Sandusky man assisted by Red Cross during family tragedy to serve on local board

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

In January 2018 a family’s life was forever changed. An early morning fire broke out at a Norwalk, Ohio, home. Multiple fire departments responded and battled the blaze. Tragically, the fire took the lives of a husband and wife, their adult son, his certified therapy dog and their family dog.

The event devastated the family, which is still trying to heal. In a matter of minutes, they lost their parents, grandparents, brother and uncle. The case was difficult on the firefighters, too. It was the first multi-fatality fire in the community in nearly 100 years.

Rob Griggs of Sandusky is the oldest son and big brother of the family. A former Marine and self-described multitasker, he feels he can handle having a lot placed on his shoulders.

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Rob Griggs and his sister, Tricia Costanzo at the Sound the Alarm event in Sandusky in April

“My family often looks toward me for answers,” he said. “But I didn’t have them myself.”

“There was never a chance to say goodbye,” Rob said. “There is no closure, and there never will be. It’s been really, really hard for all of us.”

Rob, who is general sales manager at Kasper Buick GMC, is now working to prevent other families from having to experience this hardship—first as an American Red Cross volunteer and soon as a board member with the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

 

On a Saturday in late April, Rob, his wife Cali, their 11-year-old son Zach and Rob’s sister Tricia Costanzo went door to door in Sandusky installing smoke alarms as volunteers during a Sound the Alarm event. That day, 129 smoke alarms were installed by two dozen volunteers—ultimately making 63 homes safer.

“My son loved it,” he said. “He was there knocking on all the doors. He and his sister lost two grandparents. It was their first loss . . . so it has been a process for them as well. He’s a good kid who wants to be part of helping.”

Rob stated that his family is now a “Red Cross family.” He explained that he and his wife Cali want “to give to any and every part of the Red Cross” and help in any way they can to bring more awareness to its needs.

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Rob’s wife Cali installs a smoke alarm in a home in Sandusky

“Rob informed me that he was incredibly touched by our Red Cross volunteers that night his family’s home caught fire,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. “He never realized what the local Red Cross does in our communities every day and said he will forever be a Red Cross volunteer. I look forward to having Rob on our board and helping us advance our mission throughout the communities we serve.”

Rob’s advice:  Every six months, check your smoke alarms and replace them after 10 years. He will be vigilantly reaching out to friends and family and advocating on this issue as a family. He believes if he can help people be more secure or protect their homes, it will help him rest more easily at night.

“People don’t realize how important it is,” he explained. “It takes a few minutes of your life to check. It’s a few minutes you may never get back. . . . The time it took could have saved three lives.”

The Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm campaign is designed to reduce the number of home fire fatalities each year. To donate so that smoke alarms can be purchased and installed in local communities, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

Fast start for Sound the Alarm

Corporate partners and volunteers help save lives at Sound the Alarm events

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

April 29, 2019- “This isn’t so much a corporate event—it’s really just people helping otherIMG_7080 people.” That’s how Kim Giberson, the quality assurance project manager for TravelCenters of America summed up his company’s participation in Sound the Alarm.

Kim was among more than a dozen TravelCenters of America employees who gathered on a bright, crisp Saturday morning to install free smoke alarms in homes in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side.

“When you hear about the need to protect people’s homes, you realize you need to do something,” he said.

Several other partners provided volunteers for home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events, not only in Cleveland, but also in Youngstown, Ravenna and Sandusky, where Rob Griggs and his sister Tricia Costanzo went door-to-door to help make homes safer and, ultimately, save lives.

“This cause is near and dear to our hearts,” Rob said. “We lost our parents and a brother in a home fire in January of 2018. Anything we can do to help someone else avoid the same fate, we’ll do.”

IMG_6362ASound the Alarm is a nationwide American Red Cross campaign meant to help save lives. Teams of volunteers are going door-to-door across the country through May 11, installing smoke alarms and providing home fire safety information. Several more installation events are planned throughout the Northeast Ohio region.

“We are off to a great start here in Northeast Ohio,” said Tim O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer. Through five events, we have tallied 922 alarms installed in 391 homes.”

The goal in Northeast Ohio is to install 3,000 alarms by May 11. It’s part of the national goal to install 100,000 smoke alarms.

The Burn Center at MetroHealth is honored to be part of the Red Cross Sound the Alarm event,” said Brandy Kulak, a nurse manager at the hospital’s Comprehensive Burn Care Center. “We know firsthand how important prevention is, and how seconds can make a tremendous difference when there is a fire.”

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Volunteer opportunities still exist for the remaining Sound the Alarm events throughout Northeast Ohio. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to find an event near you.

Kim Giberson plans to volunteer for another Sound the Alarm event next weekend in Medina. “It makes you feel good.”

See photos from our Cleveland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our North Ridgeville Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre, and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.

Nurses Needed…ASAP

Looking back 100 years at the Lake Erie / Heartland Chapter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s Note:  This is the latest in a series of centennial-related stories involving the founding of Red Cross chapters in Northeast Ohio)

If history proves anything, it might be that we need to learn from our mistakes.

In 1898, when the USS Maine exploded off Cuba’s shores, war was declared with Spain, and the U.S. Army was deployed.  Despite knowledge that yellow fever was most likely to afflict people during the rainy summer season, the U.S. forces launched their offensive on June 22.  Less than 400 soldiers died during the conflict, but more than 2,000 succumbed to the disease during the occupation that followed.

Sixteen years later, the United States initially resisted being drawn into World War I.  However, after learning that the Germans were suggesting Mexico attack the U.S., President Wilson asked for and received a declaration of war in 1917. With America preparing to enter yet another foreign war, the nation hoped to be more prepared.

A military draft was established and of the 10-million men interviewed, 4.7-million were selected. This required a tremendous increase in medical care as well as production of arms and ammunition for the troops. The Army Medical department increased its hospital capacity from 9,500 to 120,000 beds stateside alone.

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Sunday morning, February 4, 1917, Mrs. Alice Montgomery, secretary of the local Red Cross chapter in Sandusky received a 300-word telegram from American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Instructions were two-fold.  Set up a “roomy, centrally located headquarters, rent free, and equipment for same…” to produce medical supplies and comfort bags. Secondly, names of nurses and potential nurses were to be collected.

Courses of instruction in nursing would be provided by the Bureau of Nursing Services in Washington.  Doctors and graduate nurses could also report to the Bureau in Washington. Volunteer men could also take first aid courses and organize a “sanitary corps” locally.

Wasting no time, Mrs. John Renner, president of the Sandusky chapter, organized a meeting for that very afternoon and began the work of rolling gauze and preparing medical supplies.

Monday, February 19, Huron began formation of their own chapter, hoping to attract at least 35 to 40 women locally. By April, they already reached 60, and set their new goal for 200. Men were asked to join as well as women.

Unfortunately, twenty years later, history was destined to repeat itself and a huge case of influenza struck our troops, first on our shores and shortly thereafter in the European theater, starting in France. Crowded, unsanitary conditions in camp and in the trenches were ultimately determined to be the cause this time, but not until more than one million men were affected with 30,000 of them dying before they even reached France.

History books are lax in mentioning it, but health related deaths exceeded combat deaths in World War I. Total non-combat deaths reached 63,000, while combat deaths accounted for 53,000.

Many were saved however, thanks in part to the Red Cross having assisted with the job of recruiting experienced nurses for the Army Nursing Corps, along with organizing many ambulance companies. The Red Cross also organized 50 hospitals of 1,000 beds each, at American universities across the country.

Today, the need is still there. Fortunately, not for war-related injuries specifically, but the Red Cross continues to prevent and alleviate human suffering in a multitude of emergencies.  Please consider volunteering at http://neoredcross.org.

Sandusky Women Answer the Call

Looking back 100 years at the Lake Erie / Heartlands Chapter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

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From the Centennial Mound in Washington Park, Sandusky

In March 1916, as a U.S. expedition of more than 10,000 troops were chasing Pancho Villa back into Mexico, and Company B of the National Guard was being federalized to control our border at El Paso, Texas, the Red Cross Sandusky Chapter was being formed.  Realizing we might also be deploying troops to Europe, the National Office was requesting more and more chapters to join the organization.

By June 1916, fifty women had already expressed interest in joining at a meeting held in the Carnegie Library in Sandusky. They began making “ditty” bags for the men of Company B.  Described in the Sandusky Star-Journal as “…most convenient and attractive little affairs. Fashioned of the familiar khaki, with blue braid binding, and red flannel leaves, they each hold 6 needles, 6 safety pins, 3 darning needles, 2 rows of common pins, a spool each of khaki and white thread, six each of khaki colored and white buttons, and a pair of scissors.”

Saturday, August 19, 1916 at 3:00 p.m., with charter-in-hand, more than one hundred volunteers gathered at G.A.R. Hall in Sandusky to elect officers and directors for this newest Chapter of the American Red Cross. Plans were formulated for their first regular meeting which would take place in October.

At the October meeting, the guest speaker was Miss Elizabeth Perkins, field secretary of the National Red Cross, recently back in the US after serving in hospitals along the French front. She brought a request for “comfort bags” that could be given to the troops in the French hospitals. 50,000 were needed nationally, and it would be a proper project for the new chapter. They were needed by November 15 to be shipped and received in time for Christmas distribution.

Each 9” x 12” bag would contain a pair of socks, a razor or pocket knife, handkerchief, pencil, writing tablet, pipe (no tobacco), harmonica or game (no playing cards), box of hard candy or bouillon cubes, wash clothes, cake of soap, pocket mirror, and a comb or jar of Vaseline. Each bag would have a card included with the name of the donor.

Unfortunately, while the chapter was waiting for its charter, all the dues collected to that point had been sent in to the national office, and the chapter found itself without operating funds. Suggestions were received that the entire Erie County should be included in the chapter, giving them a larger base of members and financial support.

Eventually, the Lake Erie / Heartland Chapter of the Red Cross would expand to what today includes Ashland, Erie, Holmes, Huron, Lorain, Richland and Wayne Counties.  That’s quite an expansion from the original small chapter in Sandusky, so, you could say they certainly took those directions 100 years ago, to heart.

What hasn’t changed, is that the Red Cross can still use more volunteers and more donations. Visit redcross.org/neo to get involved.