American Red Cross North Jersey Region volunteer Janet George Murnick was honored for her exceptional service over the past decade with the Quinn Award at the annual Celebrate Red! gala.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Janet deployed as a volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps of New Jersey to a 7,000-person shelter operated by the Red Cross in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she heard stories of survivors striving to make sense of what had become of their homes, their families and their communities. Each morning for three weeks, Janet walked among the rows of cots and talked with shelter residents willing to share their stories.
“I heard stories from a forty five year-old women left alone to care for her family, from parents who had not yet found their children and from a woman whose husband had died the day before who was trying to hide her grief from her young daughter and elderly mother,” Janet recalled. “But most of all I heard stories about the American Red Cross and how volunteers had helped them, sheltered them, reunited them, and given them hope.”
Janet returned from Louisiana with a desire to be part of the humanitarian group she had heard so much about. She soon became a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team responding to home fires and other disasters to help those in need.
In 2007, however, Janet found her true calling was Service to the Armed Forces (SAF). At the age of 54, her brother deployed to Kuwait, Iraq as a naval reservist to share his skills as a critical care anesthesiologist in a military intensive care hospital. He sent letters home weekly, writing about his “kids,” aged 18 to 35, who were under his care after traumatic injuries. Some he escorted to Germany for continued treatment. For others, all he could do was sit by their bedside with the chaplain.
Through her brother’s chronicles, Janet gained a keen understanding of the mental and physical hardships these wounded men and women had undergone and would face when they returned to the U.S. She set out to find what she could do to help them.
She became a Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces volunteer and began assisting at a nearby VA Hospital where she was assigned to the pharmacy to help veterans with their medications. She heard a lot of their stories and was able to better understand their needs.
Janet started to recruit more volunteers to help plan activities to bring joy to former service members. She appealed to anyone who would listen: her friends in the community, folks at the library, and baristas at the coffee shop.
Today, thanks in part to Janet’s efforts, 83 new youth and adults are supporting Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces activities in the North Jersey Region. They organize ice cream socials, conduct birthday parties, plant gardens, and decorate holiday trees in veteran centers and nursing homes. They help feed those who have difficulty feeding themselves and bring therapy dogs to visit those who are lonely. The volunteers assist at events like wheelchair sports competitions and arrange makeover events for women in trauma units. They sit by the side of those who are terminally ill and have no family, so that no vet will die alone.
“It is heartwarming to see how Janet and her fellow SAF volunteers bring comfort, companionship and joy to the men and women who have served our country,” said Terri Illes, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services director, American Red Cross North Jersey Region. “They are proud to give back to those who have given so much for our country.”
Passionate about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, Janet has served on a national committee to revise the Best Practices manual and is currently the Red Cross representative to the VA Medical Hospitals in Lyons and East Orange. Additionally, Janet became the first local member of the newly formed North Jersey Region Tiffany Circle in January of 2012 and later that year became the Chair. She is also an elected member of the Tiffany Circle National Council and currently serves on the New Jersey Crossroads chapter Board of Directors. A resident of Bernardsville, Janet’s contributions to her community stretch beyond the reach of the American Red Cross.
In addition to her successful 35 year career in the pharmaceutical industry and her current position as head of a startup company based in Newark, Janet is a member of the Board of the Friends of the Bernardsville Public Library. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Biological Physics from MIT.
Whether it be 1917 or 2015, the Red Cross continues to act as a beacon of hope for those in need thanks to the hard work of passionate and talented women. The North Jersey Region feels we are endlessly lucky to have Janet on our team.
SERVICE TO THE ARMED FORCES The unwavering commitment of the Red Cross to members of the U.S. military, its veterans and their families continues to grow and develop more than a century after Clara Barton first recruited nurses to support the U.S. Army. Today, the Red Cross is meeting the needs of a changing military and expanding services to veterans. Red Cross support of military members and their families enhances morale and contributes to increased operational capability in several ways.
The Red Cross provides critical services with a caring touch to men and women in all branches of the United States military, active duty personnel, reservists and members of the National Guard, and their families. Through our Service to the Armed Forces program, service men and women are eligible for three types of assistance beginning on the first day of enlistment: Emergency Services, Service to Military Families and Service to Military and Veterans Hospitals.
BECOME A VOLUNTEER Every single day, the Red Cross helps people in emergencies. Whether it’s one displaced family, thousands of disaster victims, or providing care and comfort to an ill or injured service member or veteran, or support to a military family member, our vital work is made possible by people like you. It is through the time and care of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things. The Red Cross is always looking for people with various backgrounds, talents and skill levels. For more information or to register as a volunteer, visit redcross.org.