Friday, September 4, 2020

My Red Cross Story: Christine Weber

Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, Communications Volunteer

Volunteer: Christine Weber
Years of volunteer service: 3
Profession: Dog Trainer
Resides: Sterling, Virginia

Meet Christine Weber, volunteer for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the past three years. As a volunteer, Christine helps people recover from disasters like home fires and makes sure they are cared for in their time of deepest despair.


“I love helping people, it’s in my nature.” 


For example, Christine will go onsite to where a home fire occurred, day or night, and help identify alternative shelter, food, supplies, and financial assistance for impacted individuals and families. 

Christine Weber

One such house fire occurred very early on Christmas morning in 2019. Christine said the house fire impacted five family members and a dog and was particularly hard on the family because it was the holidays, and they were displaced from their home. Christine said she was proud to have helped the family through this hardship by ensuring they had alternative shelter and food.

Many times, Christine works side-by-side with her father, Mike Weber, who is also a volunteer for the American Red Cross and the inspiration for Christine to become a volunteer. This father-daughter team has also helped the American Red Cross provide assistance at state funerals at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., for the late U.S. President George H.W. Bush and the late Reverend Billy Graham, according to Christine.  

“We helped support the crowds of people who came to pay respects to the late President George H.W. Bush and the late Reverend Billy Graham,” said Christine. “It was both sad and awe-inspiring at the same time because of the significance of these two individuals.”

Christine and Mike also have worked as American Red Cross volunteers at the Marine Corps Marathon, helping to aide runners along the way by providing beverages and other supplies. Additionally, they have conducted a number of American Red Cross Pillowcase project presentations in local grade schools. According to Christine, these presentations teach children the importance of being prepared to respond to disasters by having a pillowcase ready to go with supplies such as food, water, flashlight, and medicine. Christine also said another very important preparedness tool for families is to have an established place for the family to meet (like a neighbor’s tree) once they leave their home in an emergency such as a fire in the middle of the night.

Additionally, Christine is the American Red Cross volunteer who issues mission cards for the Loudoun and Prince William Counties Chapter in Northern Virginia to volunteers who are deploying. A mission card is like a pre-funded debit card issued to deployed volunteers, which the volunteers use to pay for expenses while they are deployed and responding to disasters, said Christine. 

Clockwise from top left: Christine and Pumpkin;
Christine and Buddy; Christine and Snowberry

Christine described a recent situation where she called one volunteer to arrange a meeting time and place to issue a mission card. Christine said she realized over the phone that the volunteer was having a medical situation, and she informed others in American Red Cross leadership, who then contacted the volunteer’s family member. Christine said the family member went to the volunteer’s house to check on the volunteer.  

“The volunteer was indeed having a serious medical situation and ended up in the hospital for several days,” said Christine, who said she felt good about helping out another person.

“I think it is important to be a volunteer so you can help people,” said Christine. 


“I know everyone has busy lives, but you can always find time to help somebody" 


"You feel better about life by volunteering because you know you helped someone else out. I know I would want someone to help me out if I experienced a disaster, the way I help out others through volunteering for the American Red Cross.”

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Volunteer for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team

Most of the 60,000 emergencies that the Red Cross responds to each year are local, personal disasters, like home fires. Trained and available, Disaster Action Team volunteers are ready to respond to these emergencies, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. From offering a shoulder to cry on, to meeting any immediate needs for sheltering or supplies, to connecting people with long term recovery services, Red Cross volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face tough times alone. Join the Red Cross to answer the call when your neighbor needs help. 

For more information and to join us, visit:

Learn More About the Pillowcase Project Program - now being offered virtually!
The Pillowcase Project is a free interactive preparedness program designed for children in grades 3 through 5. The program aims to increase awareness and understanding of natural hazards, teach safety and emotional coping skills, as well as the importance of personal preparedness. Through the presentation, students learn the best ways to stay safe and how to create their own emergency supply kits by packing essential items in a pillowcase for easy transport during a disaster. Students will receive a digital workbook and will be encouraged to decorate and personalize their pillowcases and share what they’ve learned with friends and family.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Our Red Cross Story: The Jokl Family

 By Sandy Habib, Red Cross Volunteer

In 2014 and early 2015, Lee and Kirsten Jokl were excited soon-to-be, first-time parents. By all accounts, Kirsten’s pregnancy was normal until early February 2015, when their son Elin was born six weeks prematurely. While being born so early can pose a huge challenge on its own, it was just the beginning of a slew of surgeries and procedures that Elin would soon face. 

Doctors quickly discovered that he was born with a blockage in his small intestine. At just 16 hours old, Elin underwent his first surgery. His medical team identified a blockage and removed the perforated section, thinking Elin’s problems were solved. Ten days later and still in the hospital, Elin’s body was fighting an infection in his bloodstream and became septic due to another blockage that doctors hadn’t previously discovered. He was then rushed to the Johns Hopkins Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he received his first Red Cross blood transfusion. Within days, he needed another surgery and with it, another blood transfusion.

Elin Jokl underwent his first of five surgeries just 16 hours after he was born.

Professionally, Kirsten is a Senior Physician Assistant in the Adult Emergency Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This enabled the couple to be highly involved in nearly every aspect of Elin’s care. A large part of his care at the time included ongoing blood transfusions. Lee discussed options with Johns Hopkins and the Red Cross; the team approved a plan that enabled Lee to donate lifesaving blood that went straight to his son, known as a “directed donation.”

After six blood transfusions, five surgeries and nearly three months in the NICU, Elin was finally able to go home in late April 2015. Since then, Lee, Kirsten, and Elin welcomed another addition to the family, Eva, born in 2017, and they are all happy and healthy. Elin knows the story of his early months and shows off his prominent belly scars as badges of honor. He is currently busy preparing for another proud moment, his first day of kindergarten.

Elin Jokl is ready for his next milestone: kindergarten.

Meanwhile, Lee has been doing what he can to build awareness for the critical – and constant – need for blood donors. He works at T. Rowe Price, a large financial services firm, and helped support regular on-site blood drives prior to COVID-19; he is eager to continue these workplace drives once it is safe to do so.


“Giving blood really is one of the easiest, most selfless things someone can do to have a huge, positive impact on another person. It means so much, as we know very personally.”

- Kirsten Jokl

He stays engaged with the Red Cross as a Board Member for the Central Maryland Chapter. The Board promotes the need for financial and blood donations in the local community, among other organizational priorities that support the Red Cross mission. The group recently participated in Central Maryland’s August “Run for the Red,” a virtual race through which runners secured sponsorships and donations that went to the Red Cross. Lee participated in the inaugural event “Run for the Red” and enjoyed the experience and sharing his accomplishment with friends and family on social media. 

Elin is healthy today in large part because of the generosity of blood donors and the Red Cross. Based on their experience with the Red Cross, Lee and Kirsten are all too happy to give back and encourage others to do the same.

The happy Jokl family today.
Lee explains, “I greatly appreciate anyone who takes time out of their day to donate blood, as well as the Red Cross for getting it to those in need. It was a huge process to get Elin all the blood he needed in those early months and I’m eternally grateful for all that the Red Cross did to partner with the hospital and help save Elin’s life. He wouldn’t be here today without all that.” 

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Give the gift of life by rolling up your sleeve and donating blood today – you can save up to three lives with every selfless donation. 

Make an appointment here:

Monday, August 24, 2020

Red Cross Holds Virtual Resiliency Workshops for Military Members and Families

 By Laura Cantagallo, American Red Cross Volunteer

A substantial part of the Red Cross mission is its service to the armed forces and all who affiliate with them, such as spouses, families, and loved ones. It can be difficult when a family member is deployed overseas, leaving his or her significant others back at home fighting their own battles. 

As a way to support these military families and affiliated members, the Red Cross is holding virtual resiliency and stress management workshops via Zoom. I sat it on the one from Friday, July 24, which was led by Dr. Carol Deel, a licensed mental health provider with her own full-time private practice in Maryland, and Lynn Hottle, a Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) reconnection facilitator and part of the regional Disaster Mental Health team. 

