Red Crosser strengthens Service to the Armed Forces program with extensive military family history, desire to make a difference

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When Lora Alexander called the RedCross in February 2016, searching for a volunteer opportunity, she never expected to walk away from orientation with a new job and a new way to help people.

Alexander has been a part of the military community since she was a little girl. A lot of the men in her family have been members of the military, including her grandfather, father, husband and son.

While these men play significant roles in Alexander’s life, her most influential role modelis her mother, Master Sgt. Laura Bellanger, retired Air Force. “Her path to the Air Force started with the Red Cross,” Alexander said.

Bellanger began volunteering with the Red Cross in the OB-GYN clinic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. Alexander was in first grade at the time and her family had just returned to the United States from her father’s tour in the Azores islands, off the coast of Portugal.

The Officer in Charge of the clinic recruited Bellanger into the Air Force after witnessing her dedicated volunteerism for two years. Upon completing basic training, she returned as a military leader to the clinic on Tinker Air Force Base. “That’s my very first interaction with the Red Cross,” Alexander said about watching her mother.

Years later, Alexander’s family also received help from the Red Cross following a homefire. “In January 2014, my mother lost her home to a fire. Watching the Red Cross work with her and the service lines that reached out was one reason [I wanted to work with the Red Cross],” Alexander said. “Another reason being that I wanted to give time to an organization that was in the business of helping others, particularly the armed forces.”

In 2016, Alexander called the Red Cross and started volunteering. That quickly led to her new job as Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) manager in Eastern North Carolina.

In this role, Alexander manages Red Cross SAF volunteers and community outreach programs at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro; the VA Hospital in Durham; and the North Carolina National Guard in Raleigh. Alexander will also work one-on-one with military service members, veterans and their families.

“It is my hope to continue the programs that are currently in place and increase the visibility of the Service to the Armed Forces group in my region,” Alexander said. “It is my goal to increase the number of active volunteers.”

Alexander has been in the staff development and training field for 30 years, as well as the human resources and facilities operations management fields with companies including Wachovia (now Wells Fargo), Hatch Early Learning, Lexington City Schools, Forsyth Community College and the North Carolina Department of Revenue. She has been a health and safety instructor with the Red Cross since February 2016 and served asa volunteer educational and outreach coordinator for Service to the Armed Forces. She is also an adjunct professor at Miller-Motte Technical College in Cary, teaching non-clinical medical courses.

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Alexander also has an extensive educational background. She is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She also holds a master’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in Business from Liberty University, and a graduate certificate in General Business.

To learn more about how to volunteer with the Red Cross, like Lora and her mother, visit redcross.org/volunteer or to learn more about how the Red Cross works with the military community, visit redcross.org/military.

By Rachel Jennings/American Red Cross

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Region celebrates 100 years of service, opens art exhibit by marines

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Red Cross flags flew high along Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh as General Pershing welcomed guests into the North Carolina Museum of History for the Centennial Celebration of the Red Cross of Eastern NC on June 24.

Marines played smooth jazz in the lobby as World War I reenactors mingled with nearly300 guests who were in attendance. The evening, sponsored by Wells Fargo, featured the opening of an art exhibit with pieces by wounded Marines, and the presentation of the humanitarian of the year award for the Triangle Chapter.

Guests were also able to participate in a Lenovo-sponsored virtual reality booth, created by OnecallVR in Wilmington. Virtual reality goggles and headphones transported attendees to the flooded streets of Eastern North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew, and inside an emergency shelter to help feed hungry residents.

Keynote speaker, Congressman Walter Jones, helped to lead the evening’s program. Jones discussed his family ties to World War I, his experiences while being a congressman and his appreciation of the Red Cross.

“Eastern North Carolina Red Cross, I want you to know that you are making a difference,” Jones said.

This year’s Humanitarian of the Year award was given to Eliza Kraft Olander for her compassion and involvement in her community. Olander thanked her parents and her son and recognized her grandmother who coincidentally became a member of the Red Cross in 1917, the year the Raleigh Chapter of the Red Cross began.

“Giving back is and always has been my way of expressing my gratitude, my joy, and striving to help make stories beautiful,” Olander said during her acceptance speech.

After the keynote address, the presentation of the Humanitarian of the Year award and a video clip telling the history of the Red Cross, guests were invited to view the new art exhibit, American Red Cross: Healing the Warrior’s Heart through Art.

The gallery featured more than 20 pieces, consisting of paintings, drawings and sculptures that were created by Marines who were wounded while serving. They created the artwork through a Red Cross art therapy class at Camp Lejeune, led by world-renowned artist Craig Bone.

“Art therapy does make a difference for men and women recovering from traumatic injury, from traumatic experiences,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern NC.

The exhibit is now open to the public at the North Carolina Museum of History and will be on display until Jan. 7, 2018. Visitors can walk through the halls of the exhibit and see what war looks like through a Marine’s eyes.

The Red Cross would like to thank everyone who attended the Centennial Celebration and everyone who has partnered with or volunteered for the Eastern Region of NC over the past 100 years.

“The Red Cross never gets really anything accomplished without partners,” Porter said.

