Taylor Coffelt, staff contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
April is National Volunteer Month and the Red Cross is highlighting volunteers making a positive difference in the communities we serve. From helping people affected by home fires, to handing out water after a severe winter storm, North Texas Red Crossers are always there to answer the call.
Monika Koenig is one of these incredible volunteers. While she currently resides in Lubbock, Texas, her Red Cross journey actually began at the German Red Cross many years ago.
Monika has been a Red Cross volunteer most of her life. At the age of five, while living in a small German village, Monika joined the German Red Cross.
“There was one Red Cross youth group,” Monika said. “Basically, once a child became four or five, they would join that Red Cross youth group and our job was to help with blood donation events that occurred every other month in our village. The little kids were responsible for bringing sausage to the people donating blood and we were super proud doing that!”
She participated in weekend events and Red Cross competitions and learned how to truly be a Red Crosser. Monika and the other youth would go through exercises where they would role-play major accidents and disasters to learn what to do in those scenarios.
When she turned 13, Monika took on the role of group leader. “Then I started to do the training,” she said of her new role. “I went from being a member of the youth group to the leader, so I was in charge of holding the classes and doing the training and was responsible for all of the kids when we went to camps and events. I oversaw between ten and twenty kids and had to prepare weekly classes and was the one that took the kids to the blood donation events.” She was even in charge of some kids that were older than her, which could make things a little difficult at times.
As time went on, Monika began to participate in more events with the Red Cross, including assisting local communities still affected by bombs from World War II.
“In Nuremberg, there were bombs from the second World War still in the ground,” she remembered. “So when construction happened, they would dig up some of the bombs that didn’t go off during the war and our responsibility was to clear out local housing, get those people to shelters and take care of them while the police and the Army were dealing with the bomb. This happened about twice a year.”
Her experience with the Red Cross as a youth member led her to become an EMT in Germany, bringing even more skills to further support the Red Cross mission. “Those of us that were EMTs or paramedics tried to support the paid Red Cross staff by taking shifts on the weekends. We would go out with ambulances and support in any way we could.”
In 2015, Monika moved to the U.S., but didn’t begin working with the American Red Cross until April of 2019. She started her American Red Cross journey in Los Angeles, helping with blood donor events and then, once COVID-19 hit, she began serving food to families in need.
“Cars would line up and come through to tell us how many people they had in their families and we would place the meals on the tables for them to take. We tried to serve them as safely as possible,” she said. “In September, I moved to Lubbock and started working with the North Texas Region of the Red Cross. I completed my trainings, and two days later deployed to Dallas to help with sheltering after all of the hurricanes.”
Now, Monika is “the right hand” of the Disaster Program Manager in Lubbock and is also a member of the Workforce Engagement Team. She helps recruit new volunteers and guides them through their onboarding and training to make sure they are fully equipped and feel welcomed and appreciated.
“I grew up in the Red Cross family and I know how important the work that they’re doing is,” she said. “For me it was never a question, if I’m here, I’m doing the work that needs to be done.”
Monika is an amazing example of a Red Crosser and we are proud to have her as a member of our North Texas team.
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, please visit redcross.com/volunteer to find out what opportunities are available in your area.
Thank you, Monika, and all the Red Crossers in the North Texas Region for all of the work you’ve been doing, are doing and will continue to do!