At first glance, Sheila Breen and Katharine Heffernan appear to have little in common.

They are decades apart in age and have had vastly different life experiences. But they share a strong bond as they help military families and honor veterans.

As AmeriCorps members working for the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter, Breen and Heffernan participate in pre-deployment and post-deployment gatherings with troops and their families and make presentations to JROTC cadets at high schools. They spotlight Red Cross history and programs such as emergency communications and mental-health assistance.

Breen, 60, decided to join AmeriCorps after serving as an attorney, speech pathologist, American history teacher and school administrator. She worked as staff attorney for the Arizona Department of Education, Division of Special Education, and an educational specialist in the Career Ladder and Charter School divisions. She also served as superintendent of the Grand Canyon Unified School District and director of the American International School in Vienna, Austria.

Heffernan, 23, signed up for the AmeriCorps program at the Red Cross because she is interested in a career in public health and education. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies and a minor in public health. She studied in Chile during college and returned to conduct a research project after she graduated. Her interests include being a river guide, dance instructor and she is a certified group fitness instructor.

Heffernan and Breen are part of a team of five AmeriCorps members who are spending 11 months in the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program covering 10 Arizona counties.

Since AmeriCorps started in 1993, more than 820,000 men and women have served in the federally funded program, providing more than 1 billion hours of service.

For more information about participating in AmeriCorps at the Red Cross, contact Watts at (602) 347-6515 or

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