The Aftermath of a Home Fire

By: img_3035Anmol Nigam, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

Few expect a fire to destroy their home.   Wooster-area pastor, Nick Cleveland, certainly never expected his family to feel the devastation of a fire.

Nick was in the car when he received a call from his wife, Vicki.

“We’re all out of the house,” she said. “Our house is on fire. It’s bad.”

The couple tried to comprehend their loss as firefighters tackled the blaze. Thinking to the future, Nick and Vicki struggled to piece together their next steps. The fire had thrust them into a harsh reality.

“Where are we going to live?” Nick said. “Where are my kids going to be? Are they going to be okay?”

The situation overwhelmed them. They felt helpless, but they were not alone. Lara Kiefer, Executive Director of the Lake Erie and Heartland Chapter knew they would need plenty of support. She started working right away to get them the things they would need.

“The minute that immediate tangible support shows up it is a game changer,” Nick said. “Immediate support turns helpless toward hopeful.”

The Red Cross gave them shelter when they had none, provided them financial assistance to purchase food and clothing, and began solving problems that Nick and Vicki had yet to even anticipate.

“When the Red Cross showed up… it helped turn our tragedy and helpless feelings toward hopeful ones,” Nick said. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help when we needed it most!”

The difficulties in home fires do not end with the fire. Through the weeks afterwards, the Red Cross and our volunteers help by ensuring those in need regain some of their lost stability.

Many believe, incorrectly, that they have 10 minutes to exit a burning home. The actual time is closer to two minutes. Education and preparedness is a critical during in a home fire. Through Operation Save-A-Life, we work with local firefighters and volunteers install smoke alarms and provide fire safety education.

“I’ll never forget July the fifth. Ever,” said Nick in a sermon shortly after the incident.

For more information on Red Cross fire preparedness initiatives visit Operation Save-A-Life.

Festival of Trees Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Holiday Tradition Continues with Annual Fundraiser in Wooster

The room was beautiful, the food was abundant, and the mood was festive for the 25th Anniversary of the Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for Red Cross disaster relief in Wooster.

Highlights included a live auction of the beautifully decorated trees ringing the room, a special award given to John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager, and a special mission moment delovered by Nick Cleveland.  His family survived a home fire in Wooster last summer, and he called the immediate assistance provided by the Red Cross at the time extremely helpful.

See a photo gallery from the Festival of Trees on the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter Facebook Page, at  https://www.facebook.com/RedCrossLakeErieHeartland/.

If you missed the Festival this year, but would still like to help the Red Cross help families like the Clevelands, #GiveWithMeaning by donating to Red Cross disaster relief.  Log on to redcross.org, call 1-800 Red Cross, or text RED CROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

 

The power of being prepared (at any age)…

My boys are survivalists at heart.

When they were little, each carried around a bag full of cherished things:   “Puppy” the stuffed dog, a tape measure from Papa, a wallet with a few bucks in it, a note pad, a toy car, a plastic hammer, a blanket.  Today they still carry around bags, though now it is a camel pack filled with a pocket knife, wallet, gloves, bug spray, bandana, flashlight, and first aid kit.  As teenagers they are more inclined to be prepared for an emergency.

This is not a scientific fact, but, personally, I believe that people want to be prepared. Stuffing a bag full of essentials is one way to do that.  Heck, I have a purse stuffed full with essentials, myself! This personal belief is what made me fall in love with the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project sponsored by Disney!

A Girl Scout troop colors preparedness kits during a Red Cross Pillowcase Project session.

A Girl Scout troop colors preparedness kits during a Red Cross Pillowcase Project session.

The pillowcase project is an emergency preparedness exercise that teaches children grades 3-5 about weather related emergencies, coping mechanisms, and provides them with a “bag” in which to stuff all their essentials.  Instead of an ordinary bag it is a personally decorated, canvas pillowcase. I was very excited about this project, not only as a Red Crosser, but also as a parent.  I signed up right away to be a presenter and am so happy that I did.

My first session was with a group of Girl Scouts from Wooster, Ohio.  To my surprise they were very well-versed in tornado safety.  They already knew the difference between a tornado watch and a warning.  They knew where to go and what to do.  They were very smart cookies (no pun intended)!  However, when we talked about coping mechanisms, none of them really knew what that meant. As a presenter, I was able to introduce them to new ways to deal with fear and anxiety in just a few steps through coping mechanisms like breathing with color or singing their favorite song.  These mechanisms can help on a day-to-day basis and in times of emergency.

When the time came to pass out the pillowcases, we talked about what they would put in their pillowcase.  I asked them to think about the items that they would need in an emergency.  They began to list the items like flashlight, band-aids, batteries, phone charger before they mentioned the important stuff: stuffed animals, pictures of family, and special toys.

It is very important to be prepared for an emergency physically – with all the emergency equipment – but it is equally as important prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Hence the need for a stuffed animal and family photos!

This project is valuable in so many ways.  It is a fun and interactive teaching tool and the take a way is a tangible, touchable, stuffable pillowcase.  My day-to-day tasks don’t usually put me in contact with children, but this project has allowed me to reach out to the children in our community as future Red Crossers, future leaders, volunteers, and emergency personal.  I feel priveledged to be a Pillowcase Presenter.

Katie Myers-Griffith

Executive Director, American Red Cross, Ashland & Wayne Counties, Ohio.