IJF is committed to supporting and uplifting our member organizations, and this includes highlighting the important and innovative work they are doing every day. We will be profiling member organizations on our blog through an ongoing series. We hope to inspire conversation and connection between member organizations, the communities they serve, and anyone else who is passionate about ensuring no veteran, service member, or family member falls through the cracks.
The Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program supports military personnel, veterans, and their families. We sat down with Regional Director Hilary Duerksen to talk about their Reconnection Workshops and how what motivates Red Cross volunteers.
What are reconnection workshops?
Reconnection Workshops are a small group session where people talk about all sorts of things. Workshops focus on learning useful tools such as working through anger and effective coping mechanisms. In general, the topics focus on the transition out of the military to back home.
Who are these workshops meant for?
They are meant for people who are just back from deployment, veterans from all eras, their families and people who work with veterans. We use a very ‘loose’ definition for family- if they are an important support for the veteran, then they count. The workshops are very versatile.
Do you have any recent stories from a reconnection workshop that made you smile?
After a workshop in Peoria we got a call around midnight from one of the people who was in the session. That person said he didn’t feel suicidal, but he felt helpless and out of control. After the call, the veteran said he was feeling much better. He developed a plan to work through some of these issues, and is going to seek counseling.
So what would you say is one of the biggest benefits of these workshops?
The workshops help people build up the courage to pick up the phone and take that initial step to get help. They start conversations and they also help people realize who they can go to for larger needs.
How can people help out with these programs, do you take volunteers?
Yes! All of our programs rely on volunteers. Beginning very early of 2017 we will be training new facilitators for reconnection workshops. We are looking for licensed clinicians to volunteer. Email Hilary Duerksen if you are interested: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have any veteran volunteers?
Many of our volunteers in all of our programs are veterans.
Why do you think that is?
I believe we have many veteran volunteers because they want to continue to serve. That desire doesn’t end when they leave the military and the Red Cross is a recognized and universal place where they can continue to give back to their community. We also have a lot of volunteers who are not veterans, but who see volunteering with us as their way of serving their country.
Thank you so much to Hilary for chatting with us about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces. Check out Red Cross Chicago on Facebook, Twitter, or their website. Check out the Military Family Services page here.
Are you a member org that would like to take the spotlight on the IJF blog? Let’s chat! Email: Linnea.email@example.com