Red Cross continues to support those affected by Harvey, Irma and Maria

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 20, 2019- Two years ago, three hurricanes hit the U.S. in less than a month, affecting thousands of people who lived in the paths of these storms. The American Red Cross quickly responded to these disasters, providing much-needed aid and support. Two years later, the Red Cross continues to support the areas hardest hit by these storms.

Cudjoe Key

Hurricane Harvey

Two years ago, three hurricanes hit the U.S. in less than a month, affecting thousands of people who lived in the paths of these storms. The American Red Cross quickly responded to these disasters, providing much-needed aid and support. Two years later, the Red Cross continues to support the areas hardest hit by these storms.

Hurricane Maria 2017

Since then, the American Red Cross has provided aid to those affected by the storm. Locally, the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross assisted by deploying 49 trained disaster workers from Northeast Ohio, the vast majority volunteers, who responded to the relief operation. Overall:

  • More than 46,000 damaged or destroyed households have been provided with recovery financial assistance.
  • More than 414,800 overnight shelter stays were provided in collaboration with partners.
  • More than 4.5 million meals and snacks were served together with partners.
  • More than 127,000 health and mental health contacts have been made.
  • The Red Cross awarded more than $59 million to support community-based recovery services by local nonprofits to provide services to the communities who were hardest hit.

Hurricane Irma

Just two weeks after Harvey, Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds and floodwaters hit the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and then took a destructive path across Florida. Irma was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005.

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Again, the Red Cross was there to provide aid to those who were impacted by the storm.  There were 29 deployments of staff and volunteers from among the Northeast Ohio disaster workforce who assisted with the relief effort.

  • More than 555,300 overnight shelter stays were provided in collaboration with partners.
  • More than 1.6 million meals and snacks were served together with partners.
  • More than 1.8 million relief items were distributed.
  • More than 62,500 health and mental health contacts have been made.
  • More than 9,200 damaged or destroyed households were provided with financial assistance totaling over $37 million.
  • The Red Cross continues to work with local organizations to provide continued support for long-term recovery efforts, awarding more than $15 million in grants.

Hurricane Maria

Maria was the third hurricane to hit the U.S. within a month and was the most intense hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico in more than 80 years. Another 17 workers from Northeast Ohio were deployed.

 

The Red Cross has been working with numerous partners on recovery efforts focusing on consistent power, clean water, community health and community resiliency.

  • More than 12.8 million meals and snacks were served together with partners.
  • More than 77,000 water purification filters were distributed.
  • More than 5.2 million relief items were distributed.
  • More than 40,800 health and mental health contacts have been made.
  • More than 2,700 generators were provided for people with medical equipment needs.

Interested in volunteering to help in the recovery efforts for disasters?

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There are many volunteer opportunities available in Disaster Response. Read our recent article on the requirements for becoming a disaster response volunteer.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

In Northeast Ohio, and everywhere, Red Cross committed to helping anyone in need

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 18, 2019- In light of reports over the last few months that some may be reluctant to seek help following a disaster or tragic event, we would like to reiterate that, “The Red Cross is committed to delivering help to anyone in need—regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status—and to remain a neutral and impartial party, so we can access and help people on all sides,” as stated in this national press release.

The American Red Cross works to ensure that all people affected by disasters receive care, shelter and hope.

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Our commitment to assisting all those in need is reflected daily in Northeast Ohio. Whether a home fire, flood, tornado, storm or other disaster, our teams respond. We do not ask about a person’s beliefs, orientation or citizenship—and we maintain confidentiality.

Following a large event, an important resource is the Safe and Well website at https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php, in Spanish at https://safeandwell-es.communityos.org/cms/index.php. Following a disaster, those impacted can use the site to mark themselves “safe and well,” provide details and post a brief message, allowing loved ones to search for them.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Migration/Refugee Crisis 2019

In addition, the Red Cross has a number of programs to assist migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. These include disaster relief, aid and an international service to reconnect families. An overview of programs is available at: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/how-does-the-american-red-cross-help-migrants.html.

In Northeast Ohio, those seeking assistance or information can contact their local chapter. Phone numbers and addresses are available at: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast.html. A national Spanish-language site is available at: https://www.redcross.org/cruz-roja.html.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Migration/Refugee Crisis 2019

In times of need, please remember that anyone can call on us for assistance. The Red Cross is guided by seven fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. Our mission statement and values can be found at: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/mission-and-values.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Connect with neighbors to plan ahead

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 16, 2019- Last year, our friends watched their barn burn to the ground in the middle of the night. They were unable to save their animals, the horror of which they are unable to forget. This summer, another friend went to get gas for his mower and came home to find it floating down the road, along with his shed. Eric Alves, regional communications specialist for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, reports that this past July, flash flooding in Apple Creek, Ohio, caused residents to have to shelter overnight at Grace Church. That same weekend, a road washed out in Kinsman. Residents who were trapped in their homes had to be rescued by boat.

