NEO Says Farewell, But Not Goodbye, to COO Charlotte Rerko

Northeast Ohio’s Loss is Erie, Pennsylvania’s Gain

We bid farewell, but not goodbye, to Charlotte Rerko today.

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Charlotte is the newly-named CEO of the Achievement Center of Erie, Pennsylvania, following her 3 ½ years of leadership as Chief Operating Officer for the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region.  She also served in a similar capacity for the West Virginia Region.

“Charlotte was invaluable to me when I started at the Red Cross two years ago,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO.  “And her value only grew as a trusted confidant.  I will be forever grateful for her passion for the mission of the Red Cross, and her loyalty to the organization.”

The Achievement Center of Erie, Charlotte explains, serves the needs of children, from autism to physical challenges to reading difficulties.  “A child is a child.  All have needs. The Achievement Center is dedicated to serving those needs, whatever they may be.”

Working for the welfare of children is a natural fit for Charlotte, the mother of 5 and a registered nurse.  But her bond with the Red Cross, and with Northeast Ohio remains strong.  She has agreed to assume the role of Community Volunteer Leader for the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

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From Left:  Laura Hauser, Board Secretary; Dick Pogue, Director Emeritus; Charlotte Rerko; Mike Parks, Regional CEO

“Who is better qualified to serve in that role than Charlotte?  It’s comforting to know that even though she won’t be here every day, I can tap into her knowledge base whenever necessary,” said Mke.

So we say farewell, knowing Charlotte will help the Achievement Center of Erie grow, but not goodbye, knowing she’ll still be here for us when we need her.

See a gallery of photos from Charlotte’s farewell party here.

Nurses Needed…ASAP

Looking back 100 years at the Lake Erie / Heartland Chapter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s Note:  This is the latest in a series of centennial-related stories involving the founding of Red Cross chapters in Northeast Ohio)

If history proves anything, it might be that we need to learn from our mistakes.

In 1898, when the USS Maine exploded off Cuba’s shores, war was declared with Spain, and the U.S. Army was deployed.  Despite knowledge that yellow fever was most likely to afflict people during the rainy summer season, the U.S. forces launched their offensive on June 22.  Less than 400 soldiers died during the conflict, but more than 2,000 succumbed to the disease during the occupation that followed.

Sixteen years later, the United States initially resisted being drawn into World War I.  However, after learning that the Germans were suggesting Mexico attack the U.S., President Wilson asked for and received a declaration of war in 1917. With America preparing to enter yet another foreign war, the nation hoped to be more prepared.

A military draft was established and of the 10-million men interviewed, 4.7-million were selected. This required a tremendous increase in medical care as well as production of arms and ammunition for the troops. The Army Medical department increased its hospital capacity from 9,500 to 120,000 beds stateside alone.

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Sunday morning, February 4, 1917, Mrs. Alice Montgomery, secretary of the local Red Cross chapter in Sandusky received a 300-word telegram from American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Instructions were two-fold.  Set up a “roomy, centrally located headquarters, rent free, and equipment for same…” to produce medical supplies and comfort bags. Secondly, names of nurses and potential nurses were to be collected.

Courses of instruction in nursing would be provided by the Bureau of Nursing Services in Washington.  Doctors and graduate nurses could also report to the Bureau in Washington. Volunteer men could also take first aid courses and organize a “sanitary corps” locally.

Wasting no time, Mrs. John Renner, president of the Sandusky chapter, organized a meeting for that very afternoon and began the work of rolling gauze and preparing medical supplies.

Monday, February 19, Huron began formation of their own chapter, hoping to attract at least 35 to 40 women locally. By April, they already reached 60, and set their new goal for 200. Men were asked to join as well as women.

Unfortunately, twenty years later, history was destined to repeat itself and a huge case of influenza struck our troops, first on our shores and shortly thereafter in the European theater, starting in France. Crowded, unsanitary conditions in camp and in the trenches were ultimately determined to be the cause this time, but not until more than one million men were affected with 30,000 of them dying before they even reached France.

History books are lax in mentioning it, but health related deaths exceeded combat deaths in World War I. Total non-combat deaths reached 63,000, while combat deaths accounted for 53,000.

Many were saved however, thanks in part to the Red Cross having assisted with the job of recruiting experienced nurses for the Army Nursing Corps, along with organizing many ambulance companies. The Red Cross also organized 50 hospitals of 1,000 beds each, at American universities across the country.

