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Young Lifeguards Receive Red Cross Award for Saving Man’s Life

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 06:34

Four lifeguards trained by the American Red Cross have been honored for saving a man’s life. Ryan Grimesey, Andrew Bachie, Nathaniel French and John Porch jumped into action after finding a man lying unresponsive on the floor of the Middleburg Heights Recreation Center last July. They called for EMS and performed CPR with an AED until medics arrived.

L to R: Tim O’Toole, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio regional disaster officer, Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary Starr, Ryan Grimesey, Nathaniel French, Andrew Bachie, Jeff Minch, Middleburg Heights recreation director, and Jessica Rockhill, aquatics/facilities director

The lifeguards were honored with the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award at a Middleburg Heights City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. This is one of the highest awards given by the Red Cross to an individual or team for saving or sustaining a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross course.

The team of young men were on duty at the Middleburg Heights Community Center on July 5 when a call came across the radio that a man was lying on the floor in the locker room. All four moved in, each handling a specific aspect of the lifesaving techniques they had been trained for with precision.

Ryan Grimesey said they all knew what they needed to do. “I have been training with Andrew, John and Nathaniel for a few years now, and our chemistry is extraordinary, as are each of them. Everyone knew their part like it was the back of their hand. It was a team effort, and they were the best team I could have asked for.”

We often hear stories of “heroes” who step in and handle a situation in a way many of us fear we would not have the confidence to do, and these young men were no exception, expressing humility about their efforts; each crediting the other.

“It’s easy to have confidence in your actions when you are surrounded by great people,” said Ryan.

Nate French concurred: “This whole situation was held together by my coworkers. The people I worked with are not only well qualified and prepared, but level-headed and team players as well. Ryan, John and Andrew all kept their composure and acted efficiently. I wouldn’t have asked for anyone else to be on a team with.”

Left to Right: Ryan Grimesey, Nathaniel French, Andrew Bachie and Tim O’Toole during the presentation of the Lifesaving Award during the Middleburg Heights City Council meeting.

It is preparedness that is key. All four were trained in the extensive programs available through the Red Cross, like the Water Safety and Lifeguarding courses that gave them the knowledge and skill to deliver critical care services like CPR, first aid and AED administration for situations such as this. Once in the training room, the lifeguards saw what was happening and did what needed to be done.

“We communicated with each other on what we were doing and instructed one another on what should happen next,” said Nate.

“It’s gratifying to know that Red Cross training played a part in helping save a life,” said Tim O’Toole, American Red Cross Regional Disaster Officer, who presented the awards during the ceremony on behalf of the American Red Cross Board of Governors. “The swift and decisive actions of these four lifeguards exemplify the Red Cross mission to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

The American Red Cross offers training programs in various areas from first aid, CPR, AED administration, water safety, babysitting and more. The programs use methods designed by a team of nationally recognized experts with the latest evidence-based data to create training programs to help save lives. Learn more about Red Cross lifesaving courses here.

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African-American History Month: Honoring Mary McLeod Bethune

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 04:45

This African-American History Month, we are honoring black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. For this week’s feature, we’d like to highlight Mary McLeod Bethune whose dedication to academics and equality helped expand opportunities at the Red Cross to African Americans.

As the fifteenth of 17 children and the first child born free to former slaves in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune rose above humble beginnings to become one of the most prominent black educators, civil rights activists and stateswomen in the first half of the 20th century.

Growing up in rural South Carolina on her parent’s cotton farm, Bethune did not immediately have access to a formal education. When a local segregated Presbyterian mission school opened, Mary willingly walked in order to attend. By age 15, Bethune had taken every subject offered at the small mission school. Her enthusiasm for learning led to a sponsorship to attend the Scotia Seminary, a boarding school in North Carolina. After graduating from Scotia Seminary in 1894, Bethune received a scholarship to attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. During her continued studies, Mary’s passion for learning led her to dedicate her life to the education and betterment of African Americans.

In 1904, Bethune opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls. Over time, the school grew and merged with the all-male Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, and by 1931, became the Bethune-Cookman College.

As a leader of racial and gender equality, Bethune became president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1924 and a founding president of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. By 1936, she was serving as an advisor to President Roosevelt and she became the highest ranking African American woman in government when the President named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, making her the first African-American woman to head a federal agency.

