Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Colorado Red Cross Volunteer Receives President’s Lifetime Achievement Award

 By Bill Fortune

“If you don’t serve your community you really are not part of that community.” A single sentence that expresses why someone would give 48 years of service to America.

Deborah (Debby) MacSwain has been a part of the American Red Cross, or, the Red Cross has been a part of Debby MacSwain, for nearly half a century. During that time she has taught water safety classes to children with special needs, supported our Armed Forces, provided leadership within the Red Cross as a volunteer and employee and helped people recover from disasters. Her commitment to the American Red Cross and to America has never wavered.
Debby speaks at the 2015 Memorial for the American
Red Cross Overseas Association after receiving the
 Lifetime Achievement award. Photo by
American Red Cross

Debby was recognized recently for her commitment at a ceremony in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House where she was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for “her lifelong commitment to building a stronger nation through volunteer service.” The letter, signed by President Obama states “Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise.”

Debby’s commitment to service began when she started teaching the Red Cross Water Safety Course. After the first year of teaching Debby was approached by the Red Cross to become a member of the Red Cross Service at Military Installations team. She served for one year in Vietnam providing support to our military.
Debby sits with a soldier while serving in Vietnam.
Photo courtesy of Debby MacSwain

At the height of the Vietnam War the Red Cross had 500 employees in country to support the war effort. Many of those were women who shared the hardships and dangers of war with the military personnel they were there to serve. Five American Red Cross staff members lost their lives in Vietnam and many others were injured. “Of all the things I have done with and for the Red Cross that experience was the most memorable,” Debby said after receiving the award. “I lost a dear comrade during that year. I think of her often and those thoughts keep me going even today.”

Debby's commitment has continued through the years as a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor.
Debby teaches a child to swim. Photo courtesy
of Debby MacSwain
She teaches water safety to children with special needs at a swimming pool on Fort Carson. "This is my passion right now," she said. "The smiles from the children when they have their first experience with swimming bring me the greatest joy."

Debby will continue her commitment to the Red Cross and the nation as a Red Cross volunteer and as a water safety instructor for children with special needs. “It makes me feel good knowing that I have helped someone or changed their life in a way that makes it better.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What did you do on your weekend?

By Jennifer Marsh

So how did you spend your weekend? Most of us might say we ran errands, did some home improvement, went for a hike, run or ride, had a date or attended a school event. Or, just maybe, we might admit that we took a nap.

Colorado Red Cross had a busy weekend and napping was not on the agenda. Our weekend included evading zombies and helping our communities become more prepared.

Academy Cadet Maxwell installs a smoke alarm at a
home in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo by
Joan Green/American Red Cross
Friday started the weekend off with a beep, as we partnered with the Air Force Academy on our Home Fire Campaign. Over 400 cadets supported by over 45 Red Crossers installed nearly 700 smoke alarms in homes in 6 counties and 24 communities in a matter of hours, the second largest Home Fire Campaign event in the United States. Some Red Crossers were up before the sun and did not reach their homes until after 10:30 at night.

Friday also saw Red Cross workers at Peterson Air Force Base, at a preparedness event aimed at 1500 people, asking them, "On a scale of 1-10, how prepared are you?" Many people stopped, admitted they were in the 1-2 range, and talked with our volunteers, Rod Gardner and Paula Gregory. "Lots of people were interested in the apps," said Rod, referring to the range of Red Cross emergency apps. Red Cross was at a second preparedness event on Petersen AFB on Saturday, where 3500 people, including families, learned preparedness techniques by playing the "Wheel of Disaster" game with Gardner and fellow Red Crosser, Drew Phillips.

Red Cross was also in Manitou Springs on Saturday, at the Manitou Springs Fire Open House, with our other Wheel of Disaster. People spun the wheel to select a type of disaster and answered a question about how to be ready in the event of that type of incident. They also had the opportunity to sign up to have smoke alarms installed in their homes, and 20 families took advantage of the opportunity.

Volunteers Adam Rae and Ken Briggs teach first aid
to boy scouts as part of the 2015 Family Safety and Emergency
Preparednessr Expo Expo in Loveland, Colo.
Photo by American Red Cross
In Loveland the Red Cross participated in the 2015 Family Safety and Emergency Preparedness Expo at The Ranch on Saturday. They taught the Pillowcase Project and CPR/First Aid classes and how to make an emergency plan. Hundreds attended to learn from the Red Cross and other supporting agencies.

Beulah citizens visit the mock Red Cross
shelter during the evacuation exercise
 in Beulah, Colo.
Photo by Thea Skinner/American Red Cross

In Beulah on Saturday, citizens came to participate in a mock wildfire exercise and tour a shelter. Officials from the Red Cross, Highway Patrol, Pueblo County, the Pueblo Police, Beulah County Fire Protection and Ambulance District, Pueblo County Animal Response Team (CART) and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) were on hand practice their responses and to answer questions and help familiarize people with what community services are available.

