How a home fire client became an all-star volunteer

By James Ziech, American Red Cross

Kimberly Brockman’s decision to join the American Red Cross as a volunteer four years ago began with a cry for help – her house was on fire.

It was three in the morning. Cries from her daughter aroused Kimberly from her sleep. Then, she heard the smoke alarms. She sprang into action. She evacuated her family and her pets from their burning trailer. Her daughter was taken to the hospital. One of their dogs didn’t make it.

“We have nowhere to go, nothing but the clothes on our backs,” she remembered thinking at the time.

Kim profile James story

Kimberly Brockman shares a selfie while wearing her Red Cross volunteer duds.

Kimberly reached out for help the best she knew how. Within the hour, a representative of the American Red Cross came to help. Volunteers from the Red Cross brought comfort, then provided some money for a safe place to stay for a few days. When it came time to leave the hotel and find a new apartment, her Red Cross caseworker led her to the information and agencies that could get her started again in a new place for her and her family.

“I was so touched by what the organization does, that I wanted to help people the way they do,” she said.

Coming in with many years of experience working as a Medical Assistant, her choice of being a volunteer as a blood donor ambassador was an easy one. She would greet and welcome donors who come to the blood drives and ensure that they have a pleasant experience with the organization.

“Everybody is so thankful and we are thanked so much for what we do to help people,” she said. “I think we get the most thanks by talking to someone and asking people what you do for a living, and they’re like, ‘You guys are awesome! Thank you for being there.’”

After some time, Kimberly took up a leadership role and started to do community outreach. Sometimes, she would spend time in public talking with people. Other times, she would get to know the businesses in the area and getting them involved in hosting blood drives. There will even be a blood drive at Lincoln Park Zoo in Manitowoc on July 17. (Click here to find that and other drives to share your generous donation of life-saving blood.)

Kim and Cheap Trick James story

Brockman, holding the check at left, joins fellow Northeast Chapter volunteers to accept the generous donation from a rock concert that included Cheap Trick.

Kimberly wanted to also get involved in disaster response, though health issues prevented her from doing on-scene responses to incidents like home fires. Turned out, there was a need for volunteer disaster dispatchers. It was a perfect fit. From the comfort of her home, she could put volunteers in touch with people who need our help.

“It’s not that you want to feel good about yourself, but about making others feel better. Knowing how you help your fellow man in the worst times of their life. Just being a shoulder, just giving support. It’s about helping other people. Some people just want to know other people care,” she said.

Volunteers like Kimberly Brockman continue to reach out to assist all in need: from local house fires to regional flooding and hurricanes, from donating blood to running blood drives, from community outreach to building partnerships with businesses and government, volunteers from the American Red Cross are available 24/7 to serve and assist. For more information on how you can help your community and state, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Blood Donor Spotlight: Milton Van Lanen

Milton Van Lanen has been donating blood to the Red Cross so long he can’t remember when he started and has been donating platelets since 2008. Last June, Milton stopped to donate platelets after church on a Sunday. He probably thought he was going to make a donation that would save a life but didn’t expect it to be his own.

Apheresis (platelet donation) is similar to giving blood but a machine separates out the platelets and the rest of the red blood cells and other components are returned to the donor. Many patients who need platelets are undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplant and have weakened immune systems. Area hospitals rely on the Red Cross and donors to keep the supply constant, as the shelf life is only 5 days.  Platelets can be donated every two weeks.

The Red Cross routinely performs preliminary tests prior to a donation but this time they asked Milton if he had ever been told he had an irregular heartbeat. Milton hadn’t so it was suggested he talk to his doctor.

The preliminary tests prior to a donation can sometimes find indicators that a donor should talk to their doctor. They may reveal low iron, high blood pressure, low blood pressure or an erratic pulse. “It doesn’t happen a lot but when it does it gives our nursing staff a good feeling to know they picked up on something the donor can then have furthered checked out,” says Marcia Liethen, Apheresis Recruitment Support Specialist.

Milton went to see his regular doctor who referred him to a specialist. After running some tests it was determined that Milton had partial blockage in a front artery and a back artery, which could be fixed by a routine surgery. They scheduled the surgery for 6:00am and he was told he should be recovering by the afternoon. A worse case scenario might mean an overnight stay.

When Milton awoke from the surgery he saw his wife sitting in the hospital chair wiping tears from her face. They were both shocked to learn Milton would need open heart surgery… a double bypass surgery. “There were no symptoms. I was fine.”

The doctor told Milton he might have never had symptoms if the Red Cross Nursing Staff hadn’t found it. “I was lucky I went to give platelets otherwise I might not be here,” says Milton.

“Now there is no irregular heartbeat and I feel just fine.” Milton says he is just waiting for the ok from his doctor so that he can start donating at the Red Cross again.

Milton says it’s important to donate and volunteer in the community. He volunteers at St Vincent De Paul 2-5 times a week and during milder months volunteers at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Arboretum. “It keeps me out of mischief.”

Milton’s wife, Jean, also a volunteer, sees the value of giving back to the community and is happy her husband went to give platelets that day. “I always tell him it’s because of all the good he does that he’s still here with us.”

Red Cross leverages new social media platform to reward blood donors

Are you a “Foursquare” user? The next time you give blood be sure you “check in”.

What is Foursquare? Foursquare is a geo-location application for mobile phones that allows users to “check in” at various venues, “shout” to friends and earn badges.

The application has more than 4 million users worldwide, and in November it launched a special American Red Cross blood donor badge. The badge allows donors to share their good deed with others while encouraging more people to give.

To unlock the American Red Cross blood donor badge, users check in at a blood donation location and then “shout” that they are donating blood. Click here to learn more about how Foursquare works.

Be a Super Donor Days Lifesaver

24th Annual Super Donor Days Blood Drive

Scotty from Q90 FM

to help boost blood supply prior to July 4 weekend

No matter what your occupation or how you spend your time, you can be a lifesaver this summer by donating blood through the American Red Cross at the 24th Annual Super Donor Days Blood Drive. According to the Red Cross, holiday weekends like the Fourth of July can prove extra challenging for blood collection making this is a great time to donate.

Enjoy a day of great company, special entertainment and Glass Nickel Pizza while being a summer lifesaver for patients in need. The first 50 presenting donors each day will receive a gift, courtesy of Bellin Health.  Free childcare is available during your donation and there is free parking in front of Shopko Hall and on the east side of the Don Huston Center.

“Whether you’re home from school for the summer, or never donated before, come out to Super Donor Days and experience a Green Bay-area tradition,” said Dave Liethen, American Red Cross donor recruitment representative. “We’re hoping over 200 people come out to donate blood during the two-day event.”

Eligible blood donors are encouraged to visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (448-3543) to make an appointment. Scheduling an appointment in advance allows the Red Cross to make donations as convenient as possible for donors.

A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Eligible donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 years old with a signed Red Cross parental/guardian consent form where state permits, must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Wednesday, June 30-  1 PM to 7 PM

Thursday, July 1-   7 Am to 1 PM

Shopko Hall, Green Bay

Appointments encouraged, walk-ins welcome. All presenting donors will receive a free shirt.

Red Cross volunteer helps out for decades

Blanche Baudhuin has been volunteering at the American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter for more than 30 years.

Blanche joined Good Day Wisconsin Wednesday to talk about her desire to help others and the recent celebration of her 94th birthday.

Click HERE for the Video: