Volunteers Receive Supervisory Training Ahead of Storm Season

On January 10, 2020 through January 12, seventy staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross Serving Central and South Texas Region received supervisory disaster training. This training is designed to instruct future leaders in disaster relief operations in the Central and South Texas region and across the nation. This is one way the Red Cross fulfills its mission of preparing communities for disasters. Below, hear from one of our volunteers who participated in the weekend long training.

Written by Chris Conn
American Red Cross Volunteer

Ordo ex Chao, this is the slogan for the US Coast Guard’s Incident Management System. It’s Latin for “Order from Chaos” and I often think how well this slogan relates to all things Red Cross. From local disasters such as a home fire where the Disaster Action Team (DAT) members rush to assist a family who just lost everything, to large national disasters where thousands of volunteers deploy to help their fellow Americans. Red Cross volunteers are ready to go at a moment’s notice, but we don’t start off this way. Hours and hours of training combined with the experience of volunteers who have been there in the time of need lead us to continue our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Over the weekend of January 10 – 12 I joined seventy other volunteers as we embarked on the Red Cross Central and South Texas Region’s (CSTR) first Supervisor Academy in recent years. The impact of having so many volunteers ready to step into a supervisory role during disasters will have a tremendous impact on the delivery of the Red Cross mission during disaster relief operations (DR or DRO). These are volunteers who are ready to shoulder the responsibility of setting up a mass care shelter, lead our mental health and disaster health teams and are prepared to help our communities when the time comes.

Andrew Lopez Reginal Disaster Officer for the Red Cross Serving Central and South Texas Region (CSTR), organized this training realizing the long-term benefits that having seventy trained and willing volunteer supervisors will have on future DROs not only in our region, but others as well should the need arise. “My belief is that if we have a regular gathering of key and upcoming leaders, we will build shared values and commitments to each other which will enhance our personal experience and strengthen the consistent success of CSTR,” Lopez said.

The supervisor academy took place in San Antonio, Texas and entailed an vast amount of training. Within the weekend we covered lengthy topics such as Concept of Operations, Shelter Fundamentals, Supervising the Disaster Workforce, DAT Fundamentals, and even courses that involve responding to events with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). As a volunteer myself, it was incredible to see so many people engaged and actively learning about how to further themselves and help the Red Cross.

As we approach storm season, followed by hurricane season, we’ll be ready for the inevitable. Storms will strike, hurricanes will make landfall, and homes will catch fire. As much as we don’t enjoy the aftermath of these disasters, we are trained, and we are Red Cross ready. We will do what we’ve been doing and what we always do. Respond with passion, respond with empathy, respond with care, and most importantly, respond with experience.

Red Cross Responds to Multiple Incidents of Damage Over Weekend – Opens Shelter for Displaced Residents

On January, 10, 2020 a line of storms made their way across Central and South Texas. High winds from the storm caused power outages, knocked over trees and created other damages along its path. Volunteers from the American Red Cross Serving Central and South Texas immediately responded to assist residents affected and displaced by the storm. In the dark of night, and the following day, volunteers drove through neighborhoods and met with residents to assess their immediate needs.

In total, the Red Cross responded to 13 incidents of damage to homes across the region and opened a shelter for displaced residents in Navasota, TX located at The Navasota Center, 101 Stadium Drive, Navasota, TX, 77868.

“Storms like these can be very damaging and I am so grateful for the efforts of our staff and volunteers,” said Marty McKellips, Regional Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross Serving Central and South Texas Region. “They were able to respond quickly to provide immediate assistance and comfort to those affected by the storms.”

Volunteers throughout the region continued to provide services by assisting residents affected by a large apartment fire in Austin, TX and providing canteen services to first responders after a chemical fire in Odessa, TX.

If you are in need of assistance after a disaster, please call 1-800-REDCROSS.

The work of our committed volunteers and services to residents affected by disasters is made possible through the generosity of donors.

Click here to donate and support your local Red Cross, and here to learn more about being a volunteer.

Marty's Mission Moments – 2019

Hello, my name is Marty McKellips and I am the Regional Chief Executive Officer for the American Red Cross Central and South Texas Region. It is my honor to present to you my first edition of “Marty’s Mission Moments.” Each month, I will highlight the amazing work and dedication to our mission performed by staff and volunteers across our region.

As we begin the New Year, please take a moment to look back at the services our region provided to our communities across the 80 counties we serve.

I am so proud of the time and dedication our staff and volunteers give to providing these vital services to disaster affected communities and to our military service members. Without their commitment and the generosity of our donors, these services simply wouldn’t exist.

As we head into the new year, I would like to ask for your continued support of the American Red Cross by resolving to dedicate your time, talent or treasure to our humanitarian mission. We couldn’t do it without you.

Thank you for your support, and I wish you all a happy new year!


