Akron middle school students present creative ideas for disaster relief

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

January 24, 2020- Two years ago I partnered with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School in Akron. This year I was asked to partner with the STEM Middle School sixth grade on a project. They use problem-based learning in their school. The problem they were presented with was: How can we, as concerned citizens, work together to assist the emotional needs of survivors of natural disasters and consider:

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  • The structure of the response needed
  • The geographical location
  • The emotional needs of the young people affected

The class of more than 100 learners identified the American Red Cross as an organization that helps with disaster relief but was not sure how we did that. In mid-December I visited the classroom and talked about what we do during disasters, including sheltering, feeding, how we use GIS and mapping to make decisions, how we work with partners as well as how we deal with the emotional part of disaster relief. Their questions were thoughtful, and they had a lot of them.

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A month later, I was invited back for the presentations. “Impressive” and “amazing” were the words that kept coming out of my mouth. The students were separated into small groups and had been assigned various disaster types — flood, tornado, hurricane, drought, chemical spills, blizzards, etc. The solutions were unique, well thought out and, in some cases, mind blowing. I couldn’t believe sixth graders came up with these things!

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One team, assigned drought, developed a board game. This game was fun as well as educational. Through question and answer cards, it detailed how to conserve water or reasons drought happens.

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A few teams created websites. One for chemical spills addressed how to avoid them, what to do if one affects your home and who can help. They handed out a card with a QR code linking you to their website, and plan on distributing them around Akron so residents can learn more. Another website created a pen pal site for those affected by a disaster so they could connect with someone willing to share their experiences with others. One team created an augmented reality with a 3D cube that when you put your phone or tablet in front of the cube it showed, from all angles, a beach, the fish swimming in the ocean and the sun shining above it. The student said, “Well this is pretty basic.” Far from basic to me!

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This list can go on and on. I wish I had a few more hours to have walked through every display to hear all their ideas and presentations.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer 

Interested in giving back to your community? Come to a Red Cross Volunteer Session!

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

January 23, 2020- Are you interested in making a difference in your community by assisting individuals in need?

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The American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio has a critical need for volunteers to respond to local disasters, to assist at blood drives and to transport lifesaving blood.

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The Red Cross will be holding informational sessions across Northeast Ohio to help you learn about the many ways you can make a difference as a Red Cross volunteer. You’ll hear from current volunteers and have an opportunity to ask questions. We’ll also have volunteer applications available at the sessions.

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Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga County Sessions

Saturday, January 25th and Saturday, February 29th

10-11 AM

Red Cross Regional Headquarters

3747 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH

Summit, Portage and Media County Sessions

Saturday, February 1st and Saturday, March 1st

10-11 AM

Red Cross Akron Office

501 W. Market St., Akron, OH

Ashtabula, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning, Trumbull County Session

Wednesday, February 19th

8:30-10:30 AM

Hoge’s Restaurant

16128 E Liverpool Rd., East Liverpool, OH

To RSVP for one of the information sessions above, contact Gail Wernick at 216-431-3328 or gail.wernick@redcross.org.

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Can’t make it to a volunteer session, but interested in volunteering? Click here to visit our volunteer page to learn more about volunteering with the Red Cross and to submit a volunteer application.

Volunteers celebrating volunteers

By Kim Kroh, Stark and Muskingum Lakes executive director

December 26, 2019- Stark and Muskingum Lakes volunteer, Barb Thomas, was attending a disaster services department meeting earlier this month and was looking for ways to inspire, uplift, and build camaraderie among the disaster team. ‘Tis the season, and what better way to recognize volunteers than to host a holiday party.  She laughs, saying she may have overextended herself because only 4 disaster volunteers (out of 20) raised a hand indicating an interest in attending a holiday party.

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Nonetheless, Barb got right to work, and her first step was recruiting helpers. Tom and Gwen Johnson eagerly volunteered to assist. Planning was officially underway, and the invitations were distributed. Tom hung all the decorations, and being 6’3”, he was perfect for the job. Gwen used her handy scrapbooking tool to punch out dozens of snowflakes, and Barb made a keepsake ornament for every volunteer.

