Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: October 18-20, 2019

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

October 21, 2019- While residents of Northeast Ohio were enjoying the warm fall weekend weather and getting ready for Halloween, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Disaster Action Teams (DAT) were responding to individuals experiencing the worst day of their lives.

The Red Cross responded to 12 incidents, including several home fires, in nine counties, affecting all five regional chapters.

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As part of the weekend response, Northeast Ohio DAT volunteers assisted 26 adults and 14 children, and the Red Cross provided more than $7,000 in immediate financial assistance.

Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy; the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

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As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit redcross.org/donate to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

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Also, without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, the Red Cross would not be able to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio. Volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are without a doubt the face of the Red Cross. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and to apply to become a Red Cross volunteer today.

Red Cross helps prevent home fires as part of Ashland Day of Caring

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

October 18, 2019- Support for neighbors and the community was in full swing on October 17, 2019, as part of the 25th annual Kay Conrad Ashland Day of Caring.

Organizations from all across Ashland County dedicated the day to volunteer their time to assist residents who are elderly, disabled and disadvantaged with tasks, such as light yard work, to help improve local communities.

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The American Red Cross was one of the organizations that took part in the day of caring.

Volunteers from the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter and partners visited homes across the county to help prevent home fires and make communities safer.

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As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross installed free smoke alarms in homes that had no or nonworking smoke alarms.

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Along with installing smoke alarms, volunteers provided residents with important fire safety tips and information on how to develop an escape plan, to ensure their family is prepared and safe in the event of a home fire.

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, including how to request a free smoke alarm, donate or how to become involved, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO. The site also includes fire safety and prevention tips, checklists and more fire prevention and preparedness tools.

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To view more photos from the Kay Conrad Ashland Day of Caring, visit our Flickr page.

Sandusky man assisted by Red Cross during family tragedy to serve on local board

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

In January 2018 a family’s life was forever changed. An early morning fire broke out at a Norwalk, Ohio, home. Multiple fire departments responded and battled the blaze. Tragically, the fire took the lives of a husband and wife, their adult son, his certified therapy dog and their family dog.

The event devastated the family, which is still trying to heal. In a matter of minutes, they lost their parents, grandparents, brother and uncle. The case was difficult on the firefighters, too. It was the first multi-fatality fire in the community in nearly 100 years.

Rob Griggs of Sandusky is the oldest son and big brother of the family. A former Marine and self-described multitasker, he feels he can handle having a lot placed on his shoulders.

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Rob Griggs and his sister, Tricia Costanzo at the Sound the Alarm event in Sandusky in April

“My family often looks toward me for answers,” he said. “But I didn’t have them myself.”

“There was never a chance to say goodbye,” Rob said. “There is no closure, and there never will be. It’s been really, really hard for all of us.”

Rob, who is general sales manager at Kasper Buick GMC, is now working to prevent other families from having to experience this hardship—first as an American Red Cross volunteer and soon as a board member with the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

 

On a Saturday in late April, Rob, his wife Cali, their 11-year-old son Zach and Rob’s sister Tricia Costanzo went door to door in Sandusky installing smoke alarms as volunteers during a Sound the Alarm event. That day, 129 smoke alarms were installed by two dozen volunteers—ultimately making 63 homes safer.

“My son loved it,” he said. “He was there knocking on all the doors. He and his sister lost two grandparents. It was their first loss . . . so it has been a process for them as well. He’s a good kid who wants to be part of helping.”

Rob stated that his family is now a “Red Cross family.” He explained that he and his wife Cali want “to give to any and every part of the Red Cross” and help in any way they can to bring more awareness to its needs.

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Rob’s wife Cali installs a smoke alarm in a home in Sandusky

“Rob informed me that he was incredibly touched by our Red Cross volunteers that night his family’s home caught fire,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. “He never realized what the local Red Cross does in our communities every day and said he will forever be a Red Cross volunteer. I look forward to having Rob on our board and helping us advance our mission throughout the communities we serve.”

Rob’s advice:  Every six months, check your smoke alarms and replace them after 10 years. He will be vigilantly reaching out to friends and family and advocating on this issue as a family. He believes if he can help people be more secure or protect their homes, it will help him rest more easily at night.

“People don’t realize how important it is,” he explained. “It takes a few minutes of your life to check. It’s a few minutes you may never get back. . . . The time it took could have saved three lives.”

The Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm campaign is designed to reduce the number of home fire fatalities each year. To donate so that smoke alarms can be purchased and installed in local communities, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter recognizes volunteers

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

May 1, 2018- The hard work and dedication by volunteers is the engine that makes the American Red Cross run. Over 90 percent of the Red Cross’ workforce is actually made up 46772326605_af5e91764a_zof volunteers. During an emergency, may it be a natural disaster or a home fire, volunteers are ready at a moments notice to help comfort and help individuals during the worst moments of there lives without expecting anything in return. That is why it is important to recognize and thank these amazing volunteers.

“I am always amazed by the passion of our volunteers here in Northeast Ohio,” said Gail Wernick, regional volunteer services officer. “Without expecting any compensation in return, our volunteers go through various training and are always eager and happy to lend a hand to someone in need. It is truly inspiring.”

Throughout the year, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio holds volunteer recognition events throughout the region to say thank you and to honor everything they do each and every day. Recently, the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter held two recognition events for volunteers in the chapter’s north and south region.

Click here to view photos from the Lake Erie/Heartland North volunteer recognition event.

Lake Erie Heartland North Volunteer Recognition (13)Click here to view photos from the Lake Erie/Heartland South volunteer recognition event.

The Red Cross of Northeast Ohio once again thanks our volunteers from all 22 counties we serve. Without you, we would not be able to fulfill our mission and help ensure the safety and well being of the residents of Northeast Ohio.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to learn about opportunities in your area.

Fast start for Sound the Alarm

Corporate partners and volunteers help save lives at Sound the Alarm events

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

April 29, 2019- “This isn’t so much a corporate event—it’s really just people helping otherIMG_7080 people.” That’s how Kim Giberson, the quality assurance project manager for TravelCenters of America summed up his company’s participation in Sound the Alarm.

Kim was among more than a dozen TravelCenters of America employees who gathered on a bright, crisp Saturday morning to install free smoke alarms in homes in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side.

“When you hear about the need to protect people’s homes, you realize you need to do something,” he said.

Several other partners provided volunteers for home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events, not only in Cleveland, but also in Youngstown, Ravenna and Sandusky, where Rob Griggs and his sister Tricia Costanzo went door-to-door to help make homes safer and, ultimately, save lives.

“This cause is near and dear to our hearts,” Rob said. “We lost our parents and a brother in a home fire in January of 2018. Anything we can do to help someone else avoid the same fate, we’ll do.”

IMG_6362ASound the Alarm is a nationwide American Red Cross campaign meant to help save lives. Teams of volunteers are going door-to-door across the country through May 11, installing smoke alarms and providing home fire safety information. Several more installation events are planned throughout the Northeast Ohio region.

“We are off to a great start here in Northeast Ohio,” said Tim O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer. Through five events, we have tallied 922 alarms installed in 391 homes.”

The goal in Northeast Ohio is to install 3,000 alarms by May 11. It’s part of the national goal to install 100,000 smoke alarms.

The Burn Center at MetroHealth is honored to be part of the Red Cross Sound the Alarm event,” said Brandy Kulak, a nurse manager at the hospital’s Comprehensive Burn Care Center. “We know firsthand how important prevention is, and how seconds can make a tremendous difference when there is a fire.”

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Volunteer opportunities still exist for the remaining Sound the Alarm events throughout Northeast Ohio. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to find an event near you.

Kim Giberson plans to volunteer for another Sound the Alarm event next weekend in Medina. “It makes you feel good.”

See photos from our Cleveland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our North Ridgeville Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre, and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.

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.

Family connection leads local volunteer to a passion for the Red Cross

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

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

April 8, 2019- As a child, Alice Martinez was surrounded by stories about the Red Cross. Her father, who immigrated from Switzerland, would inundate her with stories about the Red Cross being founded in Switzerland, how the Red Cross’ logo is an inverse of the of the Swiss flag and even informed her that her family raised St. Bernard dogs, which the Red Cross would use for rescues.  These stories not only showed Alice her family connection to the Red Cross, but it started her on a path to helping others.

Alice’s first interaction with the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio came in the 1980’s, when she worked for the Red Cross of Lorain County, then under the leadership of Clarence Wills. For six years, Alice worked as a transportation specialist.

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Alice Martinez

Following transitions to new employment opportunities and retirement, Alice was searching for opportunities to give back in her spare time and naturally she was drawn back to the Red Cross, an organization for which she says she always had a passion for its mission.

As a volunteer, Alice was deployed for the first time. In 2017, she was deployed following the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma. While deployed, Alice worked in shelters and helped take care of displaced residents who just lost everything. Even though the work was demanding and difficult, she found it rewarding.

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Alice Martinez teaching students about dangers of frostbite

Currently, as a youthful 73-year-old, Alice is a fixture for the Red Cross of Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. One area where she has made a significant impact is the Pillowcase Project, a Red Cross initiative, inspired by Loyola University students carrying their valuables in a pillowcase following Hurricane Katrina, to teach elementary school students about emergency preparedness. As a former teacher, Alice found the program a natural fit for her experience. She looks forward to entering a classroom or presenting to a group of children to teach them the importance of being prepared before an emergency occurs.

“Alice Martinez is a great ambassador of the Pillowcase Project and has been one of my program leads since the beginning,” said John Gareis, the regional preparedness & community planning manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Alice has a passion for our programs and has a great rapport with the kids. Alice is the backbone of our Pillowcase Project!”

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Alice Martinez, sixth from the left, at Great Northern Mall during the 2019 Dominion Preparedness Day

To Alice, seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and knowing she is helping to save lives is enough of a reward for her. In fact, yesterday, April 7, Alice drove from her home in Avon Lake to Salem, OH to teach a group of 4-H members.

Are you interested in volunteering with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio like Alice Martinez? For more information and to learn about volunteering opportunities near you, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.