Red Cross Volunteer Offers “Priceless” Service

By Chuck Victor, 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)

Chuck Victor

Throughout my adult years I have had a passion for volunteerism and helping others.  I prefer the behind the scenes work as opposed to the out front spokesperson.

During my working years, I had the opportunity to work with some great non-profit organizations and their boards; which taught me the value of the front line volunteer.

I was fortunate to retire at an early age but not yet ready to retire from being active. I had a colleague who I had always admired for their drive, commitment and dedication to the American Red Cross. I inquired as to how I could serve local needs through Red Cross.

That was over four years ago.  Today I apply my time and talents as a Local Disaster Action Team (DAT) Lead in responding to fires, shelter situations and unfortunately plane crashes.  As part of a team of initial responders to a disaster scene, I am able to help provide assistance to both those affected as well as first responders.

The job DAT members do is, as they say, priceless. We provide needed comfort and necessary reassurance to those who have just experienced tragedies that most hope they will never see. It goes beyond the monetary value of the financial assistance provided for housing and immediate needs.  The greatest value comes from a listening ear and a caring heart. Victims of fires, floods, storms and other such disasters appreciate someone who can hear what they say, even if they don’t have the words to express themselves. We provide direction and re-assurance.

Likewise, I am grateful for the opportunity to support our first responders by offering a hot cup of coffee or a snack when they need to know that their efforts are appreciated. I always make sure to thank them for their service and to remind them to be safe. Too often, they are taken for granted.

Why would anyone want to get a call at 2:30 in the morning and get out of bed on a cold winter night to respond to a fire and a family displaced? Trust me, when I say the reward derived from helping someone in need at his or her worst moment far exceeds the minor inconvenience of losing a little sleep.

Akron ResponseVolunteer Chuck Victor providing assistance to first responders at the scene of a plane crash in Akron, November, 2015

Disaster Action Team may not be your thing, But I would urge anyone with time on his or her hands and a desire to serve others to consider volunteering with the American Red Cross.  Many great opportunities are available.

(Chuck Victor has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than four years.  He is a resident of Tallmadge, and serves residents in the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.)

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.

North Randall Residents Receive Help and Hope Following Fire

More than 80 residents of an apartment complex in North Randall received help from Red Cross workers on Tuesday, February 14.

After firefighters responded to an apartment fire at the North Randall Estates, building inspectors had to determine whether it was safe to let residents back in their homes.

Red Cross workers opened a reception center in a Community Room, where waiting residents were given food and comfort.

“They calmed everyone down and walked us through what we need to do,” said resident Ricky Tunstall.  “They were sympathetic to our needs.”

Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene shortly after the fire was reported mid-morning, and stayed well into the night, determining the needs of the residents, and trying to fill those needs.

Many residents were given immediate financial assistance.  The Red Cross distributed almost $7,000 to help people pay for a hotel room, or to buy food or other necessities.

One resident spent the night in a Red Cross shelter.

4 weeks after the fire, ongoing casework, disaster health services and disaster mental health services were being provided in 23 cases, with the cost of the operation more than $8,300.

On average, the Red Cross responds to three home fires every 24 hours in Northeast Ohio. While all Red Cross disaster assistance is free,  we rely on the generosity of donors to help us provide that assistance for disasters big and small.  Donations to help fund Red Cross disaster relief efforts can be made by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or by logging onto redcross.org/neo. A text-to-give option is also available.  Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Volunteering as a Disaster Team Member

Team members on a Firewalk - passing out fire safety literature in susceptible areas - in Summit CountyOur Disaster Action Team (DAT) members are amazing people!

When a family experiences a home fire a two a.m., it is the DAT team that pull themselves from their own beds and respond, bringing a little light into a dark situation. If a building complex catches fire on Thanksgiving Day and requires multiple fire departments to respond and control, DAT team members leave their own families and turkey dinners to serve hot coffee, cold water and other snacks to the fire personnel.

Walter Reddick, DAT volunteer with the Greater Cleveland Chapter, feels that giving people a direction after a disaster has given him a purpose. When asked what made him want to volunteer with the American Red Cross he said he had a stranger show him love and wanted to do the same thing, to better himself and to help create something new in the lives of those with whom he interacts.

For some, volunteering with the Red Cross has been a family affair. Jack Beck, a volunteer with the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter, became a volunteer after his father and uncle volunteered with the organization. Once, he responded to a familiar address. When his aunt experienced a home fire, Jack found it was gratifying to be able to provide support as the Red Cross to her.

Many of our volunteers work with families across the United States. When a disaster strikes, they are called up on to report to the scene, even if it is hundreds of miles away. Gene McCray, DAT Team Leader and Logistics Lead for the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter, has been on 10 disaster relief operations including places as far away as Tampa and South Dakota.

Gene even met the love of his life, Cheryl, through the Red Cross!

It’s not just the two a.m. calls that keep our volunteers busy, many also volunteer in other Red Cross services areas, such as our Service to Armed Forces programs and Disaster Education Preparedness programs. Take for example, Alice Martinez, a volunteer with the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter, who volunteers with as DAT member, a Pillowcase Project presenter, a general Community Disaster Education Presentations/Events worker, as part of the Shelter Survey project and provides occasional support to disaster casework and volunteer candidate inquires. Or Mark Morrow, from the Lake to River Chapter, who- in addition to his DAT team responsibilities, volunteers as Office Support at the Jefferson Office location, and recently became an instructor for our health and preparedness classes!

If you are interested in volunteering as a DAT member – or in any of the other positions available with the Red Cross – visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328

Why I volunteer: Kevin

By Kevin Murphy, American Red Cross Volunteer

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 A few years after I graduated from high school I adopted this quote as the mission statement for life.  Having been born with a disability, I had learned that the world isn’t always fair. Even though I had setbacks of my own, I could still do something that would benefit others.

My first experience with the American Red Cross was in the summer of 2013 when the City of Barberton experienced devastating flooding and my employer, the Lake Anna YMCA, was selected as a shelter site for the city.  The next nine days were a whirlwind of activity, but in the end we were able to help a lot of people and do a lot of good in our community.  I knew from that point on that the Red Cross was the place for me!

Disasters do not pick and choose who they affect.  They can strike any person, in any neighborhood, at any time — even at 3 a.m. or when it’s -10 degrees outside. Being a part of the Disaster Action Team has helped me to make a big impact on my community.   It makes me feel good to know that I can help someone at a time when the help matters most to them.

Across the country the Red Cross is a strong organization that helps numerous men, women and children each day.  I strongly believe that our work should be shared with as many people as possible.  I often post on my personal Twitter handle (@macfankevin) when I am responding to a disaster.   It’s not for personal recognition, but rather to help raise awareness of the needs in our community.

Imagine what would happen if I could inspire someone else to help and then they inspire another person. It’s a never ending cycle of good in the world!

I strongly encourage you to do something to give back to your community.  Give. Volunteer . Advocate. Small things that you do today can have a big impact on what happens tomorrow. I have found my niche with the Red Cross. I look forward to many more years of developing my self-capacity and helping others.