Exceptional Career of Service: Meet Kathleen & Bubba

Kathleen Butler began her career with the American Red Cross in 1981. Before realizing how her journey would begin, Kathleen felt a strong pull toward helping others and relieving human suffering. During her 38 years with the Red Cross, she has served as a volunteer (ten years) and as an employee (28 years). Kathleen started her journey with the Disaster Relief Services after a college friend invited her to a Red Cross meeting back in 1981.

While at the Disaster Relief Service as a volunteer, Kathleen showed her ability to write disaster response plans. These plans would lead her to a full-time position in the Service to the Armed Forces branch of the Red Cross. This position would take her around the world. Kathleen has served on three continents, deployed six times with the Armed Forces, and responded to approximately ten national disasters.

Kathleen has served in Asia, Europe, and North America in times of peace and war, natural disasters, and a governmental transition following the fall of the Soviet Union. U.S. troops have benefited from Kathleen’s work in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (twice), and in Afghanistan. Kathleen has often reflected on her experiences and is proud of her years of service. A dedicated member of the Red Cross, Kathleen is compassionate and a problem solver. After serving with the Red Cross for 28 years, Kathleen decided it was time for a transition back to volunteering. Kathleen left Ramstein, Germany as the senior station manager, but not before picking up a cohort in service.

While in Germany, Kathleen picked up Bubba, an eighteen- month old black-haired poodle born in 2012. As Kathleen puts it, “It wasn’t long until Bubba started stealing the show.” Bubba started volunteering with Kathleen with pet visitations and he quickly started to rack up accolades. Bubba has been crowned champion in agility three times at canine performance events. Bubba is trained in both verbal and hand commands, winning three obedience titles. Bubba’s volunteer service was also recognized, having received the Iron Mike Award at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Bubba’s services are often recognized by the patients and staff, as well.

I was able to hear two amazing stories about this exceptional poodle. Recently Kathleen’s and Bubba’s service went above and beyond. Hurricane Dorian was projected to hit North Carolina and the Fort Bragg area. For safety concerns, Fort Bragg and Womack Army Medical Center were closed, except essential personnel. Luckily, the hurricane’s path changed, and Fort Bragg received a small amount of rain and wind. The service members and staff knew that Thursdays were Bubba’s and Kathleen’s day for visiting. And in true Red Cross fashion, Kathleen and Bubba arrived on the floors and received cheers and some tears.

The final story to share is that of a last man’s wish. A patient was being removed from life support and was unable to have his service dog present. Kathleen and Bubba were able to visit this patient, giving him his final wish. This patient passed away a few hours later. Kathleen further explained to me that Bubba’s presences truly benefited, patients, family members and service members receiving mental health care. After meeting both, I can see why.

Kathleen’s wishes are for her and Bubba’s to continue to serve for many more years. Their desire to relieve human suffering is genuinely remarkable. Kathleen and Bubba are true ambassadors to the Red Cross.

Story by Robert Baird | American Red Cross
Photo Credit:  Robert Baird | American Red Cross



Veterans Find Refuge at Capital Area Stand Down          


Multiple organizations from across the Triangle united to aid local veterans at the Capital Area Veterans Stand Down, held Oct. 27 in Raleigh.Stand Down

During the event, attendees, many of whom were homeless, received employment and housing assistance information, dental and health care, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and even showers and haircuts.

Red Cross volunteers were on hand to distribute “Totes of Hope” – kits containing essential personal care items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and deodorant.

Lora Alexander, Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces manager, said the need was significant. “We had approximately 190 people who stopped by our booth,” she said.

Homeless veterans often face challenges accessing the services they need, partly because of the lack of structured collaboration among agencies. Stand Downs seek to make access to services easier by bringing multiple agencies and solutions together in one place.

The term “stand down” is borrowed from the armed forces, and refers to a period of rest and retreat given to exhausted military members in wartime. Part of the Red Cross mission is to aid members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families, and participating in veterans’ Stand Downs is a vital part of achieving that goal.

The Capital Area Stand Down was hosted by Wake County. Sponsoring organizations included Wake County Human Services, the NC Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions, the Durham VA Medical Center, Consumer Education Services, Inc., the NC Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, the Raleigh Vet Center, Volunteers of America, Passage Home, Legal Aid of NC, St. John the Merciful Outreach Ministries, the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End & Prevent Homelessness, and UCB Biosciences Inc.

For more information about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces services, visit www.redcross.org/military.

Story by Miranda Volborth/American Red Cross

From arms of war to arms of compassion

“This is my calling.”  Hurricane Irma was the first deployment for Tetoya Gibson.  She was taking personal leave from her job as an Air Force aircraft armament technician, a tech sergeant at Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina.  Gibson, from Goldsboro, NC, started in her home state, deployed in an EmergencyIMG_1485y Response Vehicle, and made her way down though South Carolina and then to Georgia.

By Saturday, September 16, she was working at a major bulk distribution site at the College of Coastal Georgia in Kingsland.  An indication of the major damage to the area was the long line of cars moving patiently and stopping periodically for supplies in the drive-through setup.  Gibson happened to be working alongside fellow members of the military from several branches.  Her job was to pass out bleach, trash bags, work gloves, water and Red Cross comfort kits.

“I’m having the best time,” she said.  “I’ve met so many great people.”

She’s a veteran with 18 years of service. She’s planning to retire from the Air Force in two years.    The Red Cross is her new passion.

“I’m going home because I’m out of personal leave.  As soon as I get some more, I’m going to go again. To be able to serve my country in two ways is a blessing.”

Fayetteville Red Crosser preps for six-month deployment to Horn of Africa

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Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Manager Jeannette Salcedo is packing her gear and saying her goodbyes before embarking on the 32+ hour trip from Fayetteville, NC to Dijbouti, Africa, where she will serve with Red Cross for six months.

Jeannette will be stationed  at Camp Lemonnier, as the only Red Cross staff member on the base. There, she will deliver emergency communication messages from military family members to troops stationed at the base. She will also teach CPR and First Aid, as well as children’s disaster preparedness courses.

Jeannette speaks with the Red Cross about her upcoming deployment to Djibouti, a developing country located on one of the world’s largest shipping routes, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia.

Q: How were you selected to deploy to Camp Lemonnier?

A: I am a mobile staff member for [Red Cross] Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), as such we deploy the same as the military.

Q: What do you think a typical day in Djibouti will look like?

A: HOT!!! I am a certified First Aid/CPR Instructor and a Pillow Case Project Instructor. I will be holding classes to get folks certified. I will also be handling emergency communication messages for the military. Djibouti is a one-man station, so I will be the only Red Cross staff member. [I also expect to be] working out [in my downtime].

I am looking forward to meeting our ally partners in the area and [creating] some fun events to help boost morale.

Jeannette Salcedo deployed to Afghanistan for five months with the American Red Cross in 2013. 

Q: This is not your first time deploying with Red Cross. You spent five months in Afghanistan in 2013. What was that like? 

A: On Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, we were a four-member team.  We worked around the clock handling emergency communication messages.  We were scheduled 9-hour shifts, but usually worked 10-to-12-hour shifts, seven days a week. We overlapped our schedules so we could assist one another and get caught up on the queue. My shift was 3 p.m. to midnight, but I came in early to assist if needed and usually stayed until 1 a.m. After work, I would go to the gym and workout, go to the USO facility and use the free phones to call home.

Jeannette Salcedo (right) on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in 2013.

We also had some morale building events to give our [military members] a break from being on 24/7.  As a team, we would go meet the various units on Bagram to introduce ourselves and let them know what we do. We did an Armed Forces Radio broadcast once a month just to update everyone and remind them Red Cross is there.


Oh, and [it was] HOT!!

Q: Is there anything  you are looking forward to doing in your free time while in Djibouti?

A: As SAF, we are embedded with the [military] and we are their responsibility, as such we are not allowed to leave the camp. I would like to be able to meet some of the local people and perhaps volunteer in some capacity.

Q: The primary languages in Djibouti are Arabic and French. Do you expect there to be any language barriers?

A: No, not really. In my experience, people in other countries speak English as a second or third language. The Americans have been in the country for some time so I am sure the local population is at least familiar with English. I certainly hope so because my French is limited to a few phrases and I do not speak Arabic at all.

Q: How are preparing for your six-month trip?

A; I live in an apartment so I am packing up all my belongings and putting them in storage until I return. I will suspend service for my cell phone, cancel utilities, etc. Spending as much time I can with friends and family, especially my two grandchildren, Madison and Jacob. They are my moon and stars!

Q: You have two sons and two grandchildren.  How are they feeling about your deployment?

A: My sons Miguel and Jose’ are very proud of me and what I do.  They think it’s great that I am willing to go to these “not so glamorous places” to help out the military. My grandchildren are 8 and 5 so they really just understand that “Gran” will be gone for a long time.

Q: What are you packing?

A: I will be sending packages in advance, which will contain hygiene/toiletry items: body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. I will also send ahead a first aid kit, sewing kit, towels, and sheets. In my suitcase, khakis, Red Cross polos, sleepwear and pictures of my family and friends.

I will be wearing the military battle uniform six days a week so I do not have the need to pack much in the way of clothing.

Q: Is there anything you hope to gain from this experience?

A: I hope to broaden my exposure to different cultures and gain further experience relating to people from different cultures and points of view. I want to be there for our troops to assist in any way possible, and to bring them a little bit of home.

Q: Are there any local foods you are looking forward to trying?

A: So during our deployment briefs, we are warned against eating anything from the local economy as they do not have the same health standards as we do, and you can become very ill.

Q: Is there anything else we should know about your deployment?

A: Djibouti, Africa is still a Third World country with all the health risks that entails. Raw sewage, dumping of chemicals and lack of proper plumbing.

To find out more about what American Red Cross does for Service to the Armed Forces visit, www.redcross.org/military. 

Story by Andrea Gulley/American Red Cross

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

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


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

Red Crosser reflects on ultimate sacrifice


Jeannette Salcedo was only 10 years old when the chaplain showed up at her home to bring her family life-changing news — her father would not be coming home from Vietnam.

“I can still see my mother throwing herself against the wall and the children crying in the background,” said Jeannette, Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces manager at Fort Bragg.

She said she realizes the sacrifice her father made for her country, but sIMG_2799he also notes the resiliency of her family during his service. “It’s hard growing up in a military family. You’ll never truly understand what it’s like until you are in this situation,” Jeannette said. “It’s hard when a parent dies. It’s just significantly different when they were serving your country.”

This Memorial Day, Jeanette encourages others to reflect on the continual sacrifices military members and their families make.

She encourages those who know an active service member, veteran or military family to simply acknowledge their service. “Sometimes just saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way.”

Jeannette continues to show her appreciation to service members and their families through her work with the Red Cross. Daily, the Red Cross works one-on-one with military members, veterans and their families to provide support in times of need.

For more information how the Red Cross serves the military community, visit redcross.org/military.

PHOTOS: Above – Jeannette Salcedo (back row, third from left) with her siblings and mother after a memorial service for her father. Bottom – Jeannette Salcedo’s father, Sgt. Glenn Nicholson.

Story by: Andrea Gulley/American Red Cross



Red Cross and Team Rubicon Celebrate Veterans Day Serving North Carolinians

The American Red Cross and Team Rubicon have unique missions, but often join forces to support their common goal of helping those affected by disasters. This Veterans Day, both the Red Cross and Team Rubicon celebrate their veteran volunteers who are continuing to serve their country by helping North Carolinians, devastated by Hurricane Matthew just over a month ago.

Red Cross honors the veterans among them, including a special guest from Team Rubicon, during the morning meeting at the Goldsboro disaster headquarters. Photo by Greta Gustafson/American Red Cross.

“There is no better way to spend Veterans Day than continuing to serve,” said K.C. Baney, Incident Commander for Team Rubicon’s Operation Seymour Action.

Throughout the response to Hurricane Matthew, the Red Cross has provided over 100,000 overnight shelter stays, almost 1.5 million meals and snacks, hundreds of thousands of relief supplies and helped those affected identify resources available to them to take the next step forward in their recovery. Team Rubicon, comprised mostly of veterans and first responders, has helped over 50 families begin the rebuilding process by mucking and gutting flood-ravaged homes and removing downed trees.

“It is particularly rewarding to do something for another veteran,” said Team Rubicon’s Curt Kronberg on the various people they have helped. Though Team Rubicon helps everyone in need, they focus on targeting veterans, the elderly and low-income populations.

Team Rubicon on-site at a home in Goldsboro, working together to move a large portion of a tree that fell on a homeowner’s property during Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Larry French/American Red Cross.

Just a few days ago, a Team Rubicon strike team was at a home in Goldsboro, N.C. cutting a massive tree that fell across the homeowner’s driveway. Working as a very tight-knit team, the crew used chainsaws to tackle the massive project in a way no one person could do alone. All of the volunteers expressed that the sense of camaraderie and shared purpose Team Rubicon provides is exactly what they are missed after leaving the military.

“Mission, purpose and community,” said Kronberg.

Team Rubicon showcases their pride by carving their logo into the stump of the tree they are working to remove. Photo by Larry French/American Red Cross.


Team Rubicon and the Red Cross collaborate exchange information throughout disasters. For example, Team Rubicon refers people in need of additional resources to the Red Cross, and the Red Cross supplies enabling resources such as cots, blankets and meals to Team Rubicon. Both organizations conduct damage assessments and share their information to target and support the families and communities that are in need.

As Team Rubicon’s Director of Field Operations, David Burke, has said of partnering non-governmental organizations, “There’s greater need out there than any one organization can answer alone. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to strengthen our partnerships and be a small part of scaling the whole community’s ability to provide aid to those affected by disaster.”

Keeping it All in the Family

Story and photos by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

SSgt Adrian Guerrero carried a large box full of donated items from the shelter to a large

Adrian Guerrero and son, Isaiah, carry boxes filled with in-kind donations from Westover shelter to a truck that will carry them to a warehouse for further distribution.

truck. He joked and laughed as he carried the load, obviously enjoying the work and clearly enjoying the feeling he gets from helping others. Guerrero is originally from El Paso, TX and currently stationed at Fort Bragg. His career with the U.S. Army is nearing an end and he is very proud of his service. “I’m an HR [Human Resources] manager who has jumped out of perfectly good airplanes,” Guerrero said as he lifted another box. His attitude and humor were infectious and spread throughout the other workers.

SSgt Guerrero and his son Isaiah (19) have been helping the people affected by Hurricane Mathew since before landfall, driving in heavy rain and high water to deliver food and supplies to shelters. They have stayed with the response working every spare hour. “I like to help and so does my son,” he said. “It’s great when we can work together and see that it makes a difference.”

The Guerrero family, Adrian(l), Corina and Isaiah helping at Westover shelter in Fayetteville.

Guerrero’s wife, Corina, is also a volunteer for the Red Cross. She had moved back to El Paso pending Adrian’s retirement to enroll their daughter in high school. When the storm hit she knew she had to help and quickly returned to North Carolina. Corina has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than four years. She began with the Service to Armed Forces program in Italy and when they returned to the states she continued as a disaster responder. Since she has been back in North Carolina the family has been extremely busy. “My son was hoping I would come back and cook for him,” she said with a tinge of guilt. “So far I have only been able to do that one time.”

Adrian and his son carry a cot loaded with in kind donations at the Westover shelter in Fayetteville.

Despite being busy every day helping others the family is close and it was pretty clear they all care deeply about the Red Cross mission. It’s also clear that the Red Cross is proud to have them on our team.

If you would like to be part of the Red Cross just go to redcross.org and click on VOLUNTEER. Don’t have time and still want to support the Red Cross? Go to the same website and click on DONATE.

American Red Cross stands alongside soldiers, families

Heather Sizemore and her three children were the first to arrive at Fort Bragg, N.C.’s Green Ramp on March 9.

Despite it being 5 a.m., 7-year-old Sarah sprinted into the empty warehouse-like building, and 3-year-old Asher scaled the wooden benches. Heather held her sleeping 15-month old as she tried to corral the others. She’d already been up since 4 a.m. ridding Asher’s bedroom of monsters.

Heather Sizemore (right) with her children, Sarah (left), Asher and Gabriel.

Following her children in, Heather found a seat in the first row of benches, directly in front of where the 82d Airborne Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division would march into the building from the runway. The soldiers were the last group of paratroopers to return home from deployment in Iraq.

With a big grin, little Sarah told me she was waiting on her daddy to come home.

“He’s been gone nine months,” Heather said. “You have to prepare yourself mentally and be patient with your children.”

A few rows over from Heather’s family sat Kym LaRiviere and her 3-year-old, Evelyn. “I’m going to run to my daddy and tell him I love him,” Evelyn said.

Evelyn already had the day with her dad mapped out – eat snacks, play puzzles, and eat more snacks. She grazed on a chocolate-covered granola bar as she spoke to me. And in her left hand, she carried a “Frozen” Disney balloon. That’s how she planned to get her daddy’s attention. “Balloons are good for daddies,” she explained.

Kym LaRiviere (left) plays with her daughter, Evelyn.

Before Evelyn and the other children arrived that morning, the American Red Cross was preparing for them.

At 2:45 a.m., coffee brewed in the Red Cross office on the installation. Volunteers put on their blue vests and got to work loading their cars with canteen supplies – orange tang, coffee, granola bars, cookies, coloring books, tissues, informational materials, and more. By 4 a.m., the team of eight volunteers was ready to serve and entertain the families who eagerly awaited their soldiers.

The empty warehouse quickly turned into a maze of hundreds of people. Throughout the crowd, blue vests could be spotted. Some handed out Goldfish and crayons, while others simply sat and listened to the anxious moms and dads who hadn’t seen their sons or daughters in almost a year.

The plane finally touched down as the sun rose over the tarmac. Families moved outside to see 118 paratroopers marching in. Of those soldiers returning home was Maj. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne.

Before going home to his own family, Clarke shook hands with each Red Cross volunteer at the canteen.

“Thank you for always being here,” he said. “The Red Cross is always here when we get home.”

Story by Brittany Jennings / American Red Cross