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.

NEO Red Cross disaster response team was busy during first half of FY ’19

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

As the ball dropped in Times Square, it not only marked the end of 2018, but it also marked the closure of the first half of fiscal year 2019 for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.

dunham ave 2The Red Cross runs on a fiscal year calendar that runs from July to June. The first six months of FY ’19 were especially active for the Red Cross responding to local disasters and assisting residents in need in the region.

During the six-month period, Northeast Ohio disaster services workers responded to 804 cases, assisting 1,409 adults, 784 children and provided $400,041 in financial assistance to those affect by the disasters, such as home fires. To show the impact on the region, during the same six-month period in FY ’18, the Red Cross responded to 648 cases, assisted 1,130 adults, 712 children and provided $343,576 in financial assistance.

Unfortunately, disasters do not respect zip codes or county borders, as every region in Northeast Ohio was impacted from July to December. However, no matter where an emergency occurs, the Red Cross will be there to assist those in need. Below are FY ’19 numbers for all five regions:

  • Greater Cleveland: 379 cases, 1,021 individuals assisted, $152,437 in financial assistance
  • Lake to River: 140 cases, 394 individuals assisted, $77,559 in financial assistance
  • Lake Erie/Heartland: 114 cases, 330 individuals assisted, $70,647 in financial assistance
  • Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties: 104 cases, 269 individuals assisted, $60,028 in financial assistance
  • Stark and Muskingum Lakes: 67 cases, 182 individuals assisted, $39,370 in financial assistance

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northeast Ohio, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

If you cannot assist financially, there is another way you may help the Red Cross assist IMG_1758those in need. 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 truly the face of the Red Cross.

If you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

Fundraiser provides festive kickoff to the holiday season

Proceeds to benefit local Red Cross disaster relief

WOOSTER – The Festival of Trees has become a tradition in Wooster, to help residents in Wayne, Holmes, Ashland and Richland Counties kick-off the holiday season.  For 27 years it has helped to provide critical funding for disaster services provided by the American Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

On Tuesday, November 27, Festival-goers sipped local wines from Troutman Vineyards and Blue Barn Winery, along with beer and pop provided by Bowman Beverage. They also enjoyed Certified Angus beef and appetizers prepared by Wooster Country Club, as they meandered through the Buckeye Agricultural Museum and Education Center, admiring the trees and wreaths decorated by local artisans and enthusiasts.  A list of the designer award winners is below.

For more pictures from the Festival of Trees, visit our photo album here

The Museum provided a unique backdrop for the Festival, as the trees and wreaths, along with the many silent auction items, were positioned among vintage farm equipment on display there.  More than 260 tickets were sold for this year’s event. 

“The main purpose of this event is to raise funds for the local community Red Cross,” said Festival Chair Sean Ulik.  “We cover a large area, and the funds are very important.”

The Red Cross assists 300 local families, on average every year, by providing help and hope following a home fire or other disaster.  The Red Cross distributes more than $180,000 every year in immediate financial assistance for shelter, clothing and other emergency needs.

“We’re here to save lives,” Sean said, highlighting the smoke alarms installed by Red Cross volunteers in homes throughout the community.“it’s amazing how many individuals do not have smoke alarms.  Those smoke alarms are so important in saving lives.”

For more information about the Home Fire Campaign, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.  And if you’d like to help provide the funds for the assistance needed by residents affected by disasters, visit redcross.org/neo, or call 1-800 RED CROSS to make a donation.

2018 Festival of Trees Designer Award winners:

Honorary Chair Award: Splendor in Red Wreath, designed by Tess Hustack

Best Agricultural Design: Weathervane Tree, donated by Consumer National Bank and Designed Mariah Crater

Most Creative: Frosty Tree, donated and designed by Diane Evans

Best Wreath: Stag N Star Wreath, designed by Tess Hustack

Most Christmassy: Rustic Bells Tree, designed by Christina Ennis

Best Little Tree: Winter Dreams, donated by Howard Hanna

People’s Choice: Sleigh Ride Tablepiece, donated and designed by CR Blooms Floral

Lake Erie/Heartland heroes celebrated in Mansfield

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

Ten heroes were honored for their bravery in the American Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. On October 4, the Chevy Network and Graham Chevrolet presented the Hero Awards to benefit the American Red Cross and to recognize the extraordinary acts, passion, courage and dedication of the volunteers. The event was held at The Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield.

The event commenced with Matti Lynn Chrisman, Miss Ohio 2008, singing the national anthem and Air National Guard 179th Airlift Wing Commander Colonel Allison Miller providing a video message honoring the efforts and actions by the award recipients.

Ten individuals were awarded, and these are the stories of those honored:

Tracy M. Dodson, Call to Action Hero- While at the Wayne County Fair, Tracy witnessed a person in line in front of her go into cardiac arrest. Tracy, a nurse, administered CPR and continued CPR after the Red Cross First Aid Team arrived. Due to her rapid identification and quick action in stressful conditions, the individual regained a heartbeat and was conscious by the time the rescue squad arrived.

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Dr. Edward Adkins, Health Professional Hero- Dr. Atkins has been a primary care physician for more than 30 years. Along with providing quality, compassionate care to his patients in Ohio, Dr. Adkins does mission trips to third world countries to help heal individuals in dire need of health care. Dr. Adkins has provided care to individuals in Africa and he also traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

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Pauline Anderson, Spirit of the Red Cross Hero- Since 2006, Pauline’s quarterly blood drives have collected 1,956 blood donations, and will easily clear the 2,000 mark this year. These drives may have helped save nearly 6,000 lives. Pauline’s extraordinary work as a Blood Drive Coordinator began in 2001, when her step daughter put on a blood drive honoring the life of her mother, who passed away from leukemia a year earlier.

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Hunter Woodruff, Call to Action Hero- Hunter, while driving home from his job, had noticed a car trapped in flood water in Mansfield. Without thinking twice, Hunter pulled over and jumped into the flood water. Due to Hunter’s quick action, the driver of the sinking car was saved.

Officer Ryan Garner, A Presence to Remember- Officer Ryan Garner, a Mansfield K-9 officer, was a fixture of the community. Officer Garner had a passion for being a police officer and was dedicated to not only helping his fellow officers, but also helping individuals in need. Officer Garner passed away from lung cancer in May 2018.

 Officer John Fuller, Police Hero- Officer John Fuller was the first community policing officer in Mansfield, as well as the community’s first bike patrol officer. Officer Fuller was committed to bridging the gap between the police and the community. His love for the community was evident by his interactions with children and their families. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Officer Fuller took personal time and traveled to New York City to help locate individuals trapped in the rubble.

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Merris Welge, Community Educator Hero- Merris has volunteered his time educating the community through the North Central Ohio SCORE organization for 22 years. SCORE is a mentoring program that provides free counseling, advice and resources to people who are in business or who wish to start a business.

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Jan Wendling, Military Inspiration Hero- Jan, a Mansfield resident, served as a tank commander for the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Following his return from the war, Jan served as a Mansfield police officer and helped develop the Mansfield Vietnam War Memorial.

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Missy Houghton, Animal Advocate Hero- Missy is the passionate director of the Humane Society of Richland County. She is making a difference locally through education and action. One animal Missy helped save was a cat named Vandy. Vandy arrived as a kitten with severe burns, missing an ear and an exposed skull. Missy was able to contact the Horizon Animal Hospital, which performed a skin graft surgery in April 2017. Vandy survived and has made appearances at Humane Society fundraisers.

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The event was managed by Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter volunteer board member Luke Beekman, who also produced a video honoring the award winners, which was shown during the event.

To view photos from the Chevy Network and Graham Chevrolet Hero Awards, visit our Flickr page.

Volunteer Profile: Sue J. Miller

Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter Volunteer Makes a Big Impact 

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross Volunteer

Sue J. Miller is a Red Cross Volunteer who has not just an uplifting charisma, but an extravagant courage that inspires everyone around her. Five years ago when Sue decided to retire, she had many plans to keep herself busy,  but her main aim was to help people with anything she could.  According to Sue, her Richland County community had done a lot for her family and she wanted to give back by getting involved in voluntary work. That is when in 2015, Sue joined the Red Cross. Among many other duties that she performs by giving more than 30-hours per week at Red Cross, she is an active member of the Disaster Relief Team, Shelter Response Team and Food Canteen Team.

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Sue J. Miller, left, and Sue K. Miller working at a canteen for first responders following a train derailment in Ashland County earlier this year.

The motivation to continue her extraordinary work comes from the community she serves. In her own words, “when people come to me and say thank you for everything you did for us, it fills my heart with satisfaction and happiness. I believe in the Red Cross mission of alleviating sufferings and pain of people and that is who I want to be”.

“Sue was one of our Chapter’s outstanding “stayployed” volunteers during the horrific national disasters last fall,” said Lara Kiefer, Executive Director of the Lake Erie/Heartland (LEH) Chapter.” Her compassion and commitment to our mission is an inspiration to all of us. We are very lucky to have Sue in our LEH chapter.”

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It is also important to note that while Red Cross Volunteers leave no stone unturned in helping the communities around them,  the Red Cross as a body also takes care of its volunteers. When Sue had an accident while on assignment in 2016, she broke both arms. Not only did the Red Cross take care of her treatment logistics, but they also made sure to give her a call every Wednesday 9:00 am for the next eight weeks to make sure she was okay. For Sue, that compassion means everything.  Eventually, the whole story is about human love and care. Whether you give it in some form or receive it back in any other form. Be it a hug or a thank you from a community member.

The Red Cross is fortunate to have a volunteer like Sue J. Miller.

You can volunteer too, get started at redcross.org/neo!

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.