Honor the 2021 American Red Cross of Illinois ‘Extraordinary Heroes’ Now and Double Your Impact

2021 Red Cross Heroes Chicago Illinois

The past year has been unprecedented in just about every sense. Thankfully, heroes from across Illinois stepped up to help in remarkable ways. The American Red Cross of Illinois is proud to honor and recognize 24 unique community heroes — join us in celebrating these extraordinary individuals, including: 

  • a young veteran who sprang into action during the height of the COVID pandemic to organize pop-up pantries across Chicago for fellow veterans;
  • eight Northwestern Memorial Hospital ICU nurses caring for critically ill patients since the 1980s, who opted to continue to care for ICU patients, many battling COVID, rather than accepting less strenuous assignments;
  • a rookie Chicago Police Officer whose quick actions saved the life of gunshot victims on only her seventh day on the job; and  
  • middle school students who successfully petitioned the Chicago Park District to rename a 151-year-old city park named for a slave owner.

How you can take action: 

Support the American Red Cross and Honor Community Heroes 

Generous support from donors makes the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross possible.  

Make a gift in honor of these Heroes to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross. Now through April 30 donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $215,000 thanks to a generous Matching Gift Challenge funded by Make It Better Media Group, Fran and John Edwardson, and Susan and Nick Noyes.

The 2021 Class of Heroes will be celebrated at the Honoring our Heroes in an Extraordinary Time virtual event on Thursday, April 29, 9:00-10:00 a.m. CST. To learn more about their stories, and be inspired to take action in your community, register for this free event.

Meet the 2021 Red Cross Class of Heroes

Carter and Noah Collins, Blood Services Heroes

In 2017, after seeing the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to Louisiana and Texas, brothers Carter and Noah Collins of Park Ridge, Illinois, were determined to help. They partnered with the American Red Cross to host their first blood drive, which took place at their high school in 2018. Since then, Carter and Noah have continued to host an annual blood drive at their school. However, in 2020, as schools closed due to the pandemic, the duo had to find a new location for their blood drive. Through networking and sponsorships, Carter, a senior in high school and Noah, a junior, were able to raise sufficient funds to rent a space in their local park district. The pair made sure to utilize social media to promote the blood drive, which despite being held during the pandemic, resulted in an increase of 60% in blood donations from their previous events.

Because of their dedication to collecting much needed blood, the Red Cross is honoring Noah and Carter with the 2021 Blood Services Hero award, sponsored by Fresenius Kabi.

Fresenius Kabi is a global health care company and a leading provider of transfusion and cellular technologies. They are committed to supporting scientific, clinical and educational institutions and programs intended to improve human health and well-being. 

Chef Q. Ibraheem, Disaster Services Hero

As the pandemic caused many people to lose their jobs, renown Chef Q. Ibraheem of Evanston, Illinois, put her culinary passion to the service of those struggling to put food on the table. She started a free food delivery service to prepare farm-to-table meals and deliver them to families across Chicago. She now runs two kitchens and has hired laid-off school bus drivers to deliver food to the families. So far, she has provided more than 20,000 meals to Chicago families, which equates to 160-204 meals per day.

Because of her dedication to her community, the Red Cross is honoring Chef Q with the 2021 Disaster Services Hero award, sponsored by Nicor Gas.

As a natural gas distribution company, many Nicor Gas team members are first responders. They know how critically important disaster relief work is for our communities and are proud to demonstrate that support by sponsoring the Disaster Services Hero Award. 

Phalon Carpenter, Education Hero 

As a professional mentor with Friends of the Children, Phalon Carpenter works with 2nd and 3rd graders facing high levels of adversity. She is committed to mentoring this group of students from kindergarten through high school. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Phalon has broken boundaries to make sure her mentees don’t fall behind as school has gone virtual. She trained students’ caregivers and families to use technology for the children’s online schooling. As parents have had to balance work and their children’s education, she developed a routine for her mentees to make sure they can be ready for classes every morning.

Because of her commitment to supporting her students and those who care for them, the 2021 Red Cross is honoring Phalon with the 2021 Education Hero award, sponsored by William Blair.

An investment in education yields nothing but positive returns. William Blair’s charitable contributions are 100% employee inspired and their colleagues consistently prioritize equitable access to education and youth development in their giving. Supporting the Education Hero is a natural fit and William Blair is proud to honor Phalon Carpenter for her extraordinary mentorship and ongoing commitment to her students.

Esther Lindor, Essential Services Hero

In 2019, Esther Lindor was one of Lakeview Pantry’s earliest innovators to help lead and manage its Online Market to ensure that families in need have access to nutritious food. This program was timely as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food needs for many families that were suddenly struggling to make ends meet. Today, there are pick-up sites in Sheridan, Avondale, La Casa Norte, Chicago’s South Side, and more. The novel Online Market provides clients the flexibility to select items for their families, order groceries on any mobile device and schedule a convenient time for pickup.

Because of her service to the community and creativity, the Red Cross is honoring Esther with the 2021 Essential Services Hero award, sponsored by United Airlines

United Airlines is proud to partner with the American Red Cross because lifting up communities in crisis after disaster is a cornerstone of United’s commitment to the communities where we live, work and fly.  Together with the Red Cross and other disaster response partners United Airlines uses their people and planes to deliver aid and volunteers where and when it matters most. United is especially honored to sponsor this year’s Essential Service Hero, Esther Lindor, and her innovative work with food insecurity during this very unprecedented time, creating a safe and efficient way for people to access food throughout this pandemic. 

Lieutenant Quention Curtis, Firefighter Hero

In the summer of 2018, Quention Curtis, who is a firefighter with the Chicago Fire Department, founded the Black Fire Brigade.  It was a response to inner city crime, which impedes the future of young people in our city and disproportionately affects Black communities. The non-profit organization provides assistance with tuition for young individuals receiving training as firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. The Black Fire Brigade also offers additional training and mentorship to participants. The organization has seen over 250 of its members successfully complete the program, including 60 single moms and three homeless students.

Because of his unparalleled leadership, Red Cross is honoring Lieutenant Curtis with the 2021 Firefighter Hero award, sponsored by Grainger

Grainger is committed to doing the right thing in their local communities, collaborating to encourage, strengthen, and sustain a diverse and vibrant working world. Grainger’s efforts focus within the areas of education and workforce development, and disaster preparedness and response, and 2021 will mark the company’s 20th anniversary in partnership with the Red Cross. 

Josh Hoyt, Global Citizenship Hero 

Josh Hoyt has dedicated most of his adult life to serving immigrant communities in Illinois and across the country. Throughout his long career, Josh has worked to enable the voices of many, including the undocumented immigrant population, and has fought for access to healthcare, education and for a path to legal status. In 2012, he became the founding director of the National Partnership for New Americans which is comprised of immigrant right organizations from all over the country. Josh has also advocated to remove barriers that make it difficult for legal immigrants to become citizens, which includes the cost of the application that many are unable to afford. Josh, who retired in 2020, has served as a mentor to many who now continue carrying the torch of community activism.

Because of his unrelenting dedication to the immigrant community, the Red Cross is honoring Josh with the 2021 Global Citizenship Hero award, sponsored by Walgreens.

As a member of Walgreens Boots Alliance, with 450,000 teammates in more 25 countries, Walgreens recognizes the impact that heroes have across diverse regions and international borders. Walgreens supports individuals in all communities across our country and appreciates the opportunity to support the Red Cross’ efforts to protect life and health, and to ensure respect for everyone.  

‘The Old Dolls’, Healthcare Hero

This group of nurses has been working together at Northwestern Memorial Hospital since the 1980’s, including administering care during the AIDS crisis. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the group decided to continue their work in the Intensive Care Units amid the healthcare pandemic. Each of these nurses were given the option to transfer to other hospital departments with lower exposure risks. However, this group of nurses opted to remain together on the frontline of the pandemic, which included taking care of the sickest COVID-19 patients. These nurses have worked together on the front lines for more than 30 years. The group is legendary at Northwestern and is training and mentoring the next generation of nurses who work alongside them.

These nurses stop at nothing to care for their community, and that’s why the Red Cross is honoring ‘The Old Dolls’ with the 2021 Healthcare Hero award, sponsored by Aon.

As a leading global professional services firm, Aon works to mitigate risk and improve the quality of life for people and communities around the world. Aon is focused on informing and advising our clients using data and analytics to deliver insights and solutions that reduce volatility and maximize business performance in the areas of risk, retirement and health—topics that are more important, and more interconnected, to the global economy than ever.  Aon’s partnership with the Red Cross helps clients and communities become more resilient in the face of climate change, natural disasters, and public health crises.

Officer Marseilla Collins, Law Enforcement Hero

On August 30, 2020, Officer Marseilla Collins had been on the job with the Chicago Police Department for only seven days when she responded to a shooting of several individuals in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood. Upon arrival, Officer Collins jumped into action and provided care to several individuals until paramedics arrived. The calmness, quick-thinking and professionalism that the rookie officer exhibited during the situation, combined with her protection of the crime scene and evidence, impressed her Field Training Officer and other responding officers.

Because of her bravery, the Red Cross is honoring Officer Collins with the 2021 Law Enforcement Hero award, sponsored by Motorola Solutions Foundation.

Motorola Solutions’ customers are everyday heroes: the law enforcement personnel, firefighters, EMTs, healthcare professionals and veterans who put themselves on the front lines every day. As the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions, the Motorola Solutions Foundation is dedicated to paying it forward in support of this group of brave men and women. 

Kyla Davis, Lifesaving Rescue Hero 

On August 27, 2020, Kyla Davis of Skokie, Illinois, had just finished her night shift as a hospital operator when she saw a woman screaming for help while a man held a knife to her neck. Kyla immediately made her presence known by yelling at the man to stop. While walking towards them, the man flashed the knife. Fearing for her safety, Kyla retreated to her car and called 911, while the man forced the woman into an SUV. When the woman escaped and got in Kyla’s car, she jumped into action in order to save the woman’s life.  

For her remarkable bravery, the Red Cross is honoring Kyla with the 2021 Lifesaving Rescue Hero award, sponsored by KPMG US LLP.

KPMG collaborates with nonprofits committed to strengthening minds and bodies to help build stronger and healthier communities.  They partner with American Red Cross because they believe in the mission of providing relief and support to those in crisis, and they support the Heroes Event to honor the heroes in our community.

Akbar Arsiwala, Military Hero 

When Akbar Arsiwala, a U.S. Navy veteran and coordinator for the Travis Manion Foundation, learned that the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center was forced to close its food pantry due to the pandemic, he sprang into action to organize pop-up pantries across Chicago. The pop-up pantries distributed an average of 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of food monthly during the difficult summer of 2020.

Because of his incredible work for the veteran community, the Red Cross is honoring Akbar with the 2021 Military Hero award, sponsored by CDW.

CDW has long supported the critically important work of the American Red Cross. Their coworkers passionately support blood drive efforts, disaster response volunteer efforts through the Ready When the Time Comes Program and are a long-time supporter of the Military Hero award for the Heroes Event. They are proud of their commitment to supporting the critically important work of the American Red Cross.

Tanya Lozano, Social Justice Impact Hero 

Social activism runs in Tanya Lozano’s blood. Her uncle was Chicago-based activist Rudy Lozano and her mother, Emma Lozano is also a well-known community activist in Chicago. In 2014, Tanya poured her passion for sports and physical fitness into founding the non-profit organization, Healthy Hood Chicago. The organization, which is based in Pilsen, uses wellness education to combat the life expectancy gap for underprivileged Chicagoans. In April 2020, Tanya pivoted her organization to help vulnerable communities in Chicago, lacking resources during the pandemic. Through the We Got Us initiative, Tanya joined forces with community groups to provide food and masks to thousands of families. We Got Us has expanded its services to include a neighborhood pantry, hot meal delivery, wellness checks and COVID-19 testing sites on the city’s South and West Sides. Tanya’s dedication to community service hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2020, she was named Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine among other recognitions.

Because of her dedication to serving her community, the Red Cross is honoring Tanya with the 2021 Social Justice Impact Hero award, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank.

BMO believes everyone has an opportunity to act as change makers and role models, which is why they are honored to sponsor the Social Justice Hero Award. Their values of integrity, empathy, diversity and responsibility align with the Red Cross of Illinois’ important work, and they are proud to be a partner in impact.

Students of Village Leadership Academy, Youth Heroes 

In 2017, middle school students from Village Leadership Academy embarked on a mission. They led a ‘Change the Name’ campaign to rename Douglas Park in North Lawndale. The 151-year-old park was previously named after Stephen A. Douglas, a pre-American Civil War U.S senator whose wife owned a Mississippi slave plantation. Douglas had advocated for slavery to be decided on a state-by-state level. The students campaigned to name the park in honor of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass. Both are renowned abolitionists and activists, with Frederick also known as a respected author and publisher. Their efforts included passing out flyers, speaking to journalists, recruiting advocates and attending Chicago Park District meetings to seek racial justice reform. Last September, their determination was rewarded when the Chicago Park District Board voted to rename it Douglass Park.

Because of the Village Leadership Academy students’ vision and dedication, the Red Cross is honoring them with the 2021 Youth Heroes award, sponsored by ITW.

ITW is proud to support The Red Cross because of their shared commitment to social responsibility, and their proactive safety culture. The ITW Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors consider safety an essential component to their success and work to ensure the soundest safety practices possible to protect their colleagues and community.

Join the Virtual Celebration

American Red Cross

The 2021 Class of Heroes will be celebrated at the Honoring our Heroes in an Extraordinary Time virtual event on Thursday, April 29, 9:00-10:00 a.m. CST. To learn more about their stories, and be inspired to take action in your community, register for this free event.

The annual Heroes event was established to raise awareness of local heroes who carry out the mission of the Red Cross by making a commitment to creating stronger communities and providing help when crisis strikes. 

Your American Red Cross

American Red Cross
Photo by Jaka Vinsek/American Red Cross

Covid-19 does not change the mission of the American Red Cross. During this pandemic, nearly every corner of the country experienced natural disasters. From multiple major hurricanes and tropical storms in the south to devastating wildfires in much of the west, back-to-back massive disasters have kept thousands of Red Cross volunteers working tirelessly for months across the country to provide food, shelter and comfort to thousands of people in need. Your American Red Cross responded to nearly 60,000 disasters providing comfort, immediate relief and hope to those in need, collected 40% of the nation’s blood supply, taught lifesaving skills, supported military members and their families and provided international humanitarian aid.  

Your American Red Cross Biomedical team has also been hard at work in response to Covid-19. We have collected convalescent plasma as a treatment option, expanded blood donation testing to include Covid-19 antibody testing, and in many communities, volunteers are assisting at vaccine distribution sites. In a year where human suffering was so poignantly close to each of us, the Red Cross was there to offer a helping hand.

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