The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
“We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.”
Four-year Red Cross veteran, Lana Wallace is this month’s Volunteer of the Month. Although she certainly won’t tell you herself, the American Red Cross of the Mid-South would be a different place without her, and they are wise to know and recognize her worth. When she is asked what she does for the Red Cross, she answers with warmth and simplicity, “My responsibility now is the Pillowcase Project, I schedule classes, get the supplies together, find locales for them, teach the classes.”
The Pillowcase Project is an emergency-preparedness training-program for children eight to eleven years old. In it they learn how to manage themselves and cope with home emergencies. “We focus on home fires and tornados because these disasters are prevalent in this area,” said Lana. “We teach the children to be prepared.” Specifically, she teaches children to plan rather than panic during emergencies: for fires, that means “get out of the house” and includes a Plan B escape plan should Plan A be not workable. For tornados, it means, “come inside and go to a safe place.” “We teach children what a safe place looks like in the event of a tornado and how to make a pillowcase/emergency preparedness kit,” Lana continued.
The idea for The Pillowcase Project grew out of an observation during Katrina that college kids were showing up at shelters with whatever they could carry in pillowcases. The Disney Corporation became the project sponsor, so, no surprise, the pillowcases have Disney characters on them, which the children enjoy. “I have never seen a child ‘not excited’ to get a pillowcase. It is just amazing to me,” Lana said. Her job is to guide the children as they consider and practice emergency preparedness, and perhaps equally if not more important, to take home what they have learned. The Pillowcase Project may sound like a camp activity for children, but since fires are daily news in Memphis, it is unlikely that there is a more important project at the Mid-South Red Cross.
An unfortunate consequence of doing a lot, but talking a little is that it is easy to for others not to know or fully appreciate what you do, and Lana does have a tendency to underplay her accomplishments. Mid-South Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Jeana Bailley says, “If you asked Lana what made our first year of the Pillowcase Project such a huge success, she would likely say it was because we had a wonderful team. While that is absolutely true, the team couldn’t have accomplished the goal without Lana’s competent leadership. Because of Lana, 1500+ children and their families learned life-saving safety messages around home fire and tornado emergencies.”
Prior to volunteering at the Red Cross, Lana was on the Foster Care Review Board for Shelby County Juvenile Court, which serves as an intermediary between the court and social workers. “The good thing is the children,” she says, “. . . the children had a chance to be alone with the review board and they could say what was really going on if they needed to . . . it’s really a wonderful program.” Changes in the program, however, led Lana to look for other volunteer opportunities. Her husband Bob, already a Red Cross volunteer, shared his enthusiasm about the organization with her. “When I went to the chapter and met the people, and could see all the things that they do, you say, ‘well how could I not,’” said Lana.
Lana’s natural compassion flourished on the grape vineyard/cattle farm where she grew up caring for “lots of animals” in the small town (250 people) of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Her parents “found” the beautiful area after leaving a successful, albeit somewhat primitive farm in Colorado: “No electricity, rattlesnakes, dust storms,” Lana laughs, “Poor mother, you’ve got to give her credit for living there for four years. They just loved it (Pea Ridge) and decided this is where we will settle. They were pioneering spirits, you know. Mother always wanted to homestead in Alaska, but she never did.”
Lana shares that adventurous spirit, or at least some of it. She and Bob have moved about thirty times and have traveled the world. Her favorite trip was one they took to Costa Rica. She says, “I don’t really know why because it (Costa Rica) had a lot of things that I didn’t like. I didn’t like the zip lines; I hadn’t ridden a horse in years, although that turned out to be a good experience; we went into the jungles; I don’t like jungles. But we just had such fun with the people we were traveling with. I think that’s why I liked it so much.”
Lana’s been to so many exotic places: Africa, India, and South America, but what she remembers most fondly is going into people’s homes for dinner and seeing how they live. In the Ecuadorian jungle, she recalls that we foreign tourists were not allowed into the host family’s home, there was an issue of “bad spirits,” but the Ecuadorian family made dinner for us, even so, and brought it out: fish in banana leaves and beetles that had been roasted over the fire. Sporting, but unable to eat beetles, Lana was drawn to the children, “Little kids were hanging over us, and I just wish I had loaded up my suitcase with things . . . they could use anything, flip-flops, soaps, absolutely anything,” she said.
A corporate Training Manager when she retired, Lana has held quite a few different jobs: Personnel Director, primarily in hospitals, business education school teacher, and, perhaps most challenging of all, she was a substitute special education teacher for one year. “There is so little that could be done for these children,” she says. “There was a little hydrocephalic child; she was so sweet; the other children adored her.”
When asked what career she would choose if she were to choose now, without hesitation, she answers, “I’d be a nutritionist.” She’d make a wonderful nutrition counselor, joyous in helping others, dedicated, organized, productive, and kind. She also makes an avatar of a volunteer and fortunately for the Red Cross, that’s what Lana chooses to do right now.
“Lana has a true heart for service. Whether it is teaching children in the Pillowcase Project, going door-to-door sharing fire safety messages and installing alarms, or working in a disaster shelter, Lana has a way of reaching people. Her quiet, calm, demeanor is reassuring and genuine,” says Jeana Bailley.
The Red Cross is wise to recognize, appreciate, and applaud Lana’s many contributions to our organization.
Story by Kathleen Bradley/American Red Cross
Do try Lana’s blackberry crisp recipe using her favorite food: blackberries. Her recipe serves two polite people, but it is delicious, so you decide how many servings you need to make.
Lana’s Blackberry Crisp
2 cups blackberries
2 T sugar
1 t cornstarch
1 t water
1/2 t lemon juice
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 packed brown sugar
Place blackberries in a greased 1 quart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, water and lemon juice. Pour over berries.
Combine oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly.
Sprinkle over berries.
Bake uncovered at 375 for 20-25 min.
Be kind whenever possible.
It is always possible