Reflections of a former board member

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

June 16, 2019- Last week I attended the annual meeting of the board of directors for the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross. But it was more than

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L to R: Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter Executive Director Rachel Telegdy, Sue Wilson and Pam Williams

just the final meeting before the summer break. Amidst the business of thanking outgoing board members like me and recognizing new board members to take the place of those exiting, it was time to thank the volunteers—without whom the Red Cross could not accomplish its mission.

I am always moved—amazed but never surprised—to hear the stories of the heroes that make up the many volunteers who are the first responders. Those who show up and stand alongside to help people who have truly experienced the worst day of their life.

The volunteers who have:

  • installed 2,000 free smoke alarms. making 700 homes that didn’t have them safer, as part of the Sound the Alarm campaign.
  • responded to more than 120 home fires, providing residents in our three counties with help and hope.
  • deployed to the Greater Dayton area to help those affected by the recent deadly and destructive tornadoes—running toward disaster while most are running away.
  • given blood and/or found ways to encourage blood donation, especially as part of the Missing Types campaign, which strives to increase the nation’s blood supply by bringing attention to the more rare, missing types of blood, A, B and O, potentially saving more than 75,000 lives.

The thing that hit me most, however, after I received my certificate of appreciation for nine years of board service, was how little I felt I had done compared to these heroic volunteers. And how inspired I feel to continue on, if not as a board member, as a volunteer for this incredible organization so that I can help to continue its legacy of service. I can’t help but feel especially inspired to “be like Pam.”

Pam Williams received the H. Peter Burg award last year for her lifetime of service to our community and the Red Cross. She also steps down as board chair, passing the gavel to Alan Papa, president and chief operating officer for Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Pam truly is a dedicated volunteer. This small space cannot list her many acts of selflessness:  from sleeping in shelters alongside victims of disasters, to driving a forklift, to serving as our government liaison before and while she was our board chair.

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New board of directors chair Alan Papa speaks at the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter annual meeting

Last week may have been the end of my three-term, nine-year stint as a member of the Red Cross board of directors. But it was the first day of my continuation of a commitment to be a better volunteer for this amazing organization so that I can not only be more like Pam but also like the many volunteers who make up the Red Cross family.

Click here to visit our Flickr account to view photos from the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter annual meeting.

National CPR and AED Awareness Week highlights training importance

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

June 5, 2019- Today, people are used to seeing online news articles mentioning the tongue-and-cheek national holiday being celebrated that day, like National Cheese Pizza Day on September 7, National Old Stuff Day on March 2 or National Lipstick Day on July 29. Usually when we learn about these random celebrations, we often roll our eyes or chuckle and move on, but we often can miss when a day or week of true importance is upon us.

This week, the United States is celebrating National CPR and AED Awareness Week. In 2007, understanding the importance of proper CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training and usage to save the lives of Americans, Congress unanimously passed a resolution making June 1-7 a yearly week of awareness.

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The American Red Cross offers many opportunities to gain training in these valuable lifesaving skills. Visit www.redcross.org/take-a-class to find in-person, online and simulated classes near you.

If you opt for in-person training, you will have the opportunity to practice your new skills on the BigRed™ LightSaving Manikin. The state of the art manikin will increase a student’s confidence that they can save a life in emergency situations, as it is equipped with three interrelated sets of lights that provide immediate feedback to students on how they are performing CPR. Only the proper technique will show the success of blood circulating from the heart to the brain which improves a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

CPR Classroom Stock Video and Photography Shoot 2018

Sharon Nicastro of Independence, Ohio is an individual who is familiar with Red Cross training and the importance of every person being prepared to help save a life.

Sharon has been a Red Cross CPR and first aid instructor in Northeast Ohio for 28 years. In fact, her role as a Red Cross instructor and seeing firsthand the impact it has on saving lives, led her to becoming an EMT.

For those who want to be CPR and AED trained but are on the fence because they are concerned it will have no impact on saving a life, Sharon has a few words of encouragement.

“It is important for people to learn CPR because bystanders can recognize that someone is suffering a cardiac emergency, call 9-1-1, perform CPR, and use an AED in the minutes before EMS arrives,” stated Sharon. “The care provided in those few minutes is just as critical as the care provided by EMS and hospital personnel. Those few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.”

Sharon

Sharon Nicastro

Jan and John Durkalski’s story highlights Sharon’s point.

Jan and John were on a run together when John suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed. Jan used her recent CPR training to help save her husband’s life.

Watch the below video to learn more about the Durkalski’s story and the importance of CPR/AED training:

You can download the free Red Cross First Aid App which puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies, including sudden cardiac arrest, at your fingertips. Download by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Join the Red Cross in celebrating National CPR and AED Awareness Week by signing up for a training class today!

Sound the Alarm was a ringing success

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

May 24, 2019- Sound the Alarm 2019 wrapped up in Northeast Ohio on May 12. With a total of 21 events over a two-week period, more than 1,500 homes were made safer by the installation of 3,743 smoke alarms.

After responding to dozens of fires as an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team member, it’s always sad to see a family lose all their possessions; but far more heart-wrenching is when a family member is hurt or a pet dies. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a minute or two that makes the difference in who survives and who doesn’t. Sound the Alarm’s purpose is to make sure the number of home fire fatalities is significantly reduced each year.

First-hand experience

David Leatherwood, who still carries the scars of being in a home fire when he was younger, was appreciative when approached by volunteers in Lorain during the Sound the Alarm event. “It makes me feel so much better knowing that my whole house is now protected by smoke alarms,” said David. Volunteers from Ford Motor Lorain plant installed new alarms, replacing his old ones that were already more than 10 years old.

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Volunteers Stephanie Pinskey (L) and Dionna Seplight (C) discuss the importance of replacing smoke alarms every 10 years with homeowner David Leatherwood (R).

Stephanie Pinskey, one of the Ford volunteers commented, “I can’t believe the power of the Red Cross brand. Not one of the people we met today ever hesitated about letting us come in to install alarms in their homes. With all the mistrust of strangers these days, this was heartwarming to know people really trust Red Cross and their volunteers.”

By the numbers

Begun in 2014, the Home Fire Campaign can already count 582 lives nationally that have been saved, thanks to smoke alarms installed by Red Cross volunteers. In that time:

  • More than 709,000 households have been made safer
  • More than 1,700,000 smoke alarms have been installed
  • 1,300,000 youth have been educated through the campaign

Not just a two-week event

Installing smoke alarms for those who need them is a year-round activity for Red Cross. In Northeast Ohio, anyone who needs alarms installed can visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO and be placed on a list for free installations. Cleveland, where the smoke alarm program began, has been making homeowners safer since 1992, when businessman Sam Miller partnered with Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department to lower the number of fire fatalities each year. This year marked the milestone of the 200,000th alarm to be installed in Cleveland.

In addition, fire prevention safety education has helped make sure that people know that they only have two minutes to safely leave their home in case of fire and that their children need to know what to do in case an alarm sounds. Families are encouraged to plan two escape routes from each room and to practice their escape drills twice a year.

Even though this year’s Sound the Alarm has wrapped up, Red Cross still accepts donations for additional alarms to be purchased and installed throughout the year. To donate, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

Catch the excitement of this year’s events by viewing photos on our Flickr page.

See photos from our Cleveland-West Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our Carrollton Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ashland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Mansfield Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Slavic Village Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Medina Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Norwalk Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/7 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/9 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Lorain Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.

Sound the Alarm campaign ends

But smoke alarm installations will continue all year long

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

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Volunteers and partners in Bedford Heights

May 13, 2019 –  As the national Sound the Alarm campaign came to a close this weekend, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio held the final three installation events in Bedford Heights, Warren and West Salem, Ohio on May 11. Volunteers and partners installed free smoke alarms and shared vital fire safety information with residents.

In Bedford Heights, the Red Cross and its volunteer partners installed 224 smoke alarms and made 91 homes safer.

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Sue Richter (right) speaks with Northeast Ohio CEO Mike Parks

Among those helping make homes and neighborhoods safer was Sue Richter, the Crossroads Division Vice President. One of the residence Sue visited was the home of Dorothea Drake.

As smoke alarms were being installed, Dorothea spoke with Sue, telling her how she was personally affected by a fire at six years of age.

“It was a small fire, a grease fire in the kitchen.  But I got left in the house alone,” Dorothea recalled. “The door was locked and I couldn’t get out.  Everyone else thought I was with them.”

Dorothea wasn’t hurt, but the memory has stayed with her. That’s why she said she was grateful to the Red Cross for installing smoke alarms and making her current home safer.

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From left: Virginia Hexter, Jim Cutler, Zachary Cutler, Melissa Cutler, Brady Cutler, John Hexter

Also helping with the Sound the Alarm effort, three generations of the Hexter family.  John Hexter, his daughter Melissa and her three children went door-to-door, installing smoke alarms and helping residents create escape plans. Melissa and her family live in the Washington, D.C. area. When she learned that Sound the Alarm would coincide with a planned visit to Northeast Ohio, she jumped at the chance to take part.

“My dad (John Hexter) has always been big into volunteering. It’s something he instilled in me, and I’m trying to pass the legacy onto my children.”

Sound the Alarm is a two-week national initiative. It’s part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries.

During the two-week campaign, across the region, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio installed 3,743 smoke alarms in more than 1,500 homes according to preliminary numbers, far exceeding the region’s goal.

Protecting homes from fires is not just a two-week commitment by the Red Cross. As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross installs free smoke alarms all year. To learn more about the program and to request a smoke alarm installation, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

To view photos from the Bedford Heights installation event, click here to view our Flickr album.

Still “Sounding the Alarm” to make communities safer and save lives

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

May 6, 2019- The Sound the Alarm campaign continued in Northeast Ohio during the2019 STA Mansfield week of April 29 to May 4, with installation events in North Ridgeville, Carrollton, Ashland, Ashtabula, Massillon, Slavic Village (Cleveland), Medina and Mansfield.

Sound the Alarm is a two-week national initiative.  It’s part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries.

Last week, the Red Cross installed 998 smoke alarms and made 456 homes safer. Since April 23, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio has installed 2,024 smoke alarms and made 884 homes safer.

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The goal in Northeast Ohio is to install 3,000 alarms by May 11. It is part of the national goal to install 100,000 smoke alarms.

The early success of Sound the Alarm is made possible thanks to volunteers and generous partners, such as Third Federal, who lend a helping hand with installing smoke alarms in Slavic Village.

“Third Federal is a family organization. It is always important to keep family safe.  It not only helps our Third Federal family, but also keeps our local community safe,” exclaimed Sharon Rose, human resources specialist.

Volunteers Dennis Castiglione of the Wenk Family Foundation, and Tanner Ferko and Sarah Haynes of ArcelorMittal helped install two alarms in the home of Laura Kosto.

“This is great. It’s really good for the community,” the Slavic Village resident said. “I don’t have a job any more and that’s a horrible feeling. To know that you can get help like this is really wonderful.”

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Sound the Alarm continues until May 11 for the final week of the national campaign. Volunteer opportunities still exist for the remaining installation events throughout Northeast Ohio. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to find an event near you.

See photos from our North Ridgeville Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Carrollton Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ashland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Mansfield Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Slavic Village Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Medina Sound the Alarm event here.

Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter recognizes volunteers

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

May 1, 2018- The hard work and dedication by volunteers is the engine that makes the American Red Cross run. Over 90 percent of the Red Cross’ workforce is actually made up 46772326605_af5e91764a_zof volunteers. During an emergency, may it be a natural disaster or a home fire, volunteers are ready at a moments notice to help comfort and help individuals during the worst moments of there lives without expecting anything in return. That is why it is important to recognize and thank these amazing volunteers.

“I am always amazed by the passion of our volunteers here in Northeast Ohio,” said Gail Wernick, regional volunteer services officer. “Without expecting any compensation in return, our volunteers go through various training and are always eager and happy to lend a hand to someone in need. It is truly inspiring.”

Throughout the year, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio holds volunteer recognition events throughout the region to say thank you and to honor everything they do each and every day. Recently, the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter held two recognition events for volunteers in the chapter’s north and south region.

Click here to view photos from the Lake Erie/Heartland North volunteer recognition event.

Lake Erie Heartland North Volunteer Recognition (13)Click here to view photos from the Lake Erie/Heartland South volunteer recognition event.

The Red Cross of Northeast Ohio once again thanks our volunteers from all 22 counties we serve. Without you, we would not be able to fulfill our mission and help ensure the safety and well being of the residents of Northeast Ohio.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to learn about opportunities in your area.

Fast start for Sound the Alarm

Corporate partners and volunteers help save lives at Sound the Alarm events

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

April 29, 2019- “This isn’t so much a corporate event—it’s really just people helping otherIMG_7080 people.” That’s how Kim Giberson, the quality assurance project manager for TravelCenters of America summed up his company’s participation in Sound the Alarm.

Kim was among more than a dozen TravelCenters of America employees who gathered on a bright, crisp Saturday morning to install free smoke alarms in homes in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side.

“When you hear about the need to protect people’s homes, you realize you need to do something,” he said.

Several other partners provided volunteers for home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events, not only in Cleveland, but also in Youngstown, Ravenna and Sandusky, where Rob Griggs and his sister Tricia Costanzo went door-to-door to help make homes safer and, ultimately, save lives.

“This cause is near and dear to our hearts,” Rob said. “We lost our parents and a brother in a home fire in January of 2018. Anything we can do to help someone else avoid the same fate, we’ll do.”

IMG_6362ASound the Alarm is a nationwide American Red Cross campaign meant to help save lives. Teams of volunteers are going door-to-door across the country through May 11, installing smoke alarms and providing home fire safety information. Several more installation events are planned throughout the Northeast Ohio region.

“We are off to a great start here in Northeast Ohio,” said Tim O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer. Through five events, we have tallied 922 alarms installed in 391 homes.”

The goal in Northeast Ohio is to install 3,000 alarms by May 11. It’s part of the national goal to install 100,000 smoke alarms.

The Burn Center at MetroHealth is honored to be part of the Red Cross Sound the Alarm event,” said Brandy Kulak, a nurse manager at the hospital’s Comprehensive Burn Care Center. “We know firsthand how important prevention is, and how seconds can make a tremendous difference when there is a fire.”

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Volunteer opportunities still exist for the remaining Sound the Alarm events throughout Northeast Ohio. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to find an event near you.

Kim Giberson plans to volunteer for another Sound the Alarm event next weekend in Medina. “It makes you feel good.”

See photos from our Cleveland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our North Ridgeville Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre, and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.