Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Cheryl Poel Bremer, Grand Rapids Red Cross CEO

Growing up in West Africa with her missionary parents, Cheryl Bremer learned to see with love.

She’s a person of faith, and said lives her life in a walk in faithfulness, obedience and gratitude. That has led her to her career at the Red Cross.

My favorite thing I took away from the conversation with Bremer was a piece of knowledge she learned from Diary of a Mad Black Woman.

When the movie ends with the lady who finally finds love. The man says, “I pray for you, more than I pray for myself. I love you, more than I love myself.”

She spent time on the board at a Grand Rapids Christian school. She was in charge of collecting tuition from families, many of which couldn’t afford it.

“We worked with those who couldn’t afford it,” Bremer said.

After that, she realized that she wanted to spend her life helping to make other lives better.

It also prompted her to say, “Life is a journey, you never know why until we look back.”

That quote is great, and it can help us realize we can look and change before it’s too late. A lot of life is influenced by the consumerist society.

Right now, there’s a lot of pressure to be successful, and to make money.

But that’s only in some societies. Others are more simple; and likely more enjoyable.

“There are many who don’t live in this society,” she said. “They have respect for their family; don’t ask for ‘What’s in it for me?'”

More people could easily give more, and actually receive more in return if they didn’t ask for it.  You don’t know what people have to offer, that’s actually something I covered with Steve Assarian on Wednesday.

From the giving portion, the conversation with Bremer shifted to what people can do for the Red Cross.

The first option of course was monetary.

“We see that, in times of disaster, when people see others suffering, they open up their pocket books,” Bremer said. “A lot of these people you’d never expect, or suspect, to become very generous.”

But what about when there isn’t a disaster?

“People in West Michigan, we don’t experience a lot of disasters,” she said. “The general public doesn’t know what the Red Cross does.”

It does a lot. From Teaching how to handle disasters before they happen to sending messages every day to deployed soliders and their families to eradicating measles to helping victims of three to four house fires a week.

Other ways of course are to volunteer. The Red Cross’ workforce is 85 percent volunteer — that’s more than 500,000 volunteers.

“They’re in very responsible positions,” she said.

There’s also giving blood, a “tangible” way to save lives. Bremer said every two seconds a person is in need of blood.

Bremer said an important thing to note is that the Red Cross is not a government agency. It is mandated by Congress to provide aid in times of need, it is not funded by the government.

“It’s been perhaps an impediment,” she said.

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