Voice of Volunteers: Meet Sandi

Did you know that the Red Cross of Alaska deploys volunteers around the country and around the world, to assist in the aftermath of disasters? Have you considered deploying? If you have, but weren’t sure if you had the necessary skills, volunteer Sandi Hodges can set your mind at ease:  “You just have to have a lot of patience and be flexible.”

Sandi outside of the Red Cross shelter at the University of California Santa Barbara. The shelter assisted those impacted by the Thomas fire. (photo courtesy of Sandi Hodges)

Sandi knows what she is talking about, having participated in one local deployment and three deployments outside of Alaska. She’s provided relief for those displaced by the Sockeye Fire near Willow, conducted disaster assessment in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, staffed a shelter for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and traveled to California to assist those impacted by the Thomas fire.

“I joined the Red Cross as a nurse,” Sandi says, and usually serves in that capacity. During a deployment, Sandi spends her 12-hour days connecting clients with mental health services, assisting them in filling prescriptions, providing basic medical care, and perhaps most importantly, lending a listening ear. “People want to tell their tales and want to be heard…you just have to be there to listen to them. Sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on.”

The Red Cross established a shelter in Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The photo shows one of four dorms. (photo courtesy of Sandi Hodges)

It can be exhausting work, but Sandi takes comfort in the support she receives from the Red Cross. The organization “really takes care of their people,” she says, “I’m proud to be associated with them and feel happy with the organization.”

Such support allows Sandi to focus on what is really important: the clients. She remembers one instance, passing out food and water to a hurricane-ravaged community. Her group “came up upon one family; they’d lost everything and were really confused and devastated.” After completing the day’s work, Sandi’s group returned to assist the family by emptying the house of its ruined contents. “We just kind of helped the family…overcome the immensity of the whole scene,” she says.

Sandi has found her deployment experiences to be intensely rewarding. She says, “My MO most of my life is helping and volunteering. It’s a nice fit for me and a good feeling.”

Red Cross volunteers on their way to provide assistance to those displaced by Hurricane Harvey. (photo courtesy of Sandi Hodges)

If you are interested in deploying with the Red Cross, please learn more at www.redcross.org/local/alaska/volunteer.

Ride for Red 2017 Raises funds for Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces

Twenty-four bikers hit the road on Saturday in sunny Fairbanks, Alaska, riding in support of the American Red Cross of Alaska’s Service to Armed Forces. The Ride for Red included a poker run and a 50/50 raffle, with proceeds helping the Red Cross of Alaska support veterans, military members, and their families.

“It’s a fun way to raise money,” said organizer and Far North/Interior Executive Director Lori Wilson. “It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy our Alaska summer.”

Biker Kirk Haman at Outpost Alaska.

The ride kicked off at noon, with bikers picking up their first card at Outpost Alaska before traveling through the Goldstream business district to Ivory Jack’s and heading north up the Steese Highway to Chatanika Lodge. After picking up their fourth card at Howling Dog Saloon in Fox, bikers returned to the Outpost where they took a look at their hands and enjoyed an Outpost-sponsored barbecue.

Chatanika Lodge was the third stop in the Ride for Red.

A number of Ride for Red bikers were from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, including David Goldfarb, who said the purpose of the ride was especially significant for him. “Anything I can do to help fellow veterans,” he said, standing in the parking lot of the Chatanika Lodge.

Eric and Ruth Claus from Missouri were stopped at Chena Lake, one month into a five-month road trip when they heard about the event on the radio. “Everyone was very friendly, very welcoming,” Ruth said after completing the ride. She added that the Ride for Red included stops at the “coolest pubs ever. Lots of character and charm!”

From left: Doug Chambers of Outpost Alaska, Red Cross Far North and Interior Executive Director Lori Wilson, and raffle winner Lawrence Springer.

