Volunteer Spotlight: Nicole Pepper

Getting to know Red Cross volunteer, Central West Alabama Chapter board member and Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chairperson, Nicole Pepper

We love our volunteers! They are the backbone of the Red Cross, serving in countless ways to alleviate human suffering – from serving with the communications team, supporting our military and veterans, teaching classes to prepare our communities for disasters and responding to disasters no matter what time of day. We are thankful for their selfless service because without volunteers we wouldn’t be able to provide lifesaving services to our communities or make a difference everyday.

Red Crosser, Nicole Pepper, treasures the relationships she has made since she started volunteering. “I’ve met mentors, made dear friends and had the opportunity to meet people who are changing the world, one community at a time. It’s hard to walk away from Red Cross moments without feeling inspired.”

We wanted to get to know the Nicole behind the red vest, so we reached out to ask her a few questions and to find out what makes her so spectacular. Here’s what she had to say…

🔹 Three things on your bucket list:

Go fly fishing in Montana, host a make-your-own-pizza party, and to make all homemade Christmas gifts one year.

🔹 If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sweet potatoes – the closest one food can get to having all the nutrition you need. More importantly, it goes great with buffalo chicken dip, brown sugar, and just about everything else. 

🔹 What has been your favorite vacation?

Every local road trip I’ve ever taken. But if I had to pick a favorite it would be our spontaneous trip to Brooksville, Mississippi. It was a gorgeous, cool Saturday morning and I refused to stay inside, so I convinced my husband we should go to this Mennonite bakery in the middle of nowhere. To say it was worth it would be the understatement of the century, it was all so good we took several hundred pounds to-go and ate leftovers for weeks.

🔹 What is one of your biggest pet peeves?

When phones are more important than the people around you. Can’t say I haven’t done it, I think it’s completely unintentional, but that’s also kind of the worst part?

🔹 What do you love about your role in the Red Cross?

So hard to pick! Probably the relationships. I’ve met mentors, made dear friends, and gotten a chance to meet people who are changing the world one community at a time. It’s hard to walk away from Red Cross moments without feeling inspired, and it’s because of the people.

🔹 What is your favorite 90s song?

I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain. I don’t have HitClips anymore, but I do have a Spotify playlist called “Shania Twain Dance Party Vibes.”

🔹It’s the zombie apocalypse and you can only take one possession with you. What do you take? 

My hammock – it can double as a bed, blanket, tent, or even weapon (if you use the hooks). Plus, zombies or not, there’s nothing like a nap in the sunshine.

Our volunteers are simply AMAZING! Thank you for all that you do. So if you are reading this and you haven’t joined the team, what are you waiting for?? Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday and find your fit!

APRIL 2021 – K.I.N.D. Award Winner is Fran Lawlor

The Alabama and Mississippi Region proudly announces its monthly recipient of the KIND Award: a volunteer that is K(knowledgeable) I(involved) N(notable) D(dedicated). For the month of April, our award winner is Fran Lawlor representing the Mid Alabama Chapter!   Fran serves in multiple roles in Volunteer Services-as an Instructor, a Regional Volunteer Relations Team Lead, an Engagement Lead and as a Screening Lead. She is truly an asset to the Volunteer Services team and has currently been active with the Red Cross for the past three years.  

Fran, however, is not new to the organization. She was a Junior Volunteer as a teenager and previously taught CPR courses. Fran decided to serve with the Red Cross to assist others in their time of need. She states she has had many memorable moments throughout her Red Cross tenure-conducting screening interviews, teaching classes and solving problems (her strength!) Being selected for this award she feels has been the most memorable moment of all! When Fran is not volunteering with the Red Cross, she enjoys gardening and giving tours with the Botanical Gardens. She has also competed in ballroom dance competitions and was a Girl Scout leader for many years. She also served as the Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama.

