Acts of Courage & Spirit Awards: Honoring individuals for heroism

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

June 21, 2019- The annual Acts of Courage & the Spirit of the Red Cross awards was held at the Metroplex in Liberty, Ohio on Thursday, June 13th. It is regarded as the greatest evening of celebrated acts of courage, compassion, character & humility in which the Red Cross Lake to River Chapter proudly honors its deserving recipients each year.

Following a guest reception and social period, Debbi Grinstein, Lake to River board chair, welcomed all to an evening of regional recognition. Opening remarks followed the presentation of colors by Troop 40 of Girard and the chapter’s Disaster Action Teams (DAT) that took part in the hero’s processional. The program master of ceremonies was Greg Greenwood, representing the Greenwood Foundation and a Red Cross Hope Partner.

After a delicious dinner buffet was enjoyed by nearly 300 in attendance, the focal point of this night was now center stage. The spirit of giving and courage was squarely in the spotlight with patriotism for our country, community and individuals exemplifying acts of selflessness. Ten individuals for their heroic efforts and a respected business that captured the spirit of proactive giving were honored. Recipients were:

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Nathen White – (Mahoning County) The Mill Creek Metro Park police officer didn’t plan on saving the life of Malayla Jackson. However, recognizing her allergic reaction, struggling to breathe and time restraints, he hurried her to the hospital in his squad car for the help needed for her survival. “She felt like she was dying”, time was critical and officer White’s quick actions saved her life.

Candice Desanzo – (East Palestine) didn’t know Ruth Kennedy; that is until their paths crossed in an emergency at a local restaurant. While enjoying dinner, Candice witnessed Ruth collapse from an apparent chocking episode. She immediately cared for her with both abdominal thrusts & CPR until EMS arrived. Candice made a difference in positive outcome through her training in live saving techniques.

Fab Four (Mosquito Lake) – Scot Oehlstrom, Rod Schaaf, Mike Soots & Zachery Westrich all had one thing in common on this cold January afternoon – ice fishing. Their second commonality became sharply apparent when they collaborated together to help a family of seven when their tent broke through the ice and heard their calls for help. Nearly 30 yards from shore with a ten-year-old untested rope and the determination of these four enthusiasts knew they had to act fast due to hypothermia. These men, with the screams for help ranging in ages from 7 to 34 were answered in affirmative actions rescuing each one from the frigid water. All survived the frightening ordeal because of the bravery of this fab four who now have more in common; they are heroes.

Mat Jamison (Girard) – Officer Jamison was on routine patrol when he noticed fire at the back of a duplex apartment in the city. After calling the fire department, he felt he had to act now to avoid a possible tragic outcome and entered the burning building with disregard for his own safety to rescue the adults & children inside. Girard Police Chief, John Norman interjected that Jamison had no reservations on going into the house, knocking on doors and getting the people to safety. The department, the city and the community are proud to recognize and honor his efforts that go above and beyond his call of duty.

Judy Sheve (Ashtabula) – Is another of our heroes that knew what to do in a choking emergency, such is the case of a fortunate 91-year-old Simone Campbell. While attending a senior center bridge club night, waitress Judy, recognized the chocking patron and with quick action of abdominal thrusts saved a golden life. In a twist, she left the tip that night; training is paramount in an emergency.

Madison Withrow (Ashtabula) – Is only 10 years old, which is why sharing her story of courage is so important. Madison was home with her mom and her 5 younger siblings when a fire broke out in their home. Against all odds and the will of passion, she was able to carry two 4-month-old twins and return for a 2-year-old brother to safety before first responders arrived. Sadly, Maddie nor the fire fighters could rescue her mother or two younger brothers. We honor and celebrate her selfless courage.

If handling emergencies like the preceding honorees are called acts of courage. Then planning to avoid a life-threatening emergency also falls into the same category, but over a longer period of time as with our next hero.

David Crawford (Canfield) – The local High School is the epicenter of a friendship of Coach Crawford and his boss, Athletic Director, Greg Cooper. Greg was diagnosed with non-alcoholic end stage liver disease-cirrhosis and was waiting for a match. When the coach found out that he was an exact match, “I knew I had the chance to save my friend” he said. That he did, donating 65% of his liver to save Greg’s life that would have ended all too soon.Greg’s daughter delivered a public heartfelt message of affection for the Crawford family and David’s gift of life for her father in a compassionate moment.

Hill Barth & King (HBK) – Was awarded the Spirit of the Red Cross. Founded in Youngstown in 1949 with seventeen offices in five states, they exemplify leadership in the community; compassion for its people and dedication to the life saving mission of the Red Cross.

The closing remarks by chapter director, Karen Conklin, expressed the compassion for family, a friend or a stranger develops extraordinary character, courage and humility that is the spirit of the Red Cross.

Thank you to the Acts of Courage Committee, chair Grinstein, the chapter board, committee judges and the awesome staff for their planning.  It was a proud night for our chapter to honor these recipients. Congratulations and thank you for your selfless acts of courage & spirit!

