By Kelsey Coombs
American Red Cross
Jenny Solomon, celebrating her seventh year with the American Red Cross in Southern Missouri, has a strong connection with the organization and with helping people with long-term recovery needs.
It’s her passion for helping people to recover from home fires, floods, tornadoes and whatever other disaster that may occur that led her to the Red Cross — although it was a personal journey of courage and recovery getting there.
At age 4, Jenny was severely burned in a home fire where the water heater exploded resulting in Jenny losing two brothers and an aunt. The accident left Jenny spending most her childhood in the Shriners Burns Hospital in Galveston, Texas.
“Unfortunately, Red Cross was not providing Direct Client Assistance for home fires in 1964,” Jenny said, adding that her family could have benefitted from the services Red Cross now provides.
She recently participated in the Red Cross’s Sound the Alarm event with volunteers installing free smoke alarms in homes in the Springfield area, part of the national campaign to reduce injuries and deaths from home fires.
As part of promoting Sound the Alarm, many volunteers were photographed holding signs stating, “I joined the movement to Sound the Alarm because …” Each volunteer wrote in their reason why.
With her photograph, Jenny’s reason was based on her years recovering from the critical burns she received. She wrote: “… no child should grow up with scars!”
As Jenny grew up, she carried this passion of helping others extremely close to her heart. After moving to Republic from Jefferson City in 2010, Jenny came home to find her apartment building on fire only after living there for a few weeks.
With the apartment building engulfed in flames, Red Cross volunteers were on the scene supporting her and other residents with needed resources.
“I never knew that the Red Cross did those things and responded to fires,” Jenny said.
Jenny has worked with many different organizations throughout her life but none was completely right until she found the Red Cross. In 2012, she was encouraged by someone at the Red Cross to take a class that was focused on disaster case management training.
She instantly fell in love with the training and started working with survivors from the 2011 Joplin tornado. Later, Jenny was offered the disaster program specialist position at the Red Cross in Springfield, where she could finally let her passions flow through her work.
Jenny has served this position by helping people in long term recovery and encouraging clients to move toward a “new normal.” Last year, she helped those recovering from major flooding in southern Missouri. Her humble nature and encouraging personality made it easy to instantly deploy to needed areas and promptly assume the role she was recruited for.
Training others in case work, connecting with partners to discover new resources, and encouraging those recovering to move forward are all a part of Jenny’s daily tasks. She knows her experience has truly shaped how she views her work at Red Cross,
“We all have struggles, but it’s how we choose to respond to those struggles that makes us thrive or not,” she said.
Jenny has always had a passion for helping others and it serves as her daily motivation. She recently written a book that will be published soon, encompassing everything she has learned and experienced.
“It’s not hard to come to work in the morning,” she said, adding that she plans to continue volunteering even after she retires.