Red Cross of Alaska Disaster Action Team Summit 2020

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

Many Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members from across the state traveled to Anchorage to attend the first Alaska Region DAT Summit on February 8 and 9.


The training was established to ensure a stronger foundation and communication base for DAT members across Alaska. The directives addressed new techniques and the revising of others; building DAT relationships throughout Alaska; putting a face to a voice; getting clarity on issues; in-depth stages for participating in active support; preparedness efforts; and supervising and delegating support to others when in need. The Summit also addressed being able to understand the spectrum of what ‘DAT’ means and what is expected during disasters.


When the Red Cross answers a call of duty, many think they only assist in shelter and food. But, that is a misconception. The Red Cross offers, when necessary, shelter, meals and snacks, clothing, eyeglasses and replacement medications, connection with other family members or friends, Disaster Health and Mental Health Services, Spiritual Care and more.

IMG_2776During the Summit, participants were happy to learn that there are now more options than ever to offer those who’ve been through a disaster, such as Mental Health and Spiritual Care services, which are more “person” focused and require deep compassion towards others.

Mrs. Rosita Wilburn is the Spiritual Care Lead for the Alaska Region. Wilburn stated that she wanted to give back to her community, so when she found the need for a Spiritual Care volunteer at the Red Cross, she was hooked. “I knew it was for me,” she said.


Wilburn met the high standards of guidelines before being accepted to the intense training of the Red Cross to become a Spiritual Care volunteer. When asked how to detach one’s self from their own beliefs to assist a mass population with spiritual care, Wilburn’s response was, “I have to be true to my own belief while being open to other beliefs. I make it a point to listen and connect those in disasters to their spiritual contact if they want to speak to someone of their faith.” Participants of the Summit found the option of Spiritual Care welcoming.

Spiritual Care and Mental Health were among a number of other topics that stood out during the Summit, like the word “communication.”  Communication was a clear core factor in the courses. The DAT members learned more about communicating with first responders from other organizations, their local fire and police departments, medical facilities, media and even among themselves.

Knowing who will respond to a disaster is paramount because the DAT members then know what resources to activate for that disaster. Such communication allows for better usage of resources and time. Building stronger communication skills helps in building a stronger foundation to successfully assist in any disaster.

If you want to learn more about the Red Cross, please visit or contact us at 907-646-5401.

Photos by Angela R. Wilson, Connie Black & Suzanne Eldridge/American Red Cross of Alaska

Willow Creek Flood Response: One Month Later

By Connie Black/American Red Cross of Alaska

We want to thank our amazing team of Mat-Su Red Cross volunteers for springing into action one month ago today to provide assistance to local residents that were impacted by the Willow Creek ice jam and flooding disaster just before midnight on December 21, 2019. We were honored to help the community and to support the first responders on scene, including the Mat-Su Borough, Mat-Su Emergency Services, Willow and Caswell Fire Departments and the Mat-Su Water Rescue Team.

As Willow resident, Red Cross volunteer nurse and Willow CERT member Brenda McCain said, “I was very impressed that so many Red Cross volunteers could be called up to Willow to open a shelter at midnight in December!”


Within one hour of activation, our Red Cross volunteers had opened an evacuation and warming shelter at the Willow Community Center. Over the course of two weeks, over 20 Red Cross volunteers located throughout the Mat-Su Valley helped staff the community center – which was used as a hub to provide a safe place to warm up, relax and recover for affected residents and first responders alike.

“I feel that I can speak for the community in saying that the presence of the Red Cross and the safety net that was provided was truly necessary and appreciated,” McCain said.

From December 21-30, Red Cross volunteers also served more than 485 meals and snacks like sandwiches and hot soup both to those affected by this disaster, and to responders like the Mat-Su Water Rescue Team and local fire fighters as they rested and regrouped following many hours spent looking after those affected and delivering supplies to those that needed them, often under very difficult circumstances.

“The image of the dozen red-faced [water rescue] team members sitting on the floor of the [community center] hallway with their brightly-colored dry suits still wet up to their thighs, stays with me,” McCain said.

