Keith Rhodes joined the American Red Cross in May 2016 as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the organization’s North Texas Region, making history as the first African-American to hold the role. Rhodes supports a robust team of staff and volunteers who serve the Red Cross mission across 121 counties. Now, approaching five years at the American Red Cross, Rhodes reflects on what it means to be a Red Crosser.
“Being a Red Crosser means that I have the opportunity each and every day to save and change lives,” said Rhodes. “I am proud to be part of the fabric of the largest network of humanitarians around the world who have all made a personal commitment to make our world and surrounding areas a better place.”
Shortly after starting his role, Rhodes led the organization in an anniversary event for Hurricane Katrina. As a Hurricane Katrina evacuee, his life experience perfectly intersected with the mission of the Red Cross.
“The first people to show up to help and provide assistance to me after Hurricane Katrina were Red Cross volunteers and I never forgot that,” recalled Rhodes. “I never forgot what it meant to receive cleaning supplies and a warm meal for me and my family.”
When asked about leading one of the most disaster-prone regions in the country, Rhodes explained, “It’s extremely challenging, but more so, an extreme honor. I have the opportunity to partner with an amazing team of volunteers and staff members who are experts in their areas of service. As a disaster-prone area, it increases the opportunities we have, and that I have, to see our great work carried out and making a difference on a daily basis.”
During his tenure, Rhodes has been at the helm while the region has responded to multiple disasters including tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, home and apartment fires and more. In addition, the North Texas Region regularly assists our counterparts in the Texas Gulf Coast as they grapple with hurricanes including Hurricanes Harvey (2017) and Laura (2020).
“Shortly after joining the Red Cross, Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast and the North Texas area was flooded with evacuees escaping the storm. As we opened the convention center, I witnessed hundreds of people needing shelter and care. It was at that moment I realized how important and impactful the Red Cross had been in my life. I recognized I had the opportunity and responsibility to pay forward the comfort and care me and my family received after Hurricane Katrina.”
As a change-agent, Rhodes makes it a priority to partner with government and community leaders, and other organizations at various levels, to help both the community and individuals prepare for disasters and become more resilient for future events. Some activities include supporting military communities with emergency communications and resiliency programs, encouraging people to take lifesaving courses like first aid and CPR, and sharing simple tips people can take to protect their family like regularly testing smoke alarms and building an emergency kit.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to stand with my team in the gap between disaster and recovery to help people who are facing critical circumstances or in their darkest hour. I’m proud to be part of an organization that extends a helping hand, and especially proud to be a part of the North Texas team.”
Learn more about Keith Rhodes and the rest of the North Texas Leadership Team at redcross.org/northtexas.