“We are very serious about our commitment to serving the armed forces; this is how Clara Barton started it,” said Hottle. 

Hottle and Deel met with a small group of military members over Zoom to discuss their personal experiences with stress and anxiety and how they cope, converse about how stress can impact us, and, throughout the second half of the workshop, give participants techniques to help dissolve stress at its root. 

"We just really want to share with you all some tools and information for some of the things going on in today’s world,” said Hottle.

The facilitators began with an open discussion about stress and how it reaches each individual on a personal and unique level. Hottle and Deel educated participants on how stress can impact us on many levels. 

This includes:

  • Bodily – heavy breathing, increased heart rate, stomach pain
  • Behaviorally – argumentative, increased/decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping
  • Emotionally – anger, sadness, mood swings

Later on, participants were given a list of ways to cope, reduce, and manage the stressors they experience, like cooking, organizing, reading a book, listening to music, and much more – the list of stress-reducers went on in abundance.

Deel and Hottle later switched the focus over to relaxation and stress-reducing techniques. The first was deep breathing: force out as much air as possible and then breathe back in deeply. 

“Breathe at a rate that’s comfortable for you,” said Deel as she walked participants through the technique.

Another similar breathing exercise was a hand tracing technique that synchronized tracing the outline of your hand as you breathe in and out.

A third method for reducing stress included using senses to help bring about calmness. This means observing things around you using the five senses – this can help individuals stay grounded and notice their surroundings when trying to fall asleep or self-soothe. Throughout these exercises and tips, Deel and Hottle invited participants to discuss how the exercises changed their stress levels.

As the workshop came to a close, the meeting leaders continued to talk about stress, how it impacts us, and how we can cope with it in positive and healthy ways, as well as helpful sleeping tips to ensure a good night’s rest. This workshop is especially crucial due to the uncertainty and anxiousness that can be brought about with the effects of COVID-19. Facilitators ended the meeting with a self-reflection from each individual, and also a “power of gratitude” activity: participants were asked to share three good things they experienced that day and one thing each of them were looking forward to for the following day. 

Now, more than ever, we must show compassion and understanding to those we care about. None of us sincerely know what the future holds, but with help and support offered by the Red Cross, we can make try to bring some sense of normalcy during these challenging times.

“There are so many things that we cannot do or are restricted to, and lots of losses in our lives,” Hottle adds, “Try to reframe the negative things that are happening in our lives and put a positive spin on it.” 

If you or a loved one is suffering and needs assistance, you can call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255, which is available 24 hours a day, in both English and Spanish languages.

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To learn more and sign up for the SAF Virtual COVID Stress-Management Workshops, click here: (More dates to be added soon!)

To learn more about Disaster Mental Health volunteer opportunities, visit

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Red Cross Recruits New Volunteers Through Virtual Open House

By Laura Cantagallo, American Red Cross Volunteer
With COVID-19 bringing an end to in-person meetings, the American Red Cross has adopted virtual communication platforms to recruit new volunteers for their five lines of services: Disaster, Blood Services, Training Services (health and safety), International, and Service to the Armed Forces (SAF). Red Cross volunteers make-up 90% of the Red Cross workforce and respond to more than 60,000 disasters a year – they are the backbone of this humanitarian organization.

The American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region conducted a virtual open house on Microsoft Teams on Tuesday, July 14, led by the Red Cross Volunteer Services recruitment team made up of Kristi Giles, Nanveet Prasad, and Sheleasa Omogbai – all who represent different parts of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware – and included several esteemed guest speakers. Prospective volunteers were given a virtual guided tour of the Red Cross and its history, principles and unique mission, and a look at the all-encompassing list of volunteer opportunities offered to those seeking a way to give back to their communities. 

Pictured clockwise from top:
Shawn Felder, Kristi Giles, and Sheleasa Omogbai 
Some of the volunteers the team is currently recruiting for include volunteers for Disaster Services, Blood Services, and Service to the Armed Forces.

Disaster volunteers can explore several roles: preparedness team members educate communities on self-reliance and personal resilience in the face of disaster, how to respond efficiently, and how to cope after the disaster has occurred. Recovery team members help those affected by disasters begin the road to recovery with initial assistance (food, clothing, shelter), casework, and identification of local, state, and even federal resources for which they may be eligible. 

