AmeriCorps Spotlight – Katelyn

The AmeriCorps “Together We Prepare” program is looking for new members! The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, administered by the American Red Cross, utilizes AmeriCorps members to improve the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in locations across Michigan.

Today’s AmeriCorps spotlight is on Katelyn who serves in Traverse City.

What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?

Before I joined AmeriCorps, I finished my bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Economics at the University of Wisconsin and worked as a temporary Academic Program Associate at the university over the summer.

What made you want to join the Together We Prepare program with the Red Cross?

I was committed to serving an AmeriCorps term but didn’t know where or what I wanted to be doing. There were thousands of listings, but the Together We Prepare program caught my attention because it provides at-home and in-person service opportunities which directly and quickly impact the community at large. The American Red Cross Chapter staff interviewing me were personable and passionate and conveyed a sense of workplace unity, causing me to choose this opportunity over others.

What duties/responsibilities do you perform for your chapter?

My AmeriCorps team and I pioneer emergency preparedness programs for youth and community members, support the Disaster Action Team in responding to hazards, boost relationships and engagement with our volunteers, and implement special projects to ensure the region is prepared for potential disasters. I also collaborate with Biomedical Services to recognize and appreciate their high-performing volunteers.

What is your favorite thing you do as an AmeriCorps member?

My favorite part of my service is meeting with youth across the state to teach preparedness presentations. The kids are always high energy and excited to have you visiting their classroom or club meeting. Each student learns something new, and I am glad to be the one teaching them.

What has been a challenge for you this term?

I am nervous on the telephone, but this position has challenged me to recognize my emergency knowledge and support are essential in helping the community prepare for and recover from disasters. Although I am still unsure on the phone sometimes, the TWP program has enhanced this skill tremendously for me.

What advice would you give to someone joining the program?

You don’t need to know everything, and there are many opportunities to learn. A client only knows as much as you do, so anything you do will help in their road to recovery. The more you immerse yourself in the material, the more you can serve your community.

If you’re interested in joining the AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program contact Program Director: Eilis Gambill Phone: (810) 358-4357 Email: eilis.gambill@redcross.org  

Or apply at the links below.

Ann Arbor: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do;jsessionid=RDLzN-ch0P_Mb3iR1pNPUYqboev4NKpEUliWzOafF2O1fg1PQR04!126839335?id=81725&fromSearch=true

Detroit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=91632

Traverse City: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81729

Kalamazoo: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81727

Grand Rapids: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81723

Lansing: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=6757

Flint: no openings

AmeriCorps Spotlight – Matthew

The AmeriCorps “Together We Prepare” program is looking for new members! The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, administered by the American Red Cross, utilizes AmeriCorps members to improve the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in locations across Michigan.

Today’s AmeriCorps spotlight is on Matthew who serves in Ann Arbor.

What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?

I was working at a restaurant. It was a pizza shop, and I got to learn some new skills. But after a while, I was feeling unfulfilled.

What made you want to join the Together We Prepare program with the Red Cross?

The Together We Prepare program seemed like a good fit for me for a few reasons. The first being that this program was the closest to home. I had another interview for a position with AmeriCorps in Alaska and it seemed quite daunting. Four thousand miles from home, with extreme weather, and during a pandemic was just too much. The TWP program also seemed a good fit for me because it is public health-related. It also gets me office experience and more customer service experience.

What duties/responsibilities do you perform for your chapter?

I am a member of a Disaster Action Team, responding to provide immediate relief to people in fires. I also work in shelters after a larger-scale fire has occurred. I will be doing Dispatch Duty Officer work, receiving new calls, and assigning and managing DAT response. I also do outreach for our preparedness education. 

What is your favorite thing you do as an AmeriCorps member?

So far my favorite thing that I do is Disaster Response Operations, which, for me are working in shelters for displaced apartment residents. It is my favorite thing because I feel like I can do a lot to make their experience better. It is so good to have someone around who will remember your name and face. Someone who will care, a little more personally, about your unmet needs and be able to give you some indications about the future of your recovery.

What advice would you give to someone joining the program?

My advice would be to stay organized. It will pay to plan your weeks out in advance. Give yourself days you want to do outreach, days you will be doing DAT, and days you will take for yourself.

If you’re interested in joining the AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program contact Program Director: Eilis Gambill Phone: (810) 358-4357 Email: eilis.gambill@redcross.org  

Or apply at the links below.

