NEO Volunteers Head to Puerto Rico

Seven NEO Workers to Provide Sheltering, Health Care and IT Support

Among the nearly 5,300 Red Cross workers now responding to hurricane relief efforts across the south are seven Northeast Ohio workers assigned to help people in Puerto Rico.  The island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

“Here comes the cavalry,” said Jorge Martinez, Regional Chief Operating Officer for the Northeast Ohio Red Cross when asked what message he had for the people of Puerto Rico.  “The Red Cross already had workers on the ground, who were responding to the damage done by Hurricane Irma when Maria struck.  We’re on our way to help as well.”

At a news conference in the lobby of Regional Headquarters in Cleveland, Jorge was flanked by volunteers D. J. Hamrick, Sean Reyes, Rusty Breitbach and Bruce Butler, who have also been assigned to the Puerto Rico relief operation.  Two other Northeast Ohio volunteers, a health care worker and an IT specialist, are already on the island.

More volunteers are needed, especially those who speak Spanish, who are in good physical shape, and who can commit to serving for 2-3 weeks.  Volunteer training sessions are being held each week throughout Northeast Ohio.  Visit redcross.org/neo, or call 216-431-3328 for more information.

Highlights from the NEO Region in FY 17

More than 15,000 smoke alarms installed.  More than 31,000 residents enrolled in Preparedness, Health and Safety courses. More than 150,000 units of blood collected. Emergency services provided to more than 1,800 families of service men and women. More than $850,000 in financial assistance provided to more than 4,200 residents of Northeast Ohio since June 1, 2016.

These are some of the highlights of our fiscal year.  They were shared with the Board of Directors of the Greater Cleveland Chapter during the annual meeting on Thursday, June 28, 2017.  Many of the highlights were featured in  a video shown during the meeting.

Laurie Laidlaw, Donna Rae Smith and Lorraine Frankino-Dodero were recognized as Red Cross Visionaries. Lorraine was also honored as Philanthropist of the Year, for the generous gift her family foundation recently made to help us purchase a new Emergency Response Vehicle.

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Board Chairman Shawn Riley, Lorraine Frankino-Dodero and CEO Mike Parks

CEO Mike Parks recounted the response to a recent fire in Cleveland, which affected a family of 12, and introduced Gary Grano and Talib Zayed, the two Red Cross volunteers who provided assistance to the family.

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The meeting ended with a call to action: to help the Red Cross install 100,000 smoke alarms in September and October, during the Sound the Alarm. Save a Life initiative. Everyone is invited to join us, by volunteering to Sound the Alarm, when we will install smoke alarms in the homes of residents in Cleveland and Akron.  Or by providing financial support at redcross.org.

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.

Disaster Workers Busy Helping Fire Victims Over Easter Weekend

Volunteers are at the heart of the Red Cross.

That has never been more apparent in Northeast Ohio as it has been in the last week. Since Friday, April 7, there have been 4 apartment building fires, in Boardman, Warrensville Heights, Parma and Cuyahoga Falls.  More than 180 residents have been chased from their homes during that time, including more than 60 children.

Red Cross disaster workers, the bulk of them volunteers, have responded to each of these emergencies, providing initial financial assistance, comfort and hope to people who, in some cases, have lost everything.

Red Cross Disaster workers open a reception center in the Warrensville Heights Civic Center in response to an apartment building fire on Monday, April 10, 2017.

As Chief Operating Officer Jorge Martinez notes,  “This is very impressive.  I’m always awed by volunteers.  Doing some quick math, they amassed nearly 59,000 volunteer hours (and we know there’s more that’s gone unrecorded).  That’s an average of 27 employees putting in an 8 hour workday 7 days a week over the past 9 months.  Given our current staffing, they more than doubled our capacity.”

Between Friday, April 7 and Friday April 14, Red Cross disaster workers offered initial financial assistance totaling more than $35,000 to the affected residents.  And they opened a shelter in Cuyahoga Falls, for residents affected by Thursday night’s fire.

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Ongoing assistance includes helping match residents with the agencies and resources that will help them plan their next moves.  And those in need have been offered mental health assistance, as well as help with medical needs, such as filling prescriptions.

On Easter Sunday, volunteers Teresa Greenlief, Jamie Waid and Bob Rupp played basketball with Bob Loch and Mike Surrel, two of the Cuyahoga Falls residents staying in a Red Cross shelter.

Photo Credit: Zackery McAvoy/American Red Cross

A final word from COO Jorge Martinez: “We’re truly lucky to have these volunteers in my opinion.  Great work.”

Visit redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab to learn more about opportunities to help those in need.

2016, a Year That Set New Weather Records

West Virginia Floods 2016

In a year that set new records for severe and devastating weather, the Red Cross provided more assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by these disasters all across the United States than in the past two years combined.

In 2016, 32,000 Red Cross volunteers responded to 180 significant disasters in 45 states and two U.S. territories including wildfires, storms, flooding, Hurricane Matthew and other emergencies. Volunteers from Northeast Ohio deployed to disaster affected areas nearly 140 times this year.

“People impacted by disaster are facing what can be their darkest days. This year a seemingly endless chain of disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people and the Red Cross was there, helping,” said Mike Parks, Northeast Ohio’s CEO. “But we need your support now to continue providing help to families affected by disasters.” The Red Cross depends on generous financial donations to provide services.

As of December 4, the Red Cross provided the following help to people impacted by disasters across the country this year:

  • Opened nearly 800 emergency shelters, providing 206,000 overnight shelter stays to people forced from their homes
  • Served more than 4.1 million meals and snacks
  • Distributed more than 2.1 million relief items

Home Fires Continued to be Largest U.S. Disaster Threat

Declan&OldAlarmAmidst all of these devastating events, home fires continued to be the largest disaster threat in the United States. During 2016, the Red Cross provided casework assistance to help 79,000 families recover after a home fire left them with nowhere else to turn. The Red Cross and thousands of local partners are also working to help prevent home fires, deaths and injuries. Since 2014, at least 116 lives have been saved through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, locally known as Operation Save-A-Life, a total of 574,000 smoke alarms have been installed, and 625,000 youth have been taught about fire safety.

Here in the Northeast Ohio Region, the Red Cross responded to over 970 home fires across 22 counties and provided more than $720,000 in financial assistance to those local families affected by disasters. Through the help of community partnerships, the Red Cross installed over 13,000 smoke alarms from July 2015 to June 2016.

World’s Largest Humanitarian Network Responds to Global Disasters

Before Hurricane Matthew hit the United States, the storm made landfall in Haiti, leaving widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure and major crop and livestock loss. The American Red Cross delivered critical relief, including supplies to reduce the increased threat of cholera in the country.

A massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada threatened dozens of communities in the spring. The American Red Cross deployed almost 100 employees and volunteers to help.

Ecuador Earthquake 2016A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador in April, cutting off remote communities and causing severe damage to the country’s infrastructure. Red Cross societies from all over the world stepped in to help.

 

2016 has been the deadliest year for refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, with more than 4,000 people dead as they try to cross from Libya to Europe. The American Red Cross has contributed funds to help meet the needs of refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life in Europe, including the deployment of a disaster specialist aboard a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean Sea.

HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to assist people affected by disasters. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting http://www.redcross.org/neo, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Shaker Heights Resident Turns to Red Cross for Help Following Home Fire

Volunteers Respond to Provide Assistance for Immediate Needs

After Keith Dulin’s kitchen caught fire in November, the intense stench made it difficult for him to stay in his apartment in Shaker Heights.

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Dulin tried to return that night, but slept in his car because he was overwhelmed by the reek of grease fire, which burned his stove and surrounding cabinets and wall. Familiar with the type of services provided by the Red Cross, he reached out for assistance.

“It was unbearable, trying to stay in the apartment,” Dulin said. “I needed another place to stay, and I knew the Red Cross could help.”

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Keith Dulin receives help from Red Cross volunteers Bill Geschke and Felicia Lee after a fire damaged his apartment in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “I am trying to give back to people who are less fortunate,” Geschke said. “I volunteer for other organizations, but the work I do for the Red Cross gives me the most satisfaction.”

After meeting with two Red Cross volunteers at his home, Dulin received a comfort kit with necessities like toiletries, as well as assistance to help cover food and alternative lodging to help get him back on his feet.

Volunteers like Felicia Lee and Bill Geschke respond to an average of three home fires a night in Northeast Ohio.  If you have an interest in volunteering, visit our website or call 216-431-3328.

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Red Cross volunteers Bill Geschke and Felicia Lee

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

How Can You Help Baton Rouge?

The Red Cross continues to provide hope, shelter and meals to those affected in Louisiana.

If you are asking yourself, “How can I help them?” Well, it’s as easy as sending a text (if you can’t do it yourself, may I recommend finding your nearest 5-year-old as they are shockingly amazing at it.) Simply text LAFLOODS to 90999 and a ten dollar donation to the American Red Cross will appear on your next cellular phone bill. Those with iPhones can also make a $5-$200 donation through iTunes and the App Store.

This donation will help us provide services and relief items to those affected by flooding in Louisiana.

Seven days in to the response, Red Cross shelters have hosted over 42,000 overnight stays. Nearly 2,800 remain in shelters. This is a number not typically seen this many days into an operation.

We have distributed 250,000 meals and snacks in shelters and communities.

Many are starting the work of rebuilding their lives; this is the next phase of a disaster response. Teams of Red Cross workers, including more than a dozen volunteers from Northeast Ohio, are in communities where the waters have receded, surveying the damage done and helping families navigate available financial and well-being assistance. Red Cross trucks from around the country are out providing meals and cleaning supplies to those tackling the job of repairing their homes.

The current estimate for the Red Cross response in Louisiana stands at $30 million.