When It’s Not Easy to Respond

By: Renee Palagyi, Senior Program Manager Disaster Cycle Services

Today as I put together our internal daily report, I was struck, as I am many days, by the number of fire fatalities in our region. We have had 18 fatalities since our fiscal year began in July. This compares to seven in the same time frame last year.

We always hope the number will decrease each year. There is not an easy or accurate explanation for such a change. We know that we are being notified of more cases and being called to assist in areas where we previously had no requests. We know that many of our counties have aging housing which probably includes old electrical wiring. We know that as we move into the colder months, fires increase with the use of unsafe heating.

Of course, those facts do nothing to ease the burden when horrible things happen to a family. Our Disaster Action Teams, those dedicated volunteers who go out to each fire call we receive, provide immediate assistance and our professional mental health and health service volunteers work with the families to aid in recovery.

One piece our daily report never covers is the third piece of the “Disaster Cycle”. Our response and recovery work receive attention through our work on large-scale or individual disasters. But the third arm of the cycle, preparedness, is where our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering all begins.

The home fire preparedness campaign is one way that we, and each of our communities, can address the loss of human life in a truly constructive way.  Do smoke alarms save lives? Not by themselves. The bigger piece of this entire campaign is the education which MUST happen to ensure safety in the home. That education may occur during the installation of alarms, with young children during a “Pillowcase” presentation in schools or youth groups, or it may be a Red Cross presenter speaking to a service group such as Exchange, Rotary or Kiwanis. Regardless, there are key points which can make a difference, which can possibly save the next life.

A few simple facts:

  • Cooking fires account for 43% of all home fires
  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related fatalities
  • Adults over 65 are more than twice as likely to die in home fires compared to younger adults
  • Nearly two-thirds of all fire-related deaths occur in homes with no functioning smoke alarms
  • Almost one-quarter of smoke alarm failure is due to dead batteries
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly
  • All smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years of use
  • Every family should develop and plan escape plans, with two different exits, in case of fire
  • Families need to exit the home within 2 minutes of smoke alarm sounding

To learn more about our program to help save lives in Northeast Ohio, or to learn how to join our mission, visit http://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/home-fire-safety.

Give with Meaning

When you support the work of the American Red Cross on #GivingTuesday, or any of the other 364 days of the year, you are supporting the tireless work of our dedicated volunteer workforce.

Now, across the year we average three home fires a night in the Northeast Ohio Region. Last night we responded to seven.

Through your generosity, we were able to provide $5,955 in financial assistance to 14 adults and 18 children who experienced a home fire.

And that’s just one night.

If you would like to “Give with Meaning” by supporting our mission visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

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What is Giving Tuesday?

By: Sue Wilson, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

Giving Tuesday started in 2012 as a social media movement to celebrate and encourage giving to charitable causes that serve the greater good, and a way to combat the consumerism that has overtaken the holiday season. It is celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Under the hashtag #GivingTuesday, it’s founders hope that people will be inspired by the spirit of the season to want to help those less fortunate. And the timing is perfect as so many people are making year-end charitable contributions for tax purposes.

This #GivingTuesday we hope you’ll join with the Red Cross and their #GiveWithMeaning program. This year is especially critical for the Red Cross as it comes after a year of record-breaking and devastating disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires to home fires that have left communities reeling and lives destroyed.

Here are some simple ways to donate to the Red Cross through Giving Tuesday:

Donate when shopping: If you shop online and use Amazon, register for their Amazon Smile Program. When first visiting AmazonSmile, customers are prompted to select a charitable organization from almost one million eligible organizations. For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the customer’s selected charitable organization. You can pick the charity of your choice from a list of hundreds. Simply search and select American Red Cross.

Donate money: Donations can help provide safe shelter, food, emergency relief supplies, emotional support and health services to people in need. To make a tax-deductible donation, visit redcross.org/gifts and choose from a variety of symbolic gifts that give back to the community, or call 1-800-RED CROSS to support Red Cross services.

Donate blood: The holidays are a hectic time with upcoming travel, family gatherings and festive events, yet hospital patients don’t get a holiday from needing lifesaving blood donations. To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, visit redcrossblood.org.

Donate time: Volunteers are the backbone of the Red Cross and help respond to the needs of communities affected by disasters big and small. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org. 

“Smile” this Monday

By: Sue Wilson, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday after the Thanksgiving, following Black Friday. The term “Cyber Monday” was created by marketing companies to encourage online shopping  If you plan to do any online shopping and you use Amazon, check out  AmazonSmile. It is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com, but when you shop on AmazonSmile,  the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

Just click  Amazon Smile to register for the program. When first visiting, customers are prompted to select a charitable organization from the almost one million eligible. Type  “Red Cross” in the search bar and select it as your charity of choice.  For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the customer’s selected  organization. Again, simply search and select  American Red Cross.  Note: The Red Cross is not being paid any fees to promote Amazon or AmazonSmile, but if you make The Red Cross your designated charity, it will receive a percentage as a donation.

You can also donate directly to the Red Cross to help provide safe shelter, food, emergency relief supplies, emotional support and health services to people in need. To make a tax-deductible donation, visit redcross.org/gifts and choose from a variety of symbolic gifts that give back to the community, or call 1-800-RED CROSS to support Red Cross services.

Donate blood: The holidays are a hectic time with upcoming travel, family gatherings and festive events, yet hospital patients don’t get a holiday from needing lifesaving blood donations.  To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, visit redcrossblood.org.

Donate time: Volunteers are the backbone of the Red Cross and help respond to the needs of communities affected by disasters big and small. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org.

Genuine Generosity Grows in Northeast Ohio

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

During disasters, we often see the best in our neighbors – caring, volunteering and donating to help alleviate human suffering. Northeast Ohio has long been noted for its generosity, and during the recent spate of disasters, the Greater Cleveland Chapter has the cards and letters to prove it.

Donation letters

Ever since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, one woman has sent in an envelope each and every day with one dollar and a personal note. Some are marked for Harvey, while others are for the California fires.  Each note offers thanks to the Red Cross for the services we offer and asks for prayers for the victims, the first responders as well as for her own full-time employment search.

Another woman, moved with compassion, but without the means to contribute, assembled an envelope full of coupons she had collected. She mailed those into our office, with a request to pass them on to any of the victims trying to get back on their feet.

In October, a woman called, wanting directions to our office. She had a cash donation and wanted to make sure it got into the right hands to aid in general disaster relief.  Neither she nor her husband appeared to be people of means, but they felt compelled to help and had withdrawn $800 from her husband’s postal service retirement account.

And last month, yet one more example of how our community comes together to help others in need. The ladies of the Fourth Wednesday Bridge Group wanted to help and sent in a collective donation from all their members to aid the people of Puerto Rico.

There’s no donation too small. As Giving Tuesday approaches, log on to https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation to make a one-time or monthly donation.

Ways to Brighten Black Friday

By: Sue Wilson, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

Black Friday. The kick off to what is suppose to be the most joyous time of the year. Yet, a trip to any mall parking lot or big box retailer shows anything but joy. Black Friday can be a dark day, exemplifying the worst of consumerism in the holidays, and by the end of it we often hear some dreadful news story about customers rushing into stores, battling over a limited number of “door buster” specials. Sales consultant, Steven A McQueen, tweeted: “Black Friday is the day we trample people for things we don’t need, the day after being thankful for what we have.”

We have been convinced, through a bombardment of advertising messages, that the holiday season is all about MORE. Spending more money on more presents to fill our spaces with more stuff that we’ll be paying off for a long time.

If stepping back from the consumerism of gift giving sounds good to you, here are four suggestions to bring some meaning back to the holidays:

  1. Give the gift of time. Volunteer with an organization you believe in. Every single day, the Red Cross helps people in emergencies. Whether it’s one displaced family, thousands of disaster victims, or providing care and comfort to an ill or injured service member or veteran or support to a military family member, our vital work is made possible by people like you. It is through the time and care of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things. Click here for information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.
  2. Give something that means something. Honor a friend or family member with a gift that helps those in need. When you donate to the Red Cross you are helping people who face emergencies every day rebuild their lives. Donations can help provide safe shelter, food, emergency relief supplies, emotional support and health services to people in need. To make a tax-deductible donation, visit redcross.org/gifts and choose from a variety of symbolic gifts that give back to the community, or call 1-800-RED CROSS to support Red Cross services.
  3. Give something practical. If you still enjoy giving traditional gifts, you can shop online at the Red Cross Store and give a practical gift; the gift of preparedness for emergencies, with first aid kits, a hand-crank radio that can charge your cell phone, water bottles and more.
  4. Donate Blood. The holidays are a hectic time with upcoming travel, family gatherings and festive events. But hospital patients don’t get a holidays from needing lifesaving blood donations. To make an appointment to donate blood or platelets visit  redcrossblood.org.

Brighten up Black Friday. Give …rather than buy.

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.

Jorge Cropped

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.