Reflections on Americorps Experiences

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Rachel Steiner

Someone once told me that life isn’t about finding yourself but creating yourself. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I started working for this AmeriCorps program at the Red Cross.

Life deals everyone a different hand. Every individual has different strengths and weaknesses. Meeting so many adults and kids through this program, I’ve discovered what it means to be successful. It means putting yourself in situations that may be uncomfortable but can save lives. It means being the strong one and making the right decisions even when it’s difficult or confusing. Successful people struggle just like anyone else. Time and again I’ve seen individuals who’ve lost everything and persevere. No one has complete control over the future but when these people keep making tough decisions every minute of every day; they are giving themselves, and their families, a better chance in the future. Despite the fact that they may have no support system, they are doing it. No one ever became good at dealing with problems without dealing with any problems.

I have no doubt that my AmeriCorps experience at the Red Cross will help me get a good job. I’m very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given here. – Rachel Steiner, AmeriCorps Member stationed at the Summit, Portage, and Medina County office

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Rachel Steiner and Shelby Begg

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Shelby Begg

The experience I’ve had with AmeriCorps and the Red Cross over the past year has been truly amazing. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to provide impactful service to so many families throughout Northeastern Ohio, and that I got to work alongside so many wonderful people – both staff and volunteer! – Shelby Begg, AmeriCorps Member stationed at the Greater Cleveland office

We are so grateful for Shelby and Rachel, who served as AmeriCorps Members for the bulk of the 2017 fiscal year.

“We are grateful for the terrific support from the Corporation for National and Community Service which allowed us the opportunity to have Rachel and Shelby come on board for the year,” said John Gareis, Regional Manager in Preparedness and Community Planning. “By helping support our Home Fire Campaign and Pillowcase Project, we have been able to teach more households and children about fire prevention and the importance of being prepared.”

As their time with the Red Cross winds down,  Rachel and Shelby will move on to new projects in their lives.

We will begin the search for two more AmeriCorps members to help work with our Home Fire Preparedness Program and The Pillowcase Project. If you know an individual who would like to join the AmeriCorps program and work with the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate suffering in our community, send them to www.nationalservice.gov to get started on their application today!

Funding for the Red Cross program is provided by a grant from the Corporation for National Community and Service. Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 1 million men and women have served in AmeriCorps, providing more than 1.4 billion hours of service and earning more than $3.3 billion in education scholarships to pay for college or pay back student loans, more than $1 billion of which has been used to pay back student loan debt.

Magics Learn Disaster Safety

Hurricane Season begins June 1.

And while that usually (usually!) isn’t a major factor when planning for Northeast Ohio weather, we do have plenty of disasters that we need to be aware of and plan for, here in NEO.

To that end, the Red Cross continues to help children in our communities learn about disasters that can (and do!) happen in NEO through our Pillowcase Project.

Nearly 300 students at Barberton Elementary School West had the opportunity to learn more about home fire safety and winter weather safety when kids from third to fifth grade participated in the program in February.

The volunteer team leading the education portion included members of the Advancement to Nursing program, high school students from Barberton and the surrounding communities.

To learn more about how to host the Pillowcase Program at your school, click here.

3 Reasons and 4 Ways to #Help1Family on Red Cross Giving Day

GD16_Meals_FacebookNearly every eight minutes, the American Red Cross extends a helping hand to a family in need that has lost everything – the roof over their heads, their clothes, and their most cherished possessions – to a home fire.

The Red Cross has been busy helping neighbors in and around Northeast Ohio, but we need your help on one special day to continue to provide the emergency services that our neighbors depend on each and every day.

On April 21, you have a chance to help families in need whenever and wherever they need it by participating in the Red Cross’ Giving Day to #help1family. A donation of just $88.50 can provide a family with a day’s worth of food, plus blankets and other essentials.

We are proud of the work we accomplished to help people in Northeast Ohio last year:

  1. Installing 8,960 smoke alarms in NEO communities
  2. Provided 3,161 students with disaster readiness training through The Pillowcase Project, sponsored by Disney
  3. Responded to over 950 disaster incidents such as home fires or flooding

Spread the word about Giving Day – the more people who support Giving day means we can help more families.  Use your social media channels to reach out to friends and family and ask them to donate to #help1family by visiting https://givingday.redcross.org/region/northeast-ohio.

