On Red Cross’ 140th, a Washburn donor reflects on pins and friendly competition

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Today, May 21, 2021, the American Red Cross marks its 140th anniversary. During that remarkable and wide-reaching history that started with Clara Barton in 1881, people have come up with all manners of appreciation and distinction with their involvement.

For Jeffrey Johnson, of Washburn, his life-saving involvement includes a bit of family and a bit of history.

Jeffrey Johnson, avid American Red Cross blood donor and pin collector.

In 2001 Johnson began donating blood and giving consistently. Between his generous donations and his late father’s donations, the family has surpassed the 16-gallon milestone by simply demonstrating the act of kindness.

The Johnson family knows friendly competition is a good thing especially when it involves a greater good.

“My father was a regular donor and has donated at least 88 times and has 11 pins,” said Johnson. “I just donated my 40th pint and just received my fifth pin. I don’t believe I can surpass my father’s record, but I will try.”

The Red Cross pin culture dates as far back as the early 1900s. The organization bestowed pins on financial donors as a token of appreciation, nurses for their service – even giving pins for people who completed Red Cross water safety classes. The tradition continues today, with people earning pins for years of service, important projects, noteworthy achievements, national large-scale disaster deployments and blood donations.

The average whole blood donation is about one pint of blood, and eight pints equals a gallon. For every gallon of blood donated, a donor is awarded a pin from the Red Cross.

Johnson admires his family collection of Red Cross blood donor pins and looks forward to collecting more. He gives blood as often as he can at the various Red Cross blood drives in Ashland and Washburn.

The blood donor recognition pins pile up for every life-saving benchmark by Johnson.

“I admire by father’s commitment to donate blood and thought the pins were special, but now I realize they helped sparked my passion to donate,” said Johnson. “I am motivated to donate because it seems to be such a simple way to help other who are in need.”

To encourage others who may be hesitant to donate Johnson says, “Hydrate and eat a good meal prior to donating. Relax, it usually goes very well and the benefits it provides to others are well worth it!”

Every two seconds in the United States blood is 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. The Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for the patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide. Make your appointment at RedCrossBlood.org.

Lifeguard receives a “billion-star rating”, national honors for saving child’s life

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

On Aug. 27, 2020, Jayden Taylor was lifeguarding at a pool at Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells when she saw a child go under water. That’s when her instincts and American Red Cross training kicked in.

The young child was a tired swimmer who ventured out too far in the pool and was overcome by a wave. Jayden rushed into the water, rescued the child and returned the child to her parents mere moments after the whole incident started.

Jayden Taylor from her lifeguard post in Wisconsin Dells.

“I didn’t see myself in the moment, the only vision I had was to help the child,” said Jayden. “Thanks to the training I received as a lifeguard, my quick actions and adrenaline kicked in. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It shows your skills and trainings are always with you and you never know when you might need them.”  

This was the first water rescue for Jayden, who still works at the Wilderness and looks forward to seeing the child again in the future. The pool rescue has been followed by recognition on two fronts.

Madelyn Lorentz from her home, safe after a swimming scare.

About a month after the incident, Jayden received a thank-you note from the child, who gave her “a billion-star rating” for saving her life. And on May 20, Jayden was presented with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, a national recognition from the Red Cross that includes a certificate and citation for her pool heroics. This is one of the highest awards given by the American Red Cross to an individual who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. This action exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress.

Shortly after Jayden’s rescue, nine-year-old, Madelyn Lorentz wrote a thank you to Jayden for saving her life and sent it to the Wilderness. In the note she gave Jayden a “billion star” rating. The thoughtful note sparked the interest of the aquatics director who shared the letter with the Red Cross. The Red Cross conducts the resort’s lifeguard training.

Madelyn’s thank-you note to Jayden.

Kyle Kriegl, Executive Director, Southwest Wisconsin Chapter of the Red Cross, said he believes Jayden’s actions can compel others to take swim safety training and to become lifeguards.

“We are proud to honor Jayden for her courageous actions,” Kriegl said. “We hope that her story will inspire others to learn these lifesaving skills. We need more heroes in the community who are trained and ready to jump into action.”

Watch a video of Jayden sharing more on her heroic water rescue here.

It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text or apply sunscreen. Death and injury from drownings happen every day. The Red Cross believes that by working together to improve water competency – which includes swimming skills, water smarts and helping others – will make water activities safe and fun.

You can be trained in CPR, First Aid, lifeguarding and other life-saving skills. Sign up here for virtual and in-person lessons from the American Red Cross.

Red Cross blood drive held in memory of Betty “Bingo” McMillin

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

The community is invited to give blood in memory of Betty “Bingo” McMillin at a special American Red Cross blood drive Saturday, May 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at De Forest Public Library, 203 Library St. 

Betty was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a cancer in which immature blood cells located in the bone marrow fail to mature into healthy blood cells. In addition, Betty developed hemolytic anemia, a blood disorder in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made.

Betty “Bingo” McMillin

Individually these conditions require a patient to receive a significant amount of blood products. Having these two conditions simultaneously required Betty to receive weekly blood transfusions. Thanks to generous blood donors, blood was available to help Betty maintain her life and allowed her to spend an extra year with her family. Betty passed away March 2020.  

“Due to a blood shortage, there were many times when my mom would wait hours for her blood to be delivered,” said, Jamie McMillin, Betty’s daughter. Because her mother’s hemoglobin levels were low, Betty lacked energy and felt horrible. “I knew she was suffering, and she never complained. She was just happy to get the blood because she knew the next day, she would be able to walk again, be with her friends and be at home with her dog, Teddy.”

“I want to honor my mother by having this blood drive,” said McMillin. “I would like to see the entire community come together to support others in need by giving blood. I think we need to make high school students aware that they are able to help, especially young donors that may have not donated before, with great hopes that they continue to donate blood throughout their lives.” 

This blood drive is being sponsored by the Sun Prairie Storm swim team and it is anticipated to collect 44 lifesaving donations to help patients in need.

Donated blood may be used to help accident victims, surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease. There is no substitute for donated blood products.

Every day, the Red Cross must collect more than 13,000 blood donations to meet the needs of hospital patients across the country. Blood donors of all types are needed. Those with types O, A negative and B negative blood are encouraged to make a Power Red donation at this blood drive. Power Red donors give a concentrated dose of red blood cells during a single donation, allowing them to maximize their impact. Make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org.

Former airman from Spooner continues to aim high by donating lifesaving blood

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

Armed Forces Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the third Saturday of May. It is a day dedicated to honoring men and women who currently serve in the United States’ armed forces. In support of this day, the American Red Cross pays tribute to James Bishop, from Spooner, a former airman who started giving blood in the 1970s.

Bishop got directly involved in the need for blood when a commanding officer underwent surgery at their base.

“In 1972 at Great Falls, Montana, Malmstrom Air Force Base, the ‘Sarge’, a great guy, was having open heart surgery,” said Bishop.

“We got word that donating blood would defray the cost of his surgery and would generally help him. We were told our blood would replace any of the units he used. About 20 of us piled into cars and went downtown to the blood donation center.”

The “Sarge” eventually recovered thanks to the blood products available and he returned to duty. “After donating, we all felt pretty good about it.”

Bishop donated over two gallons of blood over his four-year tour and continues to donate today at the Red Cross Community Blood Drive in Spooner.

Every two seconds in the United States blood is 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. The Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for the patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide.

To encourage others who may be hesitant to donate Bishop says, “Your selfless giving makes you one of the noble many. I say continue the course. Do something outside of your comfort zone and give of yourself.”

In addition to providing biomedical services, the Red Cross proudly serves our nation’s military personnel and their families, including active duty, National Guard and Reserve, as well as veterans. For more than 135 years, the Red Cross has provided critical assistance to military families – beginning with our founder, Clara Barton, on Civil War battlefields. Recognizing service members and veterans is ingrained in the foundation of the Red Cross, on Armed Forces Day and throughout the year.

The Red Cross supports military members from the moment they enlist to the moment they separate from the service – and beyond. We offer critical assistance and resources to service members, veterans and their families globally 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In 2020 alone, Wisconsin Region Red Cross staff and dozens of volunteers provided case services for 3,669 military personnel and their family.

Blood and platelet donors of all types are needed this month to help ensure blood products are available for patients now and into summer. In thanks for making it a summer full of life, those who come to give May 1-15 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card by email. Those who make it in to donate in May will also automatically be entered for a chance to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps five, powered by Suburban Propane.* Additional details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/SummerFullOfLife.

‘Protected’ and ‘safe’: sense of security after La Crosse home fire preparedness visits

By Justin Kern and Riley Neper, American Red Cross

Rita Thompson had questions on how to keep her home, herself and her cats safe in case of a fire at their modular home.

From the back deck of her La Crosse home, Rita asked American Red Cross volunteers Peter Knapik and Jay Tucker about proper use of a space heater, the best way to escape especially with her use of a cane, and dangers from different types of cooking apparatus. Meanwhile, firefighters from the La Crosse Fire Department replaced two smoke alarms, all as part of a day of home fire preparedness in La Crosse.

“I just thought it was important to protect my property and I wasn’t really sure if my smoke alarms were up-to-date. [Now] I feel more protected,” Thompson said after the visit and installations.

Rita Thompson, left, talks her through a fire escape plan for her home with American Red Cross volunteers Peter Knapik, center, and Jay Tucker.

Thompson’s home was one of approximately 100 homes safer over the past week, including a big push on May 8th with numerous home visits and an education station at Copeland Park in La Crosse. La Crosse was a signature city in Wisconsin to participate in the national “Sound the Alarm. Save a Life” home fire preparedness campaign. In 2020, similar events were put on pause, but extra health and safety measures by the Red Cross and partners in 2021, along with improvements in the outlook of the COVID pandemic, meant a return to a modified version of the home fire safety initiative. Statewide, Red Cross volunteers have also been able to empower numerous residents this spring with home fire education through virtual one-on-one conversations.

You can still sign up for virtual home fire preparedness resources and, where and when possible, in the installation of free smoke alarms by fire department partners. Click here or call 877-618-6628.

Erin Baschaw met Red Crossers at Copeland Park, picking up materials like a home fire safety checklist from volunteer Michelle McKinley. Baschaw took advantage of the preparedness materials as “peace of mind” – her daughter just moved into her own place for the first time, so Baschaw was interested in sharing the lessons and materials.

Sandy Seachrest, left, said she signed up for “Sound the Alarm. Save a Life” for the “safety” it provided. Here, Red Cross volunteer Jay Tucker walks Sandy through a home fire safety checklist.

La Crosse home-owner Sandy Seachrest met volunteers Tucker and Knapik on her front stoop during the home fire safety education portion of her visit Saturday. Wearing masks and spaced apart six feet, she heard how to map out two ways out of each room in her house from the Red Cross volunteers. Firefighters replaced alarms in her home, for free, and gave her advice on a replacement fire extinguisher, after she revealed the only one in her home “had probably been in my house since we moved in in 1984.”

Seachrest was exuberant on the preparedness visit and boiled it all down to one word: “safe.”

“It’s safety, I feel more safe,” she said.

Along with the La Crosse Fire Department, the May 8th event was supported by the Great Rivers United Way. Across the Wisconsin Region, home fire preparedness partners include Johnson Controls and West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. Find and share this free home fire preparedness resource: redcross.org/WIsmokealarms

The last one out

By Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Currently staying at a hotel serving as an American Red Cross shelter, Yessenia Calderon said she missed early warning signs that her apartment building had been on fire.

Yessenia has asthma and other breathing issues, plus she and her partner Israel weren’t too familiar with their Milwaukee building yet, having moved in just two weeks prior. When alarms began to blare and then a plume of smoke met her at the door on the morning of April 27, she made a panicked phone call for help.

“I called the maintenance manager and said, ‘Hey, I think there’s a fire in the building’ and he was like, ‘The building is burning down, get out!’”

Yessenia, left, and Israel Calderon hold close as they share their story of escape and recovery after a fire at their apartment building in Milwaukee.

Some way, Yessenia knew she had to escape. Through the smoky calamity, she called out when she heard who turned out to be a firefighter.

“I was scared. I’m 46 and I felt like I was 5,” she said, still visibly shaken by the trauma. “‘Hold my hand, I’m scared, I’m scared,’ I said [to the firefighter] and he held my hand and took me down the stairs.”

The fire displaced dozens of people from 28 occupied units of the apartment building in Milwaukee’s Merrill Park neighborhood, blocks from the Red Cross Southeast Wisconsin Chapter headquarters. Red Cross teams have provided sheltering in a local hotel including daily meals for approximately 40 people since the day of the fire. Yessenia said the support from a Red Cross volunteer caseworker and mental health expert have helped her stand tall through the tragedy.

“The Red Cross has been an angel in the skies, basically. They’ve provided us with a home, with food every day … things that, on a day-to-day basis, it’s hard for us to do. The Red Cross has really made it possible,” she said.

Every day, in the Near West Side and throughout Wisconsin, the American Red Cross is there for our neighbors in need. Your support makes our work possible

The couple grew up in The Bronx and recently resettled together in Milwaukee. In mid-April, Israel used most of his first check from a new job on the rent and security deposit for their new place. Yessenia said it has been trying to deal with their now-former property manager and an outstanding security deposit, on top of nailing down a new place with all those added costs and hurdles. The couple hasn’t been able to extensively access their old apartment, with the Goodwill providing clothing including replacement steel-toed boots required by Israel’s employer. It’s tough to even call the power company to switch over her account – “I don’t want to deal with [the fire] again” – and called the recovery more difficult than the escape from the fire.

The affected building in Milwaukee. The Calderons had an apartment a few units from the suspected source of the April 27th blaze.

As the Red Cross works with the Calderons and other displaced residents through the next steps in their recovery plans, Yessenia said she still worries about the frenetic state of it all.

“It’s frustrating … everything is in the air,” she said.

Amid the struggles and bad luck, the couple reminded each other to be grateful. On the morning of the fire, Israel had left the apartment to pick up food. He said he had an ominous feeling as he saw emergency vehicles speeding past him and black smoke in the sky dead-ahead, increasingly clear that they were all centered on his new home – and uncertain what that meant for the woman he loves.

“When I got there, I see the commotion and I start screaming for her. I was about to go in the building, but these fire men said no,” Israel recalled. “She was the last one out. She was lucky.”

Oconto Falls mother donates for the love of her son

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

This Mother’s Day, Elizabeth Valentine-Adler from Oconto Falls celebrates life thanks to the gift of blood donations.

In 2014, Valentine-Adler experienced childbirth complications with her third son, Sam, and lost a significant amount of blood, requiring a blood transfusion.

“I had just had my third baby and had two other little boys at home that needed me to recover, come home, love and take care of them,” said Valentine-Adler.

“I couldn’t believe how incredibly weak and awful I felt before the transfusion when all I wanted was to be cuddling and bonding with my new baby. I am so thankful for the generosity of blood donors who allowed me to get better. Your commitment and willingness to take the time is lifesaving.”    

Elizabeth Valentine-Adler with her son, Sam.

Prior to needing blood Valentine-Adler said she never thought of those on the receiving end. Halfway through her transfusion she said she felt like a brand-new person.

“I told myself at some point down the road, I would give blood as a way of giving back,” said Valentine-Adler.

You can make a life-saving gift as a blood donor. Make an appointment at an upcoming drive near you at RedCrossBlood.org.

Now, seven years later she is donating blood for others and is encouraging other people to think of those who may need blood. When asked why she donates she replied, “Sam is my reason why!

Every two seconds in the United States blood is 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. The Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for the patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide.

On upcoming drive in northeast Wisconsin has a bonus gift for mothers who donate. The Green Bay Packers Give Back Community Blood Drive is Monday, May 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday, May 4 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Lambeau Field in the Johnsonville Tailgate Village, located in the east parking lot outside the American Family Insurance Gate. All presenting donors can enter into a raffle for a chance to win great prizes from the Packers and receive a free giveaway item, while supplies last. In celebration of Mother’s Day, all mothers who present to donate will also receive a single flower from Flowerama, while supplies last.

A call to quell the chaos

By Kay Weeden, American Red Cross

For what felt like the first time all day, Maria Hernandez could breathe.

The American Red Cross staffer on the other end of the phone with Maria would take care of immediate arrangements for her to speak with her husband Johnathan, who was stationed with the U.S. Army at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri. Maria was relieved to know the call from the Army base was coming any minute. At least she could hear his voice and the couple could start to make sense of the overnight fire that had displaced everyone in their Janesville apartment building. The first thing she said – “I’m OK, we are all OK.”

Maria Hernandez, in a selfie, called the calls set up between her and her husband stationed at an Army base a “blessing.”

“This has been a blessing for us when you suddenly lose all you have,” Maria said of the quick connection to her husband at a military base. 

Through the connected Red Cross work in disaster relief and Service to the Armed Forces, Jonathan was able to call home and set up a call schedule for the next few days. In addition, Maria and Jonathan received financial assistance offered specifically for military members on active duty. 

