Snapshots: Moments from disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

August 12, 2019- I have been a part of the American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief team for 18 months, which has been exceptionally challenging and rewarding. Here are a few of the many moments lingering in my memory:

Tim Poe

Tim Poe

I hand an information packet and financial assistance card to a woman in tears. I see astonishment followed by relief on her face as I explain what it is. She looks out the window, breathes deeply and begins planning her family’s recovery.

An enormous, isolated tree stands in a field. Near the top, a remnant of a house is embedded in twisted limbs. Other pieces of homes and people’s belongings lie scattered across the field as people work to clean up and recover.

Assisting a large number of clients after a major fire, people from the community come in throughout the day, bringing supplies, offering comfort, asking how they can donate, finding ways to help.

In an ER, a woman lifts her oxygen mask, says it’s her birthday, and asks for cake.

Interviewing a client as her grandson plays with a stuffed toy, I ask if she’s a veteran and the grandchild declares he is. “No you’re not, sweetheart,” she says. He answers, “I am too. I don’t even like meat.”

On Christmas Eve, standing on the porch of what remains of a house, helping a family plan their recovery, the mother makes a joke and laughter warms the winter air. I feel the mood lighten as they look to the future.

2019 Euclid fire responseAt a community event with the Emergency Response Vehicle, I let children use the public-address system. Some shyly say, “hi,” others say their names and a few words. One yells, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! … and ice cream!” Nearly all smile as their voices amplify.

Standing in the rain, clearing the scene of a very large fire, the family’s father grasps my hand, holds on, begins to say something, then simply nods.

Leaving a scene, a three-year-old child runs up and gives me a hug.

Volunteers like me  carry out 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. Whether helping displaced families or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, the time and talents of volunteers can make a real difference. Explore the Red Cross’ many volunteer opportunities here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross provides support to help residents escape cold, wind following weekend storm

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

February 26, 2019 –  “Since 1:30 p.m. Sunday, we had no power, no heat and no water. We could see our breath and we had nowhere else to go. This warming center mean a lot. IMG_5958Not only were we given a place to warm up and enjoy food and refreshments, but we were given great support from everyone here,” said Bill and Diane Harasyn, Chardon residents who escaped the cold by visiting an American Red Cross-supported warming center.

Bill and Diane were not alone. As wind gusts reached as high as 60 miles an hour and temperatures plummeted across Northeast Ohio this weekend,  thousands of residents lost power and heat in their homes. Throughout the weekend, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio disaster team monitored the damage and power outage throughout the region. The disaster team also remained in contact with local emergency representatives to determine the need for Red Cross support for warming centers and shelters.

The Red Cross helped support an overnight warming center at the Chardon United Methodist Church on 515 North Street, providing blankets, cots and other materials needed to support residents spending time at the center.IMG_5974

The shelter workers in Chardon also received Red Cross training to help them properly operate an overnight shelter. “While we have operated a warming center three times, this was the first time we operated an overnight shelter,” stated shelter workers Vern and Lynn Kempf. “The Red Cross training we received helped prepare us for what we might expect as well as providing support for overnight residents.”

The Chardon warming center remained open Monday night to provide residents relief from the cold.

The Red Cross is also supporting a warming center at the Solon Community Center on 35000 Portz Parkway, by providing cots and blankets.

The Red Cross also opened and operated an overnight shelter Monday at the Salvation Army on 809 Emmet Avenue NW in New Philadelphia, and at the North Canton United Church of Christ.  No residents spent the night in either shelter.

Additionally, the Red Cross responded to several cases regarding to storm-related damage, including the wind damaging and removing the roof of an apartment building in Woodmere and a tree falling on a home in Painesville. Below are photos from the additional response.

You can support our efforts to train volunteers as shelter workers, and to purchase supplies like cots and blankets by making a donation here, or by calling 1-800 RED CROSS.

Red Cross continues response to disasters in Northeast Ohio, even with ongoing relief efforts around the world

Weekend disasters affect dozens of residents in all 5 Northeast Ohio Chapters

 

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

The American Red Cross continues to respond to disaster relief efforts around the world, including responding to the California wildfires and Saipan following Super Typhoon Yutu.  Even with relief efforts underway far and wide, the Red Cross continues to respond to needs of residents right here in Northeast Ohio.

41870691712_5b3ee65587_zOver the weekend, the Red Cross responded to 17 incidents in all five chapters in Northeast Ohio, assisting 64 residents, and distributing more than $12,300 in immediate financial assistance to help people in their darkest hours.

 

The Lake to River Chapter was particularly hit hard.

Disaster workers in the Lake to River Chapter, which serves Ashtabula, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, responded to seven incidents ranging from home fires to power outages, provided more than $4,700 in aid and opened a shelter for two-nights in Columbiana County for residents displaced from last week’s winter storms.

One particular case in Mahoning County, involving a grandmother, a mother and her five children, highlights the commitment the Red Cross has to serving the needs of residents in Northeast Ohio. As Karen Conklin, executive director of the Lake to River Chapter states, “What we do to help people in our community and the difference we make every day is amazing. Over the weekend, a fire started in the attic while the family was at church. Two adults and five children lost everything. While the family has a hard road to recovery, we responded with much more than a debit card. We gave them kindness, respect and hope. It was another mission moment I won’t soon forget. Because of the Red Cross and our volunteers, this family has begun the road to recovery. Without us they would be alone at their burned-out residence as the fire department rolls up their hoses and drives away. We are the difference.” IMG_5580

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 serve 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.

