Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tennessee River Volunteer Spotlight, Jack Hunter - April 2017

Jack Hunter has been a volunteer with the Tennessee River Chapter since 2013. He came to the Red Cross interested in Disaster Services Technology (DST) and over the past year has lead the way for DAT dispatch. He joined the Red Cross when John Freed a fellow Amateur Radio member encouraged him to be a part of DST.

Jack says, “John found me at the right place and the right time as I was looking for something to do to give back to the community.”

Jack is originally from Texas, although he says he’s lived everywhere except there. His military career in the Army took him around the world to a new location every eighteen months. While in the Army, he worked in both communications and counter intelligence until he retired after twenty years of service. In addition to his military career, Jack has a background in computers, radio, telephone, and technical support. After retiring, Jack went on as a contractor with the State Department and then to work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

When asked about his experience with the American Red Cross throughout his military career, Jack states “I was fortunate enough to not need the services, but came across those that did, and the Red Cross did a fantastic job at issuing emergency calls for those people.”

Here at the Tennessee River Chapter, we have been so grateful for Jack’s expertise in DST! When our chapter was introduced to the DAT dispatch program, Jack didn’t hesitate when asked to lead the way. For over a year, Jack’s work provided vital feedback in progression of the dispatch system.
Jack has been deployed one time for the Texas floods. On his deployment he was tasked with network support and maintaining the ERV radios. Jack says the scope of the disaster was truly an eye opener as it covered such a large area. He was on a team with 22 other DST volunteers at a one of three disaster operation centers comprised of 200 people.

Unfortunately for our chapter, Jack will be moving to Pennsylvania to live with his daughter in the near future. Luckily for the American Red Cross, Jack says he plans to continue volunteering with the local chapter in Pennsylvania because it’s a way to support something he believes in and that he feels he has a service he can provide to the American Red Cross.

Regional Executive Corner with Joel R. Sullivan - April 2017

April is National Volunteer Month, and we are honoring our amazing volunteers who give their time to help people in need.

Thousands of volunteers serve the Red Cross, helping staff blood drives, volunteering at veterans hospitals, teaching people lifesaving skills such as First Aid and CPR, responding to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more.

Here in the Nashville Area Chapter, volunteers have served in all of these capacities, while also deploying to national disaster relief operations on numerous occasions. From Gatlinburg to Louisiana and beyond, our volunteers always show up with their sleeves up and hearts open. Our volunteers also help raise the funds necessary to fulfill our mission and provide leadership and feedback to our teams through committees and board involvement.

Please save the date for our Volunteer Recognition celebration Saturday, April 29 from 5:00 – 7:15 p.m.  This is your time to leave the vest at home and be honored for your time commitment to the Red Cross.  We have a great evening planned, so be on the lookout for more information about this exciting event.

Thanks for continuing to provide comfort and hope to our neighbors in need!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Red Cross Honors Military Children during Month of the Military Child

This April, the American Red Cross is proud to celebrate the “Month of the Military Child”.  This month is set aside to recognize the special contribution that military children make as their parent or parents serve our nation.

The Mid-South, Nashville Area, Southeast TN and East TN Chapters of the Tennessee Red Cross will be hosting a special event called “Military Kids Serve Too” to recognize the strength and sacrifice of Tennessee’s military and veteran children.  Each child will be honored with a customized challenge coin commemorating their special designation as our nation’s youngest patriots.

“We looked forward to celebrating our military children each year during Month of the Military Child,” said Joel Sullivan, Regional CEO. “Military children are faced with unique demands of military life, and we look forward to hosting them as we recognize their strength and sacrifice each day.”

Month of the Military Child was designated by the Secretary of Defense in 1986.

Southeast Tennessee Volunteer of the Month, Joe Brzezowski - April 2017

The Southeast Tennessee Volunteer of the Month is Joe Brzezowski! A fellow volunteer nominator said, “Joseph continues to excel in his volunteering experiences with the American Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee. His willingness to respond day and night as well as teaching other DAT responders on what DAT responders do when out in the field responding to local house fires is of great importance to our Chapter. Even when the recent tornado swept through our southern counties in McMinn and Polk, Joseph was not only there for Sheltering in McMinn County,  he also served very closely with the McMinn County EMA Director making sure the requested needs were met for McMinn County from the American Red Cross. Joseph deserves and should be recognized for his willingness to represent our Chapter and the community families that needs our services when disasters occur.”

When talking to Joe he said that he is incredibly thankful for the McMinn volunteers.  “It’s not me, it’s all of us. We are a team, we work really well together. It is an amazing group.”

The group of McMinn volunteers continue to amaze the staff and volunteers of Southeast TN. They are a tight-knit group of people who love to give back and are always ready to respond in time of need with Joe.

