Chris and Jim Davis named 2019 Festival of Trees honorary co-chairs

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

November 18, 2019- The American Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter named Chris and Jim Davis the 2019 honorary co-chairs for the annual Festival of Trees, which will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at the Shisler Conference Center in Wooster.

Jim and Chris Davis

Chris and Jim Davis

The event helps raise funds for the Red Cross to help residents who are affected by disasters like home fires and flooding in Ashland, Holmes, Richland and Wayne counties.

The Davis’ were both born and raised in Orrville, Ohio and attended Orrville High School together. Both have led a life of service, with Chris serving as a teacher and director at the Trinity Christian Pre-School for 28 years and Jim a police officer at the Orrville Police Department. Currently, they own and operate the Orrville Dairy Queen, which Jim’s mother and father purchased in 1984.

“We support the American Red Cross and their mission, which is to prevent and alleviate human suffering,” said Chris Davis. “I think of them as the number one second responder, right after police and fire, our first responders. Your contribution to help stays here for local disaster services and programs.”

The Festival of Trees, one of the area’s premiere holiday events since 1990, has generated funds for local Red Cross disaster relief for families experiencing home fires, floods or tornadoes.

FOT

The fundraising event features beautifully decorated holiday trees, wreaths, centerpieces and baskets donated by local artisans and decorators. The holiday decorations will be auctioned at the event.

Additionally, local companies have donated wonderful and unique items for the auction, such as a ride for two on the Goodyear blimp and a trip to Disney World.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the event, visit redcross.org/trees19.

Akron Brass remains a local champion through Red Cross partnership

By Mike Arthur, Disaster Program Manager, Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter (South)

November 15, 2019- When I have trouble with my work equipment, I call the Red Cross information technology (IT) department and they help me fix the problem. At worst, it means I’m not very productive for a short period of time. In my previous career as a firefighter, if I had trouble with my equipment it could have resulted in injury or death.

akron-brass-logo-horizontal-color

For the last 100 years, the Akron Brass Company has made quality equipment to ensure that firefighters are able to put fires out and save lives. Every firefighter knows about Akron Brass, and how good their products are. I recently had the opportunity to visit their offices and got to meet many of their staff members. Akron Brass is an incredible partner of the American Red Cross. This year alone they have provided funds to support our Home Fire Campaign and are the presenting sponsor of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter Festival of Trees event in Wooster next month. In addition, the company actively participates in hosting blood drives, including the Wooster Battle of the Badges event, which pits the police against the fire department in a friendly competition.

FOT

I was at Akron Brass headquarters on Friday, November 8th, when employees assembled 150 comfort kits for veterans.

The Akron Brass Company is a world leader in fire products, as well as a local champion for Wayne County and the state of Ohio.

To view more photos from the Akron Brass care kit assembly event, visit our Flickr page.

Stay safe this winter with these tips to keep warm

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

November 14, 2019- Did you know that heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires, and fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths?

As the cold weather continues to creep into Northeast Ohio, residents continue to take efforts to keep their homes warm from the freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, some of those efforts can lead to tragic consequences.

heating-en

Over the past two winter-like days, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 8 home fires, several related to alternative home heating sources, resulting in 23 residents being assisted and $3,695 in immediate financial assistance.

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year, more than 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home.

Kentucky Ice Storm

If you and your family use alternative heating sources to stay warm, here are some prevention tips to help keep you safe this winter:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.
  • Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor, and away from bedding and drapes.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • NEVER use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

Kentucky Ice Storm

How to keep family and friends safe from carbon monoxide?

  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location and then call 9-1-1.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test the alarm every month.
  • Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for more information on how to prevent heating fires.

Volunteering: The gift of your time

By Sue Wilson Cordle, American Red Cross volunteer

November 13, 2019- The holidays are almost upon us and as you look ahead to the busy time from just before Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, many of us feel a mix of expectation and trepidation. The expectation is for a joyful season with family and friends—but the reality for many who are struggling financially or emotionally, is that this time of year can be stressful. There are experts galore with suggestions for getting through the season, But one consistent theme: Giving to others can improve your own mental health.

Winter DAT workers

But wait—doesn’t giving to others add to the stress?

Remember the holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” when Schwartz took the double-dog dare and got his tongue stuck on the metal pole? How about this holiday challenge that doesn’t involve losing any skin? Ask yourself this question: Can you think of any of the gifts you received last year? Now think about how many you bought for family, friends and co-workers. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably remember very few (if any) but you do remember you had to make payments on your credit card long after that last Amazon delivery.

