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First Black woman to head regional Red Cross holds on to mother, grandmother's wisdom

Stephanie Byrd
Posted at 11:41 PM, Oct 26, 2021

CINCINNATI — As the regional CEO of the American Red Cross, Stephanie Byrd is living by her mantra to serve others.

"I was raised to believe that I could do anything, and really told that you have to do something that makes a difference," Byrd said.

That encouragement from her mother and grandmother shaped Byrd's career as the first Black woman to head the Red Cross' Central & Southern Ohio Region. She is breaking barriers, but Byrd is more focused on the opportunity to help others.

"It is an amazing opportunity, and a gift to be able to do this job as a African American woman," Byrd said. "And I say that because when I think of the people that we help on a day-to-day basis, they are oftentimes people who look like me."

Byrd has been leading the Red Cross for three years, but prior to that, she led the effort to bring Cincinnati Preschool Promise — allowing all children the opportunity to attend quality preschools — to fruition.

"There are more children who have had that early learning experience and are thus more prepared for kindergarten, thus, more likely to be successful in school," Byrd said. "It does still give me goosebumps, because it is about making a difference in someone's life that will really help them be successful in whatever they choose to do."

Now, with 47 counties to lead for the Red Cross, she is working to make sure children and adults have opportunities and feel safe in their community. She continues to tell herself what her mother and grandmother have always instilled in her: "No one is better than you, but remember, you're no better than anyone else."

Byrd said she hopes to not only help those in need, but lift up those who might be looking up to her.

"There are so many people in your life who will tell you that you can't — and you should not be one of them," Byrd said. "You should be your greatest advocate, you're your greatest cheerleader."