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.

Former stay-at-home mom now leaves home to help others

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

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April 10, 2019 – Barb Thomas has left her home in Canton to help with disaster relief operations four times since joining the American Red Cross as a volunteer in 2016.

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Barb Thomas, on assignment in during the Hurricane Florence relief operation in North Carolina in 2018

“The kids are grown now, and I have the time,” Barb said, shortly after returning from her latest deployment in Mississippi, where she served as staff services supervisor for Red Cross workers assigned to help flood victims.

“We were responsible for the ‘good hello and good goodbye’ for the volunteers and staff who participated in the deployment, and for keeping track of all the members on deployment,” she said.

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En route to Mississippi, 2019

Barb has deployed to southern Ohio, where flooding occurred last winter. She also left last fall to help with the relief effort following Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. A year before that, she responded to Hurricane Irma in Georgia.

The bulk of Barb’s volunteer work occurs closer to home, where she helps administer all facets of disaster cycle services. “I have assisted in a presentation to get people signed up for smoke alarms and have installed smoke alarms in homes,” which covers preparedness.  Response-wise, “I have been to numerous home fires, supported the fire department by providing canteening services, and worked in a shelter,” she said. “And I assisted in recovery with casework.”

But the time she has spent in other parts of the country to help those affected by disaster has made an impression on the former Human Resources professional.

“I have met some incredible people who have an amazing dedication to volunteering with the Red Cross,” she said. “They are client-focused and willing to pitch in wherever and whenever necessary.”

“Barb Thomas is a breath of fresh air, adding positive energy to our chapter,” said Kim Kroh, executive director of the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter. “She is a true leader who is valued greatly by the staff and by other volunteers.”

When asked what she would say to encourage others to volunteer for the Red Cross, Barb said, “If you are interested in positively impacting individuals and your community, the Red Cross is an excellent organization. I have had direct contact with the public and individuals in need.”

She added, “It feels good to be part of an organization that supports the community on such a personal level.”

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Red Cross workers headed to Georgia in response to Hurricane Irma in 2017.  From left: John Muni, Barb Thomas, Tim Reichel, Craig Hitchcock, and Mark Behlke

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross provides support to help residents escape cold, wind following weekend storm

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

February 26, 2019 –  “Since 1:30 p.m. Sunday, we had no power, no heat and no water. We could see our breath and we had nowhere else to go. This warming center mean a lot. IMG_5958Not only were we given a place to warm up and enjoy food and refreshments, but we were given great support from everyone here,” said Bill and Diane Harasyn, Chardon residents who escaped the cold by visiting an American Red Cross-supported warming center.

Bill and Diane were not alone. As wind gusts reached as high as 60 miles an hour and temperatures plummeted across Northeast Ohio this weekend,  thousands of residents lost power and heat in their homes. Throughout the weekend, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio disaster team monitored the damage and power outage throughout the region. The disaster team also remained in contact with local emergency representatives to determine the need for Red Cross support for warming centers and shelters.

The Red Cross helped support an overnight warming center at the Chardon United Methodist Church on 515 North Street, providing blankets, cots and other materials needed to support residents spending time at the center.IMG_5974

The shelter workers in Chardon also received Red Cross training to help them properly operate an overnight shelter. “While we have operated a warming center three times, this was the first time we operated an overnight shelter,” stated shelter workers Vern and Lynn Kempf. “The Red Cross training we received helped prepare us for what we might expect as well as providing support for overnight residents.”

The Chardon warming center remained open Monday night to provide residents relief from the cold.

The Red Cross is also supporting a warming center at the Solon Community Center on 35000 Portz Parkway, by providing cots and blankets.

The Red Cross also opened and operated an overnight shelter Monday at the Salvation Army on 809 Emmet Avenue NW in New Philadelphia, and at the North Canton United Church of Christ.  No residents spent the night in either shelter.

Additionally, the Red Cross responded to several cases regarding to storm-related damage, including the wind damaging and removing the roof of an apartment building in Woodmere and a tree falling on a home in Painesville. Below are photos from the additional response.

You can support our efforts to train volunteers as shelter workers, and to purchase supplies like cots and blankets by making a donation here, or by calling 1-800 RED CROSS.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: February 15-17, 2019

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

February 18, 2019- Over the weekend, the American Red Cross was once again very active responding to calls across Northeast Ohio and assisting residents who have suffered a local disaster.

IMG_5580During the weekend of February 15-17, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 12 incidents, including at least one disaster in each of the five chapters in the region. The disaster team assisted 28 adults and 11 children, and provided more than $9,000 in immediate financial assistance.

Unfortunately, one of the weekend disaster responses was a home fire in Mingo Junction that resulted in one adult fatality. The Red Cross is saddened by this tragedy. We will remain in contact with the victim’s family to provide assistance, such as support from disaster mental health workers.