Flick-s-tongue-stuck-to-pole-A-Christmas-Story-gif-thecountess-40069078-600-338

This year make the holiday season LESS about consumerism and MORE about people. How?

Become a volunteer. According to this recent article written by Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson, volunteering has surprising health benefits. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated and provide a sense of purpose. And if you think your income level, age, or even a disability prevents you from volunteering, research shows that people with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.

The American Red Cross has a number of ways you can donate your time and talent. You can take a quiz that will match your skill set, age, interests or goals to find a volunteer opportunity that is right for you. From 18 to 80 (and beyond), there is something you can do to help the Red Cross in its mission to alleviate suffering in your own backyard or around the world.

Development SAF Stock Photography Project 2018

Right now, the Red Cross has three specific needs that are high priority volunteer positions: a blood donor ambassador, a blood transportation specialist and a disaster action team member. It is volunteers in priority positions like these, or in any number of roles, who carry out 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross.

Your favorite memories surrounding the holidays or about life in general probably don’t involve gifts at all. They involve rituals and traditions, feelings and emotions—all involving quality time spent doing something important, whether with loved ones or a community of strangers that can become friends with purpose in the world of volunteering.

Carrollton STA

This year, give something that means something. Give the gift of your time and become a volunteer. Do it alone or team up with a friend or family member. It will be a gift that is far more valuable than anything money can buy. It will be a gift you’ll remember forever.

To explore opportunities to share your gift of time, visit Redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio American Red Cross volunteer deploys to assist with California wildfires

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

November 1, 2019- As critical wildfire weather conditions continue to plague residents of California, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is deploying a local volunteer to assist with the Red Cross’ relief efforts.

Tom Quinn of Wadsworth is one of more than 500 Red Cross volunteers supporting evacuation centers to provide safe refuge for individuals impacted by the devastating fires. Quinn recently deployed in September to assist with the Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in Florida.

thumbnail_image016

Meritt Dahlgren (right) overjoyed when he found his home still standing despite perimeter being destroyed

In northern California, the Kincade Fire has scorched more than 77,700 acres and is about 65 percent contained.

In southern California, the Hillside Fire near San Bernadino and Easy Fire in the Simi Valley, along with the Getty Fire continue to burn near Los Angeles.

thumbnail_image011

The Maria Fire, which broke out Thursday, has grown to as many as 8,000 acres in Ventura County, prompting new evacuation orders.

While some evacuations have been lifted, there were still more than 180 people in 8 Red Cross and community shelters overnight. With partners, the Red Cross has served more than 40,500 meals and snacks, provided more than 2,500 relief items and made more than 2,400 individual care contacts.

thumbnail_image014

“The Red Cross was very prepared for this catastrophe. My friends and neighbors are grateful for all the support the Red Cross has shown our community,” said Meritt Dahlgren, Heldsburg resident who was overjoyed to find his home still standing, despite the perimeter being destroyed.

All are welcome at all Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross delivers help to anyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or citizenship status. People who have disaster-caused needs do not need to be American citizens to access Red Cross services.

thumbnail_image009

You can help people affected by disasters like wildfires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Mahoning Valley residents and volunteers “Feel the Heat” during emergency response tour

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

October 30, 2019- The American Red Cross partners with many organizations to create a network of volunteers and highly skilled professionals who are prepared when emergencies arise. The Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS) has served proudly since 1955 as a community jewel and thirdlargest employer of the Mahoning Valley—ready to serve our region and beyond in multiple ways.

On October 22 the Red Cross community was invited to Feel the Heat, a learning tour of facilities and tools used by the valley’s bravest to serve our region and nation. Nearly 1,900 military personnel efficiently operate this 321-acre federal facility in Trumbull County, where our assignment began.

48943605903_23f15a0a99_c

Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Lake to River, and chapter board member Lou Joseph of Home Savings and Loan of Youngstown

We were greeted with opening remarks at the Community Activities Center (CAC) by Colonel Don Wren, 910th Air Wing Mission Group Support Commander. Joe Mersol, Lake to River chapter co-events chair, addressed attendees during refreshments. After Mike Parks, Red Cross regional executive, introduced Air Force Fire Chief John Lewis, we were divided into three squadrons and briefed with instructions for our nearly two-hour tour.

Our second stop was at the Family Assistance Center, where we learned training and drills that can help families in any YARS related event or disaster, with a staff  ready to provide counseling, food, first aid, shelter and specialized services.

