By Yasmeen Saadi
With every call she receives at the Red Cross chapter in Springfield, MO, front desk volunteer Linda Baskin’s wish is to be a voice of kindness, and for the person on the other end to feel better after talking with her.
Linda joined the Red Cross as a Disaster Services caseworker in February 2016. However, this role only lasted a month before she found her true calling with the phone.
Since then, Linda has been at the front desk answering calls from people in need of shelter, social workers in hospitals needing medical equipment, fire and disaster calls and more. In response, Linda is the connector, putting each person with those who can get them the assistance they need.
While she often is able to provide resources, Linda said that sometimes, beyond physical needs, people just want to talk to someone and have someone listen to them. One of her most memorable calls came from a woman who was having a hard time with her daughter and needed a bus ticket to bring her daughter home.
“I had to let her know that we couldn’t help her out with the bus ticket, but that I could give her a referral to the United Way and see if there was anything they could do,” Linda said.
“But the call was basically me listening to her, letting her just vent. We stayed on the phone for 45 minutes, and she told me all about her daughter and the way that she raised her daughter. She ended up telling me ‘I never thought that I would talk to someone that would actually care even though they couldn’t meet my need’.”
Linda’s care and concern for each person who calls comes from her empathy for their situation, since she had also once been in a place where she needed help. She decided that now she wanted to give back to those in need.
“I’ve been on the other end of that line and just needed different resources. And I've had people talk to me rudely and then I’ve had people that’ve talked to me nice,” Linda said. “And just going through some of those issues myself, I always wanted to be the person to give back to those people that are hurting even if I'm not able to do anything physically, but to be a kind voice for them to hear on the other end.”
Linda’s compassion for others also extends to the relationships she has built within her Red Cross family. Each year, her Red Cross chapter would have a picnic filled with laughter, food, prizes and stories.
One of Linda’s favorite memories with her Red Cross family began when she was called to the front by her chapter’ Disaster Services manager at one of their annual picnics.
“He said, ‘Here at the Red Cross, we have something we would like to give you,’” Baskin said. “And there it was, a Red Cross T-shirt that has American Red Cross in the front, and on the back it has imprinted on there: Lysol Linda.”
To someone outside the office, this nickname was a little confusing, but those around the office knew exactly what it meant. Before the pandemic, Linda went around disinfecting the office, spraying Lysol throughout the hallways.
And sure enough, that year not a single volunteer got the flu. Although she doesn’t credit herself with this achievement, Linda said getting the T-shirt made her feel pretty good.
Even during the pandemic with the office closed, Linda has continued answering calls from home and has kept in touch with other Red Cross volunteers by sending emails and reminders that she cares about them.
“I made sure they knew that I was still here, praying for everyone’s families, thinking of [them,]” Linda said. “[I left] little notes… Just little reminders that even though the office is closed, we can still be a part of the Red Cross family and I still think of you guys and I know you are working hard, so know that you’re in my prayers.”
In the future, Linda hopes to continue working with the Red Cross. She said the Red Cross mission of being there for the community and always giving back, no matter in what area, really resonates with her.
“I’ve learned that people are human, and just because they are homeless or they had a house fire, or whatever the reason is, I just learned that this could be me,” Linda said. “Red Cross truly cares. They follow up on their cases; they work hard. I got the lightest part of the job.”
Carrying herself with humility, joy, compassion and kindness, Linda Baskin is the perfect representation of the Red Cross mission of ensuring respect for everyone.