Dying Mother Saves Son from Death

Written by Barbara Behling, Communications Director

In honor of the many men and women who have served our country and continue to serve, we thank you today and everyday for your service. 


Even from a deathbed, a mother can save a child. This was the case for Neil Starke, serving in the US Coast Guard during WWII. Thanks to the American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces program he was able to share her last breaths, a visit which also saved his own life.

In the heart of WWII, the USS El Paso was situated at 114° North & 120° East. From these decks, air & sea rescues off the Philippines coasts were conducted. It was in the heart of the fighting, he received a cablegram from the Red Cross which explained his father had fallen while riding a bus, with trauma to his head, he was sent to a mental institution. Meanwhile, in another hospital, his dying mother yearned to see her son one last time. His superior officers granted permission for a 38-day leave of absence. It was this stroke of timing that saved his life.

SONY DSCNeil was taken off one ship, sailed to land on another and then boarded a military plane to fly back to the states. Altogether, the journey took two weeks. While at his mother’s bedside, he shared stories, a smile and the unmistakable touch of a mother’s hand until her passing.  Even today, when sharing his story, he remains visibly shaken.

Now with tears in his eyes, it was time to return to duty. “It was the first time I heard my father’s voice falter when saying good-bye.” Neil explains. By military plane, he flew back to the base and was ready to rejoin his ship. He waited a week. Then two, he was eager to join his team. “It was ironic and a blessing, I was pulled off that ship as it was declared lost in the Yellow Sea typhoon.  While I never saw any man I served with again; the vessel was found two-weeks later. The boilers had been destroyed so it must have been tossing around like a toy in a washing machine,” Neil concluded.

A short-time thereafter, an international peace agreement was signed. The war was over. “Until that cable gram, I had been mad at the Red Cross about $.15 lemonade that tasted awful.  Then I learned the greater meaning of their work. It allowed me to be with my mother in those final days and it also saved my life.”

The Service to the Armed Forces division of the American Red Cross helps our military members and their families across the world with one primary function being Emergency Communications. If family needs to get in touch with a service member while they are on active duty, they can call the Red Cross Emergency Communication line for the military at 1-877-272-7337. The Red Cross will get family in touch, and provide vital verification services so that commanding officers can make informed decisions about emergency leave. The Red Cross is the only organization entrusted with this responsibility because of our longstanding history with the military, as well as our Fundamental Principles of Neutrality and Impartiality.

Reflection: Conference on Volunteering and Service – Day One

By: Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

More than 5,000 volunteer leaders gathered at our Nation’s Capitol June 19-22 for the largest gathering of its kind – The Points of Light’s Annual Conference on Volunteering and Service. Service DAy 1

When you go to a conference of this size people always ask, “What did you learn?” I find it is not so much about what I learned, but it is more about being inspired, rejuvenated and hopeful for change to come.


Talk about inspiration – My first session that I attended was called; Mobilizing Youth for Change presented by the Youth Advisory Council of GenerationOn. This group of 14 teenagers from across the US blew me away with their poise, confidence and forward thinking. These kids, and yes, I mean kids, are changing the world. Take a moment to read their bios and be inspired too.


Next up was the opening plenary, titled “The Spirit of Service.” The plenary is to get you jazzed up and excited for what is to come over the next few days. I love finding out who the guest speakers will be because they are always people of influence, power and great statue. Once again, this year did not disappoint. We opened with the Mayor of the District of Columbia, The Honorable Vincent C. Gray, and closed with one of my favorite motivational speakers (who I had the chance of meeting and talking with when he was in Green Bay for the Green Bay Chamber Annual Meeting last fall) J.R. Martinez, U.S. Army Veteran, Author and Actor.

Vincent Gray jr martinez

My first day closed with a networking event just for Red Cross volunteer managers from across the US. There were about 50 other volunteer managers there as well as Jim Star, VP, Volunteer Management and Kim Gube, Volunteer Relationships Manager for National Headquarters.

Getting that time to “talk shop” with my fellow Red Cross volunteer managers and bend the ear of the people at the top is invaluable. The volunteer management department has been turned on its head this past year with the launch of Volunteer Connection. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great tool, and one incredible step for the American Red Cross in being OneRedCross, but with change comes lots of questions.  Volunteer Connection was definitely the big topic of discussion over our beverages and appetizers.

Looking back now, on that first day, it was perfect! A day filled with inspiration from all angles: youth empowerment, empowerment from the top and empowerment from within my own organization and peers.

Stay tuned for day two…… Jody

ps. To view additional day one pictures from the conference click HERE.

Presidential Proclamation — National Volunteer Week, 2012



President Obama Signs Landmark National Service Legislation

Our Nation has been profoundly shaped by ordinary Americans who have volunteered their time and energy to overcome extraordinary challenges. From the American Revolution and the Seneca Falls Convention to the everyday acts of compassion and purpose that move millions to make change in their communities, our Nation has always been at its best when individuals have come together to realize a common vision. As we continue to pursue progress, service and social innovation will play an essential role in achieving our highest ambitions — from a world-class education for every child to an economy built to last. During National Volunteer Week, we pay tribute to all who give of themselves to keep America strong, and we renew the spirit of service that has enriched our country for generations.

That spirit lives on today in countless acts of service around our country. When one of the deadliest tornados in our Nation’s history touched down in Joplin, Missouri, in May 2011, thousands of volunteers stepped forward to serve their fellow citizens. They turned a university into a hospital. They repurposed doors for stretchers. They rushed food to those in need and filled trucks with donations. To date, they have committed more than half a million hours to bringing support and shelter to a community during a time of profound hardship and heartache. In Joplin and across America, we see the transformative power of service — to unite, to build, to heal.

My Administration remains steadfast in our commitment to empower more Americans with tools to shape their communities. During my first 100 days in office, I was proud to sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, a landmark national service law that laid out a strategy to link service with innovation, established the groundbreaking Social Innovation Fund, and charted the expansion of AmeriCorps. Last month, we launched FEMA Corps, a new service corps that will enhance our national capacity for disaster response and prepare its members for careers in emergency management. Through United We Serve and national service days, we continue to connect individuals young and old to new opportunities to reinvent their world through service — from fighting hunger and expanding access to healthy, affordable food to mentoring young people and fostering literacy. In all of these efforts, we are reminded how volunteer work can expand opportunity not only for those in need, but also for those who give. Service can teach valuable skills that pave the way to long-term employment and stay with volunteers throughout their careers and lives.

Service is a lifelong pursuit that strengthens the civic and economic fabric of our Nation. With every hour and every act, our lives are made richer, our communities are drawn closer, and our country is forged stronger by the dedication and generous spirit of volunteers. I encourage every American to stand up and play their part — to put their shoulder up against the wheel and help change history’s course. To get started on a project near you, visit www.Serve.gov.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 15 through April 21, 2012, as National Volunteer Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week by volunteering in service projects across our country and pledging to make service a part of their daily lives.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.


Be Red Cross Great In 2011


Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” Every January we remember the birthday of a great man by recognizing it as a National Day of Service. Take time this January to think of how great you can be.

Last year the American Red Cross of the Northeast Wisconsin Region did great things because you joined us by giving blood, taking or teaching a classes, donated funds or gave your time. The Red Cross and the people who make up the organization were able to be there when there were fires in our community, they supported military families, train people in lifesaving classes, they were able to give rides to neighbors who needed them and were there for other events that make us a community.

Thank you for your part in making great things happen.

Don’t forget there are many ways to serve your community and recognize the greatness in us all. The greatness Martin Luther King, Jr. saw. You can make a direct impact on the well being, safety and readiness of friends, family and neighbors in your own community.

From volunteer opportunities and local blood drives to safety courses and monthly donations, there are countless opportunities for you to touch lives, change lives, and make a difference down the street, across the country, and around the world.

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day take some time to take a Red Cross class or donate blood to make it a day on, not off. If you want to talk about other volunteer opportunities to be Red Cross great throughout the year contact your local American Red Cross!

Volunteer Spotlight: Melissa Konrath, President, UWGB Red Cross Club

(l-r) Michelle Etheridge, musician, Rob Anthony and Melissa Konrath at last years Red Cross Club Awareness Concert on Campus.

As a University of Wisconsin- Green Bay student, Melissa Konrath, 20 years old, is active on-campus and in intramural sports. She is also active in the American Red Cross as president of the UWGB –Red Cross Club.

The UWGB Red Cross Club is an on-campus organization that provides opportunities for students to get involved in the community through things like CPR training, disaster training and volunteering. Its mission also includes raising awareness to the community services and needs of the American Red Cross. They also don’t forget to bring the fun in this social and interactive environment.

As a class officer in her high school in Slinger, WI, Melissa, helped to plan and run blood drives so she was familiar with the Red Cross as an organization. As a student at UWGB, she joined the Red Cross Club on campus its first year. “I thought it would be a good way to get back into volunteering,” says Melissa.

“I have learned that there is more to the Red Cross than blood drives.  I think that is a common misconception throughout the general population,” says Melissa.

Melissa served as Vice President the first year and was recruited as president of the club for the experience she could bring to the role the next year.

Since the club’s inception in the spring 2009 semester they have supported the Red Cross in many ways. Their members have volunteered for a variety of fundraisers including a concert for Haiti. They also made cards for the Holiday Mail for Heroes program, making comfort dolls for AIDS orphans in Africa, babysitting to support Military Services, volunteering for the Packers Spooktacular and Project Leap events, participated in service to help at a Downtown Green Bay clean-up day and help at on-campus and community blood drives.  The clubs signature  event is organizing an annual concert with musician, Rob Anthony, to raise Red Cross Awareness on-campus to the students and faculty.

“I am amazed at how much the Red Cross Club on campus has grown and all that we have accomplished since the club was first brought to UWGB.  Because we are growing each year, our accomplishments also have expanded as well as getting the word out there of the mission of the Red Cross,” says Melissa.

When Melissa isn’t busy volunteering with the Red Cross she is spending time with friends and family including her 5 year-old-sister. She is also busy working towards a double major in Psychology and Human Development.

“The Red Cross is something worth making time for because you know you are helping others and can even sometimes see first-hand your impact.”

(l-r) Mellisa and Jody Weyers, Red Cross Club Staff Advisor, at UWGB Fall Org Smorg recruitment event.