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.

Arson1

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

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.

Deployment: Thoughts from a first-timer

Story and photos by Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

January 25, 2019 – I thought I might go to Houston for Hurricane Harvey in 2017. I didn’t. I got a mission card (for expenses) and was on standby for Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in 2018,  but we weren’t needed there either. That’s how it can go with national disaster deployments.

So, I was wondering if the third time was the charm, as I drove to downtown Cleveland to Red Cross regional headquarters to pick up my mission card for the California wildfires.

The Camp Fire had started on November 8 and wasn’t contained until the end of November—after obliterating the majority of Concow, Magalia and Paradise, California.

doug photo 1

I didn’t have to wonder long, as my plane reservations were confirmed two days later. I was scheduled to leave Saturday, December 29. After typical winter weather delays and cancellations, I finally arrived in Sacramento, and checked into the hotel at 1 a.m.

Sunday morning, I was picked up at the hotel and processed at the Yuba City Red Cross regional office before heading for the shelter in Chico, Ca., roughly 1-1/2 hours north of Sacramento. We’d be working at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, where more than 700 residents were staying in three men, women and family dorms, as well as a combination of camping tents, cars and RVs.

doug photo 2

Some staff were being housed about 60 minutes outside town in a series of hotels but I stayed in the staff shelter, just 12 minutes from the fairgrounds. Our shelter was a series of tents, set up on the Chico Airport grounds.

doug photo 3

doug photo 4

A large circus tent was our home away from home for everything but sleeping and showering. Showers were in a trailer, but hot water was in ample supply—most of the time. The staff tent handled registration, feeding and supplies. Two large screen TVs provided a choice of entertainment and a dozen sofas were there to relax on. Internet bandwidth was amazingly good for those who preferred to stream their own entertainment or keep up with social media.

My first day, I had a chance encounter while standing and looking at the fairground’s small waterfall, just inside the main gate. I could sense someone behind me and turned to see a tall gentleman, one of the evacuees people referred to as “Buckeye.” When he discovered I was also from Ohio, I got the biggest bear hug I’ve ever received. Turns out his family is from Warrensville Heights.

doug photo 5

At the fairgrounds, almost 200 Red Cross volunteers, working 12-1/2-hour shifts, and numerous community partners, provided a host of services to the residents. The ultimate goal was to get everyone transitioned into permanent housing. In the best of circumstances, this can be difficult but the city of Chico already had a housing shortage. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) committed to assisting those who couldn’t qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) housing.

doug photo 6

As people stayed at the fairgrounds, they each received three meals a day, a cot, blankets and a large, fluffy pillow. Paradise Equipment had a laundry trailer on site and everyone was entitled to free laundry service. They could just drop off a bag of clothes and pick it up later in the day—washed, dried and folded. Health needs were addressed for people and their pets. Residents received a range of health services as well as mental and spiritual counseling. Pets were vaccinated, fed and walked by a local pet relief organization.

doug photo 7

By the numbers, here’s what was going on 60 days into the Camp Fire disaster.

The Red Cross continues to provide shelter, meals and conversation for almost 700 evacuees, who are having trouble processing the idea of having lost everything. Not only are their houses gone, in many cases, they’ve also lost their jobs, their churches, schools, restaurants, social clubs and their friends.

If you’d care to donate, you can do it online at RedCross.org or by calling 1-800-HELP NOW.

Editor’s note: During his deployment, Doug escorted documentary filmmaker Nancy Hamilton of Golden Eagle Films through the shelter compound. She spoke with some of the shelter residents and offers her impression of the operation at the end of the video, which has been posted on Facebook.

 

Article edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

 

Christmas marks birth of “Angel of the Battlefield” Red Cross founder

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Merry Christmas! Billions of people around the globe will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today. This religious and cultural holiday is also the birth date of a significant figure in American history. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was born on December 25, 1821. It seems fitting that a day focused on giving marks the birth of a woman who dedicated her life to giving to those in need.

Matthew Brady Portrait of Clara BartonBorn Clarissa Harlowe Barton in Oxford Massachusetts, Clara was a shy child. She became a teacher at age 15 during a time when most teachers were men. She was also among the first women to be employed by the federal government. She moved to Washington, D.C., in the mid 1850s to work as a recording clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

In Washington during the Civil War, Clara collected clothing, supplies and food for sick and wounded soldiers. But she felt she was needed most on the battlefields. She persuaded government and army leaders to provide her with passes to bring her volunteer services and medical supplies to battle sites and field hospitals. Her work earned her the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.”

Clara’s pioneering vision and commitment to service continued throughout her life. She founded the American Red Cross at age 60 and served as its first president. Her spirit of giving shines on to this day through the ongoing relief work of the organization she created.

In a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large crises, the Red Cross’ disaster workforce—90 percent volunteers—helped millions of people across the country.

In 2018, generous support enabled the Red Cross to:

  • Serve over 8.2 million meals and snacks
  • Distribute over 2.2 million relief items
  • Provide over 290,000 overnight stays in shelters
  • Make over 188,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Provide over 73,000 households with recovery support after home firesAmerican Red Cross Historical Photo

Locally, the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region responded to about 900 disasters, the vast majority of them home fires, assisting more than 4,200 people—about 1,600 families—and distributing about $800,000 in assistance in 2018.

To celebrate Clara’s birthday, if you would like to donate to the Red Cross and give something that means something on this momentous holiday, visit redcross.org/donate.

To read more about the life and achievements of Clara Barton, visit here.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: December 21-23, 2018

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

Over the weekend, as people across Northeast Ohio were getting last minute tasks done to prepare for the holidays, the American Red Cross was responding to residents suffering from local disasters.

Sound the Alarm - Ohio 2018During the weekend of December 21-23, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to nine incidents in Cuyahoga, Mahoning, Summit and Wayne Counties. The incidents affected 24 adults, 16 children and resulted in the distribution of more than $8,000 in immediate financial assistance by the Red Cross.

Unfortunately, one of the nine incidents was a home fire in Cuyahoga County, which resulted in the fatality of an adult occupant and critical injuries to a two year old child. While the Red Cross is saddened by this tragedy during a time focused on happiness, the Red Cross will remain in contact with the victim’s family to provide assistance, such as support from disaster mental health workers. Louisiana Floods 2016

The vast 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 here.

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.