Here are four ways your donation will #help1family:

  1. GD16_Volunteer_FacebookSupporting a family in urgent need: provide funding to give a family a day’s worth of food, blankets, and other essentials.
  2. Supplying warm meals: help provide hearty, comforting meals to people impacted by disasters.
  3. Providing clean-up kits after a disaster strikes: make clean-up kits available for families in need that include vital items like a mop, bucket, and disinfectant.
  4. Deploying an emergency response vehicle for a day: Red Cross workers travel to impacted neighborhoods in fully stocked Emergency Response vehicles to provide food, water and critical relief.

 

Imagine the impact that we could have on our community if everyone wanted to #help1family.

Thank you.

Prevent and Alleviate: Providing Fire Safety Education to Everyone

You may think that preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies – the two actions our mission charges us to do – is a tall order.

With over 4.5 million residents to educate and assist, it can be a little overwhelming.

And yet, when eating an elephant – take one bite at a time.

The first bite: teaching our young community members more about how to keep themselves (and their families) safe before, during and following a disaster.

We are proud to announce that we have hit our annual goal by teaching the pillowcase project, sponsored by Disney, to 2,892 local school-aged children!

The pillowcase project teaches kids about disasters that can happen here in Northeast Ohio, and what they and their families can do to prepare for and respond during an event. Home fire education is the most prevalent piece of this program, as we respond to an average of three home fires across Northeast Ohio each night.

During the program kids are taught about smoke alarms, what to do when a smoke alarm sounds, knowing exit strategies for each room, creating a family meeting spot and so much more.

But this education isn’t just for the children of our community.

We are dedicated to sharing these safety tips with everyone. That’s the second bite of the elephant.

Through Operation Save-A-Life we are helping families learn more about fire safety as well as providing the tools necessary to put that education into practice, should the time come.

As of March, 2016, we have installed over 8,844 smoke alarms in homes throughout Northeast Ohio.

That’s just 1,156 off from the stretch goal we gave ourselves in June, 2015. Our region currently leads the nation in number of smoke alarms installed.

We are very proud of what we have accomplished. And our dedicated work and planning is paying off. We see it in the success stories of families like this one from last summer, and this one from December.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to the Red Cross workforce who made those numbers happen. Thank you to those who continue to educate, install and provide hope to families and individuals in each of the communities that we serve.

You can eat an elephant – one bite at a time.

Thank you!!

Holiday Message from Mike Parks

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American Red Cross CEO Mike Parks, Northeast Ohio Region

Northeast Ohio American Red Cross Family:  Between Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, Boxing Day and New Year’s (among others)—we’re well into this year’s “Holiday Season.”   Please accept my sincere thanks and grateful appreciation for all each of you do every day to help serve those in need in Northeast Ohio.  Thank you!

As we close out calendar year 2015 (as well as the first half of FY 2016) and reflect back on your accomplishments, it’s been an incredibly busy year.  Here’s just a partial list of some of those successes:

Opened more disaster cases and provided more direct client assistance than the same time last year.

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Prescious Givens and her family received housing assistance after their home caught fire

Installed more than 6500 smoke alarms (our target was 6500 but we upped our annual goal to 10,000).

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Lincoln Electric CEO and Red Cross Board Member Chris Mapes installing smoke alarms in Euclid

Reached more than 2800 students with the Pillowcase Project  (our target was 3000 but we got materials for 500 additional).

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Students created pillowcases at Wilcox Elementary School in North Ridgeville

Migrated almost 2200 volunteers (including Biomedical Services) to Volunteer Connection.

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Volunteer George Figel of Akron

Recruited more than 300 new volunteers to the American Red Cross.

Created an integrated American Red Cross Board combining Chapter & Biomedical Boards.

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Inaugural meeting of combined board

Achieved 100% participation in our annual Board Campaign while exceeding our financial goal by almost 10%.

 

 

 

 

Partnered with both the Veteran’s Administration and the USO to better serve our members of the Armed Forces.

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American Red Cross CEO Mike Parks,  with Ohio Army National Guardsmen

 

Updated all Northeast Ohio American Red Cross websites and revitalized an informative Blog.

Upgraded our building facilities and streamlined our automotive fleet.

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Remained well-within our annual expense budget through careful stewardship.

Hired and onboarded more than a dozen new enthusiastic Red Cross employees.