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Red Cross is committed to providing our nation with a safe and plentiful blood supply, putting blood services volunteers at the very core of the Red Cross operation, especially during this global health crisis. 

This unit is made up of over 25,000 volunteers and all blood is currently being tested for COVID-19 antibodies, and convalescent plasma products are also being collected and distributed treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Blood Services is looking for Blood Donor Screeners, Ambassadors, and Transportation Specialists at all of the nine blood donation centers in our region, including locations in Washington, D.C., Rockville, Lutherville, Frederick, and Baltimore, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia. You can see where they are all here.

There are even opportunities for younger volunteers! The event-based volunteer position for the Blood Donor Screener is open to those 15 and older who seek to contribute to a blood drive by temperature screening donors. Volunteers can sign up for 4-5 hour shifts anywhere across the region.

The American Red Cross was born on the battlefield. Our founder, Clara Barton, first delivered aid and comfort to Union soldiers during the Civil War. Today, the Red Cross continues this proud tradition through the SAF program that comprises several different volunteer opportunities to support those serving our country and their families. There are over 1,000 SAF volunteers spread throughout medical hospitals around the region, as well as volunteers at the Pentagon and Naval Academy. SAF caseworkers provide virtual assistance to help meet military family’s needs when someone is deployed, or when they are experiencing hardship. Caseworkers make initial contact to assess needs, follow up calls, and provide other services to make sure these families are receiving the essential aid they need. 

So, how has an almost completely hands-on volunteer program changed and adapted in 2020 due to the Coronavirus? 

“COVID doesn’t stop us, it only changes how we do it,”

- Shawn Felder, Red Cross Disaster Program Manager

The recruitment team touched on this in the meeting, explaining all the precautions and safety measures that are being taken to ensure the safety of the people we serve in the community and volunteers, all while still being able to give a hand and help those who desperately need Red Cross services. 

“Trainings are all virtual online; some are self-paced modules that you work through and complete,” says Kristi Giles, Senior Recruitment Specialist for the Central Maryland Chapter regarding how volunteers are given training for their duties. 

Red Cross relief also includes financial assistance and mental and spiritual health assistance, provided by volunteers virtually and by phone, done by our Disaster Action Team (DAT). Red Cross members have been reaching those affected by disaster via email, video, and text, practicing social distancing, encouraging touchless distribution of client assistance cards, and wearing masks and gloves.

Disaster Action Teams continue to serve disaster-affected communities and offer help around the clock to clients. 

Another virtual need the Red Cross is currently looking for is recruitment team members. This includes recruiting volunteers for our five lines of service and promoting volunteer opportunities on social media platforms – all virtually.

“We can’t do our job without the help of our volunteers;
they’re the most valuable part of our job.”

- Nanveet Prasad, Recruitment Specialist for the Red Cross 

Giles adds, “We hope that people feel that it’s a rewarding experience and we hope our volunteers understand the impact they’re making in people’s lives.”

If you’re ready to join us and become a Red Cross volunteer, an upcoming virtual open house is scheduled for August 20, 2020 from 10:00-11:00 AM on Microsoft Teams. 

Prospective volunteers can also apply online at and take a quiz to see what opportunities are available, and which would best fit their skill-set and hours of availability. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

My Lifesaving Red Cross Story: Josh Berg

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, American Red Cross Volunteer

Name: Josh Berg
Recognition: American Red Cross Lifesaving Certificate of Merit, 2019

Meet Josh Berg. Josh helped save the life of an athlete who collapsed and lost consciousness at the finish line of a track meet at the Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on April 13, 2019. 

Josh Berg receiving his award from American Red Cross
in the National Capital Region CEO Linda Mathes in  November 2019.

Just three days before the track meet, Josh was re-certified in American Red Cross CPR/AED for Professional Rescuers & First Aid, which Josh attributes as helping him to know how to save the athlete’s life. Josh explains that on the day of the track meet, he was the host athletic trainer – it was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, and the event was typical from a medical aspect. 

“As an athletic trainer at a track meet, however, you can never let your guard down, and you must be prepared to deal with the absolute worst of scenarios,” said Josh. 

“The absolute worst of scenarios happened as quickly as I can remember. I got a radio call from my intern who said that there was an athlete at the finish line who apparently stopped breathing and lost his pulse. I immediately ran to the scene to evaluate the medical situation.”

Josh said the athlete was a mid-distance sprinter who finished the race and collapsed as he was trying to catch his breath. 

“At the time of my initial assessment, the athlete was not breathing, and he did not have a pulse,” said Josh. 

“I instructed a bystander to notify emergency medical services (EMS) staff who were thankfully stationed at the meet. I immediately began giving chest compressions, and it did not take long for the athlete to regain consciousness. I remember around the 22, 23, or 24th chest compression, the athlete took a gigantic gasp of air. At that time, I never felt more relief in my entire life. EMS staff responded quickly and were on the scene very close to when that athlete began breathing and regaining a pulse.”

Josh said as the EMS staff removed the athlete from the scene for further medical treatment, the athlete was waving to the crowd.

 "A true miracle was that the athlete had the fight in him to remain alive,” said Josh, who was grateful to the intern and to the bystander for helping him save the athlete’s life.

“I retreated back to my tent and prayed I would never have to do something like that again. I was hopeful that the athlete would make a good recovery, which I later found out he did.”

Saving a life impacted Josh in many ways, including realizing how his training in American Red Cross CPR/AED for Professional Rescuers & First Aid made him prepared and able to respond to this unexpected event. 

“This lifesaving event taught me that there is no such thing as being overly prepared, especially if lives are on the line,” said Josh. 

“Whether you are a healthcare professional, summer lifeguard, coach, or a bystander with a CPR certification, you must always be ready to snap into action and to protect others. As an athletic trainer, not only are we surrounded by our student-athletes every day, we are surrounded by our school’s community. We are often the first line of help during an emergency.”

Josh hopes his story will inspire others who hear and read about it to become trained in CPR/AED or take part in other lifesaving trainings.

He says the key to a lifesaving event is being ready.

“Trust yourself and the preparation that brought you to this point. True instinct will take over. I think this story will inspire some to not take their role for granted.”

The American Red Cross Lifesaving Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, and the signature of the chairman of the American Red Cross. According to the American Red Cross, a lifesaving action exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress.
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Our Red Cross training programs include First Aid, AED, BLS, CPR, EMR, swimming, water safety, babysitting, child care, and more! Learn more and sign up today:

Monday, April 20, 2020

My Red Cross Story: Will Chai

Written by: Sandy Habib, Communications Volunteer

Young people have so many choices when it comes to how they can spend their leisure time. There’s nothing more inspiring, though, than hearing stories about youth that spend countless hours giving back to their communities in profound ways.

Will Chai’s Red Cross story spans several U.S. states and numerous projects, groups and missions. Will spent his early childhood in Iowa and Kansas, where he grew up with a strong Red Cross presence, especially during tornado season. By the time he and his family moved to Maryland for Will’s high school years, he had a clear impression of the relief and comfort that the Red Cross is so famous for bringing to those affected by disasters.

In his freshman summer of high school, Will and his friend, Brendan Tan, started a Red Cross club at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. Will served as Co-President and Founder for his remaining three years at the school. In his role, he recruited many members and facilitated countless activities.

During his tenure, Will was elected onto the National Capital Region’s Volunteer Appreciation Committee, where he helped create policies that improved volunteer engagement in the region. In 2017, he served as a Citizen CPR Leader and Blood Services Ambassador. Will hosted numerous fundraisers, conducted disaster preparedness education sessions, scheduled group speakers, assembled disaster preparedness kits and made house visits as part of the Sound the Alarm program, to name a few.

“The Red Cross experience is what you make of it.  We have so many activities, so many opportunities for youth to get involved, even if it’s just 1-2 hours a week.”

Will was recognized for his efforts by being awarded the 2015-2016 Youth Volunteer of the Year for the National Capital Region. He also received the 2015 and 2016 Presidential Volunteer Service Award and was selected to be the host and speaker for the 2016 National Capital Region’s Red Cross Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.

