Story by Marjorie Steele
The American Red Cross is powered by the generosity of its volunteers, and few people embody this spirit of volunteership more than Maureen Campbell. This year marks Maureen’s 58th year volunteering as a Red Cross nurse. At 80 years young, Maureen has volunteered for the American Red Cross for nearly three quarters of her life, and her service has made a positive impact on countless lives.
Maureen first began volunteering as a Red Cross nurse in 1957, in Ohio’s Franklin County Blood Donation Center. She graduated from Ohio State University the year earlier with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Maureen became interested in the Red Cross after she and her boyfriend received an award for collectively donating one gallon of blood. Intrigued by the Red Cross’positivity and willingness to reward volunteership, and eager to put her degree as a Registered Nurse to work, Maureen became a Red Cross Nurse and never looked back.
Over the years, Maureen worked as a nurse in public health settings, for North American Aviation, and eventually as the Assistant Director of Nurses at Saugatuck’s Dunes Correctional Facility. She also raised six children. Throughout her career, both as a nurse and a mother, Maureen never gave up her volunteership as a Red Cross Nurse.
“It was such an important part of my life,”Maureen says, thinking back. “It never occurred to me NOT to volunteer.”
Maureen proudly keeps the pin and white cap she was given when she first enlisted as a Red Cross Nurse. “I remember being told, when I was given that pin, that I couldn’t be buried in it – that I’d have to give it back to the organization! I was only in my twenties, and I remember being so amused by that thought. It was such an honor to receive those – my pin, and my ‘whites’. Now, I have several pins, and I’m glad that I’m allowed to keep them all!”
In the early 60’s, when auto manufacturers were first considering installing seatbelts and the safety of Maureen’s own young children was at the top of her mind, she began advocating heavily for the nationwide implementation of safety harnesses in cars. In recognition of her work, Maureen was invited to state dinners, and received awards honoring her advocacy – work which she emphasizes she never would have had the courage to do if it had not been for her work with the Red Cross.
Over the last few decades, Maureen has been a faithful volunteer nurse with the medical crew at Holland’s Tulip Time festivities. She recalls countless memorable moments over the years, including one comic moment when a dancer’s wooden shoe flew off during a performance and landed on an unfortunate spectator’s head. The spectator, luckily, suffered no injuries.
Maureen recalls how her expertise as a Red Cross nurse has been invaluable over the years. One year at Tulip Time, a woman fell out of the stand, and Maureen was concerned the woman had injured her hip. The ambulance crew determined she had no injuries and released her back to the festival, but she was still in pain. Maureen asked her own mother to come pick the woman up and bring her home, where she could wait comfortably for a bus. The patient later called to report back that she had gone in to the emergency room again, and the doctors had found her hip was fractured.
“It just goes to show that a Red Cross Nurse knows what they’re doing!”Maureen laughs, recalling the event.
In 1999, Maureen received a Health & Safety Volunteer of the Year Award from Ottawa County’s Red Cross. During last month’s Tulip Time Saturday Parade, Maureen was honored for her 58 years of service with the American Red Cross. Instead of riding in the Red Cross van, Maureen insisted on walking the entire two mile march in front, proudly holding the Red Cross banner, with her 50 year service pin on display.
“People don’t understand, there’s a new 80!”says Maureen, who prefers the terms “elder”or “elder-like”to “elderly”. A breast cancer survivor, Maureen insists on staying active – which includes volunteering for the Red Cross for as long as she is able. She doesn’t plan on relinquishing her role as a Red Cross Nurse anytime soon.
“My 50 year volunteer pin has a genuine ruby to celebrate that 50th anniversary, so I expect my 75 year volunteer pin will have a diamond. I suppose I’ll just have to stick around another 18 years, so I can get that diamond!”