And we did mention zombies... If you were one of the lucky runners who made it through the zombies in the Family Emergency Preparedness Event and Zombie Run put on by El Paso County, you would have seen the Emergency Response Vehicle at the finish line and may have received water from a FEMA Corps volunteer, one of two Air Force MPs or Russ Weeks, a Red Cross volunteer. We also had a preparedness booth for runners, family members and friends to peruse after their bout with the undead.

Sunday, Sep. 27, found Red Cross volunteer Gayle Dixon installing smoke alarms in Pagosa Springs. Red Cross workers along with 14 fire fighters and volunteers from Rotary installed 60 smoke alarms in homes at the Vista Mobile Home Park in Pagosa Springs.

While all of this was going on our Disaster Action Teams across the state were standing by to respond to home fires or other emergency needs. Saturday, Sep. 25, our teams helped a family displaced by a home fire in Lakewood.

So, a Red Cross weekend means helping those in need, saving lives with smoke alarms, preparing people for disasters and training our volunteers to better respond. That’s what the Red Cross does and we need more volunteers to make it happen. Don't you want to help your community and escape zombies at the same time? If you want to volunteer, go to and click on volunteer. Napping is so overrated.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Red Cross Volunteer Receives Presidential Lifetime Service Award

Tom Pardee (L) receives the Lifetime Service Award
from SVP Koby Langley at the Evans Army Community
Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Photo by Joe Coleman/American Red Cross
Story by Bill Fortune

Red Cross volunteers don’t do what they do for the glory. They rarely seek out recognition and prefer to go through their volunteer hours helping people. Sure a “thank you” once in a while goes a long way but it is all about the service…service above self.

Tom Pardee, a volunteer with the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces at Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH) on Fort Carson, just south of Colorado Springs, exemplifies that spirit of volunteerism and he was recently presented with the Presidential Lifetime Service award for his outstanding service to America. He has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for three decades and that follows two decades of active service with the U.S. Army. Pardee served with the Army in Korea and in Vietnam and traveled to a number of European countries and several locations in the States.

Tom Pardee (L) gestures as he talks with SVP Koby Langely
at the Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson
near Colorado Springs, CO.
Photo by Joe Coleman/American Red Cross
Senior Vice President for Red Cross Service to Armed Forces Koby Langley was on hand to present the award “The Lifetime Service Award is one of the highest awards that can be given to a citizen,” Langely said. “It recognizes people like Tom who have given so much to our country.” He also emphasized the quality of service and made note of the fact that Pardee had served over 17,000 hours as a volunteer with the SAF program at Evans Army Community Hospital and that his services will be sorely missed.

Tom Pardee displays his Vietnam era uniform at a
recognition dinner in Colorado Springs, CO in June of 2013.
Photo by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross
Pardee was taken by surprise at the award presentation and credited his grandfather with providing him the value of service to your community. He also thanked the Red Cross for giving him the opportunity to serve and that he highly recommended his experience for others saying, “I have enjoyed the chance to give back to my country and to those who have served in our military.” He went on to say that the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program had given his life meaning and a source of pride. “I appreciate the award and I am humbled by the recognition,” he said at the ceremony. “I volunteer with SAF because I know it makes a difference. I see it in every smile, every hug and every handshake from those people I have helped.”

The recognition ceremony and award presentation was a small affair without much fanfare. That was fitting for a man that served so many years and gave of himself to so many without the need for recognition.

Pardee will actually go into “semi-retirement”. He will still volunteer with the Red Cross but not as many hours will be spent at Evans Army Community Hospital. Instead he will work in the SAF outreach program giving pre-deployment briefings to military members and their families. “I will still be only a phone call away so if they need me all they have to do is call and I will be there.” On his personal Facebook page where he announced is semi-retirement Tom ended his post with “THANKYOU OOHA Still Serving…” 

Show Us: What is ‘Essential’ for You?

When a disaster or crisis strikes, you may have only minutes to evacuate to a safer place. Whether that safer place means heading into your basement or storm shelter in advance of a tornado, fleeing to higher ground to escape flood waters, or driving miles out of your neighborhood to escape the flames of a wildfire, three things are critical: having a plan, an easy-to-grab emergency kit, and access to information that could save your life.

What would you take with you? Do you already have a go-kit ready? What you take with you should include the supplies that are essential for you for up to three days.

A lot of people think immediately about food and water, but think also about the other things you couldn’t live without: Medications. Immigration papers, insurance and other key documents. Phone numbers and addresses as a backup to your phone. Photos of loved ones. A change of underwear. A toothbrush. A beloved toy.

And there are other things that are unique to you. Things that would devastate you to lose if you fled and could never return to your home or your home was destroyed.

The Red Cross wants you to think about this very important set of things and take action to assemble them so that you are prepared. And then show us your kit. Show us what is precious to you. Show us the things that you define as “essential” for your well-being over 72 hours.

If you’ve survived a disaster, we also want to know what you learned and how that influenced or changed what you see as essential for your go-kit.

An Associated Press photographer is documenting people and the things they choose to take with them in times of emergency. If you are willing to be photographed, please contact Brennan Linsley at

At the Red Cross, we hope this creative project will provide inspiration for important conversations that spur action. Got your kit ready? Don't forget to make your plan. You can find more information, ideas and resources here: