Messy, Stressful, Heartwarming; Volunteers Describe Work in Texas

Disaster Workers Return After Two-Week Deployment 

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Northeast Ohio Red Cross volunteers Furman Alden and Sue Wisdom

Furman Alden and Sue Wisdom are back home, after spending two weeks on deployment following Hurricane Harvey.  The Northeast Ohio volunteers spent long hours driving an Emergency Response Vehicle through streets in and around Houston, making sure residents had access to warm meals, water and snacks.

“No one sees skin color, religion or politics,” said Sue, a Lake County resident and a veteran of disaster relief operations.  “From the youngest to the oldest, the way people came together to help each other, it’s heartwarming.”

Sue said several little boys volunteered to help distribute meals, going door-to-door after receiving their own meals and learning about the work of the Red Cross.  “They were amazing,” she said.  “I gave them cookies, and one of them said ‘You are so nice.’  That made may day!”

Furman Alden, also a veteran of disaster work, said he has never seen so much debris piled so high in front of so many houses. The Youngstown resident said, “The whole way down the street, they emptied their houses completely.   Furniture, dry wall, everything. It was messy.”

He says they were the first relief workers to reach a neighborhood that had been cut off by flooded roadways.  “We were the first ones to get in there.  They were so happy to see us.”

It was a struggle getting anywhere.  Furman says driving was stressful, due to bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic.  But the ERV he and Sue drove was a lifeline for so many Texans who lost so much in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Nearly 6,000 Red Cross disaster workers are in Texas, Florida, and other areas hit hard by Harvey and Hurricane Irma, providing the same life-sustaining services that Sue and Furman delivered.  More volunteers are needed to continue the mission, and expedited training sessions are scheduled throughout the northeast Ohio Region.  Visit our website at redcross.org/neo, and click the VOLUNTEER tab to begin an application.

A message from the Volunteer Services Department:

All volunteers must complete a free online volunteer application, which includes acknowledgement of policy statements and a criminal background check

Volunteers will need to successfully complete disaster training before being eligible for potential deployment, this can include a combination of in-person and/or online training

Depending on adjustment of the real-time needs of the disaster locations and your specific abilities- you may not deploy immediately or at all. 

Call 216-431-3328 for more information.

This video was created on the day Sue Wisdom and Furman Alden left Northeast Ohio in response to the residents of Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

On Being a Phone Bank Volunteer for Hurricane Harvey Relief

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer 

Your alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and its pitch-dark outside. You shower, shave, fill your travel mug with coffee and head for the garage. Traffic is amazingly light at 6:00 a.m., which is one of the benefits of starting so early, you tell yourself.

You and seven of your fellow Red Crossers are heading to the Cleveland ABC affiliate – WEWS Channel 5 TV, for the start of an all-day Hurricane Harvey fund raiser.  Only the all-night anchors are here, so there’s plenty of parking spaces to choose from.

graphiconscreenThe studio is all set for us.  Tables are arranged, phones are ready and a large flat screen announces the Red Cross website URL, phone number and text information for a quick pledge.

One-by-one, Red Cross volunteers, employees and even a board member file in and take their place at the tables.  Four shifts are planned, so plenty of people can take part in this 6:00 a.m until 11:00 p.m. phone bank effort.Thursday phonebank

In fact, this is our second phone bank. Three days prior, another group of volunteers manned the phones from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. and were inundated with calls. “It was non-stop calling,” one volunteer said. “As soon as you hung up the call, there was another one ringing on the same line.”

 

Tuesday phone bank

The cameraman comes in and suggests a slight modification to our seating arrangement.  We’ve begun the countdown to going ‘On Air.’

“We’re live in ten seconds,” says the cameraman, and we are off, fielding phone calls from across Northeastern Ohio.

By this time, there’s probably no one in America that hasn’t heard about the devastation being wrought upon Texas and Louisiana.  News anchors compare the total rainfall to the amount of water in Lake Michigan, and another asks you to visualize the amount of water flowing over the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls. Now consider that flow for nine months straight, and you’ve got an idea how much water fell in just a few days in Texas.

“Oh my,” says the first caller. “Thank you for doing this for those poor people.  I only wish I could give more.  They must need so much help.”