Organizer Lori Wilson expressed gratitude to both the participants and sponsors of the Ride for Red. “The stops didn’t bat an eye,” when asked to help out, Lori said, referring to Outpost Alaska, Ivory Jack’s, Chatanika Lodge, and the Howling Dog Saloon. Due to the success of this year’s ride, Lori is already planning for next year. “We made a lot of great connections, so hopefully we’ll see our (participation) numbers double or grow even more!”

Many thanks to Ravn Alaska for making coverage of the Ride for Red possible!

Board Member Profile: Josh Howes

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Red Cross of Alaska board member, Josh Howes


A Compassionate Problem-Solver

Josh Howes is a problem-solver who has never met a challenge he couldn’t overcome with a little bit of compassion and a little bit of logistical know-how.

“I love to solve problems, especially when those solutions come with making other people’s lives better,” he says.

As the President of Premier Alaska Tours, Josh solves logistical problems, ensuring that visitors to Alaska have a wonderful experience. As a Red Cross of Alaska board member, Josh brings this same combination of kindness and operational knowledge to the table, working to raise funds the Red Cross of Alaska depends on to prevent emergencies, respond to disasters, and provide aid for those in need.

“I enjoy helping others and I enjoy putting together a plan to solve problems. Doing both of these things are exactly what disaster management is all about.” -Josh Howes

A Logistically-Minded Humanitarian

Prompted by his interest in finding solutions to humanitarian problems, Josh attended several Red Cross Disaster Services classes some years ago.

“I enjoy helping others and I enjoy putting together a plan to solve problems. Doing both of these things are exactly what disaster management is all about,” he says. When in June of 2014 the opportunity arose to serve on the board of the Red Cross of Alaska, he did not think twice.

“This is a great organization run by and for amazing individuals,” he says. With a bachelor’s degree in International Business and a master’s in Global Supply Chain Management, Josh uses his expertise to manage the logistical challenges present in fundraising events like the Kenai Fjords Dinner Cruise and the Red Cross Denali Ride & Dine.

Real Heroes Breakfast Emcee

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Josh co-hosting the Red Cross of Alaska’s Real Heroes Breakfast annual fundraiser event.

For the past two years, Josh has been involved with the Red Cross Real Heroes breakfast, first as a presenter and the next year as a co-host. In Josh’s words, this event honors those “individuals (who have) made a positive impact on the lives of other people in their community.”

The breakfast, Josh says, “is a very fun and inspiring way to start the day,” and is also the Red Cross of Alaska’s largest fundraiser of the year. Josh’s particular combination of compassion and logistical skill helps strike the perfect tone for the breakfast, an event he says is characterized by “lots of smiles, lots of tears, and lots of applause.”

Ultimately, Josh’s goal is to support the Red Cross to the best of his ability. “My hope,” he says, “is to help the Red Cross run smoothly and be a resource for the community.”


Board Member Highlight- John Moore

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John Moore, Red Cross Board Member and Senior Advisor Public and Government Affairs for ExxonMobil Alaska

The winter of 2002 found John Moore at 13,000 feet above sea level, high in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains. After coalition forces retook the Afghan capital of Kabul from the Taliban, thousands of internally displaced persons returned home, flowing south toward the city. John, working for a small NGO, assisted a local team in keeping the Soviet-built, 2.6-kilometer Salang Tunnel clear for civilians to pass through. When not watching for avalanches and bandits, John had a bird’s eye view of the challenges facing local Afghan communities.

The International Arena

Interest in the international arena is a theme of John’s life. “I’m a Navy brat,” he offers by way of explanation. He grew up crossing borders and continued his nomadic ways into adulthood. “I spent about 23 years working in the Islamic world, between East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia,” he says. John was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and says the experience further drove his interest in the world and the way in which the U.S. engages abroad. John has worked out of Dubai, Washington DC, Nepal, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among other locations. While based in Kabul, John met the love of his life, Kirsten, an Aussie and fellow aid worker. Their family now includes sons Alex and Zachary, and since moving to Alaska, a new puppy!

