Shelter Closes, But Casework Continues

Red Cross Workers Continue to Assist Dozens of Residents Forced to Flee from Fire

A shelter operated by the Red Cross for residents of the Studio City Apartments in Cuyahoga Falls closed today, after Red Cross caseworkers were able to ensure that all residents in need of shelter had suitable alternative housing.

Since Friday, April 14th, the Red Cross has been providing safe shelter, warm meals and comfort care daily for up to six residents who otherwise would have had no other housing alternatives.

“We are extremely grateful to the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools and the Riverfront YMCA for providing the space for us to operate a shelter for these residents,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer in Northeast Ohio.  “And we are especially grateful to the dedicated volunteers, many of whom gave up family time over the Easter holiday weekend, to provide the services that were needed following last week’s fire.”

Shelter Residents from Cuyahoga Falls play basketball with Red Cross Volunteers on Easter Sunday.  Photo credit: Zackery McAvoy/American Red Cross

Although the shelter has closed, Red Cross assistance will continue for the foreseeable future, as nearly 80 people who were forced to flee their homes on Thursday, April 13 are getting help from caseworkers, who are meeting with residents one-on-one to create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate help from other agencies.  Most of the work is being done by volunteers, who have received specialized training to help people following a disaster.

The Red Cross has a need for additional volunteers to help when the next disaster occurs.  Volunteer opportunities include not only casework and shelter help, but also response immediately following disasters, when people often experience their darkest hours.  Those interested in becoming trained Red Cross volunteers can visit redcross.org/neo, or call 216-431-3328 to begin the application process.

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 Red Cross shelter workers created this display to express their appreciation for the use of  Gordon Dewitt Elementary School in Cuyahoga Falls as a shelter over Easter weekend.

Disaster Workers Busy Helping Fire Victims Over Easter Weekend

Volunteers are at the heart of the Red Cross.

That has never been more apparent in Northeast Ohio as it has been in the last week. Since Friday, April 7, there have been 4 apartment building fires, in Boardman, Warrensville Heights, Parma and Cuyahoga Falls.  More than 180 residents have been chased from their homes during that time, including more than 60 children.

Red Cross disaster workers, the bulk of them volunteers, have responded to each of these emergencies, providing initial financial assistance, comfort and hope to people who, in some cases, have lost everything.

Red Cross Disaster workers open a reception center in the Warrensville Heights Civic Center in response to an apartment building fire on Monday, April 10, 2017.

As Chief Operating Officer Jorge Martinez notes,  “This is very impressive.  I’m always awed by volunteers.  Doing some quick math, they amassed nearly 59,000 volunteer hours (and we know there’s more that’s gone unrecorded).  That’s an average of 27 employees putting in an 8 hour workday 7 days a week over the past 9 months.  Given our current staffing, they more than doubled our capacity.”

Between Friday, April 7 and Friday April 14, Red Cross disaster workers offered initial financial assistance totaling more than $35,000 to the affected residents.  And they opened a shelter in Cuyahoga Falls, for residents affected by Thursday night’s fire.

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Ongoing assistance includes helping match residents with the agencies and resources that will help them plan their next moves.  And those in need have been offered mental health assistance, as well as help with medical needs, such as filling prescriptions.

On Easter Sunday, volunteers Teresa Greenlief, Jamie Waid and Bob Rupp played basketball with Bob Loch and Mike Surrel, two of the Cuyahoga Falls residents staying in a Red Cross shelter.

Photo Credit: Zackery McAvoy/American Red Cross

A final word from COO Jorge Martinez: “We’re truly lucky to have these volunteers in my opinion.  Great work.”

Visit redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab to learn more about opportunities to help those in need.

Local Artisan Donates the Comfort of Clean to Stark and Muskingum Lakes Comfort Kits

Sometimes all you want is to strip off the day by taking a shower.

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Tim Reichel, Disaster Program Manager, shows off a crate full of REDBUDSUDS shower bars with artisan Aubrey Helmuth Miller and Kim Kroh, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Executive Director. The bars will be included in comfort kits for local disaster clients.

That is especially true for those who experience a disaster such as a home fire.

When Red Cross volunteers respond to the scene, the affected individuals immediate needs are assessed. Will they have access to shelter, food and clothing? Are there any other needs, like eyeglasses or medication, that were lost during the event?

Very often, before volunteers leave, the families will be handed a small bag with “Compliments of the American Red Cross” printed on it. The contents of which can help them begin to feel a little better. These items – shaving cream, razor, toothbrush, shampoo, soap – will help wash away the day so that they can start to focus on their recovery.

Aubrey Helmuth Miller, a Canton-area artisan, wanted to find a way to use her craft to contribute to her community. She took the trimmings of her natural REDBUDSUDS soaps, that would have been discarded as part of the process, and tucked them in to a small muslin bag and brought them to Disaster Program Manager, Tim Reichel at the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter.

While her original intention was to provide clean comfort to those affected by the storms in the southeast, she saw that her soap could make a bigger impact here, in her own community.

Now each family and individual that receives a Red Cross comfort kit, will also receive a satchel of clean comfort courtesy of REDBUDSUDS and Aubrey.

Thank you, Aubrey!

North Randall Residents Receive Help and Hope Following Fire

More than 80 residents of an apartment complex in North Randall received help from Red Cross workers on Tuesday, February 14.

After firefighters responded to an apartment fire at the North Randall Estates, building inspectors had to determine whether it was safe to let residents back in their homes.

Red Cross workers opened a reception center in a Community Room, where waiting residents were given food and comfort.

“They calmed everyone down and walked us through what we need to do,” said resident Ricky Tunstall.  “They were sympathetic to our needs.”

Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene shortly after the fire was reported mid-morning, and stayed well into the night, determining the needs of the residents, and trying to fill those needs.

