Red Cross Workers Respond to Multiple Home Fires

Nearly a dozen responses to disasters over the holiday weekend

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The lives of more than 50 residents of Northeast Ohio were disrupted over the New Year holiday weekend by disasters, the vast majority of them home fires.

Red Cross disaster workers responded to home fires in 5 Northeast Ohio counties, providing assistance to 29 adults and 24 children.  Immediate financial assistance totaling $11,415 was provided to the affected residents, to help them find suitable lodging, or to meet other immediate needs.

Other assistance, including comfort kits and initial case work was also provided.

“It’s never a good time to go through something like a home fire,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer.  “It’s especially hard on families to be chased from their homes during the holidays.  We are grateful there was no loss of life over the weekend, and we’re thankful for our dedicated volunteers who responded to these residents in need.”

Red Cross workers from the Northeast Ohio Region responded to disasters, including multiple family home fires, in Cleveland, North Olmsted, Garfield Heights, Chesterland, Sandusky, Girard, Cadiz and Monroeville.

In addition to our weekend disaster response, the Red Cross is continuing to provide support to several warming centers in the city of Cleveland, with cots and blankets as requested.

The bitter cold temperatures are expected to continue to affect millions of people this week and the Red Cross has steps they should follow to stay safe during the ongoing deep freeze:

WINTER SAFETY TIPS

  • Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

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WINTER TRAVEL SAFETY

Stay off the road if possible during severe weather. If you have to drive, follow these tips:

  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

PREVENT HOME FIRES

With the cold temperatures there is often a rise in the number of home fires. Follow these tips to help prevent a fire in your home:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs – at least three feet away from sources of heat.
  •  Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen.


DOWNLOAD APPS People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

 

Help Humanity – And Get a Tax Deduction

It’s been quite a year – Red Cross supporters, volunteers and donors achieved incredible things for families and individuals in need, in Northeast Ohio and throughout the country.

Here’s a look back at some of the incredible work we accomplished with the help of our partners in 2017:

  • We were able to provide 658,000 overnight shelter stays to people affected by imagejpeg_0 (002)disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, historic wildfires and hundreds of home fires. In Northeast Ohio, we responded to about 1,000 incidents, the vast majority of them home fires, helping more than 4,100 people.
  • We distributed more than 7 million disaster relief items during these countless disasters, helping families who had lost everything get back on their feet. In Northeast Ohio, we provided about $800,000 in financial assistance to residents who experienced a disaster.
  • More than 5.7 million people received Red Cross Health and Safety training, including life-saving emergency and first-aid information from Red Cross mobile apps.
  • IMG_4281Volunteers installed 418,460 smoke alarms, including more than 16,000 in Northeast Ohio to make homes safer, bringing the total number installed to more than one million since our Home Fire Campaign began in 2014.
  • More than 2.7 million people chose to give blood or platelets through the Red Cross, helping to save lives at about 2,600 hospitals throughout the country.
  • Over 76,900 military families benefited from emergency communication services provided by the Red Cross.

Each family we meet has a unique story. We were there when we needed to be, for those who needed us most, thanks entirely to supporters and donors.

The need won’t change in 2018, which is why we need to be ready before the next emergency. Will you make your year-end, tax-deductible gift to the Red Cross today?

Christmas Season Brighter for Children Affected by Home Fire

Annual Toy Giveaway Made Possible by Employees at TravelCenters of America

“Jade is my favorite one!” It took a while before eight-year old Jamie Sullivan found just

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Jamie Sullivan of Cleveland

the right Bratz doll to take home during the annual holiday toy giveaway on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

Right now, home is with her grandmother Lori.  Jamie, her little brother Samuel, and her mother Angela Jordan lost their home to fire just a week before, on December 15th.

86 children received toys collected during a Christmas Toy Drive by employees of TravelCenters of America. It’s the 19th year of the partnership between TCA and the Red Cross.

“We’re happy to help children who have lost so much,” said Tom Liutkus, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations at TravelCenters of America.  “The Red Cross does such great work, it just makes sense to have them distribute the toys every year.”

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Seven-year old Taneeja Terry of Cleveland finds just the right doll

“We have plenty of gifts to give to these kids who had a lot taken from them this year,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. ” This is a great opportunity to give back to them, especially at this special time of year.”

“To see everything that you had just gone, it was total devastation,” said Edna Bailey, whose home burned down in September. “I had no idea what to do, where I was going, or anything. The Red Cross came in with hugs, with encouragement, and kind of guiding me. For weeks I received phone calls with follow-up messages.  I’m so thankful.

As of mid-December, our disaster workers responded to 940 incidents, the vast majority of them home fires, in 2017.  The fires disrupted the lives of nearly 1,600 children and more than 2,500 adults in the 22 counties of Northeast Ohio.  They received immediate financial assistance totaling more than $750,000, thanks to the generosity of donors.  If you’d like to help future victims of disasters like home fires, please make a tax-deductible donation here, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

For more photos from this year’s Holiday Toy Giveaway, visit our Flickr photo album. Media coverage of our annual toy giveaway included a photo gallery from Plain Dealer photographer Lisa DeJong, a video on Cleveland.com, and a story on Cleveland 19 WOIO.  

 

 

Neighbors Help Neighbors Where Tornado Tore Through

“It was one amazing thing to see.”

Kristen Gallagher, Disaster Program Specialist in the Lake to River Chapter, was not describing the damage she saw, following the tornado that hit Williamsfield, Ohio Sunday night.

Kristen was describing the scene on Monday morning, when she witnessed neighbors repairing each other’s homes, securing tarps where the twister ripped off roofs and tore away walls, and clearing roadways for vehicles, including the horses and buggies of the Amish residents of Williamsfield.

“Who knew their horses and buggies went off-road!” said Kristen, as she described the clean-up efforts.  “It was very heartwarming to see them all in action just hours after the tornado did so much damage.”

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Photo credit: Kristen Gallagher, American Red Cross
Cover photo credit: Melissa Papini, American Red Cross

The severe weather affected a number of counties throughout Northeast Ohio.  The Red Cross response included volunteers supporting a city warming center in Brunswick Hills during an extended power outage, opening a shelter in the Twinsburg Community Center, where there were 17 overnight stays on Monday and Tuesday, and distributing more than $8,500 in immediate financial assistance for 15 families in Ashland, Erie, Cuyahoga, Wayne and Ashtabula Counties.

But the Amish families in Williamsfield politely declined help offered by the Red Cross. “They have each other,” Kristen said.  “They are an amazing community where everyone is helping and looking out for each other.”

The Power of Volunteers

Stay close to them and to the mission!

By Jorge Martinez, Regional Chief Operating Officer

Editor’s note: As of October 19, 2017, the Red Cross, along with community and government partners, has provided 1.3 million overnight stays in emergency shelters, served more than 6.7 million meals and snacks, and distributed more than 3.6 million emergency relief items to people in need, following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. More than 16,000 trained Red Cross disaster workers, 91% of them volunteers, have been mobilized to support hurricane relief efforts.  Among those workers is Jorge Martinez, who wrote the following upon returning from a three-week assignment in Puerto Rico. 

The Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.  We’ve all heard this before and certainly embrace it.   We wouldn’t be part of this great organization otherwise.  But to see our mission statement in action is special.  I was fortunate enough to be part of the relief operation in Puerto Rico; I saw human suffering alleviated through the compassionate and selfless service of our dedicated and humble volunteers.

IMG_0317Puerto Rico is home to nearly 3.5 million American citizens spread over an island that is roughly 35 miles by 100 miles of challenging, mountainous terrain.  Ravaged by a category 4 hurricane — just 2 MPH shy of a cat 5 — the devastation was immense.  There was no part of the island that was not affected.  What you’ve been seeing on the news is accurate and maybe even understated.  But the island residents have come together with a sense of community that I’ve only experienced one other time – in the aftermath of 9/11.

So there we were in San Juan.  We had two carloads of volunteers that were trailing a supply box truck with a local driver.  We were en route to a remote location in the central mountains of the island with no specific knowledge of how to get there.  On our way out of the city, a police officer who had just finished his 12 hour shift came alongside us and agreed to escort us to the site in what turned out to be a 2 hour trek.  Even he got lost, but he got us there.IMG_0183

Once on site, we met with local officials and determined the best place to help those most in need.  We got to our agreed upon distribution site and while we off-loaded the supplies and set up the operation, the local officials went around the neighborhood spreading the word.  Soon we had a line of hundreds of families that were in need of basic supplies like water, food and tarps.

I met countless wonderful volunteers during my trip and became close with a few of them.  One of them was Brad; he was from Kalamazoo, MI and we were on this trip together.  Near the end of this operation, both he and I were going house to house, delivering supplies to those who could not make it to the pick-up site.  We came across a wonderful lady who had already picked up her supplies.  However, her next door neighbor’s house had been destroyed.  It was a humble place before the storm; now, only a small room had any semblance of a roof still attached.  She had taken her elderly neighbor into her own small home but wanted to get some tarps to cover the few remaining savable items that her neighbor had stored in that small room.imagejpeg_0 (002)

We came back with several tarps for her and gave her a hug.  By the way, at this point a downpour had started.  Mid-hug, she broke down and started to cry.  Coincidentally, Brad and I both had something in our eyes that caused us to tear up as well.  She thanked us profusely while hoping that God bless all of us.  The truth is we were blessed by just being in her presence.  And I was doubly blessed by being in the presence of Brad and the many other volunteers like him.  And no, this was not an isolated incident.

When I first took this job, my predecessor told me to stay close to the mission.  She was mostly right.  Stay close to the mission and to the volunteers!  I want to personally thank the volunteers I had the pleasure to work with in Puerto Rico and the nearly 1,500 volunteers of Northeast Ohio who go quietly about their work without much fanfare.  You make a world of difference — THANK YOU!

See more photos from Jorge’s work in Puerto Rico by clicking here for our Flickr album.

Visit our YouTube page for a video of Jorge’s experience.

Canton Volunteer Reflects on More Than Two Decades of Service

By Nila Welsh, American Red Cross Volunteer, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter

(Editor’s note:  Nila Welsh is a Canton-based Disaster Action Team member.  She has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1994, and has been assigned to three-dozen national disaster relief operations.  This is her Red Cross story.)

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Red Cross volunteers Nila Welsh, left, and Elinor Carosello

It wasn’t too long after my husband and I returned from the Peace Corps in 1989 that we found we needed something to do.  We lived for two years in an under-developed part of the Solomon Islands, and due to the hot weather on the equator, we had led a quiet life and missed working with people.

One day I read in the newspaper that the Red Cross needed volunteers.  That was 23 years ago, when I first became a part of such a great organization.

After taking all the classes offered and responding to local disasters, we became qualified to respond to national disasters.  Our first call was to respond to flooding in Missouri along the Mississippi River in 1995. Nothing prepares you for the devastation of a flood or hurricane when people have nowhere to go. The Red Cross sets up shelters and we volunteers do our best to help people affected by disasters rebuild their lives.  My husband was a good listener.  He would sit and listen.  People need that – need to know that others care, and that if material things are all they lose, the Red Cross can help.

We found that what matters most in life is how we live and how we treat each other – how we can give back for what we have been blessed with.  People find it hard to believe that we don’t get paid to do what we do. They don’t know what they’re missing.

We don’t know how long we have in this life, but as long as we are here we will continue to do our best.

 

Outpouring of Appreciation from Storm Victims

It’s been seven weeks since Hurricane Harvey slammed into Eastern Texas, leaving flooding and destruction in its wake.

Not long afterward, Hurricane Irma struck the U. S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Then there was Hurricane Maria, causing devastating damage in the USVI and Puerto Rico.

As the American Red Cross, including chapters here in Northeast Ohio,  answered the call to aid those impacted by these devastating storms, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert goers in Las Vegas.  The Red Cross responded again, sending disaster mental health workers, including Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager for the Northeast Ohio Region.  She is among 90 local disaster workers who have been deployed since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast.

And now, we are beginning to send Red Cross workers to California in response to the deadly wildfires there.

As the disaster response continues, many of those affected have offered their thanks to the Red Cross, particularly for providing shelters, meals and comfort, as well as to the donors who make our efforts possible.