Experienced nurse makes time to step outside caregiver role to volunteer for Red Cross

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

April 24, 2020- The worldwide pandemic has most of us sheltering at home. But the incredibly giving and generous volunteers who make up the bulk of the front lines at the American Red Cross are out helping those who need it most. That selfless spirit is noteworthy any time, but now, it is exceptionally heroic.

This week, the Red Cross is celebrating National Volunteer Week to honor these special individuals. Today we spotlight Kevin Sauer, B.S.N., R.N., a caregiver at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital and a volunteer for the Red Cross.

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Kevin Sauer

Kevin was born, raised and still lives on the west side of Cleveland. He received his bachelor’s in nursing from Xavier University, and has been practicing for 10 years. He recently returned to school to earn a master’s degree in executive leadership. Several years ago, as he was working on his professional career ladder application, he noted volunteering was part of the criteria, so he began volunteering at the local blood donation center.  In the eight years since, he has moved from Blood Services into Disaster Services, and is now a team leader/supervisor on the Disaster Action Team as well as the Disaster Health Services Team, among other roles.

Kevin functions as our Regional DHS Lead and, despite periodic months overseas, he rarely misses a Division call to stay up-to-date for the team,” said Renee Palagyi, Regional Senior Disaster Program Manager. “I had the privilege to deploy with Kevin during southern Ohio flooding and he set the bar high for mentoring and leading his nursing team through constantly changing needs.”

Prior to volunteering, Kevin admitted he didn’t know a great deal about the Red Cross beyond their blood services. “It wasn’t until I received a follow-up phone call from Debra Kellar [a member of the Volunteer Services Team] that I learned about Disaster Services and everything else the Red Cross does. After that, it was the people I volunteered alongside, together with the clients we helped, that roped me in—and I’ve been here eight years now,” said Kevin.

With Kevin’s incredibly busy work schedule, it’s amazing he finds time to volunteer, but he makes it a priority. For most of the past eight years, his 12-hour shifts, three days a week at the hospital allow him the time and opportunity to volunteer on his days off.

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L to R: Kevin Sauer, Chad Whitaker, Lora Taylor, disaster program manager- North Central Ohio, Renee Palagyi- senior program manager, Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager- Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley

“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “So making time to help those who potentially just lost everything is worth it to me.” Kevin said volunteering with the Red Cross allows him to step outside  his nursing role when needed, to help people who need help the most.

Kevin has seen a lot. His work with Disaster Services has taken him all over Northeast Ohio for home fires, multi-family apartment/condo fires, flooding, and even a home explosion where he helped open and operated a shelter for a few nights. He also deployed to Houston for Hurricane Harvey, and returned to his college town of Cincinnati to assist in flood relief in 2018. But one of his most memorable experiences? “I walked into a home with five kids, and that home had no electricity, no power and no running water after a fire,” said Kevin. “Their kitchen was literally ripped open and thrown outside their house. They were waiting, in the cold, for us volunteers from the Red Cross to come and help them. That experience reminded me, once again, why I continue to take calls for the Disaster Action Team.”

Kevin said the best thing about volunteering for the Red Cross is the people. “Some of the names and faces may have changed, but the dedication and willingness to serve are still there from everyone who puts on that Red Cross lanyard or vest,” Kevin explained. Also, the people we help every day. One minute these people are living their lives and the next, their lives are turned upside down by a fire, flood or other natural disaster. Being there for them, hearing ‘thank you’ from someone who just lost everything, is what keeps me going.”

During a global pandemic or an emergency close to home, volunteers like Kevin keep all of us going, and they deserve our thanks for being true heroes.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Helping others is never canceled: Coronavirus cuts student’s studies in Spain short prompting her to do good as new Red Cross volunteer

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

April 23, 2020- Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed about studying abroad in another country just as my mom had when she was in college. Four months ago, I was finally bringing that dream to fruition and packing my bags to depart for five months of living in Spain and traveling around Europe.

About two months into my experience, I found myself waking up every day with feelings of anxiousness about the developing global situation and wondering how the coronavirus pandemic would present itself in Spain. We had already seen the horrible effects it had had in Italy, and I watched my friends who were studying in Rome be sent home from their programs, away from the new homes and connections they had made.

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Olivia Wyles

Soon enough, Spain became the second country with the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Europe. So two-and-a-half months into my time abroad, I found myself packing my bags in utter disbelief and denial about the opportunities and experiences that I would be leaving behind. But also knowing that the Spain during a pandemic—empty streets and stay-at-home orders and travel bans—would not be the Spain I wanted to experience for an indefinite period of time.

