Open our Chapter

It takes someone to learn
in order to teach


By Cassie Nesbit

He has great advice.

Not just a thing or two, but everything.

He speaks from faith, family and fun to leadership, music and Batman.

But nothing means more to Ken Hardin, American Red Cross executive assistant, than the first three.

“I hit the core of everything that we talked about,” said Hardin. “The first three are really what best describe me: my faith, family and having fun.”

Hardin comes from a long line of preachers.

“My grandfather is a preacher, my dad’s a preacher,” said Hardin. “I grew up in the church: that’s all I know from the moment of inception to right now.”

Where faith was, family was near too.

“My friends came over one day,” said Hardin. “We were in the back yard. He (Hardin’s father) told us all to gather sticks, so we all got sticks. We brought them over. He says, ‘Kenny,’ because that’s what he called me. ‘Break a stick,’ so I took it and broke it in my hand.”

He told his two friends, Brandon and Elanzo, to break their stick too.

Then he told the boys to gather more sticks.

“We went to go get more sticks,” said Hardin. “He said, ‘give them all to Kenny.’”

Hardin had a pile of sticks in his hands.

“Kenny, Break it,” said his father according to Hardin.

But Hardin couldn’t.

“United: we stand,” said Hardin’s Father.  “Divided: we fall. Together we can do whatever we want to do but individually we can’t do anything.”

Lessons so big were taught at age 7 or 8.

Hardin plans to teach his 19-month-old son too.

“My father is really why I am the man that I am,” said Hardin. “But more importantly than that, one of the things his father instilled in him and my father instilled in me and that I plan on instilling in my son is family first and for most: making the sacrifices necessary for your family.”

Right now, Hardin and his son enjoy relaxing to music with one another.

“My son and I: we sleep to music at night,” said Hardin. “Right now we’re listening to this jazz lullaby stuff that I found on YouTube: it’s awesome.”

Before his son, Hardin’s marriage came first.

He’s been married for 4 years now.

“Just bought a house a year and a half ago and we’re trying to live a little piece of the American Dream,” said Hardin.

A dream based on faith and family.

But we can’t forget fun.

“Ask anybody who knows me, they’ll tell you, ‘Ken loves to have fun,’” said Hardin.

He’s not joking.

This funny guy loves to make people smile and laugh.

“There’s no harm in being serious about those things that are serious but I feel like you can find comedy and something funny in just about everything,” said Hardin.

That includes finding humor in a meeting.

“We were at Jefferson Barracks on Friday, and even though it was a very serious situation, we were still about to laugh at moments,” said Hardin. “We’re able to laugh in the best of times, the worst of times and that really is what gets you through.”

And something like fun is contagious.

“Laughter: I thought it to be infectious,” said Hardin. “So when you’re dealing with people who are having a hard day: whenever you start laughing, it tends to rub off of them. It’s contagious if you will.”

He’s not profit driven.

“I could very easily make more money and work for a larger organization and do different things other than what I’m doing right now,” said Hardin. “but it’s because the fact that I’m really mission driven at this point of my life and not even profit driven which is why I even work here.”

His priorities in life have led him to a purpose much greater than money.

That’s the message.

Not just any message, but truth.

“I think that if I were to pick my favorite sermon, it would probably be the woman at the well,” said Hardin. “This woman’s at that well getting water encountering Jesus and it really is a conversation that changes her life. What is so interesting about it is that when she leaves, she goes back into town and gets everybody ‘come see a man I met who told me everything that I ever needed to know about myself.’ That’s the core of the message: is that Christ was able to impact her in such an impactful way with love and truth in such a way where she wanted to tell everyone that she knew him.”

Awareness of what we do.

We can spread that too.

“That’s another thing that’s important being in the Red Cross,” said Hardin. “Being able to spread that message with hope and love regardless of who you are or what the circumstance is.”

Like a wise man once said, “united: we stand. Divided we fall. Together we can do whatever we want to do but individually we can’t do anything.”

Hardin teacher more than a lesson or two…

Hardin preaches a way of life.

Simulations: A Powerful IHL Teaching Tool

Originally posted on Humanity in War:

Raid Cross participants - St. Louis Region Raid Cross participants – St. Louis Region

At the end of last year, the American Red Cross – St. Louis Region conducted its Raid Cross event with college students from Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis Community College – Meramec.  The facilitators were Francis Abari, Nermana Huskic, Michael Pfeifer, Marie Rantz, and Shima Rostami.

The first day was devoted to general education about International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the IHL Action Campaign, and simulations on topics such as prisoners of war, humanitarian aid, wounded, artillery, military headquarters and trials.

The prisoners of war (POW) simulation took on an added level of realism because one of the facilitators, Francis Abari, had been a POW and a “secret prisoner” in Africa. The students paid rapt attention as he described his disappearance and his eventual release. The POW simulation was modified to include a “secret prisoner”. Some of the other “prisoners”…

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Open our Chapter

Answers your calls with a smile
and offers kindness during hard times


By Cassie Nesbit

Debbie Engel Peek, volunteer front desk receptionist at American Red Cross, describes herself in three ways: She is social, she is introverted and she is physical.

She is all that and so much more.

“I’m always interested in understanding the spiritual and physical part of the world and myself in it,” she said.

A prolific poet, Ms. Engel Peek said “Conversations with God,” a story written by Neale Donald Walsch was her inspiration for her poetic responses. She has written 100 poems, which she self-published into a book Just a Thought.

Ms. Engel Peek graciously shares her work through Facebook, too. Her poems share a similar theme. “They start out with some kind of conflict and then it’s working through to the end. It’s resolving the conflict going inside of me.”

Engle Peek has used her poems for more than just for herself.

She worked once for the Salvation Army, and taught a parental class there. During her sessions, she would incorporate her poems into the hand-outs given to her students.

One example is her piece called “Unconditionally.”

We vow to love you unconditionally.
It matters not what you say or you do.
Through good times or bad, we’ll be by your side,
It’s LIFE we’ll be traveling through.

You’re the love of our lives, we created you.
What a beautiful blessing you are.
You’re a great gift from Heaven, God’s perfect design,
A wonderfully bright shining star.

Every day we’ll ask God to guide all our words,
To let Love be our ultimate goal.
We love you so much; you’re the joy of our lives,
You’re a part of God’s own special soul.

We thank God for you and we’ll do our best,
To provide you with all that you need,
To grow up the person God planned you to be,
By loving you Unconditionally.

Engel Peek always had a motive for work.

“Just reminding these people they created this baby,” said Engel Peek. “To love it no matter what (unconditionally).”

Engel Peek used her poems one other creative way. “You know what I did one time,” asked Engel Peek. “I wanted to be in the Christmas Spirit, and I wanted to go to the malls and appreciate the people there, so I took this one poem I wrote called Joy and I put 5 dollars in it and just put it in a little scroll, and then I went into the St. Louis Galleria and pretended that I was on a scavenger hunt.”

Engel Peek approached those with a fur coat, hoop earrings or purple hair just to spread her poem. “I kind of look for the unique people,” said Engel Peek. She really was spreading the Joy around.

As a front desk receptionist, that’s exactly the type of person needed for the job. A phone call came through during this interview. “My apartment caught on fire and now I have nowhere to stay,” said a woman from the other line.

Crisis calls like that occur at Red Cross often according to Engel Peek. That’s when someone who can shed some joy on a disastrous situation comes in handy. Engel Peek is the first and last person employees/volunteers see, and she really sets the tone and represents the American Red Cross well.

Thank you Engel Peek for the Joy you give internally and externally.

Helping A Military Family Reunite in an Emergency

Written by: Jeff Revisky I’m employed at Scott Air Force Base and have been working with the military for 34 years, including the time I served in the Army and my current work as a government employee/security manager. My family recently returned from Germany where my son, Kyle, attended school on base, so my family is very familiar with military life, and consequently, very familiar with the Red Cross.

This year on October 3, at 4:55 am my wife and I received the call every parent dreads. It was the chaplain at St. Louis University Hospital advising us to get the hospital as fast as we could because our son Kyle had been in a terrible car accident. Knowing nothing else, we drove to the hospital. They allowed us to see Kyle for a minute before rushing him to surgery. Doctors were trying to stabilize him and determine his injuries. Later, we learned, in darkness and pouring rain, he had totaled his car on the interstate. When Kyle got out of his car, he was struck by an oncoming car going 65-70 mph.

We immediately began contacting family, still not knowing if Kyle would survive. We called our son Justin and told him his brother had been in a car accident. Justin wanted to come home, and we needed him home. The only way we knew to get Justin home was through the Red Cross.

The chaplain gave us the number for the Red Cross; we called and they immediately went to work behind the scenes, doing all the leg work, so we could focus on our son.

In just a few hours, the Red Cross had helped Justin complete everything he needed, and by 1 p.m. the following day, Justin was home. During that time, the Red Cross contacted us several times to make sure everything was progressing as it should. Amazingly, Kyle knew Justin was there; Justin gave Kyle the support that only a brother can give. Although not here long, Justin was home long enough to see his brother come off the life support.


Kyle, telling his story about his recovery

My family is forever grateful to the Red Cross for supporting our family though this tragedy, but we know the Red Cross is always there for the military families– all over the world, providing support 24/7. We can never repay them for what they have done for us, so on behalf of our family and our soldier, Justin, THANK YOU! Thank you for your dedication to our military and their families. You will forever hold a place in our hearts and your act of kindness will never be forgotten.

Introducing Wilma St. Onge: A Scott AFB Red Cross Volunteer

Written By: Kari Ross, Communications Volunteer

Wilma has been a Red Cross volunteer for Scott AFB for 17 years. There have been a lot of changes in those 17 years, however, her 3 day a week volunteer service to this community is not one of them. I asked her how she became affiliated with the organization and she simply said, “I went to an Officers Club Spouse event one day and the Red Cross had a booth. I signed a volunteer paper, handed it back to them and I have been a volunteer ever since.” There is much more to Wilma’s story and it all centers around service.

Wilma 1

As a retired Airman herself, she spent 20 years as a Communications Officer before retiring in 1994. She is a veteran of the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm. Though she was a Communications Officer in the Air Force, she said she learned many of her computer skills from being a volunteer with the Red Cross. It is just one of the benefits of being a volunteer that Wilma says she acquired. She boasts, “I like that sometimes I know more about computers than my kids.”

Wilma 3

Volunteering is important to Wilma and she stated she would love to see more involvement from the Scott community. Stating, “I’m not sure people know about all of the individual things the Red Cross does.” To that she said she is willing to answer questions for those who are considering volunteering but just may not know how to get through the process or what is available. She understands that some things still need that personal touch and that the application process can be confusing. She said the technology and applications are wonderful, though, and it is all worth it in the end.

Wilma 2

Giving back to the community is important for Wilma and in recognition of the dedication and commitment she has shown she was awarded with the Clara Barton Award in 2011. This is the highest award that can be given to a Red Cross volunteer as it recognizes their meritorious service. She said, “Volunteering makes me feel good and as with anything, you don’t have to be good when you start, you just have to persevere.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross go to and check out the Scott AFB Red Cross’s Facebook Page. The Scott AFB Red Cross is located at: 411 POW / MIA St Bldg 21 Scott Air Force Base, Illinois 62225 and the telephone number is at 618.256.3292

Red Cross working to ensure you have a fire safety plan


By Brett Murray, Communications Intern

Seven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire. To save lives, the Red Cross launched nationwide campaign to reduce the number of fire related deaths and injuries from home fires by 25 percent. The Red Cross has reached into local, fire-prone communities with fire safety campaigns.

Armed with batteries and smoke alarms, Red Cross volunteers canvassed the Metro-East community of Belleville, IL, to test, install or replace the devices last Saturday, as a part of National Fire Prevention Week. Over 50 volunteers went door-to-door throughout the day and offered to test and replace each homes’ smoke alarm or create a preparedness plan in case of fire. You can see some of their volunteer efforts here. Overall, they installed 49 smoke alarms, 20 batteries and created 29 preparedness plans, with the help of the Belleville police and fire departments, St. Paul United Church of Christ and the City of Belleville.

In addition to our local efforts, the Red Cross worked with the Today show to unveil some new facts and figures about residential fires. For instance, 52 percent of Americans have never talked to their kids about fire safety, and 82 percent of families never practiced a family fire drill. These figures are alarming enough, but the Today show took things a step further and found a Connecticut family who demonstrated what they might do in the event of a kitchen fire.  During the video, we see the family review their response and go over their mistakes with Ryan O’Donnell of BullEx, a fire safety company. To read the full article and watch the video, visit the Today show website.

You can prepare for a home fire by using the Red Cross Home Fire Safety checklist and the Home Fire Escape Plan, which helps you prevent fires and map out your escape route in the event of one. These materials can be found on the Red Cross website. One invaluable prevention method is a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms cut the chances of dying in a home fire by half.  For a minimal cost, you can keep your family safe by simply installing at least one smoke alarm on each floor of your home and replacing the batteries annually.

Disaster Services helps disaster victims and heroes

By Brett Murray, Communications Intern

Every day throughout our 66-county region, American Red Cross Disaster Services volunteers respond to local home fires. They insure that families who suffer these individual disasters have a safe place to stay, clothing, warm meals and emotional support.  At these fires, Red Cross volunteers not only aid the families, they also provide refreshments to the firefighters who respond. Volunteers for decades have given cookies and punch to those who battle the blaze.

Recently, Disaster volunteers went on a fire call. It was one of the responders first time “in the field,” and many of the veteran firefighters joked about how he had to try “the famous Red Cross punch.” The Red Cross has a long-standing commitment to help these men and women as they help others.  It was eye-opening to learn that drinking our punch is seen as a “rite of passage” for the first responders.  It told me that the Red Cross mission goes beyond basic necessities.

Whether it’s providing refreshments to the firefighters or providing shelter to the victims of a fire, the Red Cross is here to help. For more information about our Disaster Services, click here and for more images of Disaster Services, click here.