The vast majority of local disasters that the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responds to are home fires. Every 24 hours, on average, the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio responds to three home fires. To learn how you can protect your family from home fires and to request a free smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.Sound the Alarm Colorado 2018

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 support the Red Cross monetarily but 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.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: February 8-10, 2019

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

February 11, 2019-  While individuals across Northeast Ohio were out running around to make last minute plans for Valentine’s Day, the American Red Cross was fighting another weekend of frigid temperatures to show love to residents during their darkest moments following a local disaster.

During the weekend of February 8-10, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 11 incidents in Akron, Ashtabula, Cleveland, Eastlake, Euclid, Leavittsburg, Mansfield, Sandusky, Streetsboro and Warren. The disaster team assisted 38 individuals and provided more than $8,500 in immediate financial assistance.

One of the incidents the NEO Red Cross responded to was a home fire in Euclid, which caused an estimated $80,000 in damages.

2019 Euclid fire response

“I am truly amazed at the selflessness of all of our volunteers, while everyone else is spending time with their families, going to events and getting ready for the week ahead, our volunteers are answering the call,” said Ben Bellucci, the disaster program manager for the Greater Cleveland Chapter, who responded to the call and took the photo above showing the significant damage from the fire.

Ben added, “It takes an amazing person to get up in the middle of the night, go to a neighborhood they have never been, walk up to complete strangers, and be the light in their darkest hours. Being able to see a client who has despair in their eyes, and the questions of “what is next?” to speaking with a client that has been touched by the Red Cross, either through case work, community partners and or just a hug, reminds me why I love this job and why I love working with the volunteers.”

The majority of local disasters that the Red Cross responds to in Northeast Ohio are home fires. Every 24 hours, the Red Cross responds to three home fires on average. To learn how you can protect your family from home fires and to request a free smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

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.

 

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: February 1-3, 2019

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

February 4, 2019 – While many across Northeast Ohio were making last minute preparations to enjoy a Sunday filled with snacks and the Super Bowl, the American Red Cross was out assisting residents who just suffered a local disaster.

During the weekend of February 1-3, Red Cross of Northeast Ohio disaster action team members responded to 14 incidents and at least one disaster in each of the five chapters that make up the region. The team assisted 43 adults, 17 children and provided $14,650 in immediate financial assistance.

IMG_1758One of the incidents the disaster team responded to was a multiple family home fire in Ravenna on Friday, when the temperatures in Northeast Ohio where still below freezing.

“We were incredibly fortunate and thankful that the manager of the Ravenna 7 Movie theater opened his doors and allowed us the use of one of his theaters to get the residents out of the cold and allowed us to interview them. And they even provided popcorn and drinks to everyone!,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Summit, Portage, and Medina Chapter, who responded to the incident.

Debbie added, “The team of volunteers were able to assist the residents of the nine units with direct client assistance quickly.  At the exact same time as that fire, we had another team in Medina responding to a single-family home fire. It only highlights that our volunteers are the true face of the Red Cross and without their support we would not be able to do all the great work we do to support the residents of Northeast Ohio”

The Red Cross of Northeast Ohio also provided a canteen in Cleveland on Sunday IMG_4123during an industrial fire, where snacks and beverages were handed out to support approximately 30 first responders.

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.

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.

NEO Red Cross responds to local emergencies despite dangerous temps

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

January 31, 2019 – Over the past 24 hours, despite subzero temperatures across the region, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio was active responding to local emergencies.

Not even frigid temperatures could slow the Red Cross down when it comes to helping those in need.  

Beginning in the morning of January 30, through the early morning hours of January 31, Red Cross disaster teams responded to 13 incidents in Akron, Alliance Ashtabula, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria, Mansfield, Plymouth, Rome, Salem, Sandusky, Tremont and Woodmere.  Disaster workers assisted nearly 50 residents and provided more than $12,000 in immediate financial assistance.

The photos above were taken by Lora Taylor, the disaster program manager for the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter, who responded to a home fire in Sandusky. While the weather in the photos may seem peaceful, Lora stated, “That sun can be very bitterly deceiving.” She added, “We have amazing volunteers, and as we do what we do, we could not do it without them.” Lora was joined by disaster volunteer Carol Grant during the home fire response.

Unfortunately, one of the incidents was a home fire in Akron, which resulted in the deaths of an adult and three children occupants. While we are saddened by this tragedy, the Red Cross will remain in contact with the victims’ family to offer aid, such as support from disaster mental health workers.

Beyond providing support to residents who suffered a local disaster, the Red Cross also established a canteen in Tremont to provide food and beverages to first responders and emergency crews battling a water main break overnight.

Ben Bellucci, the newest disaster program manager for the Greater Cleveland Chapter, responded to the water main break, his second disaster response as a member of the NEO Red Cross team. Regarding the importance of providing the canteen during the cold temperatures, Ben said, “By providing something warm to drink and a snack to keep the energy of the first responders up during a cold night is the reason why we loved supporting those that keep our community safe.”  He heaped praise on the volunteers who responded in temperatures nearing -25 with the wind chill factor.  “The disaster action team knew it was important to provide them with something of comfort. Our volunteers did an amazing job responding to this canteen request as well as providing services to multiple calls that were going on at the same time.”

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

If you cannot provide financial assistance but you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. Visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.