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American Red Cross of Alaska Volunteer Honored with Southcentral “Volunteer of the Year” Award for Outstanding Service to the Armed Forces

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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, December 22, 2016 — The American Red Cross of Alaska is proud to recognize the outstanding efforts of Anchorage volunteer Sheena Kessenich, through the Volunteer of the Year Award for Southcentral Alaska.

Kessenich is the Red Cross of Alaska Client Services Coordinator for the Services to the Armed Forces, and runs the statewide Emergency Communications case work program. The Red Cross Emergency Communications system is a congressional chartered program that the military uses to verify and deliver emergency communications between family members and command teams.

Kessenich supervises six other volunteers who complete case work for the Red Cross. Her duties include scheduling, training, retention, recruitment, quality assurance as well completing case work herself. Since Kessenich stepped in as a volunteer supervisor, case work has been completed efficiently, and there has been an increase in satisfaction numbers reported by service members and their families.

The Emergency Communications program is used while military members are deployed, and also when they need to be placed on emergency leave status while at home. The program includes a series of steps:

  1. Emergency message is initiated by a service member or family member
  2. The case is reviewed by the Red Cross
  3. A plan of action is determined
  4. The message is verified
  5. The message is delivered to the command team and then family follow up is completed

The American Red Cross does not authorize emergency leave for members of the United States military. The Red Cross role is to independently verify the emergency, enabling the service member’s commander to make an educated decision regarding emergency leave and then to provide transportation assistance and/or financial assistance if needed.

Kessenich was nominated for the award by Marie McQuillan, the Red Cross of Alaska Disaster Workforce Engagement Specialist, who said Kessenich’s hard work and determination touch the lives of everyone in our community.  “If it’s something that’s helping people, Sheena will just sink her teeth in, and go all in,” said McQuillan.

The Volunteer of the Year Award is a new honor allocated to one volunteer within each region of the American Red Cross of Alaska who exemplifies the mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering. Kessenich received the award at the Evening with The Red Cross event at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage on December 15, sponsored by the Red Cross Board of Directors and GCI.

Kessenich has been a volunteer with the Red Cross of Alaska since October, 2015. She lives with her husband, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brad Kessenich of the 611th Civil Engineer Squadron, and their son, Malak. She is a graduate student at Drexel University, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Applied Behavior Analysis.  

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at


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