Ann Arbor: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do;jsessionid=RDLzN-ch0P_Mb3iR1pNPUYqboev4NKpEUliWzOafF2O1fg1PQR04!126839335?id=81725&fromSearch=true

Detroit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=91632

Traverse City: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81729

Kalamazoo: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81727

Grand Rapids: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81723

Lansing: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=6757

Flint: no openings

AmeriCorps Spotlight – Alana

The AmeriCorps “Together We Prepare” program is looking for new members! The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, administered by the American Red Cross, utilizes AmeriCorps members to improve the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in locations across Michigan.

Today’s AmeriCorps spotlight is on Alana who serves in Traverse City.

What were you doing before you joined the AmeriCorps program?

I was a student at Grand Valley State University, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies & Social Impact. I also minored in Nonprofit Administration.

What made you want to join the “Together We Prepare” program with the Red Cross?

The location! I was not looking to move to a completely new city during a pandemic. Traverse City is my hometown, so it was very convenient that the program has an office here. I like that I am getting to know my hometown from a different angle.

I had no idea Red Cross was so big and did so many things. My boss told me I would get experience working with volunteers and area nonprofits, which I knew would build on things I had learned in my nonprofit administration courses. Most importantly, the conversation made me feel like I could pursue my professional interests within the organization.

What duties/responsibilities do you perform for your chapter?

I perform outreach for our children’s preparedness programs. Recently, I have started doing recovery casework, which involves contacting people who have been through a disaster and assisting their recovery process. Those are the main things I’m doing right now, but there will most definitely be more to come as I go through my service!

What is your favorite thing you do as an AmeriCorps member?

One thing that is unique to AmeriCorps is our days of service. That is one of my favorite things so far. On days of service, AmeriCorps volunteers with local nonprofits in the area. It’s great to make connections with other organizations in the community and swap stories with them.

Another favorite of mine is when I get to deliver good news to my casework clients. It makes me happy that I am making them happy when they are in a bad situation.

What has been a challenge for you this term?

The Red Cross has so many acronyms! Sometimes someone says something to me, or I get an email and it doesn’t even make sense because it is just a long string of acronyms. However, I know I will get more familiar as time goes by.

What advice would you give someone joining the program?

If you are just joining or considering joining, I would ask if you can talk to a past or current AmeriCorps in the position. Don’t be scared of the virtual environment! It’s a very innovative time, and now I have developed a virtual skillset I didn’t have before. Research your location beforehand! It can be really difficult to find housing in some of these places, especially on an AmeriCorps stipend. This is another reason to talk to past or current AmeriCorps and also connect with your program manager. Finally, be prepared to explain AmeriCorps/Red Cross/Together We Prepare program to everyone!

If you’re interested in joining the AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program contact Program Director: Eilis Gambill Phone: (810) 358-4357 Email: eilis.gambill@redcross.org  

Or apply at the links below.

Ann Arbor: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do;jsessionid=RDLzN-ch0P_Mb3iR1pNPUYqboev4NKpEUliWzOafF2O1fg1PQR04!126839335?id=81725&fromSearch=true

Detroit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=91632

Traverse City: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81729

Kalamazoo: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81727

Grand Rapids: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81723

Lansing: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=6757

Flint: no openings

AmeriCorps Spotlight – Forrest

The AmeriCorps “Together We Prepare” program is looking for new members! The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, administered by the American Red Cross, utilizes AmeriCorps members to improve the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in locations across Michigan.

Today’s AmeriCorps spotlight is on Forrest who serves in Grand Rapids.

What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?

I was living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and working at a local hospital there. I had been working a variety of jobs in and around the hospital for a few years before joining the AmeriCorps in 2020.

What made you want to join the Together We Prepare program with the Red Cross?

In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas. It was a worst-case scenario for the islands. An extremely strong Category 5 storm landed. The damage was tremendous. I knew I wanted to get involved, and I wanted to assist in the recovery effort. Unfortunately, I did not have the experience or means to.

So, I began looking at new opportunities. I started looking for organizations that I could work or train with to respond to another major natural disaster. The AmeriCorps program was something I had certainly heard of before. However, in years past, for one reason or another, I did not think an AmeriCorps service term was the best option for me. This time around I was coming at it from a new perspective. I was looking specifically for programs with an emphasis on disaster response. And that’s how I found Together We Prepare. Supporting natural disaster operations nationwide?  Sign me up!

