Twenty-two years ago, Pete Duffy asked Joe Pereles, “Joe what are you doing to give back to the community?” Joe explained to Pete that he was very busy with his law practice in St. Louis and his family. Pete repeated his question and Joe asked Pete what he would suggest. Pete answered, “The American Red Cross.”
As a result of that conversation, Pete and his wife, Rosemary, who both volunteered with the Red Cross, put Joe in touch with Lori Winters, the head of volunteer services at that time. Joe started his volunteer service by negotiating shelter agreements with St. Louis Area churches and synagogues in order to provide vital shelter arrangements when the need arose. Joe was also interested in assisting with fundraising and helped develop a program where small businesses were asked to “Save the Day” for families needing assistance during times of disaster.
On February 6, 1992, Joe realized how fundamental the Red Cross is to the fabric of our nation. That morning he attended a financial development meeting at the St. Louis Chapter and then headed back to his office. An hour later, Joe received a call that a plane had crashed next to the Drury Inn in Evansville, Indiana. Nine people were killed in the incident. Within two (2) hours after receiving the call Joe arrived at the crash site, and the first thing he saw was a Red Cross emergency response vehicle. He was comforted that the Red Cross was first on the scene helping company employees, hotel guests and the emergency responders on the scene. It was a pivotal moment for Joe.
Joe increased his involvement and became a Board member for the St. Louis Area Chapter in 1995 and eventually served as Board Chair. He has also served on the Board and later Board Chair of the Missouri-Illinois Blood Region. Both Joe and his daughter Natalie are blood donors, with Joe having given over 100 units. Like other Americans, Joe’s family has been involved in the Red Cross. His father volunteered to help fight fires while in college at MIT in Massachusetts and the Red Cross provided meals. His father-in-law volunteers every week at a local blood donation site.
Joe has seen the Red Cross respond to extraordinary events in the past few years. Hurricane Katrina’s impact was eight times larger than any previous natural disaster. After Katrina, Joe was a member of a lessons learned task force that helped to improve Red Cross response methods.
Joe believes that it is important to put your money where your mouth is. “You cannot ask anyone to give time and money” says Joe, “unless you give yourself.” Joe and his wife, Brenda, have had the Red Cross in their estate plan for as long as he can remember. The Pereles’ believe that they should support their “charity of first choice” currently and in the future, and by making a bequest through their revocable living trust, they are doing just that. Joe and Brenda want their planned gift to help the Red Cross to continue to provide vital services.