 

Tim O'Toole

Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole

And as you know—that’s just scratching the surface of all you’ve accomplished throughout the Northeast Ohio Region.  As many of us take time to celebrate with families and friends, I want to say a special “Thank You” to those staff and volunteers who have, and will be providing critical assistance during this holiday period.  We wouldn’t be the American Red Cross without you!  As I’ve said many times since joining this fine organization, the American Red Cross is all about “caring”…”caring for those we serve” and “caring for those who serve.”   It seems fitting that in this special season of giving, we remember those who give so much to help those in need.  Thank you to all of the Northeast Ohio American Red Cross family.  I wish you and yours Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.  I’m already excited about what 2016 will bring—I hope you are too.   Best wishes…Mike

The Pillowcase Project Presented To North Ridgeville Students

Fifth Graders Learn About Preparing and Coping With Potential Emergencies

Students at Wilcox Elementary school in North Ridgeville are now better prepared for potential disasters, thanks to American Red Cross volunteer Alice Martinez and The Pillowcase Project.

Alice teaches students in grades 3, 4 and 5 about hazards they may encounter in Northeast Ohio, and how to prepare for and cope with emergencies.  As part of the class, students are given sturdy pillowcases, provided by Disney, which they decorate and take home.  The students are instructed to fill those pillowcases with supplies they may need to take with them should they be forced to leave their homes in a hurry.

The Pillowcase Project was inspired by college students in New Orleans in 2005.  As hurricane Katrina approached, many students were seen leaving their dorms with pillowcases slung over their shoulders.  They were carrying whatever they could fit into those pillowcases.

The instructions are tailored for the region where they are taught.  With winter weather approaching, the children at Wilcox elementary were reminded of the potential dangers posed by extreme winter weather conditions, as well as tornadoes, flooding and home fires.

On Monday, October 19, a news crew from WKYC Channel 3 recorded The Pillowcase Project Presentation in the fifth grade classroom of Mrs. Pam Ventimiglia.  Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins interviewed some of the student about what they learned, and a videographer recorded them decorating their pillowcases.  You can see Monica’s report here.

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

The program is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.  It began in Cleveland as Operation Save-A-Life in 1992, following a spate of deadly home fires.  The goal of the national campaign is to reduce the number of deaths caused by home fires by 25% over a five-year period.

The Red Cross has also designed youth app, called Monster Guard: Prepare for Emergencies, based on The Pillowcase Project and was also sponsored by Disney as part of this program.

Preparing the Community (And the Volunteer Jobs that go with it)

By: Debra, Regional Volunteer Specialist

September is Preparedness Month and throughout Northeast Ohio the Red Cross is asking that individuals, families, and businesses to be Red Cross Ready.  Red Crossers know that preparedness begins with them; by taking a few simple preparedness steps they help save themselves and their family when an emergency strikes and are taking action to bolster their resilience should the unthinkable happen.  From July 2014 through June 2015 the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 967 incidents across 22 counties, providing comfort and hope to those affected.

Red Cross volunteers expand on this promotion for preparedness through their actions of volunteering;  passionately sharing resource information with members of their community, to help change behavior and reduce the risk of injury and loss due to an emergency. 

Three years ago The Pillowcase Project was implemented in Red Cross regions nationwide. The program, which was developed after Hurricane Katerina and through support from Disney, focuses on reaching young students (3rd-5th grade) and sharing preparedness resources and resiliency techniques.  Volunteer Pillowcase Project Instructors complete a training course that hones their preparedness knowledge and presentation skills and readies them to conduct classroom instruction and interactive activities in schools, summer camps, youth programs and after-school settings.  The program empowers students to act as advocates for disaster preparedness in their homes and communities, as well as teaches them how to use coping skills to help manage stress during emergencies and in everyday situations.

Community Disaster Education (CDE) Presenters continue to encourage adult community members, organizations and agencies by promoting and conducting public speaking and/or booth support on how to prevent and prepared for emergencies. Preparing the nearly 4.5 million residents Northeast Ohio home is no small feat, but Red Cross volunteers participate in many community outreach events across our area, helping to educate over 75,000 individuals annually.

If you are interested in volunteering to prepare your community in either of these capacities, please visit our website: www.redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteer on the left side of the screen. You will be dropped directly into the application process. You may also call 216-431-3328 or email, NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.