After working in temperatures that reached 15 degrees below zero and walking through knee-deep (or higher) water with ice chunks flowing with the current, all were exhausted and appreciative that the center was open, staffed, and providing hot food and drinks, for everyone.


“It was wonderful to get to know many of the team better,” McCain said. “I feel honored to be associated with the Red Cross and this great group of Mat-Su Valley volunteers.”

Thank you to our Red Cross of Alaska Mat-Su team for a job well done! We’re proud of you!

Emergency preparedness: Is your pet prepared for the next disaster?

By Renee Bossart/American Red Cross of Alaska

Do you have an emergency plan and kit for your pet when a disaster strikes? We love our pets and want them to be safe, so when updating or creating an emergency supply kit, remember to create one for your pets, too! It will be one less thing to do during a stressful time.

Alaskans know it is essential to have emergency supplies for their families. Many of us have faced disasters, and some of us have even had to leave our homes during one. Having emergency kits that we can load and go reduces the time it takes to leave our homes during a disaster, and we’re a little more comfortable knowing we are ready to go if we need to. If you have to leave your home, most likely, your pet needs to go, too. Have you thought of everything you need to take for your pet?

Extra food, water and bowls: Have a supply of food on hand – enough to get you through a couple of days until you can get more. If you end up using donated food that is a different brand, you can introduce the new brand of food by mixing it with the remaining pet food from your emergency kit. They will also need water, so be sure to include pet drinking water when you are storing water away for the family. Don’t forget to pack extra bowls for food and water, too.

animal shelter 1
Photo by Connie Black/American Red Cross of Alaska

Extra leash, tie-downs and collar with tags: Be sure to bring an extra leash, collar and tie-downs to secure your dog or other pets during an emergency.

shelter 15 redcross
Photo by Ralph Radford/American Red Cross of Alaska

Litter, litter box and plastic disposal bags: Consider your pet’s toileting needs. If your pet uses a litter box, be sure to include a box and extra litter, or if your pet toilets outside, bring their leash and bags to pick up their waste with.

Veterinarian records and prescriptions: Vaccination and veterinarian records should be kept with your other essential documents, but consider saving a copy of their current shots and rabies vaccine in their kit. Also, have the name of the veterinarian and their contact information in case you need to get emergency help and retrieve more information. If your pet was prescribed medication for the long term, ask your veterinarian for an extra prescription of it so you can add it to your pet’s emergency supply kit.

Texas Floods 2019

Pet identification: Register, license, and microchip your pets with the appropriate organizations. Keep their tags on their collars and the information updated. Make sure they wear their rabies tag, a tag with your contact information, and consider including their microchip tag. Stress can be high for everyone involved during a disaster, including our animals. If they choose to run away, these items will assist in reuniting you with your pets quickly.

Pet kennels, crates and toys: Kennels and crates are the safest way to transport your pets, even inside of a vehicle. These can also provide your animal with a measure of comfort when everything around them is changing. Kennels can be a safe and private space for your pet during a difficult time. Putting a blanket and durable toy inside can help them feel at home. Another comfort item you can add is something that smells like you. If you wear perfume or cologne every day, you can spray that scent on a stuffed toy or their blanket, or give them a piece of your clothing. These are especially helpful if you have to be away from them for a length of time.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Pet-friendly hotels and pet sitters: Keep a list of hotels that allow pets to stay, as well as a list of family or friends that are willing to care for your pet if you are unable to for any reason.

Animal shelter: During a disaster check with your local shelter to see what services they are offering. They may have food donations and pet accessories available or may be able to fulfill other needs that your pet may have. If you are separated from your pet during a disaster, be sure to contact the animal shelter. Animal Control and other animal welfare groups work hard to get pets out of danger and will take them to the animal shelter to wait for their owners.

If you need to go to a Red Cross shelter, service animals are welcome. Please bring your own crate, pet supplies, pet medications and food, when possible. While Red Cross shelters only allow service animals to stay inside with their handlers, the Red Cross works with local animal welfare groups to ensure that shelter residents and others in the community have a safe place nearby to take pets during a disaster.

