Canton Volunteer Reflects on More Than Two Decades of Service

By Nila Welsh, American Red Cross Volunteer, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter

(Editor’s note:  Nila Welsh is a Canton-based Disaster Action Team member.  She has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1994, and has been assigned to three-dozen national disaster relief operations.  This is her Red Cross story.)

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Red Cross volunteers Nila Welsh, left, and Elinor Carosello

It wasn’t too long after my husband and I returned from the Peace Corps in 1989 that we found we needed something to do.  We lived for two years in an under-developed part of the Solomon Islands, and due to the hot weather on the equator, we had led a quiet life and missed working with people.

One day I read in the newspaper that the Red Cross needed volunteers.  That was 23 years ago, when I first became a part of such a great organization.

After taking all the classes offered and responding to local disasters, we became qualified to respond to national disasters.  Our first call was to respond to flooding in Missouri along the Mississippi River in 1995. Nothing prepares you for the devastation of a flood or hurricane when people have nowhere to go. The Red Cross sets up shelters and we volunteers do our best to help people affected by disasters rebuild their lives.  My husband was a good listener.  He would sit and listen.  People need that – need to know that others care, and that if material things are all they lose, the Red Cross can help.

We found that what matters most in life is how we live and how we treat each other – how we can give back for what we have been blessed with.  People find it hard to believe that we don’t get paid to do what we do. They don’t know what they’re missing.

We don’t know how long we have in this life, but as long as we are here we will continue to do our best.

 

Volunteer Provides Leadership at Many Levels

Some of us plan barbecues and college football watch parties on Labor Day Weekend.

Not Pam Williams.

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Pam, chairwoman of the board of the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter was waiting to find out if she’ll be headed to the Houston area in response to Hurricane Harvey.

As of Monday night, nearly 300 shelters were open in Texas and Louisiana, with about 35,000 people spending the night.  3,760 Red Cross workers have been deployed to the disaster relief operation so far, including 30 from Northeast Ohio.

In addition to her board responsibilities, Pam is a Red Cross volunteer, and, if needed, would deploy as the assistant director for external relations on the Division Response Management Team.

Over the last ten years, Pam has been deployed around 30 times, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

“I get to see the country at its worst, but people at their best.” Pam said.

Pam recalled working with Native American tribes in Montana when asked what was the most interesting thing she’s done on deployment.

“Sometimes it’s the people who have been affected that make the biggest difference. I remember a family during a storm who were offered aid. They pointed to the next family and said ‘they need it more.”

She realizes that what she does isn’t for everyone. If someone were on the fence about volunteering in a crisis, she would ask them why they wanted to do it.

“You have to have a passion for it. It’s not just about being on TV.”

There are a few things that Pam hasn’t done yet on deployment that she’d like to; “I’ve never been deployed to a wildfire. As much as you don’t want it to happen to anyone, I’d like to have that experience. I’d also like the opportunity to ride along in an ERV (emergency response vehicle).”

Pam’s a retired school teacher by trade, and even with 30 deployments under her belt, she’s not ready to kick back and enjoy retirement just yet.

“I’ll keep going as long as I believe I’m contributing. I had two great mentors when I got started, and I’d love to mentor the folks who are coming up.”

If you would like to become a trained volunteer with the skills needed to help people affected by disasters big and small, visit our volunteer site to begin the application process.  Expedited training is currently taking place throughout the Northeast Ohio Region.

Help NEEDED…More Volunteers

Red Cross volunteer Kim Sterling of Ashtabula met Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern after being deployed to Austin, Texas

There are currently 30 volunteers from Northeast Ohio in or en route to Texas to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Some of them have been featured in the local media:

http://www.wkyc.com/news/local/five-ways-you-can-help-make-a-difference-for-harvey-victims-in-need/469042466

http://www.medina-gazette.com/Medina-County/2017/08/31/Medina-County-natives-involved-in-Harvey-efforts.html

http://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-summit/two-local-red-cross-volunteers-head-south-to-help-thousands-forced-from-their-flooded-homes

Volunteers continue to leave for the hurricane zone to provide sheltering, meals, and other services to residents who were forced from their homes.  And more volunteers will be needed in the coming weeks, to continue providing assistance to the tens of thousands of residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Red Cross volunteers are trained to provide the services needed before, during and after disaster strikes.  New training sessions are being scheduled.  If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, and helping people like the volunteers featured in the media stories above, visit our volunteer page to begin the application process.

From Volunteer Manager to Volunteer

Buckhold Pat

By Pat Buckhold, Regional Volunteer Officer

You say “good-bye” and I say “hello”.  There’s a song for everything, I’ve always said.

After more years of paid employment than I care to admit, I came to realize over the past few months that it is time to transition to the next phase of my life.  I have been preparing for this time- retirement- for many years.  So many things to do, such little time.  And now it’s here.

I have never been at a loss for interests and things to do in my spare time, especially now that my children are grown.  In retirement, I saw myself as volunteering more than I do now, but what and where?  How could I really make a difference in this world and become, pardon the philosophical bent, the best version of myself?

Enter, the American Red Cross.  Over the course of the past three years as a paid staff member in Volunteer Services, the Red Cross quickly changed from an organization that I really did not know much about to one that I hold in the highest regard.  It has truly been an honor for me to be part of the Red Cross and to spread the good word to prospective volunteers about the life-saving services provided.  Being a volunteer with the Red Cross is more than just “something to do”.  As a volunteer with the Red Cross, an individual can engage in altruistic and compassionate work in many areas- Disaster or Blood Services, Health and Safety, Services to the Armed Forces or at a Chapter.  And the beauty of it all is that we are a volunteer-driven organization!  How good does that get?

So if you are wondering, well, what is she going to do now, don’t think about it another second.  Besides settling into this new life, I have also decided to transition into a volunteer position or two with the Red Cross.  Well, where is she going to be, you ask?  That, my friends, you will find out about in future blogs.

So stay tuned.  The best is yet to come . . .

Click here to see photos from Pat’s send-off with members of the NEO Red Cross staff.

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.