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Together they transformed the disaster services office into a space with intimate ambiance, colorful lighting, snowflakes, holiday trees, and festive tinsel spiraling down from the rafters. Appetizers, desserts, and punch were on the menu and each volunteer brought a dessert or appetizer to share. The invitation also requested the volunteers to wear an ugly Christmas sweater and holy moly, there were some doozies!

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All in all, more than 30 people attended the party, sharing laughs and creating new memories. Job well done Barb! You were very successful in building camaraderie and reminding our volunteers, being one yourself, just how valuable you are to YOUR American Red Cross!!

Trees, Wreaths, and a Blimp

Annual Festival of Trees event raises money and lifts spirits

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross Regional Communications Officer

Wooster, December 6, 2019 – It’s one of the most timely events of the season. And it’s one of the most popular events in the region. Dozens of designer trees, wreaths, centerpieces and baskets were on display at the annual Festival of Trees fundraiser for disaster relief.  The items were auctioned off on Tuesday, December 3 at the Shisler Conference Center on the Wooster campus of The Ohio State University.  Supporters also bid on valuable gifts donated by local companies and individuals during a live auction.

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One of those gifts is always in high demand: a ride on the Goodyear blimp.  The highest bidder was Annette Saeger, owner of the Gilcrest Center, an adult daycare in Wooster.

“One of her resident’s  dying wish is to ride in the Goodyear blimp,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Red Cross of Lake Erie/Heartland. “She bought that for him.” 

49164545698_7913cd9266_cThe event raised more than $80,000 for the Red Cross to help residents who are affected by disasters like home fires and flooding in Ashland, Holmes, Richland and Wayne counties.

The general public was invited to attend a preview the night before the auction.

They 49164556318_dca86bd6ac_cwere treated not only to the splendor of the decorated trees, but also a performance by the  Wooster High School Choir and a visit from Santa Claus.

“What a great way to kick-off the holiday season,” Kiefer said.  “People had a good time for a good cause – those who need help during their darkest hours, after a disaster like a home fire.”

If you’d like to help people recover from home fires, floods, tornadoes and other disasters, visit redcross.org/neo and click the donate button at the top of the page, or call 800-RED CROSS.

To view dozens of photos from the preview night and the auction at Festival of Trees, visit our photo album here.

Photo credits: Tom Newman/American Red Cross volunteer; Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Chris and Jim Davis named 2019 Festival of Trees honorary co-chairs

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

November 18, 2019- The American Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter named Chris and Jim Davis the 2019 honorary co-chairs for the annual Festival of Trees, which will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at the Shisler Conference Center in Wooster.

Jim and Chris Davis

Chris and Jim Davis

The event helps raise funds for the Red Cross to help residents who are affected by disasters like home fires and flooding in Ashland, Holmes, Richland and Wayne counties.

The Davis’ were both born and raised in Orrville, Ohio and attended Orrville High School together. Both have led a life of service, with Chris serving as a teacher and director at the Trinity Christian Pre-School for 28 years and Jim a police officer at the Orrville Police Department. Currently, they own and operate the Orrville Dairy Queen, which Jim’s mother and father purchased in 1984.

“We support the American Red Cross and their mission, which is to prevent and alleviate human suffering,” said Chris Davis. “I think of them as the number one second responder, right after police and fire, our first responders. Your contribution to help stays here for local disaster services and programs.”

The Festival of Trees, one of the area’s premiere holiday events since 1990, has generated funds for local Red Cross disaster relief for families experiencing home fires, floods or tornadoes.

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The fundraising event features beautifully decorated holiday trees, wreaths, centerpieces and baskets donated by local artisans and decorators. The holiday decorations will be auctioned at the event.

Additionally, local companies have donated wonderful and unique items for the auction, such as a ride for two on the Goodyear blimp and a trip to Disney World.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the event, visit redcross.org/trees19.

Akron Brass remains a local champion through Red Cross partnership

By Mike Arthur, Disaster Program Manager, Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter (South)

November 15, 2019- When I have trouble with my work equipment, I call the Red Cross information technology (IT) department and they help me fix the problem. At worst, it means I’m not very productive for a short period of time. In my previous career as a firefighter, if I had trouble with my equipment it could have resulted in injury or death.

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For the last 100 years, the Akron Brass Company has made quality equipment to ensure that firefighters are able to put fires out and save lives. Every firefighter knows about Akron Brass, and how good their products are. I recently had the opportunity to visit their offices and got to meet many of their staff members. Akron Brass is an incredible partner of the American Red Cross. This year alone they have provided funds to support our Home Fire Campaign and are the presenting sponsor of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter Festival of Trees event in Wooster next month. In addition, the company actively participates in hosting blood drives, including the Wooster Battle of the Badges event, which pits the police against the fire department in a friendly competition.

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I was at Akron Brass headquarters on Friday, November 8th, when employees assembled 150 comfort kits for veterans.

The Akron Brass Company is a world leader in fire products, as well as a local champion for Wayne County and the state of Ohio.

To view more photos from the Akron Brass care kit assembly event, visit our Flickr page.

Mahoning Valley residents and volunteers “Feel the Heat” during emergency response tour

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

October 30, 2019- The American Red Cross partners with many organizations to create a network of volunteers and highly skilled professionals who are prepared when emergencies arise. The Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS) has served proudly since 1955 as a community jewel and thirdlargest employer of the Mahoning Valley—ready to serve our region and beyond in multiple ways.

On October 22 the Red Cross community was invited to Feel the Heat, a learning tour of facilities and tools used by the valley’s bravest to serve our region and nation. Nearly 1,900 military personnel efficiently operate this 321-acre federal facility in Trumbull County, where our assignment began.

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Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Lake to River, and chapter board member Lou Joseph of Home Savings and Loan of Youngstown

We were greeted with opening remarks at the Community Activities Center (CAC) by Colonel Don Wren, 910th Air Wing Mission Group Support Commander. Joe Mersol, Lake to River chapter co-events chair, addressed attendees during refreshments. After Mike Parks, Red Cross regional executive, introduced Air Force Fire Chief John Lewis, we were divided into three squadrons and briefed with instructions for our nearly two-hour tour.

Our second stop was at the Family Assistance Center, where we learned training and drills that can help families in any YARS related event or disaster, with a staff  ready to provide counseling, food, first aid, shelter and specialized services.

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Red Cross Regional CEO Mike Parks, a U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retired) speaks with Air Force Reserve Col. Don Wren,  Commander, 910th Mission Support Group

Our next adventure was reporting to the Smoke House for a simulated smoke demonstration. This illustrated how difficult it is to see in a fire. We learned the importance of staying low to the ground and other safety tips. Outside, we “felt the heat” at the next demonstration by witnessing a propane- fueled metal training jet set ablaze as Chief Lewis outlined the challenges of fighting such a fire.

“It’s our opportunity to work with our amazing 910th Airlift Wing on an exercise where we simulate a plane has gone down,” said Karen Conklin, Lake to River Chapter executive director.

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They also demonstrated the powerful “jaws of life” and other tools used to extract victims of car accidents. The chief noted that they assist various area fire departments in the region, as was supported by the presence of Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Findley and Mayor Tito Brown.

Our last stop was at the Emergency Operations Center. This “situation room” with the latest technology helps federal, state and local responders coordinate emergency efforts and monitor events such as air shows hosted by YARS.

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It was an informative and pride-filled day that helped show the community the value of this facility as a Red Cross trusted ally.

Our thanks to Lake to River chapter board chair Deborah Grinstein for coordinating the event; 910th Airlift Wing Commander Colonel Joseph D. Janik; and Master Sgt. Bob Bartko Jr. for allowing us to observe impressive team efforts and for planning this exciting event.

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Col. Wren with Red Cross AmeriCorps workers Carrie Schultz, left, and Teresa Greenlief

Visit www.youngstown.afrc.af.mil to learn more about this Mahoning Valley gem.

To see more photos from the Feel the Heat event, click here to visit our Flickr page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer