Reflections of a former board member

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

June 16, 2019- Last week I attended the annual meeting of the board of directors for the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross. But it was more than

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L to R: Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter Executive Director Rachel Telegdy, Sue Wilson and Pam Williams

just the final meeting before the summer break. Amidst the business of thanking outgoing board members like me and recognizing new board members to take the place of those exiting, it was time to thank the volunteers—without whom the Red Cross could not accomplish its mission.

I am always moved—amazed but never surprised—to hear the stories of the heroes that make up the many volunteers who are the first responders. Those who show up and stand alongside to help people who have truly experienced the worst day of their life.

The volunteers who have:

  • installed 2,000 free smoke alarms. making 700 homes that didn’t have them safer, as part of the Sound the Alarm campaign.
  • responded to more than 120 home fires, providing residents in our three counties with help and hope.
  • deployed to the Greater Dayton area to help those affected by the recent deadly and destructive tornadoes—running toward disaster while most are running away.
  • given blood and/or found ways to encourage blood donation, especially as part of the Missing Types campaign, which strives to increase the nation’s blood supply by bringing attention to the more rare, missing types of blood, A, B and O, potentially saving more than 75,000 lives.

The thing that hit me most, however, after I received my certificate of appreciation for nine years of board service, was how little I felt I had done compared to these heroic volunteers. And how inspired I feel to continue on, if not as a board member, as a volunteer for this incredible organization so that I can help to continue its legacy of service. I can’t help but feel especially inspired to “be like Pam.”

Pam Williams received the H. Peter Burg award last year for her lifetime of service to our community and the Red Cross. She also steps down as board chair, passing the gavel to Alan Papa, president and chief operating officer for Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Pam truly is a dedicated volunteer. This small space cannot list her many acts of selflessness:  from sleeping in shelters alongside victims of disasters, to driving a forklift, to serving as our government liaison before and while she was our board chair.

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New board of directors chair Alan Papa speaks at the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter annual meeting

Last week may have been the end of my three-term, nine-year stint as a member of the Red Cross board of directors. But it was the first day of my continuation of a commitment to be a better volunteer for this amazing organization so that I can not only be more like Pam but also like the many volunteers who make up the Red Cross family.

Click here to visit our Flickr account to view photos from the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter annual meeting.

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.

Volunteering isn’t technical – except for this Northeast Ohio volunteer

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

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

With more than 10 years of volunteer service with the American Red Cross, Dave Riegler has volunteered on both a national and local level. After a life-changing experience in 2004, he wanted to find a way to give back. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, becoming one of the largest disaster relief efforts taken on by the Red Cross to date. Dave joined the Red Cross as a volunteer, serving as a support team member in the Washington, D.C., office.

Dave Riegler

Dave Riegler

Since then, Dave has been deployed nine times as a disaster services Technology Networking Services Associate. Using his professional skills in IT, he supported the Disaster Services Technology (DST) team to deploy technology infrastructures for volunteer offices to ensure they had the equipment they needed to respond effectively.

In addition to his support for disaster relief efforts, Dave has been a dedicated volunteer the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. In fact, in the past three years, he has logged over 700 volunteer hours with the Red Cross, which is an average of about 4.5 hours per week! In Northeast Ohio, he supports the IT needs of the regional chapters as a Volunteer Technical Specialist, performing device refreshers and network transformations. For those who aren’t tech savvy, his work helps the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio’s technology work for the volunteers and staff utilizing it every day.

Dave also manages the entire disaster relief inventory for the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio, including the locations of the disaster relief trailers in the region.

“Dave’s get it done attitude and willingness to jump in no matter the task is invaluable!” said Rachel Telegdy, Executive Director, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

For Dave, volunteering his time with the Red Cross is all about giving back to others. Whether it’s volunteering locally here in Northeast Ohio or assisting in the response of a national disaster, he finds the work rewarding, as the Red Cross helps so many to get back on their feet again.

If you’re interested in learning more how you can volunteer for the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to check out all the different opportunities in your area.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Summit, Portage and Medina Counties heroes honored for ‘Acts of Courage’

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

March 11, 2019- During the evening of March 7, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio and the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter celebrated heroic acts and bravery accomplished by local heroes.

The 23rd annual Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter Act of Courage event, which was held at the Hilton Akron-Fairlawn, celebrated selflessness and the quick action of eight individuals, who sprang into action to assist others in need.

Marea Ludwig of Ravenna, one of the eight honorees, said her family and coworkers were excited for her.  “I feel like it’s a great big balloon of thank you,” she said prior to the start of the ceremony.

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Marea Ludwig, left, and Rachel Telegdy, Executive Director, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

Marea was honored for performing CPR during her first day at Litehouse Pools & Spas in Ravenna, when one of her co-workers collapsed in the backroom.

