Voices of Volunteers: Meet the Jesuit Volunteers

Ella and Carly- 2017 to 2018 Alaska JVs

The Red Cross of Alaska is proud to partner with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a full-time volunteer program that places each participant at a non-profit that strives for social justice for an entire year of service.

At the Red Cross, we treat our “JVs” as we fondly refer to them just like staff. They work regular office hours, attend staff meetings ,etc.

We’d like to introduce you to our two JVs at the Red Cross of Alaska for the 2017-2018 year:

Meet Carly, serving the South East

Carly at the Fire Chief's Conference Tabling in Sitka
Carly Jenkinson, Red Cross of Alaska Jesuit Volunteer for the South East district.

What inspired you to be a JV? One of my greatest friends and mentors, Kathryn, works in Campus Ministry at the college I attended, and served in JVC Northwest in Montana. I am constantly inspired and impressed by her capability to remain so grounded in such a highly stimulating city like NYC; she expressed these were skill sets she acquired through her service in JVC Northwest  and intentional community: what a great reminder to remain present, inclusive, and socially aware. It was incredible how even after years of her experience in Montana she still very much lives in the spirit of the four core values that JVC Northwest embodies: Community, Simple Living, Social and Ecological Justice, and Spirituality/Reflection.  When looking into the program, these four values really resonated with me, and I was really struggling in my life post-gad to find my role in society and fulfillment. Although I am a bit older than the typical JV, I knew JVC Northwest/AmeriCorps was the right avenue to explore in my life presently. I’d been active in serving various marginalized populations throughout college, as well as after college working in Admissions, that I loved the opportunity to partake in the service I love, with an organization (or two, counting the Red Cross of Alaska) I believe in.

Would you be so kind to give us a little peak into the “simple living” of JV life, and what you are hoping to learn from this experience? The previous group of JV’s from Juneau were awesome and has definitely bestowed a lot of wisdom and tips for our next year (and hopefully the rest of our lives) concerning simple living. We have a worm farm, compost, recycling, and are strategizing on ways we can get a garden going at our house. We are definitely more conscientious about our use of electricity, whether that means enjoying the house a little darker, timing our showers, or being weary of our appliance use (Juneau’s climate certainly does not make it easy to forego dryer use.) Simple living is definitely still a struggle, as we’re only two weeks into our program, but it is a work in process, and a creative one at that!

How did you end up in Juneau, AK? We were asked to list 10 separate service placement interests, and I’d say at least 8 that I listed were based in Alaska. JVC Northwest takes one’s preference into consideration, but my mindset was to trust the process and that they knew where I would best serve; I believed that wherever they placed me, was where I was meant to be. Juneau with the Red Cross of Alaska was my first offer, and it couldn’t have felt more right.

And how did you end up matched with the Red Cross? JVC matches us with an agency that they believe based off our interview and our skill sets would be an appropriate match (at least this is how I think it works). I then interviewed with Andrew and Kate at Red Cross in Juneau, and was a good fit from the start. Many aspects of the role I am filling challenge me, and give me something to really look forward to. I accepted the position as soon as I received the offer.

What will be your job role with the Red Cross? I am the Preparedness and Casework Specialist in Juneau, Alaska. I will be facilitating two projects concerning Emergency Preparedness: The Pillowcase Project, and the Home Fire Campaign (plus Sound the Alarm). I am so excited to get my feet wet and hit the ground running!

 Anything on your Alaska bucket list while you’re here? YES! I would love to make it to any hot springs (obviously still struggling with the Simple Living aspect) and the Ice Caves. I aim to avoid any confrontations with Brown bears, but will admit I’ve gone on a few adventures already trying to spot some Black bears. I’m honestly just along for the ride, and just looking to experience as much land as I can in this year. I also have a huge interest in the native community, and would love any opportunity to be present in any of their traditional ceremonies.

Meet Ella, serving South Central

Ella Keenan Anchorage JV
Ella Keenan, Red Cross of Alaska Jesuit Volunteer for the South Central district.

What inspired you to be a JV? As the child of two former JVs, I grew up always knowing I wanted to dedicate some part of my life to service. They frequently spoke about their life-changing experience in JVC Northwest and the personal growth they each experienced. After graduation and countless hours looking into graduate programs, I came to the conclusion that I needed some time to not only figure out what I wanted to do, but what kind of impact I wanted to make. After looking into some different volunteer and research programs, I ultimately decided on JVC Northwest due to their focus on intentional community. Also, I’ve always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest!