Discussing wartime problems and the program of the American Red Cross during a day-long conference at the Red Cross National Headquarters, Mary McLeod Bethune and twelve additional African American representatives are shown here with Red Cross officials. Washington, D.C. July 1942.

As an advisor to the president, Bethune was invited to two American Red Cross wartime conferences to discuss African American representation within the organization. As a result of these conferences, the “Committee on Red Cross Activities with Respect to the Negro” formed. Bethune was one of five committee members who made recommendations on the blood plasma project, the use of African-American staff in overseas service clubs, the enrollment of African-American nurses and the representation of African Americans on local and national Red Cross committees and staff departments.

Thank you, Mary McLeod Bethune, for your meaningful contributions to the Red Cross, the U.S. government and education in the African-American community.

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Three Red Cross Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 04:45

Looking for ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Here are some Red Cross-themed date ideas that will make your heart melt.

Learn Lifesaving Skills with the Love of Your Life

The Red Cross offers a number of training and certification classes ranging from CPR and First Aid to Babysitting and Water Safety. Register to take a class with your loved one today that will teach you the skills you need to help prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies, and save lives.

Donate Blood to Save Lives

Blood and platelet donations are needed every day for accident victims, surgery and transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for cancer. Visit to schedule your appointment to donate today. And remember that your donations could be the reason why patients have more time to spend with their loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

Will You Be My Volunteer?

Our vital work would not be possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers. If you want to use your time and talents to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, sign up to become Red Cross volunteer at

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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African-American History Month: Honoring Frances Reed Elliott Davis

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:09

This African-American History Month, we are honoring black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. For this week’s feature, we’d like to highlight Frances Reed Elliott Davis whose passion for nursing and helping communities led her to become the first African-American nurse at the Red Cross.

Davis was born on April 28, 1883, in Shelby, N.C. Sadly, by her fifth birthday, both of her parents had died, and she was put into the foster care system. In the system she experienced many hardships, but showed her ambition and ability to learn at a young age. She even taught herself how to read and write.

Her passion for learning led her to Knoxville College, a boarding school in Tennessee. When Davis graduated, she knew she wanted to become a nurse, so in 1910 she entered the Freedmen’s School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. There she was the first African American in the district to pass the final board exam. In 1918, her work with the Red Cross began.

That year, she became the first officially registered African-American nurse to be accepted into the American Red Cross Nursing Service. In the service she was assigned to move to Chattanooga, where she provided medical care for the families of service members during WWI. She also served as the director of nurses training at the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital in Alabama before moving to Michigan. There she accepted a position at the Detroit Public Health Department with the help of the Red Cross.

During her time in Michigan, Davis helped organize the first training school for African American nurses at the Dunbar Hospital. In the 1940s, Davis established a childcare facility that caught the attention of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who helped plan for and fund the center. Davis continued to run the facility until she was sixty-two years old. She retired seven years later and passed away in 1965.

Thank you, Frances Reed Elliott Davis, for your meaningful contribution to the Red Cross and the field of nursing.

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Why I am an AB Elite Plasma Donor – Kirk’s Story

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 07:47
The First Time I Donated Blood

I was a 19-year-old Army private when I learned that, per Army regulations, I could get a day off for donating blood. I told my entire platoon, and my platoon sergeant wanted to wring my neck! That day, we all donated blood and got the day off. Although I am embarrassed to say that laziness was my original motivation for becoming a blood donor, today I donate blood because it can help save lives.

Getting Even More out of my Blood Donation

For the past 30 years, I’ve donated whole blood to help patients in need. That is until the wonderful and dedicated professionals at the Huntersville, N.C. blood donor center spotted my AB blood type. Almost immediately after that they sold me on the idea of donating AB Elite plasma to get even more out of my donation. For an extra 20 minutes or so, I could make an even greater impact.

Not All Blood is Alike

According to the Red Cross’s website, “There are eight common blood types (A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-) and many rare ones. Blood types are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens (such as A and B) on the surface of red blood cells. These substances can trigger an immune system to attack transfused blood, so safe blood transfusions depend on careful blood typing and cross-matching. Learn more about your blood type.

