Helping Those in Need with the American Red Cross

For as long as he has been able, Jarrett Tomas Barrios has been an advocate for those without a voice. His story is one of consistent commitment. From his many roles in both the public and private sectors, he has been involved in politics, advocacy, healthcare, and humanitarian work; he has been a champion for marginalized and socially vulnerable communities.

Now at the helm of the American Red Cross’ Los Angeles region, Jarrett continues to guide his team to follow its deep-rooted legacy of helping those in need.

Jarrett is used to firsts, and one would almost think that he will always be pushing those boundaries; exploring not only what is possible, but to continue to expand the depth of how we can help those around us. Born into a Cuban family living in Florida, Jarrett was one of the first in his family to attend college. He went to Harvard, nothing less, which was a life-changing experience that put things into perspective for him. That unleveled field made him decide what his purpose would be: to create those life opportunities for people who started at an unlucky point, but are determined to make their own touchdown.

“The challenge is that there are a lot of reasons people are held back or aren’t as equal. Some of those are the things that we hear about a lot today in the news: class, race, and religion. A lot of it is due to abilities and educational opportunities that people are given, or not, to allow them to take that kind of step forward,” said Jarrett. “I think that’s what brought me into politics, and that desire in a lot of ways is the thing that still animates me today in my work at the Red Cross. It was really a desire to serve people who may be in that moment or at that their stage of life didn’t necessarily have the same opportunity.”

A Purpose that Led to the American Red Cross

Professionally, Jarrett’s legacy of advocating for others is marked with significant hallmarks. He was the first openly gay man elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and led equality and human rights discussions, shining a light on the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, including advocating for same-sex marriage. His work in advocacy and public policy carried him to lead GLAAD in New York and prominent healthcare companies.

He also was the chairman of the Public Safety Committee. His first act in the legislature helped the Red Cross, by making it easier for volunteers to help in disaster events. Because of a bill Jarrett championed, Massachusetts became the first state in the country where state employees who are Red Cross disaster responders could volunteer by being deployed to a disaster with work permission.

This intersection of advocacy, public policy, and health led him to one of the oldest and most robust humanitarian organizations: the American Red Cross.

“Maybe it was destiny that I would end up at the Red Cross,” Jarrett said jokingly.

Jarret Barrios, CEO American Red Cross LA Region

Eight years later, now in Los Angeles, Jarrett is still with the Red Cross entering his fifth year as CEO of the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region, the organization’s second largest region in the U.S.

But even as CEO, Jarrett is the first to know that being a part of the Red Cross means doing whatever it takes to help those in need, often putting others before yourself. This selflessness is a hallmark of those who are a part of the Red Cross, and Jarrett is no exception. Jarrett was onsite during the Boston Marathon bombing, and during the aftermath of the event, immediately went to work to mobilize support for victims, despite not knowing the status of his own son who was competing in the Marathon.

This passion for putting others before yourself is part of what makes the Red Cross legacy so important to the fabric of our community, something we share within our Herbalife Nutrition community.

Red Crosser: More Than Just A Volunteer

More than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce is made up of volunteers. This allows the Red Cross to reduce their operational costs, keeping almost all funding directly to support their critical programs. These invaluable members of their team, known as “Red Crossers” in bright vests emblazoned with the iconic red cross logo are one of the hallmarks of the organization. In response, Red Crossers treat their work with almost a sacred reverence. For many in need, the sight of Red Crossers not only means safety and security, but hope.

“It’s universally the case that Red Crossers are the sort of people who fix things, who make things better, who care for people,” said Jarrett. “It’s incredibly moving to see and so rewarding for the kind of person who understands the value of giving back to the community.”

Red Crossers are incredibly dedicated, going through extensive training and available to be “deployed” at any time to support disaster relief efforts, often for periods of two weeks or longer, sleeping on cots and working around the clock. Even under these difficult situations, many are forcibly sent home to recover, many staying extra days to help even one more family.

