Today, the American Red Cross is launching a Force for Good blog series, featuring dedicated Red Cross employees whose many contributions enable our humanitarian mission in communities across the country. Each day, Red Cross employees are collecting and processing lifesaving blood, responding to disasters big and small, training people to respond to everyday emergencies, supporting military members and their families, and helping those in crisis around the world as part of the global Red Cross movement.
Over the next few months, we’ll share incredible stories of our employees and how they use their exceptional skills and talents as forces for good. We’re grateful for their commitment and service to our mission and are honored to share their stories with you.
Meet Jenny Solomon, a disaster program manager (DPM) in Missouri for the Missouri/Arkansas Region. She experienced Red Cross services firsthand after a fire broke out in her home and the Red Cross was there to provide comfort and assistance. However, this wasn’t Jenny’s first home fire experience. As a young child, Jenny was severely burned in a home fire and spent years recovering with several operations and skin grafts. Today, she comes full circle, responding to disasters big and small, including home fires, on our local disaster team.
“My eyes were really opened to Red Cross services and the amazing reach the Red Cross has, especially, how far the help carries,” she said. “I knew as a result of these tragedies, and the care and compassion I received, that my mission was to become a helper.”
Jenny has been with the Red Cross for 10 years. She started as a disaster caseworker, helping people recover from 2011’s devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri.
“It was the best day ever when I was asked to take the Red Cross case manager class,” she shared. “I fell in love with the mission and the people. I took an AmeriCorps position, volunteered, was hired again as part of [Red Cross] Disaster Cycle Services, and am now the DPM in my region.”
As Jenny manages her area’s disaster programs, she’s proud of her team, especially of a volunteer, Effie, who also become involved with the Red Cross after a home fire to help others in the same way that she was supported.
“She was determined to become a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member [to help families after home fires] and has since been one of our most active and enthusiastic volunteers for [our home fire preparedness programs] Sound the Alarm and The Pillowcase Project,” said Jenny.
Like everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic affected her work. She says building virtual relationships has been important, though she found that returning to in-person responses has reinforced the value of the personal touch.
“How much it means to someone who has just had the worst day of their life, that there is someone there who can compassionately focus on them and their needs,” she said. “It is so much more than a comfort kit and a blanket; it is meeting people where they are and helping them see that there is a way through what they are experiencing.”
We also asked Jenny if she would encourage people to join the Red Cross and she said, “Absolutely yes! I am so proud to be a Red Crosser.”
“I get to help instill in all the staff and volunteers that feeling of privilege we get when we can help our clients replace fear and frustration with hope,” she added. “I love what I do and like working with the volunteers that are out there every day doing the work. The caliber of Red Cross volunteers is amazing. It takes compassion and dedication to become a trained DAT member or a national disaster responder.”
Regarding her work on disasters, Jenny summed it up this way: “It’s hard for people to see that they can get through a disaster. We help them see that they can, it’s a process. By focusing on the process, we can help them see the small steps that are doable now, and soon those small steps are part of the meaningful recovery. What seems overwhelming now becomes manageable.”
“There are no quick fixes, so the knowledge and experience of the Red Cross with the process of recovery is invaluable,” she added. “It provides the right connections for people to continue moving forward with the knowledge that we are there to help them along the way.”
Keep following along for more Force for Good stories here.