Volunteer Spotlight: Supriya Janarthanan

SupriyaBy Tiffany Koenig

As a volunteer with the Language Bank in King County, Supriya Janarthanan brings a rare skill to her role: she speaks the South Indian languages Tamil and Telugu. Originally from Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu in India, Supriya enjoys volunteering with the Red Cross because it offers an opportunity to meet different people and learn about diverse cultures while also making a difference in the community.

So what does the Language Bank do? “People move to Seattle from all over the world, and many face challenges communicating,” Supriya explains. “They can call the Language Bank coordinator and ask for a translator, and the coordinator sends out a volunteer to help.” The program currently offers translation and interpretation for 54 languages.

Supriya had a chance to serve as a translator through the Language Bank when a three-year-old South Indian girl and her parents needed help communicating with a speech therapist. Supriya visited the girl’s home during therapy sessions and played an integral role in the process. But opportunities to translate these languages are few and far between.

“People from South India often don’t need a translator because many are good at speaking English,” she explains.

In addition to providing general office support for the Language Bank, Supriya does public outreach at community events, like the fundraiser held in Seattle’s Chinatown for victims of the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2012. While dancers performed traditional Chinese dragon dances in the streets, Supriya and other Red Cross volunteers spread the word about services available through the Language Bank.

Back in India, Supriya worked as a tutor and library teacher, and she hopes to pursue a teaching career in the U.S. She volunteers at an Eastside school during the week, and on weekends, she assists teachers at a Tamil school in Old Redmond Community Center, which brings in 200-300 students from surrounding communities.

“I love kids and would like to be with them and explore the education system here,” Supriya says. “I was brought up in India, where education culture is very different. I thought I should get experience in how this education system works.” She plans to begin a teacher training education course in September.

Supriya would like to volunteer in the field at a disaster if given the opportunity. For now, though, she’s happy in her role. “I’m proud to be part of the Red Cross. If any of my friends wanted to volunteer, I would definitely encourage them to try the Red Cross.”

Volunteer Spotlight – Dixie Ferguson

"Donut Dolly"

Volunteer Dixie Ferguson joined the American Red Cross in 1966 after she graduated from college with a degree in social work when she heard the Red Cross was hiring to work with the military members overseas.

“I learned about the Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO), a special Red Cross program for women college graduates during wartime.  I was excited about the job description, a unique opportunity to serve my country, do humanitarian work and seek new adventures.”

Dixie worked as a recreation worker, nicknamed “Donut Dolly” by the service members. From 1966 to 1967, Dixie was in Vietnam helping military members in both An Khe and Bien Hoa. Dixie holds a special memory of the USO show from her time in Vietnam.

“The Bob Hope Christmas show came to An Khe, the army base in Central Highlands of Viet Nam.  The Red Cross girls sat with hundreds of fighting men and the wounded in their blue pajamas.   All of us enjoyed the wonderful singing, dancing and humor. It was a taste from home”

Later she went on to work as a recreational worker in several military hospitals state-side.

Almost fifty years later, Dixie is still very active with the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program in Walla Walla, Washington. Her main responsibilities are as an outreach coordinator and emergency communications caseworker.

“The Red Cross is still serving the military and veterans every hour of the day and I am extremely proud to be a volunteer supporting the Armed Forces.”

Seeing the need in her area for more help with Disaster Services she also volunteers her time as a Disaster Action Team Lead and Emergency Response Vehicle member for national deployments.

Volunteer Spotlight: Bill Boyd

Bill BoydBy Tiffany Koenig

Bill Boyd’s drive to help others got its start in an unusual place: a funeral home. Bill’s father was a mortician and disaster responder in Idaho during a time when ambulances were operated out of funeral homes, and Bill frequently tagged along with his dad to house fires.

Those early experiences watching his father, who was also a first aid instructor for the Red Cross, pointed Bill in the direction of public service. He started his career as a paramedic and eventually became chief of the Bellingham Fire Department, a position he retired from in 2012. “In my role as a fire captain in the field and as chief,” Bill says, “we relied heavily on the Red Cross to help people who were sitting on the curb in their bathrobes. The Red Cross would swoop in to help and took a big load off of us.”

The Red Cross also made a big impression on Bill after the Olympic Pipeline explosion in 1999. He was a fire commander during the first week, working with the pipeline president and government officials in a high-stress environment. Red Cross volunteers had food lines set up and ready for them. “I remember the Red Cross volunteers in their vests smiling and asking how we were doing. That meant a lot. It showed the community support during this horrific event.”