Today, the need is still there. Fortunately, not for war-related injuries specifically, but the Red Cross continues to prevent and alleviate human suffering in a multitude of emergencies.  Please consider volunteering at http://neoredcross.org.

Red Cross Fire and Ice Ball This Saturday

KeyCorp CEO Beth E. Mooney to Receive Humanitarian Award

The 25th anniversary of Operation Save-A-Life will be celebrated at the 2017 American Red Cross Fire and Ice Ball this Saturday, March 25th at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland.  And Beth E. Mooney, Chair and CEO of KeyCorp, will be honored with the Steve D. Bullock Humanitarian Award.

Founded in Cleveland in 1992, Operation Save-A-Life offers residents in neighborhoods deemed to be at high risk for home fires valuable fire safety education and smoke alarm installations. Together with partners like the Cleveland Division of Fire, more than 160,000 smoke alarms have been installed in homes throughout Northeast Ohio since 1992, at no cost to residents.

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The program has been so successful that in 2014, the Red Cross rolled out the Home Fire Campaign nationwide.  Modeled after Operation Save-A-Life in Cleveland, the goal of the program is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths due to home fires 25% by the year 2020.

As of March 17, 2017, 197 lives have been saved nationally because of working smoke alarms installed by Red Cross workers, volunteers, and community partners.

In fiscal year 2016 alone, the Red Cross and its community partners installed nearly 13,000 smoke alarms in homes throughout the 22 counties served by the Northeast Ohio Region, more than doubling the goal of 6,000 alarms.  This fiscal year, the goal of 10,000 smoke alarms was reached on March 6, 2017, thanks to the power of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors.

Residents in need of smoke alarms in their homes can visit redcross.org/neoosal, or call 216-361-5535 in Greater Cleveland to schedule an appointment for a home fire safety inspection and free smoke alarm installation.

Beth MooneyThe Humanitarian Award is presented to an honoree who embodies the spirit of the Red Cross, through their contributions to the welfare and quality of life in the community.

“Beth’s values certainly reflect those of the Red Cross,” said Mike Parks, CEO of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region. “Her work with KeyBank and her many civic and philanthropic endeavors make her a most worthy recipient of the Humanitarian Award.”

Beth Mooney joined KeyCorp in 2006, and was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 2011, guiding the 190-year-old institution into becoming one of the nation’s largest and most respected bank-based financial services companies. Forbes Magazine has named her one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” Fortune Magazine declared her one of the top 50 “Most Powerful Women in Business” and American Banker Magazine named her the “Most Powerful Woman in Banking” three consecutive times.

The first Humanitarian Award was presented to philanthropist Sam Miller in 1993, a year after he provided the initial funding to create Operation Save-A-Life.

Previous winners of the Humanitarian Award include:

2014     Sandy Cutler
2012     Richard W. and Patricia R. Pogue
2009     Henry Meyer and Mayor Frank Jackson
2008     Joseph J. LoPresti (posthumously)
2005     William W. Rowley
2004     Terry R. White
2001     Bishop Anthony Pilla and Rabbi Armond E. Cohen
1999     Albert M. Higley Jr. and Beverly Higley
1997     Drs. Floyd Loop and Bernadine Healy
1995     Rena and Michael Blumberg
1993     Samuel H. Miller

Those interested in attending the 2017 Red Cross Fire and Ice Ball can contact Angela Gibian at angela.gibian@redcross.org, or call 216-431-3060.

Red Tie Affair A Sumptuous Treat

Fundraiser Helps Support Disaster Relief in Northeast Ohio

The American Red Cross supporters who attended the 2017 Red Tie Affair at Chez Francois in Vermillion not only helped ensure the mission of the Red Cross would continue, they ate like kings and queens.

The five course meal was paired with choice California wines and served at one of Northeast Ohio’s most celebrated restaurants, making it it an evening to remember.

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Click here for our photo album from the Saturday Night event.  Photo credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross Volunteer.

Smoke Alarm Goal Achieved: More Than 10,000 Installed So Far

Mission accomplished.

For the second year in a row, the Northeast Ohio Region has reached the goal set for the number of smoke alarm installations in homes throughout our communities.

And there are still nearly four months to go before the close of the fiscal year, June 30th.

