Canton Volunteer Reflects on More Than Two Decades of Service

By Nila Welsh, American Red Cross Volunteer, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter

(Editor’s note:  Nila Welsh is a Canton-based Disaster Action Team member.  She has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1994, and has been assigned to three-dozen national disaster relief operations.  This is her Red Cross story.)

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Red Cross volunteers Nila Welsh, left, and Elinor Carosello

It wasn’t too long after my husband and I returned from the Peace Corps in 1989 that we found we needed something to do.  We lived for two years in an under-developed part of the Solomon Islands, and due to the hot weather on the equator, we had led a quiet life and missed working with people.

One day I read in the newspaper that the Red Cross needed volunteers.  That was 23 years ago, when I first became a part of such a great organization.

After taking all the classes offered and responding to local disasters, we became qualified to respond to national disasters.  Our first call was to respond to flooding in Missouri along the Mississippi River in 1995. Nothing prepares you for the devastation of a flood or hurricane when people have nowhere to go. The Red Cross sets up shelters and we volunteers do our best to help people affected by disasters rebuild their lives.  My husband was a good listener.  He would sit and listen.  People need that – need to know that others care, and that if material things are all they lose, the Red Cross can help.

We found that what matters most in life is how we live and how we treat each other – how we can give back for what we have been blessed with.  People find it hard to believe that we don’t get paid to do what we do. They don’t know what they’re missing.

We don’t know how long we have in this life, but as long as we are here we will continue to do our best.

 

Volunteer Provides Leadership at Many Levels

Some of us plan barbecues and college football watch parties on Labor Day Weekend.

Not Pam Williams.

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Pam, chairwoman of the board of the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter was waiting to find out if she’ll be headed to the Houston area in response to Hurricane Harvey.

As of Monday night, nearly 300 shelters were open in Texas and Louisiana, with about 35,000 people spending the night.  3,760 Red Cross workers have been deployed to the disaster relief operation so far, including 30 from Northeast Ohio.

In addition to her board responsibilities, Pam is a Red Cross volunteer, and, if needed, would deploy as the assistant director for external relations on the Division Response Management Team.

Over the last ten years, Pam has been deployed around 30 times, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

“I get to see the country at its worst, but people at their best.” Pam said.

Pam recalled working with Native American tribes in Montana when asked what was the most interesting thing she’s done on deployment.

“Sometimes it’s the people who have been affected that make the biggest difference. I remember a family during a storm who were offered aid. They pointed to the next family and said ‘they need it more.”

She realizes that what she does isn’t for everyone. If someone were on the fence about volunteering in a crisis, she would ask them why they wanted to do it.

“You have to have a passion for it. It’s not just about being on TV.”

There are a few things that Pam hasn’t done yet on deployment that she’d like to; “I’ve never been deployed to a wildfire. As much as you don’t want it to happen to anyone, I’d like to have that experience. I’d also like the opportunity to ride along in an ERV (emergency response vehicle).”

Pam’s a retired school teacher by trade, and even with 30 deployments under her belt, she’s not ready to kick back and enjoy retirement just yet.

“I’ll keep going as long as I believe I’m contributing. I had two great mentors when I got started, and I’d love to mentor the folks who are coming up.”

If you would like to become a trained volunteer with the skills needed to help people affected by disasters big and small, visit our volunteer site to begin the application process.  Expedited training is currently taking place throughout the Northeast Ohio Region.

Highlights from the NEO Region in FY 17

More than 15,000 smoke alarms installed.  More than 31,000 residents enrolled in Preparedness, Health and Safety courses. More than 150,000 units of blood collected. Emergency services provided to more than 1,800 families of service men and women. More than $850,000 in financial assistance provided to more than 4,200 residents of Northeast Ohio since June 1, 2016.

These are some of the highlights of our fiscal year.  They were shared with the Board of Directors of the Greater Cleveland Chapter during the annual meeting on Thursday, June 28, 2017.  Many of the highlights were featured in  a video shown during the meeting.

