
Grandma Nana holds baby Kelly, only 2 days old. Also pictured is Kelly’s grandpa Walter. Photo provided courtesy of Kelly Vetter.

I began working for the Red Cross just a few short months ago.  I am impressed daily by the dedicated staff and volunteers I meet here and now know why my kind-hearted Nana fit in so well with this organization. I keep my Nana’s 10 Years pin displayed on the bulletin board next to me.  I wish I could ask her more about her Red Cross story, but she lost her battle with cancer 10 years ago.  So instead, I will build my own Red Cross story and know that she would be proud to see that I, too, am contributing to the mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering, a mission that she carried out every day through small gestures.   

Tell your Red Cross story.

50-Year-Old Letter Brings Red Cross Reminder

Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

returned letter
A 50-year-old letter with stamp cancelled “March is Red Cross Month” mark.

Recently, I was sorting through some old photos when I came across a letter that my mother Yvonne wrote nearly fifty years ago. She wrote it after her mother died in 1964. It was addressed to a family friend, but was sent back “return to writer” because no such address number was found. The 5 cent stamp on the envelope was cancelled with a mark that caught my eye: March is Red Cross Month. And so I opened and read it and learned of my mother’s great sadness from a loss too soon. While sharing the letter now, I wonder if Red Cross training in first aid and learning the signs of heart attack could have made a difference, giving everyone more years together and breaking fewer hearts.


March 26, 1964

My Dearest Blanche,

     …Mom had a heart attack Feb. 28, 4:30 A.M. She was taken to the hospital and lived seven days. We thought she would pull through but apparently the heart was damaged over half after the first attack. She suffered two more attacks Fri. night on March 6 and passed away 10:30 A.M. Sat. morning March 7.

     Our hearts are just broken. All of us are still in a state of shock as you know what this can do to a person. 

     Mom was looking real well before this happened. We did not know her heart was bad at all.

george and nola
Baby Yvonne with her mother Nola and father George in Los Angeles, circa 1930s.

     Mom was with Bill & I the weekend before. She & dad came over on Saturday and she had her 58th birthday Feb. 23. I baked her a cake and we had dinner home. I took them home on Tues. and she looked fine as far as I could tell.

     …on Thurs. night…just about 4:30 A.M. Dad woke up and heard her praying. He thought she was dreaming and reached over to shake her as he always did if she had a bad dream and when he did she said to him don’t it’s my heart. He jumped out of bed and asked her if he could get her some water. By the time he got back she was vomiting. She had an acute attack and vomited most of the time while in the hospital.

     Blanche, I will never get over this. I never dreamed mom would go this young in life. She was such a wonderful mother always. I feel like everything is drained from me.
I just miss her terribly. Dad is broken hearted. He never thought mom would go so fast. He said he knew she would get well.

     Blanche, I guess life ends very quickly sometimes & we are never prepared or ready for death ever. And it is so hard to accept. If you are ever out here come to see us! Dad will be with me now. Hope you are fine.


Yvonne and "her lover boy" Bill, circa early 1950s.
Yvonne and “her lover boy” Bill, circa early 1950s.

Decades later my father Bill (pictured left) had several heart attacks in his early 50s. We recognized the heart attack signs the second time around, but no one in the family was Red Cross-trained in lifesaving skills. Several years later I became a Red Cross volunteer instructor in C.P.R. and First Aid. Finally, one person in our household was trained. Because  of my personal experience with life-threatening emergencies and because it’s March, the official month of the year that we celebrate all things Red Cross, I encourage every one to take any step that can make a difference. Take time to take a Red Cross class and get trained with lifesaving skills that could benefit both you and your loved ones.

No Cape Needed

#BeAHero - Size 403x403 - Option 1March is a great time to celebrate the American Red Cross. Why? Because March is national American Red Cross Month.

During this time, we like to applaud all of the everyday heroes who make the Red Cross what it is. These heroes help by giving blood, learning and using lifesaving skills, serving as volunteers during disasters, or giving money that makes Red Cross humanitarian work possible at all.

Right here, across our disaster response region, volunteers have worked around the clock, responding to 84 disasters, helping 328 people following fires during January and February. This is a 38 percent increase during the same period last year! We want to thank them for being heroes to all of us. Their selfless service helps keep our communities strong during challenging times. They are super heroes to us and to those they’re helping.

During this month, we want to encourage others more than ever to think about embracing their inner hero and becoming part of the Red Cross. Train to be a volunteer before disaster strikes. Take a class and learn lifesaving skills before an emergency happens. Create a plan that will prepare your family for emergencies. Give blood and keep supply shelves stocked. Donate money and support the Red Cross humanitarian mission all year.

Happy American Red Cross Month!

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