Will’s story continued as he headed off to Brown University, where he is currently in his sophomore year. In between his health, human biology, and pre-med studies, he has continued with his commitment to the Red Cross. Brown didn’t have a Red Cross presence on campus before Will arrived, but he reached out to the Red Cross in the Connecticut/Rhode Island region to change that.

The CT/RI chapter introduced him to people at Brown who were able to help Will submit the application to formalize a presence on campus. He now serves as the official Red Cross Club Chapter contact at Brown University and began recruiting members when COVID-19 hit and campus was evacuated. Although he is currently living with his family in Maryland, he is actively making plans for when Brown University reopens and students return: fundraisers, volunteer recruitment on campus, community engagement throughout the local region, connection with other Red Cross clubs in the area and partnerships with area high schools.

“If you help your neighbor, they are more likely to pay it forward and help someone else.  Sometimes you need to get the ball rolling to foster that kind of culture. This is what I want to do at Brown and in the local community. I want to build that kind of culture.”

The other inspirational part of Will’s story is that his experience with the Red Cross has influenced his studies and his future career aspirations. He ultimately wants to focus on health equity, health education, and health policy. His spirit of social activism as a young person has triggered a professional commitment to give back to society. Will was selected to participate in a fellowship and intern on Capitol Hill this summer. This will give him a great direct experience learning about health policy.

While Will adds more to his education and career development workloads, he continues to work with the Red Cross. He is currently the Peer Outreach Working Group Lead on the National Youth Council of the Red Cross. This Council consists of 13 youth members and two adult advisors who represent and support youth volunteers throughout the country. They are advocates for youth and young adults, and they’re a part of the National Youth Engagement Team in Red Cross Volunteer Services, working very closely with other National Headquarters departments to create programs and initiatives that benefit youth volunteers. Though their adult advisors offer guidance, it is the youth who are leading the group and its activities. 

Will and his fellow Council members regularly engage with thousands of Red Cross youth volunteers nationwide. They host social media campaigns, lead initiatives like National Youth Involvement Month in November, encourage and organize volunteer activities for youth, and offer leadership and scholarship opportunities to outstanding volunteers. Currently, the Council is working on educating the public about the misconceptions about the blood donation process. In fact, applications for the Council are opening very soon. You can find out more information about the incredible opportunities for volunteers below.

“Even now, when we’re all staying at home for COVID-19 social distancing, the Red Cross offers online programs that enable volunteers to help their local communities. There are also many online training courses covering all of the Red Cross lines of service.”  

To learn more about youth opportunities with the Red Cross, specifically with the National Youth Council, please check out the resources that Will has provided below. Youth is defined as someone aged 13-24. 
  • We run an official Red Cross website, with activity guides and other great resources for youth. I especially want to emphasize the volunteering from home guide on our website packed with flexible, virtual Red Cross activities. We'll also be posting information about the blood shortage on our website and official social media pages below. 
  • We also run a Facebook group called American Red Cross Youth Network and an Instagram @americanredcrossyouth, where youth can find the latest updates and announcements of our programs and initiatives. We run social media campaigns, scholarships for youth and offer lots of leadership opportunities like our Field Ambassador program. Also, applications for the National Youth Council itself are coming out, and the best way for youth to stay updated is through these platforms! You can also directly check the National Youth Council application page here.

Friday, February 21, 2020

My Red Cross Story: Doug VanDyke

Meet Doug VanDyke, American Red Cross
Board Member, Chief Executive Officer of
Enquizit, Lifelong Volunteer, and Blood Donor
Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, Communications Volunteer

Doug VanDyke,
American Red Cross Board Member (since 2014)

Profession: Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Enquizit, an application development and cloud migration company headquartered in McLean, Virginia; other highlights include Amazon and Microsoft

Home: Ashburn, Virginia

Family: Wife, three children

Role models who inspired VanDyke’s volunteer leadership: LaRhea VanDyke, mother; Linda Mathes, American Red Cross Chief Executive Officer for the National Capital Region; and Teresa Carlson, former boss and former American Red Cross Board chair for the National Capital Region.

