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Black History Month: Honoring Shirley Hines-Atkins

Shirley in uniform on a military installation.

This Black 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. Meet Red Crosser Shirley Hines-Atkins, who spent more than 40 years supporting military members, veterans and their families overseas and in the U.S.

Her Red Cross career began in 1970 as a Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas staff member, affectionately known as a Donut Dollie, in Korea and Vietnam. Recalling her experience, she said “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, Shirley went on to work in the Birmingham Chapter as Assistant Director of Youth. There, she developed and ran youth programs in schools, two summer camps and two 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.

Not long after, Shirley joined the National Headquarters team to serve as the Assistant to the National Director of Personnel. Fun Fact: She later served as the Director of Personnel when she was assigned to the Red Cross European Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. She spent three and half years in that role.

After completing her assignment in Europe, Shirley returned to the National Headquarters to serve as the Director of the New Employee Assistance Program — a program she developed. In this role, she ran the first Outplacement Program in the Red Cross during a downsizing in the 1980s. Four years later, she returned back to the field to serve as a Station Manager for Service to the Armed Forces. She held a number of positions and assignments in Field Service in countries like the Philippines, Japan, and Italy before she decided to retire 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.

We’re honored to share her story and her commitment to our mission.

Shirley sitting with her husband, William, at dinner.