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African-American History Month: Honoring Shirley Hines-Atkins

Shirley in uniform on a military installation.

This African-American History Month, we are honoring black men and women who played a pivotal role in helping the American Red Cross become the organization that it is today. This week, we’d like to highlight Shirley Hines-Atkins.

During her 41 years with the American Red Cross, Shirley Hines-Atkins held several  positions in field service, chapters, regional offices and at National Headquarters. She began her career in 1970 as a Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas staff member, affectionately known as a Donut Dollie, in Korea and Vietnam.

“I had never been abroad before. This was my first experience out of the country.  Arriving in Korea, everything was so completely new.  Everything was exciting!”

When she returned to America in 1972, she worked as a recreation aide and caseworker in two military hospitals, Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas and the Naval Air Station in Florida.

Shirley on a military installation in Korea.

Later Atkins worked in the Birmingham Chapter as Assistant Director of Youth where she developed and ran youth programs in schools, two summer camps and two youth leadership camps for intercity youth.

After a year, she moved to the Atlanta Chapter to work as the Assistant Director of Personnel. There she recruited and placed staff in the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces department. After a year in Atlanta, she moved to the District of Columbia to manage the first intercity Service Center in Southeast D.C. In this position, she organized health fairs and developed programs for the elderly to assist them with transportation and shopping.

Shirley Hines talking to a colleague at her desk in D.C.

Two years later, she moved to National Headquarters to serve as the Assistant to the National Director of Personnel. She was later assigned to the Red Cross European Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, where she worked as Director of Personnel.

Atkins completed her three and half year assignment in Europe and returned to National Headquarters as Director of the New Employee Assistance Program — a program she developed. In this position, she ran the first Outplacement Program in the Red Cross during a downsizing in the 1980s.  In 1984, Atkins returned to Field Service as a Station Manager for Service to the Armed Forces. She held a number of positions and assignments in Field Service in countries such as the Philippines, Japan, and Italy before she retired in 2003.

Throughout her impressive career with the Red Cross, she received various awards and recognitions including the Vietnam Service Medal, the American Red Cross Manager’s Tiffany Award, two Department of Army Commanders Awards, the Desert Storm Service Medal, the Japanese Golden Medal of Honor, the President’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Red Cross 2015 Legacy Award for Service to the Armed Forces. Her oral history is currently a part of the Veterans History Project in the Library of Congress.

Shirley sitting with her husband, William, at dinner.