Army National Guard sendoff includes Red Cross volunteers who can relate

By Justin Kern – American Red Cross

Mark Matuszak could see a bit of himself in every family member cheering on, hugging and giving teary goodbyes to their beloved service members at an Army National Guard soldier sendoff last week in Green Bay.

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American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin Chapter board members Phil Zubella and Sarah Dressel (both at front) joined a sendoff for soldiers recently in Green Bay.

Matuszak’s son, Dan, is a U.S. Army Green Beret. It wasn’t long ago that Dan shipped off to the Philippines for military assignment – leaving Mark and family to carry understandable concern back here in Wisconsin during Dan’s deployment.

Knowing that important yet sometimes difficult role military families hold, Matuszak said he knew the value in joining fellow American Red Cross board members and volunteers in support of approximately 400 soldiers and their families at an event Nov. 29 at the Lambeau Field Atrium.

“I can relate to the family and the folks that are here, understand how deployment is going to affect their family,” Matuszak said. “Not seeing [a deployed family member] hurts, but you know they’re doing it for the right reasons and the right cause. It’s a noble cause.”

Matuszak was one of approximately 15 Red Cross board members, volunteers and staff who joined in the warm community sendoff for Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers from the Appleton-based 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headed out to Afghanistan.

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A spread of snacks and information for service members and their families provided by the Red Cross.

The Red Cross was one in a group of organizations in attendance to join in the sendoff, as part of its Service to the Armed Forces mission. Red Cross volunteers and board members served coffee, donuts, bananas and string cheese provided by Kwik Trip, along with offering information on resources during and long after the soldiers’ deployment. (Click here to view and share from a collection of Red Cross photos from the event on Facebook.)

Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, Wisconsin Army National Guard, took time in his remarks during the event to recognize the family and friends in attendance, and listed off supported organizations such as the Red Cross.

“We can’t do what we do, this mission, without your support,” Conde said.


Are you looking for a new way to support our military service members and families? On this page you find out how you can play an important role as a volunteer or supporter of our Service to the Armed Forces program.


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Army National Guard leaders received a Wisconsin flag from outgoing Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The Green Bay deployment event was the largest of its kind in recent years.

The event was the largest combined send-off for northeast Wisconsin in recent years. Only about 20 percent of the soldiers had previously deployed. According to a military release, the unit is “comprised of teachers, students, electricians, engineers, computer IT specialists, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, welders, auto mechanics, craftsmen” from across Wisconsin but predominately from the Fox Valley and Green Bay.

For Matuszak, that group also included a co-worker at Great Northern Corporation hired a few years ago, and another co-worker’s son. As a board member volunteering at the event, Matuszak was able to talk with people and families he knew, as well as others with whom he shares a military connection.

“I understand what’s facing them, so it’s humbling for me to watch what they’re about to go through,” he said.

The projected return for the soldiers is late fall of 2019.

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From Donut Dollie to the Milwaukee VA: Evans marks 50 years of military support

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

As Mary Evans leafed through a box labeled “Vietnam,” she verbally connected the dots along her American Red Cross volunteer contributions, from Memorial Day at the Milwaukee VA in 2018 to her stint as a “Donut Dollie” exactly 50 years ago.

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Mary Evans, SAF volunteer, holds a snapshot taken in Vietnam during her time as a Donut Dollie.

In the box, amid the color pictures: scenes of Evans with G.I.s in front of Christmas trees covered in tinsel during downtime; a trio of soldiers around Evans, two smiling and one solemn, posed in front of endless barracks. In black-and-white photos: a band rocking out, followed by a shot of Evans, in Red Cross stylized dress, in front of a lineup of military trucks. An illustrated “Pocket Guide to Vietnam” tour book. A laminated Red Cross “Emergency Identification” issued under Evans’s maiden name, de la Forest.

Evans, who lives in Milwaukee with her husband, John, shared the memories from five decades ago in part to keep alive the service of the Donut Dollies, but also in hopes to inspire others to volunteer for service members through the Red Cross.

“The role we had … I think it was incredible,” Evans said. “To all of them, you were like their sister, their mother, their girlfriend. I think we provided a tremendous service in taking their minds off things.”


Click here for a list of veterans and active duty resources from the American Red Cross, as well as to find out ways you can help.


Through a Red Cross program called Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas, American women volunteered to bring refreshments, entertainment and a flash of cheer to military servicemen during the Vietnam War. They were dubbed “Donut Dollies” by service members, a name that stuck, though their goodwill work amid the trauma of war is sometimes misremembered or lost.