“The Red Cross is making it happen,” she recalled.

On that first phone call with Jonathan, Maria recounted the events of earlier that early spring morning, before dawn at their home. She was awoken by unruly stomping and muffled voices of the children and parents from the upstairs apartment. Moments later, knocking on a first-floor window. This was unusual at 4 a.m. on a Sunday. Then, jarring fist pounding on her apartment door and someone yelling “Salga! Get out!”

Startled, Maria jumped out of bed and flipped on the light. Thick smoke was billowing under the door, beginning to fill her bedroom. It was clear – their apartment building was on fire.

Maria threw on some clothes, grabbed her phone and keys, and ran outside. She found a frantic scene in the parking lot – people crying and yelling out for each other, huddled against the cold as residents continued to pour out of the building. A crowd started to gather nearby and Maria rushed over. She soon found herself cradling the baby of a family escaping their apartment one by one from the second-story window into the waiting arms of their neighbors below. At that point, the Janesville Fire Department arrived and moved the families well away from the building.  

That was the chaotic scene early Sunday morning, March 28 at Parkview Manor Apartments, a 38-unit building in Janesville where Maria and her husband, Jonathan, have lived for three years. For the past month, however, Jonathan has been stationed in Missouri, completing the 20-week basic training for the U.S. Army Military Police Program. Maria, a full-time dental hygienist student who also works full time, had gone to bed exhausted on Saturday night, expecting to sleep in a little before Sunday church services. 

“I never, ever thought I’d ever be in a situation like this,” she said. “I wished Jonathan was there. He probably would have remembered to grab shoes!”

By 6 a.m., it was evident that they would not be allowed to return to the building, so she called her father-in-law and headed to his home. The Red Cross was on the scene that same morning, attending to the needs of more than two-dozen displaced residents, providing food, temporary housing arrangements plus health and mental health resources. After about 10 days, partners from the City of Janesville and Echo took the lead on temporary housing, while Red Cross continued to help connect the dots with the range of resources needed for those displaced to find more stable footing.

Maria remarked that on the number of things that go out of line after a disaster, how long it can take to get back to normal. Some things will never be the same; sadly, the fire and subsequent heavy smoke damage also took the life of their pet parakeet, a pet Jonathan had a special connection to for years. Maria is presently staying with family, though plans to move into a new apartment with Jonathan once he returns from military training in summer. Through the chaos, Maria is grateful for the connection provided by the Red Cross to her beloved husband, so that they could more quickly get their lives back on track, together.

“They are helping him on his end and me on mine,” she said.

Are you a service member or member of a military family? The power of the American Red Cross Hero Care Network is never more than a click away. Download our free Hero Care App from your app store or by clicking here.

First-time donor in Hudson gives blood amid pandemic

By Laura McGuire, American Red Cross

During COVID-19, life’s emergencies didn’t stop – and neither did the work of the American Red Cross. The need for blood is constant and throughout the pandemic, the Red Cross is grateful for generous blood donors who take time to donate lifesaving blood.

Nic Peterson, from Hudson, is a first-time blood donor and recently began to donate blood.

“I was always curious about donating blood and made up about every excuse possible. I was too busy, it wasn’t convenient enough, I was a little nervous, is it going to hurt, will I faint like my Mom does, etc.,” said Nic Peterson. “Selfishly, when I learned that the Red Cross tests for COVID antibodies, I admittedly was simply curious if I ever had COVID and it made me take the leap!”

Here’s a guide on what to expect as a first-time blood donor. Ready to make an impact? Make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org.

In June 2020, the Red Cross began testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies to help provide donors insight into whether they may have been exposed to coronavirus during this ongoing pandemic.

Since Peterson’s initial donation, he now tries to donate blood as much as he can at the Red Cross blood drive held at the American Legion in New Richmond.

“The people working are awesome. I am a big introvert and a little shy. The staff is so welcoming and made me feel informed and comfortable. Plus, it hurts less than getting a shot, which I have no idea how that could be,” said Peterson.

To encourage others who may be hesitant to donate Peterson says, “Just try it one time. You don’t need to make the decision if this is something you are going to do forever. Give it a shot, see how you feel, and then decide if it is something you want to do moving forward. Even if you decide after one time that it isn’t for you, it still is a great feeling to know you helped someone that really needed it.”

