Red Cross responses to several disasters over weekend, including Elyria gas shutdown

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

Over the weekend, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to several disasters across the region.

47226259_10161035265440425_6709877211534458880_nThe Red Cross responded to seven incidents in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Mahoning, Stark and Trumbull Countries, assisting eight adults and 13 children and distributing more than $4,255 in immediate financial assistance to help the needs of residents in Northeast Ohio during their darkest hours.

One response that highlights the Red Cross’ commitment to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies occurred in Elyria.

Following a gas shutoff by Columbia Gas, the Red Cross immediately sprang into action to open a shelter in the city. Seven dedicated disaster services volunteers opened and 47208541_10161036668125425_251000959679856640_noperated the shelter for 24-hours a day over a three-day period, providing the residents of Elyria an opportunity to escape the cold, to enjoy snacks and beverages and to receive assistance and care.

This shelter not only showcases the Red Cross’ commitment to the city of Elyria and its residents, but that whenever there is a disaster or need in Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross will continue to answer the call to provide support and care wherever it is needed.

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 47026729_10161035265435425_1725402218091249664_nserve 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.

A gift that can make a difference

By Sue Wilson, Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter board of director. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer. 

The holiday season is a time for family and festivities. It is also a time for shopping. Yep . . . starting today with Black Friday, we will be overwhelmed with “deals” filling our inboxes, mailboxes, TV screens and news feeds. We will see and hear ads on every media source out there rivaled only by the political ads we just made it through.

183401-18-Holiday-Campaign-2018_Social-Media-Plan_Facebook-Post-Graphic_2_FINALFor many of us, it’s hard to think about a joyful holiday when so many people all over our great country are suffering unimaginable loss. News of more lives lost and the devastation and grief of the victims of the California wildfires greets us daily. And much of our nation is still dealing with the aftermath of this past year’s hurricanes and other localized tragedies like home fires. If the idea of buying a bunch of stuff, most of it not really needed, is hitting you this year, there’s something you can do.

Give something that means something. Give to the American Red Cross.

Donate in the name of a loved one. Wrap the receipt in an envelope and place it in a stocking. Make this type of gift giving a topic of conversation at the dinner table. Ask yourself this question: Can you remember the gifts you received last Christmas? Can you remember the gifts you bought others? Probably not. But one thing you may be able to remember, is that you spent a lot of money.

Wouldn’t it be great if you gave a gift this year that was not only memorable . . . but made a real difference?

A few facts:

  • After a disaster, the Red Cross works with community partners to provide hot meals, snacks and water served in shelters or from Red Cross emergency response vehicles in affected neighborhoods.
  • Trained Red Cross volunteers and employees are ready to deploy within hours of a disaster to help. No one else does this—not the government, not other charities.
  • From small house fires to multistate natural disasters like the wildfires in California, the American Red Cross goes wherever needed so people can have clean water, safe shelter and hot meals when they need them most.

This year, you can give a unique and meaningful gift that can make a difference to help the people met by the Red Cross every 8 minutes who have been devastated by a disaster. 183401-18-Holiday-Campaign-2018_Social-Media-Plan_Facebook-Post-Graphic_3_FINAL

If you want to donate financial assistance for a specific disaster this past year, you can learn more by when you visit Hurricane Florence Financial Assistance Program and Hurricane Michael Financial Assistance Program. To learn about Red Cross assistance to support long-term recovery efforts, please visit Hurricane Harvey Recovery Program, Hurricane Irma Recovery Program, or California Wildfires Recovery Program.

Know that any donation made will be used it where it is needed most.

Your gift this holiday season can bring hope to those in need. This year, give something that means something. Give a gift that can make a difference.

Visit redcross.org/gifts.

10 cooking safety tips to keep you safe this Thanksgiving

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Families across Northeast Ohio are preparing to see family and friends and celebrate the start of the holiday season around the dinner table. We’re  dreaming of turkey, pumpkin holiday-cooking-tips-twpie and football. While this time of year is exciting, our homes do not always look like a Norman Rockwell painting. It tends to be chaotic. There are kids and pets running around, aunts and uncles from across the country trying to get your attention and people enticed by the aromas trying to steal a taste of turkey. All this chaos can be overwhelming and distracting, which is why each year Thanksgiving is one of the leading days for home cooking fires.

Here are from 10 tips from the American Red Cross to help you protect yourself and your family from home fires:

  1. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year if your smoke alarm requires it.
  2. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  3. While cooking, don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle.
  4. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended—stay in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires.
  5. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  6. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  7. Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  8. Keep anything that can catch fire—pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  9. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  10. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off. thanksgiving-768x542

Bonus Tip:

Download the American Red Cross First Aid App. The app provides users with quick, expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency.

As you continue to prepare for an enjoyable and festive holiday, here is a video on holiday cooking safety tips you can watch with your family and friends so that everyone, especially little ones, remains safe:

 

From everyone at the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, we wish you and yours a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

Red Cross volunteer who provided service in Vietnam War among those to be honored this weekend in nation’s capital

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Summit, Portage, Medina Chapter board of directors member. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Jackie Otte is the Regional Volunteer Lead for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services team and has been a Red Cross volunteer for the last 26 years. That in itself is significant; but it is just one aspect of her commitment to the organization.

