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.

Volunteers Help Save Lives During Home Fire Prevention Week

During Fire Prevention Week (October 6-12) the American Red Cross Serving Central and South Texas urges everyone to practice their home fire escape plan and test their smoke alarms.

“During Fire Prevention Week, and every day, we urge everyone to  prepare your family for home fires before the holidays and cold weather increase the risk of these crises,” said Marty McKellips, Regional Chief Executive Officer, Central and South Texas Region. “Please install and test smoke alarms on every level of your home and practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in two minutes or less.”

PRACTICE YOUR PLAN AND TEST YOUR ALARMS For free home fire safety resources, visit redcross.org/homefires or download the free Red Cross Emergency App (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).  Remember to do the following:

  • Include at least two ways to get out of each room in your home fire escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone can meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in two minutes or less.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, placing them inside and outside bedrooms, and sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.

LIFESAVING HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN MARKS FIVE YEARS Home fires take seven lives each day in the U.S., most often in homes without working smoke alarms. That’s why the Red Cross is working with partners to install free smoke alarms in high-risk communities and help families create escape plans through its Home Fire Campaign — which has saved at least 638 lives across the country since launching in October 2014.

In fiscal year 2019 (June 30, 2018 – July 1, 2019) in Central and South Texas, the Red Cross and local partners have:

  • Installed 1,286 free smoke alarms.
  • Reached 973 children through youth preparedness programs.
  • Made 548 households safer from the threat of home fires.

During Home Fire Prevention Week, volunteers and partners worked together to install 149 smoke alarms making over 60 home safer in San Antonio and Franklin, Texas.

It is through the generosity of donors and power of volunteers that the Red Cross is able to fulfill its humanitarian mission. To support our lifesaving work, please consider volunteering or making a donation by visiting redcross.org.

Red Cross Responds to Multiple Fires in Central and South Texas

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written by Noi Mahoney, Red Cross Volunteer

The American Red Cross is continuing to support residents and provide assistance to first responders affected by several fire events around central and south Texas.

Red Cross workers opened a resource center and have been providing relief and comfort to individuals impacted by a large apartment fire in San Marcos since Friday morning.

The fire occurred at the Iconic Village apartments and the Vintage Pads apartments located just north of the Texas State University campus. Five people were killed in the fire and about 200 people were displaced. Many of the people affected by the fire were students at Texas State.

“We have been out here since 7 a.m. Friday morning,” said Elizabeth Wills, a Red Cross Disaster Action Team captain. “We opened a resource center at the San Marcos Activity Center. We have been providing comfort kits to those affected by the fire.”

Wills said since Friday they helped 87 people and opened cases for 79 people.

“We have been assisting residents, doing casework, providing financial assistance, helping residents who were displaced,” Wills said. “We have also been providing assistance to students who need things like getting a prescription for their glasses or prescriptions for medical needs.”

Wills said the Red Cross has been working closely with officials from Texas State University, the San Marcos Fire Department and the San Marcos Office of Emergency Management.

“We have received very positive feedback from residents, from city officials and from the office of emergency management who are grateful to the Red Cross for the help,” Wills said.

Around 100 miles north of San Marcos, the American Red Cross Serving the Heart of Texas has been providing food and supplies to first responders fighting wildfires in northwest Coryell County and the Fort Hood military installation near Killeen.

The wildfire fire in Coryell County, which at one point covered around 2,900 rural acres, is still ongoing and was about 75 percent contained as Tuesday (July 24).

“We have been feeding 135 fire fighters everyday,” said Disaster Action Team Lead Robert Gonzales. “We’ve been feeding first responders, emergency medical services workers, Texas A&M Forest Service (workers), people from (Coryell) County and community volunteers.”

The Red Cross has served more than 1,105 clients with food and supplies since Saturday, Gonzales said. “Four volunteers have been helping with the response in Coryell County.”

On Fort Hood, a wildfire fire was burning in four separate locations. Around 6,500 acres on Fort Hood have been affected over the past several days. No lives or buildings have been reported lost from the fire.