He also remembers a Bellingham house fire that had been started by a teenager while his parents were gone. “The volunteer team that arrived to help showed so much compassion and guided the situation for the parents and kid,” Bill recalls. “They brought the family together.”

After Bill retired from the fire department, he turned to the Red Cross as a way to continue serving the community. “I believe in the mission of the Red Cross. It’s a noble mission. The organization is made up of people who are drawn to helping. Board members are well connected in the community and have a passion for helping the community, and the Red Cross is an excellent vehicle for doing that.”

Now, as the chair of the board of directors for the Northwest Washington chapter, Bill is responsible for coordinating with executive and regional directors to make sure the board supports the Red Cross mission by acting as conduits to local businesses and public agencies. Board members serve as ambassadors and champions for their local chapter, seeking new volunteers and funding sources and advocating with the public. Bill says, “The thing I like about it the most is interfacing with the other board members, all of whom are business leaders, believers, and champions for the Red Cross. They are proud but humble in their support of our great group of volunteers and staff.”

Bill wants current and potential volunteers to know that their participation is extremely valuable. “Don’t underestimate your talents and your ability to help,” he says. “Just the

fact that you’re willing to step out and help—the Red Cross will find something for you to do. Everyone’s got a niche or a skill that can come into play. Everyone can have a role in fulfilling the Red Cross mission, whether it’s answering phones, office work, bookkeeping, or disaster work. We can use the help.”

Recruiting AmeriCorps Members for 2015-2016 Service Year


Are you looking for an opportunity to make a real difference in the community? Do you want to gain new skills and experiences? Are you passionate about empowering people to prepare for and recover from disasters and emergencies?

The American Red Cross, Northwest Region, is seeking 30 enthusiastic individuals to serve as full-time AmeriCorps Team members from September 1, 2015 through July 15, 2016 in the following positions:

Communications Coordinator 1 position:  Seattle – The AmeriCorps Communications Coordinator will promote and publicize face-to-face preparedness training opportunities conducted by volunteers and other AmeriCorps team members to broad audiences within targeted communities; Develop strategies and processes for utilizing new media as an enhanced tool for successful delivery of disaster preparedness training and awareness resources; Build capacity for future program promotion by recruiting, training, and developing communications volunteers; Deliver disaster preparedness education presentations in a variety of formats to a variety of audiences.


Disaster Preparedness Coordinator 9 positions: (Seattle-3, Tacoma-1, Everett-1, Spokane-2, Kennewick-1, Bellingham-1).  2 of the positions in Seattle will focus strictly on youth audiences.  The other positions will target adult audiences but applicants must also be comfortable with presenting to youth audiences. The AmeriCorps member will deliver disaster preparedness education presentations in a variety of formats to a variety of audiences; Recruit, train, develop, and assist support disaster preparedness volunteers in various communities throughout Washington State.

Disaster Preparedness and Response Coordinator 10 positions: (Seattle-2, Tacoma-1, Sequim-2, Bremerton-1, Vancouver-2, Wenatchee-1, Yakima-1). The Disaster Preparedness & Response Coordinator will deliver disaster preparedness education presentations in a variety of formats to a variety of audiences; Respond to surge demand for client program delivery across rural and vulnerable Communities; Recruit, train, develop, and assist disaster preparedness volunteers in various communities across Washington State.

Service to Armed Forces (SAF) Coordinator 5 positions: (Tacoma-2, Bremerton-1, Spokane-1, Kennewick-1). The SAF Coordinator will deliver services, programs, and educational presentations to audiences within our Washington military community; to better prepare service members and their families during times of emergencies and deployments. Programs include disaster preparedness, first aid and CPR training, resiliency training courses and information on Red Cross emergency communications services.

Volunteer Program Coordinator 5 positions: (Seattle-1, Tacoma-1, Everett-1, Spokane-1, Yakima-1). The AmeriCorps Volunteer Program Coordinator will assist with the development of strategies and processes related to direct recruitment, engagement, retention and recognition of Red Cross volunteers; Build capacity to provide sustainable volunteer driven programs by developing volunteer leaders and recruiting and training volunteer support teams; Conduct informational presentations, volunteer interviews, and volunteer records management in order to optimize successful recruitment and retention; Deliver disaster preparedness education presentation in a variety of formats to a variety of audiences.

All AmeriCorps positions will require occasional travel to other Red Cross offices in Washington State.


