Police Chief Honored During National Preparedness Month

Cleveland Chief Cited for Work During Recent Republican National Convention

He has been called a peacemaker, the host of the party, and the “RNC MVP” for the way protesters and visitors who were in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention in July were treated.  But Chief Calvin Williams of the Cleveland Division of Police gives the credit to the members of his department for helping keep the peace during the four day event.

The Greater Cleveland Chapter Board of Directors recognized Chief Williams and the Cleveland Division of Police with a Certificate of Appreciation at their quarterly meeting on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

Chief Williams agreed to receive the certificate under one condition: that the entire Cleveland Police Department be recognized as well. And he acknowledged the work of many organizations, including the Red Cross, for helping make the RNC a success.

“The Red Cross has always been a great partner of ours whenever there was something that happens, not just in Cleveland but in Northeast Ohio. You don’t ask anything in return, so we definitely appreciate it,” Chief Williams said.  “The RNC was a great, great example of partnership, again not only for Cleveland but Northeast Ohio, and it could not have been the success it was without partners like the Red Cross and others.”

The Certificate was presented to Chief Williams  by Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region and Laura Hauser, Secretary of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors.

“It seemed appropriate during National Preparedness Month to recognize this great partner of ours,” Mike Parks said as he introduced the Chief, “Not only the chief, but the Division of Police because of the great work they did.”

Mike noted how the Red Cross was ready to open shelters during the convention, thanks to the preparations made by many Red Cross volunteers.  The need for volunteers did not end with the conclusion of the convention.  There is a constant need of volunteers to fill a variety of roles at the Red Cross.  If you are interested in a volunteer position, log onto redcross.org/neo and click on the volunteer tab, or call 216-431-3328.

Restoring Courage and Hope

Psychologist Volunteers to Help People During Their Darkest Hours

Kriss Wyant

By EILENE E. GUY
American Red Cross volunteer

CLEVELAND – “Volunteering with the American Red Cross in general, and for me in particular, represents a profound privilege.  It doesn’t take long to realize how close we all are to needing help,” says Kriss Wiant.

A psychologist by profession and a humanitarian by nature, Kriss finds valuable perspective and rich reward as a disaster mental health volunteer.

With more than 20 years of experience helping children, adults and families in conventional clinical settings, Kriss was looking for what he calls “innovative applications of psychology.” A chance encounter with a Red Cross Disaster Action Team member led him to join that group, responding to home fires, floods or tornadoes across the Greater Cleveland area.

“Connecting people with primary resources – food, shelter, essential medications – that goes a long way to helping people in their time of acute need,” he says.

Eventually, Kriss – who makes his home in Brecksville – decided to make himself available for deployment to larger-scale disasters beyond the Buckeye State.  Of the nine major relief operations he has traveled to, most have been related to tornadoes or hurricanes. Although working conditions can be challenging and stress levels high, Wiant knows how to make a difference.

“The unifying need among those traumatized by a disaster is the loss of courage, the loss of hope,” he says in the gentle, knowing tone of someone who understands trauma as both a doctor of psychology and a first-hand observer. “So what we do is restore courage, restore hope. Most of us can do that, even just by our presence.”

Kriss believes that even the untrained individual can offer psychological first aid. “You are standing on the shore for someone in the deep,” he says. “The only question is, how far can you wade in to reach that person.”

In the wake of a tragedy as dramatic as the May 2013 tornado that killed 24 people – including nine children – and caused an estimated $2 billion in property damage in Moore, Okla., Kriss was part of a large Red Cross mental health outreach to families of those who lost their lives or were seriously injured.

Some people, he found, had the emotional stamina to surround themselves with family, friends and faith; others he pointed toward local resources for longer-term professional support.

At the same time, he watches for signs of stress among the Red Cross responders who work long hours and interact with clients in often-devastating situations. He encourages workers to talk, to share their experiences. “That can be very therapeutic ,” he says.

Kriss is one of some 300 Red Cross disaster volunteers across the 22 counties of Northeast Ohio. Most respond to local disasters or participate in prevention activities such as Operation Save-a-Life, installing thousands of smoke alarms. Those with the time, training and experience can volunteer to respond farther from home.

In addition to his work helping people affected by disasters, Kriss provides Service to the Armed Forces.  In fact, he is one of 5 recipients of the Vega Award, given annually to individuals or groups that have performed outstanding service in a department/line of service for the Greater Cleveland Chapter.  Kriss was honored for his on-going support to the military community,  helping to develop Reconnection Workshop-type materials that have been used in two pilot projects with the Troop and Family Assistance Center, as well as with the Ohio Army National Guard Recruit Sustainment Program. The workshops aim to provide coping and reunification skills to family members of National Guard recruits who are preparing to leave for basic training or Advanced Individualized Training, as well as educate families on a board range of services within the military community and via the Red Cross.  In addition, Kriss makes follow up calls to those who have utilized the Red Cross Emergency Communication services, completes home visits to local veterans, and is a Reconnection Workshop Facilitator.

Other Vega Award winners, honored on Saturday, September 17, are Rita Szymczak, Mark Cline, Rhoda Seifert, and SAF Reconnetion Workshop Facilitators Tom Adams, Lynne Wiseman, Jackie Otte, and Kathy Parsons.

Visit the Greater Cleveland Chapter Facebook Page to see a photo gallery from the Volunteer Recognition Event.

To learn more about the wide variety of volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross – including Service to the Armed Forces, health and safety education, and blood services – visit www.redcross.org/neo and click on “volunteer.”

Hero Care App Launched

For Active Military Members, Veterans and Their Families

The American Red Cross has unveiled the new Hero Care mobile application. This free app is designed to help members of the military, veterans and their families identify and access both emergency and non-emergency Red Cross services from anywhere in the world.

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“When an emergency happens, accurate information, easy access to services and time are of the essence, especially for military families” said Jessica Tischler, Director of Service to the Armed Forces in the Northeast Ohio Region. “That’s why the Red Cross has designed the new Hero Care App – whether you’re the parent of a child joining the military, a military member, a military spouse or  veteran, the Hero Care App will connect you vital services and guide you to valuable resources that will help alleviate stress during emergencies and provide important information right at your fingertips.”

Some the important features of the app include:

  • Request Red Cross emergency services including an emergency message or assistance with emergency travel or emergency financial aid.
  • Securely and easily access information about their service member in the case of an emergency, including updated information as they move or change duty assignments.
  • Access non-emergency Red Cross behavioral health assistance including financial assistance and free local workshops for military kids and spouses.
  • Find local resources and information provided by trusted community partners like Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Blue Star Families, Military Child Education Coalition, United Way, Goodwill, Easter Seals, and others.
  • Locate information on key government resources such as MilitaryOneSource, VA Benefits and Services, Department of Labor VETS, the VA Caregiver Support Program, and SAMSHA Community Health Support Services.

Content in the Hero Care App is available in both English and Spanish, and the call center is staffed 24/7 with multi-lingual translation services.

The Hero Care App is available to download for free in app stores, by texting ‘GETHEROCARE’ to 90999 or by clicking this link from a mobile device:  http://3cu.be/sharehc .

Volunteers help the Red Cross provide Service to the Armed Forces.  If you are interested in giving back to our nation’s heroes by volunteering with Red Cross SAF, click here, or call 216-431-3328.

Red Cross Volunteers Credited with Saving Man’s Life

Performed CPR, Used AED to Save a Man at the Wayne County Fair

Farm animals. Funnel cakes. First Aid.

All are traditions of the Wayne County Fair.

The Red Cross has been providing first aid to fair goers for more than 60  years, as a service to the community.  This year, that service helped save at least one life.

A man attending the fair on Monday, September 12, suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed. Red Cross first aid workers rushed to perform CPR. They also applied a newly-acquired AED (automated external defibrillator) while awaiting the arrival of Wayne County EMS personnel.

The man survived.  “The ER staff said the Red Cross saved his life, as there was no way he would have made it if he had to wait for the squad to reach him inside the fairgrounds,” said Lara Kiefer, Executive Director of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

Captain Doug Hunter of the Wayne County Sheriff’s office also credited the Red Cross crew, in a video posted on Facebook.  Capt. Hunter said, ” I want to recognize the life-saving efforts of the representatives of the Wayne County Red Cross.” He continued,
“They frantically started doing what they are trained to do and tried to revive this man.”  He went on to describe the use of the AED.  “It was not looking good folks. I had pretty much written this man off as not going to survive, but they kept going.”

Captain Hunter also credits a nurse from the Wooster Community Hospital for assisting.

“It was truly a remarkable moment,” Captain Hunter said, in describing the moment the man first showed signs of life. “The people from the Red Cross at the Wayne County Fairgrounds saved this man’s life.”

Most first aid requests involve far less serious ailments, but the service provided by the Red Cross was deemed so important, a facility was built on the fairgrounds for use as a first aid station during the run of the fair every year.

About 120,000 people attend the Wayne County Fair, and the Red Cross provides first aid service free of charge.  Red Cross first aid workers respond to 200-300 incidents each year.  Taxpayer money is saved, by reducing the number of calls made to 911.

Our first aid service at the fair has been valued at approximately $20,000.

But for the man who suffered cardiac arrest on Monday, no value can be placed on the life-saving skills of the Red Cross first aid responders.

You can learn the same life-saving skills employed by the Red Cross by taking a class, to learn First Aid, CPR and AED. Training for other skills, such as babysitting and swimming and water safety are also offered. Go to redcross.org/takeaclass.

