NEO Red Cross kicks off Sound the Alarm campaign in Parma

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April 24, 2019- Have you ever lay awake at night worried about a loved one and their well-being? Are you ever worried about how prepared they are in the event of an emergency? This is how Luba Bar feels every day.

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L to R: Valentina Twaskiewych, Luba Bar, John Twaskiewych

Luba lives in Las Vegas, but her elderly parents, John and Valentina Twaskiewych, live 2,072 miles away in Parma. Even though she visits whenever she can to make sure everything is well with her parents, she worries about their safety, especially in case of an emergency, like a home fire. Yesterday, during the 2019 Sound the Alarm kickoff event in Parma, American Red Cross volunteers and partners lent a helping hand to bring Luba peace of mind, by installing two smoke alarms in her parents’ home.

“I feel so much better, knowing that when I leave them again, they’ll be safe,” exclaimed Luba.

Following volunteers installing smoke alarms at no charge to the family and teaching them the importance of having an escape plan in the event of a home fire, Luba was pleasantly surprised and expressed her gratitude by adding, “Who does anything for anyone anymore? I’m so blessed that you do this.”

 

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Home fires kill more people in a typical year in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. Most deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross responds, on average, to three home fires every 24 hours.

The Parma installation event kicked off Sound the Alarm, a two-week event during which volunteers and partners will visit local homes to help install 100,000 free smoke alarms nationally to help combat home fires. Yesterday, 132 free smoke alarms were installed in 55 Parma homes.

Sound the Alarm events are part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries. So far, it has reached more than 1.7 million people and saved more than 580 lives nationwide. Since 2014, the Red Cross and local partners in Northeast Ohio have:

  • Installed more than 42,800 free smoke alarms
  • Made more than 11,200 households safer
  • Reached more than 15,300 children through youth preparedness programs

There are more than 20 Sound the Alarm events remaining in Northeast Ohio fromIMG_6304 Saturday, April 27 to Saturday, May 11. Volunteers are still needed to install free smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans in high-risk communities.

To find a smoke alarm installation event near you to help local residents like John and Valentina Twaskiewych, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

To see more photos from the Parma installation event, please visit our Flickr page.

Recalling one woman’s lifetime of service

Record recorder on display in Cleveland is symbol of her contributions

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

In 1945, at the peak of the American Red Cross support during WWII, 7.5 million volunteers along with 39,000 paid staff provided service to the military.

Juel CollinsJuel Ward Collins was one of those volunteers. According to her son, Tom, Juel started volunteering for the Red Cross during WWII. She was proud of her assistance to the Red Cross mission and how she helped those who served our country in times of war. This volunteer work during the war began her lifetime of service on behalf of the Red Cross.

After the war, Juel continued to volunteer and went on to become part of the Red Cross staff in its Greater Cleveland chapter in the 1960s. She managed the West Shore office, where she oversaw services offered in the community. She coordinated the volunteers helping with both local and national disaster relief efforts, provided relief services in the field, and assisted at blood drives.

When members of the military were deployed during the Vietnam War, Juel once again provided service to those in the armed forces. Tom recalls his mother helping with paperwork during that time—assisting servicemen and women, with the help of their families, to obtain documents such as proof of citizenship. She also helped families by contacting a solider if there was a death or illness in the family. During the Vietnam War, the Red Cross handled more than 2,168,000 emergency communications between servicemen and their families.

Additionally, Juel worked to keep families connected by sending recorded letters to their loved ones overseas. Known as “Voices from Home,” the program engaged Red Cross volunteers like Juel to use a record recorder to record messages to send to servicemen. Tom graciously donated his mother’s record recorder to the Red Cross, which is now displayed in the Northeast Ohio Regional Office in Cleveland.

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Juel’s contributions are a piece of Red Cross history. Her story represents the lifetime dedication of one inspirational woman as well as a testament to the support the Red Cross has provided to those who have served in the military.

Juel is just one of the many individuals who volunteer their time with the Red Cross. Learn how you can volunteer and make an impact like she did by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is grateful to Tom Collins for sharing the story of his mother’s dedicated service with the Red Cross throughout her lifetime.

Red Cross seeks volunteers to ‘Sound the Alarm’ in Northeast Ohio as new poll highlights need for smoke alarms

Survey: 2 in 5 people say winning the lottery more likely than losing home in a fire

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April, 17, 2019- A new American Red Cross survey shows that roughly two in five people think it’s more likely that they’ll win the lottery than lose their home in a fire. However, sta-research-graphics-2the real odds are the opposite: the chance is greater of dying from exposure to fire or smoke (nearly one in 1,500), compared to winning the lottery (typically one in millions).

Home fires kill more people in a typical year in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross responds, on average, to three home fires every 24 hours. Last weekend, three adults died in a home fire in Cleveland. The fire department said there were no working smoke alarms in the home.

