American Red Cross

Coastal Bend-Texas Chapter's Newsletter Articles


Holly Osborn, Chapter Chairman

Judi Oestreich, General Manager

Shelley Parks, Editor

Minute With the 



Fall 2002

Summer 2002

Spring 2002

Fall 2001

Minute With the Manager

Fall 2002

Judi Oestreich, General Manager

"My Personal Reflections on September 11th"

I have tried a dozen times to sit down and write my reflections on September 11th. I thought it would be easy, but I find myself not really wanting to talk about it. The Anniversary will come and go and things will not be any easier. I feel that I have changed and that our country has lost its innocence.

That Tuesday began as any other day. We were all working at the Red Cross building when one of the staff members burst into my office and shouted "turn the TV on, a plane has just struck the World Trade Center". We watched the events unfold after the second plane struck and the buildings came down. Everyone was glued to CNN and conversation was sparse. It was just too hard to believe.

In the afternoon I started to believe that the disaster was real when I got the phone call to go to New York City. I was told to travel by any means. Driving alone from Corpus Christi, Texas was not an option for me so I made a reservation to fly when the airports reopened. That did not occur soon. It was late Thursday night when I finally arrived at La Guardia Airport. The plane was full and the first to land after the airport had reopened. It was dark, desolate and no phones were operable.

I remember sitting on the runway in Houston feeling like I was headed to a massive funeral. Everyone on the plane was depressed or frightened. Many were returning to their homes. The airlines held up our take off to load passengers who had been stuck there from an International flight. When they boarded we all cheered and shouted comments for them. They were the first heroes any of us from Texas saw on our journey. I am sure they did not understand the phrases thrown out at them, but they did understand the sentiments. They were 19 young men in all, and each carried a duffel bag in hand. They were tired from waiting, but they laughed and answered back in good humor and in French! We felt good and ready to go on to face whatever lay ahead after the Firefighters from Paris, France joined our New York bound group.

The days were long and stressful from the moment we landed in the dark at that lonely airport. This disaster was different for me. Even the 35 years of disaster experiences had not quite prepared me. I had never been to New York City, but I knew right away that New York was a different city than it had ever been before. The people opened their hearts to all that came to help. If they hadn't it would have been impossible for us to do our jobs. Just the size of the city and the magnitude of the tragedy were overwhelming for all, even to rescue workers and the Red Cross. The constant "Thank You" day after day, and all through the day, kept you from sitting down and crying. I had never experienced this type of gratitude before. You knew you had to go on and stretch yourself to the limit. These people were counting on you!

The smell of the rescue work and the site at Ground Zero never left your mind no matter where you would go. I also had the opportunity to visit another site that few ever saw. My job took me to the landfill on Staten Island. That day was rainy and dreary and my mood was as bleak as the weather. However, nothing prepared me for this site. Every truckload from Ground Zero was carefully dumped on a cleared site, roped off with yellow caution tape, and sifted through in small handfuls by men in hazard suits. It was the last chance to find DNA. A refrigerated truck stood nearby for the items that would yield the identity of someone’s loved one. Personal articles were also carefully placed in large white buckets and various policemen, FBI and Treasury men guarded each truckload. The National Guard had erected a small tent city to support the efforts and my job was to see that all the men on top of that small mountain were being fed and offered mental health counseling. It was good to visit with the Priest and Army Chaplain and to view the many versions of the Bible that were spread out under a what-had-been-clear plastic cloth. Everything was covered in a light gray dust, even the jeep (inside and out) that we had driven there. The jeep had been at Ground Zero for days and my driver, a National Guard Reservist from Staten Island, had been at Ground Zero in the beginning with his unit. He was also a local Red Cross disaster volunteer. The landfill was a sad sight, more so because the men and women working there had no hope of finding a victim.

I stayed in Manhattan and worked in Brooklyn. Each day I found myself working my way though New York City traffic and riding subways to get to place to place. As the days passed the traffic got heavier and many times the subways were closed due to bomb threats. We were searched by Security Guards when entering our buildings and Treasury men with guns stood at each corner of the building. We walked up and down 4 flights of steps as hundreds of us worked in crowed spaces with no air conditioning. The days got longer and our burdens got heavier too. We could just not make it all right again. Death surrounded us as we watched the smoke rise from the hole in the skyline. The view was always there from across the Brooklyn Bridge.

For those of us who went, especially at the very beginning, we carry a large hole in ourselves. Nothing like the families of the victims, but a hole never the less. We’ll probably spend the rest of our lives putting patches on it. When I reflect on the events of September11th at the World Trade Center in New York City, a country field in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., I still grieve over the losses America suffered as a nation. I know in my heart, we are stronger for it, but I still find it hard to talk about.

Minute With the Manager

Summer 2002

Judi Oestreich, General Manager

Last Spring I said, "We are living in the most exciting times in the history of the American Red Cross". We have continued to face challenge after challenge, especially in the stewardship of our funds received after the September 11th attacks on America. Yet, in the mist of some media controversy on the American Red Cross, our Red Cross workers continue to deliver emergency needs to families across American. From single family house fires to devastation brought by those huge forest fires that blazed across Colorado recently. Our dedicated folks are bringing relief day after day.

In an open letter to Red Cross staff and volunteers, dated April 3, 2002, President George W. Bush says, "During these trying times we are reminded of the critical role you play in meeting the physical and emotional needs of people suffering from disaster. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Red Cross quickly and effectively gave vital assistance to thousands of displaced and grieving people. In Afghanistan, your organization is administering the America’s Fund for Afghan Children by providing food and medicine to children and families. And at military bases around the world, our troops are receiving support services as they work to defend freedom."

The President goes on to say, " These efforts have given hope and comfort to millions of Americans during difficult times and continue to benefit individuals and communities around the world. I commend Red Cross staff and volunteers for your work to provide disaster relief, fight malnutrition and life-threatening disease, implement safety education programs, maintain an adequate blood supply, and support the men and women of our nation’s military. Your efforts point the way to a brighter future for all."

When I read those words I knew that our founder Clara Barton would be proud of us as we stand today defending the principles she undertook when she formed the American Red Cross.

Let me share a few of the words of praise Miss Barton received in a resolution passed at a meeting of the Central Relief Committee held in the Premont Hotel on Tuesday, November 13, 1900 with Committee Chair, Major Jones presiding.

"RESOLVED; That for our people who have found relief under the sheltering arms of the Red Cross and consolation in the overflowing love of its consecrated agents, we hereby express THE EVERLASTING GRATITUDE OF THE COMMUNITY which has been lifted out of its sorrow into the dawn of new hope, and out of its losses INTO THE RESOLUTION OF A NEW LIFE".

"RESOLVED; That we commend to the world the great organization whose efficiency and tenderness have been demonstrated to us during the last two months and we appeal to civilization FOR THE MAINTAINENANCE OF THIS SURPASSING INSTITUTION which knows no country, but the desolate places and no class of race, but STRICKEN HUMANITY wherever it is found upon the globe."

"RESOLVED; That we especially thank and render homage to the woman WHO IS THE LIFE AND SPIRIT OF THE RED CROSS, who is the embodiment of the saving principle of laying down one’s life for one’s friend. Whose friend is the friendless and whose charge is the stricken. WHO SHOULD BE EXALTED ABOVE QUEENS AND WHOSE ACHIEVEMENTS ARE GREATER than the conquests of nations or the inventions of genius, and who is justly crowned in the evening of her life WITH THE LOVE AND ADMIRATION OF ALL HUMANITY."

A member of that committee while speaking of those resolutions later said, " There is not and there could not be a nobler work in the world than that in which Miss Barton and her Society are engaged, and May God grant that we and our children and our children’s children will ever hold in fond recollection the sacrifices of Miss Barton and her assistants, and their noble acts of Charity while in Galveston during the dark days following the storm of the 8th of September, 1900."

Now almost one hundred and two years later the praises from President George W. Bush ring with the same message. Myself, I think this all tells us we are doing something right!

Minute With the Manager

Spring 2002

Judi Oestreich, General Manager

We are living in the most exciting times in the history of the American Red Cross. Never before have we been challenged like we have since September 11th. Our chapter is no exception to the challenges and ever changing services within the Red Cross, but we strive to be more pro-active than reactive. In this article I would like to share with you a program that will identify the chapters local challenges. This is a program the Chapter Chair and myself encouraged our board members to look into long before September 11th.

We are very excited to have recently completed a Chapter Enrichment Program study or CEP as we call it. The CEP provides chapter leadership with an objective assessment of its current operations, direction and standing in the community. It offers insights on new opportunities and prospects that can lead to growth and improved performance. In addition, the CEP process facilitates teambuilding by engaging employees and volunteers in discussions about the chapter’s present position and future direction.

