The American Red Cross Central Valley & Kern County Executive Director Barry Falke has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer of the Pacific Division of the Red Cross. Falke will oversee the operations for Red Cross regions throughout the Pacific Coast of the United States, including California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and Saipan.
“I am very proud of and happy for Barry to take on a larger leadership role within the American Red Cross,” said Hugh J. Quinn, interim Central California Region Chief Executive Officer. “His commitment to the Red Cross is incredible and he has served the Central Valley Chapter and the Kern County Chapter at a very high level during his tenure.”
As executive director, Falke was instrumental in leading the Central Valley’s ability to respond to and recover from natural and man-made disasters as well as promote the growth, quality and constituency of Red Cross programs and services throughout the community.
“During my time as executive director, it was most rewarding to see our volunteers provide comfort and hope for those who have been affected by disaster,” said Falke. “The Red Cross mission is empowering, and I look forward to serving staff and volunteers throughout the Pacific Division.”
Falke recently earned his Master of Business Administration from the Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick and is also an alumnus of Fresno State and Fresno Pacific University. He is a graduate of the Disney Institute and in 2009, was named one of Fresno’s Top 40 business professionals under 40. He serves on several community boards including the Whitney Foundation, is a past president of the Leadership Fresno Alumni Association, and was appointed in 2015 to the City of Fresno Housing and Community Development Commission. Prior to joining the Red Cross, Falke served as the Director of Corporate Giving & Mission Driven Business at United Cerebral Palsy of Central California.
In his new role, Falke will continue to be based out of the chapter headquarters in Fresno. In the coming weeks, an interim executive director will be named.
Those interested in joining the Red Cross can apply here.
This week, April 15 – 21, 2018 is National Volunteer Week, and we’re taking the time to celebrate and honor the incredible volunteers that make our Red Cross work possible. Last month we celebrated the occasion early, with Volunteer Appreciation dinners throughout the region. At each event, we invited volunteers to write down their favorite Red Cross moments, memories, and stories.
This Volunteer Week, we’re letting local volunteers tell these incredible stories in their own words. The following are excerpts from some of our favorite shared stories.
“When I was a child I stayed in a Red Cross shelter in Northern California. It was during Christmas and I wanted to help the other kids have something to do. I bought coloring books and colored. I always thought it would be great to help others, and here I am more than 30 years later serving my community in a disaster relief shelter during the Christmas season! The seed planted so very long ago was actually a spark that I kept alive in my heart and I am inspired to keep the tradition going.”
“It’s the most professional group of volunteers I’ve ever worked with! Everyone is so dedicated to the effort and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
“It’s an amazing organization of humanitarians. Red Crossers are some of the kindest, brightest, most caring folks around and it is an honor to be in the midst of such wonderful people.”
“I truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with Red Cross family members from around the region during our recent responses. Everyone has been so welcoming and there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for accomplishing our mission.”
“My first official Red Cross event was the past January Sound the Alarm event. I was able to go into homes and connect with the families. I was so happy and proud because the people we met were very skeptical of me, but by the end of the visit I felt a bond. And knowing the small task of installing a smoke alarm could do so much for them.”
“It’s great to put something directly into the hands of someone who needs it. One of these times was at the stand down when we gave out comfort kits and backpacks. I almost cried when the vets thanked us for our service!”
“In 2017 Visalia Fire had a 3-alarm apartment fire where I was the Battalion Chief in charge of Operations, and then went home to get my Red Cross Disaster Action Team supplies to assist six families that were displaced.”
“I love the sense of community. I’m proud to be part of an organization that helps the community with no strings attached.”
“I had no idea how much the Red Cross does during disasters. It has been a beautiful, eye-opening experience.”
“The Red Cross was giving a helping hand in more ways than I had ever imagined. My biggest surprise is that I seem to be getting back more than I’m giving… the Red Cross has been a tremendous blessing in my life.”
“Seeing neighbors helping neighbors all across the country. The Red Cross brings out the best in all of us.”
“When I was 17 I was involved in a fatal car accident. I lost a lot of blood, and wouldn’t be here today without the help of a blood donor. When I met Jim McGee, and he gave me the full Red Cross story and all the organization does including blood drives, I knew it was a place where I could pour passion and enthusiasm. I am here to help the way I was helped.”
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for the Red Cross. My Dad was in the US Army at the Battle of the Bulge and was captured by Germans. He was starving. He was a little guy, 5’6” and 145 pounds. He was only 90 pounds when he escaped. Prior to that, the Red Cross sent a box of food for the prisoners each month. If it wasn’t for those boxes of food, he would have died of starvation.”
“I joined the Red Cross at 13 with my mother, and the first time I deployed it was with my mother! My sister is now a Disaster Action Team volunteer in San Diego County. Red Cross is family in every sense of the word.”
Volunteers make of more than 90% of the Red Cross workforce. The work we do every day to serve our communities would not be possible without their compassion and dedication. Learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer; visit redcross.org/volunteer today.
These quotes have been edited for clarity and grammar.
Since May of 1881, American Red Cross volunteers have been helping people prepare for the worst, assisting those affected by natural disasters and providing life-saving blood for patients in need. In honor of the heroes who perform these acts of selflessness each day, in 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the first March is Red Cross Month, a tradition that has been carried on by each President of the United States since.
The Red Cross Central California Region has hundreds of volunteers in multiple counties. However, no person’s contribution to their community should go overlooked. That’s why during Red Cross Month the Red Cross is recognizing the country’s everyday heroes. Those heroes who help disaster victims get on the road to recovery, give blood to a patient in need, brighten the day of a service member who is far from home, and take lifesaving CPR/AED/First Aid classes in order to assist someone having a medical emergency.
This willingness by people to donate their time and efforts to help others in need is what makes Red Cross such a special organization. During Red Cross month there are several ways to get involved in helping your community, whether you are a first time volunteer or a long time servant for your community.
One way to get involved is through the Home Fire Campaign. In Fall 2014, the Red Cross set a goal to reduce fire deaths and injuries by 25% over the next five years. Since then, volunteers have spread out across neighborhoods to teach people about fire dangers and provide free smoke alarms to those in need, all in hopes of preventing tragedy. In March, volunteers will meet in Visalia (March 12th), Winton (March 19th), and Santa Barbara (March 19th) to install free smoke alarms and educate families on the importance of fire safety. You can sign up to volunteer for these one day events and help build stronger communities.
Another way to get involved is through the donation of life-saving blood. This includes blood drives at Thousands Oaks Inn (March 7th), Moorpark College (March 8th), Oxnard College (March 8th), Rancho Santa Suzanna Community Center (March 11th), and Ventura City Hall (March 15th). Visit redcrossblood.org to find an upcoming drive near you.
In San Luis Obispo, join the Red Cross along with Pacific Gas and Electric Company and El Dorado Broadcasting for the annual Preparedness Expo on March 12. Bring the family out for a day of fun and learning, so you’ll be ready for earthquakes, fires, zombies, and more!
Friends of the Red Cross in the Santa Barbara area are invited to attend a Red Cross Month reception and happy hour at Benchmark Eatery on Wednesday, March 16 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also keep an eye on State Street from March 11 through 18, as our traditional Red Cross banners will be waving proudly to mark the occasion.
So join us in honoring everyday heroes like our Red Cross volunteers by celebrating Red Cross Month. Whether it’s through a random act of kindness, making a donation, or participating in volunteer opportunities, take a moment with us this March to celebrate this important work.
For more information on upcoming Red Cross Central California events visit and how to get involved in American Red Cross month, visit redcross.org/centralcalifornia.
American Red Cross Giving Day kicked off early this morning and we’re asking everyone: Are you all in?
The local Red Cross works hard everyday throughout Central California. Whether it’s helping residents affected by home fire or getting a service member home to see their loved ones, the Red Cross is there to help.
Last year the Red Cross Central California Region:
responded to over 500 home fires
mobilized nearly 2,000 volunteers
provided over 25,000 services in our community
and trained almost 50,000 people in CPR, First Aid, AED, and other life-saving skills.
The afternoon sun was beating down on the asphalt as Heather McDowell walked across the parking lot towards the Camarillo Red Cross office. She entered the building and was greeted warmly by the volunteer in the reception area. It was time for a shift change, and it was Heather’s turn to assist at the front desk.
Many people know Red Cross volunteers for their disaster relief efforts, but may not realize the thousands of volunteer hours that are put in every year behind the scenes. Front desk volunteers play an integral role in the day to day operations at local Red Cross offices around the world.
Heather joined her volunteer colleague behind the front desk and got the run down the office happenings for the day: expected visitors, current local disasters, and any new administrative tasks that need to be completed.
Heather has cared for people her entire life, working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for the elderly with cognitive memory problems.
“After retiring, I had a strong desire to help individuals in need during crisis situations,” said Heather.
Just then the phone rang; Heather picked it up and warmly greeted the caller. It was an elderly woman who had lost her home in a fire and was looking for assistance. Heather instantly made the caller her top priority, offering words of comfort, collecting resources and contacts to make the woman’s recovery plan as easy as possible.
“A caseworker was immediately assigned and although I’m not sure what the final outcome was, I know we were able to step in and help her and her family through this very difficult and painful time,” said Heather, “One of the most excellent virtues that I like so much about the American Red Cross is their compassion, caring, consideration for others and friendliness – every person!”
Volunteers like Heather McDowell are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian services in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 – 18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.
It was about lunchtime when Jamie Winters walked in the Fresno Red Cross office. As usual, there was a flurry of activity and excitement in the air as volunteers and employees were prepping for a weekend full of fundraising and preparedness events throughout the chapter.
Jamie plays an important but often behind the scenes role in her local office. With over 90% of the Red Cross workforce ran by volunteers, an intricate database is needed to manage information like training, communications, and volunteer opportunities. Volunteer Intake Specialists like Jamie work with volunteers from the day they express interest in signing up all the way through their training and beyond. On this day Jamie was helping to prepare for an upcoming volunteer orientation.
“When they register and arrive for orientation, we have the opportunity to learn what each person is interested in, what programs would be a good fit for their skills, personalities and schedules while guiding those that may be unsure which direction they want to go,” said Jamie, “After the orientation ends and all questions are answered, these new volunteers continue forward on their path to volunteer success and fulfilling the Red Cross mission.”
Jamie made it to her cubicle and started up the computer. She checked her email and answered some volunteer questions before logging into Volunteer Connection to access the sign up list for the orientation. The list showed a wide range of new volunteers: from youth volunteers to retirees, part-time students to full-time workers, corporate executives to custom service associates.
“There is a common humanitarian cause that is threaded through all Red Cross members which makes working together flexible and fluid yet strong and determined,” said Jaime, “I have noticed instant trust in these groups and when we aim and focus on eliminating human suffering together, our own social barriers come down and we create synergy that transforms lives on a daily basis. To me, it doesn’t get much more memorable than that. The Red Cross mentality is something I will never forget, and will always carry with me.”
Jamie printed off her sign in sheet, collected the freshly printed volunteer manuals, and headed to the classroom for her orientation.
Volunteers like Jamie Winters play a large role in Red Cross efforts to provide humanitarian service in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 – 18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.
We’re excited to begin this new adventure as a way to showcase the great work of our Red Cross team right here in Central California. You can look forward to stories, news, tips, and more from Red Crossers throughout or new ten county region. Submissions from volunteers, employees, clients and partners are encouraged, so if you have an idea for a blog, just let us know!
It’s no coincidence that we’re launching this blog during National Volunteer Week. Starting tomorrow, we’re sharing a series of stories to recognize different volunteers in our region who work every day to make Central California a safer and more resilient community.
“A Day in the Life of a Volunteer” will showcase the different roles that volunteers play during a typical day with the Red Cross. From early morning disaster responses to fundraising and everything in between, volunteers make up well over 90% of the Red Cross workforce.
The volunteers featured in this series are real and their stories are based on true events. We hope it will give readers an inside glimpse at the day in a life of a volunteer, and inspire others to find ways to improve their own communities.
Make sure to enter your email address on this page and hit “follow” to get these amazing stories sent right to your inbox. Also take a moment to visit our Central California Instagram account for extra content that you won’t see anywhere else!
We look forward to sharing our Red Cross stories with you, and hope that you’ll join us on this blogging adventure!
Regional Director of Communications