Snapshots: Moments from disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

August 12, 2019- I have been a part of the American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief team for 18 months, which has been exceptionally challenging and rewarding. Here are a few of the many moments lingering in my memory:

Tim Poe

Tim Poe

I hand an information packet and financial assistance card to a woman in tears. I see astonishment followed by relief on her face as I explain what it is. She looks out the window, breathes deeply and begins planning her family’s recovery.

An enormous, isolated tree stands in a field. Near the top, a remnant of a house is embedded in twisted limbs. Other pieces of homes and people’s belongings lie scattered across the field as people work to clean up and recover.

Assisting a large number of clients after a major fire, people from the community come in throughout the day, bringing supplies, offering comfort, asking how they can donate, finding ways to help.

In an ER, a woman lifts her oxygen mask, says it’s her birthday, and asks for cake.

Interviewing a client as her grandson plays with a stuffed toy, I ask if she’s a veteran and the grandchild declares he is. “No you’re not, sweetheart,” she says. He answers, “I am too. I don’t even like meat.”

On Christmas Eve, standing on the porch of what remains of a house, helping a family plan their recovery, the mother makes a joke and laughter warms the winter air. I feel the mood lighten as they look to the future.

2019 Euclid fire responseAt a community event with the Emergency Response Vehicle, I let children use the public-address system. Some shyly say, “hi,” others say their names and a few words. One yells, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! … and ice cream!” Nearly all smile as their voices amplify.

Standing in the rain, clearing the scene of a very large fire, the family’s father grasps my hand, holds on, begins to say something, then simply nods.

Leaving a scene, a three-year-old child runs up and gives me a hug.

Volunteers like me  carry out 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. Whether helping displaced families or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, the time and talents of volunteers can make a real difference. Explore the Red Cross’ many volunteer opportunities here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 4-7, 2019

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

July 8, 2019- As residents across Northeast Ohio were enjoying barbecues, fireworks, nice weather and the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities, the American Red Cross was actively assisting individuals who were experiencing their most difficult moments.

During Independence Day weekend, July 4-7, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 13 incidents, including a structural collapse in Lorain. The disaster team assisted 34 adults, 24 children and provided more than $13,000 in immediate financial assistance to help these individuals get back on their feet following the local disaster.

Another weekend incident the disaster team responded to over the holiday weekend, was a home fire resulting from arson on Dudley Avenue in Cleveland.

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Dudley Avenue home fire

“It has been a busy time with home fires recently in Northeast Ohio. We have responded to multiple fires in the last few weeks under suspicion of arson. This is one of the wonderful attributes of this organization. We are so inclusive that we provide assistance to anyone who is in need, despite how the disaster began,” said Ben Bellucci, the disaster program manager for the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

“This past weekend, the volunteers were beyond amazing,” Ben added. “With the average temperatures in the 90s and high humidity, the disaster action team was up at all hours providing light in many individuals’ darkest hours. We can’t do it without our volunteers, and the generosity of our community, who all make it possible.”

Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy; the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit our Crowdrise page to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

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 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.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: January 25-27, 2019

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

January 28, 2019 – As the arctic cold temperatures crept back into Northeast Ohio, American Red Cross workers braved the frigid temperatures to assist residents during their time of need.

This past weekend, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 9 incidents in Canton, Cleveland, East Cleveland, East Liverpool, Massillon, Newbury, West Salem and Willard. The disaster team assisted more than 28 residents and provided more than $4,890 in immediate financial assistance to help the residents get back on their feet.

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The Red Cross also established a canteen in Newbury,  providing snacks and beverages for 36 first responders during a home fire.

Jeremy Sutar, a Newbury firefighter who responded to the home fire, said, “With the temperatures being so cold, it truly meant a lot to everyone on the scene to have warm food and beverages available.”

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 assist financially but would like to help residents following a disaster, there is another way you may help. Without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, the Red Cross would not be able to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio. Volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are without a doubt the face of the Red Cross. Visit redcross.org/neo to learn more and to apply to become a Red Cross volunteer.