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.
Born in Long Island, New York, the youngest daughter in an Air Force family, Ronnette Moore grew up in South Carolina, the location of her father’s last duty assignment before he retired from the military. She and both of her brothers served in the Navy, creating a second generation of military families. Ronnette now brings her substantial military experience to Red Cross’s Services to Armed Forces (SAF).
Ronnette began volunteering with the Mid-South Red Cross in May 2015, making follow-up phone calls to family members of active-duty military members. As time passed she happily accepted additional responsibility when David Compton, SAF Lead Volunteer, asked her to work in scheduling and training as well. Ronnette now has the title Emergency Communicator’s Messages Coordinator, which she charmingly wrote down on a piece of paper for the interview. As she reached into her purse to retrieve the paper, she said quietly, almost to herself, “titles don’t matter” followed by laughter. “I still make a lot of phone calls,” she says, “and I make the schedules for the other SAF support people as well and do some computer and protocol training for new people.”
“The responsibility of Mid-South SAF is to make sure the messages that Red Cross receives from military family members get through to the service command,” Ronnette explains. “The part we do here is to follow up.” She often makes phone calls to be sure a service member has received the services they need after a death in the family, for example. It’s a sensitive phone call to make, she says, “My background prepared me for it. In the beginning, it was a little hard, but you offer your condolences, and they really appreciate the follow-up phone call. They appreciate that someone asks, ‘Are you OK’? or ‘What else do you need?’”
The Mid-South Chapter is not Ronnette’s first Red Cross experience. “When I was in the Navy, I did some work with the Red Cross . . . In Okinawa, Japan, I did a lot with HIV-Aids Awareness, and then I did a little bit of SAF when I was stationed in San Diego.” She continued her Red Cross work when she and her husband, who is also in the Navy, moved to Guantanamo, Cuba.
By profession, Ronnette is a clinical social worker. After leaving the Navy, she worked for Child Protective Services for ten years. Presently, she is finishing her Ph.D. in social work. After moving here, and wanting to do something more than going to school, Ronnette again sought out the Red Cross. “I talked to David [Compton],” she says, “and that was it.”
Ronnette and her husband have four children. “They are totally adults now and they live in different states,” she says, “Two in Mississippi, one in Alabama, and one in Virginia. Two of the children spent a short time in the Army,” she laughs. Perhaps that counts as three generations of military service.
Clearly committed to excellence in all she does, Ronnette gives herself fully to her many projects. She is finishing the Ph.D. as “a personal goal”; she is very active in her church, particularly in her work with Feed Memphis; she has a close relationship with her family, and of course she devotes time to the Red Cross. Ronnette credits her mother with her dedication to social service and volunteer work. “My mother was the mother that everyone came to. If somebody had a problem of any sort, they would come to her. It was nothing for us to have quite a few children of all ages living with us. She was always helping.” Ronnette radiates love and respect for her mother, now deceased. “She is why I gravitated toward social work and why I have always done volunteering. We were very close, very much so.”
Ronnette is too involved in service to have much time for hobbies, but she likes to read and her favorite book is The Bible. “Every time I read it, it is inspirational . . . I like Psalms, or I go to Proverbs if I need wisdom, Ephesians, or Romans, but Psalms would be my favorite.”
She moves with facility between thinking and feeling, as comfortable in the language of academia and she is with emotional language. “I think you have to go in and out of thinking and feeling, depending on what’s going on. I like to balance the two.” She values experience as it befriends reality. She also appreciates the support of her husband if she needs a cool head. Married for seventeen years, the two met in Okinawa, Japan, where she was a quartermaster. He would bring his ship into port. “I would see him and we would talk, so one day,” she laughs, “I thought, why not just ask him out . . . nobody believes me when I say I’m shy, but I am . . . In the military, sometimes, you have to be forward. I think I was forward that day.”
She uses her drive and focus to satisfy her well-honed conscientiousness. There are times, however, that she is challenged to turn off the energy. “I keep a pad of paper next to the bed so that I can write down my goals for the next day or the next few days, and I do that so that I can go to sleep. I have insomnia that comes from the thinking,” she said.
Ronnette is attentive and courageous in the face of the full drama of the human condition. She has a wonderful sense of humor, a desire to learn, a deep empathy for those who suffer, and the determination and self-control to corral her gifts to meet the goals she has set for herself. “When I was young I imagined that I would be a mother. I imagined that I would have an education, that I would have a wonderful husband and family, a life in God, and I imagined I would be helping people, that was always a thought for me.” And so it is, she concluded.
Story and photo credit: Kathleen Bradley for The American Red Cross