Ralph Lee, a member of the Cincinnati Red Cross Board of Directors and chair of its Diversity and Inclusion Committee, has been appointed to the National Diversity Advisory Council of the American Red Cross.
Each quarter, the National Diversity Advisory Council gathers at the Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to advise the Board of Governors, the President and CEO, and the Chief Diversity Officer of the American Red Cross on relevant strategic issues brought before the Council related to diversity and inclusiveness, and to foster exemplary diversity initiatives and partnerships at the Red Cross.
The Council is appointed by the Governance and Board Development Committee of the Board of Governors.
“Ralph has been a wonderful and very active Board member,” says Trish Smitson, CEO of the Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region. “As Chair of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, he has made us a leader among all Red Cross chapters in the area of diversity and inclusion. To have him appointed to the National Advisory Council is not only a worthy appointment, but one that will make the Red Cross nationally a better and stronger organization.”
Lee, who joined the Cincinnati Red Cross Board in 2014, is Vice President of Human Resources at Total Quality Logistics (TQL), the second largest freight brokerage firm in the United States. Prior to joining TQL, he was Senior Director for Human Resources at Cintas Corp., and Vice President of Human Resources and Vice President of In-Flight Services for Comair.
Lee has received numerous awards and recognitions during his career, including being honored by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati in 2015 for “Communicating Our Message” for his leadership as the Eastern Area Campaign Chair, as well as for his participation in the Ross Love Memorial Scholarship program for African American college students.
Lee earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Xavier University, where he was also a Hall of Fame member of its basketball team.
Christina Mayhaus is Program Director for the annual Leadership Development Camp. In other words, she is the leader who leads the leaders who teach leadership to the campers. This is her fifth—and final—year as supreme leader of the camp. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her and capture her memories before she leaves.
Q: How long have you been with the Red Cross, and what is your job now? Do you have any other jobs?
A: I have been with the Red Cross for what I believe is my 17th summer, and I am currently the LDC Program Director. This is my fifth year back with that title. Outside of the Red Cross, I am also a therapist and have my own practice.
Q: You attended the Leadership Development Camp in 2000, what about that camp made you want to become a counselor after attending?
A: First of all I had fun, and it was also nice meeting different people who went to different schools and did different things than I did. I also learned a lot about my leadership style and myself and wanted to use those abilities, so I decided to be a counselor.
Q: What drew you to the Red Cross?
A: I had done a lot of different types of volunteer work before I did LDC the first time, but I actually found out about the Red Cross and LDC through a counselor at my school. She nominated a group of us to go to camp and I thought it sounded like a good experience.
Q: What is the LDC offering to kids that is hard to find elsewhere?
A: I think the big thing with LDC that is different is that it is peer led. So there’s other high school counselors that meet throughout the year to plan the camp, and they not only plan it, but they are also the ones who run it. I always say that now as an adult, if the campers do not know who I am, that is okay.
Q: When you were in the camp was there ever a defining moment that came to you and you thought, “I want to be a counselor and help other kids?”
A: I think a lot f it was just seeing how much of an impact all of the counselors had on me. It was cool that as a teenager I recognized I could have that impact on someone else. It was also cool seeing how close all of the counselors were and how well they got along, and also how diverse they were. It was in the combination of all of them that I found that moment.
Q: You have been doing these camps for a very long time. Do you have a craziest story?
A: There are so many. There happened to be one year when we were at camp and there was a tornado warning, so we had to get all of the campers into one little hallway in the dorms. We were all shoved in that small space so it was hot and we just could believe it was happening. We also had one year that our walkie-talkies somehow ended up on the same frequency of staff on Xavier’s campus. One of the counselors said “Code Red, Code Red” over the walkie and the staff there picked it up and called the fire department. When the fire department showed up, we were so shocked. Those were some of the more off-the-wall things that happened.
Q: Why does this year with LDC have to be your last?
A: It was one of those things that the adult staff and I have been talking about for a couple years. There were definitive ends to all of my other positions during LDC, but now there really is no end to what I am doing now. I love LDC and it means a lot to me but there are other things that I have had to focus on and I can’t put enough time in to LDC that I would like. It has been very rough, especially telling the counselors that I was leaving, but it is time for me to try other opportunities.
Q: Do you have any advice for the new LDC Director?
A: I think that just being open to the experience is a big thing. It is also important to let the kids use their leadership skills, because every day is different when working with teenagers. So just be open and trust that the kids will do good, and also put a lot of faith in them that things will get done.
Veterans returning from serving overseas often face a wide variety of physical and emotional challenges as they readjust to life at home. How they overcome those challenges, however, differs with each person. For those who are musically inclined, one way to, well, get back in a daily rhythm is through participation in an increasingly popular form of therapy known as drum circles.
Like a musical jam with percussion instruments, drum circles promote healing, provide an outlet for stress, increase relaxation and provide an opportunity for veterans to connect and start building social support. And thanks to a partnership between the Red Cross and the Cincinnati Arts Association, veterans both at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and throughout the community now have an opportunity to drum their way to better health.
Utilizing a grant, Red Cross Regional Director of the Service to the Armed Forces Cory Paul delivered more than a dozen drums at the community meeting at the Cincinnati VA, allowing the drum circles to commence. After the meeting, Nalda Z. Gordon, VA Program Director of the Treatment Recovery Activity Center (TRAC), wrote to Cory in regards to his appearance of the drum debut.
“Thank you so much for attending the community meeting on last Friday…From the reaction we got, you can see that they will be put to good use.”
The many thanks to the Red Cross did not stop there. Glenn A. Costie, Director of the VA Medical Center, added a letter of appreciation for the donation to the TRAC program. “Red Cross support has made a difference in many lives and helps us to provide our Veterans with complementary items and services that may otherwise not be available.”
The Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) supports America’s military and veteran families prepare for, cope with and respond to the many challenges of military service. And while working with the VA is a common connection, it’s not the only one. The region’s SAF office also has a partnership with Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Team Rubicon’s primary mission is providing disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters, be them domestic or international—a mission that sounds familiar.
Recently, Cory received a call from the Cincinnati VA stating they had a 100-percent disabled veteran in need of help moving to the Cincinnati suburb of Cleves. He started a case and made a referral to Team Rubicon. Service above self is the driving force behind all of the team’s operational activity. Their actions are characterized by the constant pursuit to prevent or alleviate human suffering and restore human dignity by helping others on their worst days. After receiving word, Team Rubicon instantly organized a moving party, recruited volunteers, and went to work helping the disabled veteran into a new home.
“These kind of partnerships are invaluable,” says Cory. “Instead of saying to the client that this is not something we do, we leverage our partners and make it happen.”
Every day, SAF provides 24/7 global emergency communication services and support in military and veteran healthcare facilities across the country and around the world. In the last 12 months, the region reached 2,151 members of the military, veterans and their families and provided 3,140 services including emergency messaging, financial assistance and information and referrals. The SAF provided resiliency training to 316 service members and their families. It also supported the Cincinnati and Dayton VA hospitals with volunteer support and supplies, including model cars, reading glasses, phone cards, clothing and music therapy percussion instruments totaling more than $8,000.
Q: A little background: How long have you been with the Red Cross; what is your job now and what other jobs have you had over the years?
A: I have been working with the Red Cross for six years. I was hired as a Disaster Response Specialist and was promoted to Disaster Program Manager in Cleveland. Now, I am the Regional Director of Service to the Armed Forces. I moved here from Cleveland with my fiancé, Jess, in November 2015.
Q: What drew you to want to work for the Red Cross in the first place?
A: I started volunteering on a Disaster Action Team. After the Haiti earthquake, I was moved to donate my time to ease human suffering. Ultimately, I wanted to deploy to large disasters and help those I saw on the news. I did not realize that disasters happened on a daily basis and help was needed right in my community. I served as a Team Leader for about six months before I applied for a paid staff position.
Q: As the regional SAF officer, what’s your military background? How did you get interested in the military? Did you have GI Joes as a kid?
A: My military career started in 2010, after I graduated Ohio University and before my school loans needed to be paid back. I had trouble finding adequate employment and kept seeing how many benefits were available to service members and veterans–including the student loan repayment program. I signed a contract for six years, paid off my loans, deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I never really had that much interest in the military as a kid, but I did learn to shoot from my grandpa who used to call me “Dead-eye.”
Q: Which is more realistic of military life? The movie “Stripes” with Bill Murray or the TV show “Hogan’s Heroes”?
A: I definitely identify with Bill Murray in Stripes when I think about military life. Although it is extremely regimented during basic training, the laughs, pranks and camaraderie were the things that kept us all together.
Q: Did you ever have a drill sergeant scream, “Put your toes on the line you slimy worms,” or “Don’t you eyeball me boy” like Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman”? If not, what did they say?
A: My drill sergeants, DS Gay and DS Rhea, yelled SO much. They were fair but also very harsh. Most of the time, it was very hard not to crack up or laugh at some of the things these guys were saying. But, if you laughed, you’d get it worse and worse. But, sometimes it was worth it.
Q: We understand you’re getting married in May. What’s the plan? Are you involved at all or are you just supposed to show up?
A: May 7 to be exact, in Athens, Ohio. I’ve been pretty involved. Jess tells me I have a good eye, so I was helping with some of the decoration planning. I am also her “bulldog.” When she was having trouble with a certain vendor, she would have me call and hoot and holler, make a big stink, to get what she wants. The ceremony is in front of the Ridges, once known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum. I like to joke and say that It’s fitting that we are getting married at an asylum.
Q: Married life can be challenging. Will your military background help in that area?
A: I am really good at taking orders. Jess is really good at issuing them.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I like to sample new beers and new breweries. I make my own beer from time to time. Jess and I go hiking and visit local museums. I love the water and look forward to getting some small boat sailing or water skiing in this summer.
Q: Where was your last vacation?
A: My last vacation was to Yosemite National Forest. Jess and I met her family for some camping and hiking for a couple of days. We hiked Cloud’s Rest, which has one of the best views in the park. I was going to propose to Jess on the top but my nerves were so shot from the hike and the heights that I was afraid I was going to get down on one knee and she’d be so surprised that she would back right off the mountain. I finally proposed a couple days later near her parents house in Lake Tahoe.
Q: What’s the most exhilarating thing you’ve ever done?
A: I love to SCUBA dive. I’ve been skydiving a couple times–which comes close, but I love being under water. In some ways it is exhilarating, in other ways it is the most calming thing I’ve ever done. I do love the deep wreck dives where you feel as if you are flying. One time, I got nitrogen narcosis, looking at all the pretty fish. When I snapped out of it, I checked my air gauge and realized I was in trouble. I immediately got my dive buddy and started to ascend. I ran out of air at our second safety stop at 30 feet and had to breathe off my buddy’s secondary regulator as we surfaced. I definitely learned my lesson.
Q: What’s your most memorable Red Cross moment?
A: Before I deployed for Afghanistan, I was our chapter’s SAF emergency communication follow up point of contact. I made thousands of follow up calls to families in our area. While I was overseas, working overnight TOC (Tactical Operations Center) duty, the phone rang–it was a Red Cross SAF Specialist delivering an emergency communication message to our commander. I immediately went into “Red Cross Mode” and told the specialist that this was my day job and I was happy to help in any way possible. We got the soldier the message and he was on emergency leave in six hours. He was on the first helicopter out of Qalat headed home to be with his family.