Type AB blood is the universal plasma donor because despite having both the A and B antigens on red cells, neither A nor B antibodies exist in the plasma.”

This means in times of emergency, when there is no time to type and cross-match blood to determine an emergency patient’s blood type, “universal” AB positive and negative plasma can be used to help save that person’s life.

How You Can Help

Right now, the American Red Cross needs all types of blood donations to help end their emergency blood shortage—including AB plasma. Today you can make a decision that could change someone’s life forever.

Please schedule an appointment to save lives today by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), visiting, or by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App.


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LDS Charities Assists Typhoon Relief Efforts in Northern Mariana Islands

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 06:27

Originally appeared on

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu slammed into the Northern Mariana Islands—the strongest storm on record ever to hit that Pacific territory. More than 50,000 people living there faced the heartbreaking impact of this storm. Residents of the island of Tinian and the southern villages of Saipan experienced sustained winds of 170 mph, with gusts of over 200 mph.

The eye of the storm passed directly over Tinian, and all 1,100 homes on the island were destroyed or greatly damaged by the extreme wind speeds. In addition to displacing tens of thousands of people, Yutu severely impacted the infrastructure of the islands, disrupting the availability of food and clean water, limiting safe shelter options, and creating logistical challenges for getting supplies and staff to the islands.

With the help of a longtime partner, the American Red Cross, LDS Charities was able to respond to this emergency. A clear part of our mission is to relieve suffering following natural disasters, civil unrest, or famine around the world. When local resources are strained or nonexistent, we provide short-term, life-sustaining resources such as food, water, shelter, and clothing, as well as medical, hygiene, and school supplies.

Despite the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yutu, this disaster didn’t receive as much media attention as we felt it warranted. We knew that our involvement could fill a need that was underrepresented.

Saipan and the other Northern Mariana Islands are geographically isolated, so we needed help to provide resources to those in need. Our partnership with the American Red Cross provided us the means to respond to this emergency.

“We are so grateful to be able to partner with the American Red Cross office in Saipan to help those in need following this disaster,” said Elder William Davis, Area Seventy over Saipan. “We tried to respond to Typhoon Yutu as soon as we could and are grateful to be able to help those who were affected by this devastating storm.”

John Hirsh, a resident of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Red Cross executive director for the area, experienced the effects of Yutu firsthand. John had this to say about his family’s experience:

“My family sheltered in place. We live in the middle of the island, outside of where the catastrophic winds hit; however, we still had winds in excess of 140 mph. I boarded up my house with plywood as usual. At around 1:00 a.m., the winds got stronger and stronger. My wife, daughter, and I retreated to a safe room in our house with no windows. As the winds intensified, the change in air pressure was so severe that our ears were ringing in pain. Suddenly we heard a huge crash inside the house. I carefully cracked the door to see that the storm boards over my sliding doors had ripped off the house and the wind had blown in our doorframes. With my flashlight I could see and feel 100-mph winds slashing through my living room. I retreated back into the safety of our bathroom, where we spent the next three hours listening to the sound of glass breaking and many of our family keepsakes crashing to the floor. At daybreak we ventured into our main living space to find a huge mess. All our furniture—dining table, chairs, sofa, and bookshelf were completely soaked with water. Many of our family photos and mementos were smashed on the ground. We spent hours mopping up and trying to figure out how to move forward. In addition, there were a dozen trees blocking my driveway, so after the all clear, I needed to hike out to the main road to get help and catch a ride to work. I’ve been through many storms while living in Saipan, but Yutu was particularly scary for me and my family.”

The American Red Cross is the leading nonprofit response agency in the Northern Mariana Islands. With the help of LDS Charities and their other supporters, they were able to put together a large response structure to aid the affected areas. 

“The Red Cross is proud to count LDS Charities as a partner as we work together to provide thousands of people throughout the Northern Mariana Islands with much-needed support,” said Don Herring, chief development officer at the American Red Cross.

In the immediate wake of the storm, the American Red Cross provided essential relief supplies such as tarps, drinking water, lanterns, mosquito netting, and meals. Additionally, they provided financial support to families whose homes either were destroyed or had major damage. This disaster relief operation proved challenging with the air and seaports closed, so the American Red Cross needed to work with partners like LDS Charities to get essential personnel and supplies into the region. Support from FEMA and the DOD was also key to meeting the logistical needs of the response effort.

The road to recovery will be long, but Saipan and the other affected areas will have the opportunity to rebuild and strengthen their infrastructure. They are partnering with federal and local government, as well as nonprofits, to develop a road map to build a stronger, more resilient community. LDS Charities is proud to have supported this community and will stand ready with the American Red Cross to continue to provide support to those who need it most.

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African-American History Month: Honoring Dr. Jerome Holland

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 11:41

This year, for African-American History Month, we are honoring black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. For this week’s feature, we’d like to highlight Dr. Jerome H. Holland, a passionate advocate for blood research and a leader of our Blood Services program.

Born Jerome Heartwell “Brud” Holland on Jan. 9, 1916 in Auburn, NY, Jerome was one of 13 children. In 1935, he attended Cornell University where he became the first African American to play for the university’s football team. He was even chosen to be an All-American athlete at Cornell in 1937 and 1938.

In addition to being a dedicated athlete, Dr. Holland was also an exceptional student. He graduated with his undergraduate degree from Cornell in 1939 and immediately entered a graduate program to study sociology. He graduated with his master’s degree in 1941.

In 1950, Dr. Holland continued his education and went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later he was named president of Delaware State College where he served from 1953 to 1959. In 1960, he became president of what is now known as Hampton University (formerly Hampton Institute).

During his time at Hampton University in 1964, Dr. Holland became a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors. He served as a member until he resigned in 1970 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. He was the second African American to lead a delegation in any European nation.

Dr. Holland was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1979, and was the first African American to hold this position. Because of his commitment to the Red Cross, he was appointed again in 1982. While serving on the board, Dr. Holland showed a passion for blood research and took the lead in consolidating growing laboratory operations for the Red Cross Blood Services program. He also encouraged Red Cross regions to integrate their volunteers so important services could be extended to the entire community, regardless of a person’s ethnicity or background. Dr. Holland served on the board until he died from cancer in 1985.

To honor his devotion to the Red Cross, we named our biomedical research facility in Rockville, Md., the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences. Today, this lab continues Dr. Holland’s legacy through the Red Cross Research Blood Program where blood is collected and used in research studies.

Thank you, Dr. Jerome H. Holland, for your important work to further the Red Cross mission.

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Smoke Alarms Helped Save Cincinnati Family during a Home Fire

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 05:00

Every day, seven people die in home fires and we want to do everything we can to prevent these needless tragedies – that’s why we launched our Home Fire Campaign in 2014. As part of this campaign, volunteer participants work alongside fire departments and other local groups, canvassing at-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, educate families about fire prevention and safety, and fundraise to help sponsor this life-saving mission. Read on to find out how the Home Fire Campaign helped save the Simpson family when a fire broke out in their home.

Meet the Simpson Family Front row from left to right: Kaliq Reynolds (2), K’juan Reynolds (4), Kendra Reynolds (3), Taniyah Reynolds (7) Back row from left to right: Kenyon Simpson (17), Kenneth Simpson (47), Caitlin Grubich (29), Kala Simpson (16), Christina Jackson (71), Kendell Simpson (18), Kenna Simpson (1), Amy Reynolds (37)

On December 10, 2018, Kenneth Simpson and his family were alerted to a fire in their basement by the piercing sound of their smoke alarms. The smoke alarms were installed in the Simpson’s Avondale home by Red Cross volunteers in May 2016 as a part of the Cincinnati-Dayton region’s Sound the Alarm event. Kenneth recalls seeing Red Cross volunteers canvassing his neighborhood that day and calling them over to install alarms in his home.

Upon hearing the alarms the morning of the fire, Kenneth instructed his two teenage boys to help get all of their family members out of the house. The family gathered at their predesignated meeting place at the bottom of the front porch steps. Kenneth credits the fire evacuation plan to the Red Cross volunteers who visited his home in 2016 as the reason his family safely escaped the home.

