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Submitted by: Lisa Piraino

TV appearances, winning the lottery and deviled eggs – all part of a day’s work as a volunteer for the Red Cross. Although the real work of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies is done by Disaster Action Team volunteers (those are the folks getting the call in the middle of the night to go help a family who has just lost their home to a fire), there are opportunities to help the local Red Cross in ways that you might not have imagined.

As a fundraiser by profession, I help the Red Cross Financial Development and Communications teams. In order to raise money, people have to know about what the Red Cross is doing! Through partnerships with TV stations and newspapers as well as the SEPA Facebook and Twitter accounts, the Communications team shares updates on preparing for severe weather, fire safety and other Red Cross events. They also work closely with the Red Cross fundraising team to share how donors can help.photo (2)

After the devastating series of tornadoes in Oklahoma last summer, the Red Cross partnered with CBS Philly to hold an all-day telethon. Volunteers staffed a phone bank and throughout the day CBS Philly anchors urged viewers to call in and donate. I worked a shift at the phone bank and enjoyed talking to many generous members of our community. I felt very privileged to be able to answer questions about Red Cross efforts

in Oklahoma (and in Philadelphia), many of the donors thanked me for my work, and it felt great to be a part of the Red Cross team. The highlight of the evening was when the woman sitting next to me took the information for a $5,000 donation – it felt like winning the lottery for the Red Cross.

I’ve also worked at Red Cross events designed to raise money and honor our partners, the first responders. At the Bucks County Police vs. Firefighter Football Game I was in charge of twitter coverage and staffing the biggest celebrity there – Fred Cross!photo (3)

 It was a beautiful fall day at Palisades High School. I played the part of a sideline reporter, interviewing the players and special guests, taking pictures and sharing game highlights.

Some Red Cross events focus on donors (like the telethon), or the community (like the football game), but many Red Cross events are for our clients: those who have suffered from fires, floods or other disasters. This past fall, Red Cross House hosted a barbeque for the residents, and asked for volunteers to help prepare and serve the food. So, on a Saturday morning I found myself making hundreds of deviled eggs. There were no TV cameras. There was no twitter feed. We were just a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers helping.

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If you’ve wanted to volunteer with the Red Cross but aren’t sure how to begin, don’t let that stop you anymore! The mission of the Red Cross is so big and the work so expansive that there is a place for everyone to help.

Find your perfect volunteering opportunity here!

Lisa Piraino is a former employee turned volunteer with the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Wayne Sundmacher

Wayne Sundmacher with American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania CEO, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes on the day of his donation.

The following is an account of an auspicious meeting between Red Cross donor, Wayne Sundmacher, and Red Cross volunteers shopping for non-perishable food items at a BJ’s Club store in Hamilton, New Jersey. At the spur of the moment, Wayne stepped up to cover a substantial bill for Red Cross supplies to be distributed to residents affected by Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey at the cash register.

He says:

After having spent four days without electricity or hot water, our lights came back on early Saturday morning.  That’s just an inconvenience, and nothing compared to our friends who lost their home.  My wife and I felt very lucky to have only lost some roof shingles, some food from our refrigerator and our electricity for four days. 

As a State employee, I had some involvement in emergency management and was painfully aware of the plight of those left homeless by the storm.  I was also aware of the great volunteer response by organizations like the Red Cross, and how they were endeavoring to meet the needs of thousands of people affected by the storm.

On Sunday morning November 4th, I was shopping at BJ’s Club in Hamilton, NJ, restocking perishable food items that we had lost during the power outage.  I was surprised to find the aisles crowded with American Red Cross volunteers, scurrying about, collecting case after case of non-perishable food items.  Their enthusiasm was inspiring, and I wanted to find some way to help, but also didn’t want to distract them from the important work they were doing.

American Red Cross Southeastern PA staff and volunteers shop for food and supplies at BJs in Hamilton, NJ on Nov. 4, 2012

American Red Cross Southeastern PA staff and volunteers shop for food and supplies at BJs in Hamilton, NJ on Nov. 4, 2012 on their way to Northern NJ and New York City

When I arrived at the check-out, I turned to find Red Cross volunteers with several flat-bed carts, waiting in line behind me.  My only thought was, “What can I do to help?”  Certainly, the volunteers weren’t set up top take a donation, so I did the next best thing.  I approached the young man behind me, with an offer to pay for the first $100 worth of food items they rang up. 

BJS photo 1While I thought my $100 offer would go a long way, the very first case of food the Red Cross was purchasing rang up at $214.    Sometimes, you just have to go with your heart, and not consider your wallet.  Rather than try to split up the purchase, I just told the cashier I would pay the full cost of that case of food.  I cannot tell you how good it made me feel, to know that food I had just purchased would be distributed to someone in desperate need, that very day.  And the cost?  Well, that’s a couple less dinners out, and a few weeks without doughnut shop coffee.  I think that’s pretty easy to bear.
– Wayne Sundmacher

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Here’s a link to a great post on Wayne’s Facebook page where he challenges friends to make a donation of their own to help the efforts of the American Red Cross in New Jersey.

We are incredibly touched by his generosity and second him in encouraging others to follow his example. Thanks Wayne!

By the way, over the course of the weekend of November 3-4, the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania sent 17 teams of volunteers to New York City and Jersey City to distribute food and  and water. In all, our teams distributed more than 48,000 food items and 20,000 bottles of water to residents in New York and Jersey City. (More photos here. Scroll to second half of set to see the store and distribution pictures.) This was just a small part of the large-scale response by the American Red Cross to Superstorm Sandy.

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Tuesday, the American Red Cross of Southeastern PA hosted its 30th annual Citizen of the Year breakfast. This year, we were thrilled to give the award to our friend and partner of many years Wawa CEO, Howard Stoeckel.

The Citizen of the Year Award honors an individual who has shown commitment and compassion to the entire community without regard to race, religion, gender, or status in times of need. Howard Stoeckel is the perfect recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award because of his commitment to his community and the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

While the Red Cross is dependent on the generosity of individual donors, our corporate partners are also essential to the success of our mission. Their sponsorship of fundraising events such as The Red Ball, the Red Cross Walk and Run, and our annual Red Cross Cup golf outing provides us with important resources for our work and maintains our profile in the community.

Mr. Stoeckel and Wawa helped the Red Cross meet its goals in another essential area: blood donation. Over the last eight years Wawa has hosted 584 American Red Cross Blood Drives, collecting more than 21,000 units of blood and helping to save approximately 65,000 lives across our region. Wawa’s efforts over the last year helped generate more than 4,700 units of blood being donated to the American Red Cross. Those 4,700 units of blood gave a second chance to more than 14,200 hospital patients across our region. Mr. Stoeckel supports his employees’ extraordinary gift to their community. He says, “Wawa’s long-standing partnership with the American Red Cross is one of the most meaningful ways we contribute to our communities.  We are so proud of our associates’ efforts to host blood drives throughout the year, to volunteer their time and to donate blood.”

Howard Stoeckel and the Wawa Corporation represent the epitome of corporate partnership and responsibility. Wawa employees and associates give back to their communities in a very elemental way. Mr. Stoeckel reminds them that one pint of blood can assist as many as three people. He writes, ” I am truly proud to say that at Wawa, our world is large one, filled with endless possibilities due to the caring nature of our associates and our customers.” His personal commitment to social responsibility influences others to act accordingly and give their time, energy and life’s blood to their community. His dedication and that of his employees yields spectacular results

Today we recognize Howard Stoeckel for all he does for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Please join me in thanking him and congratulating him as the 2012 American Red Cross Citizen of the Year.