96 PERCENT ENGAGED IN FIRE-RISK ACTIVITIES

Almost all people surveyed said they’ve engaged in ordinary activities that are among the leading causes of home fires. For example:

  • More than 70 percent of people said they’ve left the kitchen while cooking on the stove
  • Nearly three in five adults have walked away from their grills while cooking
  • Nearly one-third of people left the room or fell asleep while burning candles

To help prevent home fires, the Red Cross urges everyone to always supervise cooking equipment and candles as well as follow additional safety tips at redcross.org/homefires.

For more information on the survey, watch this video:

HOW YOU CAN HELP #ENDHOMEFIRES

From April 23 to May 11, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is calling for volunteers to help during a two-week nationwide campaign called Sound the Alarm. During Sound the Alarm events, Red Cross volunteers and local partners will go door-to-door to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create home fire escape plans. Services are free and available to all residents in need. People can register now at SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to volunteer and raise donations to support lifesaving services, which are free for families in need.

 

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR EVENTS

In Northeast Ohio, there is a need for 500 volunteers to install free smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans in high-risk communities. People interested in helping at events can register now at SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO or call 216-431-3328 to volunteer and raise funds.

To learn more about the home fire preparedness campaign and to request a free smoke alarm installation, please visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross responds to NEO tornado touchdown and other spring storms

Local volunteers assist residents in Shelby, Ohio and elsewhere

By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

April 15, 2019 – Spring is usually welcome here in Northeast Ohio, but the tornado strike this week in Richland County is a stark reminder that the season can turn nasty.

“We have a shelter on standby for tonight (Monday) at the Shelby YMCA Community Center, and volunteers in an emergency response vehicle going through damaged areas of the community, offering meals as folks work to recover their belongings,” said Tim O’Toole, American Red Cross regional disaster officer for Northeast Ohio.

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Red Cross volunteer Bill Conley in Shelby, Ohio

“We also have teams there doing damage assessment so we can sit down with people whose homes were damaged or destroyed and help them with immediate and longer-term assistance.”

Meanwhile, Mother Nature has been particularly aggressive elsewhere in the country, with the South strafed by multiple tornado outbreaks and the Midwest hit with “bomb cyclones,” tornadoes and historic flooding.

The Red Cross has mustered hundreds of disaster workers – including men and women from our area – to bring comfort to victims of these severe weather events.

“I had seen pictures of the flooding before I left, but when I got out there I was totally amazed by the damage,” said veteran Red Cross volunteer Rick Whitehead of Willoughby, Ohio, who spent 10 days in Lincoln, Neb. “In some places you could barely see the tops of houses.”

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Red Cross volunteer Rick Whitehead

Rapid melting after a freak snowstorm swelled rivers so fast “some towns were literally islands,” he said. National Guard helicopters airlifted Red Cross shelter personnel, food and water into some Nebraska communities, cut off by high water, and ruined roads and bridges.

For the scope of flooding across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin, the Red Cross has done relatively little sheltering: 6,300 overnight stays. But it has provided help in one form or another to some 7,760 households: 65,000 meals, more than 1,000 cases of water, and nearly 39,000 cleanup kits and supplies such as diapers, bleach and other items not readily available in stranded communities.

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And it’s not over yet. Kevin Jones of Brunswick, Ohio, who is helping keep Red Cross field computer systems running in Omaha, said another flood crest is working its way down the Missouri River. “Some communities will get hit again,” he predicted.

“Looks like it’s going to be a busy year” for disaster response, the veteran volunteer observed.

Indeed, deadly storms raked Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia several weeks ago, and just days ago, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi got hit. The Red Cross is responding wherever shelter, food, medical and emotional support, and relief supplies are needed.

The Red Cross has tips to keep yourself and your family and loved ones safe at https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/Spring-Brings-Its-Own-Severe-Weather-Get-Ready-Now.html

“We’re just coming into prime tornado season and already we have disaster workers helping one community,” O’Toole said. “But we’re ready. That’s the strength of the Red Cross, having trained responders all over who can help their neighbors or folks across the country they’ve never met, no matter what the emergency.”

To become a trained volunteer to help victims of disasters here in Northeast Ohio or across the country, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Volunteering isn’t technical – except for this Northeast Ohio volunteer

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

With more than 10 years of volunteer service with the American Red Cross, Dave Riegler has volunteered on both a national and local level. After a life-changing experience in 2004, he wanted to find a way to give back. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, becoming one of the largest disaster relief efforts taken on by the Red Cross to date. Dave joined the Red Cross as a volunteer, serving as a support team member in the Washington, D.C., office.

Dave Riegler

Dave Riegler

Since then, Dave has been deployed nine times as a disaster services Technology Networking Services Associate. Using his professional skills in IT, he supported the Disaster Services Technology (DST) team to deploy technology infrastructures for volunteer offices to ensure they had the equipment they needed to respond effectively.

