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.

Red Cross partners with TeamSmile at Progressive Field Event

On July 15, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio partnered with TeamSmile to present the Pillowcase Project to nearly 300 children. The event, organized by TeamSmile, featured a group of local dentists, hygienists and educators who volunteered their time and talents to provide free dental care to underserved children during the one-day event at Progressive Field.

The children were moved through stations that included a preliminary exam, x-rays, cleaning and other work deemed necessary. While waiting for their turn in a dentistry chair, each child had the opportunity to learn more about being prepared for a disaster through the Red Cross Pillowcase Project.

“The ability to partner with TeamSmile presented the perfect opportunity to give back to our community by teaching the children who participated in the program how to be prepared for an emergency,” said Steve Trisler, Regional Disaster Officer for Northeast Ohio.

The Red Cross Pillowcase Project, sponsored by Disney, is a preparedness initiative created for children ages 7 to 11. It teaches the basics of how to stay safe during an emergency, what to have in an emergency kit and how to cope during an emergency. The program is fully customizable to the region; in Northeast Ohio the Red Cross teaches children about home fire safety, tornado safety, flooding safety and winter weather safety. At the end of the course each child is given a pillowcase and the opportunity to illustrate their own emergency kit needs.

TeamSmile is the nation’s premier oral health advocacy group. They partner with sports organizations across the nation to promote the message that oral health care is vitally important to long-term health.

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The power of being prepared (at any age)…

My boys are survivalists at heart.

When they were little, each carried around a bag full of cherished things:   “Puppy” the stuffed dog, a tape measure from Papa, a wallet with a few bucks in it, a note pad, a toy car, a plastic hammer, a blanket.  Today they still carry around bags, though now it is a camel pack filled with a pocket knife, wallet, gloves, bug spray, bandana, flashlight, and first aid kit.  As teenagers they are more inclined to be prepared for an emergency.

This is not a scientific fact, but, personally, I believe that people want to be prepared. Stuffing a bag full of essentials is one way to do that.  Heck, I have a purse stuffed full with essentials, myself! This personal belief is what made me fall in love with the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project sponsored by Disney!

A Girl Scout troop colors preparedness kits during a Red Cross Pillowcase Project session.

A Girl Scout troop colors preparedness kits during a Red Cross Pillowcase Project session.

The pillowcase project is an emergency preparedness exercise that teaches children grades 3-5 about weather related emergencies, coping mechanisms, and provides them with a “bag” in which to stuff all their essentials.  Instead of an ordinary bag it is a personally decorated, canvas pillowcase. I was very excited about this project, not only as a Red Crosser, but also as a parent.  I signed up right away to be a presenter and am so happy that I did.

My first session was with a group of Girl Scouts from Wooster, Ohio.  To my surprise they were very well-versed in tornado safety.  They already knew the difference between a tornado watch and a warning.  They knew where to go and what to do.  They were very smart cookies (no pun intended)!  However, when we talked about coping mechanisms, none of them really knew what that meant. As a presenter, I was able to introduce them to new ways to deal with fear and anxiety in just a few steps through coping mechanisms like breathing with color or singing their favorite song.  These mechanisms can help on a day-to-day basis and in times of emergency.

When the time came to pass out the pillowcases, we talked about what they would put in their pillowcase.  I asked them to think about the items that they would need in an emergency.  They began to list the items like flashlight, band-aids, batteries, phone charger before they mentioned the important stuff: stuffed animals, pictures of family, and special toys.

It is very important to be prepared for an emergency physically – with all the emergency equipment – but it is equally as important prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Hence the need for a stuffed animal and family photos!

This project is valuable in so many ways.  It is a fun and interactive teaching tool and the take a way is a tangible, touchable, stuffable pillowcase.  My day-to-day tasks don’t usually put me in contact with children, but this project has allowed me to reach out to the children in our community as future Red Crossers, future leaders, volunteers, and emergency personal.  I feel priveledged to be a Pillowcase Presenter.

Katie Myers-Griffith

Executive Director, American Red Cross, Ashland & Wayne Counties, Ohio.

 

Northeast Ohio rolls out the Disney Pillowcase Project

The Pillowcase Project, presented by the Red Cross and the Walt Disney Company, teaches students grades 3-5 about emergency preparedness.

The Pillowcase Project, presented by the Red Cross and the Walt Disney Company, teaches students grades 3-5 about emergency preparedness.

Thanks to a grant from the Walt Disney Company, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is now able to present The Pillowcase Project. The program provides disaster preparation education for third through fifth grade students. Kids learn how to create a disaster kit by packing essential items into a pillowcase for easy transport in times of emergency.

The project grew from stories of Loyola University students who packed their emergency belongings in a pillowcase during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The New Orleans chapter first developed the program and it has grown to include more than 59 Red Cross Regions.

In addition to preparing an emergency pillowcase kit, students will learn about geographic-specific hazards and practice resilience-coping skills. The program ties in to educational standards. During the class, kids will receive and color their own Disney pillowcase.

We are currently training presenters. If you are a registered volunteer (who has taken the Disaster Services Overview course) and are interested in being a presenter, please call John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or email John.Gareis@redcross.org.

Not a volunteer…yet? Get started today at redcross.org/volunteer.

Interested in hosting a presenter in your class or scout meeting? Call John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or email John.Gareis@redcross.org.