What duties/responsibilities do you perform for your chapter?

In both of my service terms with SE Michigan and now West Michigan, a large part of my role is volunteer outreach. This means reaching out to local volunteers and engaging and collaborating with them. The volunteer force is the backbone of the American Red Cross. Working with Red Cross volunteers will often be some of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences we can have as AmeriCorps members.

What is your favorite thing to do as an AmeriCorps member?

With our program, the hardest work is often the most rewarding. I have been fortunate enough to support a few Disaster Response Operations over my service terms. Another area I have spent a lot of time in is our Disaster Action Teams. Honestly, DAT operations may very well be the most challenging work we will ever do as AmeriCorps members; but it can also be the most rewarding.

What advice would you give someone joining the program?

Prepare to be flexible. As AmeriCorps members, we can serve in a wide variety of roles within (and outside of) the Red Cross.  You don’t always know where the job will take you. But that’s part of the excitement. So be ready for anything, and advocate for yourself. Recognize your limits. In this line of work, it can be easy to overextend yourself. You have to take care of yourself first. Recognize your boundaries.

Finally, while we may be working remotely right now, connecting and engaging with your fellow program members is more important than ever. For newer program members coming in this year, I would highly encourage using Zoom calls to stay engaged and connected. Working remotely is an inherently lonely business and something I have struggled with personally. I can only encourage newer members to hang on to some of the core ideas my group strived for. Lean on each other, break down barriers, and strive to collaborate as much as possible.

If you’re interested in joining the AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program contact Program Director: Eilis Gambill Phone: (810) 358-4357 Email: eilis.gambill@redcross.org  

Or apply at the links below.

Ann Arbor: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do;jsessionid=RDLzN-ch0P_Mb3iR1pNPUYqboev4NKpEUliWzOafF2O1fg1PQR04!126839335?id=81725&fromSearch=true

Detroit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=91632

Traverse City: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81729

Kalamazoo: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81727

Grand Rapids: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81723

Lansing: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=6757

Flint: no openings

AmeriCorps Spotlight – Kenneth

The AmeriCorps “Together We Prepare” program is looking for new members! The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, administered by the American Red Cross, utilizes AmeriCorps members to improve the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in locations across Michigan.

Today’s AmeriCorps spotlight is on Kenneth who serves in Flint.

What were you doing before you joined the AmeriCorps?

I was working as a contract administrator for the State of Michigan Homeless Youth and Runaway. A statewide program for children without a place to live. My role was to create safe, stable, and affordable housing with allocated funds of 7.6 million dollars and developing contracted agencies to provide sheltering services for 63 counties of the State of Michigan. 

What made you want to join the “Together We Prepare” program with the Red Cross?

After 43 years of state service, I decided to retire and return to my home base community of Flint to give back from what I received. I understood poverty as I was living in it myself from a single-parent household to an educated adult. The Flint community prepared me for my role as a Community School Director. I learned at an early age how to help others even as I was struggling myself, I was able to reach out to resources in the community and developed lifelong connections.

What duties/responsibilities do you perform for your chapter?

I provide emergency and disaster preparedness to children through the Prepare with Pedro and Pillowcase Project. Additionally, I help youth, families, and adults through our Be Red Cross Ready program to educate residents on how to prepare for a local or national disaster in their home or community. I create partnerships within the community to assist in the Sound the Alarm Campaign where smoke alarms are provided to the community free of charge to aid in the safety of those in need. I also respond to local disasters as a member of the Disaster Action Team.

What is your favorite thing you do as an AmeriCorps member?

Provide disaster preparedness presentations to children, youth, families, and adults. I also enjoy meeting new people and creating partnerships in the community.

What advice would you give someone who is joining the program?

AmeriCorps is not a job. It is a national service opportunity with a lifetime of rewards. Be flexible, creative, and dedicated to the program.

If you’re interested in joining the AmeriCorps Together We Prepare program contact Program Director: Eilis Gambill Phone: (810) 358-4357 Email: eilis.gambill@redcross.org  

Or apply at the links below.

Ann Arbor: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do;jsessionid=RDLzN-ch0P_Mb3iR1pNPUYqboev4NKpEUliWzOafF2O1fg1PQR04!126839335?id=81725&fromSearch=true

Detroit: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=91632

Traverse City: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81729

Kalamazoo: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81727

Grand Rapids: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=81723

Lansing: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=6757

Flint: no openings

Run for the Red!

Dust off your running shoes and run for the red! Run, walk, ski, snowshoe, or even skip your way to 3.1 miles. Log your miles between February 15th and March 15th and take a selfie of your accomplishment. Hashtag #Run4Red #NMiRedCross and tag @ American Red Cross on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Not only will you get bragging rights that you completed 3.1 miles, but all registered participants will be mailed a commemorative 2021 “Run for the Red” t-shirt.

Registering for the event will support the Northern MI Red Cross Chapter to help “prevent and alleviate human suffering” by mobilizing volunteers in the face of emergencies. The goal for this event is $30,000 which will go a long way in furthering the mission of the Red Cross. So far $6,005 has been raised, which is a great accomplishment! But we can use even more help from people just like you, every donor dollar helps! Not a runner? That’s ok! You can donate to this fundraiser without leaving the comfort of your living room couch. Visit, redcross.org/RunforRedMI and click “Donate to This Event”.

When you register, you can do so as an individual, or as a team. So gather up your friends and get running. You can also support your friends and family who are already signed up by donating to their “run”. So, whether you’re supporting from the side lines or out there putting the miles in, you can help support the Red Cross mission today!

Visit this site to register! redcross.org/RunforRedMI Questions? Contact Cathy Anthofer-Fialon @ Cathleen.anthoferfia@redcross.org

AmeriCorps Together We Prepare

The Together We Prepare AmeriCorps program, is a grant-funded program through the American Red Cross that is comprised of 20 members across the lower peninsula who are charged with the task of improving the capacity of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. The members serve their communities for an 11-month term recruiting volunteers, assisting at blood drives and educating the public about preventing disasters. In addition to preparedness education, members provide direct assistance to individuals experiencing disaster.

During the pandemic, the AmeriCorps members have been busy with deployments and DAT.  More importantly, members have been persistent in educating the community on The Pillowcase Project, Prepare with Pedro, and Be Red Cross Ready.  In fact, the members can account for 83% of all preparedness education this year in Michigan. These presentations are vital to share information about the American Red Cross and help families prepare for disasters and mitigate home fires.

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Katie, from our Traverse City office, poses for a picture at this year’s Member Celebration.
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Jenna, a member from our Kalamazoo office, provides a virtual Prepare with Pedro presentation to children in the classroom.

A major component of AmeriCorps member service is to build relationships with community organizations and potential partners.  During this year’s MLK Jr. Day, all of the AmeriCorps members served in local organizations helping the community more broadly.

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Kenneth, from the East Central Bay office, served virtually making dog toys and shipping them to a shelter.
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Helping with local Habitat for Humanity efforts, Alana from Traverse City dedicated her MLK day to building a house.
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Joe and Isabel, from the East Central Bay chapter, handed out food through an event organized by the Flint Accelerator.

Throughout the next year, the AmeriCorps members will continue to provide preparedness education, assist with Sound the Alarm campaign, and support DAT.

If you have additional questions about the AmeriCorps program, please contact Program Director, Eilis Gambill at eilis.gambill@redcross.org or visit: https://www.redcross.org/local/michigan/volunteer/americorps.html

State of Michigan Governor Whitmer Donates Blood

Blood donations are an important part of the Red Cross. Thousands of people every year donate to the important mission of giving lifesaving blood. This year, our own State of Michigan Governor was no exception.

On Saturday, Dec. 19 Governor Whitmer rolled-up a sleeve at our Lansing Donation Center and helped save lives. Joining the governor in donating blood was Michigan Regional Executive Mary Lynn Foster, who also presented the governor with a Red Cross mug as a token of her appreciation.

“There is always a lot of need, and blood donation is a simple way to make a contribution that could save someone’s life,” the governor said. When asked about the safety precautions the Red Cross has put in place at our blood drives and donor centers, Governor Whitmer said there is a lot of integrity in the Red Cross system. “The Red Cross is following protocols, keeping people safe. The Red Cross does it right!”

This isn’t the first time Governor Whitmer has donated blood with the Red Cross during the pandemic. On March 18, Governor Whitmer donated at the Lansing Donation Center to show state residents that the process is safe and necessary, despite the ‘stay-at-home’ executive order that was in place at the time. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services helped get the word out by issuing a news release encouraging Michigan residents to donate blood and declaring blood donation an essential service for the public health of our state.“We are so honored to welcome Governor Whitmer to our Lansing Donation Center,” said Michigan Regional Executive Mary Lynn Foster. “We understand her time is very valuable and truly appreciate her taking an hour out of her very busy schedule to help save lives”

Resolve to Volunteer

New Year’s resolutions are often filled with hope, and 2020 has been a great example of what hope, determination, and teamwork can accomplish. The Red Cross is well versed in facing adversity and overcoming it through the power of its generous and resilient volunteers.  This strength in helping others in their darkest hours allows us to continue providing hope to those who need it.

90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers.  There are many different areas to serve in with the Red Cross, and volunteering can be a great way to make a difference in people’s life throughout the New Year.

When most people think about the Red Cross, they think of blood donations. Not many realize the full scope of the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. One area our teams respond to daily are home fires.  Home fires are one of the most common disasters throughout the United States.

The American Red Cross responds to a home fire every eight minutes. Who responds you might ask? DAT responders, or rather a disaster action team. In a COVID-19 environment what these teams look like has changed. Normally a team of two would be deployed to the event to speak to the individuals who have experienced a fire. They first start with “intake” to get information from a client to see what type of Red Cross assistance they may be eligible for. During this time Red Cross volunteers can show compassion and provide a sense of calm to those who might be experiencing a stressful situation.

What DAT response has looked like since COVID-19 has been a little different. Instead of an “in-person” response, we assist our clients as much as possible virtually.  When we cannot avoid seeing a client in person, we send a “runner” to the client. This is a DAT responder who is comfortable with meeting a client in person. When this “runner” meets the client, they must follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask at all times. Some DAT volunteers who are not comfortable meeting with clients in person have pivoted to “virtual intake”. This is where they will call the clients and do intake that would normally be done in person. However, just because these interviews aren’t being completed in person doesn’t mean that the compassion and sense of calm is lost. Of course, we would love to be able to hug our clients and let them know everything will be OK. In COVID times, however, to keep everyone as safe as possible, we try to give this same reassurance, while still keeping our volunteers and clients safe and healthy.

With so many responses, the Red Cross needs many volunteers to be able to assist those who call for aid. Luckily, we have some amazing volunteers who serve with us day and night to get service to our clients. Our volunteers come from all different types of backgrounds and help in their unique ways.

Micki Levan, who works with the Southeast Michigan chapter, retired from her private practice as a psychologist and says she “wanted to do something interesting and helped people”. “I was interested in disaster work and knew the Red Cross was the leader in that field”, she says. Micki is a virtual intake worker and does amazing work with the clients she works with. Ryan Wilkinson, a member of the Mid-Michigan DAT team, says his favorite part of being a DAT team member is “the genuine care and compassion people show towards others.” Ryan is a local emergency manager full-time and a first responder part-time. Wilkinson says “I’m big on understanding systems and what those systems can provide to my organizations or disaster survivors. Being involved with DAT, and Red Cross in general, has better helped me understand the overall mission, vision, goals, and resources available”. Roger and Nancy Christ, who serve with the Southeast chapter say, “we have always enjoyed helping other people, both professionally, and as volunteers.” They both started volunteering in February of 2015 and have stuck around ever since. They enjoyed serving with the Macomb County Medical Reserve Corps, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, and various other organizations. They commented, “going out into the community for face-to-face contact to help victims of fires and other disasters is our first love. Being able to be a small part of their recovery from a disaster brings a sense of humility and honor in assisting them.” 

When asked about how COVID-19 had been affecting their work as DAT responders, all expressed frustration at not being able to provide the same comfort they were used to for clients. Roger says that it is hard for his wife Nancy to not be able to give hugs to clients who are emotionally hurting. However, all know that we must operate this way, at least for a time, due to safety reasons, and are great at adapting to the new rules and regulations in place. They do their best to make sure the process is as smooth as possible for the client on the other end of the phone.

Even in the difficult environment of COVID-19, Red Cross DAT responders are ready to face the adversity. They make the change in stride and help our clients in any and every way they can. They provide hope to those who are hurting and strength to those in need. As a DAT volunteer, you meet new people, both clients, and co-workers, that you might never have run into before. It’s fulfilling to work with people to support and guide you along the way.