In addition to his support for disaster relief efforts, Dave has been a dedicated volunteer the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. In fact, in the past three years, he has logged over 700 volunteer hours with the Red Cross, which is an average of about 4.5 hours per week! In Northeast Ohio, he supports the IT needs of the regional chapters as a Volunteer Technical Specialist, performing device refreshers and network transformations. For those who aren’t tech savvy, his work helps the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio’s technology work for the volunteers and staff utilizing it every day.

Dave also manages the entire disaster relief inventory for the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio, including the locations of the disaster relief trailers in the region.

“Dave’s get it done attitude and willingness to jump in no matter the task is invaluable!” said Rachel Telegdy, Executive Director, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

For Dave, volunteering his time with the Red Cross is all about giving back to others. Whether it’s volunteering locally here in Northeast Ohio or assisting in the response of a national disaster, he finds the work rewarding, as the Red Cross helps so many to get back on their feet again.

If you’re interested in learning more how you can volunteer for the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to check out all the different opportunities in your area.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteer dedicates ‘heart and soul’ during five decades of service

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

April 11, 2019- Volunteers are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross. But not many can say they have over five decades of service. In line with National Volunteer Week, we found a super committed volunteer in Tab Alden, who serves in the Lake to River Chapter. So naturally, I had some questions about her resilient service.

What was your profession before your volunteer career?

I was a bus driver for the Maplewood and Champion school districts in Trumbull County transporting and working with mentally challenged children and adults. I was also a workshop specialist for the developmental disabilities workshop program.

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Tab Alden at the Cleveland VA Medical Center during the Christmas season 2017

How did you first become involved with the Red Cross?

I became involved while working with a CB radio group doing the communications between the Red Cross teams at football games in Warren.

What are some of the Red Cross services you’ve been involved with?

After my CB radio operator stint, I received certification to treat basic and advanced first aid and taught as an instructor and later was added as a receptionist. I currently serve our chapter as volunteer coordinator and all around go-to person in our office.

What do you like best about your volunteer experience?

Meeting new people and learning new methods of helping wherever I can. I’m presently learning the ins and outs of DAT (disaster action teams).

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Tab Alden with fellow Lake to River Chapter volunteers

Why should one consider volunteering for the Red Cross?

If someone is willing to give their time and energy for volunteering, there’s not a better place to learn what the Red Cross can do for you. You must be committed to giving your heart and soul to do what is asked and have patience.

What do others say about Tab’s volunteer service?

The executive director of the Lake to River Chapter, Karen Conklin, offered these comments about Tab’s demeanor: “Lucky me, the first day I walked into the Red Cross in 2010, the first smiling and familiar face to greet me with a hug was Tab! She made me feel at home because she was a volunteer when I was CEO for another organization.”  Karen added, “For me, Tab is not just an amazing volunteer but also a good friend and my go-to when something needs done.”

The Lake to River Red Cross is blessed they have such a dedicated volunteer they can count on every day!

For more information and to learn of volunteering opportunities with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer. 

Former stay-at-home mom now leaves home to help others

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April 10, 2019 – Barb Thomas has left her home in Canton to help with disaster relief operations four times since joining the American Red Cross as a volunteer in 2016.

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Barb Thomas, on assignment in during the Hurricane Florence relief operation in North Carolina in 2018

“The kids are grown now, and I have the time,” Barb said, shortly after returning from her latest deployment in Mississippi, where she served as staff services supervisor for Red Cross workers assigned to help flood victims.

“We were responsible for the ‘good hello and good goodbye’ for the volunteers and staff who participated in the deployment, and for keeping track of all the members on deployment,” she said.

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En route to Mississippi, 2019

Barb has deployed to southern Ohio, where flooding occurred last winter. She also left last fall to help with the relief effort following Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. A year before that, she responded to Hurricane Irma in Georgia.

The bulk of Barb’s volunteer work occurs closer to home, where she helps administer all facets of disaster cycle services. “I have assisted in a presentation to get people signed up for smoke alarms and have installed smoke alarms in homes,” which covers preparedness.  Response-wise, “I have been to numerous home fires, supported the fire department by providing canteening services, and worked in a shelter,” she said. “And I assisted in recovery with casework.”

But the time she has spent in other parts of the country to help those affected by disaster has made an impression on the former Human Resources professional.

“I have met some incredible people who have an amazing dedication to volunteering with the Red Cross,” she said. “They are client-focused and willing to pitch in wherever and whenever necessary.”

“Barb Thomas is a breath of fresh air, adding positive energy to our chapter,” said Kim Kroh, executive director of the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter. “She is a true leader who is valued greatly by the staff and by other volunteers.”

When asked what she would say to encourage others to volunteer for the Red Cross, Barb said, “If you are interested in positively impacting individuals and your community, the Red Cross is an excellent organization. I have had direct contact with the public and individuals in need.”

She added, “It feels good to be part of an organization that supports the community on such a personal level.”

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Red Cross workers headed to Georgia in response to Hurricane Irma in 2017.  From left: John Muni, Barb Thomas, Tim Reichel, Craig Hitchcock, and Mark Behlke

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer