american red cross: To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

Q| How long have you been a volunteer?
A| For more than 60 years! I started in 1954, when I was a student at Mount Vernon Junior College in Washington, D.C. (now The George Washington University’s Mount Vernon campus). Volunteering is important. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Your mind forgets any troubles you might have. I’ve gotten my kids involved in philanthropy also. One of my daughters, Susan Ittner, volunteers with the Red Cross and is on the board. It’s good to pass on these efforts to the next generation.

Q| What made you interested in this particular cause?
A| I was involved with a student group at college called Lend a Hand, and through that, the Red Cross would pick us up and take us to military hospitals to entertain the troops by reading to them, playing bridge or ping-pong, things like that. It wasn’t until we had gone a few times that my friend pointed out they were locking the doors behind us—we were in the psych ward! But there wasn’t anything ‘psych’ about these men; they all were really sharp. My mother volunteered with the Red Cross during the war, helping with blood drives and serving meals to the troops with my dad, who was in the Rotary. I’d always tag along and help out.

Q| What kind of volunteer work are you involved with?
A| When I moved back to St. Louis after college, I heard about the Junior League through my mom and friends, so I joined. When I needed to choose a volunteer job, I picked the Red Cross. They train you in many different areas. I started out at Children’s Hospital and then, since my husband is a Shriner, I started volunteering at Shriners Hospital for Children and was in charge of the Red Cross volunteer training program there for about 20 years. I started out with one day a week, then it moved up to three, then five. I was running it from my kitchen table, all while raising three kids! We had a lot of retired school teachers volunteer at the hospital, and they did great work. I thought they should be recognized, so I started planning luncheons and handing out pins, and they loved it. I became the only volunteer helping in the X-ray department, so it became a full-time job, and now it’s my sole responsibility at the hospital, which has since moved to Washington University Medical Center. I also send out thank you letters to people who make donations to the Red Cross, sometimes 400 a week! And I’m involved in the Tiffany Circle, which is a group of women who donate at least $10,000 every year, and many also volunteer.

Q| If you could do anything for the organization, what would it be?
A| I would spread the word that we do really good things, and I’d ask people to put us in their will. You can always depend on the Red Cross. Its volunteers are the first to arrive when there is a fire or disaster, no matter who you are or where you live. We don’t get any financial assistance from the government; it’s all volunteer work and money coming in from the goodness of people’s hearts. Everybody involved with the organization has such a positive attitude. It’s just pure goodness.

In the Words of the American Red Cross: “Over the last 60 years, there are few jobs Susanne has not tackled. She has done whatever it takes to make the Red Cross more effective in our community, from serving Thanksgiving meals to service men and responding to disasters to working blood drives and coordinating volunteers at Shriners Hospital.”

meet the red cross tiffany circlereaching-out_Red-Cross_1From left: Susan Ittner (seated left), Sandy Soll, Bonnie Laiderman, Susanne Shepherd, Judy Jehling, Cindy Erickson, Jill Myers Tiffany Circle members are women who contribute $10,000 annually to their local chapter. Additionally, the nonprofit has a 24-member board.

Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton
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