Readiness, Service and a Fire Close to Home: Our First Year Together

By Mark Thomas, Wisconsin Region CEO & Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive, American Red Cross

It was December 2018 and, as always with the holidays, it was time for family updates. Checking in with siblings, relatives, loved ones, a roundup on new jobs, relationships, babies and other benchmarks.

From my sister, the update was initially grim: my nephew in Racine had suffered a home fire.

Mark Thomas headshot proThat’s the kind of news that puts so much into perspective. She said he and his girlfriend had gotten out safely. They lost many possessions, including gifts from the holidays. But, as my sister said, they had hope right after the fire, because that’s when they received comfort and help from volunteers at the American Red Cross.

My sister and nephew didn’t even know I had started a new career at the Red Cross. This was just weeks after I had joined. The story from my sister was an unfiltered acknowledgement that fires didn’t just happen to other people. And that hope and help came from the Red Cross for everyone in need, my family included.

Once I had the chance to share about my new role at the Red Cross, I knew from my family’s story that I had come to the right place.

I’m happy to report that my family is back in their place and on solid footing. As for me, I’m now at one year as Regional CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive with the Red Cross. On this anniversary and during a time of year when people are extra reflective, I wanted to revisit a few of the milestone moments from another outstanding year of service by your Red Cross in Wisconsin. I also wanted to share a big lesson I’ve learned and the vision I have for the time ahead.

But back to 2019. As the anecdote I shared at the start shows, our programs and mission became very real in my life right away. Here are a few, high-level bullets of the stand-out moments our Region has been involved with over the past 12 months:

January

  • Received the “Region of the Year” recognition for the fundraising success of my predecessors and present leaders on our fund development team
  • Brought together our Southeast Chapter Board for my first full meeting (special shout-out to board chair Becky Fitzgerald for your leadership and guidance)

February

20190223_102432

With our team at the Milwaukee Stand Down, held at the Armory. 

March

  • Met people displaced by a large-scale apartment fire in Bayside, including a dear friend and a local reporter brave enough to share her story
  • At a shelter from ice jam flooding in Fond du Lac, watched as strangers brought a turkey on their Harley for people who were displaced, and was impressed by all the volunteers who kept spirits high (my teenage daughter was wowed, too, and impressed me by putting on a Red Cross vest and pitching in)

April

  • Welcomed and enthused by our staff at our first, in-person meeting in Madison
  • Those feelings multiplied this same month on an introductory meeting with my national colleagues at the historic Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

May

June

July

  • Able to notch success in nearly every way for our fiscal year, which ended in June
  • Completed my first CPR training
  • Worked alongside local and national Red Cross teams at the LULAC Convention in downtown Milwaukee
20190904_102925

Meeting disaster volunteer Ryan Clancy before he headed to help during Hurricane Dorian. Also met a few members of the Milwaukee media, who helped share Ryan’s journey.

August

  • Talked with volunteers as they flew off to the large-scale response to Hurricane Dorian and other flooding and fires – what an impressive machine to help people in desperate need

September

October

  • Grateful to have Greg Novinska take a new role with our biomedical services team, my colleague in everything happening behind the scenes to merge the full power of the Red Cross for people in our state

November

  • Cold weather came early, and with it, the typical spike in home fires … thankfully, our volunteers around the state have once again answered the call for families displaced by this every-day disaster
  • Had important discussions around inclusion and diversity with our talented Wisconsin leadership team, such a vital part of plans to make our organization the best place it can be for everyone

December

_MR21422

Kids in Milwaukee enjoying swim lessons, with the promise of many more to come thanks to the Centennial Campaign and Milwaukee Rec.

There has been so much from those events and more that have impressed, humbled and energized me about the work we do. From it all, two ideas stand out.

The first is readiness. That word – readiness – means so much more to me, now that I’ve seen us in action. Home fires, floods, staff meetings, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, blood collection, outreach to military families … even as these words are coming together, our teams in Osseo are wrapping up a reception center for people affected by a massive car pile-up. Just before I pulled together these thoughts, one of our long-time and wonderful volunteers, Marge, stopped in and reminded me of the value of openness and being ready to share her passion and ideas for our mission. The countless ways readiness is part of our service at the Red Cross keeps what we do exciting and important.

From that important lesson on readiness, I have a solid foundation on how we build for the days ahead. We have a very strong network across Wisconsin. I am committed to making sure our core service is focused on our customers – including people in need, our volunteers and our supporters – and that it remains inclusive to all. There have been incredible people who have sustained and led this organization for more than 100 years in our state. I will carry that legacy of service. And I aim to make sure every community we serve knows the Red Cross is here to help, the right way. With you, I know we can help our friends, family and neighbors in need for the next 100 years – and beyond.

Red Cross blood drive held in honor of volunteer’s 101st birthday

Join the American Red Cross in helping to save lives on Monday, March 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Faith Lutheran Church in Green Bay. The day is sure to deliver something special for Red Cross volunteer, Blanche Baudhuin, as she celebrates her 101st birthday.

Blanche has been a volunteer for the Red Cross for over 40 years. She volunteers about 24 hours a month staffing the registration desk at the Red Cross Green Bay Blood Donation Center. Her zest for helping to save lives continues because she believes in the good work being done at the Red Cross. “I look forward to coming into work to see the donors,” said Blanche. “If I had to stay home I don’t know what I would do.”

Last year Blanche celebrated her 100th birthday with the Red Cross family and friends. She challenged the community to roll up their sleeves and donate 100 pints of blood for patients in need. Causing quite the excitement across the state, donors traveled from miles away to celebrate her birthday and donate blood in her honor. Her birthday wish came true and 114 pints of blood were collected.

This year Blanche is planning to celebrate her birthday with another Red Cross blood drive.  Donors can help make her birthday wish come true by helping to save lives by collecting 101 donations on March 13.

Festival Foods and Thrivent Financial will join the celebration this year by donating refreshments for the birthday blood drive.

“We are honored to be able to help Blanche purchase refreshments for blood donors who help her reach her goal,” said Brian Stenzel, Festival Foods Director of Community Involvement. “We applaud her 40-plus years as a Red Cross volunteer and we encourage everyone to make Blanche’s 101st birthday the best ever by coming out to give blood on March 13.”

The Red Cross will have a party at the drive in celebration of her birthday.

“Our Church and Thrivent Member Doris Emmel was delighted to help with the Blanche’s birthday blood drive by utilizing one of her Thrivent Action Teams.  It’s about Christians helping others,” said Guy McCauley, Financial Associate, at Thrivent Financial.

The Red Cross is inspired by Blanche’s support to the Red Cross and for helping to save lives.  The joy is ours telling her story and encouraging others to volunteer and follow in her footsteps.

Blood Drive in honor of Blanche Baudhuin
Monday, March 13, 2017
11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Faith Lutheran Church
2235 S. Webster Ave., Green Bay, WI 54301

How to donate blood

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visitredcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.

Volunteer of the Month – Floyd Duranceau

Congratulations Floyd Duranceau, the July 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

roc_blog_img_Floyd Duranceau

When July volunteer of the month, Floyd Duranceau looks back on his Red Cross service, he’s reminded of the great gifts he has been able to offer others; first through the teaching of lifesaving skills and now through the distribution of lifesaving blood.  After working as a Red Cross Health & Safety CPR Instructor for more than twenty-six years, in 2015 Floyd decided to volunteer in a new position for the Red Cross with the BioMed Transportation Program. Volunteering as a Transportation Specialist, Floyd delivers blood product to hospitals providing the vital link between donor and patient, making sure that critical blood products get delivered quickly and effectively to those in need.

In the past six months of volunteering Floyd has accumulated over eight-hundred hours of volunteer service. This level of commitment speaks to the special qualities that make Floyd an outstanding leader in this program. “Floyd has become a real asset to the transportation program. In addition to driving almost every day of the week to places as far away as Chicago Illinois, he routinely recruits new volunteers to become drivers by informing them of the need for this important service,” shares Joshua McDonnell, Blood Services Manager of Volunteer Services.

“Volunteering to me just means getting to know people, after that I feel impassioned to make their day a better one.” When asked about his favorite volunteer moments, Floyd recalls, “I’ve had a number of great moments working in the Red Cross mission. The most memorable though happened in one of the last CPR classes I taught. A gentleman near the end of the class said that he had taken many CPR classes over the years and could never wait to have them end but with my class he did not want it to end.” This clearly shows how well Floyd shares his dedication to the American Red Cross mission with others.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Floyd said he is determined to do whatever he can for others for as long as he can. Every week he commits to working an average of thirty hours with the Bloods Services transportation program all while he continues learning, training and mentoring others. To encourage others to become a volunteer with the Red Cross, Floyd emphasizes, “We just need to show people that someone cares. This may sound simple but it can change both the lives of others’ and the volunteer’s own life tremendously. You don’t need a special talent to help others; the Red Cross will train and prepare you.”

Thank you, Floyd for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community and for giving back to others in so many remarkable ways!

This month, consider giving someone a chance to share more joy, laughter and time with family and friends. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Blood transfusions are a very common medical procedure. A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States alone. Although 38 percent of people in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, only 3 percent actually do. Be the change in someone’s life by donating today. For more information visit http://www.redcrossblood.org

If you are interested in joining Floyd as a Blood Services transporter of blood and blood products throughout the region in a safe and timely manner please contact us. Right now, the American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed. To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

Volunteer of the Month Anne-Marie McDonald

roc_blog_img_McDonald Anne-Marie

Congratulations to Anne-Marie McDonald, the April 2016 Red Cross Volunteer of the Month.

Anne-Marie joined the Red Cross in 2005 explaining, “After seeing how much my husband enjoyed volunteering with the Red Cross I followed his lead,” and eleven years later she continues to support the Red Cross by giving of her time and talent.  She ensures Blood Donors receive a warm smile, answers to their questions and have a fantastic overall experience. Disaster clients get her full attention during local disasters, national disaster response and through preparedness outreach.  And if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, recently Anne-Marie took on the role of Community Volunteer Leader (CVL).

As a Donor Ambassador, Anne-Marie works with donors at Blood Donor Centers and Blood Drives. She makes every person feel special–whether they are regular donors, first time donors, staff or volunteers.   Panghoua Maua notes, “Anne-Marie is always going above and beyond. She also assists as a volunteer trainer for new Donor Ambassador Volunteers to ensure they get the information and tools they need to be successful. This has been instrumental in the satisfaction and retention of Blood Services volunteers.”

As a Disaster Response volunteer Anne-Marie is always willing to step-up and takes on responsibility to help when-ever and where-ever needed. Last July she helped opened a shelter, during some torrential rain, in the Hudson area for residents of a flooded mobile-home park. Even though Anne-Marie spent much of the day on site at that shelter, when a request for assistance from a flooded out family in the neighboring city of River Falls came through, she volunteered to help go and meet that family’s needs. Luong Huynh said, “The thing that I am most proud of when it comes to Anne-Marie has been her commitment to the Red Cross mission. In tough situations, she responds with grace and strength of character.”

Anne-Marie said her most memorable volunteer moment took place when responding to a residential fire earlier this year. While offering support to the family, she learned that she had also assisted the client’s mother after her residence burned in early 2015. “The client remembered us! This family was so grateful for our help and resources provided by the Red Cross. It was so rewarding, we were very happy to be able to help both family members begin to get back on their feet.”

Throughout local communities Anne-Marie’s impact as a CVL has been felt. She encourages others to join the Red Cross stating, “Part of the Red Cross mission is to ‘prevent and alleviate human suffering’.  There are so many ways to contribute to this mission through Disaster Services, Blood Services, Service to Armed Forces, and Preparedness Services.  Select an area which interests you and dedicate as little or as much time as you have available to help.  Volunteering with the Red Cross is a very rewarding experience.”  Kyle Kriegl,says, “As a CVL Anne-Marie is just a great person to work with.  She is always willing to help and make a difference in her community!”

Thank you, Anne-Marie, for promoting the importance of the American Red Cross mission throughout your community! To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

Red Cross blood drive held in honor of volunteer’s 100th birthday

Blanche Baudhuin has been volunteering for nearly 40 years

Blanche at almost 99 years old doing the "Lambeau Leap"

Blanche at almost 99 years old doing the “Lambeau Leap”

The American Red Cross is teaming up with Faith Lutheran Church in Green Bay and friends of Blanche Baudhuin in inviting the Green Bay community to give blood in Baudhuin’s honor on March 8. Baudhuin has been volunteering for the Red Cross for nearly 40 years. Donors can help make her birthday wish come true by helping to provide 100 pints of blood to honor her 100th birthday on March 13.

Even though she is nearly 100 years old, Baudhuin volunteers every Thursday, staffing the registration desk at the Red Cross Green Bay Blood Donation Center. To commemorate her 100th birthday, the Red Cross will have a party at the drive. The drive is co-sponsored by the Sunrise Optimist Club.

Donate Blood in Honor of Blanche Baudhuin

Tuesday, March 8

11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Faith Lutheran Church

2235 S. Webster Ave., Green Bay

Blanche surrounded by her Red Cross family for her 98th birthday.

Blanche surrounded by her Red Cross family for her 98th birthday.

To make an appointment to donate, download the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code birthday or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

The Red Cross must collect approximately 14,000 blood and platelet donations every day for the patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Blood and platelets are needed to respond to patient emergencies, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

How to donate blood

Simply  download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or to obtain more information.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.

January is National Blood Donor Month

Photographer: John Meinke, Red Cross Volunteer

Photographer: John Meinke, Red Cross Volunteer

Make a resolution you can keep in 2016! Become a regular blood or platelet donor with the American Red Cross. January is National Blood Donor Month, which makes it the perfect time to schedule your first appointment of the new year.

National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. Severe winter weather may result in canceled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, can cause donors to be temporarily unable to give.

The Red Cross needs blood and platelet donors of all types to maintain a sufficient supply. Eligible donors with types O, B negative and A negative blood are encouraged to donate double red cells where available. During a double red cell donation, two units of red blood cells are collected while most of the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.

Make your commitment to help save lives in the new year by using the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule your appointment.

You Still Have Time to #ChooseYourDay and Donate Blood!

By: Patty Flowers, CEO of Wisconsin American Red Cross

As summer begins to wind down, consider making time to donate blood or platelets with the Red Cross. #ChooseYourDay to help save lives and make an appointment this Labor Day weekend. All presenting donors who give blood between September 5-7 will receive a limited-edition t-shirt, while supplies last! Patty’s story shows how you can make a difference in the lives of hospital patients and their families with this free and lifesaving gift.

“You want me in the delivery room with you?” I exclaimed!  Of course, it took me just two seconds to say ‘yes’ to my daughter when she was getting ready to deliver her first child at age 39. This little boy was our miracle baby as she had been told she most likely would never be able to become pregnant. As I’ve heard so many times before, once the stress of getting pregnant goes away, often a little one joins us. True for our family and I was so honored to be asked to be a part of this miracle that was unfolding before us.

On July 22, 2015, I was sitting with her at the registration desk at the hospital and then back in the labor and delivery department when the nurse asked if she would accept blood transfusions if needed. The question actually took me off guard because I hadn’t thought of her actually needing blood, but I blurted out “is it Red Cross blood”?  The nurse looked at me as if she’d never been asked that question before and then said “I’ve never been asked that before”. My daughter threw me a look like really Mom?, but she tolerated me asking. The nurse had to check to see who this hospital’s blood supplier was and when she came back in our room to tell me that indeed it would be Red Cross blood, I was very satisfied. Why?  Well, I know the rigorous testing and regulations that have to be followed by blood collections and I know how safe Red Cross blood is. Sitting in that hospital with my daughter, knowing she was in very good hands and that she had Red Cross blood waiting in case she needed it was quite comforting to me.

FullSizeRender (5)Michael Robert joined us at 1:06 PM on July 23, 2015 with a full head of black hair. Of course I think he’s the cutest, best baby, and I know I’m biased, but he really is! His delivery was not an easy one but my daughter never did need any blood. I am so grateful for the donors who had given those pints of blood that were waiting for her in case she needed it – it means as much to me as if she had been transfused.

I donate blood as often as I can through one of our Red Cross blood drives and I hope you will too. Knowing that one pint of my blood can save up to three lives is a very powerful reason to make me take the hour I need to plan for a donation, but now I equate it to that moment when my daughter might have needed someone else’s blood to help her. It’s personal, it’s powerful, and we need more people to decide that it’s an easy way to help someone else. Please consider donating your blood and we make it so easy to do it! Go to www.redcrossblood.org and find a drive near you or even simpler, download the Red Cross Blood app on your smart phone and you can register for a drive even faster.

100 Days of Summer. 100 Days of Hope.