Beyond Disaster Relief and Blood Donation

Most people think about disaster relief efforts or blood donation and healthcare services when it comes to the Red Cross. But this is only part of the work that the Red Cross does.

“There’s a range of things the Red Cross does,” said Jarrett. “Most people think of blood donation and disaster, but their dollar that goes to support the Red Cross supports all of our important programs that we can reach and care for people in their hour of need and build a more resilient United States.”

Among the lesser known programs of the Red Cross include their extensive international work, both in disaster relief, prevention, preparation and large-scale public health initiatives including vaccination programs, mapping campaigns for areas where GPS is inaccessible as well as support for United States active military and veterans.

Additionally, the Red Cross plays a key role  in training and preparedness activities across the U.S. , often for the most socially vulnerable communities, those that would suffer the most in times of crisis.

“We are one of the largest providers of training [in the U.S.],” said Jarrett. “We teach CPR and first aid to hundreds of thousands of people each year, tens of thousands of kids to swim each year and thousands of young people to become lifeguards each year.”

Another key prevention effort is Sound the Alarm, a series of smoke alarm installation events to help reduce deaths and injuries from home fires. This initiative has been massively successful, reaching thousands of people through door-to-door community work where volunteers install free smoke alarms in homes, along with providing one-on-one education about fire safety that helps save lives.

Herbalife Nutrition Partnership: Addressing Nutrition in the Scope

But the Red Cross can’t do all of this work alone. They rely on partners to be able to extend support.

Partners help in critical scenarios such as support for disaster relief, blood donation, and volunteers to support ongoing programs.

“Our partners play a critical role in encouraging people to give blood. This support for blood donation is crucial. Only 3 percent  of the U.S. population who can give blood, do, and yet there is a constant need. Blood cannot be manufactured or created synthetically; it can only come from blood donors,” said Jarrett. “Giving back by donating blood is one of the most significant and powerful ways to support the Red Cross and its mission.”

Partnerships are crucial to sustaining their operations. Since 2006, Herbalife Nutrition has proudly supported the Red Cross by raising funds for global disaster relief events, increasing awareness, and hosting onsite blood drives for employees and independent distributors. The Company also provides in-kind donations of protein bars to 120 blood donation centers across the U.S.

“The Red Cross relies on Herbalife Nutrition as we do our many partners in times of disaster as well as support for the needs of blood donation. The in-kind donation of the Herbalife Nutrition Protein Deluxe bars has helped people both in disasters and who’ve given blood have really shaped and have helped our mission,” said Jarrett.

Herbalife Nutrition and the Red Cross share the same spirit of making a difference in people’s lives. But they are also alike in their very personal, community-based approach. Both of our organizations work with people from all walks of life. Different ages, genders, colors, races, backgrounds, languages; and what matters is to make a human connection to be able to support someone.

“It’s the extra connection to those in need that makes all of the difference.”

Getting Involved With the Red Cross

Want to get involved? There are several ways to help support those in need by supporting the American Red Cross. Here are a few ways to give back:

Become a volunteer

Go to, hit the “I want to volunteer” button, and you can sign up. The first couple of sessions are all online to get trained, then you’ll go into your local Red Cross and you can become a disaster volunteer.

Share with others

Download free Red Cross mobile apps in the Apple App store or Google Play to access tools and preparedness information you need every day. Red Cross apps include: a first aid app, pet first aid app, and a disaster app that delivers expert information when and where you need it most.

Donate blood

Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood. Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at or use the Blood Donor App.

Find out about the eligibility requirements to donate blood here.

Make a financial donation

Did you know you can donate online, by mail, through text or phone? Learn more ways to make a financial donation here.

Learn more at


Erin Richards-Kunkel

Erin Richards-KunkelSr. Director, Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Social Responsibility

Erin leads the development and execution of global partnerships and corporate social responsibility initiatives for Herbalife Nutrition. Her background combines analytical and creative expertise with degrees in both biological sciences and journalism from the University of California, Davis and the University of Southern California respectively. Her love of storytelling, science, and social good comes together in her approach for engagement and holistic campaign strategy and development.