COVID-19: Red Cross Offers Virtual Care for Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones

Virtual Family Assistance Center provides resources to those struggling with loss and grief due to the pandemic

MILWAUKEE, Wisc., June 23, 2020 — The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is launching a Virtual Family Assistance Center to support families struggling with loss and grief due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

VFAC ARC WisconsinPeople can visit the Virtual Family Assistance Center online here to access a support hub with special virtual programs, information, referrals and services to support families in need. The hub will also connect people to other community resources provided by non-profit and government partners. People without internet access can call 833-492-0094 for help.

“Our goal is to provide connections to resources for Wisconsin families personally affected by COVID-19, especially due to the loss of a loved one,” said Mark Thomas, American Red Cross Regional CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive. “We want affected families to know that the Red Cross and our partners are here to provide compassion and support as they grieve.”

Many families have experienced a disrupted bereavement and grief process due to restrictions related to COVID-19. To help, the Red Cross has set up a virtual team of specially trained mental health, spiritual care and health services volunteers who are:

  • Connecting with families over the phone to offer condolences, support and access to resources that may be available
  • Providing support for virtual memorial services for families, including connecting with local faith-based community partners
  • Hosting online classes to foster resilience and facilitate coping skills
  • Sharing information and referrals to state and local agencies as well as other community organizations including legal resources for estate, custody, immigration or other issues

All Family Assistance Center support will be provided virtually and is confidential and free.

For media contact: Aubrey Dodd, communications volunteer, American Red Cross, aubrey.mke@gmail.com

‘The only person she could turn to right now was the Red Cross’: a disaster volunteer shares anecdotes of service during COVID-19

Transcription & Photos by Justin Kern, American Red Cross

We recently talked with Southeast Wisconsin Chapter disaster action team volunteer Paul Beinecke for a video project that covered the added challenges and rewards in work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not every portion of Paul’s touching input was included in the video, but all of it was moving.

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American Red Cross volunteer Paul Beinecke talks with a resident displaced by an apartment fire in winter 2019 on the East Side of Milwaukee.

Below, we pulled a few additional takeaways and anecdotes from Paul, in the hopes that you’ll get yet another glimmer of the stories and heart that drive our thousands of volunteers here in Wisconsin.

On some of the emotional challenges in providing care amid COVID-19:

“One of the things I’ve noticed … during the COVID environment is that we’re all experiencing different forms of isolation and stress. And yet, when we meet these individuals, it comes down to a human element. We’re on the same page. We see things through their eyes, that we might not normally see, experiences with individuals of diverse backgrounds.


Your gift, no matter the size, is doubled through June 24. Click here to double your support.


On keeping up support for people displaced by disaster during a pandemic:

“We haven’t changed what we deliver to clients. The method of delivery has changed a little bit. We still deliver disaster mental health services, we still supply disaster health services, we supply lodging, when necessary, we supply food and feeding when necessary.

One change is that we screen our volunteers and we screen our clients [for symptoms of COVID-19]. We practice social distancing. It’s been actually going over very easily, both with our volunteers and with our clients. The clients don’t get upset when we talk about COVID screening, when we practice social distancing. In many cases, they ask us to (socially distance) before we even ask them to. So, it’s been a good experience. (Volunteering with) the Red Cross has always been a good experience for me. It’s hard to help people and not feel good about it.

On being a parent and grandparent, then seeing people with their own children affected by home fires:

“When I was working with a young mother … being a grandfather (myself) and having a couple of young grandchildren right now, it was hard for me to imagine, seeing a young woman, a single mother, with a one-month old and having to deal with the loss of everything in her household.

The only person she could turn to right now was the Red Cross. The Red Cross was there for her. That makes you feel good.

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Robin Berzowski, foreground, arranges food deliveries for people affected by a fire in Greenfield in spring 2020 with her husband and fellow volunteer, Jim.

On the empathy of his disaster volunteer colleague, Robin, while fighting back tears:

“So Robin (Berzowski) is one of our volunteers who is on the disaster team with me. … You know, we all talk about ‘clients.’ That’s what we’re trained to do and that’s how we talk about it. We refer to everybody as a client.

Robin refers to everybody by their first name. … It’s tearful for me, I don’t know why. (Paul, fighting back tears:) She just has empathy that is just unbelievable.

She goes out onto a scene, like an apartment fire, where there’s 20 people. [In our casework] we refer to the client by number. Robin refers to clients by name, every single one of them.

I’ve been to a couple of the larger fires after Robin has been with them. And all of them ask me where Robin is. Robin has brought flowers to people [to Dolores, an octogenarian living alone and displaced from a fire over Easter]. She knows everyone by name.”

Your generosity supports the food and resources brought to people recovering from fires, floods and other catastrophes. That generosity is doubled for a short-time; if you give by June 24, a support is matching all gifts to the American Red Cross of Wisconsin. Thank you for considering a gift that doubles your impact.

Special thanks to Lance and the team at Plum Media for capturing Paul’s story as part of their powerful videos that led our 2020 Brave Hearts event.

‘The kindness in your voice makes a difference’: over the phone from Wisconsin to Michigan, volunteers talk about virtual deployments

Story By Angela Glowacki / Photos by Perry Rech, American Red Cross

Despite a global pandemic, our Red Crossers are still connecting with and assisting those in need from large-scale disasters through virtual deployments.

Liz Marsh and Barbara Gugel are two dedicated Wisconsin Region volunteers who have been virtually deployed in response to the central Michigan flooding that occurred in May.

Now that they’ve been helping our neighbors in Michigan for the past few weeks, we asked them to share their experiences with virtual deployments, how it compares to other in-person work with the American Red Cross and the takeaways they’ve heard from people on the ground in Michigan.

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Flood damage in what remains of downtown Sanford, Mich., following the draining of both the Wixom Lake and Sanford Lake impoundments along the Titabawassee River. 

Liz Marsh

Liz started her journey with the Red Cross three years ago after deciding that she wanted to do something for her community. She has been virtually deployed five times – assisting in the recovery process of disasters from tornadoes in Texas and Illinois to flooding in Wisconsin. In addition to being a dedicated volunteer, Liz is a mother of five who lives in northeast Wisconsin.

“I wanted to see a change in my community … and there was no Red Cross [volunteers at the time in Shawano County] … so I wanted to do something for our community to help”, Liz said.

Interestingly, Liz has only ever been virtually deployed to disasters. When asked how it feels to still be able to do her work despite current circumstances, she replied that it is fulfilling to know that she is able to be a resource for people in need.

Liz’s Michigan experience

Liz has been working in the Midland area of Michigan and has been working with many senior clients, where she addresses some added difficulty for them due to COVID-19. She expressed how it has been challenging for seniors in particular due to their increased risks from potentially contracting the virus.

One of the people Liz has worked with during her virtual deployment to Michigan is a veteran who suffered from a stroke back in November. Two days after he was released from the hospital, the flood occurred, damaging his and his wife’s home. A stroke, a pandemic, the flood and then the added stress of paying for all related home repairs and hospital bills. Liz has been working with this couple throughout her time being virtually deployed – she was even promoted to supervisor –assisting them with finding resources and providing support.

“I can relate to the mass devastation of not knowing the next turn and needing the extra help and … [I get] the ability to be a killer resource and figure out the problem and solve it so they can move on to recovery,” she said.

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Michigan volunteer American Red Cross Disaster Assessment Team members on a deserted and closed state road in Edenville, Mich., immediately downstream from the failed Edenville Dam.

Barbara Gugel

Barbara joined the Red Cross as a volunteer one and a half years ago, thanks to her neighbor who got her interested in volunteering with the organization. Her volunteer work with the Red Cross includes experience in sheltering, feeding, casework, driving emergency vehicles, as well as being a Disaster Action Team supervisor for Columbia and Dane Counties.

When the flooding in Michigan occurred, Barbara began calling those affected by the flood, helping them find temporary housing and addressing their needs. In the first two days of her virtual deployment, Barbara had contacted 32 people and opened 12 cases all from her home in Lodi, Wisconsin.