Would you tell me a little about “living the 4 JV values?” JVC Northwest operates around four core values- Community, Social and Ecological Justice, Simple Living, and Spirituality. As a JV, I live with six other volunteers and participate in what we call an “intentional community”. This essentially means we make decisions together as a group and there is more of an emphasis on teamwork and collaboration rather than a regular roommate dynamic. Social and Ecological Justice refers to our individual service placements which mainly deal with marginalized populations. Ecologically, our goal is to leave as small a footprint as possible and we try to limit our energy and water usage accordingly. Our project at the moment is trying to establish a worm compost bin for the house! Simple living will also be a theme throughout our JV year. This includes living on a small personal stipend each month as well as working on limiting our technology use. The last value, spirituality, comes into play during weekly “spirituality nights” which are used for the purpose of intentional reflection on service and JV life in general.

Did you choose Anchorage, AK, or did it choose you? When I applied for JVC Northwest my only preference was that I be placed in Alaska! I’m very excited to be here and can’t wait to explore all that Anchorage has to offer. 

And how did you end up matched with the Red Cross? My background is in Public Health and I have had a lot of experience working on community health education projects as well as implementing various health initiatives. I was interested in the Red Cross because of the emergency preparedness education aspect as well as the amazing opportunity to work for such a well-known and established nonprofit.

What will be your Red Cross responsibilities? This year I will be working as a Preparedness & Casework Specialist. Specifically I will be taking a lead role in the implementation of the Home Fire Campaign and the Pillowcase Project.

Seen any moose or bear yet? Not yet! One of my housemates swears he saw a moose during our flight in, but his credibility is a bit questionable.

Any Alaska bucket list to dos? Travel as much as possible! Specifically, I would love to visit the Kenai Peninsula and take a trip to Denali!

Any overall goals or aspirations for the next year you wouldn’t mind sharing with us? Without internet in the house we will definitely have some time to pick up new hobbies! Some of my personal goals for the year include learning to play guitar, getting more into baking, and completing an Anchorage triathlon.




Red Cross of Alaska Service to the Armed Forces Spotlight: MEPS briefings

MEPS sign
Anchorage MEPS is where all new military members statewide take their Oath of Enlistment.

Each Monday and Tuesday, the Red Cross attends MEPs (Military Entrance Processing) briefings. We are the first faces new service members see after they take their Oath Of Enlistment.

The Red Cross overview assures new military members and their families that help is always available. Here are a few examples of Red Cross services to the armed forces:

Coping with Deployments

Prepare families to navigate the separations throughout their military career.

Emergency Services

Deliver verified messages during an emergency at home. Access to financial assistance and resources.

Reconnection Workshops

Build skills for successful reintegration at home, work and in communities

VA Hospital

Provide comfort and build morale, enhance therapy programs

Veteran Services

Provide information & referral services, assist with Veteran Appeals

Christy presenting at MEPS
Christy Cook, Red Cross of Alaska Service to the Armed Forces Manager, briefs new military members on Red Cross services to military as well as their families.

History of Services to the Armed Forces (SAF)

The Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) program dates back to the establishment of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton in May 1881. Not only did the “Angel of the Battlefield” risk her life tending to soldiers wounded in the Civil War, she bolstered their morale by writing letters for them to send to their families. Today’s American Red Cross workers proudly carry on this tradition through the SAF program, which serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families.

Alaska SAF

The Red Cross of Alaska has Service to the Armed Forces offices located on JBER, Ft. Wainwright and Eielson AFB staffed by Red Cross employees and volunteers. However, SAF is available to serve service members and their families in every region of Alaska including all National Guard, Reserve and Coast Guard installations.

Red Cross of Alaska SAF Program Successes in Fiscal Year 2017:

  • Assisted service members and their families with 957 emergency and critical community cases.
  • Of those 957 emergency and critical community cases, 81% were done by SAF volunteers.
  • Briefed 8,186 service members and their families in “Get to Know Us” briefs.
  • According to a recent survey, 93% of military members and their families who used Red Cross of Alaska SAF emergency communications messaging services scored the service as excellent.

For more information on Red Cross of Alaska SAF, visit:


Misty Bruce, Ranie Siscar, Donovan Keller, Christy Cook


July Volunteer Anniversaries

Volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross.

Our vital work is only possible because of people like you.

Whether helping one displaced family or thousands, providing care and comfort to an ill or injured service member or veteran, or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, it’s through the efforts of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things.


Stay Safe and Have Fun on the Water this Summer

This blog was originally posted to the Alaska Children’s Trust blog page, and we have re-posted to share with our readers. 

By Lisa Miller, Red Cross of Alaska Regional Communications Officer


In Alaska, we are great at capitalizing on these short but precious summer months. With nearly 24 hours of sunlight and endless exploration opportunities, adults and children alike are itching to get out and get on the water.

