Danke, gracias, grazie, merci: It’s International Volunteer Day!

The American Red Cross is a proud part of a vast network of international organizations. So when the United Nations began to promote December 5 as International Volunteer Day, we were completely on-board!

To our more than 1,700 local volunteers, who promote our mission to prepare and alleviate human suffering…Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you, also, to those who serve the call of humanitarian organizations across the globe. And to those who serve along side of us as we continuethe recovery process from this year’s hurricane and wildfire season…thank you!

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If you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteer. There are so many opportunities to serve, here in Northeast Ohio, and across the country.

When It’s Not Easy to Respond

By: Renee Palagyi, Senior Program Manager Disaster Cycle Services

Today as I put together our internal daily report, I was struck, as I am many days, by the number of fire fatalities in our region. We have had 18 fatalities since our fiscal year began in July. This compares to seven in the same time frame last year.

We always hope the number will decrease each year. There is not an easy or accurate explanation for such a change. We know that we are being notified of more cases and being called to assist in areas where we previously had no requests. We know that many of our counties have aging housing which probably includes old electrical wiring. We know that as we move into the colder months, fires increase with the use of unsafe heating.

Of course, those facts do nothing to ease the burden when horrible things happen to a family. Our Disaster Action Teams, those dedicated volunteers who go out to each fire call we receive, provide immediate assistance and our professional mental health and health service volunteers work with the families to aid in recovery.

One piece our daily report never covers is the third piece of the “Disaster Cycle”. Our response and recovery work receive attention through our work on large-scale or individual disasters. But the third arm of the cycle, preparedness, is where our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering all begins.

The home fire preparedness campaign is one way that we, and each of our communities, can address the loss of human life in a truly constructive way.  Do smoke alarms save lives? Not by themselves. The bigger piece of this entire campaign is the education which MUST happen to ensure safety in the home. That education may occur during the installation of alarms, with young children during a “Pillowcase” presentation in schools or youth groups, or it may be a Red Cross presenter speaking to a service group such as Exchange, Rotary or Kiwanis. Regardless, there are key points which can make a difference, which can possibly save the next life.

A few simple facts:

  • Cooking fires account for 43% of all home fires
  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related fatalities
  • Adults over 65 are more than twice as likely to die in home fires compared to younger adults
  • Nearly two-thirds of all fire-related deaths occur in homes with no functioning smoke alarms
  • Almost one-quarter of smoke alarm failure is due to dead batteries
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly
  • All smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years of use
  • Every family should develop and plan escape plans, with two different exits, in case of fire
  • Families need to exit the home within 2 minutes of smoke alarm sounding

To learn more about our program to help save lives in Northeast Ohio, or to learn how to join our mission, visit http://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/home-fire-safety.

NEO Volunteers Head to Puerto Rico

Seven NEO Workers to Provide Sheltering, Health Care and IT Support

Among the nearly 5,300 Red Cross workers now responding to hurricane relief efforts across the south are seven Northeast Ohio workers assigned to help people in Puerto Rico.  The island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

“Here comes the cavalry,” said Jorge Martinez, Regional Chief Operating Officer for the Northeast Ohio Red Cross when asked what message he had for the people of Puerto Rico.  “The Red Cross already had workers on the ground, who were responding to the damage done by Hurricane Irma when Maria struck.  We’re on our way to help as well.”

At a news conference in the lobby of Regional Headquarters in Cleveland, Jorge was flanked by volunteers D. J. Hamrick, Sean Reyes, Rusty Breitbach and Bruce Butler, who have also been assigned to the Puerto Rico relief operation.  Two other Northeast Ohio volunteers, a health care worker and an IT specialist, are already on the island.

More volunteers are needed, especially those who speak Spanish, who are in good physical shape, and who can commit to serving for 2-3 weeks.  Volunteer training sessions are being held each week throughout Northeast Ohio.  Visit redcross.org/neo, or call 216-431-3328 for more information.

Youngstown-area Volunteers Head into Smoke and Fire of California

Three American Red Cross volunteers from the Northeast Ohio Region are being deployed to California, where a wildfire has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Randy Liang of Cuyahoga Falls will help support the technology needs of the Red Cross disaster relief operation in Mariposa County, California.

Mark Strausser and Jason Mitman (in video, above) of Youngstown will work with residents who are staying in shelters as a result of the wildfire.

Red Cross workers and partners helping to provide a safe place to stay and three meals a day for hundreds of displaced residents.

“We help people here, at home, every day,” said Mitman, referring to the help Red Cross workers offer to Northeast Ohio residents who experience home fires and other disasters.  “Now I get to help people in California.  This is why I volunteer for the Red Cross.”

Other volunteers from Northeast Ohio may also be deployed to help in the days to come.

For information on volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/neo, and click on the Volunteer tab.

Super Heroes Honored at Air Base

By Karen Conklin, Executive Director, Lake to River Chapter

Lucky Lake to River Volunteers were honored on April 27th at a VIP event at the 910th Airlift Wing. If you have ever been on a military base you know it’s tough to get through security. Our thanks to the 50 volunteers who sent in the required information a week ahead of time so that security at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station could clear them to get on the base.  Super Heroes was the theme because we know our military are heroes but so are our Red Cross volunteers.

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The Lake to River Chapter Board of Directors

Prior to the social event, the Lake to River Board of Directors met and also held the annual meeting.  The Board of Directors is working hard to make the 7th Acts of Courage event June 14th the best ever. The following volunteers will be serving another three-year term on the board. They are Kelly Becker, Patti Davis, Lou Joseph, Tifinie Lacomb, Amy Lower, Florence Wang and Phil Wilson. We thank them for their commitment and leadership.

Major Julian

Major Scott Julian

Thanks to Major Scott Julian (also a Red Cross Board Member) who gave a quick synopsis of the role of the 910th Airlift Wing. Did you know they fly the C-130 Cargo Planes and are the only base that is activated for oil spills or to spray for the Zika Virus?

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Melissa Papini

Good food, camaraderie and lots of laughs were everywhere as Disaster Program Manager Melissa Papini led the group in the “toilet paper” challenge. How many squares would you take if handed a roll of toilet paper at the table with strangers? Lesson learned, you have to tell something about your life for every square you take.  In some cases, as the kids say “TMI” –  too much information was hilariously shared.

The group appreciated the warm messages from Mike Parks and Kristen Gallagher, both of whom had family obligations.  Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole personally thanked all “our heroes for their volunteer work to turn helplessness into hope.” We could never meet mission without our volunteers according to Tim. We also got to bid a kind farewell to Pat Buckhold, who will soon trade her Red Cross staff hat for a volunteer hat in our amazing organization.

K9Highlights for all were our four legged furry heroes on our Lake to River Canine team, who help with Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) and disaster response. These furry friends and their amazing trainers fully embrace the meaning and purpose of therapy dogs wherever they go. Quick to share a furry high five, they are trained to know they are “working” when they don their Red Cross vests and are “just dogs” when out of uniform.

We thank all who came and appreciate your constant devotion to our mission. One final question from me:  “How many squares of toilet paper would you need?” One of the best parts of my job is knowing the incredible resumes of those who do our important work. Lake to River and all Red Cross volunteers are Super Heroes.Debra Paul Pat

If you have an interest in volunteering for the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab, or call 216-431-3328.  You can also send an email to NEOVolunteer@redcross.org.

Photos by Red Cross volunteer Paul Wadowick, pictured to the right with Debra Kellar and Pat Buckhold of Volunteer Services.  View the photo album here.

Former Trucker Loves Logistics

By Michael Shipley, 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)

Hello. My name is Michael Shipley and I am a Red Cross volunteer. My Red Cross story is probably typical.Mike Shipley

I was a working trucker for eighteen years, and logged approximately 1.8 million miles. Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I suffered a major “attack” and lost the use of my legs for three months, which ended my career as a trucker.

I was at  an MS walk and met a lady who actively recruited me to volunteer for the American Red Cross. I went to a meeting and signed up that day.

I am a Disaster Services volunteer. I started with casework, meaning I helped people who experienced a disaster by introducing them to the services offered by the Red Cross, including initial financial assistance, mental health services, and community referrals to help them with their recovery.  After about nine months of case work I decided to start doing logistics and I absolutely love it!

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American Red Cross volunteer Mike Shipley

I take care of logistics for the Red Cross in seven counties and three offices. I have met some really great folks and been on five deployments in one year! I stay busy and I am very happy to find an organization that lets me be me.

(Michael Shipley has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for nearly three years.  He is a resident of Mansfield, and serves residents in the Lake Erie/Heartland 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.

Disability Doesn’t Deter Disaster Services Volunteer

By Mark Cline, 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)

From my earliest memories, I can remember volunteering with my family, which taught me the value of giving back.  In Boy Scouts I obtained the rank of Eagle Scout. I was also an Explorer Scout with the Wickliffe Fire Department. That turned into a 20 year job of being a part-time fire fighter/EMT.  I later went to work for Continental Airlines, where I was on their Emergency Response Team, and I was an Explorer Post Adviser working with teens in an Aviation Post sponsored by Continental Airlines.  On one of my assignments, I worked an aircraft crash in Buffalo, NY, where 51 souls were lost.

After working some very physical jobs over the years,  my back developed issues and I began to receive Social Security Disability, but I wasn’t ready to retire to a rocking chair.  Working with Lake County RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), they introduced me to the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team in the Greater Cleveland Chapter.  All my emergency training and experience pulled together in one organization. I currently hold a number of positions with Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services (DCS).  I’m a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Leader, Administrator-on-call, DAT Induction Trainer, Pillowcase Presenter and DCS Volunteer Partner to our Disaster Program Manager.

Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services Volunteer Partner Mark Cline, assisting residents who were affected by home fires in Greater Cleveland 

All of these positions allow me the chance to give back in many different ways.  Being on call I get a chance to be instrumental in someone’s life.  When the team responds, we help people who hours before didn’t know what hit them.  Then we train and plan for the next response.  I am able to work along side WONDERFUL co-volunteers and employees, knowing that whatever challenge comes around the corner, we’ll be able to respond.

I may be on disability, but that doesn’t make me totally disabled.  Someday a rocking chair may be a major part of my day, but not right now.  The Red Cross gives me the ability to help and enjoy life, being part of amazing team or even more like a family. There will be another disaster around the corner.  I don’t know when, I don’t know what, I just know I’ll be part of the team responding to it.  Tomorrow there maybe time for that rocking chair and sleeping in, but today I’ve got things to do and places to go, and people to see!Mark Cline

Mark Cline just celebrated his first anniversary as a Red Cross Volunteer.  He lives in Euclid, and serves residents of the Greater Cleveland 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.