Along with the Acts of Courage Award, Marea, who received her CPR training with the Red Cross, also received the Certificate of Merit from the Red Cross’ national headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the Red Cross for saving a life.

Along with Marea, here are the stories of the other brave award winners.

Eric Peterson

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Eric Peterson and Rachel Telegdy

Eric Peterson of Atwater, during his morning commute to work, noticed his neighbor’s home was on fire. He stopped his car, ran to the house and began to bang on the windows and doors to alert anyone who was still inside.

Suddenly, a noise grabbed Eric’s attention and he watched as the attached garage door opened. A young girl and a dog, who Eric had seen playing in the yard many times during his daily commute, stumbled out of the home.  As another neighbor called emergency services, Eric ran into the home. As smoke alarms blared, his shouting alerted the remaining family members to the danger. A mother and two children fled the smoke-filled home after hearing Eric’s warning. Assured that no one else remained in the home, Eric escaped through a window.

Outside, a mother and her three children huddled together with other neighbors, watching the smoke billow from the home.

Unruffled, Eric called his wife to tell her what was happening down the street, and continued his commute to work.

Detective Susan Hackbart and Tonya Gardella

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Tonya Gardella and Detective Susan Hackbart

Last August, Detective Susan Hackbart of Akron was called to work at the Goodyear Public Library, where Tonya Gardella of Brunswick is the branch manager.

A few minutes into the shift, Detective Hackbart was alerted to a patron who was in distress. As she was examining the situation, the patron slipped into unconsciousness.

Tonya took control of the scene and she called for one of her employees to get the branch’s AED and for another to call 911.

Detective Hackbart began CPR, pausing only to place the sticky pads from the AED on the patron. They started the AED and followed its directions until EMS arrived. Thankfully, the individual was fully revived at the hospital.

Officer Timothy Hunt

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Officer Timothy Hunt and Rachel Telegdy

Officer Timothy Hunt of Barberton, a member of the Akron Police Department, was dispatched during a night shift in July to attend to an unresponsive 2-year-old. Police and EMS arrived at the same time to find the child not breathing and without a pulse.

While EMS rushed to start an IV and other life saving measures, Office Hunt jumped in the ambulance and performed CPR while the medics continued to work on the child during the 20-minute ride to the hospital.

The child survived due to the heroic efforts of EMS and the resolute hands of Officer Hunt.

Paul Miroewski

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Paul Miroewski and Rachel Telegdy

Paul Miroewski of Northfield was driving home on I-271 from his maintenance job in Lyndhurst when he witnessed a semi-tractor trailer smash into another vehicle, flipping the vehicle onto the passenger side. As Paul pulled his vehicle to the side of the road, he could see flames already licking the side of the road and the undercarriage of the truck.

He paused to check on the semi-driver, and learning that he was fine, continued to the overturned vehicle. Another driver, an off-duty fireman, stopped and, together, he and Paul tore off the windshield and helped pull the victim from his truck. Nearly two minutes later, both the car and semi exploded.

Brandon Waterson

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Rachel Telegdy and Brandon Waterson

Brandon Waterson of Kent was on summer break from school and had been playing at a friend’s house across the street when he returned home for a quick lunch.

Before entering his home, Brandon noticed that his next-door-neighbor’s house had smoke billowing out of it.

Brandon called his mother to alert her and she told him to call 9-1-1. He ran to another neighbor’s house who helped the shy boy contact emergency services.

The owner of the home had left a candle burning while she was at work. By alerting an adult, and, in turn, the authorities, Brandon helped save the neighbor’s dog and home.

Tave Constantine

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Tave Constantine and Rachel Telegdy

Tave Constantine of Mogadore heard his mother, a thyroid cancer survivor who sometimes has difficulty eating due to her many surgeries, make distressed noises. He calmly asked her if she was okay. When she was not able to answer him, he ran to her and began administering abdominal thrusts and back blows.

His mother could feel herself passing out, but Tave’s continued effort and care helped dislodge the food and she was finally able to breath.

Like Marea Ludwig, Samantha Balaj also received the Certificate of Merit from the Red Cross.

During a theater class at Slippery Rock University, a student collapsed and became unconscious. Originally, Samantha thought her classmate was having a seizure,  however, as she was assessing the scene, she noticed the student did not have pulse. At that moment, Samantha’s Red Cross training kicked in and she began CPR on the student until emergency services arrived.

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Rachel Telegdy, Samantha Balaj and Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

Samantha also helped lead a demonstration of hands-only CPR for those in attendance.

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Samantha Balaj demonstrating hands-only CPR

In addition to recognizing the heroism of area residents at the event, the Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties presented the H. Peter Burg Community Leader Award to Virginia Addicott, for her leadership as the president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical® and in the community.

