- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - An organization known for sending volunteers on far-flung missions to help others is the focus of a new exhibit at Battle Creek’s natural history museum.

On the basement level of Kingman Museum, a collection of items from the long history of the American Red Cross has been cultivated from the Calhoun and Branch County Red Cross chapter and Battle Creek resident JoAnn King, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer ( https://bcene.ws/1jd7w2A ).

King came to the museum recently and saw many of the Red Cross collectibles she’s gathered over her more than 30 years as a volunteer in display cases and hanging on walls.

King said she liked what she saw.

“It’s in my bedroom, on various shelves, walls, wherever,” King said of her collection’s normal home. “I’m just happy that somebody else will get to see it, and maybe it will prompt them to give them blood.”

March 15 was the first day the temporary exhibit was on display for the public. It will be on exhibit through Saturday, when the museum will host Red Cross staff members who will give presentations during the museum’s hours of noon through 4 p.m.

For King, the story of the organization that’s had a presence in Calhoun County for 98 years is a somewhat personal one. In fact, she still volunteers today, although she said her fellow volunteers at hospitals usually just let her do some paperwork or transport prescriptions.

King said she’s been collecting since her volunteer work began over three decades ago, in the Red Cross Bicycle Corps. Her work then moved to blood services and hospitals, and now is just in the latter.

Now, she’s amassed an impressive collection full of memories.

“I have a doll,” King said. “She has a little Scotty in front of her and it was from a cover of the Liberty magazine during the second World War. A friend found the doll, then she was lucky enough to find the magazine for me.”

Another item is a photograph of a mother and her two daughters who were Red Cross volunteers, women King worked with and who were neighbors of hers.

In one corner of the exhibit area, King’s blue uniform and tan hat, bearing the well-known symbol of the organization, are under glass.

There are other items from both King and the local Red Cross office that are more modern. A cell phone, from before the era of smart phones, can be found there, a museum piece on its own. A Minimates action figure, a toy known for bringing superheroes and movie monsters to plastic life, bears the Red Cross on its chest.

If this exhibit brings awareness of the local importance of Red Cross to people, then the exhibit has done its job as far as Branch Manager for Calhoun County and Branch County Katy Lagoni is concerned.

“This chapter here has a long history of serving this community and we’re proud that we’re still doing it today,” Lagoni said.

It’s easy to think of Red Cross volunteers working in the wake of tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters, but there’s a lot to do at home as well, according to Lagoni.

“We’re responding certainly weekly to house fires and other disasters that families need help with relief and recovery from,” Lagoni said. “We offer a variety of services on a regular basis, from health and safety classes, to babysitting classes, to water safety.”

Lagoni also pointed to the organization’s work helping members of the Armed Forces during when they leave on missions and when they return, as well as working with families on disaster preparation.

When people do need the services of the Red Cross, Lagoni said it can change their lives. When it does leave a lasting impression, that’s when people - even volunteers - can get the bug to start collecting memorabilia.

“People are fanatical about it, and rightly so,” Lagoni said.

Kingman Museum Education and Outreach Manager Kelly VanRyswyk said including something like the Red Cross collection among its animals, planetarium shows and human biology exhibits is part of Kingman’s mission.

“It’s educational and touches ages in a whole span,” VanRyswyk said. “It also involves people like Mrs. King who are gracious enough to give us their things to display.”

Those partnerships included teaming with the Red Cross and the Battle Creek YMCA for its Think Cardio! program in February. That was aimed and showing kids and adults how important heart health and fitness are in daily life.

“The Red Cross came and did citizen CPR with us, which is how we made this initial contact in the first place,” VanRyswyk said.

For King, whose personal items are on display, there’s only one way to describe how she feels about the exhibit.

“It makes me feel great,” King said. “I’m real happy to share.”

___

Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com

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