Volunteer intake team wins Red Cross Presidential Award!

by Danielle Pozernick

In April 2016, the National Volunteer Services department launched a pilot project that changed the way volunteer applications were processed throughout the nation. The Idaho and Montana Region was one of several regions selected to run the pilot, and to help fine tune the volunteer application process to make it more efficient.

The Volunteer Intake Processing Center pilot was a huge success. Technological systems can be challenging enough when working properly, but a team of our dedicated volunteers had to test out a brand new system with many bugs. The team worked hard with changes constantly coming at them; sometimes within the same week.  The project could not have been successful without Lynn Tyler, Judy Brownfield, and Gay Winkler of the Idaho and Montana volunteer intake team. In April, 2017, our volunteer intake team was recognized for their hard work with the national American Red Cross’s Presidential Award. This award is given to staff and volunteers who demonstrate above and beyond job performance.

When asked why she joined the American Red Cross, Lynn Tyler, our Regional Volunteer Intake Team Lead, replied, “I joined the Red Cross because someone talked me into it.”  The president of Lynn’s homeowner’s association invited Lynn to a DAT meeting, and the rest was history. Lynn started volunteering with us in October 2011. Her favorite part about volunteering here is seeing the grateful faces of the individuals whose lives she impacts.

Another critical team member who received the Presidential Award is Judy Brownfield.  In March 2012, at the suggestion of a friend, Judy applied for a volunteer position with the American Red Cross. At first, she started as a Jill of all trades in the office and also helped clean CPR training tools. After a short time, Judy joined the volunteer intake team where she began processing volunteer applications. Judy’s favorite part about volunteering is interacting with staff and volunteers. She also donates blood as often as she can, and has donated 2+ gallons so far!

Last but not least, Gay Winkler also won a Presidential Award for her significant contributions to the Red Cross. Gay started with the American Red Cross to acquire field experience for her degree in Human Services. Even though her volunteer work started as a requirement, Gay fell in love with the Red Cross staff and volunteers. “At the American Red Cross, you’re not just a number. You’re a valued member of the team,” Gay says. Fun fact: Gay has entered her baked goods into the county fair for many years and won a Best in Show ribbon and 1st place for her sweet potato cookies, which are amazing!

Thank you, Lynn, Judy, and Gay for all the work you do! We are so proud of you!


The gift of life

While vacationing on the Oregon coast in August 2013, Brylee Gabby began having trouble with her legs. Her father, Rob Gabby, recalls: “At first, Brylee said that her legs had fallen asleep and they wouldn’t wake up; however, we soon noticed that she had trouble walking.”

Within 24 hours, doctors found two tumors impinging Brylee’s spinal cord and diagnosed her with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a form of blood cancer that affects the cells in the bone marrow. Leukemia cells reproduce fast and interfere with normal white and red blood cell and platelet production, lowering their blood levels severely and creating the need for transfusions.

Brylee immediately had surgery to remove the tumors and started a rigorous chemotherapy regimen to kill the Leukemia. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also kills normal cell production and Brylee needed red blood and platelet transfusions throughout her fight.

Brylee had to endure 111 doses of chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant to achieve remission. During that time, she received 23 red blood cell and 26 platelet transfusions. Happily, Brylee is a courageous fighter. She celebrated her one-year post stem-cell transplant in March 2016.

During their daughter’s courageous fight, the Gabby family learned the importance of having blood products on hand. “We were so grateful to the American Red Cross and especially the individuals who chose to donate blood and platelets,” said Rob Gabby. The Gabby family urges everyone to become an American Red Cross blood donor and to consider platelet donation.


Stories from the Field

During the course of our work, we come across stories that illustrate the Red Cross’s impactful role in our local communities and across our nation. Here is one story about a volunteer from Idaho that we’d like to share with you.

JohnnieSue Elliott .jpgMaking Amazing Things Happen

Idaho Falls, ID—Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. With 11 major deployments behind her, JohnnieSue Elliott has a lot of experience to draw from. “When I first started volunteering for the Red Cross, I sometimes worried that we weren’t doing enough to help people who had lost everything in a disaster. The problems they faced seemed so daunting,” she explains. “But what I noticed was how the smallest gestures would often move someone from despair to hope.”

JohnnieSue remembers one instance that was particularly moving. “After Hurricane Isaac, I was helping to distribute clean-up kits to residents whose houses had been destroyed by flooding. They were trying to salvage what they could, but it looked pretty hopeless. I remember handing a shovel to a homeowner who looked dazed. He took the shovel quietly and, suddenly and very unexpectedly, broke down in tears.” She pauses. “Someone handing him a simple shovel, at that moment, meant the world to him. He realized that he was not alone.”

JohnnieSue grew up in a culture of service, so volunteering for the Red Cross comes naturally. “My parents believed that being of service to others was important—it’s in my DNA,” she says. “It what keeps me coming back for more, and what connects me to other volunteers. Red Crossers are awesome people. When you join with others who are all heart, amazing things happen.”