Preparedness in a Pillowcase

Milestone reached for the Pillowcase Project

One million elementary school students across the country have now learned how to prepare themselves, their households and their communities for emergencies by participating in The Pillowcase Project. More than 11,000 of those children live in Northeast Ohio.

 

Originally created in New Orleans, The Pillowcase Project is a free program inspired by the story of local university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases during Hurricane Katrina evacuations. During the presentation, participants receive a pillowcase to decorate and then take home to use as a personal emergency supplies kit.

The curriculum, targeted at 3rd to 5th graders, is structured by a Learn, Practice, Share framework. Students learn about the science of a locally relevant hazard and how to best prepare for it. They practice what to do if a disaster occurs and how to cope with related fear and stress. Afterwards, they share the information and skills they have learned with their family and friends so everyone in the household knows what to do.

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John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager was assisted by AmeriCorps worker Rachel Steiner at a Pillowcase Project presentation at the Cleveland VA Medical Center                                         Photo Credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

“It’s exciting to see young people in Northeast Ohio and across the country learn how to prepare themselves, their households, and their communities for emergencies and save lives by participating in The Pillowcase Project,” said John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager.

To date, 11 lives have been saved by four students who put into practice what they learned through the program. Last year, 9-year-old Camryn Sarnie of Ramona, Oklahoma was startled awake at 3:00 a.m. by a smoke alarm sounding in his home. The sound scared Camryn, but he recognized it and knew that it was alerting him to a fire. He knew that he had less than two minutes to escape, so he quickly woke up his parents, alerted them to the fire and instructed them to evacuate immediately. Camryn saved three lives that morning, including his own, by putting into practice what he learned just a few weeks earlier from The Pillowcase Project presentation at his school. According to Camryn’s mother, Lora, “Camryn told us all about what he learned in class after the presentation. Camryn is a true hero.”

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The Red Cross has engaged more than 35,000 volunteers and partnered with more than 13,000 schools, community organizations and partners to deliver this program to students across the country and at more than a dozen U.S. military stations abroad. The Walt Disney Company is the founding sponsor of the program.

Contact John Gareis at 216-431-3219 to schedule a Pillowcase Project presentation for your school, or email john.gareis@redcross.org. .  Additional information about The Pillowcase Project is available at redcross.org/pillowcase.

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.