My Biggest Accomplishment

By Aria Nelson/American Red Cross Intern

Red Cross intern Aria Nelson

Red Cross intern Aria Nelson. Photo credit: Charlotte Bernsohn/American Red Cross.

I’m so happy I had the chance to be an intern with the American Red Cross.  As a senior at Winona State University majoring in Health Promotion, I needed a 600-hour internship to graduate in May. I came across the preparedness internship in my search, and man am I happy I did!

When I began my internship in January, my task was simple:  find and fill gaps in fire safety knowledge in the community. After much research and discussion, I focused my efforts on children. I turned to the Red Cross preparedness team for help with creating a fire safety event for children from scratch. After weeks of planning, revising, and set building, it was gratifying to see the event come to life on April 3.

It was exciting to see around 100 kids stream into the recreation room at the Boys and Girls Club in St. Paul and interact with each of the six fire safety stations we had created.  Each interactive station focused on a specific fire safety topic: creating an escape plan, cooking safety, fire hazards in the home, how to make an emergency kit and be prepared, candle safety, and how to get low and go.

An interactive education station during the “fire safety academy.” Photo credit: Charlotte Bernsohn/American Red Cross.

While facilitating the event, I noticed how the children were engaged at each station. I was happy to see the children making connections and truly learning lifesaving information about home fire safety.  For example, I remember watching a girl take time to think about how to escape from her house during a fire and then drawing it on graph paper. The need for this event was driven home when a boy came up and said, “I live in an apartment and I have no idea how I would get out.”

Through my internship experience at the American Red Cross I’ve done a variety of things, from gathering and assessing preparedness surveys to presenting, on my own, to community groups as well as to children in schools. Presentations became one of my favorite things to do. You would have never heard me say that in college!

I’ve been reflecting on my experience at the Red Cross. I can’t imagine having been anywhere else. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, the people I’ve met along the way, and the incredible amount of experience I have gained.  A special thanks to those who helped with the “fire safety academy” for children. Everyone did an amazing job educating and engaging the children. My hope is that this program will carry on when I am gone.

 Click here to learn more about Red Cross opportunities.


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Tiffany Circle Spring Fashion Social

Story by Jill Michaelree/American Red Cross

Happy for the promise of spring and social respite from this lion of a winter, 50 cheerful ladies gathered on a recent Saturday at Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis to attend the Tiffany Circle Spring Fashion Social. This brunch featured a spring fashion preview curated by experts from Macy’s by Appointment, makeup tutorials from Chanel on making the “Perfect Red (Cross) Lip” and a look at Red Cross women leaders throughout history.

For these Red Cross philanthropists and their guests, the surprise bonus models, decked out in vintage Red Cross uniforms, were the highlight of the day. These amazing volunteers donned historic garments from the 1920’s-1950’s that were donated by Minnesotans whose mothers and grandmothers served during times of peace and in war.

Katherine with Dee and Barb

Photo credit: Katie Kusnierek/American Red Cross

Volunteer model Katherine Lewiston (above center) shows Barbara Gauhan (left) and Dee Rasmussen (right) her Viet Nam-era summer suit and garrison cap. This style was worn by young women who served in the American Red Cross Supplemental Recreation Overseas program during the Vietnam War. Also known as “Donut Dollies,” these college-educated women served one-year tours intended to boost troop morale.

sharpened Cyndi and Carla with poster and vintage gals

Photo credit: Megan Dulgar/American Red Cross

Models Jacinta Lagasse (above, far left) and Amanda Burgdorf (far right) join Tiffany Circle Co-Chairs Cyndi Lesher (center right) and Carla Paulson (center left) around a wartime recruitment poster.

During World War I, American Red Cross volunteer services faced rapid expansion. To delineate the lines of service, the Red Cross employed a color coding system for the uniforms and service pins. Jacinta’s gray, crepe dress denotes her as a non-medical hospital volunteer in the “Gray Lady Service.”

Amanda is wearing a Volunteer Administrative dress from the Second World War. The American Red Cross enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for service, prepared 27  million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war, and shipped over 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. At the military’s request, the Red Cross also initiated a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.

Like the women who wore these dresses in the 20th Century, thousands of volunteers throughout American Red Cross history have served our country. In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, we’d like to thank our volunteers and the Tiffany Circle Members for their dedication to making the Spring Fashion Social and all American Red Cross efforts successful. It is an honor to work with such caring individuals who continually dedicate their time and efforts to alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies.

The women of the Tiffany Circle invest $10,000 annually in their local American Red Cross chapters, following in the footsteps of a long line of women leaders who have helped the Red Cross serve the American public in times of war and peace with disaster assistance, blood collection, safety training and countless other community assistance services. For more information about the Tiffany Circle, contact Megan Dulgar at or 612.872.3246. 


