Dedication for a Donut Dollie

Stretch of Ohio Highway Named for Vietnam-era Volunteer

Ginny Kirsch

The Virginia E. “Ginny” Kirsch Memorial Highway is being dedicated on Sunday July 30, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. in Brookfield, Ohio.  Ginny was in Vietnam, serving as an American Red Cross “Donut Dollie” when she was murdered in her quarters at the 25th U.S. Infantry Division base camp in Cu Chi, Vietnam on August 16, 1970.

“Donut Dollies” were young women with college degrees who volunteered to serve their country by going to Vietnam to operate Red Cross Recreation Centers, and to help boost morale by staging audience-participation games for U. S. troops.  The military asked the Red Cross to provide this service.  Volunteers like Ginny wanted to do something important, to make a difference in the world.

State Senator Sean O’Brien recently introduced an amendment to rename State Route 7 in Trumbull County between State Route 82 and State Route 62 the “Virginia E. ‘Ginny’ Kirsch Memorial Highway.”

“The sacrifices made by Americans during wartime come in all shapes and sizes,” O’Brien said.  “Looking at her sacrifice, we knew something had to be done for her.”

Governor John Kasich signed the bill on March 31, 2017.

Ginny’s six siblings plan to attend the dedication ceremony at the Brookfield Village Green.  Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the Red Cross Lake to River Chapter has been invited to speak.  Several other Red Cross representatives plan to attend, and volunteers will hand out water from a Red Cross emergency response vehicle.

Red Cross workers continue to provide critical services with a caring touch to men and women in all branches of the United States military, active duty personnel, reservists and members of the National Guard, and their families, both here and abroad.  Learn more about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces here.

 

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.

 

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.

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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.

 

Memorial Day Remarks from CEO Mike Parks

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Mike Parks, Regional Chief Executive Officer and U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retired) delivered the keynote address at the Memorial Day commemoration for the city of Pepper Pike.  In his remarks, Mike noted how Memorial Day and the Red Cross both have their roots in the Civil War, and that the Red Cross continues to provide Service to the Armed Forces. He also wrote the following message to Red Cross workers in the Northeast Ohio Region:

Members of the NEO Red Cross Family:    Memorial Day is such a special day when we pay homage to those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might be able to enjoy the freedoms we do each and every day.    As many of you know, both Memorial Day and the Red Cross have their origins in the Civil War.  The first Memorial Day—then known as Decoration Day—was in 1866 when Civil War soldiers’ graves were adorned with flowers.  And of course, Clara Barton’s service providing aid and comfort to soldiers as a nurse during the Civil War inspired her to begin the American Red Cross. 

 Thank you all for all you do each and every day to help pay it forward and never taking our freedom for granted.  Just a reminder, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000 to “encourage people of the US to give something back to their country which provides them with so much freedom and opportunity.”  

I encourage all of us to join together on this Memorial Day at 3:00 p.m., wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing, to contemplate the cost of our freedoms…the freedom to speak our mind…to live where we’d like…to practice whatever religion we choose…to vote…to travel anywhere in this great…the freedom to be anything we choose to be…the freedom to dream…because we are all Americans and we can come together, to honor those who have given their all—so that we may be free! 

I’ll leave you with the inspiring words of singer Lee Greenwood…you know the tune:  “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.  And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me!” 

Have a great day & God Bless the USA!  Best regards…Mike

Service to Armed Forces Among Many Roles of Volunteer

By Sharon Nicastro, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

Sharon Nicastro

My first exposure to the Red Cross was in the 1960s when I took a first aid course in middle school.  I maintained my connection to the Red Cross through the 70s and 80s by taking additional training.  By 1990 I had become a member of the first aid team and blood drive recruiter at my workplace and a Red Cross volunteer instructor. I graduated from the Cleveland Red Cross EMT-Basic program in 1999.  The next year I joined Disaster Services as a member of the Disaster Action Team and Disaster Health Services.  I have since added Government Liaison, Disaster Assessment, and Training to my disaster activities.  Last year I became an instructor for Volunteer Services and a volunteer partner of the Regional Director for Service to the Armed Forces (SAF).  For SAF,  I participate in outreach events to acquaint service members, veterans, and their families with Red Cross services and coordinate Red Cross volunteers who serve at Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

SAF is especially important to me because of my family’s military service.  My five great-uncles served in World War II.  My father was one of the pioneers of the U.S. Army Air Forces where he was a navigator on a B-17.  One of my uncles served during the Korean War with the U.S. Air Force; another uncle was in the U.S. Army; my brother-in-law was in Thailand during the Vietnam War; and my nephew did a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia with the U.S. Air Force.  Especially because of my father’s stories and patriotism I have some understanding of the courage and sacrifice that is required of service members and their families.