1883jo Jackie Christmas Card 1968 copyIn the late 1960s, Jackie served with the Red Cross in Vietnam. She explained, “There were two national Red Cross programs serving the military during the Vietnam War: SMI, Service to Military Installations, and SMH, Service to Military Hospitals.”  Jackie served in both areas doing casework and recreational therapy.

“When I received orders for Vietnam in the spring of 1968, the patients I worked with told me not to go— that I would forever be affected. However, I was an idealist and did not turn down orders.”  She was assigned to the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai, about 50 miles south of DaNang.

This weekend, her contribution for those years and many more will be recognized at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a Legacy Award. This award recognizes Red Cross staff and volunteers, like Jackie, who have served side-by-side with members of the United States armed forces in combat zones.

After her service in Vietnam, Jackie was stationed in Germany. “I am the daughter of a veteran and my service in military hospitals has given me a life-long desire to give back to our military personnel and veterans. I am still working part-time as a social worker in a hospice program,” she said. Jackie is very involved with We Honor Veterans, the national hospice organization that recognizes vets at end-of–life and trains staff on end-of-life issues faced by combat vets.

Jackie, who is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes from a Red Cross family. Her father, a World War II vet, served the Red Cross as a board member at both the local and national levels until his death. Jackie learned while planning his funeral that her dad used to read her letters from Vietnam at Red Cross board meetings. While in Washington this weekend for Veterans Day-related events, she’ll stay with her nephew, who is a former Red Cross employee, and his wife, a current Red Cross employee. Red Cross roots spread wide in her family.JackieOtte2

Jackie also plans to visit the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial on its 25th anniversary. “I was the Ohio volunteer coordinator for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial,” explained Jackie. “I made a lot of appearances to educate others about the memorial and raise funds to build it.”

Jackie said she is looking forward to seeing old friends, both from the Red Cross and military. “It has been 50 years since we were there and we aren’t getting any younger. Many may not be with us in the near future.”

The Red Cross legacy of service to members of the military began when founder Clara Barton provided comfort on the battlefields during the Civil War. Since then, American Red Cross staff and volunteers have served in every major military combat or conflict operation around the world. They are among a select group who have proudly worn the Red Cross emblem to provide care and comfort to members of the United States armed forces, their families and our veterans. And Jackie is a member of that select group who will be honored this weekend.

In Jackie’s words, “These ceremonies are always moving for all involved. It will be an honor to take part in a ceremony like this for recognition for combat Red Cross staff.”

Congratulations, Jackie, and thank you for your years of dedication and service to the Red Cross, our military and our veterans.

You are a true hero.

Keep Calm, It’s Stress Awareness Day

By Brad Galvan; edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteers

Does even the thought of Stress Awareness Day stress you out? Stress, anxiety, pressure and strain are all synonyms for that uncomfortable burden on one’s mental health. Each of us have experienced stress in varying degrees often caused by workloads, relationships or other factors. Effective, healthy stress management can literally be a Hurricane Matthew 2016lifesaver. That’s the focus of Stress Awareness Day, which is recognized on November 7.

A healthy amount of stress can be viewed as a motivator, a reason to strive for improvement and it can feel good when one can overcome challenges. But when it’s overwhelming, causing illness, hurting relationships and overall well-being, it’s important to evaluate environmental stressors. Stepping back, evaluating the cause of stress and using a mitigation technique can be very effective.

Many people suffer from stresses related to not feeling as if there are enough hours in the day or stress related to not being prepared for the known, and unknown. There’s no need to re-create the wheel; checklists, planning documents and organizers are readily available. Consider reviewing The Be Ready Red Cross checklist. Other folks find comfort in turning the attention away from themselves and focus on others as a strategy to reduce stress. A great way to do that is to donate blood. Finding a nearby drive whereBlood bank Campaign ceremony 2017 you can relax for a few minutes and know that you are helping someone else could be a wonderful way to reduce tension.

If personal evaluation of anxiety and management of stresses do not seem to help, consulting a mental health professional is always the best bet. Mental health is just as important as physical health—it’s critical to care for your own well-being on November 7 and throughout the entire year.

Don’t be a statistic: It’s National Fire Prevention Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

A home can be rebuilt. Human lives, pets and mementos can’t.

For those with insurance, a home fire a major disruption. For those without insurance, it’s devastating. The good news is that most home fires are preventable.

As a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, I’ve seen numerous fires that didn’t have to happen:

  • A kitchen fire was caused by unattended grease left in a pan on the burner; another was caused by loose papers left too close to the gas burner; and a third by a plastic highchair overhanging an electrical element.
  • Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wiring contributed to the loss of a beautiful century home.
  • An unattended burning candle and a young child playing alone in the home displaced two families.