Photo credit: Mary Williams/American Red Cross

NEO Red Cross CEO Honors WWII Veteran with Challenge Coin

She was one of 11,000 known as a SPAR

Semper Paratus.  Latin for “Always Ready,” the motto of the United States Coast Guard.  During World War II, 11,000 women joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve and were called “SPARs,” an acronym of the motto combining the Latin and English initials.

One of the women of the U. S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve was Virginia Conklin, the mother of American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter Executive Director Karen Conklin.

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World War II Veteran Virginia Conklin and daughter Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter

Mike Parks, the CEO of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region and a retired U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral, recently presented Mrs. Conklin with a Challenge Coin, a military tradition meant to prove membership if challenged, or in recognition of special achievement.

“It is an honor and a privilege to meet a SPAR,” Mike said, adding, “What a remarkable lady, who at 92 years young is still an inspiration to all of us.”

During World War II, the U. S. war effort required more men at sea. Women were not yet integrated into the military, but to allow Coast Guardsmen to deploy, the Women’s Reserve was created to fill jobs the men had been doing stateside.

One of those jobs was resupplying “Liberty Ships,” 2,700 cargo vessels that were mass produced during the war.  (One Liberty Ship was named after Red Cross founder Clara Barton.)

“About every two weeks we would go out on a PT boat with supplies,” Virginia remembered.  “We’d have to walk the gang plank to deliver them.  And on the way back, we trolled for shrimp, which would be the night’s supper.”

She was stationed in Savannah, Georgia after training in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Virginia says the prospect of warm weather was one of the factors that motivated her to join the Coast Guard, after growing up in Chester, West Virginia.

Another motivating factor was her job.  She hated it.  She wanted to go to college, but without the money to pay for it, she went to work straight out of high school.  The Coast Guard was offering to pay for college following the service of those who enlisted, so Virginia Conklin signed up in 1944, despite her father’s misgivings.

“He hated it,” Virginia said. “He was a World War I vet, and he thought all we were going to do was smoke and drink.”   But dad finally relented, and signed the papers to allow his 20 year-old daughter to enlist.

After the war, things did not exactly go as planned.  Virginia Conklin married and had three children.  She was 48 years old when she finally got her bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. She earned a master’s degree at West Virginia University, and taught high school English for 18 years before retiring.

The SPARs lasted just 4 years. The Coast Guard disbanded the Women’s Reserve in 1946. Virginia Conklin served as a SPAR from 1944 to 1946. “The best two years of my life.”

Remembering the Red Cross Role on 9/11

The attack on America 15 years ago, on 9/11, 2001 brought out the best in people.

“Within the first 48 hours, the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio had deployed emergency response vehicles and workers (most of them volunteers) to both New York and Pennsylvania,” according to Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties.

Debbie went to New York with about two dozen other workers from Northeast Ohio. In this video, she recalls the role the Red Cross played in the days immediately after the attack at Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were brought down. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum now stands at the site.

“It’s still very emotional for me,” Debbie added, “especially at this time of year.”

Northeast Ohio Red Cross Workers were also deployed to Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after the passengers fought the terrorists who had hijacked the plane.  The role the Red Cross played is acknowledged at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, which is about a three and-a-half hour drive southeast of Cleveland.

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In 2009, Congress designated September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. In honor of the sacrifice so many made on that day, many people donate blood at one of the numerous Red Cross blood drives held across the country, not only on 9/11, but also on the days preceding and following the anniversary of the attack.

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If you feel so inclined to donate blood, in honor of those innocent Americans who lost their lives in the attacks 15 years ago,  you can find the blood drive nearest you at redcrossblood.org.

Red Cross Teams with Alcoa to Install 150 Alarms

Fire Safety Walk took place just ahead of National Preparedness Month

It can be hot work, especially when temperatures reach into the 90s like they have this summer. This is the kind of weather that makes you long for air conditioning and tall glasses of ice water, dripping with cool condensation.

But one dedicated team steadfastly treks through the humid air to make sure that homes will remain safe as the temperatures begin to fall.

That team? Our Operation Save-A-Life partners at Alcoa, who helped the Red Cross install 150 smoke alarms in 71 homes at the Miller Mobile park on the 93 degree day of August 25, just ahead of National Preparedness Month.

“The team from Alcoa is the easiest and best group I get to work with,” said John Gareis, Regional Disaster Training Coordinator. You can see more photos of the event on our flickr page.

During the month of September, the Red Cross urges families to develop a fire escape plan, so everyone in the household knows what to do if fire occurs.  Home fires are the most common threat people face across the country, and every family should develop a fire escape plan.

If your group would like to help install smoke alarms with the Red Cross, please call or email our volunteer services team at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

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Photo Credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross Volunteer