Festive Fundraiser: Festival of Trees

That was some sleigh.

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Six feet long and four feet wide, with wispy garland, clusters of red berries, a padded red leather seat and a strip of festive bells, the sleigh proved to be the item that generated the most heating bidding during the 2018 Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter presented by Schaeffler.  In the end, close to $60,000 were raised for general disaster services in the local counties served by the chapter.

The sleigh went for a winning bid of $1,600.

Half of the more than 180 bidders placed their bids online, a first for the Festival of Trees. Also a first, the Blue Barn Winery in Wooster as the venue for the Festival.  With its rustic yet elegant decor,  the 85 guests in attendance enjoyed fine food and wine in an intimate setting compliments of Certified Angus Beef and Wooster Country Club.

The funds raised will benefit residents of Wayne, Holmes, Ashland, Richland, Huron, Lorain and Erie Counties who experience a disaster like a home fire.  “The local Red Cross assisted close to 300 families last year, distributing more than $180,000 dollars to help them during their darkest hour,” said Lara Kiefer, Executive Director of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.  “The money raised at this year’s Festival of Trees will continue to help our neighbors recover from disasters like home fires and floods.”

You can help support the mission of the Red Cross by making a donation at redcross.org/neo, or by calling 1-800 Red Cross.

More photos from this year’s Festival of Trees can be seen by visiting our photo album on Flickr.  Photos from the November 17th preview event can be seen here.

 

Call for Hero Nominations

On a cool night in early spring, a husband and wife heard screaming coming from outside of their front door. A desperate pounding echoed throughout their home. Opening the door, the man saw his neighbors, holding their week-old baby. The baby was not breathing and his lips had started to turn an unnatural shade of blackish-purple.  While the wife dialed 911, the husband grabbed a nasal aspirator and began infant CPR.

In a few heartbeats, the baby’s tiny cry pierced the stillness.

On a different evening, in a different part of town, a man and his fiancé were sitting at a red light, when he noticed a car coming over the hill. It seemed like the driver was intent on rear-ending him, but at the last moment erratically pulled away. As the car drove past, he could see that the other driver was slumped over.

The vehicle blew out a telephone pole and rolled.

The driver side door was crushed, and through the window the man could see that the driver’s head was twisted. A smell like fluid leaking on the hot engine filled the evening. Carefully, he climbed in and pulled the bloody driver out of the smoking car, cradling his head until first responders appeared.

These are true stories of ordinary people who, when faced with extraordinary circumstances, became heroes.

Each year in Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties, and bi-annually in Greater Cleveland, the Red Cross honors individuals with similar stories to those you just read.

The nomination period is almost over for both events.

Do you know a hero?

For Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties visit redcross.org/neoheroes or click here to nominate them online. Nominees must reside or be employed in Medina, Summit, Portage County. The heroic event must have occurred in 2017, but may have taken place outside of Medina, Summit or Portage Counties. The deadline for nominations is December 31, 2017.

For Greater Cleveland visit redcross.org/cleheroes18. Nominees must reside or be employed in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake or Geauga County. The heroic event must have occurred in 2016 or 2017. The deadline for nominations is January 2, 2018.

Click here to view the co-chairs of the 2018 Greater Cleveland Hero Awards, Elizabeth Allen and Lisa Roberts-Mamone, as they explain the nomination process.

To learn more about our events, including how to sponsor or purchase tickets, visit redcross.org/neoevents and click on the event.

rescuers assisting an unconscious man with cardiac resuscitation

Canton Fire Department Helping to Give Wildfires the Boot

On a busy Wednesday afternoon, several fire fighters are standing in front of Station #4 on Cleveland Ave in Canton.

Clothed in their turnout gear pants and department t-shirts on a balmy fall afternoon, they are chasing down cars that stop at the red light.

Their efforts to pass the boot (literally collecting change in a large turnout gear boot) for those affected by the California wildfires resulted in $900 in just a few hours!

We are so grateful for our partners, like the Canton Fire Department. Each day we work – hand in glove – to serve those affected by home fires throughout Northeast Ohio.

But it is particularly amazing to see them supporting the bigger picture of our mission – as we work to help those affected by large scale disasters.

And just what have we been doing to help in California?

  • Since the fires began, the Red Cross, community and government partners have provided more than 27,900 overnight stays in emergency shelters.
  • With the help of partners, the Red Cross has served more than 171,000 meals and snacks, and provided more than 12,700 mental health and health services to support and care for those affected.
  • The Red Cross has distributed more than 135,000 emergency relief items such as masks, gloves, rakes, trash bags and comfort kits containing deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items to people in need.
  • To help people recover and get back on their feet, the Red Cross has opened more than 940 cases, reaching more than 2,300
  • More than 1,100 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground now

If you would like to support our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies – visit redcross.org/donate.

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