During a recent fire call Joe responded to, he was able to give a little girl a stuffed bunny rabbit. The whole family was having a hard time with the fire, especially the little girl. He went to his car and brought the bunny back and told her that when anything goes wrong to give the bunny a hug and everything would get better. That was a very emotional and rewarding moment for Joe and is just one of the reasons that he loves what he does as a disaster responder.

When asked why he wanted to become a volunteer he said that he saw the ad in the paper and it just seemed like something that he wanted to do. “I am glad I did, it’s very rewarding. I wish I did it years ago.”

Southeast TN is so appreciative of you and the rest of the McMinn team, Joe!  Thank you for all your hard work and for representing the American Red Cross so well!

ERV Road-E-O

Saturday, April 29, 2017
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (CST)

Metro Fire Training Academy
2601 Buena Vista Pike, Nashville, TN 37218

New and experienced drivers alike will have an opportunity to put their emergency response vehicle (ERV) driving skills to the test!

Join us for a fun-filled day of:
Competitive Course Driving
ERV Inspections
Trailer Pulling
Yard Dog Simulation
Next Generation ERV Driving
ERV: Ready, Set, Roll (for new volunteers)

Will you be crowned our ERV Road-E-O winner? 

Registration is required. Registration will close on 4/21/17 at 5 p.m.

To register, visit

For more information, email

Letter from East Tennessee RCOO, Greg King - April 2017

Dear East Tennessee Chapter Volunteers,

One of my favorite times of the Red Cross year is quickly approaching.  On June 1, we will be gathering to celebrate the service of our volunteers.  This year we are going to try something different and a little more laid back than previous years, and hopefully a lot of fun!

After surveying volunteers on how they’d like to be recognized, the consensus was to keep it simple.  So this year, we are going to cook out and spend time playing what I believe could be considered our true national pastime - Corn Hole.  That, along with some other fun activities will be how we enjoy a beautiful June evening.

The main purpose of gathering will be to take time to recognize our incredible volunteers who give so much of themselves to help friends, neighbors and strangers in times of need.  We have a lot to celebrate this year.  This chapter performed magnificently during the wildfires in the fall and delivered HOPE to so many who had lost everything.

We, the American Red Cross, are our volunteers.  Without you, we could not function and deliver comfort to those in their time of need.  Mark your calendar for June 1st and look for more details in your inbox soon.

See you then!

Greg King
Regional Chief Operations Officer

American Red Cross Honors Volunteers during National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month and the American Red Cross Tennessee Region is honoring its volunteers who give their time to help people in need.

Nearly 314,000 volunteers serve the organization, helping staff blood drives, volunteering at veterans’ hospitals, teaching people lifesaving skills such as First Aid and CPR, responding to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. Here in the Tennessee Region, more than 4,600 volunteers help the community.

“We want to take this time during Volunteer Week to thank our volunteers for their service,” said Joel Sullivan, Tennessee Region CEO. “They help us fulfill our lifesaving mission every day, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for their service.”

Last year, Tennessee Region Red Cross volunteers provided food, shelter, comfort and hope to 2,785 local families who faced emergency situations. They trained 71,851 people in lifesaving skills and provided 13,523 services to military members, veterans and their families.

The Red Cross invites the public to be a part of the lifesaving work it does and to sign up to volunteer. People can go to to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

Monday, April 10, 2017

East Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight, Jacqueline Bridgeman - April 2017

Jacqueline “Jackie” Bridgeman is the April “Volunteer in the Spotlight” for the East Tennessee Chapter. She been a Red Cross volunteer in the East Tennessee Chapter for 5 years and has logged over 1,640 hours working with veterans and families of active military. Jackie has served in the role as SAF Volunteer Lead for going on three years. She is in responsible for supporting East Tennessee SAF Volunteers and follows up with new potential SAF volunteers, as well as distributing a monthly calendar of all SAF events.

Last year, Jackie attended and supported over 100 military/veterans events, family days, yellow ribbon, pre deployment and post deployment events within the community. In addition, she regularly leads volunteers that attend our monthly Ben Atchley Veterans Nursing Home event. Jackie also represents the Red Cross at the monthly East Tennessee Military Affairs Council meeting that usually takes place at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce office.

Jackie recently represented the Red Cross by joining East Tennessee Vietnam Veterans for 7-10 trip to Vietnam.

The East Tennessee American Red Cross, along with every military family in the region, is incredibly fortunate to have a volunteer of this caliber whom is so dedicated to making a difference to those that have served and currently serve this country.

Thank YOU, Jacqueline, for your dedication and service to this community!

Nashville Area Volunteer Spotlight, Paula Merrifield - April 2017

Paula Merrifield has a passion for volunteerism.  She volunteers with several organizations around Nashville, and we are lucky to have her as a dedicated Service to the Armed Forces volunteer with the Red Cross in Nashville.  Katie Schafer, the Service to Armed Forces Specialist for Middle Tennessee, says that she is appreciative of how Paula is always available and even makes a point to check in to see if she can provide help.  “I can always count on her,” said Katie.

Paula began her passion for the armed forces in 1985 when she became a military spouse. Now, she is the mother of a military member.  Joining the Service to Armed Forces has had a tremendous impact on Paula.  It has given her the avenue to serve the military in a different capacity.  Paula works a full-time job, so her role as the casework lead volunteer offers her the opportunity to volunteer from home at night and on weekends to follow up on emergency casework.  She also volunteers in military briefings, as well as education and presentations at community events and meetings.

Representing Service to the Armed Forces means a great deal to her.  Paula’s volunteer work means a great deal to us and the military families we serve.

Mid-West Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight, Meaghan Smith - April 2017

Meaghan Smith serves as the DAT Engagement Lead and DAT Dispatcher for the Mid-West Chapter.

Meaghan coordinates fire calls, works with DAT Trainees to get them through the training process, and works with DAT members and Captains to make sure they stay up to date on training and chapter happenings. She is also in the process of developing a mentorship program to get new DAT trainees quickly integrated with a team. Meaghan’s entire family has become leaders at the Mid-West Chapter due to her leadership.

Thank you, Meaghan for your dedication and leadership!

Northeast Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight, Carolyn Doerfert - April 2017

Volunteers are our workforce, our energy, and our heart.  Each month we will be spotlighting a volunteer so that you can learn about the many and varied people and activities that make the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee a success.

This month, we want to introduce you to Carolyn Doerfert.

Carolyn uses her nursing and mental health knowledge often for the Red Cross.  She may be preparing materials for an upcoming class or presentation or conferring about a current disaster case with other volunteers and staff.

Carolyn loves sharing her professional skills with the Red Cross and has been doing so for many years.  She graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in psychology, married her husband Gunther and came to the Kingsport area.  Soon after settling in Kingsport she attended ETSU where she received an Associate Degree in Nursing. She then began a career in psychiatric nursing.

One day at a business dinner, Carolyn met a gentleman whose experiences as a Red Cross disaster volunteer intrigued her.  A call to the local Red Cross office led her to what would become very much a “win-win” for both Carolyn and the Red Cross.  She took basic disaster training classes and accepted her first assignment in 1998 – Hurricane George in Puerto Rico. She was hooked!

Carolyn has no idea how many disasters she has served on - too many to count she says – locally in northeast TN, across TN, or in states from west to east and north to south. Wildfires, floods, hurricanes, airline crashes and tornadoes are among the many disaster assignments she has accepted.  
Carolyn loves feeling she has helped people in a time of great need, enjoys working with volunteers who share the same values, appreciates the high standards of our organization and loves continuing to learn.  

Not only does Carolyn enjoy learning, she loves sharing her knowledge and love of Red Cross disaster with others. She has trained not only many of our current volunteer nurses in northeast Tennessee; but others across Tennessee and in many other states.

To join the Red Cross volunteer team, go online to or email

Letter from Northeast Tennessee Executive Director, Glenda Bobalik - April 2017

Earlier this month, my husband bought a new gas grill.  As we put it together and I read the instructions, we were also enjoying the weather as it was a beautiful spring day.  One the grill was put together, a friend situated it on our deck close to the house.  It was a great location if you are only concerned with how it appears.  I surprised the group with my strong objections.  I have seen too many devastated families after their homes burn due to grills placed next to homes.  The grill was moved to a new location far enough from the house for safety.

Every year people are injured while using charcoal or gas grills. Here are several steps to safely cook up treats for the backyard barbecue:

1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
2. Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
3. Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
4. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
These steps will help to make your grilling experience a success.  Just in case an accident happens anyway, take a minute and download the free Red Cross first aid or emergency app on your mobile phone so that you can respond effectively.

So, as we head outside to enjoy spring, let’s take a minute to think about safety.  Grills, lawnmowers, pools, hiking and so many more activities can be exciting and fun but also have hazards for those not focusing on safety.  We are fortunate to have the great tips and guidelines available on

Take a little time and review the safety tips available and then take the next step and share them with your friends.  Let’s all have a safe and fun spring!


Letter from Southeast Tennessee Executive Director, Julia Wright - April 2017

April is a busy month at the American Red Cross.  This month we will celebrate National Volunteer Month, and I am extremely proud of the dedication and hard work of our Southeast Tennessee volunteers.  We are excited to have so many enthusiastic new folks on board. On April 6th, we honored our volunteers at the annual volunteer recognition event, highlighting their dedication to the mission of the American Red Cross. The celebration doesn’t end there, as we will be highlighting our volunteers throughout Volunteer Appreciation Week April 23-29th.  There isn't a single day that we are not thankful for the service each and every one of you provides day in and day out.