Many residents were given immediate financial assistance.  The Red Cross distributed almost $7,000 to help people pay for a hotel room, or to buy food or other necessities.

One resident spent the night in a Red Cross shelter.

4 weeks after the fire, ongoing casework, disaster health services and disaster mental health services were being provided in 23 cases, with the cost of the operation more than $8,300.

On average, the Red Cross responds to three home fires every 24 hours in Northeast Ohio. While all Red Cross disaster assistance is free,  we rely on the generosity of donors to help us provide that assistance for disasters big and small.  Donations to help fund Red Cross disaster relief efforts can be made by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or by logging onto redcross.org/neo. A text-to-give option is also available.  Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

While You Were Celebrating…

By: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

Hope you had a great New Year’s Eve and enjoyed your three or four-day weekend. It’s always great to have some time off – unless that’s when disaster strikes.

Over this past holiday weekend, disaster did strike – over a dozen times throughout the 22-county area served by the Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross. Red Cross workers, mostly unpaid volunteers, responded to a vast variety of emergencies; providing physical, emotional and financial support to those affected.

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Keith Dulin receives help from Red Cross volunteers Bill Geschke and Felicia Lee after a fire damaged his apartment in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “I am trying to give back to people who are less fortunate,” Geschke said. “I volunteer for other organizations, but the work I do for the Red Cross gives me the most satisfaction.” Photo by Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

After a plane went missing in Lake Erie off Burke Lakefront Airport, a Family Assistance Center team and Disaster Mental Health were deployed to the scene to help. The Family Assistance Center was set up January 1st and continues to aid families of the passengers. Meals, beverages and snacks have been served to 12 to 30 people daily.

During the weekend leading up to and including New Year’s Day, six home fires and one carbon monoxide poisoning incident found Disaster Assistance Teams being dispatched to Richland, Mahoning, Cuyahoga, Huron, Lorain and Summit counties. Providing lodging, clothing and financial support, the teams helped more than two dozen adults and children with their immediate needs.

A power outage on New Year’s Day in Harrison county wasn’t how 120 people envisioned starting the new year. Luckily, the Red Cross was there at the Scio Fire Department’s Community Room, providing meals and snacks for those without power.

The day after New Year’s Day, four more fires broke out in Cuyahoga, Mahoning and Lorain counties; many of them affecting multiple families. Once again, Disaster Assistance Teams were there to provide aid and lodging reimbursement for the more than two dozen people affected.

While the fires, poisoning and air fatality were totally unexpected; those are the very reasons the Red Cross is always prepared to be of assistance, and why volunteers play such a crucial role helping residents in Northeastern Ohio communities.

If you have an interest in volunteering, log onto redcross.org/neo

Louisiana Floods 2016

August 18, 2016. Denham Springs, Louisiana. Tears fill Fonda’s eyes as she ran, arms opens, from her flooded Louisiana home. Her first request? “I want a hug,” says Fonda Buckley as she embraces Red Cross volunteer Cora Lee. Photo by: Marko Kokic/American Red Cross

and click on the volunteer tab, or call 216-431-3328.

Shaker Heights Resident Turns to Red Cross for Help Following Home Fire

Volunteers Respond to Provide Assistance for Immediate Needs

After Keith Dulin’s kitchen caught fire in November, the intense stench made it difficult for him to stay in his apartment in Shaker Heights.

fire-damage

Dulin tried to return that night, but slept in his car because he was overwhelmed by the reek of grease fire, which burned his stove and surrounding cabinets and wall. Familiar with the type of services provided by the Red Cross, he reached out for assistance.

“It was unbearable, trying to stay in the apartment,” Dulin said. “I needed another place to stay, and I knew the Red Cross could help.”

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Keith Dulin receives help from Red Cross volunteers Bill Geschke and Felicia Lee after a fire damaged his apartment in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “I am trying to give back to people who are less fortunate,” Geschke said. “I volunteer for other organizations, but the work I do for the Red Cross gives me the most satisfaction.”

After meeting with two Red Cross volunteers at his home, Dulin received a comfort kit with necessities like toiletries, as well as assistance to help cover food and alternative lodging to help get him back on his feet.

Volunteers like Felicia Lee and Bill Geschke respond to an average of three home fires a night in Northeast Ohio.  If you have an interest in volunteering, visit our website or call 216-431-3328.

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Red Cross volunteers Bill Geschke and Felicia Lee

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

After Escaping Home Fire, Ravenna Family Turns to Red Cross for Relief

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It was an ordinary August morning for Edna Norton until she returned home to find her house ablaze.

Surrounded by nearly a dozen fire trucks, Norton rushed to meet her family outside of their home in Ravenna, Ohio. Much to her relief, her husband and sons made it to safety after the eldest rescued his 18-year-old brother, who uses a wheelchair. But the threat to her family’s lives and destruction to their home left her distraught.

A Red Cross volunteer responding to the fire came to Norton’s side, offering comfort and support.

“She had a spirit about her. She was so calming and soothing,” Norton said of the volunteer. “She made you feel like you could make it through. She was very knowledgeable. I was a wreck. She made me sit down. Gave me water. She was still there after [the first responders] were leaving.”

The Red Cross helped Norton and her family figure out their next steps, addressing urgent needs such as replacing prescription medications that were destroyed by the fire. She said she’s grateful for the support to develop a path for their recovery.

edna-norton-with-red-cross-worker-debbie-chitester-2“To lose everything and to know [there are] people out there that care…There are a lot of good people out in the world,” she added. “I’m telling you that I had so much generosity, so much love, from strangers saying, ‘What can I do to help?’”

If you would like to volunteer as a member of the Red Cross team, visit www.redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteer.

Photos: Mary Williams/American Red Cross