Christmas Season Brighter for Children Affected by Home Fire

Annual Toy Giveaway Made Possible by Employees at TravelCenters of America

“Jade is my favorite one!” It took a while before eight-year old Jamie Sullivan found just

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Jamie Sullivan of Cleveland

the right Bratz doll to take home during the annual holiday toy giveaway on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

Right now, home is with her grandmother Lori.  Jamie, her little brother Samuel, and her mother Angela Jordan lost their home to fire just a week before, on December 15th.

86 children received toys collected during a Christmas Toy Drive by employees of TravelCenters of America. It’s the 19th year of the partnership between TCA and the Red Cross.

“We’re happy to help children who have lost so much,” said Tom Liutkus, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations at TravelCenters of America.  “The Red Cross does such great work, it just makes sense to have them distribute the toys every year.”

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Seven-year old Taneeja Terry of Cleveland finds just the right doll

“We have plenty of gifts to give to these kids who had a lot taken from them this year,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. ” This is a great opportunity to give back to them, especially at this special time of year.”

“To see everything that you had just gone, it was total devastation,” said Edna Bailey, whose home burned down in September. “I had no idea what to do, where I was going, or anything. The Red Cross came in with hugs, with encouragement, and kind of guiding me. For weeks I received phone calls with follow-up messages.  I’m so thankful.

As of mid-December, our disaster workers responded to 940 incidents, the vast majority of them home fires, in 2017.  The fires disrupted the lives of nearly 1,600 children and more than 2,500 adults in the 22 counties of Northeast Ohio.  They received immediate financial assistance totaling more than $750,000, thanks to the generosity of donors.  If you’d like to help future victims of disasters like home fires, please make a tax-deductible donation here, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

For more photos from this year’s Holiday Toy Giveaway, visit our Flickr photo album. Media coverage of our annual toy giveaway included a photo gallery from Plain Dealer photographer Lisa DeJong, a video on Cleveland.com, and a story on Cleveland 19 WOIO.  

 

 

Blood Drives Abound this Holiday Season

Give more life this holiday season by donating blood or platelets at one of the many blood drives scheduled throughout Northeast Ohio.  Donations typically drop during the holidays, with people occupied by other activities or travel.  But patients don’t get a holiday from the need for blood or platelets, so if you can, visit redcrossblood.org to find the blood drive most convenient for you, or call 1-800 RED CROSS.

Some of the blood drives scheduled include:

  • Tuesday, December 19 – Quicken Loans Arena, 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm.
  • Tuesday, December 19 – Hilton Garden Inn Twinsburg, 7:00 am – 7:00 pm.
  • Thursday, December 21 – Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls, 7: 00 am – 7:00 pm.
  • Friday, December 22 – Stambaugh Auditorium, Youngstown, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, December 22 – Packard Music Hall, Warren, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.

A special blood drive took place in Ashtabula last week.  Red Cross Communications Volunteer Paul Wadowick captured the story:

Arturo Gomez, a sophomore at Lakeside High in the Ashtabula City School District, wanted to help his community in a positive way.  Arturo shared, “By surrounding myself in a blood drive environment, it would also help me towards my goal to be an RN.” The door opened towards achieving this project with parental support. Eager to do this drive, Arturo met with the area blood drive manager, Tara Dragon. She introduced him to the components needed for organizing a drive. Next, this fifteen year old applied himself to promoting. Flyers were posted in the school and community.  Social media was engaged.  One-on-one contacts were made with people he knows. Blood drive reality arrived on December 15, 2017.

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Arturo hosted during the entire scheduled time. The volunteer Blood Drive Ambassador highlighted ‘customer service’ ways for registration requirements and canteen courtesies. When the day was done, Arturo’s learning curve had grown and four first time donors had signed in.  Thank you Arturo for a job well done!

Veteran Police Officer Returns from CA Wildfire Response

Gets Emotional Describing the Devastation Following His First Red Cross Assignment

When Angel Morales signed-up to volunteer for the American Red Cross, he figured it would take six months before he’d be ready to help people suffering from major disasters.

It was more like six days.

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Red Cross volunteer Angel Morales speaks to the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors on December 12, 2017

“Can you go out to California?  We’ve got wildfires there.”  That’s what Angel says he heard when Emily Probst, Regional Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager called, less than a week after his initial training as a disaster responder.

“I took a two-day course.  It was very good. They gave me the basics for sheltering, feeding, and what they call mass care,” Angel recently told members of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors. “They said in the classes ‘be ready to do whatever they need you to do to fill in.’  I wound up working at a warehouse, very left of center from what I’ve been doing administration-wise. It was a hands-on kind of job.”

Angel currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Police for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.  Before that, he led security for the Cleveland Browns, after spending more than 25 years with the Cleveland Police Department, “retiring” as Deputy Chief in 1999.

“I think everybody understands that retirement is just a transition to something else. So, I try to give back.  And I wanted to do hands-on rather than be a boss all the time, so I figured ‘let me start fresh with the Red Cross.’”

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Red Cross volunteer Angel Morales

Despite all his years in law enforcement, Angel says the devastation he experienced in California touched his heart. “In a wildfire, it’s different from a hurricane or a storm. Everything is devastated. There’s nothing. It’s burnt to the ground.”  He teared-up as he continued, “You can see me get emotional about it. People lose everything, it just touches your heart. You feel it. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you feel the devastation in your heart.”

Still, he calls the two-weeks he spent helping people impacted by the wildfires a great experience.  And he commends all the volunteers he met and worked with, people from all across the country and from different walks of life.

“They really make a great contribution.”

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers to train, so that they can help people affected by disasters big and small, near and far, from wildfires in California to home fires in your community.  Visit redcross.org/neo and click the “volunteer” tab to start the application process.

Danke, gracias, grazie, merci: It’s International Volunteer Day!

The American Red Cross is a proud part of a vast network of international organizations. So when the United Nations began to promote December 5 as International Volunteer Day, we were completely on-board!

To our more than 1,700 local volunteers, who promote our mission to prepare and alleviate human suffering…Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you, also, to those who serve the call of humanitarian organizations across the globe. And to those who serve along side of us as we continuethe recovery process from this year’s hurricane and wildfire season…thank you!

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If you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteer. There are so many opportunities to serve, here in Northeast Ohio, and across the country.

Thanks For Giving

A Thanksgiving Message from CEO Mike Parks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I will soon sit down for what I know will be a wonderfully delicious and far too filling turkey dinner with family and friends.  Yes—we have so much for which to be thankful—something that comes top of mind this time of year.  One of the many special things about working for the Red Cross is I get to see things for which to be grateful all year round—including the last three months.

This past three months have been nothing short of amazing.  The American Red Cross launched wide-ranging relief efforts to help people devastated by a historic hurricane season, deadly wildfires in California, and mass shooting incidents in Las Vegas and Texas.  Since Mid-August, the Red Cross has:

  • Provided 1.3 million overnight stays
  • Served more than 10.5 million meals and snacks, and
  • Distributed more than 6 million emergency relief items

In Northeast Ohio, we:

  • Deployed 119 volunteers and staff to support disaster operations as well as all four of our emergency response vehicles
  • Welcomed more than 100 new volunteers into our Red Cross family
  • Installed 7,262 free smoke alarms through the Home Fire Campaign, making 2,732 households safer.

This photo was taken in Puerto Rico, and shows Northeast Ohio COO Jorge Martinez negotiating a mud-covered road to deliver water to residents of Yauco.

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All of these things were accomplished while your American Red Cross continued to prevent and alleviate human suffering right here in Northeast Ohio, responding to home fires and other calamities.  Thank you to all of you for your support of time, talent, and treasure.  Yes—Northeast Ohio raised literally millions of dollars to support Red Cross relief efforts—thank you!!

I hope you each get a chance to spend some quality time with family & friends, enjoying fantastic food, watching fun football, and taking advantage of the opportunity to reflect on those many things for which we’re thankful and grateful.  Thank you again for all you do…Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Best regards…Mike

Editor’s note: Dozens of volunteers and donors from across the Northeast Ohio Region gathered at Regional Headquarters in Cleveland on Tuesday, November 21, for a “Thanks for Giving” celebration, in appreciation for their sacrifices and service to the Red Cross during the past several months.  A photo album of the event can be viewed by clicking here.

 

Vermilion Volunteer is Happy to Help After Hurricane in Houston

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By Brad Galvan, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

Paul Mueller is 83 years young. He helps when people need help. The people of Texas needed help. Helping makes him happy.

Paul got a call and packed his bags after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston, Texas. The call came from the American Red Cross, an organization that Paul has been volunteering for since 2001. Over the past 16 years, he has answered similar calls five times, supporting those affected on the west coast during wildfires, in the south for hurricanes and other natural disasters.

This one, the largest hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2005, created the need for Paul to help at a Red Cross food and supply distribution center on the outskirts of Houston. The former mechanical engineer and resident of Vermilion, Ohio, spent two weeks organizing and distributing food and water. He also served as a navigator from the passenger seat when trucking the supplies from the distribution center to residents in need.

 

 

Paul, a lifelong learner, took the opportunity to acquire a skill while in storm-ravaged Houston. He says he still needs a little work, but vows that he can handle maneuvering a forklift next time his phone rings, to assist in an American Red Cross supply distribution center!

Mr. Mueller reminds those who are on the fence about volunteering for the Red Cross that seeing the faces of those who are helped is worth it and then some. He said that the simple gesture of handing out bottles of water and donated non-perishable food items made him feel good inside.

Early September was a tough time for Texans, so Paul’s commitment to the Red Cross and his willingness to help strangers made a difference. He said he’ll be ready to serve again the next time the Red Cross calls on him following a disaster.

If you’d like to learn the skills necessary to help people affected by disasters, big and small, visit redcross.org/neo and click on the Volunteer tab.

 

The Power of Volunteers

Stay close to them and to the mission!

By Jorge Martinez, Regional Chief Operating Officer

Editor’s note: As of October 19, 2017, the Red Cross, along with community and government partners, has provided 1.3 million overnight stays in emergency shelters, served more than 6.7 million meals and snacks, and distributed more than 3.6 million emergency relief items to people in need, following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. More than 16,000 trained Red Cross disaster workers, 91% of them volunteers, have been mobilized to support hurricane relief efforts.  Among those workers is Jorge Martinez, who wrote the following upon returning from a three-week assignment in Puerto Rico. 

The Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.  We’ve all heard this before and certainly embrace it.   We wouldn’t be part of this great organization otherwise.  But to see our mission statement in action is special.  I was fortunate enough to be part of the relief operation in Puerto Rico; I saw human suffering alleviated through the compassionate and selfless service of our dedicated and humble volunteers.

IMG_0317Puerto Rico is home to nearly 3.5 million American citizens spread over an island that is roughly 35 miles by 100 miles of challenging, mountainous terrain.  Ravaged by a category 4 hurricane — just 2 MPH shy of a cat 5 — the devastation was immense.  There was no part of the island that was not affected.  What you’ve been seeing on the news is accurate and maybe even understated.  But the island residents have come together with a sense of community that I’ve only experienced one other time – in the aftermath of 9/11.

So there we were in San Juan.  We had two carloads of volunteers that were trailing a supply box truck with a local driver.  We were en route to a remote location in the central mountains of the island with no specific knowledge of how to get there.  On our way out of the city, a police officer who had just finished his 12 hour shift came alongside us and agreed to escort us to the site in what turned out to be a 2 hour trek.  Even he got lost, but he got us there.IMG_0183

Once on site, we met with local officials and determined the best place to help those most in need.  We got to our agreed upon distribution site and while we off-loaded the supplies and set up the operation, the local officials went around the neighborhood spreading the word.  Soon we had a line of hundreds of families that were in need of basic supplies like water, food and tarps.

I met countless wonderful volunteers during my trip and became close with a few of them.  One of them was Brad; he was from Kalamazoo, MI and we were on this trip together.  Near the end of this operation, both he and I were going house to house, delivering supplies to those who could not make it to the pick-up site.  We came across a wonderful lady who had already picked up her supplies.  However, her next door neighbor’s house had been destroyed.  It was a humble place before the storm; now, only a small room had any semblance of a roof still attached.  She had taken her elderly neighbor into her own small home but wanted to get some tarps to cover the few remaining savable items that her neighbor had stored in that small room.imagejpeg_0 (002)

We came back with several tarps for her and gave her a hug.  By the way, at this point a downpour had started.  Mid-hug, she broke down and started to cry.  Coincidentally, Brad and I both had something in our eyes that caused us to tear up as well.  She thanked us profusely while hoping that God bless all of us.  The truth is we were blessed by just being in her presence.  And I was doubly blessed by being in the presence of Brad and the many other volunteers like him.  And no, this was not an isolated incident.

When I first took this job, my predecessor told me to stay close to the mission.  She was mostly right.  Stay close to the mission and to the volunteers!  I want to personally thank the volunteers I had the pleasure to work with in Puerto Rico and the nearly 1,500 volunteers of Northeast Ohio who go quietly about their work without much fanfare.  You make a world of difference — THANK YOU!

See more photos from Jorge’s work in Puerto Rico by clicking here for our Flickr album.

Visit our YouTube page for a video of Jorge’s experience.