Laurie Laidlaw, Donna Rae Smith and Lorraine Frankino-Dodero were recognized as Red Cross Visionaries. Lorraine was also honored as Philanthropist of the Year, for the generous gift her family foundation recently made to help us purchase a new Emergency Response Vehicle.

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Board Chairman Shawn Riley, Lorraine Frankino-Dodero and CEO Mike Parks

CEO Mike Parks recounted the response to a recent fire in Cleveland, which affected a family of 12, and introduced Gary Grano and Talib Zayed, the two Red Cross volunteers who provided assistance to the family.

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The meeting ended with a call to action: to help the Red Cross install 100,000 smoke alarms in September and October, during the Sound the Alarm. Save a Life initiative. Everyone is invited to join us, by volunteering to Sound the Alarm, when we will install smoke alarms in the homes of residents in Cleveland and Akron.  Or by providing financial support at redcross.org.

New Chapters Heed the Call During WWI

Looking back 100 years at the Summit, Portage & Medina Counties 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)

April 18, 1917 – The Akron Evening Times ran a story that Kent planned to organize a Red Cross chapter in that community.  A meeting had been held the night before with pastors of Kent churches all in attendance, along with officers of church organizations, lodges and clubs. A follow-up meeting was to take place that week to make sure the people of Kent did their part in the war crisis.

April 20, 1917 – Barberton began work to organize a Red Cross chapter and communicated their desire to do so to the national office in Washington.

By June 1917, Akron had already formed a Red Cross Chapter primarily for men. It was followed by an auxiliary for women on June 30, 1917. Election of officers found Mary Gladwin elected as president of the women’s auxiliary. She had just returned from serving in Serbia the year before. She was also named to the Akron executive committee along with six gentlemen.

At the June 30 meeting, 24 members of Battery B lined up on either side of the church entrance as people arrived. Upon the start of the meeting, they marched into the auditorium and joined in the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

Wasting no words, Miss Gladwin addressed their first meeting and scolded the Akron citizenry for their lack of patriotism during the recent deployment of troops the prior week as they headed off to Columbus. Her concern centered around the fact that in the “American” residence districts of Akron, there were entire blocks with not one American flag on display.

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November 1, 1917 found the formerly organized chapter in Medina to be doing an excellent job with their sewing.  Unfortunately, a German submarine sank a boat filled with Red Cross supplies. When a local Medina member told District Supervisor Mrs. Harrison Ewing that,  “I don’t think I want to knit if that is to be the fate of my work,” Mrs. Ewing would have nothing of it, responding “Don’t think, KNIT.” That appeared to be the end of that conversation, and discussion turned to lack of yarn and the need to prepare Christmas packets.

By the beginning of December, the yarn had been received and was already knitted into sweaters for the troops.

Girl Red Cross Workers.

Schools were already starting to organize their own chapters, with Seville and Medina schools ready to go. Children all over were raising money for the Red Cross in support of starving children in Belgium and Poland.  One little girl wrote the following:

“Dear Red Cross,

I have earned another dollar for the poor children. I have piled up all the pumpkins, and hauled four loads of chips, and pulled some weeds for the pigs and picked up all the scattered beans. I am eight years old today.”

 

With such dedication from someone so young, how could adults not pitch in?

Today, you can do your part.  Volunteer or donate.  Volunteers can learn more here.

Donating couldn’t be easier. Donate by text, by email, by mail or online. You can even set up a monthly automatic donation.  All five links to giving are here.

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All photos creative commons licensed

A Week at Lake to River

And What a Week it Was!

As I write this it is Friday night and I am reflecting on our amazing Northeast Ohio volunteers and the Lake to River volunteers so dear to my heart. This has been a week of unrelenting high temperatures and seemingly unrelenting disasters.

Since Sunday, just five days ago, the Lake to River Chapter has, thanks to our volunteers and donors, accomplished the following:

· Canteen for an explosion in Mahoning County that involved several fire departments. Good news is that no one was hurt

· Responded to six home fires

· Held First Aid/CPR classes

· Sent Smoke Alarm teams out on Tuesday to install and were blessed on Friday to have Red Cross volunteers from Canton help install alarms in another 15 or so homes. Thank you to our Canton colleagues for your time and talent.

· Held our 7th annual Acts of Courage event that raises vital dollars to support our mission. Without the help of volunteer’s, name tags would not get done, no one would know where to sit and cars may have parked on an active runway at the 910th Airlift Base.

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Friday, Saturday and Sunday board members, DAT volunteers, support volunteers and others will help us man two locations at the Thunder Over the Valley airshow this weekend. All this in 90 degree heat.

· Saddest of all, for two days we canteened for 50 fire, police, park and rescue divers who were looking for a 16-year-old boy in Mosquito Lake.

In this week our volunteers have experienced the joy of our Acts of Courage Event, got to meet one of the Thunderbird Pilots, met two WWII veterans who were honored, and the sadness of helping multiple families who lost everything in a fire and also had to watch from inside the crime scene tape as divers dragged the lake for a child.

This is the work of the Red Cross; it is what we do across Northeast Ohio and this country.  Our mission is powered by these mighty volunteers whose heart, compassion and knowledge make a difference every day.

As a Chapter Executive, I am humbled by their resiliency and grateful for what they do for us whenever and wherever there is a need. I know all the Chapter Executives and staff share my passion for each and every one of you.

It has been a long, tough week but if next week is even tougher, I know we are up to the challenge. Now it’s time for a Friday night glass of wine!

A grateful Executive Director…Karen Conklin, Lake To River Chapter.

*The Lake to River Chapter serves Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties.  See  our photo album here.  Photos provided by Paul Wadowick, Red Cross Communications volunteer.

 

We Love When Our Corporate Partners Lend a Hand!

Last Thursday began Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s week of volunteering at organizations across the Akron area, and involving more than 1,100 of its local employees.

“It is vital to our mission to provide volunteer opportunities to our local corporations,” said Rachel D’Attoma, Executive Director for the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter. “Not only does it help us get the work done, but it allows individuals, like those from Goodyear, to see with their own eyes the power and need for our services in the lives of those who we serve.”

Our first team of 16 employees from Goodyear headed out into the community to install 111 smoke alarms, and provided education to 34 homes as part of Operation Save-A-Life.

Several volunteers have stated that it is an experience that they would like to repeat in the future.

On Tuesday, 17 team members helped to make our Akron office a little more beautiful by cleaning out and planting new flowers in the beds facing West Market St. Volunteers also helped clean and organize the garage area.

See more photos on the chapter’s Facebook page, or sign up to be a volunteer the rest of the 358 days of the year!

Celebrating Chapter Centennial at BASH

BASH 2017 not only brought together Red Cross supporters, family and friends, it also marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Red Cross chapters in Stark County, Dover and New Philadelphia.

About 285 people enjoyed dinner at the MAPS Air Museum in North Canton.  Several placed bids on some coveted auction items, including an adorable puppy.

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Jennifer McNemar offered the winning bid for Kimber

As usual, many guests played along with the M*A*S*H theme, dressing in Hawaiian shirts, medical attire and military uniforms.  Thanks to their generosity, about $95,000 was raised to help support Red Cross disaster relief work in what is now the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter.

“We had a great evening,” said Kim Kroh, Chapter Executive Director. “I am so appreciative of the way our community supports the Red Cross.  Their support helps us provide vital services to people when they experience a home fire or some other disaster.”

Additionally, Heather Zuniga received a special award for performing CPR on Don Joliat after he was pulled from the Meyers Lake YMCA pool. Her efforts saved his life.

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You can help support the work of the Red Cross by visiting redcross.org/donate and selecting YOUR LOCAL RED CROSS from the drop down menu under support.