Another caller is so distraught that she asks for a few seconds to collect herself, before completing her credit card information.  Actually, many of the callers were quite emotional, knowing the stress and anguish being felt by the thousands of victims.

“I don’t know what those people would do if it weren’t for the Red Cross and the other agencies down there,” says another.  This was a recurrent theme all morning.

By the end of the first shift, you start to compare numbers of callers and amounts raised. Amounts donated ranged from $10 to $1,000 this morning.  Even larger amounts were reported from that first phone bank and possibly will be duplicated later in the day. Northeast Ohio has always been famous for its immense generosity whenever a need like this occurs, and it’s a great privilege to help out those so desperately in need.

You turn over your phone to the next volunteer, already missing the opportunity to talk with more like-minded Ohioans, bound to make a difference for the victims in Texas and Louisiana.

Won’t you join us? The American Red Cross is always looking for more volunteers. Sign up today to donate or to volunteer at http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer. 

 

 

 

Partnership with VA, Vets Groups Makes 100+ Homes Safer

The heat couldn’t keep the Red Cross and some of its partners from installing smoke alarms throughout Northeast Ohio on Saturday, June 17, 2017.

The high temperature topped out at 93 degrees, as volunteers from the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System and members of several veterans groups helped install nearly 300 smoke alarms in homes in four separate cities simultaneously.  The Operation Save-A-Life event was scheduled to occur during the same week as Flag Day, an observance that is held with reverence among many members of the military and veterans.

“Our Northeast Ohio VA employees are dedicated to serving those who serve day in and day out.  Their dedication carries over to their time away from work as we join forces with the Red Cross to make our Veterans homes and those of their neighbors safer,” said Susan M. Fuehrer, Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System Director.

Homeowners in Akron, Canton, Mansfield and Parma received home fire safety information as well as smoke alarms, installed at no cost to them.

“It was an extremely hot day, but through your hard work and commitment to your communities, we were able to make 103 homes in Northeast Ohio safer by installing 297 smoke alarms,” wrote Jessica Tischler, Director of Service to the Armed Forces for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, in a message to the volunteers.

“I can’t get over it, this is such a nice thing you all are doing,” said Sara Janasik of Parma, as smoke alarms were being installed in her Monmouth Road home.

The Flag Day event preceded another big push to prevent home fire deaths this fall. Sound the Alarm, a home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event will take place across the country, including Northeast Ohio during the weekends of September 23, September 30, October 7 and October 14, 2017.  If you’d like to help us make homes safer, become a Red Cross volunteer.  Call 216-431-3328 for more information about Sound the Alarm and all of the volunteer opportunities the Red Cross offers.

You can also help people affected by disasters like home fires by making a donation to support Red Cross disaster relief online.  Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.  Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the words RED CROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

 

Partners Help Make Parma Homes Safer

Young Professionals Help Protect People in Parma from Home Fires

A new partnership proved to be fruitful for residents in a neighborhood of Parma on Saturday, May 6.  Members of the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club joined forces with the Red Cross and members of the Parma Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to install more than two-dozen smoke alarms in homes where needed. The volunteers also performed home fire safety inspections and offered valuable fire prevention and safety education.

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The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club is the longest-running young professional association in Northeast Ohio. The mission and vision is to enrich the lives of young professionals, to foster the future leaders of Cleveland. The group is independent, open and inclusive, and membership represents a wide range of cultures, backgrounds and professions, and touching the lives of more than 1,000 young professionals through its programs on an annual basis.

“Our volunteers from The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club enjoyed working together with the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland and Parma Cert to help install free smoke alarms in people’s homes,” said Melanie Raese, Philanthropy Director of the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club.  “It was a fun, team building experience and we learned about fire safety.  We are grateful to serve our communities and to work alongside those dedicated to building safer neighborhoods.”

Since 2014, Red Cross volunteers, along with fire departments and other partners, have visited homes installing free smoke alarms, replacing batteries in existing alarms and providing fire prevention and safety education to prevent needless tragedies. More than 26,000 smoke alarms have been installed in homes in Northeast Ohio in the past two years. This fall, the Red Cross will celebrate the program with Sound the Alarm, a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events nationwide. Volunteers will install 100,000 free smoke alarms in high risk neighborhoods in Akron, Cleveland, and more than 100 other cities across the country, culminating in the installation of the one millionth smoke alarm!

If you would like to help us Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives, visit us at redcross.org/neo and click on the Volunteer tab.  More information about Sound the Alarm is located here.

See more photos, taken by Red Cross volunteer George Scherma, on Flickr.

Thank You, Volunteers!

During National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) we will feature the Red Cross stories of some of our 1,750 cherished Regional volunteers who help fulfill the Red Cross mission: to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. The generous donation of time, skill, and caring of ALL of our volunteers make us truly grateful.

Beginning Monday, you will read about a different volunteer each day.  We hope their stories inspire others to devote their time and expertise to help others in need.

Regional CEO Mike Parks offers his own words of appreciation to the volunteers of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region:

Dear Valued Volunteer,

As this year’s National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) begins, again I offer a sincere “thank you” for the tremendous support that you are to the American Red Cross and for all that you accomplish for our organization each and every day.  I continue to be invigorated everyday by the passion and energy that you bring to everything you do and to everyone that you work with at the Red Cross.  I am amazed by the incredible skill, knowledge and dedication that you, our volunteers, share with us as our trusted and valued colleagues.  As volunteers, you not only support and enhance the work we do, but also guide it.   We count on you and you are always there.  Again, thank you for all that you do as we carry out our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.  Happy Volunteer Week!

With grateful appreciation,

Mike Parks

RADM, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

Chief Executive Officer

Northeast Ohio Region

American Red Cross

 

While You Were Celebrating…

By: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

Hope you had a great New Year’s Eve and enjoyed your three or four-day weekend. It’s always great to have some time off – unless that’s when disaster strikes.

Over this past holiday weekend, disaster did strike – over a dozen times throughout the 22-county area served by the Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross. Red Cross workers, mostly unpaid volunteers, responded to a vast variety of emergencies; providing physical, emotional and financial support to those affected.

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Keith Dulin receives help from Red Cross volunteers Bill Geschke and Felicia Lee after a fire damaged his apartment in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “I am trying to give back to people who are less fortunate,” Geschke said. “I volunteer for other organizations, but the work I do for the Red Cross gives me the most satisfaction.” Photo by Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

After a plane went missing in Lake Erie off Burke Lakefront Airport, a Family Assistance Center team and Disaster Mental Health were deployed to the scene to help. The Family Assistance Center was set up January 1st and continues to aid families of the passengers. Meals, beverages and snacks have been served to 12 to 30 people daily.

During the weekend leading up to and including New Year’s Day, six home fires and one carbon monoxide poisoning incident found Disaster Assistance Teams being dispatched to Richland, Mahoning, Cuyahoga, Huron, Lorain and Summit counties. Providing lodging, clothing and financial support, the teams helped more than two dozen adults and children with their immediate needs.

A power outage on New Year’s Day in Harrison county wasn’t how 120 people envisioned starting the new year. Luckily, the Red Cross was there at the Scio Fire Department’s Community Room, providing meals and snacks for those without power.

The day after New Year’s Day, four more fires broke out in Cuyahoga, Mahoning and Lorain counties; many of them affecting multiple families. Once again, Disaster Assistance Teams were there to provide aid and lodging reimbursement for the more than two dozen people affected.

While the fires, poisoning and air fatality were totally unexpected; those are the very reasons the Red Cross is always prepared to be of assistance, and why volunteers play such a crucial role helping residents in Northeastern Ohio communities.

If you have an interest in volunteering, log onto redcross.org/neo

Louisiana Floods 2016

August 18, 2016. Denham Springs, Louisiana. Tears fill Fonda’s eyes as she ran, arms opens, from her flooded Louisiana home. Her first request? “I want a hug,” says Fonda Buckley as she embraces Red Cross volunteer Cora Lee. Photo by: Marko Kokic/American Red Cross

and click on the volunteer tab, or call 216-431-3328.

Thankful for YOU, NEO

Thank you for all the support you give to the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio!

Without you, none of this would be possible. So, today, we are thankful for you.

To learn more about our services in NEO, visit http://www.redcross.org/neo.