Neighborhood Now Safer in Slavic Village

Firefighters, Volunteers Help Red Cross Install Smoke Alarms

More than 100 homes in the Cleveland neighborhood known as Slavic Village are now safer, following a home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event last Saturday, October 14.

37740737531_3109609b4a_oCleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli wrote the following message in an email the day after the event:

“Here is some info on the recent American Red Cross, Sound the Alarm and Save A Life event in Slavic Village on Saturday.  Volunteers from the Red Cross including many from “Hope Worldwide” and including our local Cleveland Fire Department walked throughout our neighborhood knocking on doors and installing free smoke detectors as part of a Country Wide national installation event.  

We want to thank Regional Disaster Officer Timothy O’Toole from the American Red Cross for coming into our community as part of the National “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” program and installing hundreds of smoke detectors free for our families.  Special thanks to all the volunteers from “Hope Worldwide” and our local firemen for making this event such a huge success.  Timothy O’Toole (former Cleveland Fire Chief) asks for those not home that they can still call 216-361-5535 for a smoke detector.”

We thank Councilman Brancatelli for his support of Red Cross efforts to make neighborhoods safer, and we thank the Cleveland Fire Department for their ongoing partnership, which began in 1992 as Operation Save-A-Life.

Group Shot II

See more photos here, in our album on Flickr. 

Media Partners raise money to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey

Communities in Northeast Ohio are filled with the most generous people in the country. And if you didn’t believe it before this week, you now have your proof.

Three local news stations are devoting airtime today to sharing the mission of the Red Cross in Texas and Louisiana, and driving financial donations that will help people affected by Hurricane Harvey.


A digital first for Northeast Ohio, the Hurricane Harvey Digi-thon is being carried on WKYC’s digital and social outlets including their website, Facebook page ( and mobile apps.


WKBN will host a telethon from 5 to 8 p.m. Covelli Enterprises has generously agreed to donate $10,000, and they hope the community will step up to match at least that amount. To donate, call 866-782-4581. Calls will not be answered until 5 p.m.


Taking Action for Texas: WEWS News 5 hosts phone bank to help hurricane victims. Phones will be open all day Thursday, through the Cleveland Browns game. Call 800-658-5370 to donate.



And all we can say is:


NEO Harvey Update

20170830_103222Northeast Ohio continues to offer support to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

As of today, 20 volunteers from the Northeast Ohio region have headed south to assist in the relief efforts in East Texas and Louisiana, along with four emergency response vehicles. In total, the Red Cross has provided 1,500 disaster relief workers and 200 emergency response vehicles.

Hurricane Harvey has set a record for the greatest amount of single-storm rainfall in the continental United States, surpassing 50 inches of rain. Preliminary FEMA estimates indicate as many as 67,000 homes in Texas may be damaged.

If you are interested in helping the Red Cross provide relief to those in need, you can visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or make a one-time $10 donation by texting HARVEY to 90999. Due to the time involved with sorting, storing and cleaning in-kind items, a financial donation is the most effective way to assist those in need.

NEO Responds to Harvey

As the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey continue across parts of east Texas and Louisiana, the Red Cross is on the ground to offer shelter, food and hope to those affected by the storm.


16 Northeast Ohio volunteers have headed into the fray, with many more still to be deployed. Three NEO emergency response vehicles are among the 200 already in the affected area or en route. More than half of the Red Cross fleet of emergency vehicles are mobilized to respond, providing hot meals and cleaning supplies to neighborhoods once the flooding recedes.


The generosity of Northeast Ohioans is extremely heart warming. Many people have contributed to the financial needs of those affected, though no tally is yet available. A financial donation allows a family the opportunity to purchase the things they need and want to aid in their recovery. Working with partner organizations and retailers, the purchasing power of the Red Cross allows us provide water, snacks and everyday items like diapers, to shelter residents at a cost much lower than what consumers can get from a local store.


If you would like to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey you can log on to and click on donate, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross Staffer Celebrates 25 Years (and More!) with the Organization

By: Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager for Summit, Portage, and Medina CountiesIMG_1212.JPG

I literally have been with the Red Cross since birth, as both of my parents had volunteered with the Red Cross since before I was born.  Serving and helping others was instilled in me at a very young age.  One of my earliest memories centers around playing house in the old feeding vehicle at the chapter building on 12th and Prospect.

The blizzard of ’78 hit when I was 7-years-old. My family lived at the office for a week while my parents helped with the many aspects of sheltering and communication.  My job, that week, was to be the elevator operator. I learned how to close the doors, wind it up and push the buttons to make it go. I also served as the message runner, taking messages from one end of the hall to other.

Over the years I listened to the calls my parents would take from clients, those that had fires or any other emergency.  This was a time before a centralized emergency number existed, so people called the Red Cross.  Through their examples, I could see that helping people was so rewarding.  I watched my parents receive such great satisfaction from giving a little boy, who just had a fire, a bag of apples. I saw, first hand, the power of a simple gesture.

For many years, my dad would always take the Disaster Action Team shift over the four day Thanksgiving holiday.  He would always say that he had so much to be thankful for, that he wanted show that gratitude by helping others. So, growing up, there were a few Thanksgiving Day meals interrupted by a call to assist others in need.

It was witnessing these experiences as I was growing up that drove me study Social Work in college. So I, too, could help people.

These memories from my childhood led into many more memories throughout my career.  My first disaster relief operation was Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  I had just graduated college and had just been hired on as a caseworker after completing my internship.  We provided casework services out of tent in South Florida, and we made a home of it for our clients and volunteers.  A few weeks into my assignment, we got word that then President of the Red Cross, Elizabeth Dole, was going to stop in for a visit the next day.  We all wanted to show off our “home” and set about to tidy up the place. Across the compound was a sign that announced the name of our little home.  It had been beat up and faded by the South Florida sun, so I decided that it needed to be spruced up. I found a black sharpie marker, sat down in front of that sign and just started coloring.  It was kind of therapeutic in a way to color the sign.  As I sat there, the Disaster Mental Health volunteer came by to check on me.

“Everything ok?”

“Oh, yes! I love to color, and it is kind of helpful for me to do this!” I replied.

“Oh,” he said, “that is good.” He turned to walk away. Then he turned back.

“Should I be concerned that you are only using black?”

I smiled back, and, laughing, said, “It was the only color I could find!”   The next day Elizabeth Dole showed up, as schedule, and while I do not think she saw my sign, I was still proud of my coloring project.

In my years with this organization, there has always been change. We have moved forward in the last 25-years by always keeping the needs of the client in mind.  The biggest, positive change for clients was the implementation of Client Assistance Cards, a pre-paid gift type card that we use to provide financial assistance.  This may seem like a such an odd thing as the most positive change, but it really helps the client become more involved with their own recovery.  The card helps to take away some of the stigma of being a disaster client, as they can now go where they want and do not have to endure the special attention of using a specific voucher.

I love what I do, and have lived the mission of the Red Cross for a long time.


Regional CEO Mike Parks, Debbie Chitester, and Regional Chief Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole 


Debbie celebrated 25-years as a paid staff member with the Red Cross on July 19. She was recognized with an award, seen here, from Regional CEO, Mike Parks and Regional Disaster Officer, Tim O’Toole at the Quarterly All Staff Meeting on August 15.

Check Your Smoke Alarms

Have you checked your smoke alarms lately? Do you know when they expire? Do they have working batteries? Do you know two exits from every room in your home? What about other people who live in your home? Could they get out of a room if a fire blocked the door?

With the heartbreaking news coming from Greater Cleveland about three separate cases of fire fatalities, six deaths, including children, we are imploring residents to get fire safety smart.

Don’t put this off. Start now, today.

“The most common cause, as related to fatal fire, often can be slow or smoldering fires at night,” stated Regional Disaster Officer, Timothy O’Toole in a recent WEWS interview.

This is why it is extremely, EXTREMELY important for you to know more about your own smoke alarms. (See first paragraph for the questions you should be asking yourself.)

Yesterday, reporter Jennifer Auh of WEWS, and cameraman, Brian Sobolewski, saw for themselves the importance of smoke alarms and fire safety education. They tagged along with two Red Crossers – John Gareis and Shelby Begg – as they installed smoke alarms in the home of Arlene Jordan.

If you do not have smoke alarms, contact us. Red Cross volunteers will come to your home and install smoke alarms – for FREE – and help you get started on a fire safety plan. To learn more about our program, visit and click on your county.