The American Red Cross “Salute to Service” Gala will be here before you know it – on Saturday, October 18, 2014, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of military, government, corporate and community leaders will attend the Gala, which symbolizes the historical relationship between the Red Cross and military members and families.
We’ve shared recent interviews with co-chairs J.R. Clark, Partner, Squire Patton Boggs LLP and Donna Cooper, President, Pepco Region, Pepco Holdings LLC, who are passionate about the Red Cross’ mission and excited for the “Salute to Service” Gala.
Now, we’re happy to share a recent interview with Linda Mathes, CEO of the American Red Cross, National Capital Region, where she spoke passionately about the Red Cross and the crucial services the organization provides our community every day.
WashingtonExec: You’ve worked at the Red Cross for a while now. Would you share some of the highlights of your career as well as why you’re so passionate about this organization?
Linda Mathes: I have worked with the American Red Cross for many years, long ago as a kid who just believed what the Red Cross is all about and here, many years later, I still do. I’ve worked with the organization in a number of different capacities in Dallas, Texas, in Pittsburgh at the National headquarters, and here in the Metropolitan area community. I have seen the work of the Red Cross every day and every night. I see the impact of people giving their time in service and donating money to support our services.
I also see so many people donating blood; to experience what it’s like to have seen my own mother’s life saved with blood that was given by somebody who didn’t know mom, but knew they’d be saving the life of somebody someday — and they did. I see the impact of people learning to save a life through First Aid and CPR. I see the impact of the difference people make in the lives of the men and the women of the military and their families as volunteers help us support them with emergency and other services. So, I’m passionate about it because I see the difference that people can make in the lives of other people when they just get involved.
The nature of our work is 24/7, so we don’t stop just to plan a gala. Our work continues.
WashingtonExec: Why do you think the “Salute to Service” Gala should be on corporations’ lists this year? What makes it different from other black tie events that are happening in the area?
Linda Mathes: As I listen to a number of companies speak about why they are involved and believe it’s worth their time and their support, I hear them say that to them, time is precious, so they want to put their time and their resources where it will make a difference. The “Salute to Service” is a place where companies can make a difference with their financial support, because we turn financial support into service immediately for people in the kinds of ways I just shared with you. It’s an opportunity to be in the room with other corporate as well as community and government leaders in this community.
Companies want to be associated with credible, highly respected organizations. Red Cross is truly on the top of that list, one of the most highly respected, admired organizations in the country, in this community, in the world. It’s a place where, in a way, companies can be engaged in a way that makes a difference to their employees. Companies want to be places where their employees want to be as well. I’ve seen and heard companies speak about how it makes a difference for their employees to be involved with “Salute to Service.” This event is unique in a number of ways. It includes this big celebration of people who make a difference in the lives of other people, in the lives of our community. Companies want to be a part of that.
WashingtonExec: It sounds like companies have a lot to gain by becoming involved with, and attending, the Gala. Why is “Salute to Service” so meaningful for the Red Cross?
Linda Mathes: This is an event that celebrates and honors people who make a difference and who help carry out the mission of the Red Cross. It’s really a time to celebrate these people. Also, it’s an event that raises money. We sell tickets and tables — we have a fantastic silent auction and a live auction at the event — and we turn that money immediately into service.
It’s also a way of raising awareness for people as to what the Red Cross does in this community and other communities every day, every night. A lot of people leave the “Salute to Service” Gala expressing that they’ve had an “aha” experience because they’ve learned so much about what the Red Cross does that they didn’t know beforehand. Well that can help us engage more people and serve more people if they know what’s available to them through the Red Cross.
The event is also a way of raising volunteers. The nature of our work and workforce is such that we are totally dependent on people giving of their time as well as their financial support, as well as their blood to do what the Red Cross is all about. We’re always looking for more volunteers and the event is a way of honoring our volunteers and also helping to recruit even more.