The Red Cross can always use more volunteers in every area. Volunteering as a DAT responder can be a great way to serve your community. However, this isn’t the only area to serve. Based on your schedule and interests, we can find a place for you! Whether you want to help at home or in the field, locally or nationally, with adults or children, there is somewhere for you to serve. You can email MIVolunteer@redcross.org or go to Redcross.org/Volunteer to get started. Make this year a good one by volunteering with the Red Cross!

Clara Barton: The Legacy of the American Red Cross

On a cold Christmas day in 1821, Clara Barton was born. The founder of the American Red Cross, so dedicated in her work, serves as an example of what the Red Cross should continue to strive towards today. Her legacy of self-sacrifice, problem-solving, and ability to think on her feet are all attributes Red Crossers possess. Barton’s life is an example of determination and hope. It establishes the qualities that attract volunteers into the organization today and is a great example of what legacies the organization is built on.

Wanting to help others from the beginning, Barton started her career as a teacher at the age of seventeen. She would eventually move on to teach the first “free public school” classroom in Bordentown, New Jersey. The school grew to over 200 students quickly. Bordentown citizens were so impressed with the success of the school they decided to fund and commission an even bigger schoolhouse. However, when Clara learned she would not be the principal of the school she founded, rather, the town was replacing her with a man, at a much higher pay rate, she resigned.

Barton then moved on to work at the US Patent Office in Washington D.C. where she became one of the first women to become a full-time employee of the federal government. Clara worked there until her boss who was supportive of women working and making the same wages as men, moved jobs. She was then demoted to a copyist, and in 1857 when James Buchanan was voted into the presidency, fired. She returned to her home until 1861 when Abraham Lincoln took office. She then came back to Washington D.C. and the patent office.

In 1861, when the civil war started, Clara Barton was still in Washington D.C. When news of the Baltimore riots and the 24 injured soldiers reached her she rushed to the train station to meet the wounded men. When the train arrived, she saw some of the injured were old students and friends from Massachusetts. This event jump-started her humanitarian war efforts. She was quick to notice these wounded soldiers had nowhere to stay and little to no supplies.

Clara pulled from her personal funds to get supplies for the men and also asked friends from Washington, as well as friends and family back home, to support her efforts. She eventually amassed enough supplies to fill three warehouses. However, three warehouses wouldn’t do much good to men on the front lines if they couldn’t get to them. So, Clara started lobbying to be allowed to bring these supplies and medical aid to the front lines.

Not only would Clara visit field hospitals to aid the men and bring them supplies, but she would also help on the actual battlefields themselves. She was quickly nicknamed “the angel of the battlefield” appearing as a saving grace to those wounded and left untended without supplies. Not satisfied to stop working after the war was over Clara established the “Missing Soldiers Office”. She worked tirelessly in her Washington D.C. boarding house to compile the names of men missing and deceased from the war. Many families were able to learn about the final resting places for their sons, husbands, and brothers due to Barton’s diligent work.

After all this hard work, Barton’s doctor recommended she go to Europe to rest and recover. However, ever the go-getter, Clara could not sit still for long. She ended up meeting with officials from the “International Red Cross” and volunteering to help bring supplies to those in need during the Franco-Prussian War.

Upon her return to America following her “restful” European vacation, Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881. She also advocated for the ratification of the Geneva Convention. Clara established that the American Red Cross would not only serve as an aid during war times but also during natural disasters. For the rest of her life, Clara worked resolutely to help others. She responded to several natural disasters and answered the call outside of the United States as well. Clara Barton died at the age of ninety, having dedicated her life to one of service.

Clara Barton’s values, determination, and mission are reflected in the volunteers of the Red Cross even today. From those who serve on the front lines during a pandemic to those willing to give blood, and those there to respond to an emergency in our own community’s day and night. Her vision and compassion are shared by everyone who has the heart to pick up where she left off and serve with the American Red Cross. Through her example, we can begin to learn to put aside our differences and work together to help those in need.

References

“Clara Barton Biography.” Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum, www.clarabartonmuseum.org/bio/.

“Clara’s Life.” Clara Barton Birthplace Museum, www.clarabartonbirthplace.org/claras-life/.