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50 Years with the Red Cross ... and Counting

Maxine Cleveland Started Volunteering in 1964
The work we do is meaningful and productive, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

Maxine Cleveland’s first experience with the Red Cross was in 1962, when she gave blood for the first time. Her father was her role model, and since he often gave blood, she didn’t think twice about donating. She started volunteering with the Red Cross in 1964 at blood drives, and 50 years later at the age of 70, she is still a dedicated Red Cross volunteer.

"The Red Cross performs a fabulous service for the public and gives excellent training to its volunteers,’’ Cleveland said. “I enjoy the people who volunteer with the Red Cross, because they are dedicated people. The work we do is meaningful and productive, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”

Maxine – or as she prefers, “Max” – grew up in Brooklyn. She first came to Cortland when her sister went to college at SUNY Cortland, and she liked the area so much that she thought it would be a great place to raise her children.

She studied education at Cortland Teacher’s College which is now SUNY Cortland, and did her student teaching in the Cortland area. One day, she decided to donate at the community college in Auburn. She recalled that when she went to register, she couldn’t remember her phone number. The volunteer thought she was nervous because it was her first time giving blood.

“I had just moved to Auburn to start my student teaching,” Cleveland said with a smile. “That is why I couldn’t remember.”

Cleveland was responsible for starting blood drives at DeRuyter Central School, where she taught 5th and 6th for 40 years. She likes to see students give blood because she hopes they will become life-long blood donors.

In her 50 years as a Red Cross volunteer, she has seen many changes with the blood collection services.

“The Red Cross is now more regulated; for example they ask more questions at registration,” she said. “Unfortunately, fewer people are giving blood, but there is still an urgent need for blood donations.”

If you meet Cleveland, you would never guess she had done anything for 50 years, let alone volunteer for the Red Cross. She has a youthful appearance and a reassuring bright smile, making it easy to understand why she was so popular with her students.

Although she retired from teaching in 2005, she is still a busy volunteer who enjoys being active in her community. In addition to the Red Cross, Cleveland is a volunteer with Cortland Regional Medical Center, on the Board of the Parks Alumni House at SUNY Cortland, and does a variety of volunteering at DeRuyter Central Schools throughout the year.

As she moves forward in her 51st year with the Red Cross, Cleveland remains a role model for anyone who would like to give back to the community by becoming a volunteer.

“I like to keep busy,” she said. “It is so fulfilling to volunteer. Doing good for others has its own rewards.”

If you would like to be a volunteer with the American Red Cross, click here for more information. Be sure to select “Central NY Region – Cortland County Branch.”

The Red Cross is in need of volunteers for emergency services and also blood drives. For more information call the Cortland office at 607-753-1182.

Michele Whalen is the Branch Manager for the American Red Cross of Cortland County. She can be reached at or by calling the office at 50 Clinton Avenue at 753-1182.