I’d say it’s also meaningful in that we particularly honor the men and the women of the military and their families for all they do, for all of us. And it’s meaningful to honor them and to encourage other people in the community to honor them, think about them, and do something to support them through the Red Cross or through some other organization. The men and women of the military and their families are, in many ways, unsung heroes and this evening and this event is a way of highlighting what they do for all of us.
WashingtonExec: That ties in very nicely to my next question, which is: Will you tell us a bit about this year’s honorees?
Linda Mathes: We just have an amazing, inspiring honoree this year. Four major honorees, one of them is the Secretary of the Army the Honorable John McHugh, who’s given us a lifetime of service to others in elected office as well as his current position now as Secretary of the Army. He’s got many years yet to go, but we want to take the time to honor him for what he’s done for so many people.
A second honoree is the Honorable Charlene Drew Jarvis. Charlene has been a prominent figure in our community for many years. She was a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, an elected position. She also served as President of Southeastern University. She’s been a leadership volunteer with the American Red Cross for a long time, currently serves on our Chairman’s Advisory Council and her father made an incredible contribution to the whole issue of blood processing and storage. His contribution has had an incredible impact, and Charlene has continued his legacy by being involved in the community and giving of herself in numerous ways.
A third honoree is Dr. Inge Guen. Dr. Guen is a clinical psychologist, and we’re honoring her for her volunteer work. She’s a key member of our volunteer team at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Inge volunteers almost every day, working with the women and men of the military who are there at this hospital, typically recovering from PTS and other issues, where they benefit very much from the care and the attention and the compassion of volunteers like Inge. Inge, more than anybody I know, brings to life the conditions of the wounded who have served on behalf of all of us. She’s just a beautiful human being and we’re excited to honor her.
Our fourth honoree is Lt. General Patricia Horoho, who is the first woman Surgeon General of the Army. The Red Cross honored her pretty soon after September 11 for some heroic acts she carried out at that time. But since then, and even before, she’s done so much, particularly in the area of Army medicine, but not exclusively, to make a real difference in people’s lives. This year she will receive what’s called our Tiffany Circle Distinguished Woman Warrior Award.
WashingtonExec: What else is the American Red Cross focusing on this year?
Linda Mathes: There’s so much to do. Every day our team is out there, engaging the community and providing service to people. Today, tonight, tomorrow. As much as Salute to Service takes of our time and attention, it’s still the case that everyday our team is there for people who lose their homes to fires, and it happens every day. We’re still there supporting the men and women of the military at Walter Reed, Fort Belvoir, Andrews, meeting every plane load of wounded who come to Andrews three nights every week.
The nature of our work is 24/7, so we don’t stop just to plan a gala. Our work continues. We’re doing a lot of training to train people in how to plan for emergencies, how to be prepared for disasters, we must do that. As you look at the world around us, there’s just some compelling reasons, all of us must take the time to make sure our families, our loved ones are prepared for whatever kind of emergencies can unfold today, tomorrow, next week. So there’s much to do and we’re eager for even more people to pitch in and help us get it done.
WashingtonExec: I love how you said your work can’t stop just to plan a gala, because it’s true, there are disasters and emergencies that will continue no matter what we have on our plate.
Linda Mathes: Absolutely, they keep going and we do too. The need for blood is every day. We’ve got to encourage people to roll up their sleeves, literally, every day and take time out of busy schedules to call, make appointments, sign up and donate blood. There are people, as we’re talking right now, who are having an experience whereby they need blood.
I also want to get in a message of thanks. Truly, this community is very responsive. People in this community pitch in to help in a variety of ways and our work would not be possible if it were not for literally thousands of people, young people, older people, who pitch in and give some time out of their days or weeks to pitch in and give money from a bake sale, or money from a corporate event, dollars of all sizes we are able to turn into service. And then there are people in the midst of busy days donate blood. So we are absolutely grateful on behalf of the thousands of people who benefit.
We have many opportunities available for people to help them prepare, to help them be engaged, to help them with their families. A lot of information is accessible online, and any member of my team is happy to talk with anyone about how we can shape a partnership or relationship, a way of supporting them. So from our website to phone calls and email, we’re accessible 24/7.