NEO Red Cross kicks off Sound the Alarm campaign in Parma

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

April 24, 2019- Have you ever lay awake at night worried about a loved one and their well-being? Are you ever worried about how prepared they are in the event of an emergency? This is how Luba Bar feels every day.

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L to R: Valentina Twaskiewych, Luba Bar, John Twaskiewych

Luba lives in Las Vegas, but her elderly parents, John and Valentina Twaskiewych, live 2,072 miles away in Parma. Even though she visits whenever she can to make sure everything is well with her parents, she worries about their safety, especially in case of an emergency, like a home fire. Yesterday, during the 2019 Sound the Alarm kickoff event in Parma, American Red Cross volunteers and partners lent a helping hand to bring Luba peace of mind, by installing two smoke alarms in her parents’ home.

“I feel so much better, knowing that when I leave them again, they’ll be safe,” exclaimed Luba.

Following volunteers installing smoke alarms at no charge to the family and teaching them the importance of having an escape plan in the event of a home fire, Luba was pleasantly surprised and expressed her gratitude by adding, “Who does anything for anyone anymore? I’m so blessed that you do this.”

 

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Home fires kill more people in a typical year in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. Most deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross responds, on average, to three home fires every 24 hours.

The Parma installation event kicked off Sound the Alarm, a two-week event during which volunteers and partners will visit local homes to help install 100,000 free smoke alarms nationally to help combat home fires. Yesterday, 132 free smoke alarms were installed in 55 Parma homes.

Sound the Alarm events are part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries. So far, it has reached more than 1.7 million people and saved more than 580 lives nationwide. Since 2014, the Red Cross and local partners in Northeast Ohio have:

  • Installed more than 42,800 free smoke alarms
  • Made more than 11,200 households safer
  • Reached more than 15,300 children through youth preparedness programs

There are more than 20 Sound the Alarm events remaining in Northeast Ohio fromIMG_6304 Saturday, April 27 to Saturday, May 11. Volunteers are still needed to install free smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans in high-risk communities.

To find a smoke alarm installation event near you to help local residents like John and Valentina Twaskiewych, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

To see more photos from the Parma installation event, please visit our Flickr page.

Red Cross seeks volunteers to ‘Sound the Alarm’ in Northeast Ohio as new poll highlights need for smoke alarms

Survey: 2 in 5 people say winning the lottery more likely than losing home in a fire

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

April, 17, 2019- A new American Red Cross survey shows that roughly two in five people think it’s more likely that they’ll win the lottery than lose their home in a fire. However, sta-research-graphics-2the real odds are the opposite: the chance is greater of dying from exposure to fire or smoke (nearly one in 1,500), compared to winning the lottery (typically one in millions).

Home fires kill more people in a typical year in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross responds, on average, to three home fires every 24 hours. Last weekend, three adults died in a home fire in Cleveland. The fire department said there were no working smoke alarms in the home.

96 PERCENT ENGAGED IN FIRE-RISK ACTIVITIES

Almost all people surveyed said they’ve engaged in ordinary activities that are among the leading causes of home fires. For example:

  • More than 70 percent of people said they’ve left the kitchen while cooking on the stove
  • Nearly three in five adults have walked away from their grills while cooking
  • Nearly one-third of people left the room or fell asleep while burning candles

To help prevent home fires, the Red Cross urges everyone to always supervise cooking equipment and candles as well as follow additional safety tips at redcross.org/homefires.

For more information on the survey, watch this video:

HOW YOU CAN HELP #ENDHOMEFIRES

From April 23 to May 11, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is calling for volunteers to help during a two-week nationwide campaign called Sound the Alarm. During Sound the Alarm events, Red Cross volunteers and local partners will go door-to-door to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create home fire escape plans. Services are free and available to all residents in need. People can register now at SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to volunteer and raise donations to support lifesaving services, which are free for families in need.

 

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR EVENTS

In Northeast Ohio, there is a need for 500 volunteers to install free smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans in high-risk communities. People interested in helping at events can register now at SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO or call 216-431-3328 to volunteer and raise funds.

To learn more about the home fire preparedness campaign and to request a free smoke alarm installation, please visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteering isn’t technical – except for this Northeast Ohio volunteer

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

With more than 10 years of volunteer service with the American Red Cross, Dave Riegler has volunteered on both a national and local level. After a life-changing experience in 2004, he wanted to find a way to give back. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, becoming one of the largest disaster relief efforts taken on by the Red Cross to date. Dave joined the Red Cross as a volunteer, serving as a support team member in the Washington, D.C., office.

Dave Riegler

Dave Riegler

Since then, Dave has been deployed nine times as a disaster services Technology Networking Services Associate. Using his professional skills in IT, he supported the Disaster Services Technology (DST) team to deploy technology infrastructures for volunteer offices to ensure they had the equipment they needed to respond effectively.

In addition to his support for disaster relief efforts, Dave has been a dedicated volunteer the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. In fact, in the past three years, he has logged over 700 volunteer hours with the Red Cross, which is an average of about 4.5 hours per week! In Northeast Ohio, he supports the IT needs of the regional chapters as a Volunteer Technical Specialist, performing device refreshers and network transformations. For those who aren’t tech savvy, his work helps the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio’s technology work for the volunteers and staff utilizing it every day.

Dave also manages the entire disaster relief inventory for the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio, including the locations of the disaster relief trailers in the region.

“Dave’s get it done attitude and willingness to jump in no matter the task is invaluable!” said Rachel Telegdy, Executive Director, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

For Dave, volunteering his time with the Red Cross is all about giving back to others. Whether it’s volunteering locally here in Northeast Ohio or assisting in the response of a national disaster, he finds the work rewarding, as the Red Cross helps so many to get back on their feet again.

If you’re interested in learning more how you can volunteer for the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to check out all the different opportunities in your area.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteer dedicates ‘heart and soul’ during five decades of service

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

April 11, 2019- Volunteers are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross. But not many can say they have over five decades of service. In line with National Volunteer Week, we found a super committed volunteer in Tab Alden, who serves in the Lake to River Chapter. So naturally, I had some questions about her resilient service.

What was your profession before your volunteer career?

I was a bus driver for the Maplewood and Champion school districts in Trumbull County transporting and working with mentally challenged children and adults. I was also a workshop specialist for the developmental disabilities workshop program.

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Tab Alden at the Cleveland VA Medical Center during the Christmas season 2017

How did you first become involved with the Red Cross?

I became involved while working with a CB radio group doing the communications between the Red Cross teams at football games in Warren.

What are some of the Red Cross services you’ve been involved with?

After my CB radio operator stint, I received certification to treat basic and advanced first aid and taught as an instructor and later was added as a receptionist. I currently serve our chapter as volunteer coordinator and all around go-to person in our office.

What do you like best about your volunteer experience?

Meeting new people and learning new methods of helping wherever I can. I’m presently learning the ins and outs of DAT (disaster action teams).

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Tab Alden with fellow Lake to River Chapter volunteers

Why should one consider volunteering for the Red Cross?

If someone is willing to give their time and energy for volunteering, there’s not a better place to learn what the Red Cross can do for you. You must be committed to giving your heart and soul to do what is asked and have patience.

What do others say about Tab’s volunteer service?

The executive director of the Lake to River Chapter, Karen Conklin, offered these comments about Tab’s demeanor: “Lucky me, the first day I walked into the Red Cross in 2010, the first smiling and familiar face to greet me with a hug was Tab! She made me feel at home because she was a volunteer when I was CEO for another organization.”  Karen added, “For me, Tab is not just an amazing volunteer but also a good friend and my go-to when something needs done.”

The Lake to River Red Cross is blessed they have such a dedicated volunteer they can count on every day!

For more information and to learn of volunteering opportunities with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer. 

Family connection leads local volunteer to a passion for the Red Cross

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

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

April 8, 2019- As a child, Alice Martinez was surrounded by stories about the Red Cross. Her father, who immigrated from Switzerland, would inundate her with stories about the Red Cross being founded in Switzerland, how the Red Cross’ logo is an inverse of the of the Swiss flag and even informed her that her family raised St. Bernard dogs, which the Red Cross would use for rescues.  These stories not only showed Alice her family connection to the Red Cross, but it started her on a path to helping others.

Alice’s first interaction with the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio came in the 1980’s, when she worked for the Red Cross of Lorain County, then under the leadership of Clarence Wills. For six years, Alice worked as a transportation specialist.

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Alice Martinez

Following transitions to new employment opportunities and retirement, Alice was searching for opportunities to give back in her spare time and naturally she was drawn back to the Red Cross, an organization for which she says she always had a passion for its mission.

As a volunteer, Alice was deployed for the first time. In 2017, she was deployed following the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma. While deployed, Alice worked in shelters and helped take care of displaced residents who just lost everything. Even though the work was demanding and difficult, she found it rewarding.

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Alice Martinez teaching students about dangers of frostbite

Currently, as a youthful 73-year-old, Alice is a fixture for the Red Cross of Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. One area where she has made a significant impact is the Pillowcase Project, a Red Cross initiative, inspired by Loyola University students carrying their valuables in a pillowcase following Hurricane Katrina, to teach elementary school students about emergency preparedness. As a former teacher, Alice found the program a natural fit for her experience. She looks forward to entering a classroom or presenting to a group of children to teach them the importance of being prepared before an emergency occurs.

“Alice Martinez is a great ambassador of the Pillowcase Project and has been one of my program leads since the beginning,” said John Gareis, the regional preparedness & community planning manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Alice has a passion for our programs and has a great rapport with the kids. Alice is the backbone of our Pillowcase Project!”

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Alice Martinez, sixth from the left, at Great Northern Mall during the 2019 Dominion Preparedness Day

To Alice, seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and knowing she is helping to save lives is enough of a reward for her. In fact, yesterday, April 7, Alice drove from her home in Avon Lake to Salem, OH to teach a group of 4-H members.

Are you interested in volunteering with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio like Alice Martinez? For more information and to learn about volunteering opportunities near you, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

New Yorker brings her preparedness training to Cleveland as Red Cross Corps

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

April 5, 2019- An internship in New York set a college student on the path to helping others here in Northeast Ohio. Mackenzie Heilman was finishing her senior year at State University of New York when she took an internship at the American Red Cross Central New York Chapter in Syracuse. During her internship, Mackenzie received preparedness training. She became certified in First Aid and CPR/AED.

Mackenzie1After graduating and while she was looking for full-time work in her field, her husband suggested she pursue volunteer work. The Red Cross’ Northeastern New York Chapter Albany office was close to their home. She began to volunteer for their home fire campaign, assisting with the region’s Sound the Alarm events.

When Red Cross staff in the Albany office learned of her extensive training and previous Red Cross internship, they told her about the AmeriCorps program. The program offers participants a full-time position that pays a stipend. AmeriCorps workers serve an 11-month term.

Her first assignment as an AmeriCorps worker was from January through December 2018 with the Red Cross’ Albany office. Along with Sound the Alarm, her job was helping with the Pillowcase Project. This project is aimed at educating children about being prepared in the event of an emergency. It teaches them how to make emergency preparedness kits out of pillowcases so they are ready if they need to leave home at a moment’s notice.

Last fall, she deployed to the National Disaster Operation Coordination Center in Fairfax, Virginia, during hurricane and wildfire season. She worked the fusion desk, answering calls and receiving emails. This role fields calls and communications from people experiencing home fires, flooding and hurricanes, and alerts Red Cross leadership 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The center then tracks disasters across the country and maps them. She was there for one week in October between Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas and Hurricane Michael in Florida.

Mackenzie moved to Northeast Ohio at the end of December 2018 after her husband landed a job at the Cleveland Clinic. Armed with her training and Red Cross experience, she took a second assignment with AmeriCorps. Her term began in February and will end in January 2020.Mackenzie2

Her job as a Red Cross Corps member through the Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter is administering the Home Fire Campaign, the Pillowcase Project and other preparedness programs across Greater Cleveland. 

She said the best parts of her job are getting to work in an organization where she enjoys being, working with volunteers, schools and clients, and making a difference in the community.

Mackenzie recommends that others get involved in the AmeriCorps program.

“You don’t need a specific background and as long as you do the work, you will get paid and gain great experience,” she explained. “Besides preparedness, Red Cross Corps workers can also go on call and sometimes meet with clients who have experienced disasters. There is an opportunity to deploy to a hurricane or fires.”

This possibility interests Mackenzie. She wants to be DAT member.

Mackenzie“I would love to deploy and get into the dirty work to help those in need—and personally be there with the victims,” she said.

She certainly would be ready. Mackenzie specializes in feeding disaster victims and prepping food. She is an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver, having been trained in Albany on the special features of the vehicle. She said she would readily hop in and drive an ERV to feed people in need, if they needed her.

You don’t have to be a Red Cross Corps worker like Mackenzie to be prepared for emergencies. Anyone can learn important lifesaving skills by taking a class with the Red Cross. To find a class near you, visit www.redcross.org/take-a-class.

Red Cross partners with Dominion Energy to distribute first aid kits

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

April 3, 2019- Dominion Energy and the American Red Cross want to make sure you are prepared. This Saturday, April 6, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at locations across northern Ohio they will supply you with the right tools. In return for five to 10 minutes of your time, you’ll be rewarded with a free, Red Cross First Aid Kit (valued at $35).

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Since 2013, “partners in safety” Dominion Energy and the Red Cross have held an annual Disaster Preparedness Day. Each person or family that agrees to take a short, six-question survey, will receive a quality, first aid kit along with literature stressing home safety.  Volunteers from each organization will be available to help people complete their surveys and hand out special co-branded bags with both organizations’ logos.

“Safety is one of Dominion’s core values,” explains Neil Durbin, senior communication specialist at Dominion. “That’s why this partnership is such a great fit for both organizations—we’re both centered on promoting safety. We also happen to each have offices in matching cities across the region.”

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Preparing for Preparedness Day turns out to be quite the project itself. John Gareis, regional manager for preparedness at the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, said that the preparation starts way before the event and involves staff and volunteers from both organizations. Sites have to be reserved, insurance certificates need to be provided, negotiations have to occur with vendors, five pallets worth of specially branded kits need to be received and then combined with handouts, and cases of assembled kits need to be transported to local chapters. Volunteers then need to be recruited, trained and equipped for the day of the event. When volunteers walk in that Saturday morning, everything will be there ready for them.

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This Saturday, more than 3,000 first aid kits will be presented to families at nine locations across northern Ohio. “We hope that people will take the information they learn on the survey and share it with family and friends,” said John. “In that way, each year, in just four hours, we hope to touch the lives of up to 10,000 people. It’s a lot of work on our part but to be able to reach that many people in one weekend, it’s certainly worth the effort.”

One of the key messages that volunteers will be stressing is that gas appliances should be professionally inspected each year. “While people usually think about having their annual inspections done in the fall, summer is an ideal time to schedule them, when heating contractors aren’t as busy,” suggested Neil. You’ll probably save some money and you’ll certainly have more flexibility scheduling your appointment.

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“No matter how much insurance you have or no matter how safe you think you are going to be, anyone can have a disaster at any given time, which is unfortunate,” explained John.  “We’d rather put the effort into teaching or reminding people what to do, rather than responding after a disaster happens.”

Disaster Preparedness Day locations:

  • Belden Village Mall – Canton
  • Chief Supermarkets – Lima
  • Eastwood Mall – Niles
  • Great Northern Mall – North Olmsted
  • New Towne Mall – New Philadelphia
  • Target – University Heights
  • Walmart – Ashtabula
  • Walmart – Stow
  • Walmart – Wooster

Red Cross volunteers can still sign up on Volunteer Connection to assist at some locations. Residents are encouraged to come out and get a quality first aid kit, which is ideal for home or auto. Sometimes they go quickly so come early, if possible.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer