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.

Disaster Relief Takes Flight

By: Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties

A few months ago an email came across my computer asking if I would be interested in partnering with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School.  Curious, I asked for more information.  The computer science class conducts problem based learning. The problem they were trying to solve was delivering disaster relief to people in hard-to-reach areas, a real world issue that they had seen on TV due to the 2017 hurricanes. They were starting to work with drones in the class and the teaching staff wanted a real world scenario so learners could relate the problem/solution process to something in real life.

Jorge Cropped

At first I was unsure if this was something we could do, but I was inspired by a photo of our Regional COO, Jorge Martinez,  hiking up the side of a mud covered hill in Puerto Rico to get water to a family following Hurricane Maria.

A task just perfect for a drone!  I agreed, and was scheduled to talk to the class about Disaster Cycle Services, what we do, and how we deliver service.

On a cold January day, I presented the “problem” to the learners.  I showed photos of Emergency Response Vehicles, clients walking through knee deep water to get to supplies, and Red Cross volunteers on one side of a river while the clients were on the other with no easy way to get supplies to them.  The learners were interested in the services we provide and asked good questions.  The coach (their term for the teacher) and I expressed the need and how this can save lives.  The problem demonstrated that drones could be used for more than having fun with friends, and could actually make a difference.

Their task was to create a flight plan, write code for the drone and write an essay about the experience.

On January 31, the class presented their projects.  The learners were ready to fly their drones and demonstrate how they could deliver supplies to multiple locations.  The gymnasium was set with three “landing depots”, the closer to center the better and the more points received.  The points represented the numbers of lives saved at each landing depot.  (They also received “style points” if they performed a flip between depots.) Each team had the opportunity for 2 “flights”.

That morning I was excited as I witnessed amazing young adults using math, geometry and trigonometry to program their flights, and loving what they were doing!

As I sat on the sidelines watching and encouraging the learners, I overheard one say to his teammate, who was upset by their results, “well we did not get the center, but we still saved lives.”

I thought he was being sarcastic, so I looked over at him. But no, it showed on their faces that they truly understood why they were doing this.

While some teams were more successful than others with their flights, every single team tried their hardest and learned that technology can save lives.

This partnership is something that was a first for both of us, and I look forward to solving other “problems” with them in the future.

 

To view a short video of a flight, visit https://twitter.com/NIHFHS/status/958742381557420032.

 

 

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

Volunteer Provides Leadership at Many Levels

Some of us plan barbecues and college football watch parties on Labor Day Weekend.

Not Pam Williams.

Pam2

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.

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.

Centennial SPM-Submarine-U14[1]

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

We Love When Our Corporate Partners Lend a Hand!

Last Thursday began Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s week of volunteering at organizations across the Akron area, and involving more than 1,100 of its local employees.

“It is vital to our mission to provide volunteer opportunities to our local corporations,” said Rachel D’Attoma, Executive Director for the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter. “Not only does it help us get the work done, but it allows individuals, like those from Goodyear, to see with their own eyes the power and need for our services in the lives of those who we serve.”

Our first team of 16 employees from Goodyear headed out into the community to install 111 smoke alarms, and provided education to 34 homes as part of Operation Save-A-Life.

Several volunteers have stated that it is an experience that they would like to repeat in the future.

On Tuesday, 17 team members helped to make our Akron office a little more beautiful by cleaning out and planting new flowers in the beds facing West Market St. Volunteers also helped clean and organize the garage area.

See more photos on the chapter’s Facebook page, or sign up to be a volunteer the rest of the 358 days of the year!