Volunteer Spotlight: Velma Clark

The American Red Cross is known around the world for its charitable work. It is not uncommon to regularly hear about the organization’s assistance in alleviating suffering associated with disasters, providing lifesaving blood, offering health and safety courses, and assisting America’s military families. The story often untold, however, is that of the person selflessly giving their time to better the Red Cross’ mission.

In June of 2015, the St. Louis Area Chapter received one of its most impactful volunteers. Known around the office as one of the sweetest and often described as a “super volunteer,” VelmCardsa Clark answered the call to help when she discovered that the Service to Armed Forces department needed help with a project providing holiday cards to heroes.

“Holidays for Heroes,” as the project is now called, is the Red Cross’ effort to provide holiday cards to active service members serving away from home. Velma, along with her team of fellow Service to Armed Forces volunteers, collects cards from schools, churches, veteran associations, and communities not only in the Missouri and Illinois region, but from across the nation. Velma noted that people from across the US catch wind of their efforts and feel the need to help the cause. This past winter, the St. Louis team was able to collect and distribute over 64,000 holiday cards to service members stationed away from their families. The project gave much joy to the members of our service that were unable to spend the season with their loved ones.

Now that the holiday season has passed, Velma and her team are spearheading another project—The Women Warriors Baby Shower. The American Red Cross and VA Medical Center are teaming up to throw a baby shower for expectant and new mothers (with infants up to six months). In celebration of the St. Louis Chapter’s 100th year, Velma and her team are anticipating celebrating motherhood for 100 women. Members of the US Armed Forces with E-7 or below, spouses of our military, and women veterans receiving care through the VA are encouraged to register for the event.

To many, Velma’s commitment to serving the Red Cross seems heroic, but to her it’s second nature. She loves to work with people, and especially enjoys being in an environment such as the Red Cross “The people here don’t just talk the talk,” she said, “they truly walk the walk.” Here at the Red Cross, Velma knows that everyone genuinely cares about the lives they are impacting—and that makes all the effort priceless.


If you or someone you know is interested in participating in The Women Warriors Baby Shower, register by calling 314-516-2702 or emailing Velma Clark at


Red Cross Assisting in Relief Efforts

ShelterLOUIS, MO, Monday, January 4, 2016 – American Red Cross volunteers are going through neighborhoods providing meals and cleanup kits for those affected by the massive flooding that struck portions of Missouri and Illinois.

Anyone needing flood-related assistance should call the Red Cross at 314-516-2700 or United Way 2-1-1 for additional resources.

On Monday, the Red Cross is operating shelters in Arnold and Cape Girardeau in Missouri and Granite City and Murphysboro in Illinois.

So far the Red Cross has provided 641 overnight stays in shelters and 19,410 meals and snacks in response to this flooding.

“Our focus continues to be providing comfort and assistance to those who suffered in this massive flooding,” said Cindy Erickson, Regional CEO, Red Cross of Eastern Missouri. “Again, we want to thank everyone who has taken time to help those in need. We couldn’t do it without you.”

Red Cross disaster assessment teams continue checking flood damage to homes to help determine the extent and location of assistance needed. Red Cross volunteers also will be meeting with those affected to help them plan their next steps in the recovery process.

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Together As One: Red Cross Volunteers Represent in the V.P. Parade in Forest Park

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Written, filmed, and edited By: Christina Cody, Communications Intern

American Red Cross volunteers and employees came together on July 4th to not only celebrate the birth of our country, but to also proudly represent one of the nation’s biggest humanitarian organizations, and represent they did! The Veiled Prophet parade took place early Saturday morning inside Forest Park. Band members, street performers, pageant winners, and volunteers all marched from the upper Muny to the St. Louis Zoo. The energy was strong and flags were high as parade goers marched with pride as the crowd cheered with joy. It was a great day of entertainment for the entire family. The Red Cross volunteers sure know how to show up and show out, and hopefully next year we’ll see some new faces!

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The St. Louis Red Cross Chapter Breathes Life into Safety Class

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By Jacob Meinkoth, Communications Intern

On Tuesday, June 17, 2014 the Red Cross held a CPR certification class for professionals. The class covers CPR for adults, children, and infants. The students learn breathing techniques, how to perform chest compressions, and how to use AEDs.
“The class is very informative. Actually practicing these techniques really helped me retain all of the information. I feel I will be able to perform these life saving techniques should the need ever arise … , ” said Ciera, a 20 year old, planning (studying) to become a dental hygienist.
Red Cross instructor Karen has been teaching the class for 14 years; she is a true expert! Those attending the class were a diverse, eclectic group of 15 students, who wanted to delve deeper into their prospective profession. Most plan to join the medical field, as a nurse, physical therapist, dental assistant, and one student even aspires to become an EMT. The class is a fast-paced mix of lecture and hands-on practice using test mannequins. These mannequins make a clicking noise when chest compressions reach deep enough. At the end of the class, students take a comprehensive test covering all the information and techniques they learned throughout 6-hour class.
I’m happy to report, today, all passed and left the classroom better equipped to handle any challenge that they could face in their bright futures.

The Joy of What We Do

Written by: Phillip Iman, American Red Cross Disaster Specialist

Phillip ImanEarly one Monday morning we received a call from Audrain County Dispatch asking for assistance for a family of three whose mobile home, located on County Road 9377, had sustained unrepairable damage from a fire. Realizing the fire was just two miles from my home, I called the family myself to assess their situation.

The two adults and two children had been awakened by the scorching smell of smoke. The children had yelled out for Mom and Dad because their path of escape was blocked by fire coming up from the floor. The dad ran through the flames and rescued the children. After getting the family to safety, the dad ran back in to get what he could, realizing the home was going fast. He managed to get their shoes, which he told me he was so thankful for.

The fire department arrived quickly, which allowed a few of the family’s appliances to be saved, but their clothing was either saturated by water and smoke or burnt up. Neighbors quickly took the family in from the cold but there wasn’t room for the family to sleep, so my phone call to them was very welcome. You could tell by the lady’s voice that she was extremely frightened; she didn’t know what to do and was scared to travel far. I called a local motel and paid for a room, and they assured me they could make it to the motel. We made arrangements to meet in the daylight.

I called about 8:30 in the morning and they hadn’t slept at all, but welcomed me to meet with them. A local volunteer and I met them at 11:00 and sat with them for over an hour, just talking over their loss and plans for the future. By the time we parted ways they had somewhat of a plan about what they were going to do next and they knew that we would be right there for them should they have questions.

They felt truly blessed by the emergency assistance we provided. The referrals we provided and the insight of our wonderful volunteer made them feel like they had options instead of hopelessness. The comfort kits were a welcome surprise, not to mention the Mickey Mouse we gave the young man. Through the tears of loss came a resolve to recover and the blessing of knowing that somebody cares. That is the joy of what we do.


Every Single Day.

house%20fire%203Yesterday she had so little; today she has even less. 

My first client at the Red Cross suffered a home fire yesterday.  In truth, she is lucky to be alive.  The wiring in her ceiling fan shorted and ignited a fire that would have consumed her had she fallen asleep in her bed last night.  Fortunately, she dozed off watching television downstairs as the fire smoldered upstairs.  She woke up to the sound of a neighbor banging on her door. By that time, the windows upstairs were popping. Eventually, each covered in soot and smoke shattered into the front lawn.  The fire department arrived quickly and flooded the uninsured home.  What smoke and flames didn’t destroy, water did.

When I met her, she was in her niece’s living room.  The home was clean, tidy and well-occupied.  There wasn’t room for the 56-year old aunt to stay, but it was a haven for the afternoon.  Clearly, the distraught women needed some help.  She had left her home hours earlier with the clothes on her back, flip flops on her feet and a purse on her arm – nothing else. A cardiac patient, she had to retire a year ago.  On social security disability, she didn’t have means to pay for a hotel, buy clothes or even a meal out.  What would have happened to her if the Red Cross had not come?  Would she have slept on the floor of her niece’s home? The grandson, who sleeps on the couch, likely would have given his space to her.  The large family probably would have stretched their meals to include one more, but would that have meant everyone would be hungry?  None of the scenarios we imagined could work for very long. Each would have put an incredible strain on a carefully, but precariously, constructed family life.

When DJ, the experienced Red Cross volunteer, explained what help the organization would provide, relief swept through the room.  The Red Cross responds to three fires a day in the St. Louis Region.  When needed, volunteer provide immediate access to food, clothing and shelter.  We did that last night for my first Red Cross client. The Red Cross here does that for someone—some family — every single day.

Thankful + Photos.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve. As we all make our last-minute grocery runs and spend time with our families — it’s good to remember those who have experienced hard times during this season — like those in the Philippines and in the state of Illinois.

When a disaster strikes in your community — the things in life that were important, suddenly aren’t anymore.  What is most important is making sure your family, friends, and neighbors have food to eat, a warm place to sleep and clothes to wear.  This has been displayed specifically in the community of Brookport, IL — where an entire community has risen up to help one another.  Their courage, fortitude, resourcefulness and unity greatly inspires us at the Red Cross, and we are thankful that we have been able to offer our hand of assistance to such a strong city.

As we continue to help families in southern Illinois, we’d like to share with you photos from this past week in Brookport. From mobile meals, to casework, to meeting with government officials — we have been honored to serve this community:

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Help those who have been impacted by disasters big and small by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters like the tornadoes in Southern Illinois. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.