Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Bette Cooke

Bette Cook

Service to the Armed Forces Volunteer

"Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, but because they are priceless."

I became a Red Cross volunteer when I retired from working for the Federal Government in 2012. I visited Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, walked into the Red Cross office and decided to volunteer!

My husband is a U.S. Army veteran and served in three wars. This inspired me to want to help wounded warriors. It was heart wrenching to see these young wounded men and women. I wanted to show these young people who were doing such brave things for our country that we admired their services. And I decided the way to do that was by volunteering with the Red Cross.

My first experience with the Red Cross was when I was a teenager. My sister was married to a service member in Japan and she was killed there in an accident. We were at home in Kentucky, and the Red Cross came knocking on our door. They were so comforting and it was so personal. They were there for us in many respects and I was so impressed with their support.

Currently, I serve as the Station chair at Fort Belvoir and Quantico Marine Corp Base. I assist the Station Manager and work with over 200 volunteers regularly. Our physical therapy clinic at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital provides in-patient and outpatient services to our armed forces. This includes wounded warriors, reserve, active duty, retirees and their families.

I support our outreach efforts by attending fairs and programs, where I reach out to military service members, families and the community and let them know about the services available from the Red Cross.

Being a Red Cross volunteer has been so rewarding and feels so good, every single day. I love when I am at the hospital or at an event and a military family comes up to me and thanks me for my service. It feels undeserved, I get embarrassed. I say you are welcome, but Thank YOU for your service.  

Want to share your story? Add it in the comments below!
Want to volunteer? Visit

Friday, February 5, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Jeanne Howlett

Jeanne Howlett

Service to the Armed Forces Volunteer

I volunteer for the Service to the Armed Forces of the American Red Cross because I feel like that area has the biggest impact. It is also where the Red Cross started. Clara Barton was in the field – so powerful and strong, a pusher to help people – and I’m following in her footsteps.
My first volunteer experience was when I was 14. I grew up in a family where we were expected to volunteer. I started as a Candy Striper in Des Moines, Iowa and instantly fell in love with that type of work.

No matter your skill set, there is something for you as a Red Cross volunteer. When my husband joined the Armed Forces and was stationed at Fort Belvoir, I began volunteering there. Doing volunteer work helped me grow. I took classes, got motivated and in turn bettered myself while becoming a better volunteer.

I have done a number of different things as a volunteer, but one of the most impactful is working at Yellow Ribbon Events, where we help members of the Armed Forces and their families connect with local resources before, during and after deployments.

No matter your age, you can gain so much as a Red Cross volunteer. It is important to get back what you give. And if you have time, you should see it as a moral obligation. Volunteering not only benefits you and makes you feel good, but it benefits others.

So why should you volunteer with the Red Cross? Why not?

Want to share your story? Add it in the comments below!
Want to volunteer? Visit

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Red Cross Blood Donor Story: Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan
Director of Presidential Engagement | Planning & Insight | American Red Cross National Headquarters

Blood and Platelet Donor

I had only given blood a couple of times before I began working for the Red Cross. It was when I started that I become more aware of how easy it is to give blood and how good it feels to do it.

During the holidays, I decided I wanted to make an even greater difference, so I gave platelets for the first time. The process took a couple of hours and the team working in the donor center was so great – they made me feel comfortable and took care of me throughout the entire process. They are knowledgeable, warm and really make you feel like you are saving the world by giving blood and platelets.

The people you interact with when you are donating are what it is all about. You are in an awkward situation, but the phlebotomists make you feel at ease. They have a great attitude and positive energy, and they make it fun. We even took a selfie together – was such a great way to end the year.

I try and spread the word about my experiences donating blood and platelets by posting about it. It is a relaxing, and easy way to save lives and I hope to encourage others to join me.

Want to give blood? Visit to find out more.

Want to share your story? Add it in the comments below!

Staying Safe from the Cold Weather

By: Brigitte Yuille, volunteer

Weather experts advise that although temperatures may be unusually high this winter, cold-air outbreaks and snowstorms can be expected. 
Some people enjoy staying home with a hot beverage, a warm and hearty meal, snuggling beneath a cozy blanket beside a crackling fire in the fireplace. As nice as that sounds, you’ll still need to stay active and safe. So, here are three ways to prepare and stay healthy this winter season.

Stay informed

Do you know the winter storm risks, history, and snow management in your area? Find out now so you will know what to expect when a storm hits. Get the details from your local emergency management office. Find out how often service vehicles come through your area, what routes they take, and what snow removal equipment they have available. Also, download the Red Cross emergency app onto your smartphone so you can stay aware of the weather conditions.

Stay safe 

An emergency may mean you’re stuck on the road for hours. So make sure to keep your gas tank full. Check out the car to make sure things like the tire tread, antifreeze level, and the radiator are in good condition. Consider switching out your tires for snow tire.  Also, load up the car with items to keep you comfortable in the event you are trapped on the road. The Centers for Disease and Control suggests having blankets, food and water, booster cables, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, batteries, plastic bags, flares, tire pump and a bag of sand or kitty litter to give your car more traction. Keeping the gas tank full also helps avoid the fuel from freezing quickly. Also, consider the safety of your pets. Take measures to keep them nice and warm and bring them inside.


The cold can make it hard to stay motivated, but it's possible to brave the cold temperatures and continue with your exercise routine or to start a new one.
When you are exercising in the cold, make sure to dress in layers. The MayoClinic advises having three layers. The first layer should be made of synthetic material that draws sweat away from the body, the next layer should be fleece or wool, and the top layer should be breathable and waterproof. Wear a hat, mittens or gloves, two layers of socks, and shoes with traction to prevent slipping. Also, don’t forget to replenish your body with fluids. If you're heading out at dusk or in the evening, wear reflective clothing.
Most importantly, pay attention to the wind chill index and the temperature for that day. The wind chill index makes a big difference because the wind can penetrate you clothes and if your skin is uncovered, you can become vulnerable to frostbite.
So, when the wind chill is below zero degrees Fahrenheit, or if it's snowing or raining, those are among the few times you’ll need to postpone your workout.

For more information on how to stay safe during the cold weather, visit winter storm safety


Friday, January 15, 2016

A Great Example of Preparedness

A Red Cross Volunteer Profile of Josh Carin

Written by: Kelly Norton, Volunteer 

Josh Carin, a native Washingtonian, embodies the American Red Cross pillar of preparedness. Josh is the proprietor of Geppetto Catering, a full service catering company in the DC area, and lives in Maryland with his wife and two children. Something that he has committed to in both his personal and professional life is making sure that he and others, especially his family and staff, are prepared in the case of a disaster. By safety learning tips and making emergency plans Josh has become a great advocate for his community. 

Josh engages in informal discussions about preparedness in a way that socializes it and encourages others to make it an ongoing priority. “I've always felt that we have to be ready in case something serious was to happen,” he explained to me. 

Years ago, Josh bought preparedness kits for his family, including ones for their personal vehicles. These kits already have been put to use. Once he found himself stuck on the road during a snowstorm and used the blanket in his kit to stay warm. 

Recently, Josh purchased kits for all the vehicles in his catering business (about 50 kits in total). He also held a staff meeting to discuss disaster preparation. “Now I feel as though our team is educated to ensure their safety,” Josh said about the meeting. In addition, Josh makes sure to remind his staff, because they are delivering food all over the region, that if they “see something, say something”. He provided his staff with a list of emergency numbers in English and Spanish for their wallets. Josh also confirmed that his team is appreciative of all the steps he has taken, and he considers it a wonderful investment and a way to show them how much he cares. 

Josh’s long standing relationship with the Red Cross began by donating. He has been a donor of platelets and blood for years. Josh was inspired to get even more involved when he met Linda Mathes, CEO of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, at a community event. Josh is also an active member of the DC Police Foundation. 

Follow Josh’s example and learn more about how to be prepared. If you want to make your own preparedness kit, the Red Cross website has a number of tips to get you started. You can also purchase a kit through the Red Cross store.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In Memory of George Elsey

Written by: Linda Mathes, CEO, American Red Cross in the National Capital Region

In case you have not heard the news, the American Red Cross lost a distinguished member of our team on December 30, 2015 – George M. Elsey. I feel so lucky to have known him, to have had discussions with him, and to have been inspired by him. And, if you aren’t already, I invite you to become aware of him and his life and be inspired by him too.

At 97, he passed away in Californiabut had spent 60 years of his life in DC, which included volunteer work with our chapter decades ago. Elsey began volunteering with our chapter, then called the District of Columbia Chapter, after leaving government service in 1953. He was such an incredible leader; he went from Chapter Committee Chair to national volunteer, ARC Vice President to President and finally, President Emeritus. Elsey was the only Red Cross chief executive ever to be designated emeritus.

As President of the ARC from 1970 to 1982, Elsey steered ARC through challenges such as the Vietnam War, rough economies, and the movement away from dependency on United Way funding to an independent, sustainable fundraising program. As President, he oversaw a fourfold increase in income and expanded operations for blood donations and medical services. 

As an internationalist, Elsey embraced the worldwide Red Cross movement. In 1973, he was appointed to the finance commission of what is now the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In 1989, the Federation gave Elsey its highest award – the Henry Dunant Medal, named for the founder of the Red Cross.

Elsey came to Washington, DC as a young officer in the Naval Reserve to work in the top-secret White House intelligence office during World War II. This is where he became acquainted with President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and was privy to discussions about principal strategies of World War II. An avid historian, Elsey managed to go with the troops for D-Day landing at Omaha Beach. Elsey was one of the last links to the Roosevelt White House. He returned to White House duty becoming top advisor, speechwriter and political strategist to President Truman. During this time, he introduced President Truman to the Manhattan Project, drafted notable civil rights addresses, and worked on Truman’s executive order desegregating military and Federal civil service jobs. He also conceptualized and orchestrated Truman’s 1948 “Whistle-Stop” presidential campaign which won Truman an unexpected, second presidential term. After leaving the White House in 1951, Elsey held a variety of positions including the Mutual Security Administration, coordinating foreign aid programs, Pullman Inc., and presidential advisor to Clark Clifford.

Of all his work during his illustrious national and international service, Elsey was proudest of his time with the American Red Cross. As he recalled in his biography An Unplanned Life, his time with the Red Cross were his “Capstone” years. 

For more details about this remarkable American, click here:

You are an important part of his legacy and for all you do to keep it going, thank you!

George Elsey may be gone, but he never will be forgotten. Within the American Red Cross his humanitarianism, organizational acumen, and commitment serve as a reminder of the significance of our work together. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 New Year’s Resolution: Prepare to Care

Written by: Corey B. Welcher, volunteer

Many of us begin each new year with goals and plans to do something new/better/different than the last. The sense of getting a fresh start propels many of these well-intentioned goals forward, for at least a little while. What do your goals look like this year? Do your goals include ways to care for both yourself and your community in 2016?  

Ensuring completion of goals is a task itself! Our fresh start can quickly lose speed as calendars fill up and energy depletes.  We become “too busy” to take a class, be nice, eat better, etc. To try and give myself the best chance of success in the new year, I follow these steps: The first week of January I take a look at my goals and make sure they include both personal improvements/changes and volunteer goals. Next, I evaluate them to confirm they are both realistic and achievable within twelve months. Lastly, I make a due date for each goal and put it on my calendar- with a reminder attached! 

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to take a CPR certification class. I first completed my CPR certification when I was thirteen during the Red Cross Babysitting class. Having the certification gave me an added confidence and additional tools to pull from during my babysitting jobs. Now that I teach yoga lessons in my home and at studios around the DMV, I am realizing that it would be a responsible, good idea to complete the CPR training. Should anything happen during class or in my community, I’ll be prepared to help. 

By breaking down your plans for the new year into achievable goals with realistic timelines, we can all meet our goals for the new year. To help round out your resolutions for volunteering, take a moment to check out your local Red Cross, consider donating blood at, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) for more information on opportunities for involvement