Volunteers Honored for Making Homes Safer

President’s Award Bestowed by Stark County Firefighters During EMS Week Celebration

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They weren’t expecting it.  Several volunteers from the American Red Cross of Stark and Muskingum Lakes thought they were simply attending a breakfast to help kick-off EMS Week activities.  But they were honored by the Stark County Firefighters Association with the President’s Award, for the home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events they’ve been a part of.

One of those events took place on May 17, when teams of Red Cross volunteers and partners from the North Canton Fire Department went door-to-door in a senior retirement community of manufactured homes, offering fire safety education and installing smoke alarms at no cost to the residents.  They entered more than 60 homes, installing 130 alarms.

Tim Reichel, the Chapter’s Disaster Program Manager commended the volunteers for the work they have done to make homes and neighborhoods safer.

“It’s a labor of love.  They thoroughly enjoy giving back to the community.  And our partners with the fire department are grateful to be engaged.  It’s a win win for everyone.”

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WE NEED VOLUNTEERS

More home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events are planned throughout the summer, including on June 17, in honor of Flag Day.  Partners from the VA and veterans groups will join Red Cross volunteers in four separate communities that day to help make homes safer.  Visit our website to volunteer for our home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event in honor of Flag Day on June 17.

NEO Holds 2nd Annual Training Institute

You can’t have confidence unless you are prepared. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Wooden, legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach


Aloha i ka mokupuni o ka hoʻonaʻauao. Welcome to the island of learning.

2017 NEOTI

Preparedness is a key goal for the Red Cross. We are constantly striving to prepare our communities, our homes, and our staff to respond to emergencies.

We, as an organization, expect our volunteers to be ready to heed the call to action! That means education before an event occurs.

From Wednesday, May 10 through Saturday, May 13 over 125 individuals from all over Ohio and West Virginia gathered at the second annual Northeast Ohio Training Institute (NEOTI) at the Akron office. The theme of this year’s institute was Aloha, or “welcome” in Hawaiian.

The institute gives us the chance to offer key leadership courses that may not be available during the year, as well as basic courses for those new to the organization.

This year’s course offerings included: Shelter Fundamentals, Disaster Assessment Fundamentals, Client Casework Workshop, Disaster Mental Health Fundamentals, Psychological First Aid, Disaster Response Management Simulation, a class on driving the large Red Cross Emergency Trucks, and Everyone’s Welcome (a course highlighting our commitment to diverse populations).

By Saturday, 317 certificates were issued to those who attended.

If you would like to learn more about volunteering with the Red Cross in northeast Ohio, visit www.redcross.org/neo and click on VOLUNTEER.

Click below to see our 2017 NEOTI photo album.NEOTI 2017

Team Effort Makes Maple Heights Neighborhood Safer

 

More than 40 homes in Maple Heights are safer, after volunteers from several veteran-related service groups partnered with the Red Cross and the Maple Heights Fire Department to install smoke alarms and share fire safety information on Saturday, April 22.

Volunteers from The Mission Continues, Team Rubicon, and Team Red White and Blue went door-to-door in a neighborhood near Maple Heights High school to check existing smoke alarms, replace batteries, and install new smoke alarms where needed.  They also shared valuable fire safety information.

The Mission Continues  empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. They deploy veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve.  The Cleveland 1st Service Platoon was launched this month.

Mikoyan Headen was grateful to have new smoke alarms installed in her home.  She survived a home fire as a child.  “Our house looked like burnt toast,” she said. “We lost everything and had to completely start over.”

Volunteers from another service group joined the Fire Safety Walk as well.  Three members of “We’re Not Famous, But We Made It” also installed smoke alarms where needed.  Volunteer James Davenport said, “Our members have hit bumps in the road along the way.  We want to make sure we give back to the community.”

It’s a perfect time to give back.  This is National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) and the Red Cross offers many volunteer opportunities.  Visit us at redcross.org/neo to begin the application process.

See more photos from the Fire Safety Walk in Maple Heights by visiting our Flickr page.

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.

Virtual Volunteers Provide Very Real Services

By EILENE E. GUY American Red Cross Volunteer

In the wake of an unprecedented number of large disasters last year, the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced people touched the hearts of Americans near and far.

Dozens of American Red Cross disaster responders from Northeast Ohio answered the call to help, but not all of them left the Buckeye State.

“I couldn’t see going all the way to another state to sit in a cubicle and talk to people on the phone when I could do it just as well from right here,” said Red Cross volunteer Charles “Charlie” Emick of Mount Eaton.

Charlie is an experienced disaster caseworker who helps Wooster-area individuals and families after a home fire or other local emergency. He put that experience to use last year for flood victims a thousand miles away.

“People don’t realize I’m not right there,” he said. “A lot of times, they’re just tickled to death to talk to someone who cares about what they’ve been through.

“I had one lady (on the phone), she wasn’t injured, but she had to wade out through water up to her elbows and she saw a water moccasin swimming toward her. The more she tried to swish it away, the more it came toward her. She finally got to a shallow spot and got out of the water and she said all she could do was scream.

“I told her, I’m afraid of snakes too,” Charlie said with a chuckle.

“Some clients expect that you can put things back the way they were before,” he observed. “But with others, it’s like you’re talking to a neighbor across the street. They’re just so glad someone cares.”

Charlie uses computer data bases to screen clients for eligibility for the limited financial assistance Red Cross can give if victims don’t qualify for federal assistance through FEMA.

He can also connect them with Red Cross health and mental health services as well as local resources listed in the national computer-based Client Assistance Network.

Sandy Perry-Johnson of Warren is another member of the Red Cross “virtual volunteer” team.

“I’m in awe of people who can leave home and go to help, but I can’t do that right now because of my family responsibilities here,” she said.

For the past year, Sandy has been helping Youngstown-area disaster victims figure out what they need and connecting them with resources to meet those needs. She knows that recovery from a disaster can be a confusing, emotionally draining and complicated process.

She appreciates that the Red Cross gives her a way to help, long-distance. “Now I can do casework with people from Louisiana right from my home,” she said following the disastrous flooding there.

“During our response in Louisiana (last year), we committed a great amount of resources to designing and implementing a virtual casework process that enables volunteers to remotely assist those in the disaster area,” said Timothy J. O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer for northeast Ohio.

“Our use of virtual volunteers opens up opportunities for a whole lot more people to help with disaster relief,” he explained. “Plus it lets us provide the most services for the money we spend, making the best use of our donated dollars.”

Virtual volunteers supplemented the work of more than 4,200 Red Cross responders in Louisiana, who, in one month, served more than a million meals and snacks, operated shelters that provided some 72,000 overnight stays, and distributed more than 679,000 relief supplies such as bottled water, insect repellant, cleaning supplies and bleach.

Meanwhile, Crystal Wagner of Akron put her 15 years of disaster experience to work to “virtually” help Red Crossers who actually went to Louisiana. She considers herself a “lifeline” for volunteers who run into roadblocks on the way.

“We had so many brand new volunteers who have no clue what to expect,” she said. It’s a surprise to many that if they run into a problem en route, experienced volunteers like Crystal are just a phone call away, day or night.

“For example, I had this poor guy from Pennsylvania who was headed for Baton Rouge. When he got to Atlanta, there was no connection to Baton Rouge, so they put him on a plane to New Orleans,” she recounted. To make a long story short, Crystal spent several hours sorting out transportation and housing snafus for the first-time volunteer so that he could fulfill his mission – to help Louisiana flood victims.

Crystal knows how to navigate the hurdles of deployment: She’s been all over the country on 69 disasters herself. But now, at age 70 with an elderly mother to look after at home, she’s enthusiastic about being part of the Red Cross disaster response “virtually.”

She fondly recalls her own first deployment, to New York City after 9/11. “I had only been on a plane once, I had never been to New York City… Everything that could go wrong did,” she said. But she stayed for five weeks and learned two lessons she cherishes.

“They needed me,” she said. “And I found out there’s nothing in this world I can’t handle.”

Now Crystal doesn’t have to leave home to experience the joy of helping those who need her.

During the month of March, which has been designated Red Cross Month for the past 70 years, we salute the dedicated volunteers who help fulfill the Red Cross mission.

To find out more about becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer, contact your local Red Cross chapter or go to redcross.org/neo and click on the “volunteer” tab.

The Red Cross relies on the generosity of the American public for its funding. To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text the words RED CROSS to 90999 to a make a $10 donation. Designated donations are the first dollars used to support Red Cross response efforts. If costs exceed designated donations, Red Cross Disaster Relief funds will be used to cover the difference.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters near and far.

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.

Operation Save-A-Life Lives Up to its Name, Again and Again

More Lives Saved Across the Country Thanks to Smoke Alarms, Education

159.  That is the number of documented lives saved as of the close of 2016, thanks to the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross rolled out nationwide in 2014.

The campaign is modeled after Operation Save-A-Life, which began as a partnership between the Cleveland Fire Department and the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Red Cross in 1992.

The 25th anniversary of Operation Save-A Life will be recognized at the 2017 Red Cross Fire and Ice Ball, which takes place on March 25 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland.
Together with corporations, community groups and other partners, the Red Cross provides residents with valuable fire safety information and installs free smoke alarms in homes where they are needed.32318085516_522639e1c2_z

“Thanks to the tireless work of our volunteers, employees, local fire departments, and other partners in the Home Fire Campaign, today we celebrate 159 documents lives saved,” said Harvey Johnson, Senior Vice President, Disaster Cycle Services.

Partners helping the Red Cross achieve its goal of reducing deaths and injury due to home fires by 25% range from the employees of Lincoln Electric to a group of missionaries from the Akron Stake of the Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Eight elders of the  church recently installed 60 alarms in the homes of people in need.

“The group is very dedicated, said Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager for the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter.  “I have worked with missionaries on disaster operations across the country. They always come through for us and the people we serve.”

Your group can be a part of Operation Save-A-Life in Northeast Ohio by sponsoring a smoke alarm installation project.  Log onto redcross.org/neoosal, and click on your county to register.

The smoke alarms you install could be the next ones that save a life.