Hurricane Florence 2018

American Red Cross Pet First Aid App: To help you remember all of these details, the American Red Cross has a free mobile phone app called Pet First Aid. It offers critical first aid information for your pet. You can also build a profile for each of your pets with their photo, program your veterinarian’s contact information, find pet-friendly hotels, and get more tips for making your pet’s emergency supply kit.


We love our pets like family, so let’s prepare them for an emergency as we do with our own family. Think about what your pet would want and need if they had to stay outside of your home for a few days. That way, if disaster does hit, everyone in your family is ready for it.

Service to the Armed Forces program in Fairbanks welcomes fourth Dental Assistant Training Program cohort

By Brian Trinh/American Red Cross of Alaska

The American Red Cross of Alaska Service to the Armed Forces program in Fairbanks will kick off classes for its fourth Dental Assistant Training Program (DATP) cohort on January 8, 2020. This program has been instrumental in developing qualified individuals to fill key positions at various military treatment facilities across the state.

The Dental Assistant Training Program is a tuition-free, 6 month program covering 720-740 hours of training, including four weeks of didactic training, followed by five months of supervised practice. The program provides a great mixture of classroom education, hands-on training and real-world experience. Training classes are held Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and at the culmination of the program, each trainee is evaluated, graduates, and is provided with a letter of reference to jump-start their new-found career!

2019 Dental Assistant Program Graduation
Students attend the 2019 Dental Assistant Training Program graduation in Fairbanks, AK.

According to the American Dental Association, dental assistants perform many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills, which are invaluable to the support of the the entire dental care team in the workplace. While practice varies by state, dental assistants’ responsibilities may include tasks like using and sterilizing dental instruments, charting patient information, taking X-rays and dental impressions, communicating with patients and suppliers, teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies, providing comfort and care to patients before, during and after dental treatment, and more.

The training program is selective and only a handful of applicants are able to participate each year. Candidates are narrowed down through an interview process. To be eligible for DATP, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years or older
  • Be a military spouse or dependent
  • Complete at least 20 hours of volunteer work with the Red Cross or any organization that utilizes the Volunteer Information Management System (VMIS)
  • Be able to pass an extensive background check

For more information on this year’s Dental Assistant Training Program and future programs, follow the Red Cross of Alaska on Facebook and Twitter; check out information about our Service to the Armed Forces program on our website, or contact Stephanie Pflugrad, Service to the Armed Forces Program Specialist in the Far North and Interior, at or (907) 444-9529.

Development SAF Stock Photography Project 2018

Red Cross of Alaska Service to the Armed Forces locations:

Ft. Wainwright
3601 Santiago Ave, Suite 215
Fort Wainwright, AK 99703

Ft. Wainwright – Bassett Army Community Hospital
2nd Floor-Inside HR 4076 Neely Rd
Fort Wainwright, AK 99703

Eielson Air Force Base
BLDG 3112 – Basement Level-Amber Hall Broadway Ave
Eielson AFB, AK 99702

Fort Greely
661 Arctic Ave, Suite 106B
Fort Greely, AK 99731

JBER Hospital
5955 Zeamer Ave Mailing: 673d MDG, 2B-107
JBER, AK 99506

Region Headquarters
235 E. 8th Ave, Suite 200
Anchorage, AK 99501

Southeast Territory Office
5636 Glacier Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

Red Cross Offers Tips to Stay Safe This Season

Cold weather and the holiday season often bring an increase in home fires across Alaska. Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires overall, unattended cooking is the most common cause of kitchen fires, and decorations like trees, lights and candles increase the risk of home fires during the holidays. The Red Cross of Alaska reminds everyone to be cautious this season and offers the following tips on home heating, cooking and holiday decorating safety.



  • All heating equipment needs at least three feet of space. Keep away children, pets and things that can burn, such as paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets and rugs.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and curtains. Turn it off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.


pie baking jana
Photo by Ralph Radford/American Red Cross of Alaska
  • Clear the area around the stove before turning on the heat. Move items that can burn away from the stove, including towels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove and turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over. Download the American Red Cross First Aid App and review how to treat burns ahead of time.
  • Keep an eye on what you fry. Stay in the kitchen, use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on, and never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.


ak fireworks 14 - Photo credit Ralph Radford
Photo by Ralph Radford/American Red Cross of Alaska
  • When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • Use battery-operated candles when possible. If you must use candles, never leave them unattended, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach of children and pets.
  • Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.
  • Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.