I could go on, but the good news is that no lives were lost. However, with a modicum of prevention, they could have all been avoided.

Here are 10 simple tips to share with members of your family during National Fire Prevention Week:

  1. Make sure to have working smoke alarms and replace the entire unit if it’s more than 10 years old. Even with a good battery, the sensor in an old alarm wears out in 10 years.
  2. Create an escape plan and make sure every child and adult knows that they must be outside within two minutes of hearing the alarm. Practice the plan with your children so they know the official meeting place outside.
  3. Never smoke in bed or when extremely tired or intoxicated.
  4. Keep matches and lighters away from children.
  5. Keep lit candles away from flammables, children and pets.
  6. Take care that nothing can blow over or into your kitchen gas burners.
  7. Keep frying pan handles turned away from the front edge of the stove so they aren’t tipped by children or pets.
  8. Electric space heaters can easily start fires if clothes or newspapers are tossed on top of them.
  9. Keep a working fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it.
  10. Keep gas cans outside if possible; but, never in a basement or near a furnace or water heater.

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, recognized the huge loss caused by fires, both to property and human life. To address the problem, he proclaimed the first Fire Prevention Week in 1926, with the hope it would become an annual event.

He wrote:

“While efforts should be made constantly to reduce fire destruction to a minimum, in pursuance of a well-established precedent, one week is set aside each year during which the urgent need of preventing fires is forcibly stressed.

“If every individual will adopt and practice the simple precautionary measures advocated as fire prevention safeguards, fire hazards and their consequences will be materially reduced.”

Make Calvin proud, and use caution to avoid unnecessary fires.

For more resources, visit the American Red Cross Home Fire Safety page for videos, tips and mobile apps to help you safeguard your family.

On October 6, volunteers from the Red Cross, Parma CERT, Hope World Wide Ministries and the Parma Fire Department held a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event. The volunteers installed 171 smoke alarms making 61 home safer.

To view photos from the Parma Sound the Alarm event, visit our Flickr page. Furthermore, to learn more about home fire safety and to request a smoke alarm, visit the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Home Fire Campaign page.

44422565744_da06a1da48_z

44232526955_9b50d6928c_z

Hurricane Maria One Year Later: Worker Looks Back and Recalls People’s Resilience

Editors Note: Jorge Martinez, Regional COO of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, deployed to Puerto Rico in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

By Jorge Martinez, COO, Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region

jorgePR

Jorge Martinez carries a case of water to residents stranded by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

 

So how is Puerto Rico doing one year after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria?  The short answer is, “Well, I really don’t know.  But I think do!”

When I came back last October, having spent a few weeks on the ground in Puerto Rico, I shared a story about a wonderful lady who had welcomed her neighbor into her humble home and simply wanted some tarps to protect her elderly neighbor’s belongings, since the house had no roof.  In that story I also mentioned my friend Brad and the many other Red Cross volunteers like him who were serving with so much compassion and love… always putting the needs of others before self.  (Click here for a link to that story.)  This helps answer the question, “How is Puerto Rico doing?” The story that follows also helps answer that question.

On October 8th last year, I was in a hot, destroyed place called Ensenada, Puerto Rico.  Ensenada is on the southern coast of the southwest corner of the island… and like every other place on the island, it had been devastated.  There were a lot of people with a lot of need in the area who hadn’t been helped yet, so we brought two crews and two large trucks full of supplies.  We set up shop in a large government convention center and delivered supplies to hundreds of families.  And of course, the temperature felt like a thousand degrees!

I was carrying some supplies for a sweet old lady to her car so that she could sustain herself, for a few days anyway.  She reminded me a lot of my own grandmother, who had passed away many years before.  We were chatting on the walk to her car; it’s amazing how you can connect with people when you strip away all the artificial barriers we create.  It’s beautiful!  As we were approaching her car she said, “You know, mijo (ME-HO – Spanish for “my son”), God tests us.  But any time he does, he sends an angel and today you’re my angel.”

Fortunately, I was wearing sunglasses.

When I landed in Puerto Rico on September 28, 2017 we were on one of the first flights following the hurricane.  At that point, planes could only land during the day because there were no navigational instruments since there was no power.  As you could imagine, the dark, steamy airport was full of people who were trying to get out.  As we came through the jetway, the crowd started clapping and thanking us.  It was a humbling moment but it speaks to the power of our brand… what we stand for… what we represent.  And at that particular point it was hope!  And that matters.  In times of need, hope matters.

I read the news and see the advances that are happening in Puerto Rico.  I also note the setbacks.  The truth is, at least how I see it, Puerto Rico will not be back to “normal” for many years.  But that’s OK.  Puerto Ricans are resilient, warm, caring and extremely communal.  And so is the Red Cross.  I haven’t been back, but I know that our long-term recovery teams, comprised primarily of volunteers, are on the ground humbly carrying out the king’s work and will be there for quite some time.  That’s hopeful; that’s comforting.

So, how’s Puerto Rico doing?  Well, probably not so good.  But they’re doing great!