Profiles for National Latino Heritage Month
Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is National Latino Heritage Month and the American Red Cross is celebrating by recognizing the many Latino employees, volunteers and donors who give their talent, time and treasure to the Red Cross humanitarian mission.
Initially observed as a week beginning in 1968 and later expanded in 1988 to a 30-day event, National Latino Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The Red Cross witnesses these contributions every day in communities across the country, as Latinos provide comfort to disaster victims, teach lifesaving classes, support military members and their families, and donate blood to someone in need.
The Red Cross is proud to be a part of the rich Latino heritage and tradition in the United States and even more proud of the extraordinary people who mirror the diverse community we proudly serve.
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By Gene Jeffers
“I love that my work with Red Cross makes a difference.”
“When I was younger, my family turned to the Red Cross for help,” said Myra Valle, Director of Services to the Armed Forces and International Services at the Los Angeles Red Cross. “Red Cross made a difference for us back then, and I am proud to do the same today for other military families and our international communities.”
The military world has always been a part of Myra’s family. She has a brother and sister who served in the military.
“It was challenging at times,” she said. “We would take care of my sister’s children while she was on duty overseas.”
For a number of years, Myra herself supported the military, first as a volunteer, then as a paid staffer working for the US Army and the National Guard. She soon became a trainer for the Reserves and spent a lot of time on the road.
“That was a little intimidating, I had to learn all the symbols on the uniforms, how the military worked. My sister was a big help, teaching me to decode all those symbols.”
When the Red Cross position opened in Los Angeles, Myra knew it would be a great fit, not to mention it would bring her back home. She applied, was hired and soon was put in charge of the region’s wide range of services to the military and their families, and to the needs of people around the world.
“Among the most important, but certainly not the only, support we provide to service members and their families are Red Cross Emergency Notifications,” Myra said. “When someone in the military is away from home and trouble arises, the Red Cross is the channel through which that person is notified. No matter how far away. No matter where. No matter what time of day or night.”
In such situations, the Red Cross independently verifies the emergency, which enables the service member’s commander to make a decision regarding emergency leave. Red Cross then provides transportation assistance and/or financial assistance if needed to ensure the servicemember gets back to their family quickly.
“That is how Red Cross helped my family,” Myra said. “My sister was serving overseas in Kosovo when a beloved aunt was suddenly hospitalized and not expected to live long. We called the Red Cross and they swung into action. They made sure my sister got home in time to say goodbye. Can you put a value on that? Is it any wonder that I now help other families facing the same problems?”
Myra is quick to note that while Red Cross provides a lot of support to servicemembers, veterans and their families, it is not part of or funded by the government.
“As an independent nonprofit, we rely on public donations, although we are one of a very few that has a Congressional Charter, part of which mandates Red Cross support for the military and their families,” she said. “It is both an obligation and a source of pride in the work we do.”
In addition to emergency notifications, the Red Cross offers a range of confidential services to all members of the military, veterans and their families, connecting them to local, state and national resources through a network of chapters in communities across the US and offices on military installations worldwide. Military families turn to the Red Cross when they need emergency help with food, clothing and shelter, when they need referrals to counseling services (e.g., financial, legal, mental health) or respite care for caregivers, and a range of other resources to meet their unique needs.
“A good example is the Red Cross support program for women veterans that we conduct at the West LA Veterans Center,” Myra said. “I am proud to work with women living in the domiciliary at the center. They are struggling with a variety of issues, drug addiction, self esteem, poor health. They gave their all to the country, and now we have to give back.”
Along with Myra, a Red Cross volunteer clinician meets with the women every month.
“We try to help however we can,” Myra said. “Depending on their individual needs, we might help them get new clothing, hygiene and personal items. Sometimes it is just about being there, showing that someone cares. Working with these women make my life better. You get so deep into your day to day work it can get frustrating. Those moments when I sit with the group, when I see I can make a difference in their lives, those moments make it all worthwhile.”
Myra’s brief also includes delivering on a wide range of Red Cross International Services: reconnecting families separated by crises, helping to rebuild communities devastated by disasters, or working alongside health organizations to eliminate global disease, the International Services of the Red Cross works every day to provide relief.
“Here in Los Angeles, we have built relationships with a number of national consulates so when disasters strike overseas we are ready to respond,” Myra said. “It doesn’t matter where or when, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are prepared to act quickly.”
“That is what I really love about the Red Cross,” Myra says. “Our services are available to anyone and everyone, regardless of who they are or their situation. Rich, poor, long time resident or undocumented newcomer, military or civilian, Red Cross is here for you in the Los Angeles region and round the world. I love that I can help, love that my work with Red Cross makes a difference.”
Perfiles para el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Latina
El Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana se celebra del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre, y la Cruz Roja Americana reconocerá a los empleados, voluntarios y donantes hispanos que ofrecen su talento, tiempo y dedicación a la misión humanitaria de la Cruz Roja.
A principios, se observaba como una semana que comenzaba en 1968, y en 1988, expandió a un evento de 30 días. El Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana celebra las historias, culturas y contribuciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses cuyos antepasados vinieron de España, México, el Caribe, América Central y América del Sur.
Día a día, los hispanos brindan consuelo a las víctimas de desass, enseñan clases que salvan vidas, apoyan a miembros militares y sus familias, y donan sangre a comunidades de todo el país, la Cruz Roja es testigo de estas contribuciones.