Whether you’re heading out for a day of deep sea halibut fishing, or kayaking around your neighborhood lake, take a few moments to consider these aquatic safety tips from the Red Cross of Alaska before you and the kids head out to make a splash.

Plan Ahead

First thing’s first. Before making plans to spend time in or around water with your children, make sure you all know how to swim.

It is the mission of the Red Cross to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. The Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety program helps fulfill that mission by teaching people to be safe in, on and around the water through water safety courses for individuals of a wide range of ages and abilities. American Red Cross Aquatics and Safety Classes are offered at many pools across the state of Alaska. Call your local pool to learn more about classes.

Once the entire family knows how to swim, you’re ready to plan your first trip out on the water. As your trip draws near, remember to check the weather. Weather conditions can change suddenly, so always check the forecast before heading out.

In the event you run into bad weather or an emergency situation, Ray Miller, a Red Cross of Alaska volunteer and member of the United States Power Squadrons (USPS) in Fairbanks, says it’s a good idea to pack some means of communicating, such as a whistle and signal mirror that can be used to alert a rescuer. A hand crank radio is a good item to have packed away in a wet bag as well. It will ensure you always have a way to tune in to local weather reports and emergency messaging.

You can build your own boat first aid/survival kit, or shop the Red Cross Store for a ready-to-go kit.

Miller also suggests telling someone when you go out on the water. If you are going out for just a few hours, let someone know where you plan to go, and when you will return. If you are planning a boat trip longer than a few hours, Miller says to file a written float plan. According to the USPS, a float plan includes a description of your boat, who is on board, a description of the safety equipment you are carrying, where you expect to be, and when you expect to be there.

You can download a USPS float plan here: http://www.usps.org/o_stuff/fp_form.html.

USPS says the person holding your float plan should notify the Coast Guard or other appropriate agency if you do no not return within a reasonable time.

circle of drowning preventionLife Jackets. Life Jackets. Life Jackets … Did We Mention Life Jackets?

There’s a lot involved in boating/water safety, especially for children, but a key factor is that everyone, especially children, use properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are on, in and around the water.

“The best tip I would have for parents of kids is to set the example for your kids and always wear a life jacket when boating,” Miller says. “Second suggestion would be to buy your child a life jacket that fits them and is appropriate for the activity they will be engaged in and most importantly one they will wear. Third, take your child to a pool or other swimming area and let them try out their life jacket to gain confidence that it will keep them afloat.”

Miller added the water in Alaska can be very cold and even on warm sunny days it will not take long for even the strongest swimmer to become unable to swim to shore, pull themselves back into the boat or help a buddy.

How do I choose a life jacket?

When choosing a life jacket:

  • Make sure it is the right type for the activity.
  • Make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard approved. Look for the stamp on the life jacket.
  • Make sure it fits the intended user. Check the label on the life jacket for weight limits.
  • Check buckles and straps for proper function. Discard any life jacket with torn fabric or loose straps.
  • Put it on and practice swimming with it.
  • Water wings, swim rings, inflatable toys and other items designed for water recreation are not substitutes for U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets or adult supervision.

Life Jackets Aren’t Just for Boats

Young children and weak swimmers should wear life jackets whenever they are in, on or around the water, even at a pool or a waterpark. Put it on at the dock, deck or shore and don’t take it off until you are on dry land.

Finally, this Kids Don’t Float Activity Book from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is a great way to get the kids excited for your boating trip while also teaching them to be safe around water.

May you have a safe and happy summer with your loved ones!

LMheadshotLisa Miller is the Regional Communications Officer for the Red Cross of Alaska.

100 Smoke Alarms for 100 Years Centennial Challenge

Lori-Tanguy 100 Smoke Alarms for 100 Years Challange

Announcing the “100 Smoke Alarms for 100 Years Centennial Challenge.” We are almost at the half way point of our Centennial Year at the American Red Cross of Alaska. So we’ve started a friendly competition between Lori Wilson, our Executive Director in Fairbanks & Tanguy Libbrecht, our CEO in Anchorage.

Challenge rules:
1. Challenge begins today!
2. You must install or assist in the install of each smoke alarm in order for it to count.
3. The challenge ends once the two of you combined reach 100 smoke alarms installed.
4. The winner is the individual with the most installs.
5. In the event you have clinched the win…..just keep going anyway.
6. In the event of a tie….everyone wins!!

Challenge starts now! Thank you to our donors who’ve made 100 years of service possible!

For more information on how you can support our Home Fire Campaign and other efforts, please visit: http://www.redcross.org/support