Wendy Savage says goodbye to the Red Cross  

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Wendy Savage, Executive Director of the North-Central Chapter of the American Red Cross of Wisconsin, will be retiring at the end of 2022. After a 13-year career with the Red Cross, Savage’s unwavering character and dedication will be missed.  

Before joining the Red Cross, Savage, a life-long volunteer, committed herself to giving back and helping others. Early in her career, Savage led fundraising efforts on behalf of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devasted portions of Thailand. Savage was fortunate to visit Thailand and present the gathered local donations to the International Committee of the Red Cross. It was at that moment Savage witnessed the sincere appreciation and gratefulness of the Red Cross which paved the path to her future.    

Savage started her Red Cross career in 2010 and she has seen many changes throughout the organization. However, she said one thing remains constant – “You can always trust the Red Cross.”

Savage’s talents are appreciated by many. She has been successful leading teams, volunteers, donors, community partners and board of directors – all while fulfilling the Red Cross mission. She touched many lives throughout the years and helped families recover from disasters and home fires, provided relief for veterans, service members and military families, coordinated blood drives, and assisted with lifesaving training —all fundamental aspects of the American Red Cross mission.

Savage deployed in eight disaster relief operations, most recently last month after Hurricane Ian, and she led a major disaster within the North-Central Chapter of Wisconsin, with offices in Wausau and Stevens Point, and extending into the Northwoods and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her first disaster relief operation, a hurricane, came less than a week into her career resulting in learning the works of the Red Cross quickly. During her first few weeks with the Red Cross, she learned and the importance of adapting to change, which remained true every day through her tenure.

Savage said her Red Cross career has given her an opportunity to do good work and do good things. She sees her career not as a job but a lifestyle. “Disasters can happen at any moment, and you need to be prepared to help. We are seeing more frequent and devastating storms on a large scale, and it is encouraging to see the Red Cross being better prepared, learning to do better, and focusing on the positive, but, most importantly, providing relief to clients faster to help those in need. Sometimes it is not doing anything but just being there for the client with a supportive word or hug,” said Savage.   

Savage used the analogy between the actions delivered in a disaster to the links of a chain. We have anchors on the chain at both ends but each link on the chain can be an action by a particular person. There are no small actions, and everyone’s contribution is appreciated resulting in a collaborative result. People come together from all backgrounds allowing remarkable things to happen. As each link is strung together the chain becomes stronger, providing strength to those that need help.

“When things all come together for the good of the group, miracles happen,” she said.   

When asked about the four words Savage would use to describe the Red Cross she said, “heart, action, intensity and change.” She sees those words in her daily interactions with all employees, volunteers and donors at the Red Cross.  

Her farewell message to others is: “Stay on message, stay on task, stay together, stay connected and stay safe and well.”

Savage said she is not good at saying goodbye but saying goodbye means saying hello to the next chapter in her life. She is excited to spend time with her husband, family and new grandson and is looking forward to a family genealogy project as she travels down a new road in life. 

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