Penny Peck, one of the Red Cross volunteers working on Fort Hood, said they have been providing three meals a day since Monday, serving about 450 people a day. The Red Cross has also been providing fruits, snacks, water and Gatorade.

The soldiers and fire fighters have been very appreciative, Peck said.

“I have lost count of how many times I have been told, ‘I really appreciate what you guys are doing,’” said Peck, a feeding coordinator who was working out of an emergency response vehicle (ERV) and tent. “We’ve been providing three meals a day since Sunday, about 450 people everyday.”

Gonzales said they have also received positive feedback from county officials, including Robert Harrell, Coryell County Emergency Management Coordinator, and his staff.

“Bob Harrell and Azalea from the county, have been really appreciative of everything we have done,” Gonzales said. “Azalea, everyone calls her ZZ, has been really appreciative of the food, we also brought sunscreen for the first responders. She said she didn’t know about everything we do.”

At another wildfire in Burnet County, the Red Cross of Central Texas has been helping firefighters since early Sunday morning. The fire has affected around 737 acres and was 60 percent contained as of 4:30 p.m. Monday.

“The (Burnett County Office of Emergency Management) contacted us and asked if we could provide canteening (food, water and snacks) for the fire fighters,” said Don Barlow, the Disaster Action Team Lead from the Central Texas chapter. “Sunday morning we fed them breakfast tacos, and for lunch we fed them Chic-Fil-A. They requested breakfast again Tuesday.”

The fire ignited on a rural county road north of Burnet on Sunday. Concentrated to ranch land, the fire has not prompted any evacuations. Barlow said he and his wife Julie were the volunteers assisting the firefighters and emergency services workers responding to the fire. He estimated they served around 150 clients during the response.

“When we first got out there Sunday morning with the breakfast tacos, it was like feeding a bunch of hungry fish,” Barlow said. “The fire fighters had been working all night and they were real hungry.”

After disasters big and small, the American Red Cross focuses on providing safe shelter, food, emergency relief supplies, emotional support, health services and recovery assistance. The Red Cross relies on dedicated volunteers and generous donations to help disaster victims. You can help people affected by disasters like these and countless other crises by volunteering or making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

A Mother’s Heart. A Humanitarian Mission

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As families across the country prepare to celebrate the matriarchs in their families, the American Red Cross Serving Central Texas is honoring a mother and daughter volunteer team who have made it their family mission to serve their community.

Izadora Martinez began volunteering with the Red Cross in 2015 during the floods in Wimberly, TX. Since then, she has become an integral volunteer to the local chapter and organization.

“I saw a need in our community during the disastrous Wimberly Flood of 2015,” Martinez said. “I had never felt so closely impacted to such devastation so close to home.”

Since then, Izadora has served in several disaster relief operations and has become an expert in the many volunteer roles she fills. Her dedication was recognized at this year’s Red Cross Gala as she was awarded the Greg Coleman Tribute Award.

Izadora’s passion to serve the Red Cross mission soon became a family affair. After seeing the local chapter’s need for more volunteers, she enlisted the help of her mother Kathy Callahan.

“When my father passed away I asked my mother to come live with me in Austin,” Martinez said. “It was a difficult decision, but we knew it would be best for her.”

After attending numerous Red Cross events with her daughter, the familial and welcoming atmosphere of the chapter peaked Kathy’s interest in volunteering.

“After attending a Service to the Armed Forces meeting, I mentioned to her that would be a way to give back to the military my dad served,” Martinez said. “I told her ‘make him proud,’ and that she has! She has found a new lease on life and is full of joy and has too found that the Red Cross is family.”

Soon, Kathy became a fixture at the Austin Red Cross Chapter, often bringing treats and goodies for the staff and fellow volunteers.

“Not only is Kathy eager to help in any way that she can, she is always thinking of ways to be kind to everyone she meets and works with,” said Reihaneh Hajibeigi, Regional Volunteer Services Officer. “We used to introduce her as Izadora’s mom, but she now has her own reputation as a dedicated volunteer and needs no introduction from us.”

Kathy’s kind-heartedness was emphatically recognized at the annual volunteer appreciation award ceremony as she received the chapter’s “Kindness Award.”

When asked what it is like to volunteer with her mom, Martinez said “Volunteering with my mom is something I wish everyone had the opportunity to do. She’s my side kick, we’re a team and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Celebrating Austin’s Diversity

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Judy Abelman, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

On Sunday, May 6 the smells of popcorn, gyros and strawberry snow cones joined the sounds of languages from across the globe, laughing kids and shouting teammates at Givens Park in east Austin. Welcome to the third-annual Austin Refugee Day Festival.

Since 1975, the U.S. government has welcomed over 3 million refugees for resettlement from all over the world and these refugees have built new lives and homes in all 50 states.  Including Texas of course.  Austin has about 12,000 refugees, primarily from Bosnia, Burma, Cuba, Sudan and Vietnam.

Red Cross staffers Reihaneh Hajibeigi and Ivana Krejci joined volunteer Izadora Martinez to make this a day to remember for refugees and their families.  They partnered with eight other organizations including Amaanah Refugee Services, Caritas, Catholic Charities Central Texas, GirlForward, Interfaith Action of Central Texas, Multicultural Refugee Coalition, Austin Soccer Foundation and Cece’s Veggie Noodle Company on the thousands of details that needed to be considered to pull off a successful event.

And successful it was.  While the kids jumped on bouncy castles, played games and had their faces painted, a heated competition played out on the soccer field as ten teams kicked their way toward one of two money prizes!  According to Reihaneh, “Soccer is the sport that unites everyone across the world.”

Snacks were supplied by the partners, and the presence of a Gyro truck run by Syrian refugee Ahmed Alzahoori ensured that there would be Halal options for any Muslims at the event.  And the entire event was free to the community.

Tables from participating organizations described the resources available to Austin refugees and migrants.  And attendees could “experience” what it feels like to be a refugee from Latin America – with a simulation that took you from the beginning of the journey in your country of origin, through detention centers, bus stations and finally to hosting families.

Reihaneh added, “Hosting this event is parallel with our Austin identity.  We celebrate what makes us unique.  This event is especially important today so that we can demonstrate that we stand with refugees in our community.”

Want to get involved with the Austin Refugee community?  Reach out to reihaneh.hajibeigi2@redcrossorg or ivana.krejci@redcross.org.  There are great volunteer opportunities in the community such as be an advocate, teach English/tutor, resume writing and job search, provide transportation and help reconnect families.


Five Things You Should Know About Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces in Central Texas

By Judy Abelman, Volunteer Contributor


A few weeks ago on yet another dreary February day, I took a road trip out to Fort Hood to learn more about Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces (SAF). Having never stepped foot on an army base, I had no idea what to expect.

The first thing that hits you is the sheer size of the base –38,000 troops that swells to 100,000 people when you count in all their dependents. No wonder it’s the second largest army base in the world. And it’s right here, just an hour outside of Austin in Killeen, Texas.

Gigi Winburn (center) with fellow Red Cross staffers Sharron Gilkey (left) and Hansel Delgadillo (right) at the 2017 Fort Hood Red Cross holiday party.

Gigi Winburn – an engaging Red Crosser who is a prior military spouse and proud Army mom – runs our office at Fort Hood. Gigi volunteered with the American Red Cross for 10 years before taking a staff job in Dallas in 2015 and then recently transferred to Fort Hood. She was thrilled to move back on base; she notes “When I first heard revelry, I knew I was home.”

Managing approximately 225 active volunteers on post and in the area, Gigi and her team are an integral part of life on the “installation” (you learn a new vocabulary when you visit an army base). This huge group of volunteers also provide thousands of man hours to the Carl R. Darnall Army Hospital.

Gigi gave us a tour of the huge installation and we saw first-hand the broad scope of services the Red Cross provides to our military. Sure, I knew about the emergency communication messages and the cards we distribute during holidays, but clearly there’s so much more.

