Kim Cook can still recall details of the fire that destroyed her mobile home 30 years ago. Built in 1955, the home had extra meaning for Cook and her husband, Rick, – it was a wedding gift from her parents. Both were at work at the time the fire broke out in a rear bedroom and engulfed the home in minutes. Luckily, four family members who were inside, including three children under the age of three, escaped unharmed.
When Cook showed up at the scene on that July morning, she was greeted by two volunteers from the American Red Cross. It was an encounter that would become life changing.
“I remember their red vests,” Cook said of the customary apparel worn by Red Crossers at home fires and other disasters and emergencies. “They gave us hugs and paper vouchers for food and clothing. They gave us a referral (to another nonprofit agency) for a bed and one appliance. I didn’t know it, but they also signed us up for the Angel Tree for Christmas. Six months later, someone dropped off Christmas presents for the three kids.”
Yet, it was the compassion and empathy of those volunteers that resonated the most for her. “That’s something you cling onto at a moment like that,” she said.
So, when Cook came upon a Red Cross job posting in a local newspaper years later, she pursued it without hesitation. This July she will celebrate her 11th year on the fund development team in Michigan. The hiring date happens to coincide with the birthday of her youngest daughter, Richelle. Richelle and Cook’s oldest daughter, Katherine, are seven years apart.
As development coordinator, Cook oversees gift processing and manages an extensive and detailed database of donor information for the Michigan Region. Her deft skills with data entry and dashboards have enabled the Red Cross to enhance and streamline processes at the Region and national levels.
“The compassion and empathy really drew me to the Red Cross,” Cook said. “I’ve always been one to help people as much as I can.”
In turn, the Red Cross has helped Cook beyond just the mobile home fire. In 2014, she received four pints of donated blood from the Red Cross during an impromptu visit to the hospital. She had gone to see her doctor for a routine check-up and found that that her iron and white cell blood counts were dangerously low. Her doctor sent her to the emergency department for a battery of tests and Cook was subsequently admitted for a short hospital stay.
Two years later, a life-saving moment occurred at Cook’s home involving her two daughters. Richelle had a peanut lodged in her throat and couldn’t breathe. Katherine quickly came to her sister’s aid and cleared the obstruction using first aid training she had learned just weeks earlier after completing a Red Cross babysitting course.
“There again, the Red Cross saved my family,” Cook said.