News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 29, 2013

Stevens retiring from Red Cross post

Spanning 27 years, executive director has become face of the local organization

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Carol Stevens admits “in all honesty” that she did not know a lot about the Red Cross on her first day on the job. But 27 and a half years later (she said to not forget the half), those she worked with say she has become the face of the Wabash Valley Red Cross.

Friends and colleagues gathered Friday night at Clabber Girl for Stevens’ retirement reception to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of this iconic woman.

Stevens’ last day on the job was Friday and she said she hopes to travel, write and just “chill out” during the first few months of retirement.

The Terre Haute native — whose birthday is on the 4th of July — remembers fondly her early days as executive director of the American Red Cross–Wabash Valley Chapter.

“When I started, I had this burning in my belly, almost literally, to grow the chapter, to make us stronger,” she said.

Under her watchful eye, the chapter grew from serving one county to eight. She is also proud of ushering the chapter to become one of the Red Cross’ high performing chapters.

“We achieved that,” she said.

The key, she said, was being goal oriented — always moving towards the next goal.

“So to have gone from serving one county with a small group of volunteers to serving eight counties and being able to achieve that level of performance, that’s what kept me going,” she added.

As she kept going, she learned a few things along the way.

“I learned a lot about people. I learned to be a good listener,” she said.

She said working with people from diverse backgrounds with different perspectives widens your viewpoint of the world.”

Her experiences have made her become “a student of people.”

And at the Red Cross, it is all about the people.

Stevens said her fondest memory on the job “really goes back to the first time that I actually went out on a fire disaster.”

She said she vividly remembers an elderly couple down on their knees trying to find anything left in their home. That image stuck in her mind. She recalls that she and a partner were sent to the couple’s home to help “but somehow, in the process, they helped us.”

“I felt like it was meant to be and I knew I was meant to be a Red Crosser,” said Stevens of her experience in 1986, her first year at Red Cross.

Before becoming a Red Crosser, she was educated at local Terre Haute schools. She received degrees in secondary education and sociology from Indiana State University. Her early professional years were in teaching and sales.

As a child, she said she wanted to be a missionary and to run her own business.

“Being able to work at Red Cross really allowed me to fulfill that childhood fantasy [to] do those two things,” she said.

“To be able to run a business and help people at the same time and give something back to the community that I was born in to really was a motivator for me,” she said.

The people she worked with can attest to her sincerity.

Freda Rutan, a volunteer who has worked with Stevens for more than 20 years said “she’s more than a director, she’s a friend.”

Rutan said that it was important for Stevens to touch base with volunteers even when she’s busy.

“She cares, that’s for sure,” Rutan said.

Her colleagues agree.

Kathie Skeel, a board member for six years, spoke of Steven’s passion for the job.

“It wasn’t just a job for her, it was a lifestyle,” she said.

“Carol brought the Red Cross out of the office and into the community,” she said.

Stevens certainly made a big impact in the community.

Another board member, Tonya Gimbert, said that Stevens is a great leader.

“Carol is outgoing. She loves to spread the message of American Red Cross. I feel like she always got a smile on her face regardless of the situation,” Gimbert said.

“She has definitely been the face of the Red Cross in our community. When you think of Red Cross, you think of Carol Stevens,” she said.