When I arrived home I, like most of us, felt very unsure as to what my new daily life was going to look like. Before I knew it, my classes had switched to online courses, and I now had an incredible amount of extra time on my hands. I had to adjust to living in another environment yet again, without any real way to plan for the future as the uncertainty of a pandemic made it difficult to proceed in any one direction.

One thing has always been certain, though: helping others is the very best way that I can help myself. I began seeking out opportunities to reach out to others and started applying to various jobs and volunteer positions, including with the American Red Cross.

I have always admired the mission and work that the Red Cross does for their communities and the world at large. They are an inspiring organization as you can see from the innovative and impactful projects that they bring to the world, while operating almost solely from the efforts of volunteers.

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The Red Cross is a great example of the fact that even though stores have shut down and many things we were all looking forward to this spring have been canceled, helping others is never canceled. And I am excited to be a part of that mission.

Although my time studying abroad was cut short, I am a confident believer that we can make something good out of everything. I am looking forward to seeing what good we can create from this experience—whether that be getting involved with a new volunteer experience or simply learning how to love those around us even deeper.

If during the COVID-19 outbreak you have also had an interest to do more to help your local community and become a Red Cross volunteer, the Northern Ohio Region will be hosting two virtual volunteer information sessions. The two sessions, April 28 5:30-6:30 p.m. and April 29 12-1 p.m., will provide you an opportunity to learn how you can make a difference by providing disaster response assistance, including shelter, food and comfort following a home fire, flood, tornado, or other emergency, installing smoke alarms, creating fire escape plans to help make homes safer, assisting at blood drives which keep our nation’s blood supply stable and providing support to our military, veterans and their families

The information sessions will take place online.

For more information and to RSVP, contact Melanie Collins at (330) 204-6615 or melanie.collins4@redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Longtime Red Cross board member making a difference in North Central Ohio

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

April 22, 2020- Successful nonprofits can often trace their success back to a strong and dynamic board of directors. Such is the case in Findlay, Ohio, where Michael Epps, a commercial lender with Waterford Bank, N.A. has long been involved with the local American Red Cross chapter, serving eight years as a board member and two years as board chairman.

“Mike Epps is a passionate, strong volunteer leader for the North Central Ohio Chapter,” said Todd James, executive director of the chapter. ”He started volunteering with the chapter’s annual Oscar Night gala more than 10 years ago.”

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Mike Epps

“I first got involved as a community participant with the fundraiser during its second year in Findlay,” recalled Mike. Serving in a variety of roles from fundraising to logistics coordinator, he eventually chaired the committee for six years.

“We had a really great dynamic committee and were able to grow that into one of the more well-known, well-attended and, candidly, well-funded philanthropic events in town. A couple years ago, we raised more than $100,000 on that one event.”

“There’s a lot of competition for the philanthropic dollars within this community, so we felt good about that,” stated Mike, “but also we got a lot of feedback about how much joy people had at the event and how it raised awareness of the Red Cross mission.”

If you want to help your local community, but unsure of how you can help the Red Cross, well do not worry because there is a role for everyone to play to help the Red Cross mission. The most urgent needs are blood donor ambassadors, blood transportation specialists, disaster responders and virtual volunteers. Find our more at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 

Volunteer profile: Jeanne Eisentrager, American Red Cross of North Central Ohio

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

Jeanne Eisentrager’s story may surprise you, as it did me. She is a volunteer for the American Red Cross of North Central Ohio, working out of the Findlay office. Jeanne started as an administrative/operations volunteer and went on to become a Disaster Action Team (DAT) responder and caseworker. She’s become a vital part of the Red Cross team, known for her readiness to help with whatever’s needed and her ability to get the job done. Here’s the surprise: Jeanne has only been a volunteer since September 2018, but her enthusiasm, talents and boldness have earned the respect of those who work with her.

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“Jeanne is a vital part of our North Central Ohio Chapter team,” said Todd James, executive director of the American Red Cross of North Central Ohio. “In her work as an administrative volunteer and as a DAT member, she always gives her best and makes those around her smile and laugh. I look forward to the days Jeanne is working in the office because I know my day will be a little bit better thanks to her.”

