For Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women whose contributions are essential to our humanitarian mission. This week, meet Shonette Sneed, a Regional Donor Services Executive in South Carolina for the American Red Cross, who is passionate about serving her community and raising awareness for the need of a diverse blood supply.
For nearly 18 years, Shonette has served the Red Cross mission, but service to others was ingrained in her at a young age.
“We were always raised to not look down on someone else because of their circumstances, but you try to give back.”
Growing up in New Orleans, at least once a month, Shonette would volunteer in the community with her church. Her hunger for giving back continued when she moved to Nashville, Tenn., for college. There, she joined the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization and was matched for the first time with a young girl, Zy.
That moment changed Shonette’s direction in serving her community. For the past 16 years, she has mentored young kids like Zy, and she encourages them to volunteer their time and give back.
“I believe you have to introduce volunteering early to young people because it is something they will carry on,” she said.
Shonette’s story doesn’t stop there. Her passion for serving the Red Cross and sharing the mission was born out of a personal experience. Back in 2005, her family was severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and many of them lost nearly everything: homes, businesses, connectivity and more.
After weeks of not hearing from loved ones, Shonette witnessed firsthand the work of the Red Cross. Her family made it safely to a Red Cross shelter in Austin, Tex., and she was able to connect with them thanks to a Red Cross volunteer.
“I never ever thought we would need help from an organization, and here is my family receiving those resources and then some,” she said.
Shonette realized that her life experiences and stories are what motivate her to support unmet needs in her community, like a diverse bloody supply.
“I have a family member that has sickle cell [disease],” she said. “She is 19 years old and we had to receive services from the Red Cross. There were times where she was in the hospital and I would be with her parents waiting on a unit of blood to arrive.”
As an African American woman with a family member who has sickle cell disease, she felt there was more she could do to raise awareness for both a sufficient blood supply for patients in need and an increase in the pool of diverse blood donors.
After significant research and multiple discussions with her colleagues and partners, Shonette created a Diverse Donor Task Force – the first of its kind – comprised of community members, medical directors, communication specialists and others. The task force was created in July 2020 and worked quickly to host events for Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Together, the team hosted seven blood drives that year.
Shonette understands what it means for families to need blood, and that drives her to make a difference. We honor Shonette for the remarkable work she has accomplished at the Red Cross and her exceptional passion to serve others.
Thank you Shonette for all you do for our lifesaving mission and for your community!