The American Red Cross of Wisconsin has assisted the Badger state with aid and resources for more than 100 years. By providing disaster relief, educational programs, support for military members, and lifesaving blood products, the American Red Cross is a health and safety pillar for communities both domestically and across the world.

Red Cross Volunteers

During the height of the pandemic, the Red Cross of Wisconsin supported the Near West Side by providing personal protective equipment, antibody testing, and convalescent plasma to those in need. For the past couple of years, the Red Cross has directly attacked COVID-19 disparities by supporting the community through programs like a mental health hotline, and even went above and beyond in providing shelter opportunities within local hotels to avoid dangerous transmission. Creativity has gone a long way in mitigating risk throughout the pandemic and the Red Cross has had to find resourceful ways to adjust, prompting innovative ideas such as local breweries stepping up to host blood drives when the more common school drives were no longer a viable option.

Justin Kern, Chief Communications Officer of the Wisconsin region, exemplifies the culture of the Red Cross through his dedication to empowerment and equality, he emphasizes human connection to be the largest driver behind Red Cross’s mission. Just last month, a devastating fire on the 3700 block of W. Wells Streets, displaced dozens of apartment tenants near Merrill Park. During this challenging time, the American Red Cross of Wisconsin brought dignity and comfort to Milwaukee residents by establishing a shelter and providing other basic needs. Especially in times of hardship, the Red Cross connects people to the positive environments that surround them. One resident, Lisa White, who lost nearly all of her belongings in the apartment fire, connected with a Red Cross volunteer and shared, that even though times were tough she knew that everything happening was only temporary. This resident sees the end of her 32 year stay at the W. Wells apartments as a “new beginning” and views the Red Cross as a symbol of hope. Miss. White, with a smile on her face and trust in her heart, exclaims “the Red Cross doesn’t leave anyone behind”. Another victim of the apartment fires, Antionette Valentine celebrated her 62nd birthday in a Red Cross shelter and was unexpectedly met with cake, song, friendship, and love, which made her day and solidified the displacement as just another part of her story.

Antionette Valentine celebrates her birthday

In the span of a week, the American Red Cross of Wisconsin provided 65 overnight shelter stays, served 386 meals and snacks, brought 57 health and mental health resources to displaced residents, deployed 32 Red Cross disaster workers, and responded to fires affecting 159 people, including the fire at the W. Wells Street apartments.


Red Cross shelters for displaced community members

Though Red Cross offers various lifesaving services, blood donation still stands at the core of their mission and the Red Cross continues to provide 40% of the nation’s blood supply. As the Red Cross’s work continues in the community, Justin hopes to communicate the reality that more than 90% of what they do is possible through the work of volunteers. As Milwaukee continues to strive towards better ways of assisting those in need, he emphasizes the value of blood diversity and an increased opportunity to target acute communities affected by specific health concerns.

Justin Kern has a passion for supporting his neighbors, click below to hear about his vision for the future of Milwaukee regarding health and safety:

To learn more about the Red Cross, their upcoming events, and ways to volunteer, check out their website at: or download the American Red Cross App to track where your life-saving blood is being used!

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