A Political Economist and Self-Proclaimed Nerd

John is a political economist and self-proclaimed nerd. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the Virginia Military Institute and a Master’s degree in Political Economy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He is currently completing a PhD, using Iraq as a case study to examine the relationship between economic structure, patterns of political behavior, and state cohesion. But John is careful to state that he is not an expert. “You get humbled really quick by the world and you realize that you’re going to be a student for the rest of your life,” he says. “The chance to bear witness and share experiences with and learn from others is critical.”

Career at ExxonMobil

For the past eight years, John has helped to manage ExxonMobil’s social investment and community relations, first in Iraq and then in Papua New Guinea. John’s family moved to Alaska in late 2016, feeling the urge to return to America but wanting a unique experience beyond the confines of a traditional location. Now a senior advisor for government and public affairs, John helps design and oversee ExxonMobil’s social investment and community relations efforts around the state. “Alaska is a place I dreamed about as a boy back in Virginia, and I’m thrilled to be here,” he says.

Classical Humanitarians

John has long been impressed with the mission of the Red Cross, describing them as “the classical humanitarian model,” adding that “they’ve been involved in some very tough issues in some very tough places.” In Iraq and Afghanistan, John saw Red Cross and Red Crescent workers create artificial limbs in an area with very few resources and witnessed them support internally displaced persons suffering the trauma of war. In Nepal and Papua New Guinea, he saw the organization work to ensure the health and safety of prisoners. When John learned about the Red Cross of Alaska’s own vital work throughout the state, his interest was immediate. When asked to join the board, the decision was already made: “I’ve always loved the Red Cross and the work that they do. As a person who cares and wants to engage with these types of issues, it’s fantastic.”


Board Member Highlight- Buddy Custard

Buddy Custard, President & CEO, Alaska Maritime Prevention & Response Network, and Secretary to the American Red Cross of Alaska Board of Directors

“I’ve always been a water bug,” says American Red Cross of Alaska Board of Directors member Buddy Custard. He’s always been a Red Crosser as well, and the two identities have been long intertwined.

History with the Red Cross

As a Boy Scout attending first aid classes and a college student maintaining his lifeguard certification, Buddy first depended on the Red Cross for lifesaving education.

He then turned the tables during his 30-year career with the Coast Guard, serving as a First Aid instructor to Coast Guard personnel. It was during his time in the service that Buddy had a front-row seat to the vital work done by the Red Cross.

Coast Guard Days

From a Coast Guard command center in Virginia, Capt. Custard oversaw large humanitarian relief operations and was able to witness the Red Cross providing food, shelter, clothing, and clean water to those in need.

From hurricanes in the Southern United States and Caribbean to the earthquake in Haiti and flooding along the Mississippi River, service personnel on the ground related to Buddy how the Red Cross delivered necessary aid to devastated communities.

Home to Juneau

In 2010, Buddy and his wife Patricia moved back to Alaska. When they retired two years later, they decided to remain, having fallen in love with the state during their time in the service.

While working as Operations Manager and Emergency Response Superintendent with Shell Oil Alaska, Buddy was asked to present a Shell-sponsored Red Cross of Alaska’s Real Heroes award, and his interest in the Red Cross was rekindled.

“It’s a great organization. It’s that simple,” Buddy says, adding, “The Red Cross mission is just what I believe in.”

Red Cross Full Circle

Buddy now serves as secretary on the Red Cross of Alaska Board of Directors, and as a Juneau resident, he is one of three board members from Southeast Alaska.

Of representing his region, Buddy says, “I’m able to say ‘here are our unique concerns.’” A limited transportation infrastructure and a small population dispersed among remote villages are two factors leading to a different dynamic of aid distribution along the panhandle than in other parts of the state.

Now the President and CEO of the non-profit Alaska Maritime Prevention and Response Network, Buddy works to reduce the risk of marine casualties and oil spills. He is committed to the mission of the Red Cross, saying, “I want to see the Red Cross remain vibrant so that it can continue to provide its stellar service to all the communities of Alaska.”