The four Red Cross volunteers who installed the alarms in the Simpson home that year were part of 580 local volunteers taking part in the Sound the Alarm. The Cincinnati Fire Department was, and continues to be, a key community partner in their area.

Sound the Alarm to Save Lives

Join us to sound the alarm and help install free smoke alarms in your community April 27 – May 12, 2019.  One day of your life can chance someone else’s forever.

Kaliq and K’juan with K’juan’s new fire truck. After the Dec. 10th fire, K’juan asked for a fire truck for Christmas.

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Give Now to Help Meet Emergency Need for Blood and Platelet Donations

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 06:02

Every day, blood and platelet donors across the country are needed to help save lives. And this winter is no exception.

Unfortunately, the Red Cross collected 27,000 fewer blood and platelet donations than needed during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s. Additionally, recent winter weather across the country has caused more than 1,700 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected so far in January. As a result, the Red Cross currently has less than a three-day supply of most blood types, and blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in.

January is National Blood Donor Month

This month is National Blood Donor Month, a time to celebrate the lifesaving impact of blood and platelet donors. Cancer patients like Hannah, and so many others like accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia or sickle cell disease depend on these donations.

How You Can Help

Make your appointment to give blood or platelets now and all year long so blood products are available for patients who depend on transfusions. You can make an appointment by using the Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Don’t forget to bring a friend or family member with you. Donors can save up to 15 minutes at a blood drive by completing a RapidPass. With RapidPass, donors complete a pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions at

Sign up to sponsor a blood drive this winter at High school and college students who sign up to host a Leaders Save Lives blood drive during their winter or summer break could be eligible to win college scholarships while gaining leadership experience.

You can also support the Red Cross by hosting a SleevesUp virtual blood drive at, which allows users to honor someone’s life, celebrate a special occasion or simply bring people together to help save lives.

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Three Questions with Night Shift Disaster Responder Francisco Resto

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 04:45

“Three Questions” is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Francisco Resto is a longtime member of the American Red Cross disaster services team. Resto joined the organization 11 years ago as an Emergency Communications Center dispatcher and currently serves as a disaster responder. In this role he goes to the scene of fires, floods, building collapses and other emergencies across all five boroughs and delivers emergency humanitarian relief to affected residents.

What makes Resto’s already-unique job even more so are his work hours: 10:00 P.M. to 6:30 A.M. Along with his full-time job with the Red Cross, Resto is also a full-time student. We recently caught up with him for a quick chat to learn about what it is like taking on this important role in the middle of the night.

Often the residents you are helping are woken up by some kind of disaster. How do people react to seeing the Red Cross in the middle of the night?

I usually get comments like, “It’s three in the morning, and you guys are here?!” Having someone present at all times of day is in and of itself comforting. We let people know that we’re here to help and here to guide. Our presence, though often unexpected, means a lot.”

A lot of people consider NYC the city that never sleeps. Do you have a different perspective on the city now that you are responding in the middle of the night, a different perspective than you had when you responded during the day?

The city feels so small at night. The reason why I say that is because, yes, New York is a large city; it’s very dense, but at night there are so few people on the streets, so you can get anywhere in 20 minutes. Even if it’s the northern most part of the Bronx or Far Rockaway, you can get anywhere pretty fast. This means a lot when you are heading to help a family who really needs the assistance.

Is there a memory of a particular family you have helped on your night shift that has stuck with you?

It is difficult to remember one particular family since I respond to incidents on an almost nightly basis, but I do remember a night shift about ten months ago in the middle of the cold winter: a five-alarm fire in the Bronx displaced an entire building with roughly 60 units. Most of the clients had alternative means of housing and did not need Red Cross assistance, which is a great thing, but we did end up housing roughly ten large families.

I remember arriving and trying to navigate and evaluate the chaotic fire scene. There were faces in the crowd that just couldn’t believe a fire could happen to them in the cold of winter at almost 11 at night. Most of the clients we assisted were huddled inside a typical Bronx Bodega just across the street from the  building. Between the cold winter air, the frozen water on the ground and the grief these families were feeling from losing a home, I knew I needed to help get a better place for them to gather. After working to secure a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus, I approached the group, quickly announced my name, the organization I represented and informed the clients that we had a bus on the scene to keep everyone warm and safe. We immediately began the process for those who needed a place to stay for the night that was warm and dry. We assisted the families present with housing, financial assistance and all the necessary mass care items needed in record time, closing out the incident in roughly 2-3 hours.

