After 25 years as a military spouse, Red Cross volunteer Susana Rendón knows the ins and out of military life up close and personal and can anticipate the unforeseen hurdles along the way. She says that the challenges are great for military families but the Red Cross is there to help.
After relocating to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, a new state and community, during the height of COVID for her husband’s assignment with the Army, the move left Rendon disconnected and searching for something greater. Rendón says that she’s used to working a full-time job but, like many military spouses often do, she found securing employment too challenging this time. “It’s not easy to find employment when you aren’t going to live at a place for very long. It’s a common struggle for many of us,” she said.
Rendón’s used this time at Ft. Knox to channel her energy into volunteering with the Red Cross, finding passion by helping at the Warrior Warehouse, a facility that allows military families to shop at no cost for needed items including clothing, furniture, baby items and other key necessities. She says the Warrior Warehouse can make all the difference for many families, particularly younger parents who are often most in need or maybe juggling their spouse’s deployment with small children and without community support.
She says that connecting with those young families and showing them that “we care and we are here” makes a difference.
In this role, she said she’s most proud of the assistance she and her colleagues provided a veteran named Carlito, who was homeless and struggling to care for his 80-year-old mother. After receiving housing assistance in Louisville, the Warrior Warehouse was able to furnish his new two-bedroom apartment with gently used items donated from the Ft. Knox community. Rendon says that delivering the items and setting them up in Carlito’s new home meant so much to her.
“He and his mother were so humble and appreciative. The work was helping us too. Volunteering for the Red Cross is amazing for the mind and soul,” she said.
When the Mayfield Tornado decimated Kentucky in December of 2021, Rendón and her colleagues were ready to answer the call. “One little girl stays in my mind from that disaster response. We provided her with new shoes and a Happy Meal. She was so happy and oblivious to all of the dismay around her. She looked up at me with the biggest smile on her face even though she lost everything including her home, and was now living in a recreation center,” she said. Rendon says the moments of humanity matter and that that volunteering is simply about showing people you care about them.
“People don’t have to try and figure out everything on their own. Someone is always there to pick them up at their darkest hours and lend a hand,” she said.
Rendón’s service was recently recognized by Army officials when she was named the 2022 South Central Kentucky Red Cross Volunteer of the Year at Fort Knox. During the past year, she volunteered over 1,000 hours. Fort Knox Garrison Commander Col. Lance O’Bryan lauded her service and thanked her for her commitment.
“Your steadfast professionalism has left an enduring impact on the Soldiers, civilians and Families of our community,” O’Bryan said. “Thank you for all you do.”
Rendón says that her work with the Red Cross has been a gift and provides the purpose she needs in everyday life. “Helping military families helped me mentally, physically and socially,” she said.
She says that these personal stories — of Carlito and the little girl in Dawson Springs — stick with her during challenging times. “Knowing that you’re able to help people in need is what it is all about. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment,” she said.
After receiving new orders, Rendón and her family are once again moving this summer this time to Great Lakes, Michigan. She plans to continue her volunteer work with military families and the local community.