A night honoring fire chiefs and volunteers

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross Volunteer

March 22, 2019- The Lake to River Chapter of the American Red Cross honored its valued first responders and volunteers who selflessly serve their region at an appreciation dinner on Thursday, March 14. The dinner was held at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown.

More than 20 fire chiefs and associated first responders representing four of five Tim and Karencounties, chapter executives and volunteers numbering nearly 100 attended. They were welcomed with opening remarks and words of appreciation from Lake to River’s Executive Director Karen Conklin, who introduced Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole.

“Firefighters and the Red Cross Disaster Action Teams have continued to build strong relationships working together to bridge the needs of those in our community touched by devastation,” said Chief O’Toole, a retired assistant chief of operations for the Cleveland Division of Fire, who joined the Red Cross in 2015.

He acknowledged the wonderful work of the Red Cross disaster services team in assisting 275 displaced families with $130,000 in temporary housing, food and personal care. The chief also recognized other important efforts, such as blood donor services helping more than 52,000 people impacted in the fiscal year, the armed services sector assisting more than 600 military families, and the escalated efforts for the Sound the Alarm campaign, with a goal to install 100,000 free smoke alarms in homes across the nation with volunteers paving the way. Karen noted that her chapter goal is 1,500 alarms to be installed to wrap up the April 27 to May 11 campaign.

Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley

Tim O’Toole, left, and Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley

Youngstown Fire Chief and Chapter Board Member Barry Finley described when one becomes involved with the Red Cross. “I’ve always thought the Red Cross was called in when a fire completely destroyed a home,” he said. The chief stated that by being involved in this organization he has learned so much more. He explained that he is appreciative and happy to be a part of a team effort to help in times of need for the community.

The American Red Cross Volunteer K9 Action Team was also recognized for 10 years of faithful service providing comfort therapy to disaster victims and military families.

Attendees enjoyed dinner and time for socializing. Gift bags were disturbed after closing remarks by Karen. She emphasized that the staff and board appreciate their volunteers and what they endure as “A love to want to help people.” She stated, “You know you do make a difference.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

See more photos from the event here.

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.

Sept. 11 experience moves resident to become avid Red Cross volunteer

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Sept. 11, 2001 made significant impressions on most every adult living at the time. It certainly did for Susie Muetzel, an American Red Cross volunteer with the Lake to River Chapter.

Susie Muetel

Susie Muetzel

“At the time, my husband was a Cleveland firefighter and I was working for the clerk of Cleveland City Council,” said Susie. “After being told we needed to evacuate the building, as I drove home, I recall seeing the plane that was Flight 93 flying overhead when all planes were supposed to be grounded. I recall feeling sorry and helpless and terrified. Within a couple hours, I determined that I was never again going to feel like there was nothing I could do. There was no way I wanted that feeling of helplessness.”

Shortly thereafter, Susie saw on TV that the Red Cross was looking for volunteers. She still remembers making the call and talking with Disaster Specialist Debbie Chitester, who now serves as the Disaster Program Manager for the Summit Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.  Debbie helped Susie her get her initial training. On October 1, she began her volunteer service. She wasn’t able to deploy to New York or Pennsylvania back in 2001, but since then, she has deployed to countless hurricanes and floods, working in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and offering meals to those affected. She most recently responded to Hurricane Florence.

Susie&Sue

Susie Muetzel, left, and Red Cross volunteer Sue Wisdom

Locally, between national disasters, she keeps very busy with her chapter, covering four of the five counties along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. “Here at home, I’m a DAT (Disaster Action Team) leader, the DAT Coordinator and weekend AOC (Administrator-On-Call),” said Susie.

That could be the most rewarding part of her volunteer work, explained Susie. “I recall one weekend when we had back-to-back fires, each with fatalities. When we go to a fire and are able to provide some degree of comfort to someone who has lost everything and is desperate for help, that’s extremely rewarding.”

If someone is looking for volunteer opportunities, take it from Susie, “You get so much more out of it than you could ever possibly give. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you come home from helping someone, even in the middle of the night, you know that you did something good and really helped them. If you have that empathetic heart, it fills you up in ways that you never dreamed of.”

To explore the various volunteer possibilities open to you, visit https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/ and begin your online application.  There is a critical need for volunteers to join the Disaster Action Team in the Lake to River Chapter, which includes Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties.  Residents there can get more information by calling the chapter at 866-319-7160.

Flood Safety Tips Timely as Casework Continues in Boardman

BOARDMAN, Ohio – In the 10 days since torrential rains caused localized flooding in this Mahoning County community, American Red Cross workers have helped 115 residents with immediate financial assistance.  And the disaster responders continue reaching out to residents in the area who may have been affected by the unexpected flood waters.

boardman flooding2

Three dozen cases have been opened so far, with a total of $12,788 dollars committed to help residents clean-up their homes and make them livable again.  More than two dozen cleaning kits, containing mops, brooms, bleach and other cleaning supplies have been distributed.

boardman flooding 3

Photo credit:  Kristen Gallagher/American Red Cross

“Most use the money we offer them to buy additional cleaning supplies,” said Renee Palagyi, Senior Regional Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Some pay for laundry services, for steam-cleaning upholstery, that kind of thing,” she said.