Carol Battersby, Senior Engagement Specialist in Volunteer Services states “Fran is an invaluable asset to the Red Cross.  She serves in two key leadership roles.  In her VS Screening Lead role, she helps prospective Red Crossers identify what role they would like to serve in and makes sure they have all the information they need to decide the best match for their interests.  As a volunteer lead, Fran provides training, guidance and support to the other Screening team members. In her role as Regional HR Lead, Fran works with volunteers and volunteer supervisors to resolve conflict; sometimes spending countless hours until the issue is resolved.  Fran also facilitates the Get Connected new volunteer orientation making sure new volunteers are welcomed and informed in their on- boarding process. Fran’s history with the Red Cross goes far back to when she started as a Red Cross Youth volunteer.” 

She also serves on the Regional Volunteer Recognition Committee. Fran is the definition of KIND. Her Knowledge, Involvement and Dedication is Notable. The Red Cross is incredibly lucky to have her service.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this recognition.

On behalf of the Alabama and Mississippi Region, congratulations Fran on being selected as the April recipient of the KIND Award. We appreciate your service and dedication to the Red Cross mission!

Written by: Amy Cottrell / Volunteer Services

Going The Extra Mile

Our Red Cross volunteers are special in so many ways. Their big hearts and selfless acts of service are what our organization appreciates most. One among these special volunteers is Elaine Luke. Elaine is a Disaster Action Team volunteer in Laurel, MS who has volunteered numerous hours of service to the mission of the Red Cross. Elaine is a highly dedicated volunteer who plays a vital part within the Mississippi team. She is most known for going over and beyond in her support to other volunteers throughout the state. “Elaine is always one of the first people to jump in and support however she can,” said Erin Madigan, Disaster Program Manager (DPM). “Whether it’s calling other volunteers, opening shelters, driving Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV), and countless other things, Elaine is always there.”

Elaine’s level of commitment is easily shown having documented over 11,000 hours in multiple roles, from Pillowcase Project presenter to DPM Volunteer Partner. She has also donated 3,600 hours to 23 different Disaster Response Operations (DRO). On those DRO’s she has been assigned to various positions including damage assessment, recovery, sheltering, feeding, and operations management.

Elaine started with the Red Cross in 2014 as an Event-Based Volunteer during a disaster response in Laurel, MS. In 2017, Elaine took on a leadership role as Disaster Program Manager Volunteer Partner for four counties within the Southeast Mississippi Chapter in which she was responsible for new volunteer onboarding, mass care readiness, all preparedness programs, and being the point of contact for local Emergency Management Agencies. Recently promoted to the role of Regional ERV Administrator, Elaine works directly with our National Headquarters (NHQ) Team to coordinate deployment, upkeep, and repairs of all regional ERV’s.

While all of this is an incredible dedication by itself, Elaine has done all of this while battling multiple medical issues. Her dedication to serving clients shines through everything she does, she is a strong advocate not only for the Red Cross client but also for fellow volunteers. She is a trusted Red Cross representative that our partners turn to for information and assistance. “Elaine exemplifies the heart of our volunteers in everything she does, and her spirit and compassion inspire everyone around her,” stated Angie Grajeda, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager. “I continue to be honored to serve by her side and have great respect for Elaine as a person and for the work she does to serve her community through the Red Cross.”


In Memoriam: Dr. John Horch

Dr. John Horch passed away on April 4, 2021 at the age of 83. John is survived by his wife, Candace, and three children, Edward, Stephanie and Tyler.

Over 40 years ago, John began his Red Cross story by donating blood and platelets after his daughter required lifesaving blood. Nearly two decades later, he hosted his first blood drive at his local church, St. John’s Catholic Church of Madison, Alabama. At the time of his death, John had hosted over 135 blood drives and had encouraged other organizations set up blood drives too.

In his 24 years of service, he worked to run successful blood drives, promote blood donation and ensure products were available for patients in need. In 2018, John was honored at the Red Cross Gala as the Blood Services Hero for generously donating nearly 600 gallons of blood and platelets. In addition to his blood services role, John passionately served as a front desk associate three days a week since 2016.

Marianna Fite, business operations coordinator and volunteer supervisor, North Alabama chapter, worked closely with John. She said, “He could walk into a room and connect with anyone. Whether you talked to him for five minutes or five hours, he made an impact. He was an amazing person, volunteer, and friend.” His commitment to the Red Cross was unmatched, he was passionate about helping others and refused to let anything or anyone stand in his way. John was well-known for his warmth, organizational expertise, and cheeky sense of humor.

John has forever left his mark on the world and we are better because of the time we spent with him.  He will be remembered as a beacon of light and esteemed member of our Red Cross family.

Information about funeral services and more about John’s life can be found here: Dr. John Horch.

Our hearts are forever saddened by the loss of such a extraordinary volunteer and friend. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Friends Who Volunteer Together, Stay Together.

North Alabama volunteers, Kasey Naves and Susan Butler deliver food to people displaced by March 25 tornadoes.

The dedication and compassion of our volunteers is undeniable! �⛑

Volunteer, Kasey Naves rescheduled a medical procedure so that she could be on the ground providing emergency aide to people affected by the tornadoes.

Kasey enlisted the help of her longtime friend and new volunteer, Susan Butler. This is Susan’s first deployment! On Tuesday, Susan and Kasey spent the day driving around to various hotels, delivering hot meals to families who we’ve been able to give emergency shelter to.

“It’s always rewarding because we help so many people. People love the hugs, and we love to hug them (prior to COVID restrictions)”, Naves made the decision to become a Red Cross volunteer after receiving gastric bypass surgery a few years ago. To further her weight loss goals, she joined the Red Cross thinking that she would find plenty of opportunities for getting the recommended amount of exercise and activity she needed.

6 years later, Naves has nearly reached her goal weight and has enjoyed giving back to her community at the same time. �

Nearly 110 trained disaster workers are helping in communities across Alabama; helping people find their new normal as they begin to recover from a disaster.

It’s easy to make a difference…
�Give blood.
⛑Become a volunteer.
� Make a donation.

Visit RedCross.org or RedCrossBlood.org to learn more.

Red Crossers Educate Families at McWane Science Center’s “First Responders Day”

By: Diane “Vicki” Weber / American Red Cross

    “Does [Red Cross] come when there’s a tornado?” asked 7-year old Elijah, with his arms stretched out of the Emergency Response Vehicle’s feeding window.  “Do you make the food?” Both kids and adults present at McWane Science Center’s “First Responder’s Day” event on Saturday posed some insightful questions and received an inside look of the Next Generation Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs).  

Red Cross volunteers, Marguerite, Rev. Turner, Vicki and Disaster Program Manager, Debbie Looney, were proud to stand alongside Birmingham’s first responders and our community partners. The response vehicle joined fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and even a mounted police unit as examples of organizations on call to help the community.

      “We want to recognize our first responders and their families,” explained event coordinator, Kristen when requesting the Red Cross to be in attendance, “and we want to raise awareness and educate the kids about what the first responders do in our area.” Dedicated volunteers braved the exhausting midday temperatures to share information with dozens of Birmingham area families about how the Red Cross helps families and communities – from blood donations to sheltering and disaster preparedness. This event comes at a perfect time known as National Preparedness Month in which community organizations work together urging residents to make an emergency kit, make a plan and be informed. The American Red Cross prepares all year for disasters and urges everyone to Be Red Cross Ready too.

Emergencies are more common than people may think, and disasters can happen anywhere, anytime — they can even begin in someone’s own home. Every 8 minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster, and the vast majority of these are home fires. By having an emergency plan and kit, families can react quickly when a disaster strikes. The Red Cross encourages everyone to take three important action steps to get prepared: build a kit, make a plan and be informed. “I remember seeing the Red Cross at the apartment fire last week,” said an ATF official, and we are reminded that we all work together to help those in need. You can find more tips for getting prepared at www.redcross.org/alabama.

Judging by the smiles on the children’s faces, we think “First Responders Day” was a success and we can’t wait to do it again next year!