Nice to Meet You: Jolene Carpenter
The American Red Cross is well-known for its disaster response. From wildfires to tornadoes, and everything in-between, Red Crossers don the red vest to provide support and comfort to those affected. Next in our staff profile series is Jolene Carpenter, Disaster Program Manager for the Nebraska-Iowa Region.
Q: What does your title mean? A: My title of Disaster Program Manager means that I get the opportunity to provide the tools and resources to an amazing workforce here at the American Red Cross. This includes a wide variety of opportunities that include programs that I may or may not manage or be a subject matter expert on, but I can provide coaching and mentoring to those who need my guidance.
(Photo was taken before COVID-19)
Q: How long have you been with the Red Cross?
A: I just celebrated my ten-year anniversary on March 28th.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I most like that I work for an organization that provides dignity to those who are suffering at a time in their lives when they need support, guidance and comfort, and that we are able to do this work with the generosity of the donor dollar and by mobilizing the talents and gifts of a volunteer workforce.
Q: What do you listen to during the workday?
A: I usually have Spotify on in the background with my favorite 80’s playlist playing.
Q: What do you do when you aren’t working?
A: When I am not working you can usually find me camping with friends, cooking for my family, watching any sports that are on TV, listening to my favorite podcast, talking on the phone to one of my 5 children, or many family members or relaxing on my front porch swing with a magazine/book.
Q: What is the first thing you want to do when the pandemic is over?
A: Take my 86 year old mother to Taco Bell. I know that sounds simple, but she loves Taco Bell. She has been in lockdown for over a year, and we have been talking about just being able to take her out (safely) and get a $5.00 Chalupa Box. I can’t wait.
Q: What has most surprised you while working with the Red Cross?
A: Oh so many things have surprised me while working for the Red Cross. I would say the genuine gratitude of those we serve. I have been on so many deployments, and it always amazes me just how grateful people are after a disaster. Once you have lost everything, it puts life in perspective. Just to be alive and grateful for shelter, food, and basic necessities. That is when you see genuine gratitude in people.
Q: What is a Red Cross moment that has stuck with you?
A: I have so many, but the first one that popped into my head immediately as I read the question is the one I will share. I was deployed to Texas after Hurricane Harvey and had transitioned down to Corpus Christie after having been at a Logistic site in Hempstead, Texas working with the 5th Army North, a Unit of the Marines, and the Texas National Guard for about a week and a half. I arrived at a Baptist Church where we had set up a district headquarters, and I was going to be the Mass Care Lead moving forward. When I arrived I went to Staff Services and In-processed. As I was coming into the church an older man was in the parking lot and I nodded and said “Hi” as I walked into the building. When I finished with Staff Services I noticed the older man had made his way into the building and was looking lost. I asked him if I could help him. He shared that he had been living in his car since the Hurricane hit (three weeks ago) and was thinking about just ending it all and would I just pray with him. We sat in two chairs close by and we were just silent for about ten minutes together. He said he had been in our parking lot for hours hesitant to come into the building and when I said “Hi” to him he got the courage to come in and seek help. I alerted Disaster Mental Health and he was provided proper assistance. This moment has stuck with me, as I truly believe we are put in places for a reason.
Q: What do you wish people knew about working at the Red Cross?
A: I wish people knew that working at the Red Cross gives an individual the opportunity to see humanity at its best.
Q: Is there anything I didn’t cover that you’d like to include?
A: I would just like to add that I am honored every day to be able to surround myself with a workforce of both paid and volunteers who have time and talent and offer it selflessly to others in their greatest time of need. Over the last ten years, I have been able to travel to many areas after a disaster and it reinforces my belief that people are inherently good if given the opportunity to show you.
Are you looking to make a difference and help when disaster strikes? Look into volunteering with us at redcross.org/volunteer.