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Sharon Nicastro, assisting in a smoke alarm installation event in Maple Heights on 4/22/17

The American Red Cross has a long, distinguished history of service to military members and their families.  At outreach events I meet people who were helped by the Red Cross and are grateful to this day.  At the American Red Cross I can do my part by ensuring that services – sometimes life-altering services – are available to the men, women, and families of our military.

Sharon Nicastro lives in Independence, and serves residents of the Greater Cleveland Chapter. She has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1990.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Good Food, Good Drink, Good Cause

Fundraisers like this don’t come around very often.

Enjoy acclaimed Bodegas Salentein wines and an exceptional menu of appetizers crafted by Texas de Brazil this Wednesday, April 26.  Tickets cost just $35, and $30 from each ticket will benefit American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

Tickets are available here.  

CEO’s Veterans Day Message

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Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Veterans Day Program 2015

By Mike Parks, CEO, American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region, Rear Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Family Members:   Yes…it’s Veterans Day and we have Red Cross members representing us in parades and festivities around the country in honor of those who have served our grateful nation.  For those of you who are veterans—thank you for your faithful service.  For those of you who have family members who are or were veterans, thank you for supporting them.  As every person who has worn the uniform of this country will attest—support from family and friends was crucial to their success.    And thank you to all the Red Crossers who support our Servicemen and Servicewomen every day of the year.

Here is a blog post that I thought you might find interesting from the Senior Vice President for the American Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), Koby Langley, it really gets to the heart of why we do what we do.

As we pause from our Red Cross duties to reflect on Veterans Day, I thought it fitting to share some historical thoughts with you about one of the American Red Cross’ most distinguished leaders who was also arguably one of the greatest military leaders in our nation’s history, General George C. Marshall:

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2nd Annual City of Cleveland Veterans Day Parade

“By the summer of 1949, President Truman was mulling over means of bringing Marshall back into public service as head of the American Red Cross. There were signs that Basil O’Connor, head of the American Red Cross since 1944, might soon retire. Why not, thought the President, give Marshall that job? It would associate him again with public affairs in a way that carried fewer burdens than had his previous appointments.

Basil O’Connor had been named by President Roosevelt to succeed Norman Davis as Chairman of the Red Cross when Davis died in 1944. O’Connor was very hardworking but had managed to offend and alienate some of the older Red Cross leaders. Many of the disagreements had been smothered during the war, when the Red Cross had given outstanding service to servicemen, refugees, prisoners of war, and others desolated throughout the world.

Part of the trouble came from the apparent domination of the organization in the late thirties by wealthy and socially prominent Eastern-establishment figures on the Red Cross board of governors. Active heads of chapters in other cities and regions complained that they had no voice in operations. Volunteer workers, a highly important part of the Red Cross’s activities, charged that they were not used or involved in decisions. These charges and complaints boiled down to the bitter feeling that a very few people ran the organization.

In 1946, the Red Cross made a decision to create a special committee headed by E. Roland Harriman, Averell Harriman’s brother, a partner in Brown Brothers, Harriman, and manager of the North Atlantic region of the Red Cross during the war. He and his committee members undertook to meet some of the chief complaints of others in the organization, and their proposed changes were approved by Congress and President Truman in the spring of 1947. The President of the United States was to appoint the President, and the board of governors was enlarged and rearranged to give far more representation to the chapters. Chairman O’Connor now became President.

Despite O’Connor’s efforts to stop controversy, sharp criticism persisted. By 1948, it was evident that the organization needed a leader of great stature who had not been associated with the infighting, and who could respond to the claims of all factions without prejudice. O’Connor made it plain that he was ready to step down.

Truman naturally thought of Marshall. His appeals for the European Recovery Program were of the exact kind needed by the American Red Cross. During the war he had sought public support for Red Cross drives, and his war’s-end reports praised the organization’s service to the men of the armed forces and their families. His 1948 speeches for ERP showed his effectiveness in convincing the same types of people that the Red Cross needed. Few were aware of another factor that made him so desirable as O’Connor’s successor. As Pershing’s aide in France after World War I and later in the United States, he came into contact with many Eastern- establishment figures, whose influence was still needed by the Red Cross. He was perhaps the one person who could bridge the gap between the factions…”27280817982_d96f924a01_z

“Marshall set out to eliminate friction, to fire the workers with enthusiasm, to smooth out dissension. In the early months of the year he spent as head of the Red Cross, he was on the road constantly. In the last months, the coming- of the Korean War gave added emphasis to the Blood Bank program, and to morale-building services concerned with the troops and their families, thus gaining added support for overall programs.

The number of personal trips he made surprised even him. Near the end of 1949, he wrote Queen Frederika of Greece, who had asked about his new job, that although he was at Pinehurst for the winter, he would be traveling constantly on Red Cross business from January 15 until March 7, some 20,000 miles. Since taking over in October, he had covered 9,000 miles. In fact, he said, he would be increasingly busy until he took a few days off for rest in August.”    From George C. Marshall: Statesman 1945-1959 by Forrest C. Pogue