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Thanks to Red Cross Volunteers

It’s National Volunteer Week. And to celebrate, we’d like to say “thank you, thank you, thank you…” to all of the volunteers in the Northern Minnesota Region who helped make the Red Cross happen this past year.

Because of you…

6 chapter facilities and supplies well-maintained,


102 Health and Safety classes taught,


473 families assisted during 319 disaster responses,


6,426 holiday cards created for active military members and veterans at 22 events,


7,748 individuals reached through Preparedness events,


10,755 children educated on Safety Mobile topics,


16,476 worked volunteer hours achieving the mission to alleviate human suffering,


70,539 on-call volunteer hours standing at-the-ready to help,


Having an amazing group of generous, dedicated, skilled volunteers serving at the American Red Cross… Priceless!

Thank you for everything you do!

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Thinking of Summer

By Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

NYT CoverSummer Raffo. I think I will always remember this name. This name, seen in a New York Times cover photo on March 28, 2014, made the Oso mudslide real for me. Seeing a personal plea for her rescue, wrapped by words for emergency workers and Red Cross, from someone who loved her forced my own tears to roll in a public place, surrounded by people sipping coffee, using their computers, and chatting with friends and neighbors. My reaction to the photo, I think, was normal. Finally, after seeing other images and reading other stories, this tragic, heartbreaking, life-changing event became real in my own heart. From a distance, I was affected, feeling the grief of losing someone dear, as if Summer were someone I knew. And so I was reminded that taking care of myself, even from many many miles away, is important for me and the people around me. The Red Cross tips mentioned below remind me that taking care of myself is a way of helping. Later that morning, I searched online for Summer’s name, wondering if there was an update. And there was. Summer Raffo was one of those who perished in the mudslide. Her brother said in one news report that there was some relief for her family to find her and to know. And from miles away, me too.

Some tips from the American Red Cross for taking care during disaster response…this is a difficult time for the entire community responding to and watching this event. It’s important for people to connect with and support each other. Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since no one knows for sure what will happen next. Remember that it’s okay to feel nervous. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get enough rest. Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration and anxiety. This is a time where people should take care of themselves and their families. For example, reach out to others to offer and receive support. Parents should let their children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety. People should also be careful not to overexpose themselves to media reports about the tragedy. 

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Were you a Flood Baby?

By Lori Peterson/American Red Cross

Lori Peterson (far right), and other Red Cross responders. Photo provided courtesy of Ms. Peterson.

Lori Peterson (far right), and other Red Cross workers. Photo provided courtesy of Ms. Peterson.

I call myself a flood baby. I was born on April 28 during the height of the great flood of 1965. In my scrapbook, I have collected pictures of the St Croix River reaching Highway 95 in downtown Stillwater, Minnesota. Every year, I enjoy driving past Boom Site park, seeing how high or low the river is in the spring. Are the islands showing yet? How do the trees survive each year covered in water for so long? (I am sure there is a scientific reason for all of this, but science was not my best subject in school.)

Because of the river and its mighty strength, I learned to swim at a young age. My mother never learned to swim so this was a big concern living so close to the river. We learned at a very young age to respect the river. It is constantly changing each year from the snowfall, the many creeks that flow into it and the number of trees that float down during the annual thaw. (My great, great grandfather was one of the loggers that hauled lumber down the river many years ago. I bet that he knew how to swim!) When I was five, my mother signed me up for Learn to Swim classes, which was my first experience with the American Red Cross. My siblings and I continued to take swimming lessons until we passed the test to tread with our clothes and shoes on while blowing up our long sleeved shirt to serve as a life preserver.

The Stillwater Lift Bridge during the 1965 flood. Image provided courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society.

The Stillwater Lift Bridge during the 1965 flood. Image provided courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society (

The St. Croix Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross also has helped friends and families during fires and other natural disasters throughout the St. Croix Valley in Minnesota and across the river in Wisconsin. Most often trained Red Cross volunteers are those who perform these mini miracles of comfort and care quietly in the background. We often don’t hear of these amazing, local humanitarians, but they are out there assisting our communities everyday.

So, are you a flood baby, too? Were you born during the great flood of 1965? How did the flood affect your family in 1965, 1967, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s? If you grew up in the St. Croix Valley area, enjoying the scenic views, camping on one of the islands, watching the ice come off the river in the spring, fishing in the river with your grandfather or learning to swim because of the river’s strong current, then it’s likely that the American Red Cross touched you or a family member along the way.

I challenge you and other flood babies born throughout the years to respect our beloved river and honor the Red Cross this spring by supporting Evening in Red, our annual fundraiser supporting local programs and services.

Will you join me April 25, 2014, in honor the community we have been so blessed to live in? If so, click here to purchase tickets online. I would love to see you there!

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Small Gestures, Big Rewards

Post by Kelly Vetter/American Red Cross

Kelly Vetter holds and cherishes her grandma Nana's 10-year American Red Cross volunteer pin. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Kelly Vetter holds and cherishes her grandma Nana’s American Red Cross 10-year volunteer service pin. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

If you were lucky enough to have known my grandmother Eileen, warmly referred to by her eight grandchildren as Nana, you would know that volunteering at the American Red Cross was a perfect role for her.  She was a “people-person,” and I think of the Red Cross as the ultimate “people-organization.”

My Nana made you feel like you were the most important person in the room.  That must explain why each of us grandchildren can proudly proclaim, “I was her favorite.”  I envision the people she sat with, perhaps after donating blood or after learning the steps they would need to take to recover from a home fire, left the building knowing without question that they mattered to her and that they mattered to the Red Cross.  She could sit, listen and empathize better than anyone else I know.

And isn’t it surprising how a few simple words or actions can lighten one’s suffering?  One of the many lessons I learned from my Nana is that small gestures can be as powerful and meaningful as grand gestures.  The finer details, which my Nana never overlooked and which the Red Cross is so good at (being available day or night, offering an assuring smile and hug, treating every person’s experience like the lead story of the day), can produce such great comfort.

Kelly Vetter's grandma Nana holds her 2-day old granddaughter. Also pictured is Kelly's grandpa Walter. Photo provided courtesy of Kelly.

Grandma Nana holds baby Kelly, only 2 days old. Also pictured is Kelly’s grandpa Walter. Photo provided courtesy of Kelly Vetter.

I began working for the Red Cross just a few short months ago.  I am impressed daily by the dedicated staff and volunteers I meet here and now know why my kind-hearted Nana fit in so well with this organization. I keep my Nana’s 10 Years pin displayed on the bulletin board next to me.  I wish I could ask her more about her Red Cross story, but she lost her battle with cancer 10 years ago.  So instead, I will build my own Red Cross story and know that she would be proud to see that I, too, am contributing to the mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering, a mission that she carried out every day through small gestures.   

Tell your Red Cross story.

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50-Year-Old Letter Brings Red Cross Reminder

Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

returned letter

A 50-year-old letter with stamp cancelled “March is Red Cross Month” mark.

Recently, I was sorting through some old photos when I came across a letter that my mother Yvonne wrote nearly fifty years ago. She wrote it after her mother died in 1964. It was addressed to a family friend, but was sent back “return to writer” because no such address number was found. The 5 cent stamp on the envelope was cancelled with a mark that caught my eye: March is Red Cross Month. And so I opened and read it and learned of my mother’s great sadness from a loss too soon. While sharing the letter now, I wonder if Red Cross training in first aid and learning the signs of heart attack could have made a difference, giving everyone more years together and breaking fewer hearts.


March 26, 1964

My Dearest Blanche,

     …Mom had a heart attack Feb. 28, 4:30 A.M. She was taken to the hospital and lived seven days. We thought she would pull through but apparently the heart was damaged over half after the first attack. She suffered two more attacks Fri. night on March 6 and passed away 10:30 A.M. Sat. morning March 7.

     Our hearts are just broken. All of us are still in a state of shock as you know what this can do to a person. 

     Mom was looking real well before this happened. We did not know her heart was bad at all.

george and nola

Baby Yvonne with her mother Nola and father George in Los Angeles, circa 1930s.

     Mom was with Bill & I the weekend before. She & dad came over on Saturday and she had her 58th birthday Feb. 23. I baked her a cake and we had dinner home. I took them home on Tues. and she looked fine as far as I could tell.

     …on Thurs. night…just about 4:30 A.M. Dad woke up and heard her praying. He thought she was dreaming and reached over to shake her as he always did if she had a bad dream and when he did she said to him don’t it’s my heart. He jumped out of bed and asked her if he could get her some water. By the time he got back she was vomiting. She had an acute attack and vomited most of the time while in the hospital.

     Blanche, I will never get over this. I never dreamed mom would go this young in life. She was such a wonderful mother always. I feel like everything is drained from me.
I just miss her terribly. Dad is broken hearted. He never thought mom would go so fast. He said he knew she would get well.

     Blanche, I guess life ends very quickly sometimes & we are never prepared or ready for death ever. And it is so hard to accept. If you are ever out here come to see us! Dad will be with me now. Hope you are fine.


Yvonne and "her lover boy" Bill, circa early 1950s.

Yvonne and “her lover boy” Bill, circa early 1950s.

Decades later my father Bill (pictured left) had several heart attacks in his early 50s. We recognized the heart attack signs the second time around, but no one in the family was Red Cross-trained in lifesaving skills. Several years later I became a Red Cross volunteer instructor in C.P.R. and First Aid. Finally, one person in our household was trained. Because  of my personal experience with life-threatening emergencies and because it’s March, the official month of the year that we celebrate all things Red Cross, I encourage every one to take any step that can make a difference. Take time to take a Red Cross class and get trained with lifesaving skills that could benefit both you and your loved ones.

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