Here are the top five things I never knew:

  1. Manifest volunteers – Anytime a serviceman or woman deploys, they leave from the same hangar on Ft. Hood. For safety reasons, their families aren’t allowed to be there when they depart … but the Red Cross is. No matter when they leave, day or night, Red Cross SAF volunteers are there with a warm cup of coffee and a friendly conversation.
  2. Dental assistant program – Military spouses find it challenging to have a career as they move so often. That can lead to frustration and pressure on the family. So the Red Cross stepped in and put together a dental assistant program right on post. Since its inception in 2009, the program has graduated 79 dental assistants, with 5 more graduating in June.
  3. Fisher House – Much like a Ronald McDonald house, the Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes at military and VA centers around the world where military and veterans’ families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital. And that takes lots of volunteers—most of which are Red Cross Volunteers at the Fort Hood Fisher House.
  4. Books – From book drives to driving book carts, we’re on site at the Carl R. Darnall Army Hospital bringing books and magazines to hospital patients.
  5. Patient listening – Sometimes you just need a hand to hold and an ear to listen. Trained Red Cross volunteers step up all year long and meet with military patients and their families at the hospital to offer a listening ear and open heart.

If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more about the Service to Armed Forces, reach out to gigi.winburn@redcross.org.

Volunteer Spotlight: Yasuko Atkinson

By Kaley Hearnsberger, Staff Contributor


For the last 36 years, Yasuko Atkinson has volunteered for the Red Cross in Service to the Armed Forces. She is originally from Japan where she met her husband, Romane Atkinson, when he was serving in the Navy. They married in March of 1953. Yasuko moved to the United States in 1955 to be with her husband and soon after became a citizen.

Yasuko Uniform
Yasuko holds up the uniform she once wore regularly as a Red Cross volunteer

Romane commented that Yasuko’s service was a way of demonstrating her citizenship in America. “She wanted to do something to prove she was a citizen of this country.” She wanted to give back to the country that welcomed her. Yasuko says that volunteering for the Red Cross “was a way to support this country and this military.”

Yasuko opens a container and delicately unfolds a vintage Red Cross uniform. She recalls, “When I put on my uniform it made me happy. Coming from Japan, I felt I had a place to be.” Back then, Red Cross volunteers still wore uniforms, like the nostalgic image of Red Cross nurses in white on the battlefield with their hats.

Romane shares that his wife felt a strong sense of duty with the Red Cross, “If she said she was going to be there, she was going to be there.” Romane’s pride in his wife was as strong as her pride for serving the military.

Serving the military is in Yasuko’s blood. Her father was an officer in the Japanese Army. She grew up fascinated with the military. She had great aspirations to join the Army like her father. “I was too short to join the military myself. I wanted to be a nurse in the Japanese army, but at the physical examination they said I was too short.” She was 14 years old at the time. “When I saw that big red cross, I felt like I was reliving my dream of being a nurse in the military,” Yasuko recounts.

Yasuko-Romane Art Piece
Yasuko and Romane (right) have served their country together for decades–her through the Red Cross and him through the U.S. Military

Service runs deep within the Atkinson family. Romane served in the Navy for seven years and in the Army for 20 years. Romane volunteered to join the Navy during the Korean War. He became a Seabee. Later he served three deployments in Vietnam. Their daughter is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and their son served in the Navy for six years as well. They have two grandkids and a new great grand-daughter who undoubtedly will be inspired by the military service that runs deep in their family.

Yasuko found volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross wherever her husband was stationed. They spent about three years in Hawaii, five years at Fort Riley, Kansas, and 10 years at Fort Hood. At each installation she worked in the hospital or clinics. She spent time in the physical therapy department, medical library and records, and helped at the front desks across clinics.

Yasuko Pins
Yasuko treasures her various Red Cross awards, pins and mementos. 

In her 36 years, Yasuko’s dedication garnered countless awards and even recognition from two Texas governors (Bill Clements and Ann Richards). Her collection of pins adds up her years of service: five years, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and finally the 35-year pin. She displays them in a decorative shadow box along with her Clara Barton’s 150th birthday coin she received while at Fort Riley in Kansas. “When I volunteer something good happens to me,” Yasuko beams a proud smile.

Yasuko volunteer spotlight 1
Yasuko Atkinson