Red Cross Volunteer Offers “Priceless” Service

By Chuck Victor, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

Chuck Victor

Throughout my adult years I have had a passion for volunteerism and helping others.  I prefer the behind the scenes work as opposed to the out front spokesperson.

During my working years, I had the opportunity to work with some great non-profit organizations and their boards; which taught me the value of the front line volunteer.

I was fortunate to retire at an early age but not yet ready to retire from being active. I had a colleague who I had always admired for their drive, commitment and dedication to the American Red Cross. I inquired as to how I could serve local needs through Red Cross.

That was over four years ago.  Today I apply my time and talents as a Local Disaster Action Team (DAT) Lead in responding to fires, shelter situations and unfortunately plane crashes.  As part of a team of initial responders to a disaster scene, I am able to help provide assistance to both those affected as well as first responders.

The job DAT members do is, as they say, priceless. We provide needed comfort and necessary reassurance to those who have just experienced tragedies that most hope they will never see. It goes beyond the monetary value of the financial assistance provided for housing and immediate needs.  The greatest value comes from a listening ear and a caring heart. Victims of fires, floods, storms and other such disasters appreciate someone who can hear what they say, even if they don’t have the words to express themselves. We provide direction and re-assurance.

Likewise, I am grateful for the opportunity to support our first responders by offering a hot cup of coffee or a snack when they need to know that their efforts are appreciated. I always make sure to thank them for their service and to remind them to be safe. Too often, they are taken for granted.

Why would anyone want to get a call at 2:30 in the morning and get out of bed on a cold winter night to respond to a fire and a family displaced? Trust me, when I say the reward derived from helping someone in need at his or her worst moment far exceeds the minor inconvenience of losing a little sleep.

Akron ResponseVolunteer Chuck Victor providing assistance to first responders at the scene of a plane crash in Akron, November, 2015

Disaster Action Team may not be your thing, But I would urge anyone with time on his or her hands and a desire to serve others to consider volunteering with the American Red Cross.  Many great opportunities are available.

(Chuck Victor has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than four years.  He is a resident of Tallmadge, and serves residents in the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.)

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Coming Up: 2017

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Happy New Year everyone!

2017 has a lot of great events and happenings already lined up, and it’s only January 1st. Let’s look ahead at the coming year.

March is Red Cross Month – March was first proclaimed as Red Cross Month in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a way to raise awareness of the organization and its humanitarian mission in the midst of war. Since then, every president, including President Obama, has designated March as Red Cross Month.

This year is particularly special as we will be celebrating 100 years of serving many of our communities!

Acts of Courage (Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter)- On March 2 we will celebrate the extraordinary and courageous acts of ordinary community members at our 21st annual Acts of Courage event in Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties. The event is the primary fundraiser for the chapter. We will also honor Kevin Thompson of PNC Bank with the H. Peter Burg Award for community service.

If you are interested in obtaining tickets or sponsoring the event, please visit the event page here.

Fire and Ice Ball – The semi-annual Red Cross Ball will take place in Cleveland on March 25th. This year’s theme highlights the importance of fire prevention and safety information that the Red Cross provides to our community. We respond to an average of 3 home fires a night throughout the 22 counties we serve. Proceeds from this event will allow us to continue to educate Northeast Ohio families about fire safety and help us protect local homes through Operation Save-A-Life, our amazing program that installs smoke alarms – for free!

If you are interested in obtaining tickets or sponsoring the event, please visit the event page here.

BASH – Our smash hit event of the spring – the BASH in Stark and Muskingum Lakes is a themed auction to benefit the disaster services in Stark, Harrison, Carroll, and Tuscarawas Counties. For more information on tickets, sponsorship, or donating to the auction, please call the Stark and Muskingum Lakes chapter.

Acts of Courage (Lake to River Chapter) – This summer we will honor individuals whose extraordinary acts of courage make them someone’s hero. Those everyday people who have put themselves in harm’s way or have risked their lives to save another. For more information, please call the Lake to River Chapter or visit our NEO Heroes page.

Festival of Trees – We realized you are probably in the midst of putting away your own holiday decorations, but it’s never to early to start thinking about how you can participate in our annual holiday tradition in Wooster. For more information, call the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

And – of course – we invite you to assist us in providing our services every day of the new year by going to www.redcross.org/neo and clicking on volunteer. It’s amazing to serve the people in our communities and you’ll be so glad you did (plus it may help you tick off one of those pesky New Year’s resolutions!)

Raising the Roof and Raising Awareness

By: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

While the legendary Harlem Globetrotters raised the roof in Quicken Loans Arena, Red Cross volunteers raised awareness with an information table in the lobby across from Section 128.  It was a two-fold information, full-court press.

The Globetrotters have partnered with the Red Cross in The Great Assist initiative, helping Americans before, during and after local incidents or national disasters.

A large banner proclaimed “Join Us” and the information table was stacked high with handouts providing the details. Many people don’t realize the multiple ways they can become involved with Red Cross, and the brochure nicely lays out options for people of all talent, skill and interest levels.

The Globetrotters played two games on December 27; at 1:00 pm and again at 6:00 pm.  Separate volunteer groups manned the table at each game.

The table also displayed small signs with the same message that appeared courtside — “Text ASSIST to 90999 to donate $10.”  Again, something small that people can easily do, but when combined with thousands of others, can make a serious impact.

2016-garrett-at-globetrotter-gameThe table attracted a number of people, including Garrett Chapin (15) and his mother Laura. We wished we could have kept them longer, as Garrett demonstrated his spinning-ball-on-the-finger-tip trick.  Wearing a uniform just like the Globetrotters, he truly illuminated the area with blinking LED lights in his basketball shoes.

So, did the table do its job?

That’s probably an answer best left to the data analysts, but this writer does have a few opinions.

First, the more people see your sign or your logo, the more likely they are to remember you when the need arises.  Marketing 101 stuff, but it is a truism.

Secondly, it seems that people are so tired of seeing tables set up in the mall or airport, that they often shy away from a manned table, not wanting to get involved. Exactly the opposite reaction we were hoping for.

So, after staffing the table for more than an hour, and having 99% of our great brochures still sitting there, unloved, we decided to take the brochures on a road-show.

Walking around the entire Quicken Loans Arena lobby, if a person looked receptive, we approached and delivered a short message while handing them a brochure.  “The Red Cross is always looking for good volunteers if you or someone you know might be interested.” or “If you are looking for volunteer opportunities for yourself or someone in your family, the Red Cross would love to talk to you.”

In an hour, the brochures were gone, and a good 90% of them were met with smiles, with heartfelt “Thanks” and some with “I’ll definitely look it.”

Hopefully at the end of the evening, the announcements over the PA raised some money from the fans, and hopefully the brochures will further raise awareness of the many ways our organization contributes to the community.

After Escaping Home Fire, Ravenna Family Turns to Red Cross for Relief

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It was an ordinary August morning for Edna Norton until she returned home to find her house ablaze.

Surrounded by nearly a dozen fire trucks, Norton rushed to meet her family outside of their home in Ravenna, Ohio. Much to her relief, her husband and sons made it to safety after the eldest rescued his 18-year-old brother, who uses a wheelchair. But the threat to her family’s lives and destruction to their home left her distraught.

A Red Cross volunteer responding to the fire came to Norton’s side, offering comfort and support.

“She had a spirit about her. She was so calming and soothing,” Norton said of the volunteer. “She made you feel like you could make it through. She was very knowledgeable. I was a wreck. She made me sit down. Gave me water. She was still there after [the first responders] were leaving.”

The Red Cross helped Norton and her family figure out their next steps, addressing urgent needs such as replacing prescription medications that were destroyed by the fire. She said she’s grateful for the support to develop a path for their recovery.

edna-norton-with-red-cross-worker-debbie-chitester-2“To lose everything and to know [there are] people out there that care…There are a lot of good people out in the world,” she added. “I’m telling you that I had so much generosity, so much love, from strangers saying, ‘What can I do to help?’”

If you would like to volunteer as a member of the Red Cross team, visit www.redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteer.

Photos: Mary Williams/American Red Cross

At 80, She’s Still Going Strong

Passionate About Donating Blood, Running 

By Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross Volunteer

Eighty years young, Jean Toth lives a life bigger than you would imagine.  At first, you meet a petite lady who, like others, arrives with desire to help others with a donation of blood.  Then she mentions that she’s eighty years old.  Your interest is piqued.  Now, you are ready to hear more of Jean’s story.

Jean raised her children like we all would.  When she arrived in her forty second year of life, Jean was ready for other challenges.  “That’s when I started training for the marathon and donating blood,” she said.  That would be thirty-eight years, ago.  Jean shared, “I didn’t donate before a marathon.”  When asked how many times she’s donated, Jean replied, “I don’t know how many I’ve done.”  This calculates to a probable minimum of 152 units or 19 gallons to a high of 228 times or 28.5 gallons between then and now.  Along with the training runs, Jean qualified at a Columbus, Ohio marathon and did run the Boston Marathon in 1982 and 1985.  Jean stated, “I still run eight to ten miles about three times a week.  Does she still run the marathons? “No, not anymore,” Jean clarifies.  “I started running half marathons this year.  There are others who are there at the end, so I’m not alone.”  She added, “I can donate blood more often, now.”

When Jean volunteered that she takes vitamins, diet was the next question.  “I eat lots of salad, vegetables, rice, pasta, and some meat.”  Further inquiry discovers that her five children gave her eight grandchildren who in turn made her a great grandmother twelve times. And there is one great, great, grandchild.  Other achievements also came to light.  Jean has earned twelve trophies, contested in light weight body building four or five years, and is in the Wickliffe Hall of Fame for Sports.

With all said and done, maybe we can say that Jean C. Toth is truly Eighty-Years-Strong.

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Jean C. Toth at the LaMalfa Blood Drive, October 27, 2016  Photo credit: Paul Wadowick/American Red Cross Volunteer

 

 

Learn How to Volunteer During a National Disaster

When the news starts reporting the coming of a major storm, do you think to yourself, “How can I help?”

We will host a four hour session on how you can volunteer to assist those affected by Hurricane Matthew, and other disasters, this Friday, October 14 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Greater Cleveland office at 3747 Euclid Ave.

You will also need to complete independent online training. You will have 48-hours to complete approximately 6 -10 hours of training — depending on the area you choose.

 

Reserve a seat by emailing luis.rivera@redcross.org or call 216-426-7549.

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JOIN OUR TEAM: Red Cross Mobilizes Disaster Relief Efforts Coast-to-Coast

Did you realize that the Red Cross is supporting disasters from coast-to-coast? For nearly three weeks, thousands of Red Cross volunteers have been helping thousands of people affected by the devastating and historic flooding in Louisiana, meanwhile we prepared to respond to the multiple storms which threatened much of the East Coast and Hawaii.

 

Red Cross workers in Florida and Georgia opened 46 shelters where almost 550 people spent Thursday night. The Red Cross is helping officials with damage assessment in those states to determine what additional help is needed. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power and many schools closed due to heavy rain and downed trees.

Two Pacific hurricanes – Madeline and Lester – were expected to hit Hawaii over the last several days, bringing as much as 15 inches of rain and 75 mph winds to the Aloha State. The Red Cross had disaster workers and supplies on alert to respond, and as many as 14 Red Cross and community evacuation shelters were opened.

Red Cross workers are also responding to wildfires out west, flooding in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and tornadoes in Indiana, along with numerous smaller emergencies that occur every day, such as home fires.

The last several weeks have kept Red Cross disaster volunteers busy. Red Cross Vice President of Disaster Operations and Logistics Brad Kieserman says, “To date, the Red Cross has deployed more than 6,300 volunteers in less than two months, two-and-half-times the number called upon by this point in 2015. Plus, last year saw 24,000 volunteers deployed, with 2015 requiring more than triple the number of volunteers to respond to disasters than in any of the past three years.” Read more here.

We will continue to do what we do – provide hope to those affected by disaster – but we can’t do it without the generosity of people like you. If you would like to join our team, get started at redcross.org/neo by clicking on volunteer. Or, you can contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

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