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Rachel Telegdy, Virginia Addicott and Bill Considine

While CEO of FirstEnergy, and chair of the local Red Cross Board of Directors, H. Peter Burg established a legacy of dedicated service to the Greater Akron community. Following his death in 2004, the Red Cross established an award in Pete’s name to honor his memory and inspire others. By bestowing the award on Virginia, the Red Cross recognizes her lifetime of community service.

You too can be a local hero. If you are interested in taking a Red Cross training, such as CPR, life guarding and babysitting, please visit redcross.org/take-a-class to see upcoming classes and to register.

You can also be a hero to someone in need by donating life saving blood. Visit RedCrossBlood.org to find a blood drive near you and to schedule an appointment to give now.

If you would like to have the Red Cross provide a FREE hands-only CPR training for your business or organization, please fill out our event registration form.

To view more photos from the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter Acts of Courage event, visit the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio’s Flickr page.

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.

A question that changed Christmas for me

By Sue Wilson, Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter board of directors. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

About five years ago, my daughter asked me a question, and although I certainly didn’t expect my answer to be that profound, it actually changed the way I looked at Christmas. She asked, “Mom, do you remember any of the gifts you received last Christmas?” I had to think long and hard. And I was embarrassed that I could not.

She then pointed out that every year we spend far too much money and time getting stressed about gifts, and that isn’t what Christmas should be about. She said that as a new mom and living states away, the best gift was being home. Plus, although she wanted to make Christmas special for her kids, she didn’t want them focused on the consumerism that Christmas had turned into. I was proud that she, and my other daughter, too, felt that the best memories from childhood were laughing, cooking, eating, playing board games and watching Christmas movies. So, we all agreed we’d scale back on the gift buying.

Historical First AidAlthough we haven’t completely stopped giving gifts–we have cut way back—and the gifts we give now are intentional, mindful and less tangible. We give gifts of time and experiences. Gifts that are practical. Our standards: If you can’t use it, wear it because you need it, eat it or take part in it, we won’t buy it. No more impractical “stuff” to sit on a shelf. We’ve also incorporated giving gifts that have true meaning–gifts for the greater good. And one of those is making a donation to a worthy cause. After I joined the board of directors for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter, giving gifts of meaning became even more important to me.

This year, there are so many who will not be celebrating Christmas as they did last year because their home was destroyed by the devastation of a wildfire or hurricane. Every night, in any given city, there is a home fire. I’ve seen first-hand the work the Red Cross does on a local and national level, and to continue to do this work your financial support is needed. Here are three creative and meaningful gift ideas:

  • For disaster relief, donate here. (Print a card or certificate to tell a loved one that you donated in their honor.)
  • If you still enjoy giving traditional gifts, you can shop online at the  Red Cross store and give a practical gift—the gift of preparedness for emergencies, with first aid kits, a hand-crank radio that can charge your cell phone, water bottles and more.
  • Visit redcross.org/gifts and choose from a variety of symbolic gifts that give back to people in need. 183401-18-Holiday-Campaign-2018_Social-Media-Plan_Facebook-Post-Graphic_2_FINAL

All donations are tax-deductible and will support Red Cross programs like Disaster Services, Service to the Armed Forces, Blood Services and International Services.

This holiday, give something that means something, and you’ll feel just like Mr. Scrooge did when he woke up-giddy on Christmas morning knowing he was going to make so many people’s lives better. Give, that’s what Christmas spirit is all about.

Volunteers – The Lifeblood of the Red Cross

National Volunteer Week  – Spotlighting Red Cross Volunteers: Pam Williams

By Pat Kunklier, Red Cross Board Member and Communications Volunteer

Volunteers help neighbors in need and carry out more than 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross.

Pam

Pam Williams, a Red Cross national disaster volunteer and chairperson of the board of trustees of the Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties, said that at national disasters “we are seeing the country at its worst, but people at their best.”

Pam cited a mother who had just lost everything she owned in a flood, staying in a shelter and with no idea where the next home might be for her and her family. But this mother pointed across the room to another group of people and asked that they be helped first because “they can use the help more.”

Pam said, “When I see this kind of spirit it puts a lot of things in perspective.”

She added, “If we can do anything to make the situation even a little less stressful, frightening, hopeless for people who really are having the worst days of their lives, how can we not feel blessed to have been given the opportunity.”

If you’re not already a Red Cross volunteer, please:

  • Volunteer at local or national fires, floods and other disasters. Disaster volunteers provide comfort and care, using Red Cross resources to help victims with food, clothing, shelter and more. Red Cross provides volunteer disaster training.
  • Become a health and safety instructor. With Red Cross training, you could teach CPR and other life-saving skills.
  • Donate blood. Save lives with your blood donation.

To volunteer, please complete an application at redcross.org/neo. Visit the “Volunteer” link. You’ll first be asked to create a Red Cross ID.

Thank you for your generosity.