Story by Rachel Jennings/American Red Cross

Physician honored to be named Red Cross HERO

Whether Dr. Richard Michal is making a local house call, or tending to patients in poverty-stricken Haiti, he tries to make care as personal as possible.

IMG_20170601_085700651Because of his commitment to serving others, Michal received the Red Cross Northeastern NC Chapter’s HERO Award on June 1, at the Centennial Breakfast.

This year’s breakfast was held at the Rose Hill Plantation in Nashville, North Carolina and honored volunteers who demonstrated the seven fundamental principles of the American Red Cross: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.

Michal, one of four award recipients, has spent his life giving back to his community through his clinic, the Family Medical Center of Rocky Mount, as well as to areas abroad that have experienced hardships. He discussed the importance of providing “tangible outreach” to those in need, rather than solely making financial contributions.

 

Michal, on receiving this award, said, “I feel very humbled receiving this award for something I just enjoy doing, helping people through the gospel.”

Amanda Bell, a colleague of Michal’s, said, “He really is the best person to work for, he makes you feel at home.”

 

To learn more about this year’s Centennial Breakfast, visit the Red Cross of Eastern NC blog.

By Haley Franks/American Red Cross

Red Cross service spans decades for local volunteer

Every Tuesday morning, Dayl Dougherty is the first person to greet visitors at the Red Cross Triangle Chapter office on Peartree Lane in Raleigh.

Dayl, a retired nurse, volunteers at the chapter’s front desk, answering phones, fielding questions, and comforting families who’ve experienced disasters. She said volunteering with the Red Crossis something that comes naturally.

Growing up, Dayl lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and both of her parents were highly involved in the community. Her dad, who was in the Army Reserve, was called to active duty the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Dayl’s mother, already a Red Cross volunteer, was recruited as a Red Cross “Donut Dolly” to serve in Europe. Donut Dollies deployed with troops overseas to help boost morale during wartime. “She wanted to be where the action was,” Dayl said.

Dayl’s mother traveled with the military, playing games with troops, delivering mail, serving hot meals, providing emotional support, and working on combat equipment. Dayl recalls her mother’s stories of repairing Jeeps on military bases after combat, and driving for dignitaries such as Lieut. Gen. James M. Gavin, a commander from the 82nd Airborne who went on to become a topArmy official.

Dayl said her mother didn’t talk much about her time as a Donut Dolly. She only shared that she was in Auschwitz when the concentration camp was liberated in January of 1945.

Red Cross resurfaced in Dayl’s life when her grandfather became sick with cancer while her father was still deployed during WWII. Thankfully, Red Cross assisted in getting Dayl’s father home in time to tell her grandfather goodbye.

When asked about the importance of the Red Cross in the community, Dayl said, “During hard times, it’s the first place people think of when they are in need.”

For those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross like Dayl and her family, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

By Haley Franks/American Red Cross

 

Chapter honors local heroes, commemorates 100 years

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A spread of warm biscuits, fresh fruit, fluffy eggs, and steamy coffee greeted the guests who entered The Rose Hill Plantation Conference Center early June 1 for the Red Cross Northeastern NC Chapter Centennial Breakfast.

The breakfast celebrated the chapter’s centennial and recognized local volunteers with “HERO Awards.” Recipients demonstrated the seven fundamental principles of the American Red Cross: Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.

This year’s recipients include: Dr. Richard G. Michal, Jean Bailey, the Rocky Mount Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team & Hilo Aquatic Rescue Team, and the United Way Tar River Region.

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Ann Mosley presents the Norma Turnage Award to Jean Bailey, Thursday, June. 1, 2017.  (Photo by Garry Hodges)

Michal received the Red Cross HERO Award, commemorating his service both in the local community and internationally.

“He gives back so much behind the scenes that people don’t see,” said Amanda Bell, Michal’s colleague.

The Norma Turnage Award, presented to Jean Bailey,  a female leader in the community dedicated to the growth and sustainability of the local Red Cross.

“[Bailey] has been the most loyal and dedicated leader for 50 years,” said Ann Mosley, Red Cross board member.

The Community Hero Award recipients included the Rocky Mount Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team & Hilo Aquatic Rescue Team, and the United Way Tar River Region for their long-standing services to the community and for their recent contributions to the Hurricane Matthew response.

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The Centennial Breakfast took place at The Rose Hill Plantation and Conference Center, Thursday, June 1, 2017. (Photo by Garry Hodges)

“It’s humbling to receive this award, but it’s part of our job,”said Chad Pridgon, member of the Swiftwater Rescue Team.

Along with honoring the services of those in the community, the event also marked the 100 year anniversary of the Northeastern NC Chapter. The chapter has served the community through disaster services; blood collection; health and safety classes; and services to the armed forces. Barry Porter, CEO of the Eastern North Carolina region of the Red Cross, began the morning with a remembrance of the founding heroes Henri Dunant and Clara Barton.

Last year, the Northeastern NC Chapter collected 24,418 pints of blood, conducted 331 emergency services for those in the military community, trained about 3,500 people in preparedness courses, and responded to an estimated 270 disasters, including one of the worst disasters in North Carolina: Hurricane Matthew.

The event served as a formal thank you to both the past and present heroes, volunteers and staff alike, who have carried out the Red Cross mission for the past century.

Story by Andrea Gulley/American Red Cross