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.

STEM augmented reality cube

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.

Louisiana Floods 2016

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.

California Wildfires 2019

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.

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.

Texas Floods 2019

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.

Wanted: Northeast Ohio Heroes

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

October 2, 2019- Do you know a community member who entered a burning home to rescue a trapped family? A passerby who pulled a drowning child to safety? A neighbor who administered CPR or abdominal thrusts to a total stranger? A dog that alerted its family to a fire? Then the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio needs your help!

The Greater Cleveland Chapter and the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter 46405978995_5834726541_cwill once again honor local individuals in 2020 who displayed extraordinary courage to become someone’s hero.

The Red Cross is asking for assistance from local communities to help identify ordinary people who have placed themselves in harm’s way or have even risked their own lives to save another.

Greater Cleveland Chapter

Nominees must reside or work within Cuyahoga, Lake or Geauga County. The heroic deed must have occurred in either 2018 or 2019.

Those individuals selected as heroes will be honored at the Greater Cleveland Heroes award breakfast at the Global Center for Health Innovation, 1 St. Clair Ave. NE, Cleveland, Ohio 44114, on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at 8:15 am.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 Greater Cleveland Hero award winners.

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Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter

Nominees must reside or work within Portage, Medina or Summit County and must have performed the heroic act in 2019.

All submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee. Individuals selected will be honored as local heroes at the Acts of Courage Awards ceremony to be held at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

To learn more about the 2019 Acts of Courage award winners and their extraordinary stories, click here.

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To nominate a hero, visit redcross.org/neoheroes.

The deadline to submit nominations for the Greater Cleveland Chapter and the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter awards is December 31, 2019.

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