NEO Red Cross collecting supplies to support military service members and veterans in need this holiday season

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist,American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Communications volunteer.

This holiday season, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is teaming up with the Ohio Troop and Family Assistance Center (TFAC) to provide supplies to military families and veterans in need.

During the holiday season, to give thanks to our military for everything they do for us each day, the Red Cross is collecting toiletries and paper goods. The TFAC has a “pantry”/ “care room” at the North Canton National Guard Armory but supports all 22 counties of the Red Cross’ Northeast Ohio Region. The pantry is in need of feminine products, diapers (all sizes), laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap and men’s razors. It is recommended that items be smaller in size but not trial size

The Red Cross has a long history of assisting military service members, their families and veterans. Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, risked her life during the Civil War to bring supplies to soldiers in the fields. This service and the continued need to support and protect the sick and wounded during wartime led Clara to establish the Red Cross in 1881.This commitment to the military and those in need in times of conflict and humanitarian crises led to the Red Cross receiving a congressional charter in 1905 to fulfill provisions of the Geneva Conventions. These responsibilities are to provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military and to maintain a system of domestic and international disaster relief. Despite this close relationship with the federal government, the Red Cross is an independent nonprofit that does not receive federal funding.

Today, the Red Cross continues our strong commitment to our service members, their families and veterans, which began with Clara on the battlefields. Service to the Armed Forces remains one of our five service areas. From the first day of enlistment, service members and their families are eligible for Red Cross assistance. Every day, the American Red Cross provides 24/7 global emergency communication services and support in military and veteran healthcare facilities across the country and around the world. Some of the services the Red Cross provides are helping to cope with deployment, delivering verified messages during emergencies at home, keeping in touch with military families and informing them that help is always available, helping find access to financial assistance, providing information and referral services and assisting with veterans appeals, building skills for successful reintegration and much more. 

If you are interested in donating items to military members, their families and veterans in need in Northeast Ohio, Red Cross chapter locations in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria, New Philadelphia,Wooster and Youngstown are accepting donations. Donated items will be delivered to TFAC pantry. You can find the addresses to each drop-off location by visiting the locations page at redcross.org/neo.

Military Dad Honors Military Children

April is Month of the Military Child

By Jorge Martinez, Chief Operating Officer, American Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region
Commander, United States Coast Guard (Retired)

Jorge

Jorge Martinez

Military members past and present are routinely honored throughout any given year in many ways, and rightfully so.  As a retired military officer, I can say that I feel more than adequately recognized for my service to our wonderful country.  Truth be told and as any member will tell you – it’s not why we serve.  And while not necessary it is appreciated.  However, it is not the individual that serves, but rather the family.  And most members will tell you that the service member has the easy job.

That was certainly true for me.

I would deploy for months on end carrying out the king’s work with people I loved and trusted while my family stayed back and did their valiant best to go on with life as normal — though always worrying but not showing it.  They too were serving honorably but doing so silently in the shadows.

I would get painful glimpses from time to time.

I remember one particular instance nearly 10 years ago when I was putting my then 6-year old son, Ben, on the school bus before heading out to sea myself for nearly 5 months.  He was the last of my two sons to head out that morning; my infant daughter was still asleep in her crib.

Ben was and is a very stoic kid.  Though we were very close, he never showed his emotion and I know he never wanted to disappoint me.  I hugged him when I put him on the bus and told him I loved him.  He sat in a window seat… and gave me a look that I will never forget.  It was a “you’re leaving me again, Dad” type of look and it cut right through me.  As soon as the bus pulled away, I hugged my wife and we both started to cry.  This was not an isolated incident.

Military families and their selfless service to our nation are all too often overlooked, especially the children’s service and sacrifice.  They go about their days like any other kid would and typically without complaint about a parent being gone for long periods of time.  They keep it together most of the time.  They didn’t ask for this, but deal with it they must and do.  It’s hard and it’s thankless… but it’s necessary.

Military children are my heroes!  They have a wonderful purpose and possess such quiet strength.  After retirement, I’ve been able to reflect on them and their journey of service and it’s an inspiring one to me.  Throughout my career, I have been blessed to be part of many great teams that have accomplished much.  But my greatest accomplishment (really my wife’s) is seeing my children grow up and be better than I ever could have been at their stage of life.

Our country’s military children have been inspiring and helping our military members for as long as we’ve been a country.  Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude.  If you agree, next time you see a military family thank them all… especially the children.  They’ve earned it.

The American Red Cross supports our nation’s military members, veterans, and their families through Service to the Armed Forces.  Learn more here.

Baby Shower Planned for Women Veterans

Anyone Can Contribute a Gift for the Babies of NEO Veterans

By Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

The Tiffany Circle is helping veterans from Northeast Ohio start the circle of life for their yet-to-be-born babies.

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Laurie Laidlaw Deacon, Chair of the Tiffany Circle in Northeast Ohio, speaking in a suite at Quicken Loans Arena

The Tiffany Circle, a community of women leaders and philanthropists who advance the  Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure, is hosting a baby shower for female veterans who are currently being served by the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System.  Some 50 veteran moms-to-be will receive the gifts purchased through a special account on Amazon.

“We are proud to provide this service to brave women veterans in our area,” said Laurie Laidlaw Deacon, Chair of the Tiffany Circle in the Northeast Ohio Region.  “And we appreciate our partnership with the Veteran’s Administration Healthcare System, for helping us identify the women who served our country, and who will soon be caring for a newborn.”

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Sue Fuehrer, CEO of the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System, and Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross

Sue Fuehrer, CEO, Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System, said “We at VA are grateful to the Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region, for hosting the Tiffany Circle Baby Shower to support our women veterans and their newborns.  Our local Red Cross is always there for our veterans and their families in so many ways, and VA is thankful for their strong support on behalf of our nation’s heroes.”

The baby shower will take place at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center on May 19th.  Tiffany Circle member Donna Rae Smith, a member of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors, and veteran Danielle Krakora of the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System promoted the baby shower on WKYC’s Lakeside Today broadcast on Thursday, May 9.   

Members of the Northeast Ohio Tiffany Circle kicked-off the event at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday, March 19, when they gathered to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers play the Milwaukee Bucks.

Group Shot

Northeast Ohio Region Tiffany Circle members Laurie Laidlaw Deacon, Rosemarie Hoover, Kathy Coleman, Donna Rae Smith, and Luci Schey Spring.  Photo credit: Jessica Tischler/American Red Cross

The Cavs won, 124-117.

Tiffany Circle members pledged to help local veterans win, too, by supporting the baby shower. If you’d like to buy a gift for the baby shower for expecting veterans, shop here.

A Twist on a Holiday Classic

As in years past, we will begin collecting cards for our annual program – Holidays for Heroes. But this year, there is a new twist. We are hoping to collect cards that can be sent to service members, veterans and their families for EVERY HOLIDAY OVER THE COURSE OF THE COMING YEAR! That means Christmas and Chanukah cards, yes, but we are really hoping to get a large number of generalized cards of thanks that can be used for any occasion!

These cards are extremely touching to service members, veterans and their families. That is why we ask that you concentrate on providing a meaningful message in each card you write – even if that means you send in four cards instead of forty.

We will also be collecting new, small items to donate to the VA:

  • Blank greeting cards (not sealed); with a forever postage stamp for service members to use for their own correspondence
  • Combs/ brushes
  • Deodorant (roll-on/spray)
  • Disposable razors
  • Hand lotion
  • Shaving cream
  • Soap
  • White socks
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Adult coloring books
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • DVD movies
  • Large print: Sudoku, word search, crossword books
  • Low vision playing cards
  • Puzzles
  • Checkers/chess

The five chapters in Northeast Ohio are collecting the items and cards for local distribution to service members, their families, and veterans through area VA service locations, VFWs, and other military organizations. The cards may be delivered individually, included in care packages or displayed at common venues in military installations and hospitals.

A few rules:

  • The Red Cross does not provide cards to sign. Instead, please feel free to make cards or use any favorites that you have on hand.
  • In order to make cards as meaningful as possible for a wide audience, we recommend that you use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member,/Veteran/ Military Family Member” when writing the cards.
  • Please, no personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses
  • Cards should not contain glitter because some cards may end up at the bedside of a wounded service member and the glitter could aggravate existing health issues.
  • Please do not seal in individual envelopes. It is easier for our volunteers to screen and sort the cards if they aren’t individually sealed in envelopes.
  • Individual cards can be dropped off or mailed to the Red Cross chapters in a large envelope or mailing box.
  • We ask that people not enclose any items with the holiday cards. Any items enclosed with the holiday cards will be removed, including photos and other gifts. If you wish to provide financial support for Red Cross services to the military, please donate online.
  • Chapters cannot accept cards after November 30– we still need time for our volunteers to sort and deliver!

You can mail cards, or drop cards and items off (between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.) to the following locations:

Greater Cleveland Chapter
3747 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115

Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter
244 West South Street
Wooster, OH 44691

Elyria Office
2929 West River Rd. N.
Elyria, OH 44035

Mansfield Office
39 N. Park Street
Mansfield, OH 44902

 Lake to River Chapter
3530 Belmont Avenue
Suite 7
Youngstown, OH 44505

Jefferson County Office
81 Talbott Drive
Wintersville, OH 43953

Stark County & Muskingum Lakes Chapter
408 9th Street, SW
Canton, OH 44707

Muskingum Lakes Office
1451 4th St. NW
New Philadelphia, OH 44663

 Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter
501 West Market Street
Akron, OH 44303

How can you get involved in the Holiday Mail program beyond mailing a card?

Word of Mouth: Host a card signing party as part of your Thanksgiving Celebration!

Social Media: Connect with fellow card senders through social media channels and help us get the word out through Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #holidaymail.

Help Sort and Deliver Cards: If you are interested in helping sort and deliver cards, please contact Jessica Tischler at 216-426-7525 to see how you can help.

NEO Red Cross CEO Honors WWII Veteran with Challenge Coin

She was one of 11,000 known as a SPAR

Semper Paratus.  Latin for “Always Ready,” the motto of the United States Coast Guard.  During World War II, 11,000 women joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve and were called “SPARs,” an acronym of the motto combining the Latin and English initials.

One of the women of the U. S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve was Virginia Conklin, the mother of American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter Executive Director Karen Conklin.

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World War II Veteran Virginia Conklin and daughter Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter

Mike Parks, the CEO of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region and a retired U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral, recently presented Mrs. Conklin with a Challenge Coin, a military tradition meant to prove membership if challenged, or in recognition of special achievement.

“It is an honor and a privilege to meet a SPAR,” Mike said, adding, “What a remarkable lady, who at 92 years young is still an inspiration to all of us.”

During World War II, the U. S. war effort required more men at sea. Women were not yet integrated into the military, but to allow Coast Guardsmen to deploy, the Women’s Reserve was created to fill jobs the men had been doing stateside.

One of those jobs was resupplying “Liberty Ships,” 2,700 cargo vessels that were mass produced during the war.  (One Liberty Ship was named after Red Cross founder Clara Barton.)

“About every two weeks we would go out on a PT boat with supplies,” Virginia remembered.  “We’d have to walk the gang plank to deliver them.  And on the way back, we trolled for shrimp, which would be the night’s supper.”

She was stationed in Savannah, Georgia after training in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Virginia says the prospect of warm weather was one of the factors that motivated her to join the Coast Guard, after growing up in Chester, West Virginia.

Another motivating factor was her job.  She hated it.  She wanted to go to college, but without the money to pay for it, she went to work straight out of high school.  The Coast Guard was offering to pay for college following the service of those who enlisted, so Virginia Conklin signed up in 1944, despite her father’s misgivings.

“He hated it,” Virginia said. “He was a World War I vet, and he thought all we were going to do was smoke and drink.”   But dad finally relented, and signed the papers to allow his 20 year-old daughter to enlist.

After the war, things did not exactly go as planned.  Virginia Conklin married and had three children.  She was 48 years old when she finally got her bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. She earned a master’s degree at West Virginia University, and taught high school English for 18 years before retiring.

The SPARs lasted just 4 years. The Coast Guard disbanded the Women’s Reserve in 1946. Virginia Conklin served as a SPAR from 1944 to 1946. “The best two years of my life.”