‘We need some good in the world’: American Red Cross Club leader dedicates days to public service

By Rachel Helgeson, American Red Cross

While it seems the whole world is experiencing many “no’s” in this time of job loss, social distancing, and civil and political unrest, one young woman decided to give a resounding ‘yes’ to the public service.

Carly Langkamp, a 22-year-old Darlington, Wisc. native, dedicated herself once again to upholding two new volunteer roles with the American Red Cross immediately after graduating from University of Wisconsin – Madison in May.

Carly Langkamp, right, talks with prospective Red Cross volunteers and club members at a 2019 event on UW-Madison campus.

She had already volunteered years and hundreds of hours to the Red Cross Club at her college, even sitting as the Vice President of the group.

As a college freshman, Carly first said “yes” to the Red Cross Club and stuck with it because of those she was surrounded by, although there were only three individuals in the fundraising committee where she first volunteered.

“There was something about the Red Cross, I vibed with the other people there,” Carly said. “I really like the people.”

But now, even amidst a pandemic, a new position in the business world, and an upcoming move to Chicago, nothing could keep Carly away from volunteering for the Wisconsin Red Cross.

“We need some good in the world, especially now. If people have time why not? I would want someone to do the same for me that I am doing for other people,” she said.

Carly sees the value in giving her time as a Volunteer Recognition Lead and a Youth Engagement Lead, where she is able to work virtually to uplift, support, and acknowledge adult and student volunteers around the state.

As a Volunteer Recognition Lead, Carly works with Jocelyn Berkhahn, the Wisconsin Region Volunteer Engagement Specialist, to coordinate birthday wishes for volunteers and answers questions.

Langkamp, left of T-shirt in front row, poses with their Madison Red Cross Club in 2019.

In her Youth Engagement Lead position, Carly oversees five college Red Cross Clubs, just like the one she was in at UW-Madison, and three high school clubs.

“There are two new clubs pending which is pretty cool,” Carly said. “I send youth Happy Birthday’s and get them registered and if they have questions I help. With this virtual environment we’re trying to brainstorm activities to participate.”

Although her work and volunteer lifestyle is keeping her busy, Carly keeps in mind why she does what she does.

“What I get from it is enjoyment, I am glad that I am able to help Jocelyn out,” she said. “I don’t see myself stopping volunteering, unless work keeps me from giving as much as I would want. Even if that would happen, I’d still try to find a way to help out.”

Find out more about Red Cross Club opportunities at your school. Email Jocelyn to get involved and make a difference in our world.

AmeriCorps Volunteers Answer the Call in Houston

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Story and Photo by Chris Genin, American Red Cross volunteer

From left to right: Jeremy Holm, Alex Unger, Juliana Stahle, Scott Sobocinski, Joshua Haisch, Emma Harvey

Unless you’ve resided or worked in an American Red Cross shelter, it’s difficult to get a sense of what goes on to ensure the comfort and safety of people who have come to the shelter for help. Volunteers work around the clock to maintain a positive environment and guarantee people’s needs are met. This is a huge job and the Red Cross often works with partner agencies in the shelter so that things run smoothly.

Alex Unger, an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Core (NCCC) team leader, is one such volunteer who represents a partner agency and is working side-by-side with Red Cross volunteers to efficiently run one of the remaining Red Cross shelters at Houston’s Greenspoint Mall.

AmeriCorps is a team-based national community service program run by the federal government and Alex and his team operate under the NCCC. Teams are usually comprised of eight to 12 people who travel around the country building homes, responding to disasters, working with kids and performing energy and environmental conservation work. They operate under 10-month commitments and typically focus on one region unless a disaster strikes. The AmeriCorps campus in Baltimore sent 12 teams to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Prior to deploying to Houston, Alex’s team was in Idaho aiding relief efforts during the Hanover Wildfire.

Alex’s team of 11 AmeriCorps members helped spearhead the shelter set up and had the big task of unloading and organizing 16 trucks packed full of resident’s’ personal belongs. Most Greenspoint Mall residents moved there from another shelter and a system had to be implemented to make sure personal belongings went with them. Alex’s team sorted totes and boxes and created a system for where their belongings went.

Nearly 500 people descended on the shelter, some traveling with 10 massive boxes and others bringing one small tote, Alex’s team organized these things in an orderly manner, while at the same time remaining readily available to help in other areas. No matter the quantity of what came with a resident, Alex handled all belongings with care, keeping in mind that what they were unloading could be all the material things that remained for some people.

Thirteen AmeriCorps team members are still supporting Red Cross shelter operations. These volunteers help manage laundry service, sorting and distributing donated items, serving meals, unloading deliveries and maintaining general cleanliness. All of this is done in support of the 400 residents who call this shelter home nearly seven weeks after Hurricane Harvey.

Alex, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, joined AmeriCorps because he wanted to experience this unique way of life and to develop his leadership ability. He and his team are going to continue their work in Houston until they graduate their service year on November 15.

A lot of the people are really appreciative of the work that we’re doing here,” Alex said. “Whether it’s serving meals or passing out clothes, a lot of people basically have nothing. It’s humbling to be a part of it all, to sit with someone and hear their story. It’s great to see people getting back on their feet.”