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After Heroic Escape, Red Cross Shelter and Music Provide Comfort

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 06:04

Originally appeared on the Red Cross Gold Country Region blog. 

It might seem that Joe Avila doesn’t have a lot to be grateful for, after losing everything he owned — including 2,000 books from his library and all the music and instruments he used to teach music — when his hometown of Paradise burned to the ground in the Camp Fire on Nov. 8.

But Avila, 65, says he’s grateful for a lot: that he escaped with his life, that the American Red Cross and other organizations have provided him with a safe place to stay and taken good care of him in an evacuation shelter in the Oroville Nazarene Church, and that kind community members have given him a used guitar and replaced some of the books he was using to study theology.

He’s also heard from FEMA that they’ll give him some assistance, and he’s working with a Red Cross recovery team to find an apartment to move into.

Sitting at one of the dining tables outside the church shelter that had been his home since he escaped just in front of the fire, Avila talked about what happened that morning, after he looked outside his apartment door to see the building next door on fire. As he spoke, he took several breaks to strum his donated guitar and sing several classic songs, providing his own music therapy.

Avila said he had peeked outside because he’d seen a bright light through the window even though the power had gone out.

“I got up, and I opened the door, and the building across from me was on fire. It was only about 30 feet away from me,” he said.

Another building in his senior complex of about 100 apartments was also on fire, he said.

“I just knew it was very serious,” he said. “I just grabbed my walker. I didn’t have any shoes or socks on; I just had my pants and my shirt,” he said.  “I looked up, the roof of my complex was on fire.”

He said that he didn’t even recognize the scene he saw, and later realized it was because a wooden fence that had screened part of his view of the complex had burned to the ground.

Trees were bursting into flames, embers flying and windows blowing out. He heard noises that sounded like bullets exploding, Avila said.

He hid behind a dumpster when the wind worsened the firestorm. “Some of the apartments started exploding behind me,” he said. “That’s when I lost my walker. It went flying across the parking lot.”  When the rubber lid to the dumpster caught fire, “that’s when I had to start crawling across the parking lot to get my walker. If I had stayed there, I would have caught on fire, easily,” he said.

“I couldn’t see the street; it was so smoky,” he said.  “I could see about 20 feet.”

Avila said he didn’t have time to be afraid.

“I just knew I had to get out of there,” he said. “I just knew I had to go, to keep moving.”

Avila said soon after he rescued his walker and made it to the street, his knees bloodied, a police car stopped, and officers told him to jump in. After picking up one other man escaping from the fire, they drove them to the evacuation shelter that had been set up at the Nazarene Church in Oroville.

Avila, who turned 65 in December, said he’d lived in Paradise for about 15 years. When his home burned, “I lost all my musical instruments, my keyboards, my guitars, my amplifiers, foot pedals” as well as all the music he’s collected over the years. His library of about 2,000 books included books on theology, psychology, philosophy and quantum mechanics as well as music, he said.

Generous community members who visited the shelter brought him a used guitar. Others promised to order him some of the most important books he’d used to study theology. The church provided him with any clothing or other things he needed, including a brand-new pair of sneakers.

He said he’s grateful to the Red Cross volunteers, including medical professionals, who have been “very attentive and compassionate.”

He said he feels the Red Cross volunteers he has interacted with genuinely care about him and his needs. “It doesn’t feel like it’s their job and they don’t mean what they’re saying,” he said.

“Whatever I needed,” he said he was told, “don’t hesitate to ask.”

As Avila finished sharing the story of his escape from Paradise, he abrupted jumped up.

“I have to take a break,” he said.

He rushed over to where a group of local college student musicians was setting up to entertain the shelter residents and sat down at their keyboard.

Soon he was playing and belting out “Amazing Grace.” He began smiling and visibly relaxed.

“I had to do that,” he said when he’d finished.

Playing music, both on his guitar and his keyboard, he said, is something he was used to doing several times a day, especially since his wife died eight years ago.