Since July 1st, our volunteers have collectively logged 13,591 hours!!! The Tennessee average of how much money is donated to nonprofits based on hours is $22 per hour, so if you break that down the volunteers of Southeast TN have contributed $299,002 to the American Red Cross. That is beyond outstanding.

To find out more on how you can become part of #TeamRedCrossSETN  you can contact our local office at 423-265-2455 or register to become a volunteer at

Southeast Tennessee - Preparedness Tip - April 2017

A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to keep you and your family safe during thunderstorms:
  • Learn about your local community’s emergency warning system for severe thunderstorms.
  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.
  • Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches.
  • Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home.
  • Consult your local fire department if you are considering installing lightning rods.
  • Get trained in first aid and learn how to respond to emergencies.
  • Put together an emergency preparedness kit .
  • Review the Be Red Cross Ready - Thunderstorm Safety Checklist at

Letter from Mid-West Tennessee Executive Director, David Hicks - April 2017

Hello Mid-West TN volunteers,

Throughout the month of March, I heard of some fantastic opportunities that many of you participated in throughout your communities on behalf of the Red Cross. As your Executive Director, I am also privileged to go out and serve as a mouthpieces to help expose our services and programs to more of our chapter territory. Together, we were able to strengthen relationships and partnerships in some of our counties with EMA Directors, Fire and Police chiefs, and first responders. That will benefit us going forward throughout 2017 and into 2018.

As we move forward into this month, I’m so excited that we are celebrating Red Cross Volunteer Appreciation in the month of April! I hope that each of you have made plans to attend the Volunteer Appreciation Night at The Ballpark in Jackson scheduled for Friday night, April 28th. This will be a great night of fellowship wrapped up in food, fun and Friday night baseball! I know you will not want to miss the opportunity to rub shoulders with your volunteer peers and celebrate the “year that was.”

As you consider your Red Cross service and those who’ve helped you along your journey, please take a moment during the next couple of weeks to reach out to any Red Cross volunteer “mentors” you have been blessed to have. Make a concerted effort to express your sincere appreciation to them and then look for other new faces in the volunteer crowd of our chapter to “pour into” in the same manner. That’s the ultimate expression of appreciation you can show for those who’ve helped you along the way!

Thanks for all you do!

Letter from Heart of Tennessee Executive Director, Mike Cowles - April 2017


Is spring really here?  It’s hard to tell as the weather is warm one day and cold the next!  As we all know, this is the time of the year when the trees and flowers are putting on buds, the birds are singing a little earlier in the morning, the days are getting brighter, kids are on Spring Break and storms are more likely to appear.  Are you prepared?

I encourage you to put together a disaster kit with items like flashlights with fresh batteries, bottled water, a small amount of snacks, a first aid kit, sleeping bags, propane camp stove, utensils, etc.  No matter how prepared you are, there is always something we forget and I encourage each of you to take time this spring to put a kit together that will help you in case of emergency.

Know where the safest place to be in your home is, and if you have children, show them where to go before and after the storm.  Make sure you know where your pets are and educate you neighbors on being prepared. I have made it a point to ensure my neighbors know who we are and vice-versa.  Our kids feel safe knowing that if “Mom and Dad” are injured or trapped that they can go find a neighbor than can help.

One of the best things you can do for yourself and the community is to know your surroundings and to always be prepared for the unexpected.  Take some time this month and stop by our office and let us talk to you about the Red Cross and all the opportunities to be one of us.

Finally…  A big thanks to all who attended our Heroes Breakfast last month. We had a record crowd of 355 guests who had a chance to honor John Hood who has given a lifetime of service to his community, state and family.  Dave Sanderson, who was a passenger on the flight that landed on the Hudson River, shared his miraculous experience and kept everyone attention.  The Heroes Event helps support those who need our help during their darkest hour.  Thank you for what you do!


Letter from Tennessee River Executive Director, Katy Hagstrom - April 2017

Hello Tennessee River Volunteers!

The month of March brought incredible change to the Tennessee River Chapter. We welcomed Philip Barletto as the new Disaster Program Manager and one week later I began to serve as the Executive Director. Our chapter is unique as Philip and I were previously Tennessee River volunteers and have served alongside our dedicated volunteer base for some time. Together, he and I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to those before us who paved the way and lead the chapter through its transition.

Despite the changes our chapter has undergone, we continue to grow! Week after week new volunteers are present at our volunteer meetings ready to serve the Red Cross mission. I’m always amazed by Tennessee River volunteers and their dedication to the community. While the severe weather didn’t show up at the end of March as expected, together, new and seasoned Tennessee River volunteers did.

I’m looking forward to being out in the community and meeting all of our team. Thank you for allowing me to serve alongside you as a volunteer and with you as staff.

Katy Hagstrom