Barbara’s Michigan experience

Barbara is working with people located upriver, in the counties of Gladwin and Beaverton of Michigan. One family that Barbara has connected with is a family of four, plus the mother’s elderly father in law who has physical limitations. They have been staying in a hotel during these past couple of days. Barbara has been staying in touch with this family frequently during her time virtually deployed, providing them not only with support, but also a listening ear.

Not all of Barbara’s clients are sheltered in hotels. She mentioned that some of her clients were renting campers, or borrowing them from friends. Campgrounds around the area have opened up for these clients to give them a place to stay. In some cases, if a client’s property is safe enough, the camper is parked on the property so that the family can still be near their home.

“You’re still helping to alleviate human suffering,” Barbara said. “The kindness in your voice makes a difference.”

Virtual or not, you can still make a difference

Thanks to volunteers like Liz and Barbara, the Red Cross has been able to assist many people affected by the flooding. Despite the deployments being virtual, our volunteers are still able to be there for their clients and get them the help they need. Beyond that, they are able to be a much needed listener and a (socially distanced) shoulder to lean on. Here are two ways you can help this mission continue, virtual or in-person:

Disaster preparedness for youth goes virtual

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Even tornadoes have gone virtual in these days of remote schooling, social distancing and Zoom meetings.

Jesse Coates, American Red Cross volunteer, recently led a lesson for seven elementary school-age children from Wisconsin through a virtual version of our Pillowcase Project lessons. These lessons are typically very hands-on, with dry-runs of disaster do’s and don’ts, and the occasional high-five.

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A screenshot from a recent Pillowcase Project virtual lesson led by American Red Cross volunteer Jesse Coates.

So, in the current virtual and remote environment instilled by the pandemic, Coates relied on vibrant language, props and visuals from the lesson plan to engage his online “classroom.”

As Coates put it: “Tornadoes, they can be the scariest. Do you know what a tornado is?”

Isabelle, one of the students, put it plainly, through her computer screen on the other side of the state: “Mean.”

Coates: “You guys rock, you’re awesome at this. You all are smart, that’s right … and remember to stay inside and away from windows.”

Pillowcase Project is typically taught by a few volunteers, in front of entire classrooms of kids, as an extreme weather and disaster preparedness course for youth ages 8-to-12. It’s complemented by Prepare With Pedro, another preparedness lesson set for 4-to-8-year olds.


Want to share disaster tips with young people in a fun, engaging way? Download our free Monster Guard app here and help the youth in your life get prepared, not scared.


During the recent first round of virtual lessons, Coates was clearly still finding ways to have fun and learn, and get the young people in this lesson to do the same. In materials shared on the screen and guidebooks accessed by adults who helped to guide their young attendees, Coates talked through things like where to go if tornado sirens sound, and how to cope with destruction from a fire. And, as children often do, they posed unexpected and big-picture questions.

From Isabelle, one of the students: “What starts the fires?”

Coates: “Fires have a mind of their own. It happens everywhere in all sorts of weird ways, that’s why we want to talk about this now … and talk about it with the big people at home.”

Our teams are ready to lead virtual disaster preparedness lessons for schools, organizations and youth groups. For information and scheduling, contact Nick Cluppert, Red Cross Senior Disaster Program Manager, at nick.cluppert@redcross.org.  

You’re invited: virtual fundraising gala brings everyone together over southeastern Wisconsin heroes, Red Cross mission

MILWAUKEE, Wisc., May 4, 2020 – The 2020 Brave Hearts fundraising gala has gone virtual! Our signature spring fundraising event will now be hosted online, with free access to inspirational stories of heroes from southeast Wisconsin as well as fun opportunities to support the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross.

This one-of-a-kind virtual event kicks off at 7 p.m. CST, Thursday, May 14 and lasts through Thursday, May 21. Each day is packed with hero stories, tantalizing auction items and new ways to back the Red Cross mission. Attendance for this virtual event is free, with plenty of exciting chances to boost the life-saving work of the Red Cross.

WI-Brave-Heart-Virtual=Event-1920x720Chosen across a handful of categories, honorees at this year’s Brave Hearts represent the best in spirit, service and action in our communities. The 2020 heroes are:

Rachel Nelson – Adult Good Samaritan Hero

Eva Welch & Shelly Sarasin (Street Angels) – Community, Safety, Security & Resiliency Hero

Milwaukee Fire Department Lt. Mike Ball – From the Heart Hero

George Koerner – Military Hero

Darnell Easterly, David Easterly & DeAngelo Lee (All4Kidz) – Youth Good Samaritan Heroes

Melinda Schultz – Hero of the Year

Brave Hearts is made possible by incredible, generous support from organizations in southeast Wisconsin. Lead supporters this year include Northwestern Mutual, Nicholas Company, Molson Coors, Johnson Controls and State Farm. All proceeds benefit the programs and people helped by the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross.

You can also show your support in this fun, interactive and free week-long event. Sign up by clicking here and make sure to share on your social media platforms.

Questions on sign up or getting involved? Contact our events specialist Jen Allen at Jennifer.allen5@redcross.org.

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Home Fires Displace High Numbers of Wisconsinites in April

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (May 1, 2020) – Home fire numbers remain high for this time of year, with 284 people displaced from 56 home fires in Wisconsin during the month of April, according to response statistics from the American Red Cross.

As the number of people displaced by fires remains high, Red Cross leaders are urging families to use extra time at home to practice preparedness and to be diligent with frequent sources of home fires such as cooking.

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A fire in Greenfield displaced nearly 20 residents, part of the ongoing rash of home fires in April 2020.

“Our dedication to helping people during times of disaster has not relented during this pandemic. In fact, we are seeing home fire numbers at an unusually high rate for this time of year,” said Mark Thomas, Region CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive, American Red Cross. “We’re strongly encouraging families to talk about their home fire escape plan, to check their smoke alarms and to keep an eye on cooking while in the kitchen. These are critical steps to make sure we’re safer at home in every way possible.”

April fire figures included two large-scale apartment building fires, in Madison (65 people) and Greenfield (19 people). That’s on top of March Red Cross response numbers – when “safer at home” orders went into place across Wisconsin – which saw more than 250 people displaced from 79 home fires. For certain, firefighters and first responders around the state have dealt with even more fire calls in their heroic daily course of work.

The rate of home fires is higher than normal for this time of year, and more typical with what Red Cross teams respond to during the busy start to winter. Along with home fires over the past nine weeks, our disaster teams also responded to assist with evacuations from flooding in Brown County, to feed first responders at a grain mill explosion in Chippewa County, and to people displaced by a building collapse in Racine and a transportation incident in Milwaukee.


For additional info on the Red Cross response amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including ways you can get involved, click here.


Our top priority is protecting the people we serve and our volunteers, so we have adopted new guidelines and tactics as we continue to support our communities. All volunteer responders and clients are asked health screening questions prior to meeting at a disaster scene. We also have the technology in place to issue immediate disaster assistance on a virtual basis. We have implemented steps to keep clients and volunteers safe from close contact, while at the same time providing financial assistance for items such as food, clothing, shelter and medications. The Red Cross also offers mental health support in beginning the long-term recovery process.

We continue to work closely with public health officials to deliver our mission where and when it’s safe to do so. This work includes additional support and partnerships through the state Emergency Operations Center to address the needs of people during this evolving emergency.

Superior Nock MKE fire April 2020

Residential fires like this one in Milwaukee displaced more than 275 residents from their homes in April, an unusually high number during spring.

Stay Safe and Help #EndHomeFires

The Red Cross is asking everyone to take simple steps to reduce the risk of a fire in your home and to help save lives. While many are home from work and school with their families, now is the perfect time to talk about home fire safety and practice your home fire escape plan.

  • Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in two minutes or less.
  • Teach children the sound of a smoke alarm when you practice your home fire escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as a neighbor’s home or a tree in the front yard, so everyone knows where to meet.
  • Cooking fires are the top cause of home fires. Here is a list of cooking safety tips.
  • For resources and safety tips, download the free American Red Cross Emergency App from your app store.

You can support this ongoing mission for our neighbors in need by joining as a volunteer or by making a donation at redcross.org.

“You can tell that they care”: Greenfield man finds hope in people helping each other under the weight of COVID-19 and an apartment fire

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Jessie Austin saw the smoke pumping out of his Greenfield apartment building, could see the flashing fire truck lights. But his mind was elsewhere.

Austin said he had “déjà vu” to other traumatic events in his life, like a fire during his youth that took a friend’s mother, and his experiences in the Army during the evacuation of Vietnam in the 1970s.

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Jessie Austin shares from a hotel in Milwaukee, a temporary home as he works on next steps in his recovery with the American Red Cross and others.

With his own apartment and belongings uncertain, under the shared stress of a global pandemic, Austin said he knew the “best way to deal with things was to get them out.” He started talking – with his neighbors on scene, on the phone with his counselor from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and multiple times each day with volunteers from the American Red Cross.

“[T]he volunteers from the Red Cross … they are very committed, compassionate people,” Austin said Thursday from a hotel sheltering operation where he and 10 other residents were staying.

“They don’t do a whole lot of talking; they’re there for support, like a sounding board. It’s … easy conversation because you can tell that they care. That’s the main thing. I’m very appreciative of them.”

In all, 19 people were displaced by the apartment building fire on April 20 and the Red Cross has worked with the residents on resources and recovery plans. In the time of COVID-19, crucial disaster response and recovery work persists – including a higher-than-normal rate of home fires for this time of year – with disaster teams adding extra safety steps along the way like daily health checks, an emphasis on virtual interactions, and masks and gloves whenever out in the field.

GF fire Jessie food Jim Robin Berzowski

American Red Cross volunteers Robin Berzowski, right, and Jim Berzowski, bring ‘room service’ meals to Jessie Austin, who was one of nearly 20 people displaced by a recent fire in Greenfield. The food drop offs are part of additional health and safety steps by disaster workers amid COVID-19.

It was the weight of the pandemic that turned Austin downright philosophical as he shared his story, his soft voice underscoring the importance he finds in keeping up hope and finding a way to help others. In a hat that read “United States of America” and prepping his hot lunch brought by Red Cross volunteers from a local diner, Austin expressed the deeper values he sees amid this unsettled moment.

“This Coronavirus thing, I’m telling people, look at what’s really going on. This thing is causing us to lean on each other and to continue to understand what life is all about. It’s about people helping each other. That’s what counts, that’s what’s important,” he said. “It’s the respect, knowing that you’ve been cared about, knowing that you count, knowing that in the long run, it’s time that is the most precious thing that we have.”

The spirit of people like Austin looking out for each other and sharing what help is available has been evident to Red Cross Disaster Action Team (or DAT) volunteers Jim and Robin Berzowski.

The couple has led food deliveries from generous Milwaukee restaurants like Don’s Diner and Landmark Family Restaurant, to the hotel sheltering the apartment complex residents. The dynamic duo of Jim and Robin – jokingly known as “DATman and Robin” among the Southeast Wisconsin disaster team – said they’ve felt grateful to be able to bring tasty meals to the residents, though the social distancing and other health steps have taken some getting used to.

GF fire COVID April 2020 Jim Robin Berzowski Landmark food pickup

Food pick up on April 23 from a Milwaukee restaurant, with meals destined for residents of a recent apartment building fire, one of many fires during an unusually busy spring.

As they delivered spaghetti dinners to each room at the hotel shelter Thursday, residents like Jessie gave quick updates on talks with their Red Cross caseworkers, and others let Jim and Robin know what they had heard from their neighbors earlier that day.

“We’re helping but they’re helping each other out, too,” Jim Berzowski said.

For more information on the response to COVID-19 in Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan – including ways you can get involved – visit this site.

“A disaster on top of a disaster”: home fires bring additional challenges amid COVID-19

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Escorted by firefighters back into his apartment to grab what he could – essential papers, a son’s beloved blanket – Seth Hellenbrand looked to the sky, visible through a new, charred hole where the apartment ceiling should’ve been.

Muir Field Road fire Madison April 2020

The American Red Cross helped dozens of families on April 18 after a fire ravaged an apartment complex on Muir Field Road in Madison. Photo by Tom Mooney / Red Cross

Hellenbrand said he very briefly reflected on the last few “complicated” weeks for he and his family – the stay-at-home orders, a layoff from a food service sales job, general uncertainty with COVID-19. Add to that the new challenges his family faced, after a fire tore through their apartment complex in Madison, displacing more than 60 people total. What does “safer at home” mean when home is unknown?

“It’s a disaster on top of a disaster,” Hellenbrand said, in a phone call Sunday from a hotel provided to his family by the American Red Cross. “In this disaster, the Red Cross was there for us … It’s been one of the weirdest times of my entire life.”

On Saturday, April 18, the Madison Fire Department quickly responded to a blaze at a 24-unit apartment complex on the southwest side of the city. All of the approximately 65 residents were at least temporarily displaced. The Red Cross set up sheltering through rooms, meals and basic needs at a local hotel, where more than half of those displaced have spent the past few days.


Our disaster teams continue to help people in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support makes this help possible. Click here to support Red Cross disaster relief


It was one of a spate of fires that have lingered since the winter busy home fire season. Since the beginning of March, when many protective and health measures to deal with COVID-19 kicked in across the country, home fires have unfortunately continued at a steady and higher-than-normal clip. In Wisconsin, approximately 350 people have been displaced by home fires since the first week of March through April 19, with local Red Cross volunteers helping at more than two home fires a day.

And responding to neighbors in need has involved extra health measures and ingenuity to make sure our disaster response mission doesn’t miss a beat. At the fire in Madison, for instance, most residents were able to connect with Red Cross relief volunteers first over the phone to gauge their needs, rather than in person. At the hotel, volunteers and residents went through basic health screenings, meals have been done on a per-family basis rather than buffet style, and masks went on with disaster team vests.

Seth and Rachel Hellenbrand, their son Andy, and their Chihuahua terrier mix, Tango, had lived in their Madison apartment for about three years. On his own family’s experience following the fire, Seth said seeing the sky through their former ceiling was “a pretty tough moment.” After the fire was out, they were able to grab essential papers from a fire safe and other sentimental items, like Andy’s beloved blanket. A handful of masks Rachel had from her job at a local hospital probably didn’t make it through the fire.

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Red Cross volunteer Jay Tucker, left, and COO Tom Mooney arrange a generous food delivery from River Food Pantry. Photo by Burlie Williams / Red Cross

On Sunday, Seth and Rachel had just returned from a trip to a nearby Goodwill that opened its doors for a few hours to small, socially distanced groups of residents to pick up clothes and other everyday needs. Along with recovery work , Red Cross teams were working on replacement eyewear for Seth. The kitchen in their hotel had food from local food pantries and restaurants.

Seth said the help from those at and after the fire has worked to buoy his family’s spirits, even with so much unknown.

“To have the Red Cross there to help take those tasks off our hands, that has been appreciated,” he said.

The Red Cross is grateful to our volunteer disaster teams, the shelter hotel and the many partners who have stepped up to directly help these residents, such as River Food Pantry, Second Harvest, Madison F.D., Public Health Madison & Dane County, Goodwill, Epic Systems, Hy-Vee and local Buffalo Wild Wings and Olive Garden locations.

You can bring support to the ongoing disaster needs of our teams helping people throughout this pandemic. Turn your generosity into action at redcross.org/donate.

Introducing: Lisa Weisman, new Regional Chief Development Officer, American Red Cross of Wisconsin

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Lisa Weisman said she was eager to join the American Red Cross for the chance to work with a team that “contributes to the community and has a direct impact” on people in need.

The Red Cross mission is a lot of things, but it isn’t shy. Just one month into her new role, with Coronavirus affecting all aspects of our lives, Weisman has had the chance to make a direct impact on our mission, including promotion of blood donations, connections with board directors and supporting ongoing disaster relief.

Lisa Weisman ARC with painting

Lisa Weisman, new Regional Chief Development Officer, at the American Red Cross offices in Milwaukee.

“To me, I’m looking for those one-on-ones to create relationships with a donor, that bring them joy in the organization’s mission,” she said.

Making the match between donor passion and Red Cross response has brought a quick turnaround with support, including more than $1 million in new gifts in early April. Weisman said that all happens because of the Red Cross reputation to respond in inspiring fashion during the most trying times.

“I’m so honored to be part of a strong and effective team and an organization revered and trusted for its impact here and throughout the world,” she said.

Weisman brings a strong pedigree in fund development and nonprofit leadership from agencies such as the United Performing Arts Fund, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Best Buddies International, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and, most recently, Concordia University. In preparation for her new role with the Red Cross, she made connections to our mission already in her own life, with the military service held by many family members and her husband’s “hardcore” dedication to regularly give blood.

In a Region that has proven to be a leader – the Wisconsin Region was named 2018 “Region of the Year” in this Division of the Red Cross – Weisman said she sees opportunities to be part of a team that can mold even more leaders.

“I’m looking for that mentoring and strategy, to bring people along and help them learn more about fundraising. It was that coaching type role that was part of what made this career so attractive,” she said.

Lisa, her husband and their teen daughter (along with a golden retriever) live in Brookfield. She also has three stepchildren and four grandchildren, spread across Georgia and Wisconsin. She calls herself a “big Broadway fan” as well as a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers; her family was able to watch Brewers spring training in Arizona just before gathering restrictions and cancellations from COVID-19.

To share your ideas on bringing the Red Cross mission to life, or to just say hello, connect with Lisa on LinkedIn or at lisa.weisman@redcross.org.

260 People Received Red Cross Assistance After Home Fires, Other Disasters in March

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (April 2, 2020) — Even during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, emergencies don’t stop and neither does the work of the American Red Cross. Every day, local volunteers are still providing care and comfort after disasters, such as home fires.

In the month of March, Red Cross disaster workers in Wisconsin responded to 81 incidents, providing assistance to 260 people all across Wisconsin (see map). Volunteers primarily helped families after home fires (79 incidents), with the addition of health measures and virtual work to keep this important support moving ahead for people in crisis.March 2020 fires WI ARC

“Our responses remained higher than average in March. As the realities of COVID-19 hit our state and nation, our disaster teams worked with public health officials, took on new training and added health and distancing measures to keep this work moving ahead, safely,” said Justin Kern, Communications Officer for the Wisconsin Region of the Red Cross. “We’re urging everyone to take steps while you’re observing stay-at-home measures to minimize the risk of fires in your own home.”

Along with the 79 fires in March – more than two per day, which is above our typical state average – Red Cross disaster teams also responded to help people at a building collapse in Racine and a transportation incident in Milwaukee.


You can support this ongoing mission for our neighbors in need by joining as a volunteer or by making a donation at redcross.org.


Our top priority is protecting the people we serve and our volunteers, so we have adopted new guidelines and tactics as we continue to support our communities. All volunteer responders and clients are asked health screening questions prior to meeting at a disaster scene. We also have the technology in place to issue immediate disaster assistance on a virtual basis. We have implemented steps to keep clients and volunteers safe from close contact, while at the same time providing financial assistance for items such as food, clothing, shelter and medications. The Red Cross also offers mental health support in beginning the long-term recovery process.

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American Red Cross disaster volunteers Dave Flowers, left, and Kevin Connell don protective face shields and gloves as they deliver hygiene supplies to a shelter run by the National Guard in Milwaukee. (Photo by Justin Kern / American Red Cross)

We continue to work closely with public health officials to deliver our mission where and when it’s safe to do so. This work includes additional support and partnerships through the state Emergency Operations Center to address the needs of people during this evolving emergency.

Stay Safe and Help #EndHomeFires

The Red Cross is asking everyone to take simple steps to reduce the risk of a fire in your home and to help save lives. While many are home from work and school with their families, now is the perfect time to talk about home fire safety and practice your home fire escape plan.

  • Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in two minutes or less.
  • Teach children the sound of a smoke alarm when you practice your home fire escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as a neighbor’s home or a tree in the front yard, so everyone knows where to meet.
  • Visit org/homefires for additional free resources and safety tips.

For additional COVID-19 (a.k.a. Coronavirus) safety tips and resources, click here.