Eilene Guy photo

We have no idea when disaster will strike or how quickly we’ll need to respond. We’ve all been alerted numerous times to have a plan in case our families need to escape and to have supplies ready to grab on the way out the door. Many residents in Northeast Ohio live near the Perry nuclear power plant, where evacuation plans are printed in the local telephone books. People often say they’ll worry about it when the time comes. But in the panicked moment when you have to act, will you be thinking clearly enough to protect your family and get them to safety?

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Part of preparing your family for an emergency includes preparing as a community. Who in your neighborhood would need help in an emergency? An older couple, perhaps? A single mom or a neighbor confined to a wheelchair? What about your animals – is there a safe place in the area to take them if you have to leave your home? What resources are nearby in case there is no power, no water and/or limited lines of communication?

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

In the farming community where I live, families talk together about how they might support each other during a disaster. When the rising waters of Lake Erie threatened to shut down the public water system, we knew which farms had natural springs that could be relied on for ourselves and our animals. If an ice storm leaves us in a blackout, Anna and Joe who heat their house with electricity know they can take their small children to Jill and Trevor’s farm a mile down the road and stay warm near the wood stove. We know to call Jim and Matt when a tree comes down, for example. Or that Patti will drop everything to watch our children if we’re rushed to the hospital.

We all need help sometimes, and we are each able to help, even in small ways. Talk to your neighbors about how you might support each other in times of need. Community building can be fun. Have a potluck or a block party and get to know each other!

The Pillowcase Project, New York 2013

The Red Cross website provides a wealth of information to help you prepare for emergencies: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies.html. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Canton South High School teacher awarded American Red Cross Certificate of Merit

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 13, 2019- For Canton South High School, the new school year began with a celebration of heroism and life.  At the school’s first staff meeting, the American Red Cross presented Kristen Smith, one of the school’s teachers, with its Certificate of Merit. It is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course.

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The award was given to Kristen for her efforts that helped save a fellow teacher’s life. Last January, Kristen—who is trained in Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED—recognized the signs when a colleague began to choke during lunch. She quickly reacted, confirmed that the teacher was indeed choking, and performed abdominal thrusts until food was dislodged from her colleague’s airway.

Kristen’s colleagues nominated her for the Certificate of Merit over summer break, worked with Red Cross representatives to verify her remarkable actions, and helped plan for the award’s presentation. At the school’s first staff meeting, Kristen was surprised with the award.

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Kimberly Kroh, executive director of the American Red Cross’ Stark & Muskingum Lakes Chapter, presented the award. “It was such an honor to present Kristen Smith with the Certificate of Merit, one of the highest awards given by the American Red Cross,” she said. “It amazes me how one second can change someone’s life, and Kristen did just that when she saved the life of a fellow teacher.”

Jeff Moore, principal of Canton South High School, said, “Kristen exemplifies what we want all of our staff and students to be, someone who takes their education/training and uses those for the betterment of others, someone who is caring and is not afraid to be involved. We could not be more proud of Kristen and all she represents in Wildcat Nation.”

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The Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross is proud to have been part of the presentation and to have prepared Kristen for her heroic actions. The skills she learned certainly helped her save a life.

The American Red Cross offers a number of First Aid, CPR, AED and other classes throughout the year. If you would like information, visit https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class.

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If you wish to nominate someone for a lifesaving award, visit https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/lifesaving.

Click here to visit our Flickr account to see more photos from Kristen’s award presentation.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Reflections from Sept. 11: Experiencing New Yorkers’ outpouring of volunteerism

By Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager, Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter

September 11, 2019- This year marks 18 years since the tragedies of Sept. 11 occurred. Each year I reflect upon that time and remember those who were lost, but also the good work of people that rushed to the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to help. I remember the support that was given to everyone affected, either directly or those coming to help the ones in need. The following is what I wrote after I returned from three weeks working in New York City. I still reflect upon it often.

2001 Terrorism NYC

I have witnessed probably the largest outpouring of volunteerism in my lifetime. In New York City, the American Red Cross processed 21,000 volunteers by Oct. 11, 2001, one month after the tragedy.

