Red Cross VolunTEENS participate in various programs throughout the year, such as the Valentine's Day visit to patients at the Dorn VA Medical Center.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Red Cross is an organization that epitomizes the American spirit. Since its founding in 1881, the American Red Cross has not missed a beat in responding in all types of natural disasters and the emergency circumstances related to the casualties of war.

When these emergencies happen, we often see the Red Cross mentioned in headlines. However, here at Fort Jackson there are Red Cross staff and volunteers quietly working in our community doing day-to-day work such as assisting patients in our medical clinics or delivering emergency communications to service members.

In 1917, in response to an initiative to get youth involved, the Red Cross founded the Junior Red Cross. Continuously from that time forward, youth and the American Red Cross have been partners. Scientific studies show that young adults and teens who volunteer learn to make life-long service an essential part of a balanced life. Following this trend, many high schools have made a requirement for community service hours prior to graduation. Colleges also value community service in choosing from applicants for entrance. Service helps build good character, develop leadership skills and make teens stand out among their peers.

At Fort Jackson, the youth organization, now called American Red Cross "VolunTEENS" is thriving, and making real contributions. The school year program, which runs from September to June, is for teens ages 13 through the end of high school.

Monthly service projects are the center of the activities, but fun, opportunities for leadership and new experiences are included as well. This past year has seen this group assist the Fire House festival, the community tree lighting and a fun run, visit with the VA residents. They also plan to again help at the South Carolina Special Olympics. They have also done two education programs, one on Influenza and one on preparing for disasters. The Valentines event when the VolunTEENS delivered hand-made Valentine cards to patients at the Dorn VA Medical Center is a highlight for the group.

Many of the youth are especially grateful for an opportunity to visit with heroes from past conflicts. The elderly patients enjoy the youth as well. In January, the youth, for the first time, attended a class in CPR which will prepare them to help in an emergency.

During the summer months, VolunTEENS work at Moncrief Army Community Hospital or the Red Cross office doing a variety of things to help out. This program provides opportunities for teens interested in the medical field valuable service hours they can add to a resume or college application. They, gain experience, and give back to the Fort Jackson community.

The summer VolunTEEN program is open to volunteers aged 14 to 19 years old. Interested youth can pick up an application at the Fort Jackson Red Cross Office or can request an application by emailing JacksonRedCross@yahoo.com beginning 2 April. Slots are limited and preference is given to those students interested in medical careers.

Orientation for the summer program is scheduled for the beginning of June and teens are expected to commit to volunteer for about six weeks.

The teens love to talk about why they find their VolunTEEN experiences valuable, Johanna Deguit recently discussed the VA visit.

She said, "This past February the VolunTEEN service activity was held at the VA Dorn Assisted Living Center. This particular service activity is favored among many of the teens because the aim of the activity is to personally visit and thank Veterans for their service to our country. Before going to the VA hospital, all of the VolunTEENs personally hand- make valentines for the veterans. The valentines include a hand-decorated card with a heartfelt thank you and a poem within a bag filled with goodies. This is one of my favorite activities because each year I am reminded of how blessed I am to live in a country where people are willing to put their lives on the line for the safety and freedom of others. Being president of the VolunTEEN program, I will truly miss being a part of this rewarding organization when I go away to college next year".

Parents also see the experience as positive, helping their children learn to be responsible and grow as leaders. Mary Reardon says that her 14 year old daughter, Megan was attracted to the Red Cross VolunTEEN program because of her exposure to the Red Cross when she was younger. She went along with her mom gave blood and she was fascinated by the media coverage of the Red Cross responding to local emergencies and national disasters. Megan has been involved in the VolunTEEN program for three years and this year is one of the officers. She particularly enjoys doing events that support the military community. Her favorite event has been when she worked at the "Hotoberfest" (the annual Fire Prevention-themed kids carnival). She has known the Fire Fighters since she was a young child since she is an alumnus of the FJ child development programs. This made this event a real treat.

As a volunteer leader, Mary says she appreciates that the Red Cross invests in mentoring young leaders. They provide structure and supervision yet allow the youth to lead and make most decisions. The VolunTEEN program provides committed youth to step up, support, and develop recurring programs with a direct impact to the local community. It has been a pleasure to see these young adults develop interpersonal, leadership and administrative skills to succeed in the future endeavors.

Interested youth can call the Fort Jackson Red Cross Office at 751-4329, email Jacksonredcross@yahoo.com or drop by the office located at 9810 Lee Road. Applications for the summer program are available beginning 2 April 2013, due back in May. Red Cross is also looking for an adult to help with the summer program. Orientation will be in June. Membership for the School year program will be re-opening in the fall. Interested teens are welcome to join at that time and participate in the community service projects and fun.

Page last updated Thu March 14th, 2013 at 10:01