Women as Change Agents: Money & Influence

By: Cat Rabenstine

On May 24, 2018, Northern Trust co-hosted an intimate panel conversation with the American Red Cross Tiffany Circle about the growing economic power and influence of women and the positive change we make in the world. The event featured moderator Marguerite H. Griffin and panelists Denise Barnett Gardner, Nancy Searle and Marty Wilke.

The statistics about women as philanthropic change agents are powerful. Women are expected to control two-thirds of private wealth by 2020 (MarketWatch, May 2017). In 2009, nine years ago, a Harvard Business Review Article stated, “Women now drive the world economy,” (Harvard Business Review, Sept 2009).

The influence comes not only from access to wealth but also how women choose to invest. Studies show that women give more, and do so with a socially conscious outlook.

In March 2018, The Economist stated that “84% of women said they were interested in “sustainable” investing, that is, targeting not just financial returns but social or environmental goals.”

According to Debra Mesch, the director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy, in an interview with Make it Better, “In the top 25 percent of combined income and assets, women give 156 percent more than men.”

“Every woman up here uses her superpowers for good,” said Marguerite Griffin to open the panel conversation. And it’s true. The panelists created change by combining their economic power with their talents and drive for change to create an exponential impact in our communities.

Marty Wilke, recently retired general manager of CBS 2 Chicago said, “We had the recession, we had the newly introduced iPhone, Facebook had just hit their 1 million mark. In that ten-year experience of mine in running two news organizations, I was a product of change that was coming at me from every angle.” Resistance to change comes out of fear, said Marty, but when done right, it is incredibly rewarding.

Women continue to gain an influence and make an impact.

“[It is] Important to know the change you want to accomplish and really own that change,” said Nancy Searle, who raised $60 million dollars in a year to open new schools in Chicago. “It was just an idea that I had that got us going.” Nancy looks at the intersection of her passions and values to determine which organizations to support with her time and talent.

A real turning point for many individual donors, was when Warren Buffet decided to donate to other foundations and organizations rather than starting his own. But, the collaborative nature of philanthropy is complex and full of opportunity. “You have to have thriving nonprofits to have a really thriving city,” said Denise, who hopes over the next twenty years to continue to develop ideas that will have an impact even if she’s not the one leading them.

Women are giving back with their treasure, but also their time, talents and their “turn-up” – their ability to get other people to turn up to support a cause.

As women philanthropists look to the next generation of change makers, they watch millennials constantly asking, “What are we doing to change and influence the world?” As Nancy said, we’ve seen “the power of one,” – the ability for one voice on social media to mobilize thousands more voices toward change.

Thank you to Northern Trust and the Tiffany Circle for co-hosting this incredibly meaningful conversation filled with an abundance of wisdom and advice for fellow women philanthropists. Keep your eye on what your end game is. Take a step back and take another look at what’s going on from a new angle. And, build consensus and plan for change.

Read the original article on the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois blog.

Migrants in Disaster Risk Reduction

International Organization for Migration publication, “Migrants in Disaster Risk Reduction Practices for Inclusion.” July 2017. Chapter: Migrants in Disaster Risk Reduction: American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois

By: Cat Rabenstine

The work of the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois is rooted in the preparedness, response and recovery of communities affected by disasters as geographically vast as tornadoes and as isolated as home fires. The mission is carried out by a workforce of whom 90 per cent are volunteers who see a need in their community and who are driven to respond. The most common disaster response in this region is to home fires. By definition of who is doing the work (local community members) and how it’s done (on the ground), the work is localized.

Though it may be the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross is grass-roots in its service delivery. The Red Cross is everywhere — in elementary school classrooms teaching children how to practice fire drills at home, going door-to-door to install smoke alarms in homes with volunteers speaking the language of the residents, and at the sites of home fires, assisting families with their immediate needs during a dark moment.

The Red Cross is committed to the resiliency of all communities in the face of disaster, in particular vulnerable migrants. Therefore, addressing the needs of migrants is woven into each aspect of the organization’s service delivery.

Read full article, “Migrants in Disaster Risk Reduction: American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois”

Northern Illinois Woman Saves Life With CPR, Receives American Red Cross 2018 Good Samaritan Hero Award

Published on Make it Better, April 2018

By: Cat Rabenstine

Kate Dzierzanowski, a client retention specialist for Knox Insurance Agency in St. Charles, remembers looking at the clock on Nov. 6, 2017, at 4:45 p.m. while at work. She thought the day was winding down. Then, she heard a loud noise and looked out the window to see a car had run into the guardrail right outside her office. She immediately leapt into action.

She screamed “Call 911” to her colleague and ran outside to the car. She saw smoke in the vehicle and, having never experienced an accident like this before, wasn’t sure if the car was on fire and possibly about to explode. This fear didn’t deter her from intervening.

She went to the passenger side and yelled, “Turn off the car,” which was still running. When she got no response, she ran to the driver’s side, facing traffic, and tried to get the driver’s attention. She was determined to get him out of the car. He was still unresponsive so she tried to hail help from drivers passing by. She said she was almost in tears at this point, she was so scared. Two people pulled over and one of them checked the driver’s pulse. When they realized he had no pulse, they quickly lifted him out of the car. Someone yelled, “Who knows CPR?” Dzierzanowski responded, “I do.” She started compressions on the spot. She said, “I remember thinking to just keep going until something happens.”

Dzierzanowski knew exactly what to do because, in December 2015, the former owners of the insurance agency where she works closed the office for a day to have the entire staff certified in CPR. At the time, she thought, “I have so much to do, I will never use this.” Two years later, her CPR instructor called Dzierzanowski and told her how proud she was after reading the story of her life-saving actions in the news.

As Dzierzanowski looks back on that November day, she said she remembers flashing lights, her hands on the driver’s chest, and watching his mouth to see if it was moving. Help arrived in less than 15 minutes and the man was taken to the hospital. He survived the crash thanks to her bravery and quick thinking.

Dzierzanowski says that she and one of her coworkers often look out the window at the street where the accident happened and ask each other, “Did that really happen?” It seems surreal now. Dzierzanowski believes it’s what anyone would do. “I don’t feel like I’m a hero,” she says. “I feel like I did what was right at the moment and I think anyone would have done what I did if they had been in that situation.”

The Good Samaritan Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who courageously and selflessly responded to an unusual, significant, or unexpected crisis.


Multimedia Samples

On Air Interviews:

Cat Rabenstine as spokesperson for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois after flooding hit Naplate and Ottawa, Illinois. Live Phoner with Fox Chicago – July 13, 2017

Videography Samples – Recorded and edited by Cat Rabenstine


Production | Edited by Cat Rabenstine

Sample of photography | Headshot for Chicago Athlete

Quoted Interviews:

‘Hats for Houston’: Elmwood Park school embraces opportunity to help

Dog woke man who warned residents about massive Woodstock apartment fire

“The American Red Cross responded and provided toiletries and comfort items to the displaced residents. They were providing lodging to 43 people from 32 units, 20 to 25 of which were destroyed, said Catherine Rabenstine, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

‘In this case I think we provided people with financial assistance to find a hotel to ensure that they have a warm, comfortable place to stay tonight and for a couple days,” Rabenstine said. “We provide assistance families need to meet their immediate needs when they’ve lost everything.’

Rabenstine also said the group brought in breakfast and lunch for the residents and for emergency crews. Firefighters were at the location through Saturday afternoon.”

Read the full article here.

Family appeals for donations for themselves and neighbors after fire destroys homes

Ashley Sellars cried as she stood outside her grandmother’s Austin home and watched 40 years of memories go up in flames.

The fire started in an apartment building down the block Dec. 3 and spread to two other houses. As firefighters rushed around her, Sellars thought about all the family dinners her grandmother had hosted every Sunday.

By the time the fire was out, the brick home Sellars knew as the family fortress was gutted. All their belongings were gone.

Sellars’ 90-year-old grandmother, known in the neighborhood as Mrs. Bailey, bought the building with her late husband. As devastating as the fire was, Sellars said her grandmother embraced her family and assured them that things would be alright.

“She told me she hasn’t cried yet and I’m trying to follow her lead, but it isn’t easy,” Sellars said this week.

While searching for anything that was salvageable, Sellars said she saw her next-door neighbor sifting through ashes of her home. “She was outside crying and rummaging through her baby’s burned items,” Sellars said.

The baby is about 6 months old, and the neighbor also has a 6-year-old daughter, Sellars said.

She said she and her family decided to appeal for help for her as well. They have started a GoFundMe page asking for cash donations and contributions of shoes, clothes and whatever else people might need to put their lives back together.

“We are asking not only for ourselves but also for the occupants of the house next door,” the Sellars family says on the GoFundMe page. “We need any donations.”

For now, the displaced family is being given temporary shelter with the help of the American Red Cross.  “The Red Cross came and after I talked to one of their workers I found out that this happens to several people during this time of year,” Sellars said.

She said the ordeal has been especially tough for her 36-year-old brother Brandon who has autism.  “Autistic people need consistency,” Sellars said. “Things have to be in the same place and you can’t change their routine suddenly. This is really difficult for him.”

Catherine Rabenstine, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said a fire in the home is the biggest threat to families. The agency responds to three to four fires a daily throughout the year, she said.

In Chicago and northern Illinois, the Red Cross has responded to about 69 home fires so far during the month of December, Rabenstine said.

Most home fires can be prevented with regular upkeep and use of smoke alarms, she said.

In the the case of the fire that destroyed the Bailey home, Fire Department officials said the extra-alarm fire was being investigated as possible arson.

Neighbors have speculated the fire may have been set by a squatter in the apartment building.  Community members had been trying to get it boarded up because squatters had been living there for the past couple of years, neighbors said.

On the GoFundMe page, the Sellars family asks for donations of shoes, coats and winter accessories and said they can be dropped off at the following locations:

— First Corinthian Baptist, 922 South Keeler Ave.

— Chicago International Christen Church, 211 South Laflin St.

— Clara’s House, 650 W. 63rd St.

— Whitney Young High School, 211 S. Laflin St.

“There’s always a blessing in the storm,” Sellars said. “I’m glad everyone made it through unharmed. Possessions can be replaced but life can’t.”


Red Cross helps residents of Oswego Township apartment fire

Local and regional organizations are assisting the victims of a Nov. 6 apartment building fire that displaced 24 families in unincorporated Oswego Township.

The apartment building is located in the Shore Heights Village apartment complex off Light Road, immediately east of Augusta Road.

Catherine Rabenstine, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said Tuesday that the Red Cross provided victims with “assistance with food, lodging and other immediate needs.”

“We go right to the scene of the emergency and open individual cases for families so we can help walk people through their immediate needs and provide resources,” Rabenstine said. “In this case, we also opened a reception center, where families could come for Red Cross resources the day the home fire took place.”

The Kendall County Community Food Pantry and the St. Vincent de Paul organization also offered assistance, Rabenstine said.

Rabenstine said the Oswego community has united in the aftermath of the fire.

“Responding to disasters like a home fire is a community effort and the Oswego community truly has come together to make sure the people affected have what they need,” she said.

Rabenstine recommended people who want to help visit redcross.org and make a financial donation, schedule an appointment to donate blood or apply to be a Red Cross volunteer.

Oswego Fire Protection District Assistant Fire Chief John Cornish said Tuesday that most of the damage caused by the fire was contained inside the two-story 24-unit apartment building. The building was constructed in 1972, according to Kendall County property records.

Cornish said the fire started in the wall of an upstairs apartment where a maintenance worker, who had been working on a pipe, and a resident unsuccessfully attempted to put it out before calling the fire department.

“The fire spread up the wall and into the attic,” Cornish said.

The fire caused extensive damage to four upstairs apartments, while the downstairs units experienced water damage, according to Cornish.

“There was smoke damage throughout the building,” he noted.

Cornish said firefighters were summoned to the blaze at 10:36 a.m. and remained at the scene until 2:30 p.m.

No residents or firefighters were injured, he said.

Brian Holdiman, Kendall County’s building code official, said Tuesday that he deemed the apartment building uninhabitable after inspecting it Tuesday morning. He said he spoke with representatives of the management company for the complex, and that the company is having a contractor and the insurance company evaluate the building on Wednesday.

“I would assume that they can rebuild the structure, but I won’t know for sure until I got those reports from the contractor,” Holdiman said.

The units at the ends of the building suffered the least damage, Holdiman said.

“There’s not a lot of smoke damage or water damage in the end units,” he said.

However, Holdiman said another question mark is the electrical system in the building, as well as the HVAC system, and he wants those looked at before he deems it safe to turn the power on in the building.

“Until we have those systems evaluated, I don’t feel safe letting anybody turn the power back on,” he said.

After the building is evaluated, and it’s deemed safe, the building officials “most likely” may allow residents to occupy the end units, he said.

John Etheredge contributed to this story


Red Cross Monitoring Airports and Ports of Entry

Executive Order on Immigration and Impact on Travelers

On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order on immigration indefinitely barring refugees from entering the United States, suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocking citizens of seven countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. As a consequence of the order, some travelers to the United States were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad.

American Red Cross Response

The American Red Cross is monitoring conditions at airports and ports of entry in collaboration with local emergency management officials in order to assess the need for food and canteen services for stranded travelers and detainees affected by the executive order. Health, mental health, and spiritual care services are also at-the-ready.

“Our fundamental principles guide us to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found,” said Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “We are working with local officials to continue to monitor the situation. First and foremost, we are a humanitarian services organization, dedicated to the inclusion of and aid to all people.”

The Red Cross is also prepared to utilize the Reconnecting Family Links (RFL) program for detainees, stranded travelers and families that have been separated internationally.

Read the full article:

Red Cross Monitoring Airports and Ports of Entry