2001 Terrorism NYC

The local volunteers came out in spontaneous droves — literally 24 hours a day — giving truth to the phrase “New York: The City that Never Sleeps.” People of all races, creeds and religions came out to help. From caterers to computer operators, from men in suits to women in hard hats, flight attendants, retired phone operators, out-of-work actors, working actors, college students, musicians, nurses, doctors, psychologists, rabbis and even a medium — socioeconomic status did not matter. This city joined together to heal itself.

2001 Terrorism NYC

And that is how we viewed this . . . a healing process for the residents of the New York metro area. Most did not care what they did, just so they could help. They were drivers, data entry specialists, family services and respite center workers, cooks and greeters. No job was too small.

2001 Terrorism NYC

On the corners were groups of people with large signs saying, “THANK YOU” and cheering. At first I thought, “Well they must think we are firefighters or police.” Then we stopped at the corner and they saw the Red Cross and they said, “Thank you, Red Cross!” Driving through checkpoints late at night after a VERY LONG and stressful day, the police officer that checked IDs said, “Hey Red Cross, thanks, you are doing a great job!” That made us all feel good. This was not only at the beginning of my journey; I saw those signs when I left three weeks later.

2001 Terrorism NYC

It was difficult to leave this operation. Usually when I leave, the job is coming to an end, and I transition to the local chapter to carry on the job of recognition and follow-up. Not this time. We knew that the work was not done, and we needed to go home to our other “families.” But there was a feeling of accomplishment knowing that so many New Yorkers helped their community.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

What will you share on Grandparents Day?

By Doug Bardwell,  American Red Cross volunteer

Grandparents Day is not a national holiday, but rather a day of observance. Most people get the day off; but only because it occurs on a Sunday. That said, there is so much grandchildren can learn if their grandparents take the time to share.

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Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell and grandsons William Saki and Drew Saki .  Photo provided by Doug Bardwell

For example, I’d like to share with my older grandchildren the joy of volunteering. I’ve been with the American Red Cross for exactly three years today, and I can recall so many wonderful memories of times I was able to help someone.

When a family has experienced a terrible fire and have lost everything they own, helping them realize there is hope for the future and helping them start that rebuilding process is a joy I get every time I respond to a fire in our community with our Northeast Ohio Region’s Disaster Action Team.

When I give blood, I’ve learned that every pint I donate could help as many as three different people. For the 42 pints I’ve donated, that’s up to 126 people. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve talked with someone who required more than 330 units of plasma in just under two weeks to keep her alive. Having enough blood on the shelves is always important for whatever emergency might come next. I suggest that all my college-age grandchildren try to donate blood.

I’ve also shared the story of a homeless man in California that I met after the giant Camp Fire last year. He was born in Ohio but moved to California because there was “too much traffic” in Warrensville Heights, where he was born. At the time of the fire he was homeless but happy, living in the woods outside of Paradise, CA. He enjoyed being able to tell his story to someone who knew about his original hometown, and we talked for hours. Sometimes a person in distress starts to heal by just having someone to talk with.

I also share that while the Red Cross responds to disasters and helps people recover after a disaster, we also help people prevent and prepare for disasters. With all the Red Cross apps for mobile phones, two are especially good to share with grandchildren: the Monster App and the Swim app. They can easily download either one by texting “MONSTER” or “SWIM” to 90999.

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Eddie Bardwell, left, Grandmother Maureen Bardwell, and Ella Bardwell.  Photo provided by Doug Bardwell

So on this Grandparents Day, take your children to talk with their grandparents and see what wisdom they have to share. Or if you are a grandparent and don’t already have an abundance of stories to share, consider volunteering with the Red Cross. You’re guaranteed to have some soon enough for next Grandparents Day.

For more on the history of Grandparents Day

National Grandparents Day falls each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. It was initiated at the grassroots level by West Virginian Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade. She and her husband had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. And she still found time to lobby state and federal leaders to create this day of observance.

It was in 1979 that President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day. September was chosen to signify the “autumn” years of life.

While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have apostrophes, officially Grandparents Day does not. It seems this may have simply been an oversight when the holiday was proclaimed. But it’s an oversight that serves the holiday well. Marian did not envision the holiday as “belonging” to grandparents. Instead, she saw it as a day of celebration involving the whole family, a day to connect the generations. It’s just as much a day to honor grandparents as it is a day for grandparents themselves to confirm their loving legacy to the generations that follow them.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Red Cross providing food, shelter along East Coast for residents fleeing Dorian

Also committing an initial $2M to help Bahamas
Bahamas Situation Dire, Damage Hampering Relief Efforts;
Blood Donors Outside Storm Area Asked to Give

September 6, 2019- The American Red Cross has mounted a major response to help people in Hurricane Dorian’s destructive path.

