American Red Cross Salute To Service Gala Quickly Approaching – Interview With CEO Linda Mathes


Linda Mathes, American Red Cross (photo credit to Washingtonian Magazine)

With less than two weeks away, WashingtonExec sat down with American Red Cross CEO Linda Mathes to discuss what to expect for this year’s Salute to Service Gala on May 12th, 2012. We asked Mathes how this year’s black-tie event is different from year’s past and also about special guest presenter, Colonel Gregory Gadson.

WashingtonExec:  What made you all change the name from Fire & Ice to this year’s Salute to Service Gala?

Linda Mathes: We changed the name to more clearly characterize and communicate what this event is.  It is a salute to service.  It’s all about celebrating, honoring and thanking people who serve on behalf of all of us and the people who make our service to them possible; that’s the volunteers and the financial contributors that make Red Cross services possible.  Truly it’s a salute to service, it’s a thank you for service and that more clearly and simply communicates what this event is all about.

WashingtonExec:  I did think the name Fire & Ice was catchy…

Linda Mathes: Well, yes.  It has been and it too characterizes a lot of what the Red Cross does.  We are in people’s lives a lot and everyday and everywhere in conjunction with fire and ice.  That is a theme that is more readily associated with our disaster mission.  It also relates to our service to the men and women of the military and the families but less clearly so.

WashingtonExec:  How did you first become involved with the American Red Cross?

Linda Mathes: I was fortunate many, many years ago to be exposed to the work of the Red Cross and then be offered an opportunity to work with them.  That was 39 years ago.  Truly I’ve just had incredible opportunities to work with this organization over many, many years. I have been here as the CEO for a number of years serving in the National Capitol Region.  The Red Cross presented just the perfect combination of things that have engaged me, challenged me, stimulated me, and inspired me for many, many years.  I’ve worked at pretty much all levels and in a number of different things for this organization.  The mission is so compelling and the values of the organization are like no other.


“WashingtonExec:  What would you say the underlying message is of the Salute to Service Gala?

Linda Mathes: In a word – thanks.  Thanks to the men and women of the military and their families for their service.”


WashingtonExec:  You found something you liked and stuck with it.

Linda Mathes: Wow, yeah, simply put.  You are absolutely right.  It is something that I have a passion for and it is a business that I operate, lead and manage with business skills but it is a business of the heart for sure.

WashingtonExec:  How much do you all plan on raising this year with the gala?

Linda Mathes: We hope and expect to raise several hundred thousand dollars – over $600,000.  We will take the contributions and turn them into service.

WashingtonExec:  Are tickets still available online?

Linda Mathes: Yes, tickets are available online.  People can call or go right on our website at is

WashingtonExec:  What is your favorite part of this event?

Linda Mathes: Hearing the stories from the men and women of the military and their families have come to the event– it is so inspiring and moving to hear their stories on that evening.  That is my favorite part.

WashingtonExec:  How is the event this year a little bit different from the last couple of years?  Has anything changed?

Linda Mathes: What hasn’t changed is we have found that the honoring of the men and women of the military and their families is in fact enjoyable, inspiring and moving. Our Tiffany Circle is a group of women leaders and philanthropists and they wanted to not only make a large generous financial contribution but they wanted to be engaged in our work in a way that is really meaningful.  They zeroed in on our mission regarding serving and supporting our men and women in the military and their families.  They chose to develop this very special award and will be with us that evening to honor a woman who was wounded in combat.

WashingtonExec: Can you tell me about your special guest presenter Colonel Gregory Gadson?

Linda Mathes: Also new this year we have several special guests and Gadson is one of them.  He is a wounded warrior himself.  He will become the Commanding Officer at Fort Belvoir but the Giants gave him their Super Bowl Trophy; not once but I believe twice because he so inspired them to go out there and win, so they did.  Again he is an example of someone who served on behalf of all of us, who was harmed in the process and who has continued to inspire others with his life.

Another new piece is the entertainment that night will be done by a group called The Four Troops. This group consists of recent active duty military and they used their music while serving our country as a way to keep themselves focused.  They are just fantastic.  They have award winning music and they are going to share it with us that night.  They are not a dance band per say.

WashingtonExec:  What would you say the underlying message is of the Salute to Service Gala?

Linda Mathes: In a word – thanks.  Thanks to the men and women of the military and their families for their service.  Thanks to those who help us support them and by that I mean thanks to the financial contributors as well as the volunteers and staff who make Red Cross Services possible.  I’d say it has an underlying message of thanks.

WashingtonExec: Why do you think the Salute to Service Gala should be on corporation’s lists?  What makes Salute to Service different from other black tie events?

Linda Mathes: It is unique in that it is such a powerful investment of time and money.  People can come and see and hear for themselves how valuable their contributions are.  They will have a spectacular evening.  It is moving, inspiring, enjoyable like no other.  It is an opportunity to participate in thanking and celebrating and participating.




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