Cheryl Wolfe, business operations coordinator, agrees. She said Jeanne “is dedicated, a hard worker, a shoot-straight-from-the-hip ray of sunshine to our office. She has a huge heart for those down on their luck and is often there to help her neighbors and family. She is a remarkable lady, and we are lucky to call her Red Cross family.”

Another surprise about Jeanne: she’s a senior citizen. Jeanne discovered the Red Cross volunteer opportunity while taking a class at the senior center to learn new skills to become “more employable.” Jeanne said, “I’m fortunate to have found my calling this late in life. I love what I do. I feel that I’m where I belong.”

She is currently the DAT supervisor, as well as the engagement coordinator. She also works with the smoke alarm program. Before the social distancing changes brought about by Covid-19, Jeanne was putting in 20 hours a week in the Findlay office, in addition to going out on emergency calls with the DAT. Her roles take her all around the region.

With the onset of social distancing, responding to emergency calls is a little more complicated. Recently, Jeanne went to the scene of a fire at an apartment complex involving multiple families.

“I just stood in the middle of the parking lot and called to the people, ‘The Red Cross is here to help. Give you me your phone numbers, go back to your cars, and I’ll call you.” She was able to assist five or six families, three of which she continues work with as their case manager. “We really need more volunteers,” Jeanne explained.

Inspired by Jeanne’s story? Wherever you are, there’s a role you can play right now with the Red Cross. The most urgent needs are blood donor ambassadors, blood transportation specialists, disaster responders and virtual volunteers. Find our more at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.

Charlie Emick and his volunteer family help whenever disasters occur

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

For the past five years, the American Red Cross has benefited from Charlie Emick’s extraordinary service—whether nationally, throughout Northern Ohio or in his current home chapter of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. He has taken on an impressive number of roles.

Just a few of Charlie’s volunteer roles include supervising disaster response teams and shelters, coordinating for his chapter, performing casework, training and helping develop other volunteers’ leadership skills, reaching out to the community and, especially, assisting those in need.

Charlie is modest about his contributions but his giving nature is immediately apparent. In fact, his response to my request for an interview was wanting to see other volunteers in the spotlight first.

Charlie spoke very highly of his fellow volunteers. They are all part of his family, he said, even more so after the loss of his wife two years ago, and he enjoys working with every one of them. Indeed, he has taken an integral role in helping his volunteer family, including assisting with training. He mentioned that his mom would likely be surprised that he advocates for training, as much as he disliked it in school.

Prior to volunteering with the Red Cross, Charlie worked in the oil industry for 38 years. Since his retirement in 2015, he has continued responding to calls for assistance at any time as a Red Cross volunteer.

When asked why he began volunteering, Charlie mentioned being inspired by the kindness of a stranger. He was stuck in a traffic standstill behind an accident, during a snowstorm, when a woman came out of the blue and let him use her phone. Charlie said he has never forgotten her generosity nor how much an act of kindness can mean. So when retirement felt slow, he reached out to the Red Cross.

“Charlie Emick is an outstanding volunteer,” said Mike Arthur, disaster program manager for the Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter. “He helped on most, if not all, of the larger responses across our region last year. He is happy to help anytime he is asked. He will bend over backwards to help our members feel welcome and meet their needs. His leadership and guidance have helped make our chapter as successful as it is.”

Helping those in need is important to Charlie and is his favorite part of being a Red Cross volunteer. Whether responding to a home fire, performing casework or aiding in another capacity, he enjoys helping people work through problems. While the Red Cross is providing assistance while maintaining social distance guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlie looks forward to the time he can again give hugs and shake hands.

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Charlie Emick at the 2019 Festival of Trees/Photo credit: Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Even during this historic, challenging time, the Red Cross continues to respond in times of crisis, thanks to the extraordinarily dedication and compassion of people like Charlie Emick and his volunteer family.

Be like Charlie.  Help your community.  Become a Red Cross volunteer.  You can explore opportunities and more on our website.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

National Volunteer Week – opportunity to recognize the selflessness of Red Cross volunteers

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

April 17, 2020- National Volunteer Week is April 19 to 25, and it gives the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio an opportunity to honor the volunteers who are helping people in need, even during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emergencies don’t stop, and neither do local Red Cross volunteers, who are still providing care and comfort after disasters of all sizes, including home fires.

Next week, we will be featuring profiles of volunteers from the Northern Ohio Region, written by volunteers, right here on our regional blog. Be sure to subscribe to our blog; that way you will receive an email notification and will not miss any of these incredible volunteer-inspired articles.