Every two seconds in the United States blood is 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. The Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for the patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide.

Peterson is an advocate for the Red Cross mission.

“When I think of the Red Cross, I do think of all of the great things they do such as helping in support and recovery during natural disasters, helping a family after their house burnt, or supplying blood to hospitals across the country. Now, what pulls at my heart strings the most is donating blood. When someone needs it, I have realized there is only one way to get it and that is by someone taking the time out of their day to donate it for others.”

“People, when they see the Red Cross, they feel comforted”: A Conversation on the Power of Volunteering with Red Crossers Curtis & Bette Hossman

Interview and story by Michael Tenamore, American Red Cross

“The fabric of our nation is strengthened by the service of its volunteers. When we stand side-by-side to help others, our differences fade away, and we learn that Americans have more in common than we realize.” Barbara Stewart

Curtis and Bette Hossman, two American Red Cross volunteers, have stood side-by-side through it all.

From Lodi and Madison to Birmingham and Long Island, their dedication to volunteering is nothing short of amazing. At the Red Cross, they’ve done everything from humanitarian relief after cataclysmic natural disasters and interacting with service member families facing life-or-death medical procedures, to welcoming donors at blood drives and bringing mental well-being resources to veterans who are incarcerated.

After 50 years of experience as volunteers and during National Volunteer Week 2021, we wanted to learn some of their secrets and inspiration, so we hopped on a call together to see how it all started. (This conversation was edited for length and clarity.)

When did you start volunteering?

Curtis Hossman leads a Service to the Armed Forces wellness workshop in 2019 to a group in Milwaukee. Photo by Justin Kern / American Red Cross

Bette Hossman: “Oh, my gosh, I probably started volunteering … well, we were in high school, [so] probably over 50 years ago. I think we had a birthday party, and we bought gifts for kids at a red Kabbalistic [gathering] here in Madison.”

Curtis Hossman: “That’s what we did for our birthdays when we were teenagers.”

Along with volunteering for the Red Cross and at their church in Lodi, Curtis and Bette have started volunteering through “Reach Out” food deliveries during the pandemic. They were also giving “Wellness on Wednesday” presentations in their community center. And for more than a decade, Curtis has been on the executive board for Habitat for Humanity. He’s helped establish a local endowment foundation for other charities. In the past, they’ve also volunteered at the children’s hospital, schools and AmeriCorps.

What are the memorable national deployments you’ve been involved with through the Red Cross?

Bette: “The first one you went on was a real eye-opener. We walked into this huge building that looked like a warehouse and all the stations set up for different things that I wouldn’t think of.”

“You need telecommunications, you need transportation, you need housing, you need mass care, and you need people to distribute food. It was like, ‘Holy cow!’ [There’s] a little city under this roof lobby operation that you weren’t expecting.”

Curtis: “I really liked my one in New York [for Super Storm Sandy] the most. I went out to Long Island, and there was nobody else there because there was no transportation. I was the only Red Cross person there [to begin with].”

“But then we started to get some community people involved, and then after two or three days, it started rolling. But it was kind of fun to be on the ground floor and try to figure out where to stay.”

At the V.A. Hospital in Madison, Curtis and Bette stand side-by-side with the veteran patients and their families. They have been volunteers for over four years at the V.A., where they meet and talk with individuals who require an organ transplant. It’s not what comes to most mind’s when they hear of a volunteer.

Curtis: “It was an injustice to see these people that served our country struggling more than others.”

The couple blurs the lines of what “volunteering” is. They inspire others to make the change that needs to be made. What do you call a person who spends their lifetime seeking out the bad, helping strangers who are struggling the most, and standing side by side with them?

Why do you do it?

Curtis: “You know, whenever you reach out and help somebody else, you are enhancing your own soul. It’s almost an act of selfishness, but it’s in the Socratic kind of notion that doing good for others enhances you, and it makes the world a better place for everybody.”

Bette: “People when they see the Red Cross, they feel comforted. They see someone who wishes to help them.”

Curtis and Bette show what it means to be a volunteer. Volunteering is more than an act, and it’s what we all need – during trauma, during grief, or during a global pandemic – and we owe all volunteers thanks for being a reminder of what we can all become.

Find a volunteer role that fits your passion and schedule. Start your journey at redcross.org/volunteer.