  • Invaluable experience from a nationally and internationally-respected organization for school, a future job or new career
  • Extensive training
  • $5,730 AmeriCorps Education Award (upon successful completion of service term commitment and 1700 hours of service)
  • $1,195/month living stipend (before taxes)
  • Eligibility for health insurance coverage
  • Subsidized childcare (if qualified)
  • Student loan forbearance (on qualifying loans)


  • Commit to serve full-time for 10 1/2 months (September 1, 2015 – July 15, 2016)
  • Successfully serve in the position, serve a minimum 40 hours a week and meet the 1700 minimum requirement for a full term of service
  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Must be 18 years of age at the start date of service
  • Have a valid Driver’s License & clean driving record
  • Pass required criminal background checks

Members should also be comfortable working with a wide variety of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and respect the Red Cross principles of neutrality and impartiality.

TO APPLY:  Click on the red position links below that will take you directly to a detailed description of the available position, as well as to an online application form.  The American Red Cross also requires a resume and one cover letter detailing strengths and skills for each position (max of 3 positions in order of preference).  Please make sure to also specify site location preference.

WSC, Red Cross NW Region, Communications Coordinator

Use your journalism, writing, social media and communications skills to help one of the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations – the American Red Cross. Position located in Seattle.

WSC, Red Cross NW Region, Disaster Preparedness

Join the American Red Cross to empower our community to be prepared for disasters. Our preparedness programs engage diverse populations and organizations through interactive education and outreach. Positions located in Bellingham, Everett, Kennewick, Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma. 

WSC, Red Cross NW Region, Disaster Preparedness & Response

Join the Red Cross to empower communities to prepare for and recover from Disasters. Prepare communities through education programs and provide support to people who have been affected by disasters. Positions located in Bremerton, Seattle, Sequim, Tacoma, Vancouver, Wenatchee, and Yakima.  

WSC, Red Cross NW Region, Service to Armed Forces

Use your enthusiasm and skills to facilitate outreach presentations, deployment briefings, and information fairs for active duty military members, their dependents, and extended family members. Positions located in Bremerton, Kennewick, Spokane, and Tacoma.

WSC, Red Cross NW Region, Volunteer Programs Coord

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to join the Volunteer Services Department at the Nation’s largest “volunteer led” organization. Learn best practices and create the vision for the future. Positions located in Everett, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Yakima.


PLEASE NOTE:  AmeriCorps team position offers are contingent upon AmeriCorps funding notification, to be announced by May 31, 2015.

Volunteer Spotlight: Judy Holz

Skagit Bridge Collapse Mobile Feeding

By Tiffany Koenig

For almost 40 years, Judy Holz and her husband, Howard, operated a dairy farm north of Bellingham. As they neared retirement, Judy began looking for ways to serve her community and became interested in the Red Cross when they inquired about using her church as an emergency shelter location. Now, after 12 years as a Red Cross volunteer, her motivation is the same as it was then: “The Red Cross allows me to help people who need help right at the time that they need it.”

Over the years, Judy has served as an instructor, disaster chair, and deputy director for Disaster Cycle Services of Northwest Washington. In February, she took a position as Mass Care lead, organizing shelter teams and making sure they understand what to do as soon as they get the call. Like most volunteers, though, Judy wears many different hats. “We have our titles and our activities, but most of us will do whatever we’re asked to do,” she says. Judy especially enjoys teaching disaster courses at her chapter in Bellingham. “I love to see other people learn how to help others.”

Through the years, Judy has traveled to 14 national-level disasters, each with its own personality. These deployments offer the chance to meet clients and coworkers from across the country and bring back valuable information to her home chapter. But she also gains satisfaction from helping people closer to home. “There’s nothing like being there right at the time when people need you after an event like a single-family fire,” she says. “When you’re called around midnight and people are just standing around not knowing where to go or what do to, and you’re there to say, ‘I can help you tonight and give you a place to stay’—that’s something that gets repeated over and over.”

Sometimes those who need assistance are emergency responders themselves. After the Skagit River Bridge collapsed, Judy joined other local Red Cross volunteers to provide food for the police, DOT investigators, and responders working to rescue people from the river. She also met with officials at the local emergency operations center to discuss what else the Red Cross could do.

It’s all a far cry from dairy farming. But it certainly keeps her busy and involved with the north Puget Sound community.