A study group of six employees and volunteers, who all have substantial chapter-based expertise, visited the chapter for a week and conducted 110 interviews with staff, volunteers, board members, donors, emergency management and community leaders. It was very long days for them. They began at 8:00 every morning and completed the interviews at 6:00 pm then spent 2 more hours together with a project manager from our National Headquarters to share and analyze the information collected during the day. They came from all over the United States from volunteer and paid positions within other chapters located in places like Duck, North Carolina – Detroit, Michigan – Levittown, Pennsylvania – Boise, Idaho – Seattle, Washington – Richmond, Virginia – and Washington, DC.

The confidential interviews were a small part of the study of chapter opportunities and challenges. The study process began weeks before the on-site visit to Corpus Christi. Statistical information and program data was collected from our chapter and departments at National Headquarters. This information was reviewed and analyzed by the study team before the visit. Several conference calls were made and Holly Osborn, our Chapter Chairperson, and myself were invited to participate in them. Approximately 30 days after the on-site visit we will be receiving a comprehensive written report of about 100 pages. This report will include a summary of 50 to 70 recommendations and financial impacts. Our Board of Directors will use the recommendations from this program to develop action plans and begin long range strategic planning for our future.

The future……………Peter Drucker, acclaimed business management guru, put it this way "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

Minute With the Manager

November 2001

Judi Oestreich, General Manager

I have tried for several days to write this column and I am at a loss for words. It’s the end of another year, but in no way has this been like any other year. We had our usual business of teaching life-saving classes and preparing for disaster. We even had a flood on top of many house fires. Our volunteers responded and we did what was expected of us. We provided emergency services to local folks who turned to the Red Cross in their hour of need.

What was different this year and will be for all time to come……. We responded to terrorist attacks. A new kind of disaster and a new kind of threat. We were first on the scene, as we usually are, along with firemen, police and paramedics the early hours of September 11th. We worked long hours providing food for the body and food for the soul of thousands who lost all hope. While we trudged on America poured out their hearts and the financial response to our being there was overwhelming.

I personally went to New York City, on September 14th, to work the World Trade Center tragedy and I returned with thousands of stories and a heavy heart. I saw first hand the places, the rescue efforts, the emergency services being given and the many faces of grief.

I am back home in Texas now opening mail and answering calls with questions and opinions about what we are doing with the money collected. The telephone calls, email and notes are few compared to the numbers who gave, but they are passionate. I find myself defending the work we do just as passionately as I have done for 34 years now. It is sad that the general public would give the money to an organization first and then ask questions. Most of them did not know us before this event. They only knew of us.

No matter what they think of us, we will be there when the next attack happens. Just as we have for over a hundred years. This is the beginning of our third century and we mean it, from the bottom of our hearts, when we say, "you can count on us."

Minute With the Manager

June 2001

Judi Oestreich, General Manager

As average everyday citizens………….. We sometimes forget that the American Red Cross is always there, under the same trusted symbol, serving our community and touching more lives in new ways everyday. We sometimes take the American Red Cross for granted, after all, it has been here all of our lives. Besides, if you ask most average everyday citizens to explain how their Red Cross started and what is its purpose you would get a broad spectrum of answers.

The American Red Cross has been described in many terms over the years. In 1918, U.S. Solicitor General John W. Davis wrote an opinion describing in broad terms the duty of the American Red Cross in carrying out its charter. His opinion is a well-stated reminder of our obligations to the nation, to disaster victims, and to the people who generously support our humanitarian work with their donations.

Davis wrote ……. "When any question arises as to the scope and activities of the American Red Cross, it must always be remembered that its Charter is not only a grant of power, but an imposition of duties. The American Red Cross is a quasi-government organization, operating under Congressional charter, officered in part, at least, by government appointment, disbursing its funds under the security of a government audit, and designated by Presidential order for the fulfillment of certain treaty obligations into which the government has entered. It owes, therefore to the government it serves, the distinct duty of discharging all those functions for which it was created. Not only is it constrained by those considerations growing out of its organic character, but there is a moral obligation resting upon it to its membership and to the American people who have so freely and generously contributed to its support"

Every time I read the words Davis wrote I say WOW! Yes indeed, the role and responsibility of your Red Cross is a heavy one at times. But it’s ok to sometimes take us for granted. After all, we have always been around and we plan to be for a long time. The only thing I ask is that you remember your Red Cross has some pretty tough jobs to do and the next time you are asked to support your Red Cross keep this one thought in mind, "Where would America be without the Red Cross?"