Red Cross continues response to disasters in Northeast Ohio, even with ongoing relief efforts around the world

Weekend disasters affect dozens of residents in all 5 Northeast Ohio Chapters

 

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

The American Red Cross continues to respond to disaster relief efforts around the world, including responding to the California wildfires and Saipan following Super Typhoon Yutu.  Even with relief efforts underway far and wide, the Red Cross continues to respond to needs of residents right here in Northeast Ohio.

41870691712_5b3ee65587_zOver the weekend, the Red Cross responded to 17 incidents in all five chapters in Northeast Ohio, assisting 64 residents, and distributing more than $12,300 in immediate financial assistance to help people in their darkest hours.

 

The Lake to River Chapter was particularly hit hard.

Disaster workers in the Lake to River Chapter, which serves Ashtabula, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, responded to seven incidents ranging from home fires to power outages, provided more than $4,700 in aid and opened a shelter for two-nights in Columbiana County for residents displaced from last week’s winter storms.

One particular case in Mahoning County, involving a grandmother, a mother and her five children, highlights the commitment the Red Cross has to serving the needs of residents in Northeast Ohio. As Karen Conklin, executive director of the Lake to River Chapter states, “What we do to help people in our community and the difference we make every day is amazing. Over the weekend, a fire started in the attic while the family was at church. Two adults and five children lost everything. While the family has a hard road to recovery, we responded with much more than a debit card. We gave them kindness, respect and hope. It was another mission moment I won’t soon forget. Because of the Red Cross and our volunteers, this family has begun the road to recovery. Without us they would be alone at their burned-out residence as the fire department rolls up their hoses and drives away. We are the difference.” IMG_5580

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. However, we are unable to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are truly the face of the Red Cross. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, 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.

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief and to provide support in a time of need. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross biomedical worker reflects on first disaster deployment

By Tracie Endress, American Red Cross Biomedical Services Recruitment Account Specialist

Editor’s note:  Tracie Endress was deployed in September 2018 as a Red Cross disaster volunteer for the first time in support of those affected by Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Florence 2018

September 26, 2018. Raeford, North Carolina. Lashandra was overjoyed when the Red Cross
truck pulled up to her house. She lives in a home with her seven kids and needed supplies badly.
When asked what she needed she replied, “I’ll take anything you’ve got, I have seven babies!”
Lashandra’s kids, ranging from ages seventeen to four, helped her carry the supplies to the
house. The Red Cross gave the family everything from cleaning supplies to diapers and
everything in between. Lashandra and her kids were all very thankful for the help from the Red
Cross, and hugs were given by first-time Red Cross Disaster Volunteer Tracie Endress. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

I donate blood and plasma to the American Red Cross, and knew I wanted to do more so I enrolled as a disaster volunteer. I decided to volunteer because I wanted to make a difference and help people who needed support during this disaster. This was my first disaster deployment. I served in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for two weeks. I was very proud to be a part of this Red Cross disaster response. I met a lot of amazing people who were affected by the disaster and who wanted to give back by volunteering for the Red Cross themselves. It was heartwarming to see how someone who was affected wanted to join the American Red Cross mission to help those in need.

Photo credit: Tracie Endress, American Red Cross

florence 5I worked in the warehouse that packed and distributed the emergency supplies to areas that were affected by the storm. Driving into the disaster areas with 16-foot box trucks to help was very humbling and rewarding. When the people saw us, you could see hope in their eyes, knowing that others cared. People started helping us unpack the trucks and move the items. They would hug me and say, “Thank you for coming.”  The days were long, but we knew we couldn’t stop until all the supplies were dispersed.

While in North Carolina, I met a lot of people who were taking the same journey with me as disaster volunteers. I keep in touch with the volunteers that were there with me. We are family now.  It was a great experience, and I am honored to be a part of the American Red Cross Disaster Volunteer team.

Thousands of American Red Cross workers mounted a massive response to help tens of thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Florence. Read more about the Red Cross response to Hurricane Florence here.

To apply to become a Red Cross volunteer, complete a volunteer application here.

Beyond national hurricane relief efforts, the Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters in Northeast Ohio

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

IMG_2066Currently, the most visible work of the American Red Cross is its response to assist in the relief efforts in the Southeast United States following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. However, even with 23 disaster relief workers deployed from this region to assist with the hurricanes, the Red Cross continues to respond to disasters here in Northeast Ohio.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, which serves 22 counties and 4.5 million dunham ave 2 residents, has continued to be very active responding to calls across local communities. This past weekend, disaster relief workers responded to eight calls from home fires to storm damage in Canton, Cleveland, Fairlawn, Lorain, Sandusky, Sheffield Lake, South Euclid and Willard. They assisted 23 adults and 10 children and provided nearly $8,700 in aid.

IMG_4123The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. We can provide support to our communities thanks to the work of our tremendous volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.orgIMG_1758

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross continues to respond to Hurricane Michael disaster relief

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

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The American Red Cross has continued to respond to the Hurricane Michael disaster relief effort, with Northeast Ohio playing a significant role in the support.

On October 11, Hurricane Michael came ashore and made its way across Alabama, Florida and Georgia, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Hurricane Michael was a Category 4 upon landfall, making it the third-strongest hurricane in U.S. history. It was also the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 50 years. A week since the storm, tens of thousands of people are still dealing with the destruction.

As always, when there is a need for compassion and humanitarian support, the Red Cross has been helping those affected and will remain there as people begin to recover and rebuild. Some people are still living without power, running water and other basic necessities. Many schools and medical facilities are closed, roads are still blocked and several bridges have been damaged.

The Red Cross is working around the clock to get help where it’s most needed. The situation throughout the region remains challenging and staff and volunteers are doing all they can to provide shelter, food, water and relief supplies to people in need.

As of October 18, more than 1,840 people stayed in as many as 16 Red Cross and community evacuation centers across Florida and Georgia. In the week since the storm, the Red Cross and other organizations have provided more than 27,400 overnight stays in emergency shelters in total, with the Red Cross providing about 83 percent of the stays.

Across the three states, more than 1,600 Red Cross disaster workers, including 21 from Northeast Ohio, are on the ground to support relief efforts, such as serving more than 477,800 meals and snacks and distributing more than 36,600 relief items like cleanup kits, rakes, shovels, bleach, garbage bags and much more to help with the massive cleanup effort. In addition, volunteer mental health and health services professionals have provided 6,700 contacts to provide support and care to evacuees.

After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. If you are interested in assisting those in need, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

If you are unable to provide support during a disaster relief effort, there are other ways you can assist right here in Northeast Ohio. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. To donate, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The Red Cross also has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. The Red Cross provides roughly 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and Hurricanes Michael and Florence have forced the cancellation of about 250 blood drives, causing approximately 7,600 units of blood to go uncollected. The Red Cross is asking for eligible individuals to make an appointment to donate blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

NEO Volunteers join hundreds of others from across the country to help Hurricane Michael victims

Helping provide shelter, food and hope to those impacted by the storm

Five days after Hurricane Michael slammed into the southeast, thousands of people are living in dire conditions. The American Red Cross is with them, helping people in Florida, Georgia and Alabama as they struggle to get back on their feet.

  • Home after home is destroyed, many people have lost everything. Many areas are still inaccessible.
  • The storm also damaged medical facilities, schools and businesses. Search and rescue efforts continue.
  • Hundreds of thousands have no power as temperatures hover in the high 80s.
  • In many areas, people have no water or sewer service and many that do have service are under boil advisories.

 

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The Red Cross is doing all we can to get help to where it’s most needed, and we’re reaching more neighborhoods each day. We’re working around the clock with partners like the National Guard to move volunteers and supplies, and to support dozens of shelters where people can find comfort and refuge.

  • With the magnitude of destruction and many roads impassable, we know that getting help into some areas will be challenging for some time.
  • The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, health services and emotional support during this challenging situation.
  • Some shelters are being relocated to more comfortable and appropriate locations.
  • In some areas, emergency response vehicles are able to get through with meals and relief supplies.

More than 1,300 Red Cross disaster workers have been assigned to the Hurricane Michael disaster relief operation, including 19 volunteers from Northeast Ohio. Visit our YouTube channel to see and hear comments from the volunteers pictured below.

Akron group

Volunteers Harry Pierdomenico, Tom Quinn, Teresa Greenlief and Cameron Fraser  Photo credit: Eric Alves/American Red Cross

  • This is a huge disaster, and the Red Cross is working closely with government and nonprofit partners to provide aid.
  • It will take time and require the resources from a large variety of organizations to help families and communities recover.
  • We are actively recruiting additional volunteers to help respond to disasters like Hurricane Michael, and to the home fires that occur, on average, three times every 24 hours in Northeast Ohio.  You can visit our volunteer page to begin the application process.

After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

  • Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

The Red Cross has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. This fall, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence have forced the cancellation of about 200 blood drives, causing approximately 7,000 units of blood to go uncollected in the Southeast.

  • Low donor turnout is expected to continue in affected areas as communities recover.
  • The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

 

 

Volunteers provide disaster relief for hidden concerns

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

The American Red Cross continues to assist residents affected by hurricanes in the Southeast.  Among the disaster relief workers who are playing a role are mental health volunteers.

Red Cross mental health volunteers are a treasured group of individuals. They are all licensed independent health practitioners: psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers and psychiatric registered nurses.

California Wildfires 2018

In addition to being licensed professionally, mental health volunteers must take specialized Red Cross training in disaster mental health which, for the most part, is far different than what they do in their daily full-time jobs. The specialized training is based on many years of experience in disaster relief, from those who have lost precious mementos in a home fire to the victims of 9/11 and everyone in between.

