After leaving her family's frozen-food marketing business in Los Angeles, Sandy Klein decided to cross the country and follow her two daughters to Charleston.
When Klein arrived, she tried to break into the culinary scene as an industry consultant, but she had never been good at marketing herself. She took up painting. Then she found her passion in the Lowcountry.
About six years ago, she volunteered her time with "Holiday for Heroes," an event sponsored by the local chapter of the American Red Cross. She took greeting cards into schools and helped children write letters to service men and women. Close to 40,000 service members received holiday cards that year.
"That was pretty heart rendering and pretty gratifying," she said. "So that's when I started exploring the Red Cross."
Klein, 76, was awarded the 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence, an honor the American Red Cross bestows to about 25 people annually — the "most dedicated employees and volunteers in the organization," according to the nonprofit. The last time a volunteer from South Carolina won the award was in 2012. Klein, who lives in Daniel Island, is the Lowcountry chapter's first winner.
Klein will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to accept the award and meet the other recipients.
"I'm looking forward to meeting the other people from around the country and to see who and what they are and what they've been doing, and learn," Klein said.
During the past six years, Klein has made a significant mark on the Lowcountry chapter, which is based in North Charleston. She raised almost $100,000 and, with her own money, purchased an emergency response vehicle and a bloodmobile in 2017. She led the home fire prevention initiative in which she met with church and school groups to educate people about how to prepare for a disaster.
Klein is a full-time volunteer and spends about 40 hours per week at the Red Cross. She is also a member of the Lowcountry Chapter’s Board of Directors.
“Sandy Klein is one of the most caring and passionate people that I have ever met,” said Louise Welch Williams the Red Cross regional CEO. “She motivates us all and is a refreshing reminder that people really do care.”