Karen Iwamoto is a mother, wife, volunteer and American Red Cross Tiffany Circle member. As we prepare to celebrate Red Cross National Youth Involvement month in November, we are honored to spotlight Karen and her commitment to youth.
Karen’s passion to work with children began after she became a mother and started volunteering in both her kids’ schools and within her local community. Karen loved that she could be hands-on and provide students with learning and leadership experiences through her involvement in the Parent Teacher Association and other schools groups; recently, she also began volunteer work with a local youth nonprofit.
After her children graduated, Karen wanted to keep working with youth and eventually became a member of the Red Cross Youth Services Committee. In this role, she learned about the disaster preparedness and leadership opportunities the Red Cross provides to children of all ages. Karen is now a trained Pillowcase Project volunteer, where she helps school-aged children to prepare for emergencies. She feels strongly about mentoring youth and encouraging them to become more involved in their community. She enjoys helping young people find their voice, pursue their passions, and become leaders.
Karen truly embraces the Red Cross mission to help anyone in need and does this through her philanthropy and her own time. She and her husband, Rick, have been Red Cross supporters since 1994, and for nearly three decades, Karen has enjoyed getting to meet new people and impact the mission in a variety of ways. She says that she appreciates the community of Red Cross “lifers” who spend all their time participating in “wonderful ways to help other people.”
Karen joined other Red Crossers in action during the Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign last year; the campaign aims to reduce home fire-related death and injury by installing free smoke alarms in homes that need them. She was shocked to realize how many people didn’t have working smoke alarms. She was even more blown away by the fact that the Red Cross, with help from volunteers, has already installed 2,156,983 smoke alarms and made 892,012 households safer since the campaign started in 2014.
“I love knowing the Red Cross is out there when people need help and that there are so many dedicated people involved,” she said.
Karen was recently touched when a close friend of hers from Lebanon had family and friends affected by the Beirut explosion on August 4, 2020; a cache of ammonium nitrate exploded, leaving much of the city in ruins and 203 people dead. In true Red Cross spirit, she asked, “how can I help?” and her friend mentioned the Red Cross. Karen was once again brought back to the Red Cross mission.
“I thought, ‘Wow, even across the world people are advocating to support the Red Cross because they're the ones who are out there helping them.’”
The Red Cross in Lebanon had their work cut out for them: in addition to 6,500 injured, approximately 300,000 residents were left homeless due to damage estimated at US$15 billion. She made generous financial contribution to help the relief effort there.
Karen has been a member of the Tiffany Circle for several years and was inspired to join through a friend. She attended a local Tiffany Circle event and began making connections with other women in the group; she was inspired by their stories, involvement, and deep compassion. Karen values her Tiffany Circle friendships and appreciates having the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the Red Cross mission first-hand.
Thank you, Karen, for being a valued Tiffany Circle leader and for your decades-long commitment to the Red Cross mission.