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Volunteer Travels to the Ends of the Earth to Tell the Stories of Those Impacted by Disasters

By Ashley Peterson-DeLuca


“I’m a storyteller. When I’m deployed, I tell the stories of families who are impacted by national disasters,” explains Peter Teahen, a Red Cross volunteer with almost 30 years of experience. For 22 of those years, he’s served as a spokesperson, working to raise awareness and build engagement after disasters through the media.


March is Red Cross Month, a time when the organization celebrates those who make an impact through volunteering, blood donation and financial support. Teahen does all of those. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Eastern Iowa Chapter of the Red Cross, where he helps advance the mission through serving as an ambassador, raising funds and connecting with the community.


Teahen is also a supporter of Red Cross efforts to collect lifesaving blood by regularly hosting blood drives at his business. He understands the scope of work of the Red Cross and the power that volunteering, donating blood and offering financial support can have on the Red Cross mission to help those who need assistance.


Peter Teahen is a proud board member and supports the Red Cross in numerous ways.

Answering the Call

Teahen was first recruited by the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest terrorist attack at that time in U.S. history. A funeral director by trade, Teahen helped with death notifications and coordinated with the Red Cross to bring families to the site to pay their respects. One volunteer suggested that, “you should work with the Red Cross.” 

 

Teahen did just that. In the last three decades, he’s since deployed 75 times for the Red Cross as well as internationally with other organizations.

 

He has deployed after many of the major hurricanes in the U.S, including Katrina, Rita, Maria and two super typhoons in Guam. Not forgetting his home state of Iowa, he's been there for local communities after flooding, tornadoes and the 2020 Derecho.


Peter demonstrating his spokesperson skills at a recent Red Cross training.

"The mission is bigger than the person. You need to be there. There are people who are hurting who need you,” says Teahen. 

 

Recently, he visited the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. “I enjoy going back and reflecting and seeing the power of healing that we were part of,” he says.

 

Continuing Humanitarian Work

Teahen just turned 70, and he hasn’t slowed down. Last year, he and a friend flew a 1977 Cessna single engine airplane around the world to raise awareness for polio eradication and funds for Rotary International's End Polio efforts. At every one of the 37 stops in 19 countries, Teahen gave speeches and talked with reporters. They raised over $2 million dollars.

 

“Working in public affairs for the Red Cross prepared me for this trip and being interviewed by international outlets,” says Teahen.


He discussed his experience in a Rotary Voices Podcast episode, which you can listen to here


Taking Care of Red Cross Workers

With almost 30 years of volunteering experience, Teahen has seen the Red Cross grow as it continues to serve communities, both locally and across the country. But he’s also seen what has stayed the same. He says: “The most important things are the affected, the workers and their families. When you lose focus on those, then you can’t have a successful outcome.”

 

He’s personally experienced how well the Red Cross takes care of its volunteers, whether it is ensuring breaks between deployments or easy access to spiritual and mental health care.

 

Always encouraging others to answer the call, Teahen says: “Your heart will be filled with blessings you’ve never imagined. It opens you up to things that you would never experience other than with the Red Cross. Whether it is their Service to the Armed Forces, Disaster Services or blood donation department. Just try us. You’ll find a spot.”

 

There are many ways to get involved with the Red Cross. You can serve as a volunteer or board member. You can make an appointment to give blood. You can make a financial donation so that we can continue to fulfill our mission. This Red Cross Month find your place alongside Peter Teahen. Visit redcross.org.

 

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