Marty McKellips

Volunteer Spotlight: Veteran Volunteer Recalls Red Cross Services During Wartime

Written by Eugenio Cortez, Red Cross Volunteer and US Army Veteran

I was a young soldier in the US Army when I first learned about the American Red Cross and the organization has been a lifeline when I needed them. I say “them” because the Red Cross has always been volunteers who selfishly donate their time and energy to help their neighbors in need. 

“The Red Cross would traverse the countryside to meet with other units wherever they were. Red Cross members were looking after us and volunteering their time in places of danger to bring a little bit of the US to those serving their country.”

In South Korea, where I was stationed near the DMZ, it was a welcome sight to see the Doughnut Dollies from the American Red Cross when they would come by to lift our spirits. We would all gather around, whether we were in the field or in our compound, and have coffee and donuts, play games and chat about what was going on in the world. The Red Cross would traverse the countryside to meet with other units wherever they were. Red Cross members were looking after us and volunteering their time in places of danger to bring a little bit of the US to those serving their country.  The Red Cross has come to my aid during my time in the Republic of Panama, Korea, Vietnam and Germany. They provided information about my family when I wouldn’t or couldn’t write to them because of my circumstances. Not only did they get in contact with me, but the Red Cross aided me in returning home when there was a family emergency.

A year before I retired from the San Antonio School District as a School Social Worker, I attended an orientation about the Red Cross and became a volunteer attending classes about disaster services. When I did retire I quickly became an active volunteer. Truth be told, my wife declared that I wasn’t going to stay home and do nothing, so she pushed me out, and I am thankful she did. 

I took my volunteering seriously and my idea was to become a custodian or a janitor. However, the director of disaster service had different plans for me and asked me to work with shelters.  I was assigned to work with another volunteer who had set up the groundwork but a month later, I was working independently on the project.  Fortunately, I had learned enough to take on the responsibility.   Next, the director asked me to join the Disaster Action Team (DAT) , which I didn’t mind because the shelter management wasn’t taking too much time to manage.

Being a DAT volunteer opened my eyes to some of the work being done by volunteers with regards to home fires. Being on call for seven days can be strenuous and the home fire calls are almost at night or in the early morning, but my wife had joined as a volunteer as well so together we would venture out to answer the calls.  The fact was, we didn’t mind at all, because we saw the need of people, we were assisting during our home fire responses. My DAT responsibilities became the position where I was able to help my fellowmen.   

The Red Cross has become digitalized to better serve our communities around the world.  But it is the volunteer who selfishly dedicated their time to helping those recover from disaster who ensure that the Red Cross will continue to be around for the next generation.   

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a volunteer, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

Red Cross Volunteers Support Homeless Veterans

Red Cross Volunteers Support Homeless Veterans

At 10 a.m. on a cold Friday morning, American Red Cross volunteers gathered together to support San Antonio’s Homeless Veteran population at the 22nd annual Stand Down for Veterans hosted by the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program (NVOP).

The Stand Down is a one-day event in which organizations gather together to provide homeless veterans with various resources and supplies, such as free flu shots, food, haircuts, housing assistance, hygiene products, clothing, assistance with veterans benefits, and information about local programs and services available to them.

The event also gives Red Cross volunteers the opportunity to serve former military service members in need, a group near and dear to volunteer, Celeste Carrola’s heart. Celeste served for 40 years in the Department of Defense’s Air Force division as civilian, “so I have a certain connection with the military,” Celeste said.

Although she usually volunteers with the Red Cross Disaster Action Team she decided to join our Service to the Armed Forces event to support and thank our former military service members.

Red Cross volunteer Celeste Carrola hands out  kits filled with hygiene items for homeless veterans during the  American GI Forum’s 22nd Annual Stand Down for Veterans.

Joe Campbell, who has volunteered with the Red Cross of 20 years, marked his third consecutive Stand Down this year. A Vietnam-era veteran, he helped pass out comfort kits full of essential toiletries such as soap, shampoo, razors, and lip balm to fellow veterans. “Ahh, I love it,” Joe said after he assisted a homeless veteran with his bags. Events such as this proudly display the camaraderie and support established in the military, something Joe loves to continue through his volunteer experiences. “I love helping,” Joe said.

This was also Lucy Medina’s first time volunteering for the Stand Down event. A 20 year Air Force retiree, she has continued serving her country for the last three years as a Red Cross Volunteer. “I serve wherever I can,” she said with a smile.

A few minutes later, Lucy greeted a veteran who walked up to the table, handed him a black bag with the emblematic Red Cross and a thank you card from the Thank a Hero Program. As he reached for the items, he looked her in the eyes, tilted his head down slightly, and thanked her.

If you would like to serve veterans in your community, reach out to your local Service to the Armed Forces representative for opportunities in your area or visit our website at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer

From Veterans to Volunteers

The month of November is dedicated to the celebration and remembrance of our military veterans. In honor of Veterans Day this Nov. 11th, we’d like to introduce you to  former military service members who have decided to continue serving their country through the American Red Cross.

Frank “Mac” McNell

Mac was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. In 1996, after serving for 26 and a half years, he retired as a Sergeant Major. In 2004, Mac decided to volunteer with the American Red Cross. Applying the problem-solving skills he honed during his Military service, the Red Cross deployed Mac to Louisiana to aid the director and assistant director during Hurricane Katrina. “Anytime there was a problem, they would send me out, and I would take care of it.”

While there, Mac would answer questions from residents affected by the storm, support volunteers in the shelters, and identify and resolve any other problems that would come up. Recognizing that these situations can be overwhelming for those not accustomed to the chaos of disasters, Mac was more than happy to be able to contribute and establish stability. “With my experience in the Army, I would fix the problem because I don’t have ‘can’t’ in my vocabulary,” Mac said.

After seeing how his skills and experience in the military has helped the Red Cross, Mac seeks to help other veterans find their place in civilian life. Mac believes that veterans are uniquely qualified to volunteer with the American Red Cross, “Where they used to help other countries, now they can help their communities.” 

Roberto Bonilla

Roberto Bonilla was introduced to the American Red Cross when an Army recruiter suggested he become CPR certified in 1994. After completing the Red Cross CPR and First Aid certification courses, he has consistently sought out Red Cross chapters throughout his military career, nationally and internationally.

At his first duty station at Fort Sill, Roberto noticed a need for bilingual CPR instructors. He volunteered to help on the weekends, stating that “it felt good to help.”

As he was deployed across the country and world, Roberto utilized the information and skills he gathered as a military serviceman and Red Cross volunteer. Despite constantly being on the move, Roberto was always drawn to a Red Cross chapter. “The directors and other volunteers were very warm, and they were accepting. They really represented the American Red Cross creed.”

Since retiring from the Army in 2016 as a Sergeant First Class, Roberto has been volunteering for the Red Cross consistently in various ways, including bringing awareness to programs offered to military members and their families such as the emergency message services in which the Red Cross acts as a liaison between the family and military in cases of emergency on the home front. 

“It’s not just one thing,” Roberto said. “There are a lot of things that volunteers can do.”

If you would like to volunteer for the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Volunteers of the Quarter: Ed Duchac and Carina King


Volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the American Red Cross workforce.  Volunteers make it possible to respond to an average of more than 62,000 disaster every year throughout the country, most of them home and apartment fires.  The Central and South Texas Region (CSTR) is home to countless selfless volunteers who amplify the mission of the Red Cross through their various roles.  Each quarter CSTR recognizes the efforts of our volunteers by selecting a volunteer of the quarter.

Across our 80-county region, we received 19 nominations, and the selection committee included team members from all chapters and lines of service. The nomination pool was filled with spectacular volunteers, the committee decided to recognize two volunteers this quarter.

Congratulations to Ed Duchac & Carina King for earning the coveted Volunteer of the Quarter award. Please read below to see what their nominators had to say:

Ed Duchac“Ed Duchac is a committed volunteer who embodies the mission. He has stepped up both locally and nationally to support the Red Cross. Ed has been an amazing part of our volunteer team. He brings leadership skills, wisdom, and humor to his work with volunteers and staff. In addition to his deployments to Hurricane Harvey, the California Wildfires, Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael and most recently to Hurricane Dorian as LSAP Lead, Ed has also strengthened our chapter by taking on various roles including Chapter Logistics Lead, Duty Officer, Regional LSAP Lead – and many more! Ed’s tireless dedication to the mission is demonstrated by his willingness to respond to local disasters, work in the office, head up local logistics and onboard our new Disaster Program Manager. Ed is an all-around team player and great asset to the Red Cross.”

– Nominated by Executive Director, Tracy Austin


“Carina has volunteered as a DAT member for over a year and has worked her way up to Carina KingDAT Captain. In addition to being on-call 24/7 for DAT, she also helps out with community tabling events and will help where ever and whenever asked, including learning how to teach the new DAT classes! She has recently taken on the DAT Duty Officer role, in addition to being on-call for DAT calls. This means she answers the DAT Phone 24/7 when it rings, confirms fires with local Fire Departments and then coordinates the volunteers to deploy to the fire. In addition to this new role, she is also learning how to be a Caseworker so that she can help with the follow-up calls to those clients that have lost their homes. She is an incredible asset and our Team is so lucky to have her support!”

– Nominated by Disaster Program Manager, Tracy Beach &
Disaster Cycle Services Volunteer Demond George


To learn how you can volunteer with the Red Cross, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.