Like most Northeast Ohioans, Renee encountered heavy rain on her ride into work Tuesday morning.  With the damage done by the flooding in Boardman in mind, she shared flood safety information with the rest of the Regional staff in her daily report.

Staying Safe Indoors

  • Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
  • Boil tap water until water sources have been declared safe.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
  • Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Don’t use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded.
  • Dispose of any food that comes into contact with flood water .

 

Staying Safe Outdoors

  • Don’t walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.
  • If caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.

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  • Don’t walk on beaches or riverbanks.
  • Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
  • Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Underpasses, dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc. can become filled with water.

“I think everyone needs a reminder to follow the tips the Red Cross espouses,” she said. “It’s too easy to think we’re invulnerable, and we’re not.”

A Week at Lake to River

And What a Week it Was!

As I write this it is Friday night and I am reflecting on our amazing Northeast Ohio volunteers and the Lake to River volunteers so dear to my heart. This has been a week of unrelenting high temperatures and seemingly unrelenting disasters.

Since Sunday, just five days ago, the Lake to River Chapter has, thanks to our volunteers and donors, accomplished the following:

· Canteen for an explosion in Mahoning County that involved several fire departments. Good news is that no one was hurt

· Responded to six home fires

· Held First Aid/CPR classes

· Sent Smoke Alarm teams out on Tuesday to install and were blessed on Friday to have Red Cross volunteers from Canton help install alarms in another 15 or so homes. Thank you to our Canton colleagues for your time and talent.

· Held our 7th annual Acts of Courage event that raises vital dollars to support our mission. Without the help of volunteer’s, name tags would not get done, no one would know where to sit and cars may have parked on an active runway at the 910th Airlift Base.

LTR Heroes1·

Friday, Saturday and Sunday board members, DAT volunteers, support volunteers and others will help us man two locations at the Thunder Over the Valley airshow this weekend. All this in 90 degree heat.

· Saddest of all, for two days we canteened for 50 fire, police, park and rescue divers who were looking for a 16-year-old boy in Mosquito Lake.

In this week our volunteers have experienced the joy of our Acts of Courage Event, got to meet one of the Thunderbird Pilots, met two WWII veterans who were honored, and the sadness of helping multiple families who lost everything in a fire and also had to watch from inside the crime scene tape as divers dragged the lake for a child.

This is the work of the Red Cross; it is what we do across Northeast Ohio and this country.  Our mission is powered by these mighty volunteers whose heart, compassion and knowledge make a difference every day.

As a Chapter Executive, I am humbled by their resiliency and grateful for what they do for us whenever and wherever there is a need. I know all the Chapter Executives and staff share my passion for each and every one of you.

It has been a long, tough week but if next week is even tougher, I know we are up to the challenge. Now it’s time for a Friday night glass of wine!

A grateful Executive Director…Karen Conklin, Lake To River Chapter.

*The Lake to River Chapter serves Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties.  See  our photo album here.  Photos provided by Paul Wadowick, Red Cross Communications volunteer.

 

More Than a Half-Century of Red Cross Service

By Anmol Nigam, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

jay3

Photo credit: Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

When Jay Rosenthal was in his youth he witnessed an event so provoking, he would later decide to spend over fifty years of his life to prevent a recurrence.

It was the 1950’s, and Jay was roughly twelve years old, enjoying a beautiful Fourth of July at a the cool waters of a local pool along with hundreds of other people from his area. A sudden downpour prompted a mass exit from the pool.

As the crowd emptied, Jay would recall an “announcement on the PA system about a lost three year-old boy.” The body of the boy was found in the pool. He could not swim. Jay watched as the lifeguards attempted without success to resuscitate the boy.

Jay remembers with sadness and says, “in the fifties CPR and AEDs were only something of the future.”

It was from that moment, Jay would devote his life to preventing the loss of life by learning how to save lives and by training others to be safe in and prepare for emergencies. Jay continues to help the people in his community by his fifty-three years of service to the American Red Cross.

Jay now helps staff the Lake to River Chapter headquarters in Youngstown and teaches CPR and first aid classes.

Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the Lake to River Chapter, is one of Jay’s biggest fans. “Jay comes here every day to volunteer. He is so valuable. If we can’t find something we ask him. He is a fabulous First Aid /CPR instructor but his passion is teaching kids to swim. Ask him if he has any idea how many children and adults he has taught. He might have 53 years in, but thousands can swim because of him.”

When he’s not volunteering for the Red Cross, Jay coordinating a “Learn-to-Swim” program in community schools.

When we asked Jay the secret to his commitment, his response was “it’s in the blood.”