Marine Gains “Second Family” Volunteering for the Red Cross

By Manuel Andrews, 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)

My name is Manuel Andrews I am a volunteer Disaster Action Team (DAT) member in disaster cycle services. I’ve been a volunteer since July 2014.

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Red Cross Disaster Action Team member Manuel Andrews, assisting residents who were forced to flee their home due to an apartment building fire in Brunswick in 2016.

I moved to Ohio back in 2011 after serving 5 years in the Marine Corps. After a few years, it came apparent that I was missing something, so I sought to find work that related to what I did overseas in Civil Affairs. After finding several nonprofit organizations online, I found the Red Cross to be closest to what I had hoped to get out of volunteering. After a review of all the services the Red Cross offers we found that I would be a great fit at the Akron chapter as a DAT member. The experience alone made it easy to volunteer any time I had available. We provided smiles, coffee, snacks and jokes for first responders during long cold Ohio nights and helped provide immediate assistance to clients that lost their homes due to a disaster. I even got to volunteer on a national deployment to Florida and North Carolina, providing safety in shelters and food distribution sites.

The Red Cross offers a continued learning experience through annual mini-institutes and always make sure my volunteer time goes toward what I value. I could not be happier with my decision; I have gained a second family with the staff and volunteers. Now I’m a team leader and proudly serve my community as a Red Cross volunteer as often as I can.IMG_3752

Manuel Andrews is a resident of Akron, 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.

Thank You, Volunteers!

During National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) we will feature the Red Cross stories of some of our 1,750 cherished Regional volunteers who help fulfill the Red Cross mission: to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. The generous donation of time, skill, and caring of ALL of our volunteers make us truly grateful.

Beginning Monday, you will read about a different volunteer each day.  We hope their stories inspire others to devote their time and expertise to help others in need.

Regional CEO Mike Parks offers his own words of appreciation to the volunteers of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region:

Dear Valued Volunteer,

As this year’s National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) begins, again I offer a sincere “thank you” for the tremendous support that you are to the American Red Cross and for all that you accomplish for our organization each and every day.  I continue to be invigorated everyday by the passion and energy that you bring to everything you do and to everyone that you work with at the Red Cross.  I am amazed by the incredible skill, knowledge and dedication that you, our volunteers, share with us as our trusted and valued colleagues.  As volunteers, you not only support and enhance the work we do, but also guide it.   We count on you and you are always there.  Again, thank you for all that you do as we carry out our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.  Happy Volunteer Week!

With grateful appreciation,

Mike Parks

RADM, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

Chief Executive Officer

Northeast Ohio Region

American Red Cross

 

Disaster Workers Busy Helping Fire Victims Over Easter Weekend

Volunteers are at the heart of the Red Cross.

That has never been more apparent in Northeast Ohio as it has been in the last week. Since Friday, April 7, there have been 4 apartment building fires, in Boardman, Warrensville Heights, Parma and Cuyahoga Falls.  More than 180 residents have been chased from their homes during that time, including more than 60 children.

Red Cross disaster workers, the bulk of them volunteers, have responded to each of these emergencies, providing initial financial assistance, comfort and hope to people who, in some cases, have lost everything.

Red Cross Disaster workers open a reception center in the Warrensville Heights Civic Center in response to an apartment building fire on Monday, April 10, 2017.

As Chief Operating Officer Jorge Martinez notes,  “This is very impressive.  I’m always awed by volunteers.  Doing some quick math, they amassed nearly 59,000 volunteer hours (and we know there’s more that’s gone unrecorded).  That’s an average of 27 employees putting in an 8 hour workday 7 days a week over the past 9 months.  Given our current staffing, they more than doubled our capacity.”

Between Friday, April 7 and Friday April 14, Red Cross disaster workers offered initial financial assistance totaling more than $35,000 to the affected residents.  And they opened a shelter in Cuyahoga Falls, for residents affected by Thursday night’s fire.

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Ongoing assistance includes helping match residents with the agencies and resources that will help them plan their next moves.  And those in need have been offered mental health assistance, as well as help with medical needs, such as filling prescriptions.

On Easter Sunday, volunteers Teresa Greenlief, Jamie Waid and Bob Rupp played basketball with Bob Loch and Mike Surrel, two of the Cuyahoga Falls residents staying in a Red Cross shelter.

Photo Credit: Zackery McAvoy/American Red Cross

A final word from COO Jorge Martinez: “We’re truly lucky to have these volunteers in my opinion.  Great work.”

Visit redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab to learn more about opportunities to help those in need.

Smoke Alarm Goal Achieved: More Than 10,000 Installed So Far

Mission accomplished.

For the second year in a row, the Northeast Ohio Region has reached the goal set for the number of smoke alarm installations in homes throughout our communities.

And there are still nearly four months to go before the close of the fiscal year, June 30th.

The goal was 10,000 smoke alarms.  As of Monday, March 6, Red Cross workers, volunteers and community partners had installed more than 10,100.  “While we continue to seek our own internal goal of exceeding our installation totals from last year (approximately 13,000) we still must take a moment to recognize all of the hard work that has gone into achieving the national target at this point in FY 2017,” Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole wrote in a message to the Northeast Ohio staff.  “As one of the smallest regions in the nation we still are among the leaders in this effort.

The annoncement couldn’t come at a better time: this weekend, we are urged to TEST our smoke alarms as we TURN our clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time.  It’s also a good time to take these steps to make sure our households are prepared for emergencies:

  • Install smoke alarms. If someone doesn’t have smoke alarms, they should install them. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check local building codes for additional requirements.
  • Practice an escape plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
  • Get a kit. Keep disaster supplies in an easy-to-carry bag to use at home or if ordered to evacuate.
  • Make a plan. Have all household members plan what steps they should take if an emergency occurs.
  • Be informed. Learn what emergencies can occur in the area and how officials notify residents should a disaster occur.

The installation of smoke alarms is just one part of the Operation Save-A-Life  campaign. Providing free home fire safety inspections and disseminating valuable fire safety information are also critical components.  And volunteers perform the majority of the work involved in making our communities safer.

You can volunteer to help the red Cross make our communities safer at redcross.org/neo, where you can also apply for a home fire safety inspection and free smoke alarm installation.

The fiscal year ends on June 30th.  We’ll let you know how many MORE smoke alarms our volunteers, staff and partners are able to install by then.

Stay tuned.

 

March is Red Cross Month

Cleveland Mayor Issues Proclamation; Terminal Tower Bathed in Red

giving_day_thank_you_b_1200x1200_final1We at the American Red Cross are recognizing the country’s everyday heroes during Red Cross Month.

March is Red Cross Month, the perfect time to honor our Red Cross volunteers, blood donors and financial contributors who bring hope to people facing life’s emergencies,” said Mike Parks, CEO, Northeast Ohio Region.  “During Red Cross Month, we thank them for their tremendous support.”

March has been recognized as Red Cross Month for more than 70 years. All of our presidents have designated March as Red Cross Month to recognize how the American Red Cross helps people across the country and around the world.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has issued a proclamation recognizing March as Red Cross Month as well.

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And the iconic Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland was bathed in red light to mark the start of Red Cross month on March 1st.

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Volunteers and staff members in Tremont, with the Terminal Tower in the background.  The building was lit in red to recognize March as Red Cross Month.    Photo credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross Volunteer

The Red Cross depends on local heroes to fulfill its mission. Every eight minutes, Red Cross disaster workers respond to a community disaster, providing shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to those affected. We provide 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families at home and around the world. Nearly 14,000 donations of blood must be collected every day to meet patient needs. We train millions of people in first aid, water safety and other lifesaving skills. And we support the vaccination of children around the globe against measles and rubella.

