Each year, the Red Cross holds an Annual Meeting for each region to elect new Board Members, thank and bid farewell to outgoing Board members, and to recognize accomplishments for the fiscal year. This year, 2017 was no exception. The event was held at NW Natural. The company generously donated their facility for our use and provided food and refreshments.
The 2017 Annual Meeting was a millstone marker – the celebration of our Region’s Centennial. We noted this achievement with centennial displays, including artifacts and a local Red Cross response timeline at the event.
A number of changes occurred during the 2017 Red Cross Cascades’ Region Annual Meeting. It was a great time to recognize and thank newly elected and outgoing board members for their outstanding commitment to the American Red Cross.
Jennifer Van Houten, a senior vice president with Wholesale Banking Risk Management at U.S. Bank, has assumed governance responsibility as new incoming Board Chair. Van Houten has served the Red Cross Cascades Region in a variety of capacities in the past five years, including as Vice Chair of the Board, Chair of the American Red Cross of the Cascades Capital Campaign for two years, and Chair of the Disaster Cycle Committee for a year.
Van Houten directs a diverse board comprised of 19 individuals representing a variety of companies in the Portland and Southwest Washington area. This summer, she welcomed seven newly elected members to the group:
- Scott Sullivan (Fred Meyer)
- Kelly Schweiger (KGW-TV)
- Jay Jewess (PGE)
- Brad Houle (Ferguson Wellman)
- Laxman Prakash (Standard Insurance)
- Kimberly Ovitt (OHSU)
- Tripp Robinson (Intel) – Previously a Red Cross board member; now an Honorary Board Member
“Our local board is comprised of individuals from many different industries across the metropolitan area. These leaders represent the business community and many industries that have the potential to be highly impacted in the event of a large-scale disaster,” said Van Houten.
“The role of our board members is twofold – to heighten the visibility for the Red Cross Cascades Region from a fund-raising perspective and to help our community prepare for the possibility of a major disaster or unanticipated, consequential event.”
Van Houten notes that current and outgoing board members have spent many years contributing in both capacities. “They speak at business resiliency workshops, host employee preparedness events and help install smoke alarms in neighborhood homes,” she said. “They give their time, personal resources and professional advice to help people and businesses in our community be safe and prepared.”
In addition to new members, five former board members have recently transitioned out of their responsibilities.
“We owe this group our deepest gratitude,” said Van Houten. “The changing of the board is a time for appreciation and recognition. On behalf of everyone on the board, we want to say ‘thank you’ to this group in particular for doing a tremendous job during their board tenure.”
- Shawn Narancich started his board service with the Red Cross in 2010 and has served as Board Chair since 2015. He has dedicated more than 200 hours to Red Cross board-related and other activities.
- Louisa Awbery joined the board in 2015. Louisa has dedicated more than 80 hours to board-related activities and has opened countless doors to help the Red Cross strengthen its partnership with Fred Meyer.
- Jim Meurer joined the board in 2015 and has dedicated more than 80 hours to board-related activities.
- Dave Lamb joined the board in 2010 and has dedicated more than 210 hours to board-related activities.
- Tripp Robinson joined the board in 2003 and has dedicated nearly 500 hours of volunteer service, including serving as a speaker at Red Cross business resilience events.
Part of the celebration included recognizing major events and achievements from the past year.
With help from our community partners, the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal, we installed 7,344 lifesaving smoke alarms. This is a truly incredible achievement resulting in five confirmed lives saved in Oregon and SW Washington because of Red Cross efforts. Throughout the nation, 260 lives have been confirmed saved, thanks to the Red Cross; and there are likely many more that have gone unreported.
Last fall, an explosion leveled a commercial and residential building in busy NW Portland. Our volunteers and staff were there to help, even earning a recognition award from Portland Fire and Rescue for our efforts to help people affected and to support first responders. And weeks after the explosion, a fire in a low-income apartment building resulted in the evacuation of 100 residents who had no place else to go. Yet again, within hours, the Red Cross rallied to help. We housed, fed and tended to the immediate needs of these people for weeks. Their gratitude was immeasurable, and several told us they were so deeply touched by the love of our volunteers that it inspired them to want to give back through the Red Cross, too.
In addition to recognizing outstanding achievements, we also recognized outstanding people, including three volunteers who have gone above and beyond to help the Red Cross.
Paola Landau was presented with the Exceptional Service Award, Heidi Shuford was presented with the Volunteer Leadership Award, and Jesus Montes-Lozano was presented with the Youth Leadership Award.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross. In our region, we have 2,635 dedicated, passionate, get-the-job-done volunteers serving our community in so many ways.
Over the past year, more than 264 volunteers deployed 463 times to large scale disasters across the country—in California, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida just to name a few ---leaving their families, lives and the comforts of home behind to help strangers in need.
This past year our volunteers helped 1,108 families in 716 separate disasters—from home fires to wildfires, floods and record-breaking winter storms – even a tornado. We operated shelters throughout the region - from a major apartment fire in downtown Portland to a large gas explosion in NW Portland and everything in between.