Red Cross mental health volunteers provide immediate crisis management. They instruct clients in becoming more resilient and help them cope with the various emotions they may experience following their loss. While mental health volunteers do not do long-term counseling, if they determine a client would benefit from long-term intervention, they will make a referral to a proper mental health specialist. They will not refer the client to themselves or to any other member of the team.

California Wildfires 2017

“Many victims and survivors do not recognize the need for intervention or do not want to be judged or labeled if they are struggling with recovery,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager of disaster cycle services for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Our disaster mental health volunteers can help them to recognize the normal and destigmatize the need for counseling.”

Northeast Ohio is particularly fortunate to have some of the finest and most experienced mental health volunteers. They never fail to step up as needed even though the majority have full-time positions or time-consuming private practices.

Edgardo Padin, a mental health volunteer from Northeast Ohio, deployed to assist in the 2018 California wildfires. Recently, he discussed his experience assisting individuals who lost their homes with their mental health needs.

Tennessee Wildfires 2016

While it is easy to see the physical damage that a home fire or a hurricane can cause, it is not often as easy to see the internal effects a disaster can have on an individual. On World Mental Health Day, it is important to recognize the disaster mental health volunteers who assist with disaster relief efforts to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

For more information on the Red Cross’ disaster mental health services or to become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Reflecting on Las Vegas one year later

NEO staffer looks back on emotional assignment

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Regional Disaster Program Manager

One year ago, headlines told of the “worst mass shooting in modern American history.” More than 500 people were wounded and 59 were killed when a lone gunman rained a barrage of bullets on the 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Country Music Festival. Many hundreds were also injured  as they ran for cover, suffering broken bones, crushing injuries as others fell on top of them, scrapes and bruises as they jammed into small spaces, torn muscles and tendons as they lifted others over fences, raw hands and feet as they crawled through broken glass and debris on the field.

IMG_5432

Renee Palagyi

Two days later, I flew to Las Vegas where I was assigned to lead health services for the American Red Cross in the Family Assistance Center at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Over the next 19 days, the teams assisted more than 4,400 people at the center with everything from replacing a lost driver’s license to wrapping an ankle with an elastic bandage, taking information to find a lost pair of glasses to facilitating a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.

  • Most people have no idea that the Red Cross is present and assisting in these tragedies but we are there, from Sandy Hook to Pulse nightclub, from the Boston Marathon to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
  • Red Cross engages volunteers, including licensed medical and mental health professionals who are specially trained in mass casualty. Our organization is highly regarded as “the authority” on managing the aftermath.
  • Assisting the survivors of mass casualty and the families of the deceased is not only the hardest work we do—mentally and physically exhausting—it is the most rewarding.

I worked with a young man who was in severe pain from a bullet lodged against a nerve in his elbow. He did not want to return to California for surgery until the coroner released his father’s body so that they could “go home together just the way we came here together.”

I met a young couple who were badly bruised and scraped from crawling along the ground to escape bullets coming from what seemed like every direction. They were wearing Cleveland Indians ball caps and we talked about our mutual love of the team. They told me they had run to apartments near the field and began pounding on every door hoping someone would offer shelter. Ultimately, a door opened and there stood a man wearing Yankees apparel. The young woman laughed and said, “We figured it was better than nothing!”

A young father of two toddlers had been to the center the previous day and received assistance for his wife who was hospitalized. He returned, as many did, and sat at a table in the open area drinking a cup of coffee. I walked over to see if there was anything he needed and he looked up with tears in his eyes as he reached for my hand. As I sat down, he told me the doctors had run tests that morning and determined his wife had no brain wave activity. In his words, “I hoped someone here could tell me what to tell the girls.” One of our incredible mental health volunteers was with him for most of the day and made arrangements to go with a casework volunteer back to the home to be with him during that painful discussion.

I have dozens of stories of the people we met and helped in that short time. I think of many of those people now and marvel at their strength and their willingness to allow us to comfort them. I think, too, of how our team grew stronger each day and found the moments that were the hardest brought us closer together. How, at the end of 12 or more hours of hearing the most painful stories and looking into those still-frightened faces, we found friendship within our team and were able to continue our work.

The Red Cross Family Assistance Center closed the doors on a Friday night and the community-supported Vegas Strong Resiliency Center opened the next morning. Like other centers that have opened post-tragedy, it will probably be open as place of comfort and support for the next three to five years.

I was among the last five staff members to leave the center that Friday night. I flew back to Cleveland on Saturday where my husband met me at the airport and we went immediately to our daughter’s home as she hosted a neighborhood chili cook-off. After being immersed in grief for so many days, seeing a group of happy people, getting hugs from my grandchildren and other family members seemed surreal. I realized that I was beginning to heal as I had helped others begin to heal.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross to help victims after an emergency, you can apply here.  See and hear Renee tell her story in this video.