Thursday, May 26, 2016

Armstrong, Red Cross a Comfort in Time of Need

Tim Armstrong is a walking example that you get more out of community service than you give.

Armstrong is the principal at Albany Elementary School, a rural school in Clinton County, KY. He’s also a Lake Cumberland Red Cross Community Board member and part of the Bluegrass Area’s Disaster Action Team. When the school district received, through a grant, a quantity of Automatic Emergency Defibrillators (AEDs), Armstrong trained not only his teachers, but also county staff, coaches and community members in first aid, CPR, and use of AEDs.

It was after a fire destroyed a home in Cumberland County, Armstrong found himself comforting the family who’d just lost their home. The family included one of his students, a special needs child. Armstrong gave the child a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy as a comfort.

“Upon returning to school this child was more open and, unlike in the past, spoke to me,” said Armstrong. "The fact that he opened up and embraced me when he came back to school triggered a deep feeling in me."

“In that emotional time, as we tried to help the affected family, that stuffed character was his comfort.”

“That moment drove home to me how the work we do is a real blessing, not only to those we help, but to us volunteers,” Armstrong said. “I went away from that event knowing how the Red Cross helps me to be a better principal, and a better person,” he said.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Profile: Lynn Romans

Lynn Romans, a resident of Radcliff, Kentucky, first joined the Red Cross in 1990 when her youngest child went to school. She began work in the ACCEPT credit counseling service, and in the 26 years since she has been everything from an Administrative Coordinator in Field Services to a Database Administrator in Financial Development. Now, Lynn is a Program Specialist for the organization’s Service to Armed Forces (SAF) where she helps coordinate and promote the division’s activities.

The American Red Cross has been providing services to U.S. Armed Forces in Kentucky and Indiana since 1917. As a military mom, the impact SAF makes is especially important to Lynn.

While the SAF Hero Care Call Center at the Louisville Area Chapter gets the most notoriety, Lynn and the SAF division are constantly giving back to the military community. Much of Lynn’s job is networking with veterans agencies and promoting the activities of the SAF. They work with other organizations, nonprofits, Fort Knox and the Pet Therapy teams at the Clark County Red Cross office in Southern Indiana to help provide services to veterans, active duty military personnel and their families. Every Memorial Day they set up a booth to welcome and support riders participating in the annual Run for the Wall, a cross country motorcycle ride to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. hosted to promote healing among veterans and to honor Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action or Killed in Action.

One of the activities that Lynn enjoys the most is reaching out to military personnel who are preparing to ship out to basic training through programs at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS).

At MEPS, Red Cross staff gives briefings to new recruits and their families so they can “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” and learn about the services the Red Cross provides. These include counseling and social services to military families, and the emergency communication services that keep military personnel in touch with their loved ones in the event of emergencies, including the death of an immediate family member or the birth of a child. The Red Cross is also present during yellow ribbon programs and homecomings to let military families know what services are available to them.

“If you’ve been here long enough, everyone has done a little bit of everything,” said Lynn. “I never would have guessed I would be here.”

“Most people do not know the relationship between the Red Cross and the Armed Forces,” said Lynn. Making that relationship known is important to her, because it’s the people that matter to her most; the military personnel and families she helps serve, and the passionate and caring people she works with who come together to get the job done. Lynn encourages others to look into the services provided by SAF, and asks that people remember and support our troops.

Click here to learn more about the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces, and to volunteer with SAF, go to

Monday, May 16, 2016

Volunteer Profile: Kathy Hoff

From her time as a Red Cross Donut Dolly in Vietnam, to disaster responses across the United States, to her current service in Lexington, Kentucky, Kathy Hoff has devoted years of time and talent to helping the Red Cross in a variety of capacities.

Kathy’s first volunteer experience with the organization was in 1969. As an adventuresome recent college graduate, she and her roommate saw a newspaper ad to go to Vietnam as “Donut Dollies”, and they signed up. She spent the next year there, offering moral support for the troops. The Dollies, a name inherited from their predecessors in World War II and Korea, would run recreation centers, put on self-designed programs to entertain the troops, and visit hospitals, which was difficult and heart wrenching for Kathy.

“As long as we could take the guys’ minds off the war, that was our main aspect of having them do these games. A lot of times I would just sit and talk. I did not like going to the hospital, because I had to smile and be cheerful, and seeing these guys that were my age and younger, and what they’ve been through [. . .] that was really challenging,” she said.

Kathy Swanson Hoff serving as a Donut Dolly in Vietnam
Following her service in Vietnam, Kathy occasionally volunteered for the Red Cross, but after Hurricane Katrina, she became more involved again. She was deployed twice following Katrina, spending three weeks in Mississippi operating an Emergency Response Vehicle, and then spending two weeks in New Orleans canteening and feeding the thousands of displaced residents. Since then, she has responded to numerous disasters across the country, including relief operations in California, Iowa and Texas, and on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She used to teach disaster classes, she presents the Pillowcase Project (a free disaster preparedness program) to elementary school students, and she’s continued her work with the military, serving as a Service to Armed Forces Specialist and donating her time at the local VA hospital.

A retired teacher originally from the Seattle area, Kathy and her husband moved to Lexington five years ago to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren. Volunteering is a way of life for Kathy, and she has discovered plenty of volunteer opportunities in the Bluegrass. She’s an officer in the Citizens Police Academy, works with the Lexington Opera House, coaches a Special Olympics softball team, ushers for UK Athletics events, and helps out at her grandchildren’s elementary school. Connecting to others, especially those less fortunate, is a gratifying experience for her.

“It’s just giving of yourself, just thinking of other people, and not worrying about yourself and all that’s going on. It’s just such a good feeling to help. There’s a lady at the VA where I volunteer. She’s 98 years old, was a nurse in World War II, and she just beams when I walk in” she said.  

She feels connected to other volunteers with their shared interest in helping others, and she’s stayed in touch with a number of fellow Red Crossers from her deployments around the country. Kathy is also relaying the importance of volunteering to younger generations by involving her grandchildren in numerous activities.

“It’s a great feeling to give of yourself. When you get a hug [. . .], that’s the biggest pay you could ever have.”

Click here to learn more about the Donut Dollies, and if you would like to join the Red Cross as a volunteer, please visit .