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief and to provide support in a time of need. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Disaster Relief Takes Flight

By: Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties

A few months ago an email came across my computer asking if I would be interested in partnering with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School.  Curious, I asked for more information.  The computer science class conducts problem based learning. The problem they were trying to solve was delivering disaster relief to people in hard-to-reach areas, a real world issue that they had seen on TV due to the 2017 hurricanes. They were starting to work with drones in the class and the teaching staff wanted a real world scenario so learners could relate the problem/solution process to something in real life.

Jorge Cropped

At first I was unsure if this was something we could do, but I was inspired by a photo of our Regional COO, Jorge Martinez,  hiking up the side of a mud covered hill in Puerto Rico to get water to a family following Hurricane Maria.

A task just perfect for a drone!  I agreed, and was scheduled to talk to the class about Disaster Cycle Services, what we do, and how we deliver service.

On a cold January day, I presented the “problem” to the learners.  I showed photos of Emergency Response Vehicles, clients walking through knee deep water to get to supplies, and Red Cross volunteers on one side of a river while the clients were on the other with no easy way to get supplies to them.  The learners were interested in the services we provide and asked good questions.  The coach (their term for the teacher) and I expressed the need and how this can save lives.  The problem demonstrated that drones could be used for more than having fun with friends, and could actually make a difference.

Their task was to create a flight plan, write code for the drone and write an essay about the experience.

On January 31, the class presented their projects.  The learners were ready to fly their drones and demonstrate how they could deliver supplies to multiple locations.  The gymnasium was set with three “landing depots”, the closer to center the better and the more points received.  The points represented the numbers of lives saved at each landing depot.  (They also received “style points” if they performed a flip between depots.) Each team had the opportunity for 2 “flights”.

That morning I was excited as I witnessed amazing young adults using math, geometry and trigonometry to program their flights, and loving what they were doing!

As I sat on the sidelines watching and encouraging the learners, I overheard one say to his teammate, who was upset by their results, “well we did not get the center, but we still saved lives.”

I thought he was being sarcastic, so I looked over at him. But no, it showed on their faces that they truly understood why they were doing this.

While some teams were more successful than others with their flights, every single team tried their hardest and learned that technology can save lives.

This partnership is something that was a first for both of us, and I look forward to solving other “problems” with them in the future.

 

To view a short video of a flight, visit https://twitter.com/NIHFHS/status/958742381557420032.

 

 

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.

Celebrating Chapter Centennial at BASH

BASH 2017 not only brought together Red Cross supporters, family and friends, it also marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Red Cross chapters in Stark County, Dover and New Philadelphia.

About 285 people enjoyed dinner at the MAPS Air Museum in North Canton.  Several placed bids on some coveted auction items, including an adorable puppy.

puppy

Jennifer McNemar offered the winning bid for Kimber

As usual, many guests played along with the M*A*S*H theme, dressing in Hawaiian shirts, medical attire and military uniforms.  Thanks to their generosity, about $95,000 was raised to help support Red Cross disaster relief work in what is now the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter.

“We had a great evening,” said Kim Kroh, Chapter Executive Director. “I am so appreciative of the way our community supports the Red Cross.  Their support helps us provide vital services to people when they experience a home fire or some other disaster.”

Additionally, Heather Zuniga received a special award for performing CPR on Don Joliat after he was pulled from the Meyers Lake YMCA pool. Her efforts saved his life.

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You can help support the work of the Red Cross by visiting redcross.org/donate and selecting YOUR LOCAL RED CROSS from the drop down menu under support.

 

 

 

Blanket Made of Red Heart Yarn and Love

Linda Evans

15 months.  That’s how long it took Linda Evans of West Farmington, Ohio to #StitchAHug.  That’s the hashtag redheart.com established in 2016 to allow customers to support the Red Cross, by providing patterns for blankets.

“I was in the middle of a move,” Linda said. ” Otherwise, it probably wouldn’t have taken so long.”

The white spread with the traditional Red Cross knitted in the center arrived at Northeast Ohio headquarters in early May, accompanied by a short note that read, in part, “I hope whoever gets it will be okay!”

Red Cross workers often provide blankets to people who have been forced to flee their homes by fire, flood, or other disasters.  In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross responds on average to three such disasters every 24-hours.

That’s a lot of blankets.

“I’m grateful I have never needed your help.  The Red Cross is exceptional in everything they do, and I don’t give back nearly enough, so this project sounded like a perfect match.”

Linda’s blanket touched the heart of Renee Palagyi, Regional Senior Disaster Program Manager. “What a wonderful gesture on her part.  It shows how our mission touches the lives of people in so many ways, those who need our help, and those who want to reach out and help others.”

Knitting a blanket is just one way to support Red Cross efforts to help others.  You can also volunteer your time, or make a donation.

Linda hopes her blanket is big enough to “maybe snuggle up two folks.”  And she writes, “I might even do another one…but not right away :)”