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Home Fire Safety for the Entire Family with Pedro’s Fire Challenge on Amazon Alexa

Wed, 05/05/2021 - 06:26
Damon activates Pedro’s Fire Challenge on an Amazon Alexa.

Pedro the penguin loves to learn how to be prepared and take action during emergencies. He visits friends in different locations and learns how to help stay safe from hazards like home fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and many others!

Traditionally taught in classrooms and presented through a storybook, the Prepare with Pedro program is geared towards students in grades kindergarten to second grade, or ages 4-8 years old. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross has been offering this program to students virtually across the country and on military bases abroad. 

Fun for the Entire Family 

Now, families can learn how to help stay safe during a home fire through Pedro’s Fire Challenge by the American Red Cross on Amazon Alexa! Pedro’s Fire Challenge is an interactive game designed to help educate children about home fire safety and coping skills.  

In this game, Pedro guides children through a set of 5 randomized activities, making for a unique experience each time and never-ending fun!  

Activities include practicing home fire safety skills, such as crawling underneath smoke in a fire and identifying the location of smoke alarms in the home, in addition to interactive activities and good old-fashioned penguin fun to keep children active and engaged. Each experience also ends with age-appropriate coping skills to teach children how to handle emergencies and other stressful situations.  

At the end of each challenge, children earn a virtual fire safety badge in the Alexa app. With 20 badges to collect, they will want to keep playing to earn them all!  

To get started, simply say, “Alexa, enable Pedro’s Fire Challenge!” or follow this link.  

For additional Prepare with Pedro resources such as digital storybooks and activity books, coloring sheets and more, visit redcross.org/pedro. To view our animated preparedness videos for kids, check out our Red Cross Kids Videos in English and Spanish

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Red Cross Women Paving the Way Throughout History

Fri, 04/30/2021 - 07:39

Voluntary service is the heart of the Red Cross, and many volunteers began their service during armed conflict. As we celebrate National Volunteer Month, we pay tribute to the Red Cross women in our history, who made significant contributions to our lifesaving mission.

1904. Library of Congress Collection. Portrait by J. E. Purdy of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, gained first-hand experience with the Red Cross movement as a volunteer during the Franco-Prussian war. Clara helped the women of Strasbourg, France, recover economically from the Franco-Prussian War by employing them to restore donated clothing. Those pioneering efforts with the Red Cross and her success in mobilizing volunteers to respond to disasters in the U.S., led to disaster relief becoming a primary mission for the Red Cross worldwide.

“Mabel T. Boardman, who succeeded Clara Barton in 1904,

Mabel Boardman was a driven volunteer for more than 45 years, determined to redefine the organization. She became the driving force behind the newly reincorporated Red Cross, which offered various services through a network of nationally chartered chapters that were provided by volunteers and supported by staff. Nursing, first aid and water safety were among the few services Mabel initiated throughout her time.

Portrait of Jane Delano. First Lady of Red Cross Nursing.

In 1912, Jane Delano resigned from the Army Nurse Corps to become the volunteer chair of the Red Cross Nursing Service. Until her death in 1919, Miss Delano worked tirelessly creating a nationwide system of qualified nurses for the Red Cross; arranging for public health education provided by Red Cross nurses in-home health care, hygiene and first aid; and collaborating with the Army and Navy medical departments to train nurses and other medical personnel for wartime service.

Gwen Jackson portrait 1988. National Chairman of Volunteers.

The first African American to be appointed National Chairman of Volunteers in 1988, Gwen T. Jackson began her Red Cross service in the Service to Military Families Department of the Greater Milwaukee chapter. Gwen served as Chairman of the Board and on the Executive Committee of that chapter before being elected to two terms on the National Board of Governors.

After Clubmobile Service in England, France and Germany, Mary Louise (Weller) Chapman continued her 75-year-career leading youth services and volunteer leadership development at a Red Cross chapter in San Francisco, CA. An award called the Mary Lou Chapman Innovation Award for the Service to the Armed Forces and International Services was created in her honor.

Barbara Pathe during WWII in Europe.

Barbara Pathe, another Clubmobile veteran, was responsible for creating an access database of membership records for the American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA). Barbara worked on the project for 40 years, eventually transcribing information for thousands of Red Cross staff into a membership roster. The database now serves as a vital resource for researchers. In addition, she helped developed an archival collection for the Red Cross to preserve its history, a pivotal component to the organization today.

Lois Laster, one of the few African American women to serve during World War II, she directed recreation clubs for African American service members in England and Austria and, later, the first integrated club in Korea. In addition to volunteering weekly with the Service to Armed Forces Department at National Headquarters, Lois was President of the American Red Cross Overseas Association for three years and an active member of the League of Women Voters.

A U.S. Army nurse serving with the 57th Field Hospital in the Central European Campaign, Dorothy Steinbis Davis received the Edith Cavell Nurses Medal from the Belgian Red Cross for her care of the wounded from the Battle of the Bulge, and in 1994, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor. After World War II, Dorothy continued on as a volunteer Red Cross nurse for the next 60years and represented the Red Cross on the 50th Anniversary of World War II Commemoration Committee.

Margaret (Maggie) Gooch Duffy served in the South Pacific with the Red Cross during and after World War II. In 1991, the Emperor presented her with the “Order of the Precious Crown Butterfly” in recognition of her work for promoting volunteerism through the rebuilding of the Japanese Red Cross Society. Following her retirement, Maggie continued as a volunteer in Nashville, Tennessee.

These nine women and many others paved the way to bring the Red Cross mission to life. We thank them and the tens of thousands of volunteers, who give their time, talent and compassion to serve others.

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Decades of Blood Donation Shows the Impact an Act of Kindness Can Have

Fri, 04/16/2021 - 10:09
Originally published on the American Red Cross Cascades Region blog.  Dennis Thompson and daughter Holly Sackett. Photo by Derek Reed/American Red Cross.

By lying on his back, savoring some quiet moments for two hours every other week, California resident Dennis Thompson has helped as many as 1,200 people in dire need.

His daughter, Holly Sackett, has followed his lead, helping as many as 24 people, while taking peaceful “mommy breaks.”

There’s no secret to how they do this.

They donate blood. Lots of it.

With excitement and cheerfulness in the air, it was in Forest Grove, Oregon, Holly’s hometown, on April 7, 2021, that 67-year-old Dennis reached a milestone that’s taken decades to accomplish – donating his 50th gallon of blood.

Holly shared in the celebration by reaching her one gallon mark.

To put these staggering statistics into perspective, each blood donation is about a pint. With eight pints to a gallon, that’s 400 donations for Thompson and eight for Sacket during their lifetimes.

What does that look like? Think of a grocery bag holding two gallons of milk. These donations would fill more than 25 grocery bags!

Thompson knew he wanted to make this donation special, driving 700 miles to share this moment with his daughter, so the two would earn their gallon donations “milestones” together.

“I thought about surprising her, but then decided it might not be the right kind of surprise,” said Thompson, while hugging his daughter. They smiled as Jennifer Reid, Red Cross team supervisor, awarded them with pins commemorating their cumulative donations.

Thompson recalled the reason he began donating twenty years ago.

“There was a blood drive at our church for someone who needed blood.” He clarified, “At that time, you could give and give credit to the person who needed a transfusion.”

Painting a picture of that day, he said, “We got to sit and watch TV! That was cool! So, I could go give blood, and get 2.5 hours of peace and quiet!”

With decades of experience and to make sure his gift of life is as good as possible, Thompson doses himself daily with a glass of “Green Sludge,” a concoction of kombucha, kale, berries, and flaxseed.

“No one else will touch it!” said Sackett with a laugh.

But, his dietary regime has paid off. Plasma clarity is an indicator of diet. Fatty foods can lead to a cloudy color, while low-fat, plant-based foods create clearer plasma. “I want it to be as good as possible,” said Thompson.

Then he burst into a laugh, and exclaimed, “The most important thing is, this is the gift of life!”

He emphasized the importance of this gift with a riddle, “Google can’t sell it, and Intel can’t manufacture it – the only source is from you.”

That is exactly what Thompson intends to continue to do. “My goal is 100 gallons!”

Like her father, Sackett has her own motivation for donating blood.

“A friend was in the hospital and got seven transfusions. She wouldn’t be here, if she hadn’t had blood,” she said. “It means more knowing my friend’s life was saved! It has a face to it!”

Similarly, she is also goal-driven. “It’s on my list of 40 things to do by the time I turn 40 – give a gallon of blood.” To make this happen, she explained, “every chance I get I make an appointment to give whole blood.”

The duo hug, cementing this memory that will last a lifetime, and Sacket added, “We’re in this together! We give blood! It’s an easy way to help somebody.”

To make an appointment to donate blood or to learn more, go to www.redcrossblood.org.

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A Hero Among Us: Maine, Navy Veteran Saves A Life

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 06:06
Originally published on the American Red Cross Northern New England Region blog

No one ever expects to need a hero. But when emergencies strike, we’re glad they’re out there.

On September 18, that hero was Leroy Patterson. The Maine, Navy veteran heard his neighbor calling for help and without hesitation sprang into action. The victim was a 60-year-old, wheelchair-bound, double amputee with a heart condition. He was struggling to breathe and turning a terrifying shade of gray. Patterson called on his American Red Cross training in First Aid, CPR and AED. He found the man’s medication, gave him a dose and called 911. Patterson stayed by his neighbor’s side until the paramedics arrived.

The first responders went to work immediately but told Patterson and the others who had gathered the prognosis was not good.

“I remember walking into the hallway where Leroy was and I said to him, ‘If he survives this, Leroy, you just saved his life,’” said Ray Michaud, a friend who later nominated Patterson for the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, “If Leroy did not hear him calling for help, if Leroy did not call 911 when he did, the victim would not have received the medical attention he needed so quickly and he would have died.”

During a virtual ceremony, the Red Cross recognized the Lewiston man’s courage.

“We’re extremely proud to present a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to Leroy Patterson,” said Nicole Evans, Executive Director for the Red Cross Central and Mid Coast Maine Chapter, “His courage and actions exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. This action exemplifies the highest degree of concern by one human being for another who was under stress.

“On behalf of the Central and Mid Coast Maine Board of Directors, I’d like to thank Leroy for his selfless act of heroism,” said Margie Bickford, Board Secretary, “It’s a pleasure for me to hear the story of Leroy’s courage, compassion and strength. In my opinion, recognizing Leroy as a hero is recognizing an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.”

Patterson received his First Aid training at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, where he also works. That location trains 60-80 people a year in Red Cross Training Services courses.

“By teaching these lifesaving skills, we are preparing our community to act in the event of an emergency,” said Steve Wallace, YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston CEO, “We’re so proud of Leroy for appropriately responding – knowing when it was time to call 911. The fact that a person is still alive because of it is incredible!”

Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills sessions) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.

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Lula Owl Gloyne: A Beloved Woman Serving Her People

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 06:19
WWI Red Cross Nurse Lula Owl Gloyne is back on the job again after retiring a number of years ago, teaching Mrs. Katie Ross Davis the proper care of babies. Mrs. Davis is a graduate of Haskell.

By the time Lula Owl Gloyne became a Red Cross Nurse during World War I, she had been a practicing registered nurse for a year.

In fact, Lula holds the distinction of being the first Registered Nurse from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Eventually, she was named a “Beloved Woman of the Tribe,” one of only three women bestowed with the title.

This remarkable nurse dedicated her life to serving the health needs of the communities in which she worked.

Lula’s father was a Cherokee Indian and her mother was a Catawba Indian. English became the common language of the household and this allowed Lula and her siblings to complete their education and go on to professional careers.

Lula’s career began at the Chestnut Hill Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia. She went on to provide her services in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Wakapala, S.D., Miami, Okla. and Cherokee, N.C. where she served her people in the Qualla Boundary, the land belonging to the EBCI tribe in western North Carolina.

She was known to traverse difficult terrain to deliver babies, care for sick families or sew up wounds in the field. There was no full-time physician and no hospital at the Qualla Boundary. Lula was the first full-time, Western-trained health care provider available in the rural area.

Red Cross Nurse Lula Owl Gloyne teaches a group of older women from the Cherokee Indian Reservation a Red Cross first aid course. After retiring from her work during the war, Lula returned to work to teach the present generation of Cherokees Home Nursing and First Aid.

Perhaps her most significant achievement was helping to establish the first hospital for the tribe. Her dream of a community hospital in North Carolina that provided modern care led Lula to Washington, D.C. to petition the Commissioner on Indian Affairs on the need. Her efforts paid off in 1937 when the Bureau of Indian Affairs built a new hospital for the Cherokee people on the Qualla Boundary.

Lula was appointed head nurse and continued to see patients in her community. Eventually, the government even bought her a car to make her house visits.

Even after her retirement in 1969 (at 77 years old), she continued to be involved in her community’s health needs. She was honored by District 23 of the North Carolina Nurses Association in 1978 and was inducted into the North Carolina Nurse’s Hall of Fame in 2015. She died in 1985, a beloved woman and healer of her tribe.

This #WomensHistoryMonth, we recognize and celebrate the historical Red Cross women of our past and for their commitment to serving communities in need.

 

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Behind the Lifesavers: Meet Red Cross Instructor Natasha Benitez

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 06:29

This March for #RedCrossMonth, we’re sharing inspiring stories of Red Crossers who continue to make a difference in their local community—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have adapted to new guidelines, protocols and procedures to help ensure we are supporting our communities when they need us most and when #HelpCantWait.

Meet Natasha Benitez, a Red Cross instructor who teaches Adult and Pediatric CPR/AED classes and Basic Life Support courses to healthcare professionals. We sat down with her -virtually – to learn more about her and what motivates her to help others.

What attracted you to the Red Cross?

“I love teaching, coaching and breaking things down to help people understand; These are some of the things that attracted me to the role as a Training Services instructor. The Red Cross has a reputation around the globe for helping people and that is what I deeply feel is my life’s purpose—to help others. I feel my best when I am in front of people teaching, inspiring, collaborating, problem-solving and exchanging ideas. I knew I would get that in my role with the Red Cross.”

What is one contribution or achievement you accomplished at the Red Cross that you are most proud of?

“I am most proud of being coined by the U.S. Army during a recent training at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this class, other than the fact I was training the Army airborne team that travels worldwide transporting our nation’s leaders. That was exciting to know! I was their instructor, I taught them lifesaving skills, and I felt proud of that. I grew up in an Air Force family. My mom, dad and sister all served, so training the U.S. military has been a highlight for me! I spoke the military talk, stood tall and proud, and they welcomed me—that was an amazing moment as a teacher!”

Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement or in providing inspiration?

“My parents are both very proud of my choice to teach for the Red Cross. My dad likes to tell me the story of how the Red Cross was there to help him when his father passed away. He was in the Air Force and needed logistical support. The Red Cross was there for him, so it’s special that I get to be there for others.”

Do you have an anecdote you would like to share that really moves you in your profession as an instructor?

“At the conclusion of class one day, a woman shared that her son died from a breathing emergency when he was 17. She described performing CPR on him until EMS arrived, but despite everyone’s efforts, he did not survive. When she shared this story with us, she said it so casually that it shook me a bit. In that moment, I realized how significant my role was as an instructor. These skills I teach will be used one day, whether I know it or not. That reinforced why I teach each class with passion, clarity and space for honest questions. I want my students to leave feeling empowered to step in and try their best to help save a life if duty calls. With kindness, love and compassion in my eyes, I listened to her and thanked her for her courage to share her story. It was a moment I’ll never forget.  We are the Red Cross!”

Do you have a message to share? (Maybe why others should take a class?)

“Sitting in a Red Cross class is a moment to be fully present and mindful. Learning a lifesaving skill in a room full of strangers (or with colleagues) could greatly impact your life forever and the life of another human. In a time where compassion and kindness are needed more than ever, it is comforting to be able to rely on the American Red Cross for this continuity in our world!”

Get Inspired & Take A Class!

If Natasha’s responses don’t encourage you enough to learn a lifesaving skill, consider how many people you can potentially impact by taking a class. You can find a variety of lifesaving training courses, from First Aid, CPR and babysitting to courses on becoming an instructor like Natasha, at redcross.org/takeaclass.

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Help Can’t Wait for Families in Need – Join us for Red Cross Giving Day, March 24!

Wed, 03/24/2021 - 05:59
Red Cross volunteer Leslie Sierra delivers a comfort kit to Maria Trumbo who is an evacuee of the Oregon wildfires staying at a Red Cross hotel shelter in the Salem, OR area. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

When families’ lives are upended by a disaster, help can’t wait. That’s why many families across the country rely on the American Red Cross every day to provide the hope and help they desperately need. During these continually challenging times, it’s important now more than ever for us to be there to help those who need it most. On March 24 – Red Cross Giving Day–we are asking for your support.

As we look back at a year like no other, we express our gratitude to the remarkable people like you, who have helped make a difference in our lifesaving mission. Get inspired by the stories of people whose lives have been changed over the past year because of the Red Cross.

Taking Shelter Ahead of an Emergency Tamika Ceasar, her three-week-old baby and Red Cross volunteer Nancy Jodoin.

For most mothers with newborns, staying in an emergency shelter would not be your first option. However, that became a reality for Tamika Ceaser, who evacuated from her home in Lake Charles, Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Laura. Before the storm made impact, Tamika was able to discharge her three-week-old daughter from the NICU and board a bus to Baton Rouge to join hundreds of other evacuees seeking shelter. Evacuees were able to check in to state-run and Red Cross managed shelters, that were now housed in hotels because of COVID-19. For families like Tamika, a safe place to stay, warm meals and recovery assistance provided them the support they needed to get through these difficult times. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I have eight kids. I don’t have funds for a hotel for all of us.”

During her time in the shelter, Tamika was able to connect with Red Cross volunteer Nancy Jodoin, who helped her retrieve medication, food, diapers and even a crib for her newborn. “I wanted to be a nurse to not only care for injuries, but to spread hope,” says Nancy.

Ensuring Families Don’t Face Crises Alone Red Cross volunteer Elizabeth Jascolt from the Nevada Region deployed to Texas for Hurricane Laura.

When COVID-19 first hit, Elizabeth Jascolt lost her job and decided to use her time serving others as a Red Cross volunteer. “It was a great way to give back in a small way, as the world was and is going through such a challenging time,” she said.

As Texas residents continued to get battered by storms throughout the hurricane season, Elizabeth decided to deploy to Houston to help families recover after Hurricane Laura. For two weeks, she supported families at shelters, who lost their homes and businesses, ensuring they felt safe and comforted. Elizabeth witnessed how optimistic people remained despite going through the most difficult times in their lives. After seeing how the Red Cross provided families shelter, food and relief items, it made Elizabeth value the mission she was part of.  “I love the feeling I get when I volunteer and help other people. As a human being, I think we all need to help each other because we never know what cards we’ll be dealt with. If there’s anything I can do to help people, I want to do it.”

Feeling supported during a Traumatic Experience The Punkin-DePalma family. Photo by Winnie Romeril.

Last year, more than 90 wildfires burned across the west and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate from their homes. The Western Wildfires left many families with thoughts of distress and uncertainty for what the future would hold. During Labor Day weekend, the Punkin-DePlama family had to quickly evacuate when the Creek Fire in California approached their home across the valley.

“We took all of our camping gear because we really thought we would end up down by the river with nowhere else to go,” said Stacey Dey, the mother of four and native Mono from North Fork Rancheria. The family of six drove to a temporary evacuation point, where the Red Cross provided them hotel lodging until they were able to return home. “The Red Cross kept us from having to sleep in a parking lot.”

Last year, Oregon, a place that rarely experiences disasters, suddenly was impacted by devastating wildfires. A natural disaster that destroyed entire towns, heavily polluted the air and was considered to be the worst disaster to ever impact the state. For Mary, witnessing the scorching fire down the canyon and blowing from tree to tree, was enough for her to evacuate her family from their home: “The scariest part of our evacuation was our baby. The time we took him and put him in his car seat to get outside the door and to load him in our mini-van, the air itself just really got to him.”

The family of three called the Red Cross and once they arrived to the evacuation center, they were given immediate assistance to ensure their safety.

“We don’t have that much money to our name. So many businesses and so many families are gone. The compassion that the Red Cross has shown for us as a family, I’ve never had anybody come through that doesn’t even know me or my family and just drop everything to help us,” Mary said.

Join Us

As a country, we have endured and overcome relentless disasters throughout this heartbreaking pandemic. Let’s continue to join together and support the urgent needs of families when #HelpCantWait on Red Cross Giving Day (March 24). Please give today at redcross.org/GivingDay.

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Anna Marietta, a Recovered COVID-19 Patient Donates Lifesaving Convalescent Plasma when #HelpCantWait

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 06:45

For many, the idea of giving blood causes immediate anxiety and fear of possible pain because of the needles used to collect blood donations. Anna Marietta of St. Charles, Michigan, was one of these people. Up until 2021, her anxieties kept her from donating. However, after recovering from COVID-19, she was inspired to overcome her fears and give back to help others during the pandemic by becoming a convalescent plasma donor.

Anna, a speech language pathologist who loves spending time with her nieces and nephews, tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020. Anna had lost her job due to cutbacks and was living with her parents when she became ill.

“Having COVID-19 for me was very scary for a few reasons,” Anna said. “I was very afraid of giving it to my parents.”

Anna also has asthma, which caused an increased shortness of breath during her illness and had lasting symptoms like severe and, at times debilitating, migraines.

After several weeks, Anna fortunately recovered and found a growing desire to help others during the pandemic. That’s when she decided it was time to face her fears of the donation process and become a convalescent plasma donor. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 carry antibodies that can be transfused to patients currently battling the virus as a potentially lifesaving treatment.

“I decided to donate my plasma because it’s very needed. There are so many people struggling to recover, and if my plasma can help someone, I want them to have it,” she said.

Anna gave her first convalescent plasma donation in January with the Red Cross in Flint, Michigan. Now she encourages others to donate as well, whether that’s a blood, platelet or plasma donation.

“There was a time when I never would’ve considered donating blood or plasma because I’ve always had anxiety about it, but it was truly a good experience. The staff took great care in making a nervous donor feel comfortable and at ease. I plan to donate again.”

Anna Marietta donates for the first time with the Red Cross.

Through Anna’s bravery, she was able to help someone who may have desperately needed her lifesaving plasma donation. For many people, #HelpCantWait when they are battling life-threatening illnesses and are in desperate need of blood and plasma donations.

If you would like to help someone in need, consider rolling up a sleeve and donating today! To learn more and get started, visit redcrossblood.org.

 

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When Help Can’t Wait: Comforting Families in Need During a Pandemic

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 07:49
Red Cross volunteer Jessica Farias Zanette speaks with L.A. Tyner who is staying at a Red Cross shelter in Houston, Texas. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

It’s been nearly a year since the pandemic started impacting individuals across the world, and the Red Cross continues to provide support and assistance to those coping with these difficult times. Many families have struggled financially and emotionally because of COVID-19, which is why Red Cross volunteers have given their time to comfort and connect with them.

Helping People Cope through Disasters

When disaster strikes, disaster mental health volunteers provide emotional support to families in need. Although the pandemic has prevented most in-person care, Red Cross volunteers continue to comfort and guide individuals through their recovery virtually.

Ron Molick, Disaster Mental Health volunteer for the Red Cross of Illinois and Arizona.

After a home fire, volunteers like Ron Molick check in with clients over the phone to see how they are doing.

Ron is a disaster mental health volunteer who supports the Illinois and Arizona Region of the Red Cross. Although Ron has spent his career in clinical social work and banking, he now spends his retirement helping others cope through disasters.

Ron is part of a team of nearly 65 disaster mental health volunteers, who are all licensed mental health professionals that support communities across the Illinois Region.

“I feel grateful that in retirement I’ve got something that I want to do,” Ron said. “Just to have the opportunity, the structure that the Red Cross provides and being a part of the process, the bridge between disaster and recovery. I know that there’s been a positive experience. They’ve gotten immediate quality service in the worst time of their life.”

These volunteers also support large national disasters like wildfires and hurricanes by providing counseling and support in person, or over the phone at any time, day or night.

Supporting Veterans and Military Members

As COVID-19 created new obstacles for individuals recovering from disasters, it also presented new challenges for hospitalized veterans. Many veteran patients could no longer look forward to simple conversations and visits from family members.

Tony Nazzaro, Service to the Armed Forces volunteer for the South Florida Red Cross.

In South Florida, that didn’t stop Red Cross volunteer Tony Nazzaro and other Service to the Armed Forces volunteers from finding an alternative to connecting with veteran patients, even as COVID-19 cases continued to rise.

Before the pandemic, Tony and a team of volunteers would visit veterans at a civilian hospital in Cape Coral as part of the Red Cross’ first Veteran Visitation Program. Launched in 2019 as a partnership with a local hospital, the program involved having trained volunteers visit hospitalized veterans to provide guidance on the resources and programs accessible to them.

Now, Tony and his team have transformed the visitation program to a virtual opportunity, where volunteers can continue to connect and check-in with veterans throughout the week. Twice a day, Red Crossers are calling at least eight veterans to maintain that human connection and ensure they are supported by the Red Cross.

“Unfortunately, so much bad has come out of COVID-19, that I feel that we had to come up with something good, and this is a good thing that has come out of it,” Tony said. “Every veteran needs to know what is available to them before it is too late, like when veterans reached eviction, or lost their car or don’t have food. The sooner veterans can speak to someone, the sooner they can get help. They served this country and it’s our turn to serve them.”

 

 Virtual Assistance for Families Impacted by COVID-19

To support families struggling with loss and grief due to COVID-19, the Red Cross launched a Virtual Family Assistance Center. Sadly, many families battled with COVID-related restrictions that caused heartbreaking disruptions in their bereavement process, but the Red Cross was there to help.

Danel Lipparelli, behavioral health volunteer for the Red Cross of Utah and Nevada.

Red Cross volunteers, like Danel Lipparelli from the Nevada Region, stepped up to help provide free and confidential support virtually for bereaving and grieving families across the country.

“We’ve been running 11-hour shifts every day since last March,” Danel said. “Once callers talk with one of our spiritual care, behavioral health, or health services volunteers, that volunteer stays with the caller for all follow-up sessions. We want to hold people close as they go through the process.”

For Danel, those conversations can involve anything from calls to the coroners and funeral homes to providing local resources and partners to help families with multiple losses in their lives.

“I spoke with a son and daughter, both in their early 20s, who had just lost both parents to COVID,” Danel said. “They had no idea what to do. People were upset because their loved ones went into the hospital and they never saw them again. They had no way to say goodbye. Sometimes we’re working with families who have lost multiple members. It’s so traumatic.”

As the pandemic continues, so does the Family Assistance Center, a support hub that provides online resources, information and referrals for services they need. It also connects people to community resources provided by partners in their area.

This #RedCrossMonth, we celebrate the exceptional and selfless work of our Red Cross volunteers, who support and uplift the spirits of the communities we serve after disasters. We thank them for continuing to provide comfort and care to families in need when #HelpCantWait.

 

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‘Our Teams Are Orchestras’: Get to Know Red Cross Chief Diversity Officer, Adrienne Alberts

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 08:26

Nearly six weeks in, Adrienne Alberts returns to the Red Cross with style and grace as our new Chief Diversity Officer. When you first meet Adrienne, she is a ball of energy that speaks very highly of her team and others and shows exceptional gratitude for the opportunities that have helped guide her to positions in leadership.

For Adrienne, there are many reasons that led her to this role at the Red Cross. She credits her years of experience in higher education and for-profit organizations, as well as the seven years she spent at the Red Cross serving in Disaster Cycle Services and Human Resources. But the way the Red Cross helped her and her family after Hurricane Katrina, has also made a lasting impression in her heart and mind to this day.

In a recent LinkedIn live discussion, moderated by Rodney Marshall, Programs Manager for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion Services, we asked Adrienne some questions about herself and on Diversity and Inclusion at the Red Cross.

How has your career path guided you to lead a large organization in Diversity and Inclusion?

