One Woman Honored for Three Decades of Helping Others

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It’s a milestone not many people reach in their careers: The American Red Cross honors Patricia Whitener for 30 years of service.
Pat Whitener at her Ardmore office.
Patricia “Pat” Whitener remembers working for the Red Cross in Ardmore, Oklahoma when it only had one typewriter, a phone and an answering machine.  At that time, the South Central Oklahoma Chapter was supporting four counties and had a staff of two.
Pat applied for the secretary position in October of 1981. She had two kids, no college degree and was divorced. Eventually, she was offered the manager position but turned it down.

“They asked that I make a commitment to assist with national disasters around the country,” Pat explained.  But with two kids she knew she couldn’t be away for long periods of time.

A new manager was hired but after three months that person pursued opportunities elsewhere.

“They offered me the manager position again,” she said, but this time she told them they would have to compromise with her.  After coming to an agreement, Pat became the manager of the chapter.

As manager, Pat became a “jack of all trades” by sending emergency messages to members of our military overseas, teaching first aid and CPR courses and fundraising for the organization.   She was also helping the community be better prepared for disasters and responding to house and apartment fires.

Fast forward three decades and you’ll find Pat is still at it.  In fact, just two weeks ago she was up at 2 a.m. responding to a nearby house fire.   

With the help of the Red Cross’ scholarship program, Pat was able to attend night classes to obtain her degree. She now has a degree in management and a degree in business administration.
A clock recovered from May 1995 tornadoes
was given to Pat Whitener as a thank you.

Eventually, as Pat’s kids grew up, she was able to respond to national disasters. She assisted with the 1999 San Francisco earthquake as well as the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.

One of her favorite things about the job is the strong community support.  She speaks very highly of her neighbors in Ardmore and surrounding communities. Without their support, Pat knows it would be much harder to continue delivering the Red Cross mission.

“When you have the opportunity to help someone who has lost everything – that is what it is all about.” She believes you have to be dedicated to your workplace and believe in its mission in order to keep going for 30 years (and more)!

Now, as the Operations and Response Coordinator, Pat’s goal is to expand the volunteer base in her area. She’s also excited to see her 16-year old grandson grow up and become increasingly interested in volunteering and working with the Red Cross.
Written by Kayla Costner, Regional Communications Specialist, kcostner@arcok.org
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