Reflections of a former board member

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

June 16, 2019- Last week I attended the annual meeting of the board of directors for the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross. But it was more than

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L to R: Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter Executive Director Rachel Telegdy, Sue Wilson and Pam Williams

just the final meeting before the summer break. Amidst the business of thanking outgoing board members like me and recognizing new board members to take the place of those exiting, it was time to thank the volunteers—without whom the Red Cross could not accomplish its mission.

I am always moved—amazed but never surprised—to hear the stories of the heroes that make up the many volunteers who are the first responders. Those who show up and stand alongside to help people who have truly experienced the worst day of their life.

The volunteers who have:

  • installed 2,000 free smoke alarms. making 700 homes that didn’t have them safer, as part of the Sound the Alarm campaign.
  • responded to more than 120 home fires, providing residents in our three counties with help and hope.
  • deployed to the Greater Dayton area to help those affected by the recent deadly and destructive tornadoes—running toward disaster while most are running away.
  • given blood and/or found ways to encourage blood donation, especially as part of the Missing Types campaign, which strives to increase the nation’s blood supply by bringing attention to the more rare, missing types of blood, A, B and O, potentially saving more than 75,000 lives.

The thing that hit me most, however, after I received my certificate of appreciation for nine years of board service, was how little I felt I had done compared to these heroic volunteers. And how inspired I feel to continue on, if not as a board member, as a volunteer for this incredible organization so that I can help to continue its legacy of service. I can’t help but feel especially inspired to “be like Pam.”

Pam Williams received the H. Peter Burg award last year for her lifetime of service to our community and the Red Cross. She also steps down as board chair, passing the gavel to Alan Papa, president and chief operating officer for Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Pam truly is a dedicated volunteer. This small space cannot list her many acts of selflessness:  from sleeping in shelters alongside victims of disasters, to driving a forklift, to serving as our government liaison before and while she was our board chair.

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New board of directors chair Alan Papa speaks at the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter annual meeting

Last week may have been the end of my three-term, nine-year stint as a member of the Red Cross board of directors. But it was the first day of my continuation of a commitment to be a better volunteer for this amazing organization so that I can not only be more like Pam but also like the many volunteers who make up the Red Cross family.

Click here to visit our Flickr account to view photos from the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter annual meeting.

A night honoring fire chiefs and volunteers

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross Volunteer

March 22, 2019- The Lake to River Chapter of the American Red Cross honored its valued first responders and volunteers who selflessly serve their region at an appreciation dinner on Thursday, March 14. The dinner was held at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown.

More than 20 fire chiefs and associated first responders representing four of five Tim and Karencounties, chapter executives and volunteers numbering nearly 100 attended. They were welcomed with opening remarks and words of appreciation from Lake to River’s Executive Director Karen Conklin, who introduced Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole.

“Firefighters and the Red Cross Disaster Action Teams have continued to build strong relationships working together to bridge the needs of those in our community touched by devastation,” said Chief O’Toole, a retired assistant chief of operations for the Cleveland Division of Fire, who joined the Red Cross in 2015.

He acknowledged the wonderful work of the Red Cross disaster services team in assisting 275 displaced families with $130,000 in temporary housing, food and personal care. The chief also recognized other important efforts, such as blood donor services helping more than 52,000 people impacted in the fiscal year, the armed services sector assisting more than 600 military families, and the escalated efforts for the Sound the Alarm campaign, with a goal to install 100,000 free smoke alarms in homes across the nation with volunteers paving the way. Karen noted that her chapter goal is 1,500 alarms to be installed to wrap up the April 27 to May 11 campaign.

Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley

Tim O’Toole, left, and Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley

Youngstown Fire Chief and Chapter Board Member Barry Finley described when one becomes involved with the Red Cross. “I’ve always thought the Red Cross was called in when a fire completely destroyed a home,” he said. The chief stated that by being involved in this organization he has learned so much more. He explained that he is appreciative and happy to be a part of a team effort to help in times of need for the community.

The American Red Cross Volunteer K9 Action Team was also recognized for 10 years of faithful service providing comfort therapy to disaster victims and military families.

Attendees enjoyed dinner and time for socializing. Gift bags were disturbed after closing remarks by Karen. She emphasized that the staff and board appreciate their volunteers and what they endure as “A love to want to help people.” She stated, “You know you do make a difference.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

See more photos from the event here.

Volunteer information sessions highlight rewarding opportunities that might be right for you

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

February 20, 2019- When you think of the American Red Cross, what is the first thing you think of? Blood drives may immediately come to mind, or our services to provide relief to those affected by disaster. You may recall the CPR or First Aid training you completed a few years ago.

Have you ever thought about volunteering for the Red Cross?

Hurricane Florence 2018

What you may not know is that there are many different opportunities available to volunteer for the Red Cross. There are volunteers who share their time and talents in the areas of finance, IT, customer service, administrative work, communications and more. Whether you have a particular skill or just want to help a good cause, there are plenty of options available for people in Northeast Ohio to volunteer.

Here are just a few of the opportunities currently available for the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross:

Transportation Specialist (Cuyahoga and Summit Counties only)

  • Duties: Support the collection efforts of the Northern Ohio Blood Services Region by Volunteer Courierstransporting blood and blood products from blood collection sites to the laboratory for processing via mid-blood drive pickups.
  • Commitment: Drive two to four routes a month

Blood Drive Volunteer (Donor Ambassador)

  • Duties: Welcome and greet donors, escort as necessary and assist with initial intake of the blood donation process. Ensure blood donors have relevant information and that questions are answered appropriately. In addition, attend to donors in the hospitality area, ensure each donor is recognized for his/her contribution and set up and maintain reception and hospitality areas.
  • Commitment: one shift (four to six hours) a month

Disaster Response (Disaster Action Team Member)

  • Duties: Serve in an on-call capacity to assist those affected by disasters by providing timely, quality and compassionate service.
  • Commitment: 24 hours on call (Four six-hour shifts or two 12-hour shifts)

More than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce consists of volunteers.

kelly fraser and hunter hamillVolunteers help make the vital work of the Red Cross possible. Check out www.redcross.org/volunteer to learn more about becoming a volunteer and to apply today!

You can attend an upcoming volunteer information session in Cleveland or Akron to hear about volunteer opportunities and to ask any questions you may have in a face-to-face setting. The sessions will be held on the following dates and times:

  • March 6, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m, Regional Headquarters, 3747 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
  • March 9, 10 – 11 a.m., Regional Headquarters in Cleveland (see address above)
  • March 13, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter Headquarters, 501 West Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44303
  • March 16, 10 – 11 a.m., Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter Headquarters (see address above)

Register to attend a volunteer information  session by contacting Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or 330-204-6615.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Wanted: Health professionals to help those in need

February 8, 2019- The American Red Cross relies on more than 20,000 nurses and other health professionals who bring our mission to life each day. If you’re a nurse, nursing student or other health professional, we need your help! There are volunteer opportunities in direct service, leadership and behind-the-scenes.  A few examples are:

  • Disaster Health Services –team members and leaders
  • Disaster Mental Health Services –team members and leaders
  • Pillowcase Project Instructor (educating 3rd-5th graders about disasters)
  • Blood Donor Ambassador Leader
  • Nursing Network Regional Nurse Leaders and team members
  • Service to the Armed Forces Hero Care Case Management

We hope that you consider volunteering with the Red Cross – you can have a meaningful impact by serving individuals and communities.

 

 

To apply or for more information, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact Melanie Collins at 330-204-6615 or melanie.collins4@redcross.org.

 

Deployment: Thoughts from a first-timer

Story and photos by Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

January 25, 2019 – I thought I might go to Houston for Hurricane Harvey in 2017. I didn’t. I got a mission card (for expenses) and was on standby for Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in 2018,  but we weren’t needed there either. That’s how it can go with national disaster deployments.

So, I was wondering if the third time was the charm, as I drove to downtown Cleveland to Red Cross regional headquarters to pick up my mission card for the California wildfires.

The Camp Fire had started on November 8 and wasn’t contained until the end of November—after obliterating the majority of Concow, Magalia and Paradise, California.

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I didn’t have to wonder long, as my plane reservations were confirmed two days later. I was scheduled to leave Saturday, December 29. After typical winter weather delays and cancellations, I finally arrived in Sacramento, and checked into the hotel at 1 a.m.

Sunday morning, I was picked up at the hotel and processed at the Yuba City Red Cross regional office before heading for the shelter in Chico, Ca., roughly 1-1/2 hours north of Sacramento. We’d be working at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, where more than 700 residents were staying in three men, women and family dorms, as well as a combination of camping tents, cars and RVs.

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Some staff were being housed about 60 minutes outside town in a series of hotels but I stayed in the staff shelter, just 12 minutes from the fairgrounds. Our shelter was a series of tents, set up on the Chico Airport grounds.

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A large circus tent was our home away from home for everything but sleeping and showering. Showers were in a trailer, but hot water was in ample supply—most of the time. The staff tent handled registration, feeding and supplies. Two large screen TVs provided a choice of entertainment and a dozen sofas were there to relax on. Internet bandwidth was amazingly good for those who preferred to stream their own entertainment or keep up with social media.

My first day, I had a chance encounter while standing and looking at the fairground’s small waterfall, just inside the main gate. I could sense someone behind me and turned to see a tall gentleman, one of the evacuees people referred to as “Buckeye.” When he discovered I was also from Ohio, I got the biggest bear hug I’ve ever received. Turns out his family is from Warrensville Heights.

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At the fairgrounds, almost 200 Red Cross volunteers, working 12-1/2-hour shifts, and numerous community partners, provided a host of services to the residents. The ultimate goal was to get everyone transitioned into permanent housing. In the best of circumstances, this can be difficult but the city of Chico already had a housing shortage. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) committed to assisting those who couldn’t qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) housing.

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As people stayed at the fairgrounds, they each received three meals a day, a cot, blankets and a large, fluffy pillow. Paradise Equipment had a laundry trailer on site and everyone was entitled to free laundry service. They could just drop off a bag of clothes and pick it up later in the day—washed, dried and folded. Health needs were addressed for people and their pets. Residents received a range of health services as well as mental and spiritual counseling. Pets were vaccinated, fed and walked by a local pet relief organization.

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By the numbers, here’s what was going on 60 days into the Camp Fire disaster.

The Red Cross continues to provide shelter, meals and conversation for almost 700 evacuees, who are having trouble processing the idea of having lost everything. Not only are their houses gone, in many cases, they’ve also lost their jobs, their churches, schools, restaurants, social clubs and their friends.

If you’d care to donate, you can do it online at RedCross.org or by calling 1-800-HELP NOW.

Editor’s note: During his deployment, Doug escorted documentary filmmaker Nancy Hamilton of Golden Eagle Films through the shelter compound. She spoke with some of the shelter residents and offers her impression of the operation at the end of the video, which has been posted on Facebook.

 

Article edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

 

Thanks for Giving 2018

Volunteers and donors share stories and a meal at second annual event

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It was a family affair.  Our NEO Red Cross family.

Dozens of volunteers and donors gathered on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at Regional Headquarters in Cleveland to hear CEO Mike Parks offer his sincere appreciation for the time, talent and treasure they donate to help fulfill the Red Cross mission.

Red Crossers from all five chapters – Greater Cleveland, Lake Erie/Heartland, Lake to River, Stark and Muskingum Lakes, and Summit. Portage and Medina Counties were represented at the Region’s Thanks for Giving event.

Visit our Facebook page to see Mike’s message, along with a video message from National Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern, and a couple of mission moment videos: one addressing the Red Cross effort to help those affected by wildfires in California,  the other with a leukemia survivor who is now an advocate for blood donations.  And see photos captured by communications volunteer Cal Pusateri in our Flickr album.

If you’d like to join our volunteer workforce, visit redcross.org/neo to explore the many volunteer opportunities available.

 

Beyond national hurricane relief efforts, the Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters in Northeast Ohio

By: Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

IMG_2066Currently, the most visible work of the American Red Cross is its response to assist in the relief efforts in the Southeast United States following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. However, even with 23 disaster relief workers deployed from this region to assist with the hurricanes, the Red Cross continues to respond to disasters here in Northeast Ohio.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, which serves 22 counties and 4.5 million dunham ave 2 residents, has continued to be very active responding to calls across local communities. This past weekend, disaster relief workers responded to eight calls from home fires to storm damage in Canton, Cleveland, Fairlawn, Lorain, Sandusky, Sheffield Lake, South Euclid and Willard. They assisted 23 adults and 10 children and provided nearly $8,700 in aid.

IMG_4123The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. We can provide support to our communities thanks to the work of our tremendous volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.orgIMG_1758

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.