The goal was 10,000 smoke alarms.  As of Monday, March 6, Red Cross workers, volunteers and community partners had installed more than 10,100.  “While we continue to seek our own internal goal of exceeding our installation totals from last year (approximately 13,000) we still must take a moment to recognize all of the hard work that has gone into achieving the national target at this point in FY 2017,” Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole wrote in a message to the Northeast Ohio staff.  “As one of the smallest regions in the nation we still are among the leaders in this effort.

The annoncement couldn’t come at a better time: this weekend, we are urged to TEST our smoke alarms as we TURN our clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time.  It’s also a good time to take these steps to make sure our households are prepared for emergencies:

  • Install smoke alarms. If someone doesn’t have smoke alarms, they should install them. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check local building codes for additional requirements.
  • Practice an escape plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
  • Get a kit. Keep disaster supplies in an easy-to-carry bag to use at home or if ordered to evacuate.
  • Make a plan. Have all household members plan what steps they should take if an emergency occurs.
  • Be informed. Learn what emergencies can occur in the area and how officials notify residents should a disaster occur.

The installation of smoke alarms is just one part of the Operation Save-A-Life  campaign. Providing free home fire safety inspections and disseminating valuable fire safety information are also critical components.  And volunteers perform the majority of the work involved in making our communities safer.

You can volunteer to help the red Cross make our communities safer at redcross.org/neo, where you can also apply for a home fire safety inspection and free smoke alarm installation.

The fiscal year ends on June 30th.  We’ll let you know how many MORE smoke alarms our volunteers, staff and partners are able to install by then.

Stay tuned.

 

Virtual Volunteers Provide Very Real Services

By EILENE E. GUY American Red Cross Volunteer

In the wake of an unprecedented number of large disasters last year, the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced people touched the hearts of Americans near and far.

Dozens of American Red Cross disaster responders from Northeast Ohio answered the call to help, but not all of them left the Buckeye State.

“I couldn’t see going all the way to another state to sit in a cubicle and talk to people on the phone when I could do it just as well from right here,” said Red Cross volunteer Charles “Charlie” Emick of Mount Eaton.

Charlie is an experienced disaster caseworker who helps Wooster-area individuals and families after a home fire or other local emergency. He put that experience to use last year for flood victims a thousand miles away.

“People don’t realize I’m not right there,” he said. “A lot of times, they’re just tickled to death to talk to someone who cares about what they’ve been through.

“I had one lady (on the phone), she wasn’t injured, but she had to wade out through water up to her elbows and she saw a water moccasin swimming toward her. The more she tried to swish it away, the more it came toward her. She finally got to a shallow spot and got out of the water and she said all she could do was scream.

“I told her, I’m afraid of snakes too,” Charlie said with a chuckle.

“Some clients expect that you can put things back the way they were before,” he observed. “But with others, it’s like you’re talking to a neighbor across the street. They’re just so glad someone cares.”

Charlie uses computer data bases to screen clients for eligibility for the limited financial assistance Red Cross can give if victims don’t qualify for federal assistance through FEMA.

He can also connect them with Red Cross health and mental health services as well as local resources listed in the national computer-based Client Assistance Network.

Sandy Perry-Johnson of Warren is another member of the Red Cross “virtual volunteer” team.

“I’m in awe of people who can leave home and go to help, but I can’t do that right now because of my family responsibilities here,” she said.

For the past year, Sandy has been helping Youngstown-area disaster victims figure out what they need and connecting them with resources to meet those needs. She knows that recovery from a disaster can be a confusing, emotionally draining and complicated process.

She appreciates that the Red Cross gives her a way to help, long-distance. “Now I can do casework with people from Louisiana right from my home,” she said following the disastrous flooding there.

“During our response in Louisiana (last year), we committed a great amount of resources to designing and implementing a virtual casework process that enables volunteers to remotely assist those in the disaster area,” said Timothy J. O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer for northeast Ohio.

“Our use of virtual volunteers opens up opportunities for a whole lot more people to help with disaster relief,” he explained. “Plus it lets us provide the most services for the money we spend, making the best use of our donated dollars.”

Virtual volunteers supplemented the work of more than 4,200 Red Cross responders in Louisiana, who, in one month, served more than a million meals and snacks, operated shelters that provided some 72,000 overnight stays, and distributed more than 679,000 relief supplies such as bottled water, insect repellant, cleaning supplies and bleach.

Meanwhile, Crystal Wagner of Akron put her 15 years of disaster experience to work to “virtually” help Red Crossers who actually went to Louisiana. She considers herself a “lifeline” for volunteers who run into roadblocks on the way.

“We had so many brand new volunteers who have no clue what to expect,” she said. It’s a surprise to many that if they run into a problem en route, experienced volunteers like Crystal are just a phone call away, day or night.

“For example, I had this poor guy from Pennsylvania who was headed for Baton Rouge. When he got to Atlanta, there was no connection to Baton Rouge, so they put him on a plane to New Orleans,” she recounted. To make a long story short, Crystal spent several hours sorting out transportation and housing snafus for the first-time volunteer so that he could fulfill his mission – to help Louisiana flood victims.

Crystal knows how to navigate the hurdles of deployment: She’s been all over the country on 69 disasters herself. But now, at age 70 with an elderly mother to look after at home, she’s enthusiastic about being part of the Red Cross disaster response “virtually.”

She fondly recalls her own first deployment, to New York City after 9/11. “I had only been on a plane once, I had never been to New York City… Everything that could go wrong did,” she said. But she stayed for five weeks and learned two lessons she cherishes.

“They needed me,” she said. “And I found out there’s nothing in this world I can’t handle.”

Now Crystal doesn’t have to leave home to experience the joy of helping those who need her.

During the month of March, which has been designated Red Cross Month for the past 70 years, we salute the dedicated volunteers who help fulfill the Red Cross mission.

To find out more about becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer, contact your local Red Cross chapter or go to redcross.org/neo and click on the “volunteer” tab.

The Red Cross relies on the generosity of the American public for its funding. To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text the words RED CROSS to 90999 to a make a $10 donation. Designated donations are the first dollars used to support Red Cross response efforts. If costs exceed designated donations, Red Cross Disaster Relief funds will be used to cover the difference.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters near and far.

Sandusky Women Answer the Call

Looking back 100 years at the Lake Erie / Heartlands Chapter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

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From the Centennial Mound in Washington Park, Sandusky

In March 1916, as a U.S. expedition of more than 10,000 troops were chasing Pancho Villa back into Mexico, and Company B of the National Guard was being federalized to control our border at El Paso, Texas, the Red Cross Sandusky Chapter was being formed.  Realizing we might also be deploying troops to Europe, the National Office was requesting more and more chapters to join the organization.

By June 1916, fifty women had already expressed interest in joining at a meeting held in the Carnegie Library in Sandusky. They began making “ditty” bags for the men of Company B.  Described in the Sandusky Star-Journal as “…most convenient and attractive little affairs. Fashioned of the familiar khaki, with blue braid binding, and red flannel leaves, they each hold 6 needles, 6 safety pins, 3 darning needles, 2 rows of common pins, a spool each of khaki and white thread, six each of khaki colored and white buttons, and a pair of scissors.”

Saturday, August 19, 1916 at 3:00 p.m., with charter-in-hand, more than one hundred volunteers gathered at G.A.R. Hall in Sandusky to elect officers and directors for this newest Chapter of the American Red Cross. Plans were formulated for their first regular meeting which would take place in October.

At the October meeting, the guest speaker was Miss Elizabeth Perkins, field secretary of the National Red Cross, recently back in the US after serving in hospitals along the French front. She brought a request for “comfort bags” that could be given to the troops in the French hospitals. 50,000 were needed nationally, and it would be a proper project for the new chapter. They were needed by November 15 to be shipped and received in time for Christmas distribution.

Each 9” x 12” bag would contain a pair of socks, a razor or pocket knife, handkerchief, pencil, writing tablet, pipe (no tobacco), harmonica or game (no playing cards), box of hard candy or bouillon cubes, wash clothes, cake of soap, pocket mirror, and a comb or jar of Vaseline. Each bag would have a card included with the name of the donor.

Unfortunately, while the chapter was waiting for its charter, all the dues collected to that point had been sent in to the national office, and the chapter found itself without operating funds. Suggestions were received that the entire Erie County should be included in the chapter, giving them a larger base of members and financial support.

Eventually, the Lake Erie / Heartland Chapter of the Red Cross would expand to what today includes Ashland, Erie, Holmes, Huron, Lorain, Richland and Wayne Counties.  That’s quite an expansion from the original small chapter in Sandusky, so, you could say they certainly took those directions 100 years ago, to heart.

What hasn’t changed, is that the Red Cross can still use more volunteers and more donations. Visit redcross.org/neo to get involved.