48943615653_f843325853_c

Red Cross Regional CEO Mike Parks, a U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retired) speaks with Air Force Reserve Col. Don Wren,  Commander, 910th Mission Support Group

Our next adventure was reporting to the Smoke House for a simulated smoke demonstration. This illustrated how difficult it is to see in a fire. We learned the importance of staying low to the ground and other safety tips. Outside, we “felt the heat” at the next demonstration by witnessing a propane- fueled metal training jet set ablaze as Chief Lewis outlined the challenges of fighting such a fire.

“It’s our opportunity to work with our amazing 910th Airlift Wing on an exercise where we simulate a plane has gone down,” said Karen Conklin, Lake to River Chapter executive director.

48944161206_f9468f3637_c

They also demonstrated the powerful “jaws of life” and other tools used to extract victims of car accidents. The chief noted that they assist various area fire departments in the region, as was supported by the presence of Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Findley and Mayor Tito Brown.

Our last stop was at the Emergency Operations Center. This “situation room” with the latest technology helps federal, state and local responders coordinate emergency efforts and monitor events such as air shows hosted by YARS.

48944156906_3365b156d8_c

It was an informative and pride-filled day that helped show the community the value of this facility as a Red Cross trusted ally.

Our thanks to Lake to River chapter board chair Deborah Grinstein for coordinating the event; 910th Airlift Wing Commander Colonel Joseph D. Janik; and Master Sgt. Bob Bartko Jr. for allowing us to observe impressive team efforts and for planning this exciting event.

48943609108_00243c4ed5_c

Col. Wren with Red Cross AmeriCorps workers Carrie Schultz, left, and Teresa Greenlief

Visit www.youngstown.afrc.af.mil to learn more about this Mahoning Valley gem.

To see more photos from the Feel the Heat event, click here to visit our Flickr page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

International adventures with a former Red Cross staff member

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

October 28, 2019- Betty Lou Sobotincic started working for the American Red Cross right out of high school. Her friend’s mother catered luncheon meetings at the headquarters in Erie, Pennsylvania, and she told director Harry Ringer about Betty Lou. Ringer was known for overseeing all of the Red Cross during World War II and having worked with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Erie branch was short-staffed, and Ringer hired Betty Lou as secretary to the First Aid, Water Safety and Disaster Response departments. She soon discovered that she and a college student from Gannon University had two weeks to prepare for the “Teach Johnny to Swim” program that summer – for 2,000 students! They managed to pull it off.

BLC wave

During Betty Lou’s time in Erie, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. One of her jobs was to raise the flag. When Ringer told her to put the flag at half-mast that day, she asked him what that meant. “He gave me a look. When Harry told you to do something, you just did it. So I went outside and figured out how to hang a flag at half-mast.”

After a couple of years, Betty was getting restless and she had reached the cap of the pay range. Ringer called the Red Cross office in Washington, D.C., and opened the door for them to hire her for overseas duty. She traveled to D.C. and stayed at the famous Willard Hotel. Both the hotel and the Red Cross headquarters were quite impressive to a 19-year-old from Ashtabula, Ohio.

BLC Heidelberg, patient

Betty Lou’s first assignment was at the Far Eastern Area Headquarters of the Red Cross in Tokyo, Japan, during the build up to the Vietnam War. When she arrived, there were between eight and 15 personnel in Vietnam. By the time she left two years later, there were 250, and a substation had been created in Saigon. As secretary, and the youngest staff member by far, Betty Lou was in charge of payroll, processing transfers and keeping track of everyone’s location. She was tasked with going to embassies for the Southeast Asian countries and procuring visas for transferring workers. Finding her way around Tokyo was no easy task. Eventually she bought a car and drove herself wherever she needed to go.

At 21, Betty Lou was transferred to Heidelberg Hospital in Germany, again serving as secretary with a high-level security clearance, which was necessary due to her knowledge of troop movement. Her duties included sending messages to families of soldiers who had been killed and assisting families who came to visit those who had been severely wounded. While this job wasn’t as challenging as the one in Japan, it was emotionally draining.

BLC mag cover

Sometimes Red Cross personnel from Washington and other locations came to the hospital and were hosted by the director. One of those guests was Al Cherry , who Betty Lou met at a Red Cross gathering. Six weeks later the two were married in Switzerland! Eventually they moved to Ashtabula, Ohio, to raise a family.

Betty Lou served the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio during a number of local disasters, such as the tornadoes in Xenia, Ohio, and the surrounding area. In more recent years, Betty Lou and Al have been consistent contributors to the Red Cross, with a special focus on family needs following house fires. Betty Lou still stays in touch with people she met through her work, both here and abroad. The Red Cross holds a special place in her heart.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer