Retired Teacher Turns Red Cross Volunteer and Educates over 1800 Children in Emergency Preparedness

Story by Chelsea White / Red Cross Cascades Region

Joanne Stone was a junior high school teacher for 40 years before retiring in 2008. She jumped into a few different volunteering roles and was referred to the American Red Cross by a friend in 2015. She’s found a home here ever since.

Joanne has volunteered in sheltering and mass feeding. She’s installed smoke alarms during our Home Fire Campaign. She has also been part of our Disaster Action Teams. But, she wanted to do something more so, Joanne joined the Preparedness team and began teaching Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro presentations.

The Pillowcase Project is an interactive program for children in grades 3 to 5 that aims to increase awareness of natural hazards, teach safety and emotional coping skills, as well as the importance of personal preparedness. Not only does Joanne prepare kids for disasters like earthquakes, but also how to stay safe if the students live in a wildfire zone in Oregon.

Joanne asks the class, “how many of you have done a fire drill at school?” and everyone raises their hands. Then she asks, “how many of you have done a fire drill at home?” and everyone keeps their hands down. By pointing out the importance of personal preparedness in this way, children can take these lessons home and share them with their families.

Prepare with Pedro is another interactive program for children in kindergarten through second grade that introduces the concept of emergency preparedness in a fun and educational way. Using storytelling, students can build muscle memory and learn basic coping skills. Joanne’s favorite activity in this program is to wave pieces of paper with the help of the teacher and pretend it’s smoke to teach the kids how to get low and get out in case of a home fire.

Joanne also serves on the Disaster Action Team, so she has first-hand experience of responding after a home fire and seeing the devastating results. She describes a particular response call when a young family lost everything and a three-year-old girl was supposed to have her birthday the next day.

Joanne remembers, “I was so glad I had a stuffed animal to give her in my car”, a small comfort from the Red Cross.

Joanne’s selfless volunteer work to educate children, install smoke alarms, and prepare the community has surely contributed to fewer future home fires and the Red Cross is incredibly grateful for her service. Joanne has over 1000 children through The Pillowcase Project and over 800 children in Prepare with Pedro! Just think of how many family members learned those lessons when the kids got home as well.

Joanne still remembers a sign on a building at her college that read “he who dares to teach must never cease to learn”. Taking that to heart, Joanne continues to learn additional volunteer roles and imparts her wisdom to so many others. You can learn and give back too by taking a class, getting prepared, and signing up to volunteer.

As Joanne says, “you just find the pieces and places that are your joy and the place you want to serve and Red Cross has got something that fits that spot”.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross by clicking HERE.