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Mary Evans, center, poses with some of the soldiers she worked with in 1968 as an American Red Cross volunteer in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.

Evans said she “felt something was missing” in her life in spring 1968. Graduated from college and working at a bank in San Francisco, she wanted to get involved in a positive way in the war that served as a flashpoint for one of the most chaotic years in global history. Compelled to do something for those in military service, Evans called an American Red Cross office in northern California. And, “six weeks later, I was on my way” to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, off the South China Sea.

Evans and the other Dollies would put together 50 minutes of games, activities and entertainment, amid their namesake snacks and refreshments, at about six U.S. Army sites per day, five to six days a week. There was plenty of time for competition in the activities, and conversation throughout their visits. Evans said she felt the enlisted “lifers” were more lonely and appreciative of the lifeline to something outside of war when the Dollies came. They frequently ran into soldiers at a high or low, as she said they often presented their programs immediately before or after soldiers took leave.

In a warzone, Evans hesitated to call their volunteering dangerous. But it was clear they were far from home.

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A 1968 American Red Cross I.D. for Mary Evans (nee de la Forest). Evans remains active with Service to the Armed Forces volunteering in Wisconsin.

“Jeeps, trucks, choppers … MPs would pick us up and they would drive us back for several miles to our center. There were flares going up across the Bay, but I felt safe almost the whole time,” she said.

When Evans’s father passed away suddenly, her stint in Vietnam ended so that she could come home to help her mother and family. As free time cropped up, she returned to volunteering with the Red Cross at a medical hospital near her home in Santa Rosa, Calif. Although she couldn’t return to Vietnam with the Red Cross as she had hoped, while stateside she was able to stay in touch with fellow Donut Dollies and Army service members as they returned.

Years on and starting her own family, Evans moved to southeast Wisconsin. It wasn’t long before she dialed the local Red Cross to see how she could contribute, once again for those who served. This call brought her to the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, where, during Red Cross volunteer activities, she’s been able to get to know Jaime, a former Tuskegee Airman, and Norm, a combat-wounded veteran with a penchant for polka music. In a different way than her Donut Dollies days, these Wednesday mornings at the Milwaukee VA gave her the sense of providing relief and escape for service members.

“It’s not so much looking back at what they did or what we did. We’re mainly thanking them for their service,” she said.

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Mary Evans and her husband, John, at left, shared lunch with veterans and fellow Red Cross volunteers at the Milwaukee VA on Memorial Day 2018.

Evans has slowed down with volunteering in the past year, with time focused on a few family matters. But she did participate with other Red Cross volunteers in the big Memorial Day barbecue at the Milwaukee V.A. in 2018, bringing meals to vets unable to make it outside. And her foundation in giving herself to service members and veterans hasn’t wavered since the ‘60s, said Richard Seymour, Service to the Armed Forces program director, Wisconsin Region.

“Support for veterans and service members are core to the Red Cross mission, and Mary has embodied that mission for five decades,” Seymour said. “Whether on the frontlines in Vietnam or at a community commemoration in Milwaukee, Mary puts her heart into the volunteer work she does with our service members.”

Find out how you can become a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer here.

Welcome Rich Seymour

rich-seymourWe’re proud to announce that Rich Seymour has joined the Wisconsin team as our Service to the Armed Forces Director! Just retiring from the Army after 30 years, Rich is excited to start a career where he will continue to care for service members, veterans and their families.

During his illustrious work with the Army, he completed multiple deployments and attained the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank in the Army. Throughout his career he became familiar with and utilized the Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces.

“I continuously used Red Cross as a tool to help the soldiers and families that I had under my leadership. I can give you hundreds of stories where Red Cross services contributed to the morale and welfare of the Armed Forces members.”

Originally from Baraboo, Wisconsin, he’s called many places “home” over the years -the Republic of Panama, South Korea, and various places stateside. Along for the ride have been his wife and two sons – and his dogs, too.

We could not be more excited to have Rich on the Red Cross team and back in his home state of Wisconsin!

If you’d like to get involved with the Red Cross, click here.

To look at Red Cross employment opportunities, click here.

Remembering One of Our Own Donut Dollies: Emily Strange

Emily Strange (July 23, 1946 – July 12, 2016) served as a Red Cross Donut Dollie with the 9th Infantry Division and Mobile Riverine Force. The Red Cross program was called Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO).

When President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country”, what call to actions do you think of to help your country? Recycle more? Travel to third world countries and provide support in education and health? As a young college graduate in the 1960’s from Atlanta, Georgia, Emily Strange went to Vietnam as a Donut Dollie with the American ReIMG_2583d Cross to provide aide and a piece of home to soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.

Side lesson: Donut Dollies started in WWI then continued onto WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War. Donut Dollies made and brought donuts and coffee to soldiers on base. It was one of the many things they did, to help ease soldiers’ minds into a safe and comforted feeling to mentally escape the war environment, even if it was just for a little bit.

Earlier this year in April, the Red Cross honored Emily Strange at her residence, Rainbow Hospice Care Inc. in Johnson Creek, WI. She, along with two other Donut Dollies, Pat Rowan of Texas and Margaret “Maggie” Godson of South Carolina and Registered Nurse Joan Garvert of Illinois were awarded with a certificate and pin for their courageous service.

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Strange reminisced with the Red Cross about comforting the soldiers– they had just lost a lot of the men in their unit and were digging holes for the night. She spoke to them; joked around and comforted them to ease their minds, “maybe we’re not gonna die tonight”. Watch: https://youtu.be/ypUfKznwQgU

She even wore perfume around the soldiers to help them sense their girlfriends, mothers and a piece of home. It took them out of the war.

Strange passed away last month at Rainbow Hospice Care Inc. Barbara Behling, Red Cross Chief Communications Officer, was an attendee at the ceremony. She said that when Strange spoke it was like an “open window to her soul”. The courageous stories Strange told and the memories she shared were incredible. She is truly missed.

To learn more about the Donut Dollies, please visit http://www.donutdollies.com/.

Strange also created her own website to share her Donut Dollies stories and to reconnect with those that served in Vietnam: www.EmilyDD.com.


Thank you, Emily Strange!

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You’re Invited to the 9th Annual Heroes Musicales Extravaganza!

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Beautiful Waushara county isn’t just for antiquing, water activities, quaint restaurants and lovely family-run B & B’s and hotels, we’re the center of the musical world on Saturday, April 30th. Especially if you like world-class musicians, delicious hors d’oeuvres, refreshments and more than 200 silent auction treasures, please join us at the 9th Annual Heroes Musicales at the log home of American Red Cross volunteers Vicki & John Jenks just west of Wild Rose. Three Musicales (mini concerts) from Wisconsin’s Best Bluegrass Band,  a trio back by popular demand who are NPR ‘regulars’ plus a Carnegie Hall pianist and Chicago’s finest harpist will delight your senses. This volunteer driven event has the local support of businesses, organizations, churches and philanthropic citizens alike. Proceeds from the day support Disaster Relief & Education along with Services to Armed Forces!

Heroes Musicales line-up:

  • 11:00a.m. Features the down-home, authentic sound of Wisconsin’s Best Bluegrass Band, Art Stevenson & High Water.  Heard on bluegrass radio programs around the USA, they’ve received critical acclaim in Bluegrass Unlimited and Bluegrass Now industry publications.
  • 1:30p.m. Harmonious Wail is “back by popular demand!”  National Public Radio ‘regulars’ and the recipient of countless MAMA and Isthmus Readers Polls, the Wail features “smoldering vocals and an infectious blend of continental jazz, swing, and folk music.”
  • 4:00p.m. Carnegie Hall virtuoso pianist, Jodie DeSalvo and Chicago’s finest harpist, Faye Seeman.  Their “Made in America” show will include Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and so much more!

The Heroes Musicales were conceived by John & Vicki Jenks nine years ago as a way to marry their passion for music and the communities need for disaster relief and education programs. Since then, this event has grown with outstanding support from Waushara, Green Lake, Marquette and Waupaca County disaster volunteers along with this year’s sponsors:  Badger Mining Corporation, Farmers State Bank, 1st National Bank, Martz Insurance, Waupaca Foundry, Brakebush Brothers, Krause Foundation, Mt. Morris Holden WELCA. All Saints CCW, Anita & Lawrence Mielke Memorial Fund, John Gusmer, Jackie King, Rose Wendt, and Rick & Joni Parks.

Seats are limited and always sell-out! Reserve your seats now at just $35 per person/per musicale. To order, please email Vicki Jenks at vickipjenks@gmail.com or call 920-231-3590.

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Volunteer of the Month – Rachel Goodrich

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Congratulations to Rachel Goodrich, the February 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

Many of us have a great appreciation for our military service members who have so proudly served our country, but how often do we actually reach out to say thank you or lend support to them and their families.  Since July of 2013, Rachel has been doing all this and more, as a Red Cross SAF ‘Services to the Armed Forces’ program volunteer.

Rachel has volunteered in many roles within the Red Cross, but having military service members in her own family, makes the SAF program especially important to her. She has volunteered as a SAF Caseworker, connecting military members with support and communications with their families and during countless SAF Special Events, helping with programs that honor military members, veterans and families. Rachel expresses such gratitude when talking about these volunteering opportunities, “I have met some of the most amazing people by volunteering in this program.  I have gained lifelong memories of moments that I will forever hold and cherish because of volunteering with the Red Cross.”

Taking on an even larger role this year, Rachel coordinated the statewide Red Cross- HMFH ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ program.  She not only promoted HMFH with TV and radio stations, she also organized card sorting and distribution events with Federal, State, local governmental and nongovernmental organizations throughout Wisconsin. Rachel’s says her favorite part about volunteering in this program is, “being able to hand deliver Holiday Cards to our active Military Service Members and Veterans, shaking theirs hands (the hugs are the best) and being able to show how much the community supports them.”  The Red Cross SAF relies on the talents of volunteers like Rachel to bring its programs to service members and veterans.  John Kost Regional SAF Manager credits Rachel for her perseverance in organizing an event of this grand proportion stating, “It’s indeed a gift to the organization, to have a volunteer like Rachel, who steps forward to coordinate all aspects of a region wide program and do it with such success.”

Rachel encourages others to get involved with SAF, “The more volunteers we have the more help we can offer our Veterans and their families. It truly is a life changing experience!” Thank you, Rachel for continuing to proudly represent the Red Cross in your community and for giving back to so many military service members with your heartfelt compassion.

To learn more about the important services the Red Cross SAF program provides please visit http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families

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.

A Holiday Mail Story to Warm Your Holiday Spirit

It is always rewarding to give something that means something, especially during the holidays. No matter how big or small the gift is, it is the touching emotions and gratuity that make it all worth it.

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Mr. and Mrs. Claus are definitely watching! Tara and Alexa made it on the nice list!

Rachel Goodrich, Holiday Mail For Heroes Coordinator from our Madison office shares her heartfelt experience delivering holiday cards, celebrating with veterans, and watching her daughters as youth volunteers.

This past Tuesday, Rachel and her two daughters, Tara and Alexa, along with other Red Cross volunteers delivered holiday mail to the veterans at Tomah VA. The holiday mail delivery is part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. The program gives people the opportunity to send holiday cards to U.S. Armed Forces members, veterans and their families. Cards may include thanks, support and holiday cheer. As Rachel describes it,

“… a magical night of laughter, tears, smiles and dancing. Red Cross volunteers helped serve cookies and punch. We danced the night away with veterans while wheeling, spinning them around in their wheel chairs on the dance floor. We even took some of them back to their rooms after the evening was over.”

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Special Delivery! Tara gives a veteran his holiday mail!

At the beginning of the eventful night, the girls were a bit timid but once they warmed up, they danced and even asked the veterans to dance with them. And how sweet is this? Tara received a kiss on the hand from a veteran and was thanked for dancing with him. She thanked him for his service too.

Rachel recalls the emotions in the room when the veterans received their cards, “We watched tears roll down the faces of some veterans while reading their cards, smiles lit up the room as we shook their hands and thanked them for all that they have done. The sound of laughter and pure happiness filled the air while volunteers danced with Veterans. ”

It is great to know that Tara, 10 on Christmas Day and Alexa, 8, are making a difference in their community as youth volunteers. They are also registered on the American Red Cross Volunteer Connection, where they log in their own volunteer hours and badges and earn certificates. Rachel continues with, “I don’t even know how to put this into words. Kids love the community service and learning how to give back, show their appreciation, there is more to the world than what’s in front of them”.

A total of 63 packs of holiday mail were given to the veterans! Both girls attend Caesar Chavez Elementary School in Madison. Students in their class created cards as well.

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Red Cross volunteers (L-R: Sharon Ernst, Rachel Goodrich and Jane Ramsey) posed with the big Red Cross holiday card! Can you imagine how many notes and signatures were filled with that card?

We thank each and everyone of our volunteers for their time and dedication. Special thanks to those that sent in and created cards for the members of our armed forces and their loved ones.

To learn more about the Holiday Mail for Heroes programs, please click here. For more ways to help and donate, please click here.

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