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Women's History Month Spotlight with Kelly Hodges

There are so many ways that one can celebrate Women’s History Month, and we’re interviewing women leaders who inspire us – and the communities we serve. Today’s focus is on Central East Chapter Executive Director, Kelly Hodges. Kelly has been a proud Red Crosser for 29 years.

How did you find your way to the Red Cross?

As a young girl, my dream was to be a Dallas Cowgirl cheerleader, but as I got older, I realized that was not a dream that would come to fruition. I then realized my love for fashion. I loved to find clothes that made me feel happy for myself, my friends and anyone that I could help make feel their best. I found comfort in shopping, for everyo


In college, I wasn’t sure of my career path, but I knew three things I was good at – shopping, writing and talking. I ended up majoring in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and minoring in Journalism. My en

d goal was to be a fashion writer for a large fashion magazine. But you know what they say, make a plan and God laughs.

A professor and mentor of mine, Betty Hudgens, served on the American Red Cross board in Mobile Alabama. Six months after graduation, Professor Hudgens called to let me know about a Special Events Specialist job she wanted me to interview for. From there on it was history.

How long have you worked for the Red Cross?

I have been with the Red Cross for 29 years. I began my career in 1992 at the Mobile Chapter for eight years as a Special Events Specialist. I earned a promotion to the Director of Financial Development. I have served in various departments: Fundraising, Human Resources, Volunteer Services and Chapter Director. I have loved the entire journey!

Who is or has been the most influential woman in your life?

The most influential woman in my life was my NONA (grandmother). She was larger than life and always made people laugh. Born and raised in Italy, sh

e migrated to America when she married my grandfather. NONA danced and sang wherever she was and always had a full meal for anyone who came to visit her. She was larger than any room and always had a crowd around her while she told funny stories or played her ukulele, she was full of life and loved everyone. "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel (Maya Angelou)" was the quote she lived by. I try to live my life with the same passion that NONA shared with ev


If you could interview one woman (alive or dead) who would it be?

Oprah Winfrey. I admire the woman she is and the fact that she lives her imperfect life for the world to see. She was raised by a single mom who served in the military. She was a beauty queen in her younger years and openly showed the world her weight loss challenges later in life. She openly shares her personal struggles so women can learn and grow from her experiences. She spends her fortune helping others and even started a school in Africa to teach women to be leaders.

She knows how to be a friend to people who she knew prior to being famous. She isn’t perfect and she doesn’t pretend to be, that is why I adm

ire the leader, philanthropist and friend that she appears to be.

If a movie was made about you, who would play you?

I have always admired Julia Roberts, she is beautiful both inside and out and she puts everything she has into her character. Or maybe Lucille Ball. She made people laugh and feel good and that is how I live my life. I feel like she would show who I really am.

What challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

I was told once by a fellow worker that most employees at the Red Cross are introverts pretending to be extraverts. I think this is

the truest statement I have heard. When I started my career, I was uncomfortable speaking in fr

ont of large groups, on-camera or to strangers. I quickly learned that in my career that would not be acceptable. I faced my fears head-on and now I am the first one to speak up, to talk about the work of the Red Cross and to ask a question, but in the quiet of my own home, you will find this introvert watching Netflix alone.

Additionally, I am immensely proud that after 29 years of urging others to donate life-saving blood, I finally found the strength to give my first gift of life in February! I could not be prouder that I faced my fear, but that I personally saved lives.

What advice would you give to young women wishing to take their careers to the next level?

Find your passion and let it exude you. If you are passionate about your career, others will see it and want to follow. Being true to yourself and your passion will take you where you need to be in your career. If you don’t like what you do and are not passionate you will be miserable and so will everyone around you. Also, remember that you work to live not live to work. Enjoy your life and do the best you can at everything you do, always finding laughter. It is good for your soul.

Any advice for your younger self?

Life is not perfect and that is okay. There will be ups and downs and times that you find yourself questioning everything. Always know that God has a plan and will pull you through the storm. Doors will open and then close and don’t question it because there is always a reason even if we don’t understand. Enjoy every moment because it is going to go by in a flash.

Here are a few things you should know about Kelly:

  • Married to husband, Woodie Hodges, for 20 years

  • two beautiful children– Tyler, 19 and Hannah Kate, 17

  • three fur babies: Lulu, Jack and Colt, our 95lb black lab who is also Woodie's certified service dog.

  • She loves Christmas, shopping, being at the beach and all genres of music.

Thanks for sharing some of your wisdom, Kelly. Learn more about the Central-East chapter at

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