In fiscal year 2016, the Northeast Ohio Region responded to 967 local emergencies, assisted 1,641 members of the military and their families and trained 64,598 people in lifesaving skills. And people from this area donated 144,089 units of blood.

“It’s easy to become a Red Cross community hero,” said Parks. “Be ready for an emergency by creating a preparedness plan for your home. Test your smoke alarms and tell your neighbors to do the same. Or sign up to be a Red Cross volunteer or make a financial donation.”

More information about how people can support the organization is available on redcross.org/neo. The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.

 

 

Don’t Be “One of Those” Blood Donors

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

I just celebrated my 20th anniversary – 20 years since my first blood donation back on January 21, 1997.  I’ve learned a lot since then, and much of it concerns things I did wrong.  Profit from my mistakes, all made in a relatively short amount of time.

  • While walk-ins are gratefully accommodated, you’re liable to have to wait for an open donation time slot if you haven’t made an appointment. Appointments can easily be made online or with the Red Cross Blood app for your phone.

bloodapp

  • When you are leaving home or office and heading to the donation site, be sure to have your blood donor card or the blood app on your phone. A driver’s license or two other forms of ID could suffice, but without ID, you won’t be allowed to donate. Have your ID ready as you approach the registration table.
  • Drink PLENTY of water and have something nourishing (not fatty) to eat before you donate; BUT, not immediately before you come in. Eating or chewing gum immediately before taking your temperature can cause an incorrect reading and could disqualify or delay you. I recently had a chocolate chip cookie right before donating and it raised my temperature to 99.9 degrees. I then had to wait fifteen minutes while it returned to 98.6. It’s best to have something to eat one-half to one hour before you donate. Also, avoid caffeinated coffee and tea before your appointment.
  • Just like we exercise to keep our bodies in shape, you can pump up your blood’s iron levels by eating an iron-rich diet before donating. A low iron level could keep you from donating.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before your donation. Your body rejuvenates your cells while you sleep.
  • Don’t rush. Rushing to get to the donation center can cause stress, which can elevate your blood pressure. Avoid stressful activities.  Breathe, and give yourself time to leisurely get to the donation center. Even if you are a couple minutes late, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
  • If you’ve got cold or flu symptoms (other than allergies), call (1-800-RED-CROSS) and discuss rescheduling your appointment. You’ll potentially save the trip, and your appointment time can be assigned to someone who walked in without an appointment.
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Red Cross Communications Volunteer and long-time blood donor Doug Bardwell

  • Lastly, wear loose clothing with sleeves that can easily be rolled up above the elbow.

Congratulations, you just made sure your donation was a success. But, one last suggestion, don’t try to leave too quickly afterwards.  There are snacks and drinks at that refreshment table in the corner. Pay it a visit. Take some of the time you saved and treat yourself to a snack. It will provide your body with some needed nourishment and you’ll leave feeling better for it.

Don’t forget, the clock is ticking, and you’ll be eligible to donate again before you know it.  Make that appointment today and have another great experience.

Mike’s New Year’s Challenge

A message to all American Red Cross Volunteers in Northeast Ohio:  Happy New Year!!  I trust this finds you well and that you enjoyed your holidays.  First, thanks to all of you who worked over the holidays—your support to our clients was critical in their times of need and instrumental to their roads to recovery.

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Second, I’d like to offer you each a challenge for the new year–2017.  It’s something I’ve said to almost every gathering of volunteers since I started more than a year and a half ago so a number of you have heard it before.  I challenge each of you to recruit one volunteer in the next 12 months.  I ask each of you to identify one individual you know that is, or can become, passionate about our Red Cross mission of caring for others, and is someone that you’d like to work with because they’re nice, and convince them to join our effort by becoming a Red Cross volunteer!  If every current volunteer accepts and meets this challenge, we’ll double the number of volunteers we have to better serve the 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio.  Now that’s exciting!!

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Finally, thank you all for your tremendous support to the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio—we literally could not perform our essential mission without you—thank you!!  Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2017!!  Best regards…Mike