Home fires take more lives each year than all other natural disasters in the U.S. combined, and fire experts agree that you may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. In addition to heating, cooking and decorating precautions, you can help your family stay safe by practicing your home fire escape plan at least twice a year until everyone can escape in two minutes or less, and by testing your smoke alarms monthly.

For more free home fire safety resources, visit or download the free Red Cross Emergency App by searching for “American Red Cross” in mobile phone app stores.

One Year Later: Red Cross Reflects on Nov. 30 Earthquake Response

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred on Nov. 30, 2018 reminds us of the seriousness of where we live, the resiliency of our communities, and just how quickly we come together in times of crisis.

The Red Cross of Alaska was on the ground immediately following the earthquake, providing support to those in need, and because of the dedication of our government and nonprofit partners, the power of our volunteers and the generosity of donors, our response efforts were and continue to be truly community-based efforts – neighbors helping neighbors.


“It’s hard to believe the big earthquake was a year ago,” said Red Cross of Alaska Regional Disaster Officer, Kelley McGuirk. “I’m proud of our swift response, and our team’s ability to get much needed assistance to residents with major damages to their homes so quickly. The earthquake was unprecedented and our team did a great job of following the training they have, but also being flexible to meet the needs of those affected.”

Red Cross Response: By the Numbers

In the days, weeks and months following the Nov. 30 earthquake and ensuing aftershocks, the Red Cross:

  • Mobilized 144 Red Cross disaster workers from Alaska and the lower 48 to assist those affected
  • Provided 230 overnight stays in Red Cross shelters in Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla
  • Served more than 2,237 meals and snacks alongside nonprofit partners
  • Made nearly 350 individual care contacts to support residents’ first aid and mental health needs
  • Assessed damage in 680 homes affected by the earthquake using the Red Cross Collect app
  • Opened 161 cases and provided immediate financial assistance to more than 494 residents who suffered major earthquake damage through the Red Cross recovery casework process


Preparing for the Next Earthquake

The anniversary of the 7.1 earthquake also serves as a reminder of the importance of being ready when disaster strikes. Although this major earthquake is now nearly a year behind us, it is crucial that we be prepared for the next big one. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Alaska is the most seismically active state in the country, and three of the seven largest earthquakes in the 20th century have taken place here. The Red Cross offers some tips to ensure you and your family are prepared when the ground shakes beneath us again:

  • Talk about earthquakes with your family so that everyone knows what to do long before an earthquake strikes. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.
  • Check your workplace and your children’s schools and day care centers to learn about their earthquake emergency plans.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture like a large table, or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Practice DROP, COVER and HOLD ON in each safe place.
  • Make sure you have access to local weather radio broadcasts and download the free Red Cross Emergency App from your mobile phone app store.
  • Prepare your family’s emergency kit and store it in an easy-to-carry container. Include items like a gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; a flashlight and hand-crank or battery-powered radio; extra batteries; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important documents; extra cash and any medical or baby supplies family members may need.

What You Can Do

VOLUNTEER: Within hours of the Nov. 30 earthquake, Red Cross volunteer disaster workers had fanned out across the affected areas, offering comfort, shelter, relief supplies and warm meals to those affected by the initial earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. Volunteers like these touch lives in the community every day and comprise more than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce. They are the heart and soul of the Red Cross and represent every age, gender, religion, race and ethnicity. Those that would like to join us and become a part of our tradition of helping Alaskan families since 1917 can visit and click on “Apply Now” to fill out a volunteer application and get started.


DOWNLOAD: The American Red Cross Emergency App can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hands for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts. Download the free app by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your mobile phone app store, texting GETEMERGENCY to 90999, or by visiting


DONATE: The Red Cross responds to more than 62,000 disasters every year, including home fires and major disasters like earthquakes and wildfires. You can help people affected by countless crises by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. You can visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.


Making a Gift from an IRA

By making a charitable donation to the Red Cross, you are there for millions of people who face emergencies every year, and you help as they rebuild their lives.

2007 California Wildfires
Red Cross volunteer Michael Schwartz plays cards with Mahal and Maliah Sourgose at the Red Cross shelter in Saugus High School, Saugus, California.

If you are 70.5 years of age or older, you can make direct charitable gifts from your individual retirement account (IRA) to one or more qualified charities. These gifts count toward your required minimum distribution (RMD), but a gift through a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) is not taxable income on your federal or state income tax return for the current tax year. While you cannot claim a charitable deduction for IRA gifts, you will not pay income tax on the amount of the gift.

If you would like assistance making a QCD gift from your IRA or would like to discuss other tax smart giving strategies, please contact Carol Eames, American Red Cross Gift Planning Officer, at (503) 502-5877 or

North Central Ohio Flood DR 681-08
Sharon Brooks gives Eikon Pullom, 3, a hug in a Red Cross shelter in Findlay, Ohio. Brooks was on vacation from Florida and decided to stop in and volunteer.

We could not be there without the generous donations from people like you.

To learn more about how you can leave a legacy, please visit:

Alaska Summer Wildfire Response Recap

Volunteers responded to fires in the Municipality of Anchorage and in the Denali, Fairbanks North Star, Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna Boroughs during wildfire season

The Alaska summer 2019 wildfire season has drawn to a close, and the Red Cross is taking a moment to look back on the past four months and the fires that impacted communities around the state during this time period.

Throughout the months of June, July, August and September 2019, the Red Cross was on the ground, assisting Alaskans displaced by the Shovel Creek Fire, the Swan Lake Fire, the Montana, Malaspina and McKinley Fires, as well as by fires in Anderson, Anchorage and Rainy Pass.

Summer Wildfire Response Graphic 2

In a typical year, Alaska’s statutory wildfire season runs from April 1 through August 31, but the Alaska Department of Natural Resources announced that due to persisting high fire danger as a result of continued warm, dry conditions, Alaska’s wildfire season was extended from August 31 to September 30 this year.

“It turned out to be a long year for our disaster volunteers beginning with the earthquake this winter,” said Regional Disaster Officer, Kelley McGuirk. “Although the hot summer was nice for our gardens and summer fun, it kept residents around the state – as well as our staff and volunteers – on edge with wildfires popping up frequently in all areas of the state. At one point in time, the Red Cross had a shelter open as far north as Fairbanks, and another down on the Kenai Peninsula. That was the same week there were multiple evacuations happening one afternoon in Anchorage due to a wildfire near Campbell Creek. Two months later, we had two shelters open in Mat-Su for McKinley Fire evacuees, while the Swan Lake Fire caused highway closures and shelters to open in Kenai.”

As soon as each wildfire started, Red Cross volunteers sprang into action, providing comfort, shelter, food and emotional support to those affected. As we moved through each of the responses and started the recovery process alongside those displaced, we also distributed relief supplies and provided assistance through recovery planning and casework.

Following the start of Alaska’s wildfire season on April 1, the Red Cross of Alaska:

  • Opened 7 evacuation centers and overnight shelters. To find open shelters during future disasters and to stay up-to-date with 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, you can download the free bilingual Red Cross Emergency App by visiting, by texting GETEMERGENCY to 90999 or searching for “Red Cross Emergency” in your mobile phone app store.

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  • Provided 502 overnight stays in Red Cross emergency shelters for those displaced by the wildfires.


  • Served more than 3,485 meals and snacks to those displaced, in addition to the meals and snack served in our shelters by partners like the Salvation Army and the Upper Susitna Food Pantry.

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  • Made nearly 500 disaster health and mental health contacts to provide health services, first aid and emotional care to those affected by the fires.

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  • Distributed more than 623 personal hygiene and disaster clean-up kits to those who needed them. Personal hygiene kits include items like shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and disaster clean-up kits include items like shovels, brooms, gloves, sifters, masks and more.

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  • Mobilized 149 disaster workers to assist those affected, and trained an additional 26 Red Cross workers to provide assistance during this summer’s fires and during future disasters in their communities. Volunteers comprise more than 90 percent of the Red Cross disaster workforce and make it possible for us to respond every year to an average of more than 62,000 disasters — most of which are home fires. After large disasters, the Red Cross first depends on pre-trained volunteers to travel to the disaster zone to help people in need. Those who are interested in getting trained to volunteer should visit


  • Sat down one-on-one with 32 individuals and families to create individualized recovery plans. Red Cross caseworkers connect with those affected to create recovery plans, navigate complex paperwork and locate help from other agencies. Recovery casework help in both the immediate aftermath of a disaster and with longer-term recovery needs.

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As we close out one fire season, we are also looking ahead – focusing on community preparedness, providing additional workforce training opportunities, and finding a bit of time to rest and reflect.

“It was indeed an unprecedented summer,” McGuirk said. “Now, we rest.”


Written by Cari Dighton/American Red Cross of Alaska

Videos by Phil Lampron/American Red Cross of Alaska

Photos by Connie Black, Ralph Radford, Anne Johnson, Phil Lampron and Cari Dighton/American Red Cross of Alaska

National Preparedness Month: Create a Will

Being prepared is a key principle of the American Red Cross. Estate planning is an important and sometimes overlooked part of preparedness, so we’re sharing some information to help you plan ahead and get your financial affairs in order.

In fact, we’ve even partnered with so you can create your will online—entirely for free.

This secure, online tool will take you through the will preparation process step by step. If you have a simple estate, you can print your legal will to be signed and witnessed. If you have a more complex estate (or if you have any concerns at all), the same tools will help you document your wishes and find a qualified attorney near you to finalize your plans. The site also allows you to set up an Advance Healthcare Directive and Durable Financial Power of Attorney.

The Red Cross offers additional resources to help you be prepared in this important area including an estate planning guide and workbook that’s available in an electronic or paper copy.

Even if you already have a will, you’ll want to examine it periodically to make sure it continues to reflect your wishes. When should you review and update your will? — Anytime you experience a major life change such as:

  • Birth of children or grandchildren
  • Major shifts in assets
  • Loss of a spouse
  • Remarriage or divorce
  • Death of an heir

Your will is one of the most personal and important financial documents in your life. Without a legitimate will, the government—not you—will decide how your affairs and assets are handled. Many of us are making the choice to be prepared, and we hope you will too.

It’s the global mission of the American Red Cross to help you stay prepared. Give yourself and your family peace of mind. If you would like your own copy of our estate planning guide and workbook or have questions please contact Carol Eames, our Gift Planning Officer. Carol can be reached toll free at (855) 831-5536 or by email at

Red Cross hosts statewide diversity and inclusion discussions with Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Floyd Pitts

By Tanguy Libbrecht, CEO/American Red Cross of Alaska

Photos by Ralph Radford, Tanguy Libbrecht, Anne Johnson & Andrew Bogar/American Red Cross of Alaska

Floyd Pitts, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer for the American Red Cross National Headquarters made a visit to Alaska in mid-July, to meet with and learn from volunteers, board members, staff members and our partners around the state. We began the trip in sunny Fairbanks in the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center with introductions by an Athabaskan Chief, gathered in Anchorage at one of the most diverse middle schools in all of America, journeyed to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley where we enjoyed an informal, educational conversation with a dozen area volunteers, and finished in Juneau with a moving presentation in a traditional clan house, topped off by a volunteer picnic in the rain, with eagles flying overhead and harbor seals chasing salmon in the waters next to our picnic shelter.


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July 15, 2019 | Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center

We started off our Fairbanks visit with a Meet & Greet Coffee Hour with Floyd. Fairbanks City Mayor Jim Matherly and his chief of staff attended as well as three members of the city diversity committee, Sara Harriger, Executive Director of the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, and Fairbanks-area volunteers Ray and Tammy Miller and Rosita Wilburn.

Following the meet & greet, we gathered in the classroom space where Floyd gave a presentation to 21 attendees, including local partners from the United Way of the Tanana Valley, the Fairbanks Community Food Bank and others, Mayor Matherly, members of the diversity committee, and Red Cross volunteers and staff members.

To start us off,  Tanana Chiefs Chief/Chairman Victor Joseph welcomed Floyd and spoke of the long history of the people of the Tanana and Nenana rivers and thanked Floyd for coming. I then thanked our partners and volunteers and acknowledged and thanked the tribe for allowing us the honor of presenting in a place that is on their traditional lands.

Following Floyd’s presentation, he attended the Cultural Connections show, which is performed by Alaska Native teens. Floyd and I very much enjoyed this show and he stayed afterwards to chat with them about opportunities for youth with the Red Cross. Floyd enjoyed the cultural experience so much that he purchased a pair of moccasins.  When asking Elder Dixie Alexander how to keep them clean, she simply said, “Don’t get them dirty!”  A good-natured end to a very successful day!


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July 16, 2019 | Clark Middle School 

This successful event was attended by about 40 volunteers, staff members, board members and community partners. Welcome remarks were given by myself and Clark Middle School Principal, Cessilye Williams.

Anchorage volunteers Bruce and Terri organized a team of about 6 volunteers and did a great job setting the room prior to the event, including setting up a mock shelter where attendees could experience the unique nature of the inside of a Red Cross emergency shelter by checking in at the shelter registration desk – where everyone is welcome, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or citizenship status; walking through the dormitory area; and grabbing a snack from the cafeteria area before finding a seat for the discussion.

Red Cross of Alaska Board of Director’s Diversity Committee Chair David Wulf and his wife Shelley made all the arrangements for the purchase and cooking of lunch for the event, and along with Board Diversity Committee Members Brenda Franz and Shawn Murphy, set up the grilling station and serving area.

Floyd’s presentation was very interactive, calling on the crowd to comment and participate.  Floyd heard thoughtful comments from a diverse representation of our community and shared Red Cross diversity pins with the attendees.


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July 17, 2019

On Wednesday, we met Disaster Program Manager Bill Morrow and his volunteer team for lunch in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. We had a vibrant discussion with the volunteer team about what makes the Mat-Su Valley unique, and what their specific challenges are. Floyd really enjoyed this up close and personal interaction with Bill and the team. Afterwards, Bill gave us a historical tour of Palmer, Wasilla, Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine.


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July 19, 2019 | Walter Soboleff Building, Wayside Park

Floyd’s presentation in Juneau took place at the Walter Soboleff Building. The Walter Soboleff Building includes a clan house, which was given the name Shuká Hít (Ancestors’ House) during the grand opening ceremony in 2015.

Juneau volunteer leader Chip Wagoner helped to execute this successful event, where 46 people were in attendance, including the Mayor of Juneau, a representative from the legislature, the University of Alaska, Sealaska Corp, the United States Coast Guard, Juneau School District, Juneau Emergency Manager Tom Matisse, Alaska Steamship Response and SEOC Liason, members of the Alaska Native community, Red Cross volunteers and staff members, and many other area non-profit partners and community leaders.  Floyd’s presentation and discussion was very well received with quite a bit of interaction and appreciation from the attendees, many of whom stayed beyond the original one hour time commitment.

That evening, Chip and Disaster Program Manager Andrew Bogar organized the annual volunteer appreciation picnic, which took place at Wayside Park. Hamburgers, hot dogs and grilled salmon were served, and volunteers graciously brought some potluck items to share.  Though it was a rainy evening, this proved to be quite the scenic backdrop with bald eagles flying overhead, salmon being caught off the rocky beach and a harbor seal patrolling the area.  Floyd spoke to the group of about 26 attendees and answered their questions in this intimate, scenic setting.  Andrew presented Floyd with a gift from the volunteers – a beautiful framed poster of Alaska Native values.

Both events were a great success and a fitting ending to a week of diversity and learning. Floyd openly shared that he learned a lot about our unique challenges, our communities and our diversity.

“I have learned so much from donors, volunteers and staff during this trip. I will NEVER forget my trip to Alaska,” Floyd Pitts said.

Thank you to each and every volunteer, staff member and community partner that made these statewide events possible!

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