Volunteering is a lifelong pursuit for Doug VanDyke. “Growing up, my mother was involved in every local volunteer activity and Board in the community, and she would bring me with her, so I was exposed to volunteering at an early age,” said VanDyke. “I watched my mother volunteer and assumed volunteering is something you do as an adult—you give back to the community.”

Now, VanDyke is continuing his journey of volunteering by sharing his leadership skills as an American Red Cross Board member. VanDyke is proud of how the American Red Cross responds to disasters to help those most in need, including collecting and delivering blood donations; provides food, shelter, and safety after natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, or wildfires; and proactively installs smoke alarms in homes to help prevent home fires.

“When others are running away from a disaster, 
the American Red Cross is running straight at it - 
and they stay until it is resolved,” 
says VanDyke.


Since 2014, VanDyke has served as the chair for several American Red Cross events, from Salute to Service Gala fundraisers (which honor active duty service members and veterans) to the 2nd Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit in Washington, D.C., which was held on January 28, 2020.

“The Disaster Preparedness Summit addresses the disaster risks we face in the Washington, D.C. area and explores the impacts a significant disaster would have on our region,” said VanDyke.

“Our goals were for attendees to hear from experts who have real-life experience dealing with complex disaster coordination challenges and for attendees to leave with a better understanding of the hazards we face and how to prepare for and respond to disasters in their communities, organizations and households.”

In preparation for the 2nd Annual Disaster Summit, VanDyke had to rally fellow American Red Cross Board members to support it at a meeting last fall.

“It was a meeting with a lively discussion about speakers, topics, format, and location,” said VanDyke, who then agreed to chair the Summit.

“We were in the office of the American Red Cross in Fairfax; a blood donation center had just been added to the 3rd floor of the building. I was in a good mood, so I walked upstairs and the blood donation center staff were able to take me right away. I have O- blood type and am a universal donor. I have been told O- blood can even be used by premature babies. That is inspiring. Also, both my wife and my father have had open-heart surgeries that required donated blood. Someone before me was there to donate for them. I'm glad I can be part of the virtuous cycle and give to someone else who will need it.”

In the Fall of 2019, Doug VanDyke attended a meeting to plan the 2nd Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit in the American Red Cross office in Fairfax, VA; immediately after the meeting, VanDyke donates blood on the 3rd floor in the building's new blood donation center. 

Another American Red Cross leadership effort VanDyke was involved with was in 2018 when he was employed with Amazon Web Services.

“The American Red Cross, Voice Foundry, and our team at Amazon Web Services set up an emergency call center to help those impacted by Hurricane Florence,” said VanDyke.

“We had more than 100 Amazon Web Services’ employees who volunteered to staff the call center. We serviced more than 1,000 calls. Employees volunteered from around the world, even as far away as Singapore, to staff the call center and help those in need. Many of these calls were very emotional, helping reconnect loved ones.”

VanDyke’s leadership experience with the American Red Cross has helped him both personally and professionally.

“Personally, it provides me a channel to give back,” said VanDyke.

“I see direct results, and I can contribute through multiple channels. Professionally, it has helped me build a support network outside my company—people I like and trust.”

"Volunteering is one of the best ways people can feel connected to each
other and to their communities," according to VanDyke.

“There is more to life than making money,” said VanDyke.

“Volunteering is a great way to improve the overall quality of life in our communities. It is personally rewarding, by helping us learn skills and develop friendships. It is also valuable to the community by providing for needs that aren't being covered by government or businesses.”

As Chair of the 2nd Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit, Doug takes preparedness seriously and encourages everyone to have an emergency plan. If you don't have one yet, here's what you can do to prepare yourself and your family for a disaster:

Create Your Emergency Plan in Just 3 Steps

1. With your family or household members, discuss how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.

2. Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and how you will work together as a team.

3. Practice as many elements of your plan as possible.

For more information about creating a family emergency plan, including templates to help you be organized, go to:

Make a difference in your community. Click here to become a Red Cross volunteer.

Click here to learn more about donating blood with the American Red Cross near you.