Judy is also a watercolor artist. In her downtime, she travels with her husband around Washington and to Wyoming to visit family, often taking her paints and brushes with her. Painting landscapes on location helps her connect with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Volunteer Spotlight: Anne Isenhart

Anne I In 2013, Anne Isenhart was representing the Red Cross at an event in Bellingham when her husband called to tell her that their daughter was in the hospital after falling out of a second-story window. Anne didn’t want to abandon the newly trained volunteer at her side, but her manager, who happened to be at the event, insisted she go and take care of her family. Anne’s daughter was airlifted to Harborview in Seattle. While she recovered, Anne took a break from her role coordinating speakers, and her colleagues at the Red Cross gave her the time and support she needed. One even came to her house to look after her kids so Anne could rest for a few hours. Her colleagues’ help embodied the heart of the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering. “My family was a priority, and they understood that,” Anne says. “They took care of me. That’s what I love the most about being a Red Cross volunteer—it doesn’t stop when I walk out the door. They’re invested in me as a person.” For Anne, it’s a relief to work with an organization that understands that its employees and volunteers are only human—especially after a career in the airline industry, where there was no room for mistakes. She’s even able to bring one of her two small children with her when she comes to the office. As for that frightening day when her daughter was injured, Anne now uses the story in her preparedness presentations, encouraging people to keep toiletries and a change of clothes in their vehicles. “I was in a jean skirt and flip flops, and I didn’t have any extra clothes in my car. I didn’t know I was going to be staying the night in Seattle….You never know what the day holds.” Anne got started at the Red Cross after meeting Stacy Rice, formerly the Emergency Services director for the Mt. Baker chapter, during an aviation drill for an airline out of the Bellingham airport. Stacy and other Red Cross volunteers made a strong impression on Anne, and when she left the airline, she turned to the Red Cross as a way to stay engaged in her community. Four years later, Anne now serves as the preparedness lead for her chapter. She teaches the Pillowcase Project, a youth-based program that helps kids get out of the house in a hurry during an emergency. Through the Speaker’s Bureau, Anne teaches people how to give presentations on preparedness for organizations. She’s also working to expand preparedness programs into Spanish-speaking communities. One of her favorite events to work is the annual Real Heroes Celebration in Bellingham. This Red Cross fundraising event allows people in the community to nominate someone who’s done something extraordinary in the course of their daily lives, like a Birch Bay woman who performed CPR on a man who collapsed next to her in the supermarket. Anne says of the event, “I always walk away from it with that warm, fuzzy, goosebump feeling that there are people in the world who do really awesome things. This is how we see our classes and trainings and programs being put into action within the community.” Anne’s message for other volunteers is simple: “The Red Cross will take as much or as little as you’re willing to give. It might not seem like a lot to the volunteer, but it’s huge and so appreciated by other volunteers and staff.” Story by Tiffany Koenig

Preparing youth in Kitsap County

Our Youth Preparedness team teaches free classes to schools, Scouts and other youth groups. They teach four different classes, each designed to empower youth in our community to be better prepared for emergencies. Here’s a look into our Youth Preparedness programs in Kitsap County:

On December 18, Krystina Duckworth and Ari Hock presented Passport to Preparedness at Richard Gordon Elementary School in Kingston. They informed more than 400 students how to prepare for disasters that occur in western Washington, such as earthquakes and floods. The kids especially enjoyed determining which items belong in their disaster kits by sticking pictures of potential items on the board.

Krystina teaches students  about types of food are good for their disaster kit.

Krystina teaches students about types of food that are good for their disaster kit.

On January 8, Ari and Krystina presented about community disaster preparedness to seven people at Kitsap Community Resources. Krystina has been presenting here regularly to low-income parents who are interested in learning more about how to take care of their families. One of the women recounted a story of a house fire that she had experienced and had taken her mother’s life. This moving testament was a reminder to the importance of fire safety and preparedness.

Survival Scenarios is a fun, interactive program that encourages middle schools students to work in groups to tackle tricky problems related to first aid and natural disasters. Ari and Krystina went to John Sedgwick Junior High in Port Orchard to pose these scenarios to over 100 students.

Ari leads students in the Pillowcase Project Pledge

Ari leads students in the Pillowcase Project Pledge

Ari went to Bainbridge Island on January 12 to present the Pillowcase Project to about 10 children at the Boys and Girls Club. All of the students elected to participate in the presentation and contributed to a practical discussion about disaster preparedness.

Ari and Krystina went to South Colby Elementary School on January 13 and 14 to teach the Pillowcase Project to about 300 students. The kids were excited to learn, practice, and share the information about how they could build up and use their own emergency supply kit. And of course, they were excited to receive their Disney pillowcases so they could get started.

Ari and Emily teach young museum-goers about fire safety.

Ari and Emily teach young museum-goers about fire safety.

The Children’s Discovery Museum on Bainbridge Island invited the Red Cross to teach Passport to Preparedness on Saturday, January 17. In this zany environment, Ari and Emily LaCroix managed to rally about 10 kids together for half-an-hour to teach about what items to put in an emergency kit, and how to prepare for house fires.

Ari and Emily at the Kitsap Community Resource's Hygiene Drive.

Ari and Emily at the Kitsap Community Resources Hygiene Drive.

Ari and Emily participated in Kitsap Community Resources Hygiene Drive for a productive day of service dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. They engaged customers at the local Walgreen’s for about three hours and managed to secure several boxes full of razors, toothbrushes, and the like to benefit the local homeless population. This event was organized in part by Krystina.

If you are interested in scheduling a free youth preparedness presentation, please visit our website.

Volunteer Spotlight: Rita Schulte

When Rita Schulte moved from Germany to Seattle with her family in 1999, she began looking for ways to get involved in the community and put her knowledge of human resources to good use. Though she had worked as an HR professional in Germany, she wasn’t yet able to work in the U.S., so she started to volunteer in schools. Later she looked for a larger organization and chose the Red Cross because it was familiar and had a clear-cut goal of providing compassionate care for those in need.

“I liked what the Red Cross stood for, and liked the idea of helping people in dire need after a disaster,” Rita said.


Rita started volunteering two hours a week in the mail room of the Seattle chapter. Eight years later, she is a volunteer leader providing vital assistance in Staff Services—staffing shelters after house fires, deploying volunteers to regional disasters, and ensuring that volunteers get necessary training. When Rita’s supervisor flew to New York for Hurricane Sandy, Rita covered the work at the office to ensure that nothing fell through the cracks.

When asked what she likes best about her experience with the Red Cross, Rita doesn’t hesitate. She is amazed by volunteers’ willingness, time and again, to react quickly and help people in need without any time to prepare.

“It fascinates me how, when something happens, people will drop their lives and say, ‘I’m ready to go. What do you need from me?’” Rita said. “I think that’s very special. Every time it happens, it warms my heart.”

Over the years Rita has grown to appreciate the people working and volunteering at the Red Cross, and she feels at home. “I feel supported, and people really care. I’m fortunate to get along really well with the staff I work with. It’s not just a working relationship, it’s a friendship.”

Couple Left Homeless By Devastating Fire Gets a Fresh Start with Red Cross Help

fed way fire client quote

The biggest disaster threats to American families aren’t floods or hurricanes, but home fires. Every day the Red Cross responds to home fires across the country that leave residents homeless. Richard Johnson, 70, and his wife, Dorothy, experienced this firsthand when a fire raged through their Federal Way apartment building in June.

Loud noises outside their second-floor apartment woke the Johnsons around midnight. They opened the door to find the hallway filled with smoke and flames coming from a nearby unit. Without time to find their shoes, they scrambled out of the apartment and crawled to an exit on their hands and knees to avoid the smoke.

As they joined the crowd in the parking lot, rain began to fall. Residents huddled under carports in their pajamas and bare feet as firefighters struggled to put out the fire and rescue those trapped in the building. “Everybody was wet, cold, and confused,” Mr. Johnson recalled.

Warm hearts, warm hands

Within a few hours, a Red Cross van arrived. The driver encouraged the Johnsons to get in the van and warm up, then drove them to an emergency shelter set up by volunteers at a nearby community center. The Johnsons spent several nights there.

“I take my hat off to the Red Cross,” said Mr. Johnson. “Everyone made us feel so comfortable. Without them, I think we probably would have frozen that night.”

Like other victims of the catastrophic fire, the Johnsons had lost everything. The Red Cross helped them replace lost medication, clothing, a bank card and ID, and even connected them with a locksmith who made new car keys so they could get their car running.

The Johnsons’ stay at the shelter didn’t last long. After a few days, the Red Cross connected them with a realtor who had heard about the fire and had an apartment available in Des Moines. With Red Cross funds, they were able to settle in right away with a mattress and bedding.

“Our family away from home”

Richard and Dorothy have been living in their new apartment for four months. “[The Red Cross] stayed in touch with us after we were gone,” said Mr. Johnson. “We stopped by the shelter to say hi. They became part of us, our family away from home. The love they showed us, the consideration they showed us, was just awesome.”

The Red Cross not only responds to fires, but is also working to prevent them. With its 2014 Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, the Red Cross has teamed up with the Seattle Fire Department to install smoke alarms in Seattle-area homes and educate residents about fire safety. With your help, we can reduce the number of homes and lives lost to fires. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.