Talking Shop with Cheryl Klueppel, executive director, American Red Cross Southeast Missouri Chapter

Monday, August 2, 2010
Cheryl Klueppel is the Executive Director of the Southeast Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross. (Kristin Eberts)

As executive director of the American Red Cross Southeast Missouri Chapter, Cheryl Klueppel makes sure that her organization is there to help. Each year, under Klueppel's direction the Red Cross helps about 725 people who have lost their homes to a fire and 275 families who need to contact loved ones who are serving in the military. Another 16,000 people receive medical or disaster preparedness training.

Q: Tell me about your role at the Southeast Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross.

A: As executive director of the American Red Cross Southeast Missouri Chapter, I oversee the chapter's programs and operations to ensure the Red Cross is there whenever and wherever we are needed most. It is my role to ensure that we serve as a leader in emergency preparedness and response, that we inspire a generation of volunteers, and that we strengthen our financial resources to fulfill our commitment to the community.

Q: What do you love most about what you do?

A: Helping people. I have the honor to serve with such wonderful volunteers, staff and colleagues and to be a leader in this great organization whose purpose is to provide help and hope to people in time of crisis and emergency, touching and saving lives. Because of the thousands of people who receive Red Cross training, lives are saved, military families are connected, and children and adults are aided in their recovery after disaster. Providing help and hope to families in time of emergency and disaster crisis is what the Red Cross does best. Recently, I received a call from an emergency management director stating, "There's an apartment fire and we're going to need the Red Cross." Our Disaster Action Team responded, providing water for emergency workers and support for five families who lost everything except the clothes and shoes they were wearing. I sat with a young couple in their 20s with an infant in diapers, yards away from the fire that engulfed their home, watching as clothes, family photos and their daughter's toys were lost. It was this moment and the many times we are called to be there when needed most that reminds me of why I am here.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

A: The most challenging part of my job is to ensure we meet our two major needs right now, which is more volunteers and continued financial support. Many people may not realize that your Red Cross is not a government agency and does not receive government funding. Red Cross services are gifts to the American people from the American people. Gifts of time and money make our work possible in order to feed, shelter, train, prepare and serve.

Q: What did you do before taking your current position?

A: Before this position I served as donor recruitment manager for the American Red Cross Blood Services. I had also served as a Red Cross volunteer to help when a tornado hit Jackson and when a fire destroyed a residential facility in Sikeston, Mo. I worked side by side with other Red Cross volunteers, and I think for the first time I really saw first-hand the great responsibility and role of the Red Cross to help people and to help a community. Before working with the Red Cross I worked as the outreach program manager for the Alzheimer's Association in Southeast Missouri, social worker for Southeast Missouri Hospital Hospice & Home Health, and social worker at Perry Oaks Health Care in Perryville, Mo.

Q: Describe the role of the Red Cross in our community and what services are provided.

A: The American Red Cross is the nation's largest humanitarian organization led by volunteers. Our role is to help prepare our community for disaster, to mobilize relief to individuals in crisis caused by home fires or natural disasters, to have their immediate basic needs of food and shelter met.

We provide communication between those in the armed forces and their families through a worldwide network that reaches service members wherever they are to communicate a birth, death or illness.

In Southeast Missouri, people attend Red Cross disaster preparedness education presentations through their school, civic organization, work or community. Nearly 11,000 people enroll in American Red Cross health and safety courses each year at work or community classes, learning first aid, water safety and other skills that help save lives. The Southeast Missouri chapter serves the counties of Cape, Perry, Bollinger, Scott, Stoddard, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Dunklin, Butler and Wayne.

Q: Tell me about your other community involvements. What organizations have you worked with and why are they important to you?

A: I think we all have a role in helping our community. We all have talents that can be shared to mentor a child, help develop programs and support for church or an organization, help build a sense of community, or help strengthen spiritual needs of our youth. These are things I am passionate about and have given my time to. I hope I have made some difference in strengthening our great community. I am actively involved in the Cape Girardeau Chamber, Community Caring Council, Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Alzheimer's Association, SALT Council, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church and Teens Encounter Christ. As I have asked others to give of their time and talents throughout the years, I feel just as strongly to volunteer my time and experience in areas that I am passionate about and where I think I can make a contribution.

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