Giving Back… Gives Friendships

Jess Chairez and Marcus Heningburg met through the Red Cross. They drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) together, and have developed a friendship that both are grateful for.

For Jess, joining the Red Cross was a way to recover after the loss of his son Joe. Joe was 24, a newly graduated police officer, with a history of helping others. He collapsed while making an arrest. “Joe pushed kindness on everyone.” Exclaimed Chairez proudly. As a testament to his son Joe Chairez says “I am so thankful for the Red Cross and Donor network west, to keep the legacy of my son alive, and helping people in the process, that’s the biggest blessing.” Joe will forever live in servitude, so will his father Jess. “Red Cross gives me different platforms to work from, it keeps me active, they don’t realize that they are healing my heart,” said Jess.

Jess’ first assignment with the Red Cross, immediately after joining, was ten years ago during Hurricane Katrina. He spent 4 weeks in service to the victims of the largest and third strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in the US at the time. “To hand someone a meal, and give them a hug, let them speak to you is helping them from one step to the next,’ Jess remembers “I am so thankful, it is such a healing to my heart.” Ten years later, Jess continues to serve the Gold Country region in different capacities. It doesn’t matter to Jess how big or small the need is, “People need hugs, and someone to talk to. The more I help people, the better I feel inside of me. I’m trying to give back.”

For Marcus Heningburg… the Red Cross journey began in Mobile, Alabama many years ago. His family taught him early on, that if you can help, you should, and there is always some way you can help. Marcus stood in service to this country with the Air Force, and then with the penal service. By the adage that was instilled in him early on, he joined the Red Cross. Marcus also found was a new friend, another selfless individual, Jess Chairez.

Marcus is humble and likes getting involved in preparedness events as well as disasters. But there is never a dull moment in the Red Cross and he’s done so much. Working in telethons, installing smoke detectors, delivering mattresses to veterans, working as a parking lot attendant during the the California State Fair, and even participating in staff events at the headquarters like potlucks and staff meetings. “How can I help?” Red Cross answers that question for me and many of us,” smiles Marcus humbly. “Seeing someone with a smile on their face, and shaking their hands, is my reward. It’s easy.” Said Marcus “It’s so easy working with Jess, I do it as much as I can. He allows me to do as much as he does, He is always going. I try to keep up.” Meanwhile, Jess adds “You don’t have to force the guy, he wants to do it. You can see the compassion, it might be a parking lot one day, and delivering a mattress another. Marcus does it with a smile on his face and with open arms.”

Pairing up to drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), these two enter into a partnership, that adds to each individual in ways unimaginable. Red Cross allows them the  platform in which to reflect a little bit of themselves to those who need it. Sometimes it’s a neighbor, sometimes a stranger. It doesn’t matter which, be a mirror; with a smile. A hug, a meal or your time, as Jess and Marcus do. Red Cross can help you serve those in your community; show you an opportunity to give. It may also connect you, as it did Jess and Marcus, with your long lost best friend.

The Red Cross and Giving Tuesday

Holiday_Volunteer2The holiday season has officially started, with major feasting and shopping days packed into the last week of November. Now, on the first day of December, the American Red Cross launches a time to Give Something that Means Something, joining non-profits across the country for Giving Tuesday.

Wondering how can you participate? We have plenty of options – a whole catalog’s worth! You can choose gifts to donate in honor of the special people in your life. Free holiday greeting cards are also available to announce your gifts or send a Red Cross eCard. Finally, know your gift will help people when they need it most.

Here are some Giving Tuesday highlights from the 2015 Holiday Catalog.

Blankets that give comfort and security to victims of disasters.

In a disaster, children and families are often exposed to the elements. You can provide warm, cozy blankets to protect them from the cold and help them sleep comfortably in emergency shelters.

Fire safety training and smoke alarms to help reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in at-risk communities.

Home fires are the greatest disaster threat to American families and communities. Approximately seven people die every day from home fires, and nearly every 8 minutes the American Red Cross responds to a home fire or other disaster. Your gift helps the Red Cross reduce home fire related deaths and injuries in at-risk communities by working with volunteers, local fire departments and community partners to install smoke alarms and provide fire safety education and training.

Reconnection services for families who have been separated by war or disasters.

Many service members return from deployment and need help readjusting to their home, work and community. Reconnection workshops help these service members, veterans and their families through small-group discussions led by licensed mental health professionals- addressing issues like stress, depression, communication and supporting children. Help families reconnect today.

Blood services to help ensure blood is safe and available for those in need.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Red Cross must collect 15,000 blood donations every day to meet the needs of patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Your gift today will enable us to recruit volunteer blood donors, collect and test their blood, and deliver lifesaving blood products to patients in need. Red Cross blood provides hope for patients and often means the difference between life and death.

Stay tuned to Red Cross social channels, including Twitter and Facebook, to see Red Cross work in action. Follow and use #GiveWithMeaning on social channels during this campaign and throughout holiday season.