An initial $2 million has been committed to assist in meeting the immediate needs of those affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, while continuing to provide shelter and food to thousands of people in the United States.

The storm left unbelievable devastation behind in the Bahamas. Abaco and Grand Bahama were particularly hard hit. Initial aerial assessments show widespread devastation to the islands, from destroyed homes to contaminated water sources.

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Jenelle Eli, director, International Communications for the American Red Cross, has deployed to the area and reports the situation is dire, especially on Abaco. Video footage of Abaco shows total obliteration of portions of the island and large areas completely covered by water. Thousands are in need of food and water.

“Our relief operation is growing, but we are also facing serious challenges in terms of delivering aid,” Eli reports. “These challenges include damaged airports and destroyed telecommunications networks. Even search-and-rescue choppers haven’t been able to reach some people because there’s no place to land. These challenges are affecting everyone.”

A rapid assessment and response team is currently focusing on emergency shelter and urgent needs. Relief supplies to support temporary shelter needs of 1,500 families are in country. Red Cross shelter and other sector specialists are on the ground to provide immediate relief while conducting assessments, and search and rescues is a current priority while the full scope and scale of needs is still being determined. Red Cross volunteers and staff will also distribute meals and food rations to people who may have gone without food in days.

Eli, a native of Northeast Ohio,  continued, “People I spoke to on Abaco today told some pretty horrific stories. Every person I spoke to lost their home. They each had a story about trying to hold their roofs down in the high winds and then running from neighbor’s home to neighbor’s home seeking safety. But each home they sought shelter in got destroyed too. They said that the most damaged areas are decimated.”

Eli reported those she spoke with all echoed this sentiment: “How am I going to start over? This is going to be so hard.” Many of them didn’t know the fate of their loved ones. And they worry that their family members fear them dead since they haven’t been in touch. See more in this video.

The International Federation of the Red Cross has announced an emergency appeal for $3.2 million to support the Bahamas Red Cross as it responds to the storm.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

September 5, 2019. Jacksonville, Florida. American Red Cross nurse Jana Cearlock coaxes hugs and smiles from 2-year old Karmin Nelson, a resident, along with her great-grandmother at the Legends Center evacuation shelter in Jacksonville, Florida.  Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

On Thursday night, more than 5,600 people stayed in 112 Red Cross and community evacuation shelters in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.  To date, the Red Cross and community organizations have provided nearly 37,000 cumulative overnight stays for Hurricane Dorian.

The Red Cross has mobilized more than 2,700 trained responders from all over the country, including 19 volunteers from Northeast Ohio, to assist in hurricane affected areas.

One of the Northeast Ohio disaster volunteers deployed to assist with Hurricane Dorian is Tom Quinn of Wadsworth.

Volunteers constitute 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce. Volunteers make it possible to respond to an average of more than 62,000 disasters every year, most of them home fires. Disaster services volunteers provide food, shelter, comfort and care for families affected by major disasters such as fire, hurricanes and tornadoes.

While deployed to Florida, Tom assisted at an emergency evacuation shelter at Evans High School in Orlando, FL. One day, Tom selflessly took it upon himself to play with and entertain children living in the shelter to help give them a sense of normalcy during the difficult moment.

Volunteer mental health and health services professionals have also provided more than 10,000 contacts to provide support and care to people affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Along with partners and community organizations, the Red Cross has served more than 85,000 meals and snacks.

In advance of Dorian, the Red Cross has also deployed 110 emergency response vehicles (ERVs), including two ERVs from Northeast Ohio, and 104 tractor trailers loaded full of relief supplies, including cots, blankets and 63,000 ready-to-eat meals to help people in the path of Hurricane Dorian.

LOOKING FOR A LOVED ONE?

People concerned about US Citizens traveling in Bahamas should contact the US State Department Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

You can make a difference in the lives of people impacted by Hurricane Dorian in both the U.S. and the Bahamas. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word DORIAN to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. In the U.S., this includes providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance.

PLEASE GIVE BLOOD

Hurricane Dorian has forced the cancellation of approximately 70 Red Cross blood drives and donation centers in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia resulting in more than 1,800 uncollected blood and platelet donations. We urge eligible individuals in unaffected areas to give blood or platelets to ensure a sufficient blood supply for patients. The Red Cross currently has an urgent need for blood donations following a summer shortage. In addition to cancelled blood drives, we anticipate low blood donor turnout in and around affected areas due to poor weather conditions this week. Schedule an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).