“It really started in undergrad. I was in an organization called Students for Minority Outreach and our role was to help recruit underrepresented talent for James Madison University. As I reflect, every role I had has always passionately connected me to this work. I did a stint in higher education, I have done corporate roles for for-profits and even my work at the Red Cross had a substantive piece of it, whether I was leading workforce diversity programs or leading enterprise initiatives that really focused on underrepresented populations.

My Red Cross story has a lot to play in that too. My family was significantly impacted by Hurricane Katrina and the Red Cross was there for us. The Red Cross leaned in to help us figure out what steps to take with my mom and how to rebuild her experience to the point where we could rebuild houses and we could go back to being connected in New Orleans. We were all struck by the disparities and the way individuals were able to be supported and not. Yet, the Red Cross leaned in, in very important ways. I never forgot that. I never forgot the important role that the Red Cross played in my life at such an important time.”

What does Diversity and Inclusion look like at the Red Cross?

“Our workforce is made up of employees and volunteers. These are very different motivations coming together to serve the mission. Our mission has us in, and connected to, serving communities and identifying ways to partner around neutrality and universality; two of our fundamental principles. But we are also honoring the lived experiences of the communities we are engaging and partnering with.

One of things that ties me so much to the Red Cross is our motto. ‘Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All in.’

I think that in our D&I work as well. We, Red Crossers are rolling up our sleeves to get ready to help and be a part of owning what it means to be diverse and inclusive as a community.

‘Hearts Open.’ We are expecting the best of each other every single day with compassion and vulnerability as we lean into our work.

‘All in.’ Red Crossers are all in. They say, ‘It is important to me that I am creating a space for every single Red Crosser.’ When I think of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Red Cross, that is what I think about.”

How does the Red Cross work with diverse partners to support the communities we serve?

“We don’t do this alone. There is no way we can serve, connect and support communities if we tried to do it ourselves. Our partners mean everything to our ability to carry out our mission at the end of the day.

One example that comes to mind, I had the pleasure and honor to meet with a D&I committee board in Philadelphia. They showed us that by connecting with faith-based organizations, they can bring visibility to the mission work we are doing around closing the sickle cell gap. They had the opportunity to create blood drives that really help us support individuals who need lifesaving blood but that partnership is really the reason that it happened. It was about us being mutually connected and wanting to honor and serve communities, that allowed us to come together to accomplish a goal.”

How are Red Cross leaders leaning into the D&I space?

“I’m proud that our executive leadership have embraced this notion of allyship in a way that makes me beam with pride to be part of this organization. For them to say, ‘it is my responsibility to make sure we are the Red Cross we want to be. I have to be active in my allyship to sponsor individuals and their voices at the table, to sponsor the way we engage in community and to make sure it becomes the fabric of who were going to be in the future.’

Those notions of inclusiveness and allyship are things I have really seen in a significant way and it makes me proud.”

Why is it important to have diverse perspectives on a team or project?

“Can you imagine a conductor leading an orchestra and only letting the audience hear the violins. Our teams are orchestras. We have the opportunity to benefit when we ensure that; one, all the instruments are there, i.e. all the voices are represented, and then two, that you actually utilize them because that is how you hear the beautiful music and how you actually meet the mission.

Research has shown us that organizations and teams that lean in to make sure all voices are represented and heard, are far more resilient, far more financially sound and the engagement of the workforce is stronger.  I hope we think of that during a critical discussion. Think of it as an orchestra, where you make sure all your instruments are there and you make space for every single note to be heard.”

To hear more from Adrienne’s discussion on all things Diversity and Inclusion at the Red Cross, hop over to our LinkedIn page to watch here.

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Gerald Thomas: “If I can make that level of transformative change in other countries, I can do that here.”

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 05:59
Gerald Thomas, Chief Executive Officer for the North Florida Region of the Red Cross (Photo taken pre-COVID-19)

For Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women whose contributions are essential to our humanitarian mission. This week, we are highlighting Gerald Thomas, the Chief Executive Officer for the North Florida Region of the American Red Cross, whose long history serving in the U.S. Marine Corps led him to serve his community through the Red Cross.

In 1988, Gerald enlisted in the Marine Corps during his sophomore year at Augusta State University, as an opportunity to serve and finish his education.

He spent more than 20 years in the Marine Corps serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he held positions as a Commanding Officer of Lima Company for the 3rd Battalion Second Marines and as a Deputy Director – Marine Corps Liaison for the U.S. House of Representatives. As a Deputy Director, he led congressional delegations and worked closely with members of Congress to advocate for Marine Corps Policies and Programs.

Having the opportunity to impact the lives of some of the best and brightest young leaders is what motivated Gerald to serve his country over the years.

As a Commanding Officer, he led a team of 250 Marines into combat and recalls how bringing them all back home was one of his proudest moments.

Gerald Thomas as Commanding Officer of Lima Company for the 3rd Battalion Second Marines.

“I stood in front of those families before we left, and I was in charge to take care of their sons,” he said. “Being able to come back home almost six months later and say, ‘Here are your Marines,’ was one of the most impactful things for me.”

When he retired from the Marine Corps in 2009, he took on a role in the U.S. Senate as a lead staffer for a Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. His work in defense and national security policies led him to a fellow Red Crosser, Koby Langley, the Senior Vice President of International Services and Service to the Armed Forces (SAF).

That connection would lead Gerald to a volunteer opportunity with the Red Cross in Washington, D.C.

“I was going back to school, not working at the time, but looking for an opportunity to volunteer and give back,” he said. “That’s when Koby reached out to me with the opportunity to volunteer with SAF at the Red Cross.”

Gerald may have started as volunteer at the Red Cross, but it wasn’t the first time he came across the organization and the services it provides.

“Early in my Marine Corps career, I actually found out that my oldest son had been born through a Red Cross emergency communication message,” he said. “That was my first experience with the Red Cross and how they support us.”

Through that same emergency communication service, the Red Cross also helped him get back home after his grandmother passed away.

After seven months of volunteering with the Red Cross, Gerald went on to become SAF’s Director of Strategic Planning of Program Management. For two years, he focused on expanding the Hero Care Network by solidifying the connection between call centers and caseworkers on the field to better support the needs of military members, veterans and their families.

To this day, the Hero Care Network provides 24/7 emergency communications and critical services to military families across the world.

“When we are in a disaster response in Florida, we can have caseworkers from other places, like California, support families as if they were actually there,” he said. “They can give them the same level of care and service.”

Today, you can find Gerald as the Chief Executive Officer for the North Florida Region, where he oversees three Red Cross chapters that serve nearly 3.8 million residents across 35 counties.

Since he can remember, Gerald has volunteered in his local community and has even coached Little League, but leading teams and serving overseas is what guided him to a career and life of service.

“That’s when I thought, if I can make that level of transformative change in other countries, I can do that here,” he said. “That is what really moved me to be in the non-profit sector.”

Because of Red Crossers, like Gerald, our mission is made possible. From military life to leading a Red Cross region, Gerald’s level of commitment and service is worth recognizing.

Thank you, Gerald for all you do for the Red Cross and the communities you serve in North Florida! Most importantly, we thank you for your service and sacrifice to this country.

 

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Shonette Sneed: “Everyone has a story and that’s what keeps me motivated.”

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 08:39
Shonette Sneed, Regional Donor Services Executive for the Red Cross (Photo taken pre-COVID-19)

For Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women whose contributions are essential to our humanitarian mission. This week, meet Shonette Sneed, a Regional Donor Services Executive in South Carolina for the American Red Cross, who is passionate about serving her community and raising awareness for the need of a diverse blood supply.

For nearly 18 years, Shonette has served the Red Cross mission, but service to others was ingrained in her at a young age.

“We were always raised to not look down on someone else because of their circumstances, but you try to give back.”

Growing up in New Orleans, at least once a month, Shonette would volunteer in the community with her church. Her hunger for giving back continued when she moved to Nashville, Tenn., for college. There, she joined the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization and was matched for the first time with a young girl, Zy.

That moment changed Shonette’s direction in serving her community. For the past 16 years, she has mentored young kids like Zy, and she encourages them to volunteer their time and give back.

“I believe you have to introduce volunteering early to young people because it is something they will carry on,” she said.

Shonette’s story doesn’t stop there. Her passion for serving the Red Cross and sharing the mission was born out of a personal experience. Back in 2005, her family was severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and many of them lost nearly everything: homes, businesses, connectivity and more.

After weeks of not hearing from loved ones, Shonette witnessed firsthand the work of the Red Cross. Her family made it safely to a Red Cross shelter in Austin, Tex., and she was able to connect with them thanks to a Red Cross volunteer.

“I never ever thought we would need help from an organization, and here is my family receiving those resources and then some,” she said.

Shonette realized that her life experiences and stories are what motivate her to support unmet needs in her community, like a diverse bloody supply.

“I have a family member that has sickle cell [disease],” she said. “She is 19 years old and we had to receive services from the Red Cross. There were times where she was in the hospital and I would be with her parents waiting on a unit of blood to arrive.”

As an African American woman with a family member who has sickle cell disease, she felt there was more she could do to raise awareness for both a sufficient blood supply for patients in need and an increase in the pool of diverse blood donors.

After significant research and multiple discussions with her colleagues and partners, Shonette created a Diverse Donor Task Force – the first of its kind – comprised of community members, medical directors, communication specialists and others. The task force was created in July 2020 and worked quickly to host events for Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Together, the team hosted seven blood drives that year.

Shonette understands what it means for families to need blood, and that drives her to make a difference. We honor Shonette for the remarkable work she has accomplished at the Red Cross and her exceptional passion to serve others.

Thank you Shonette for all you do for our lifesaving mission and for your community!

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A Legacy of “Firsts” To Celebrate Black History Month

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 10:15
Historical poster created by the DC Chapter in 1988, featuring our African American leaders.

Throughout American Red Cross history, notable African Americans have paved the way in our organization for future generations who came after them. As we kick off Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women whose contributions were essential to our humanitarian mission.

Frederick Douglass, prominent abolitionist and author, became friends with Clara Barton shortly after the Civil War. He offered her advice and support as she tried to get the organization established in the U.S. Douglass’ name is on the appeal for funds after the 1882 Mississippi floods and he would eventually sign the Articles of Incorporation for the American Red Cross in his capacity as Register of Deeds for the District of Columbia.

Frances Reed Elliott Davis brought her passion for nursing to the Red Cross, becoming its first African American nurse. Her first assignment was providing medical care for the families of service members during World War I in Chattanooga, Tenn. As a legacy for future nurses, she helped organize the first training school for African American nurses at Dunbar Hospital, the first hospital for the black community in Detroit.

Artist Henry Ossawa Tanner painted and sketched the work of the Red Cross in the region of Neufchâteau, France, during World War I. His indelible artwork features many images of African American troops serving on the front lines.

The iconic Red Cross bloodmobiles were the brainchild of Dr. Charles Drew, a pioneer in developing a national blood bank. He was already an authority in this field when he was appointed director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941. He was outspoken against unscientific and racially discriminatory practices in blood collection and was dedicated to blazing a trail for African Americans pursuing a medical education.

An advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration (the first African-American woman to head a federal agency), Mary McLeod Bethune was integral in discussing and increasing African American representation within the Red Cross – from staff in overseas clubs and enrollment of nurses, to those serving on committees and staff departments both locally and nationally, and more.

Dr. Jerome Holland became involved with the Red Cross as a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors from 1964 to 1970. Later, President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the Board in 1979 and he was appointed again by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, the first African American to hold this position. His greatest contributions include advancing blood research (a Red Cross biomedical research facility in Rockville, Md., is named after him), as well as encouraging the integration of volunteers so all communities could receive essential and equitable Red Cross services.

A young volunteer serving in the Service to Military Families Department of the Greater Milwaukee Chapter would eventually become the Chairman of the Board and Executive Committee of the same chapter. Gwen T. Jackson’s other leadership roles include the first African American appointed National Chairman of Volunteers in 1988, a member of the American National Red Cross Board of Governors in 1992 and re-elected in 1995, and Chair Emeritus of the Milwaukee Chapter.

Today, a legacy of “firsts” continue for our African American Red Crossers. Rod Tolbert, a South Carolina native, was named the first African American Chief Executive Officer for the South Carolina Region of the Red Cross. His journey with the Red Cross started in 1998 as a Health and Safety Director for a local chapter. He then went on to join Red Cross’ national team as the Vice President for Disaster Services Technology, where he oversaw a team of staff and volunteers that provided IT support for regional and national level disasters.

These are the stories of trailblazers from our past and today, who made significant contributions to our organization. Without them, our humanitarian mission in providing lifesaving blood, critical aid to families impacted by disasters and support to military members, veterans and their families – would not be possible.

This month, we celebrate our historical figures and recognize current African American leaders, like Rod who make the Red Cross what it is today.

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#MLKDay: How You Can Serve with a Purpose

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 09:23
“Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Red Cross Youth Volunteer Maddie Adams walking 1,800 steps on MLK Day of Service.

Every year, communities across the country take time to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy through a day of service. “A day on, not off” to serve others in ways that will make a difference and bring communities and neighborhoods together.

Due to COVID-19, many organizations have had to cancel their large, public Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service events, which has left many people wondering how they can honor the day. If you are looking to go out and make an impact on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, consider serving with a purpose in a safe and engaged way through any of these ideas:

Walk 1,800 steps in your community.

Your first step toward serving is always the most important. In the case of Dr. King, his first 1,800 steps toward the Lincoln Memorial served as a catalyst toward the everlasting “I Have a Dream” speech. Walk 1,800 steps in your community to commemorate the day, and use the time to think of ways you can get involved with local programs and services for the entire year.

Red Cross volunteers, like Maddie Adams from our Eastern New York Region, are participating in a memorial walk to promote diversity, kindness and equity.

“I feel it is my responsibility to lead by example and hope to encourage others to join in,” Maddie said.

Donate blood.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and YOU can make that lifesaving difference. Since COVID-19, blood donation centers have put safety protocols in place such as requiring face masks, checking temperatures, spacing beds six feet apart, and routinely wiping down donor-touched areas.

Giving blood is an easy way to serve your community and impact the lives of countless families, like Red Crosser Melissa, whose mother was a two-time kidney transplant recipient and needed blood transfusions to treat her illness.

“My mom was diagnosed with kidney failure and relied on blood transfusions to help treat her illness,” Melissa said. “I remember seeing the Red Cross logo on the blood bag. I thought, ‘Wow. My mom is getting help from an organization I work for.’ When I saw that, a pride welled up inside of me. The transfusions helped save her life at that moment.”

Make an appointment to donate blood to help someone who desperately needs it.

Volunteer your time at a local organization.

Whether your passion is to advocate for the health and wellness of children, protect animals or provide aid to families impacted by disasters, dedicate your spare time to learning more about these organizations and how you can serve the community in that capacity.

There are many significant benefits to volunteering, like finding a sense of purpose, increasing self-confidence, lowering stress and connecting to others. Take it from Red Cross Volunteer Kallie Bunnell from the Utah/Nevada Region, who finds purpose in serving and believes it is the most powerful thing you can do.

“I would say that no matter who you are, you have the power to impact the lives around you through service,” Kallie said. “I have learned that service is using the gifts you already possess to improve others’ current circumstances. As a young woman in today’s society, it is so empowering to me to be involved with humanitarian efforts because it is the most influential and powerful thing you can do.”

Contribute to a cause you care about in your community by signing up to volunteer. To learn about our most-needed positions at the American Red Cross, click here.

Read a book to refresh your memory of history.

If you can’t find time to go out and volunteer, brush up on the history of King and his life work. There are countless published articles, novels and even children’s books to help readers understand what occurred in history and how Dr. King was a big part of it. Dr. King devoted his life to equality and justice for all, and reading about him is one way we can honor him.

A great way you can learn more about King is by reading about him from the perspective of others. Many of his family members wrote books about their experiences and what it was like to live during the Civil Rights Movement. Let their stories allow you to reflect on history and inspire you to serve your community in a way that makes an impact.

Get started here.

Host a virtual discussion.

Discussing the issues you care about with loved ones can be a great first step to serving with a purpose. Consider gathering your family and friends for a virtual discussion on community organizations you care about and ways you can lend your support. Think of ways you can engage with those organizations and support their services that will benefit others throughout the year or well into the future.

These discussions can also occur one-on-one with children. Red Crosser Kamalah Fletcher from the South Florida Region plans on ending Martin Luther King Jr. Day by talking about King with her niece.

“As an AmeriCorps Alumna, we have always made it a day ON, rather than a day OFF,” Kamalah said.  “This year, I will be doing the great work of connecting the American Red Cross more deeply to the communities we serve. When the day ON is over, my niece and I will be dedicating a portion of her bedtime story time to talking about Dr. King and his legacy.”

Today and every day we should honor Dr. King and his legacy by taking action in our community. He believed everyone, “can be great, because anybody can serve.” Whether you decide to give your time today or in the future, make sure to spread the word, inspire others, and keep the dialogue going in honor of King.

 

 

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