Wisconsin Region spotlight: Q&A with Kelly Clark

Every few months, we’re highlighting the incredible work toward the mission of the American Red Cross by one of our colleagues in the Wisconsin Region. Hopefully these short profiles provide a little light of positivity and inspiration across all lines of service in our humanitarian mission.

This latest profile is on Kelly Clark, a Regional Philanthropy Officer on our Fund Development team, her latest role in an impressive range of service to people as a Red Crosser. Questions were asked by members of the Region communications team, and edited for style and space.

American Red Cross: Tell us about your professional background and your role at the Red Cross.

Kelly Clark: I have been a Red Crosser since 2012. I joined the organization as a volunteer in Colorado Springs, Colo. and the Volunteer Services team quickly threw me in to help with planning a disaster training institute. Since then, every time my husband and I moved to a new place with the U.S. Army, I reached out to the local Red Cross office to offer my help. Sometimes in Disaster Services, sometimes in Service to the Armed Forces.

Kelly Clark, left, with volunteers amid an interview with Armed Forces Network while Clark was a Red Cross Field Office Coordinator at a military base in Germany.

When we moved to overseas in 2015, I became the Field Office Coordinator for the American Red Cross office on the USAG Bavaria military base in Vilseck, Germany, and as the only Red Cross employee on the base, I was affectionally known as the “Red Cross lady.” The next step in my Red Cross career was joining the Chicago team as a Disaster Program Manager, covering disaster preparedness and response in five counties including the city of Chicago.

In March, I joined the Wisconsin Region as a Regional Philanthropy Officer for the Southeast Chapter. In this role I will be working with individual, foundation and corporate donors and partners in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin.

Prior to joining the Red Cross, I majored in German and Russian and European Studies for my undergraduate degree at the University of Bath in England, and I am now in the middle of completing my M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University, an online course which is based out of Boston.

The mission of the Red Cross connects us to so many people. Can you share an anecdote about someone whose life was affected by your role or work at the Red Cross?

As the Field Officer Coordinator in Germany I was responsible, among other things, for our volunteer program and developing volunteer leadership. The unique nature of living on a military base overseas as a military spouse means there are very few career opportunities available, at least prior to COVID and virtual work becoming more common. One of our volunteers, Sophie, was in the final stages of getting her R.N. license, but needed practical experience in nursing to be able to complete the requirements for her degree. Short of travelling back to the U.S. and being away from her family she wasn’t sure of a feasible solution. In seeing this need, I built a relationship with the military health clinic on base, eventually allowing Sophie – and a number of other nurses-in-training after her – to volunteer as a nurse in the clinic to fulfil her degree requirements.

How do you explain what you do to people outside the Red Cross?

Since the American Red Cross is so well known there is such an overwhelmingly positive response when people find out I work for the organization that it doesn’t warrant a whole lot of explanation. When I do speak about my role, I explain that I work with partners in the Milwaukee area to raise funds so that the Red Cross can achieve its mission in alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. I think back to my role as a Disaster Program Manager and handing out Client Assistance Cards to clients after a home fire; Disaster Services wouldn’t be able to do its amazing work without the Fund Development team raising the money. Similarly, the Fund Development team wouldn’t exist without Disaster. It is all interlinked. One Red Cross!

What is your hidden talent? Or a hobby you have that people may not know about?

Clark, center, faces a group of trainees at a “Sound the Alarm” smoke alarm installation event in May in Milwaukee.

My hidden talent is that I can speak multiple languages – I grew up speaking English and Dutch and also speak German and Russian (though it’s rather rusty!). A hobby that isn’t necessarily mine, but I indulge in because it’s certainly my husband’s hobby – board games. We probably have 150 different board games in our collection and love to play!

Has anyone in your immediately circle (family or friends) been helped or trained by the Red Cross? If so, how?

Many of my military spouse friends have been trained by the Red Cross through the Preparedness Health and Safety programs, and have become Red Cross volunteers. As part of my role in Germany, I was the local First Aid/CPR/AED instructor, so not only did my close friends get trained in First Aid/CPR/AED, I convinced many of them to train to become instructors of the course, too! This was another great way for military spouses to build skills and keep their resumes active and up to date while they were stationed with their Army spouses abroad.

What does the Red Cross mean to you?

The Red Cross to me means a community of people who want to change peoples’ lives, one disaster response, training class, or smoke alarm install at the time. I didn’t know that when I walked into the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Red Cross in Colorado Springs in 2012 that this would become my lifelong career, but now I couldn’t see it any other way!

What would you say to inspire someone to join the Red Cross – through a training, or as a blood donor, volunteer or supporter?

To inspire someone to join the Red Cross, I would tell them my Red Cross story, and the stories of those individuals and families who I have seen be helped by the Red Cross. From a family who lost their home after a house fire, to elementary school children receiving preparedness education through the Pillowcase Project, and to service members and their families who were reunited after a family emergency … the Red Cross is there for people during some of the hardest moments of their lives.

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