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Due to this coronavirus outbreak, volunteers are providing relief services after home fires virtually, in coordination with local fire departments. Connecting with families by phone or video calls, we’re helping to provide support like lodging, health and mental health services, and emergency financial assistance, as well as link people to available recovery resources.

Here in Northern Ohio, there are 2,176 volunteers, who help support blood collections, provide emergency assistance to military families, respond to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. These individuals are also among the more than 300,000 volunteers who comprise more than 90 percent of the national Red Cross workforce.

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Red Cross volunteers keep our communities strong,” said Mike Parks, regional CEO for the Northern Ohio Region. “We honor these true heroes who give their time to help people in need.”

BECOME A VOLUNTEER Our need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as we navigate this coronavirus health crisis. Volunteer opportunities include supporting blood donations and delivering much-needed disaster services to your community. We even have a wide variety of volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find out more.

Interested in serving? Everyone’s safety is our top priority. Please review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your healthcare provider and follow local guidance.

Volunteering isn’t technical – except for this Northeast Ohio volunteer

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

With more than 10 years of volunteer service with the American Red Cross, Dave Riegler has volunteered on both a national and local level. After a life-changing experience in 2004, he wanted to find a way to give back. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, becoming one of the largest disaster relief efforts taken on by the Red Cross to date. Dave joined the Red Cross as a volunteer, serving as a support team member in the Washington, D.C., office.

Dave Riegler

Dave Riegler

Since then, Dave has been deployed nine times as a disaster services Technology Networking Services Associate. Using his professional skills in IT, he supported the Disaster Services Technology (DST) team to deploy technology infrastructures for volunteer offices to ensure they had the equipment they needed to respond effectively.

In addition to his support for disaster relief efforts, Dave has been a dedicated volunteer the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. In fact, in the past three years, he has logged over 700 volunteer hours with the Red Cross, which is an average of about 4.5 hours per week! In Northeast Ohio, he supports the IT needs of the regional chapters as a Volunteer Technical Specialist, performing device refreshers and network transformations. For those who aren’t tech savvy, his work helps the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio’s technology work for the volunteers and staff utilizing it every day.

Dave also manages the entire disaster relief inventory for the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio, including the locations of the disaster relief trailers in the region.

“Dave’s get it done attitude and willingness to jump in no matter the task is invaluable!” said Rachel Telegdy, Executive Director, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

For Dave, volunteering his time with the Red Cross is all about giving back to others. Whether it’s volunteering locally here in Northeast Ohio or assisting in the response of a national disaster, he finds the work rewarding, as the Red Cross helps so many to get back on their feet again.

If you’re interested in learning more how you can volunteer for the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to check out all the different opportunities in your area.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteer dedicates ‘heart and soul’ during five decades of service

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

April 11, 2019- Volunteers are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross. But not many can say they have over five decades of service. In line with National Volunteer Week, we found a super committed volunteer in Tab Alden, who serves in the Lake to River Chapter. So naturally, I had some questions about her resilient service.

What was your profession before your volunteer career?

I was a bus driver for the Maplewood and Champion school districts in Trumbull County transporting and working with mentally challenged children and adults. I was also a workshop specialist for the developmental disabilities workshop program.

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Tab Alden at the Cleveland VA Medical Center during the Christmas season 2017

How did you first become involved with the Red Cross?

I became involved while working with a CB radio group doing the communications between the Red Cross teams at football games in Warren.

What are some of the Red Cross services you’ve been involved with?

After my CB radio operator stint, I received certification to treat basic and advanced first aid and taught as an instructor and later was added as a receptionist. I currently serve our chapter as volunteer coordinator and all around go-to person in our office.

What do you like best about your volunteer experience?

Meeting new people and learning new methods of helping wherever I can. I’m presently learning the ins and outs of DAT (disaster action teams).

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Tab Alden with fellow Lake to River Chapter volunteers

Why should one consider volunteering for the Red Cross?

If someone is willing to give their time and energy for volunteering, there’s not a better place to learn what the Red Cross can do for you. You must be committed to giving your heart and soul to do what is asked and have patience.

What do others say about Tab’s volunteer service?

The executive director of the Lake to River Chapter, Karen Conklin, offered these comments about Tab’s demeanor: “Lucky me, the first day I walked into the Red Cross in 2010, the first smiling and familiar face to greet me with a hug was Tab! She made me feel at home because she was a volunteer when I was CEO for another organization.”  Karen added, “For me, Tab is not just an amazing volunteer but also a good friend and my go-to when something needs done.”

The Lake to River Red Cross is blessed they have such a dedicated volunteer they can count on every day!

For more information and to learn of volunteering opportunities with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer. 

Former active duty social worker helps military families combat stress

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

April 9, 2019- Military life can be stressful for those in the service as well as for their families. Former Air Force social worker Sally Falasca strives to help military personnel and their loved ones by teaching them stress-relieving strategies.

Sally is a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer with the American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter. She has been volunteering as a mind-body workshop facilitator for the past year. She is one of eight mental health volunteers who are trained to deliver Red Cross resilience programs, according to Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Manager.

Sally Falasca

“Having volunteers like Sally allows us to meet the requests we receive from local units to support their service members and their families,” Jessica said.

A licensed independent social worker who lives in Youngstown, Sally currently works in a private practice setting. However, for more than nine years, Sally served in the United States Air Force as an active duty social worker.

“There were many times during my active duty career that I reached out to the Red Cross to assist service members and they were always there for our armed services personnel,” she explained. “Once I left active duty, I knew I had to continue to serve the armed forces population any way I could. The Red Cross is providing me with amazing opportunities to do just that!”

Through the Red Cross’ Mind-Body Workshops, Sally teaches service members, veterans and their families easy-to-use skills to manage the stresses of military life, helping them cope with stress and trauma. Workshops are free and offered in small groups.

“Sally has a unique combination of personal and professional experience working with the military, veterans and families,” said Jessica. “It is heartwarming to hear service members say how valuable they find Red Cross resilience programming, and that is especially true when Sally facilitates.”

Sally encourages others to volunteer their time and talents with the Red Cross.

“The Red Cross gives so much to communities,” she said. “Even if you only have a little bit of time to donate, the Red Cross can benefit from your time. There are so many different things you can do . . . they truly have a volunteer opportunity for any interest.”

To learn more about Red Cross Mind-Body Workshops or to register for one of the group workshops, visit our website at https://www.redcross.org.

Family connection leads local volunteer to a passion for the Red Cross

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April 8, 2019- As a child, Alice Martinez was surrounded by stories about the Red Cross. Her father, who immigrated from Switzerland, would inundate her with stories about the Red Cross being founded in Switzerland, how the Red Cross’ logo is an inverse of the of the Swiss flag and even informed her that her family raised St. Bernard dogs, which the Red Cross would use for rescues.  These stories not only showed Alice her family connection to the Red Cross, but it started her on a path to helping others.

Alice’s first interaction with the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio came in the 1980’s, when she worked for the Red Cross of Lorain County, then under the leadership of Clarence Wills. For six years, Alice worked as a transportation specialist.

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Alice Martinez

Following transitions to new employment opportunities and retirement, Alice was searching for opportunities to give back in her spare time and naturally she was drawn back to the Red Cross, an organization for which she says she always had a passion for its mission.

As a volunteer, Alice was deployed for the first time. In 2017, she was deployed following the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma. While deployed, Alice worked in shelters and helped take care of displaced residents who just lost everything. Even though the work was demanding and difficult, she found it rewarding.

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Alice Martinez teaching students about dangers of frostbite

Currently, as a youthful 73-year-old, Alice is a fixture for the Red Cross of Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. One area where she has made a significant impact is the Pillowcase Project, a Red Cross initiative, inspired by Loyola University students carrying their valuables in a pillowcase following Hurricane Katrina, to teach elementary school students about emergency preparedness. As a former teacher, Alice found the program a natural fit for her experience. She looks forward to entering a classroom or presenting to a group of children to teach them the importance of being prepared before an emergency occurs.

“Alice Martinez is a great ambassador of the Pillowcase Project and has been one of my program leads since the beginning,” said John Gareis, the regional preparedness & community planning manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Alice has a passion for our programs and has a great rapport with the kids. Alice is the backbone of our Pillowcase Project!”

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Alice Martinez, sixth from the left, at Great Northern Mall during the 2019 Dominion Preparedness Day

To Alice, seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and knowing she is helping to save lives is enough of a reward for her. In fact, yesterday, April 7, Alice drove from her home in Avon Lake to Salem, OH to teach a group of 4-H members.

Are you interested in volunteering with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio like Alice Martinez? For more information and to learn about volunteering opportunities near you, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.