“It was a way of expressing my grief, my joy, my loneliness,” he said.

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You’re More Likely to Experience a Home Fire Than These 5 Things

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 06:55

Each year, the Red Cross responds to an average of more than 62,000 disasters, and the majority of these are home fires. Although home fires are common, many fail to realize just how common they are. In fact, in our research last year we learned that 40 percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire.

In 2017, the National Fire Protection Association cited that fire departments responded to a fire every 24 seconds. And according to freeby50, approximately one in 3,000 households experienced a fire in 2010. Here is a list of five things and their odds to help you put this into perspective (stats from Motley Fool). You’re less likely to:

  1. Get struck by lightning. Thankfully, the odds of this happening are about one in 1 million.
  1. Win the lottery. Even though we all have hopes of winning the lottery one day, the chances that you win the Power Ball are about one in 292,201,338 and one in 302,575,350 for the Mega Millions.
  1. Be dealt a royal flush during the opening hand in a poker game. Despite your card playing expertise, the chances of this happening are only one in 649,739.
  1. Hit a hole in one in golf. If you’re an average golf player, you have a one in 12,000 chance of doing this. We can’t all be pro golfers.
  1. Date a supermodel. If you were planning on letting go of your significant other in hopes of dating a supermodel, remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Because the odds of you dating a supermodel are one in 880,000.

So it’s time to get serious and take steps to make sure you and your loved ones are prepared in the unfortunate event of a home fire. This family in Palmetto, South Carolina is glad they did. Here are some tips to help.

  • Remember to install the correct number of smoke alarms in your home. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
  • Teach your little ones what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Ensure that everyone in your household knows at least two ways to escape from every room of your home and where to meet outside.
  • Establish a family emergency communications plan and make sure each member of your household knows who to contact if they cannot find one another.
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must leave the house.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

For more information about how to prepare for and prevent home fires, visit

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9 Things to Know Before You Donate Blood in 2019

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 12:46

January is National Blood Donor Month. It’s also a difficult time of year to collect blood donations due to snowstorms and flu season. Last January, the American Red Cross had to cancel hundreds of blood drives due to winter weather, causing thousands blood and platelet donations to go uncollected. We don’t know how severe it will be this year, but we do know from past experience that snow, ice and seasonal illnesses affect a blood donor’s ability to give.

To help prepare for your blood donation, the Red Cross has nine tips to know before donating blood in 2019.

  1. Your whole blood donation appointment will take approximately one hour. In the time, it takes to complete one whole blood donation appointment, 1,800 patients in the U.S. will have needed lifesaving blood products. To make your donation more comfortable, come prepared. Be sure to wear a t-shirt or a top with sleeves that can be rolled-up easily and bring your favorite book, movie or music to relax with.
  2. You don’t need to know your blood type. According to a national survey conducted in April 2018, on behalf of the Red Cross, more than 53 percent of people believe they need to know their blood type to donate blood—this is simply not true. We need donors of all blood types to ensure a sufficient supply for patients. Donors may be notified of their blood type following their donation when they receive their blood donor card or by creating a profile through the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
  3. You must be in good health. Seasonal illnesses like the flu can affect a blood donor’s ability to give. Most medication will not disqualify you from being able to donate, but if you have questions please visit
  4. Rest and relax. Get a good night’s sleep before your donation and avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity afterwards. If you experience dizziness or lightheadedness, stop what you’re doing and sit or lie down until you feel better.
  5. Hydrate and eat a healthy meal before your donation. It is important that before giving blood donors drink plenty of fluids (an extra four 8-ounce glasses of fluids) and eat nutritious foods, rich in iron and vitamin C such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans spinach, iron-fortified cereals or raisins.
  6. You’re never too old to donate blood. While in most states, you must be at least 17 years old to donate blood, there is no upper age limit. In fact, many elderly individuals are some of our most dedicated blood donors, and we encourage others to join them in helping ensure blood products are available for people in need.
  7. Speed up your donation by completing a RapidPass online health history questionnaire. RapidPass can also be completed on mobile devices, through the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
  8. Don’t forget your FREE post-donation snack. Blood contains many substances including red blood cells (full of iron), white blood cells, plasma and platelets, plus water and various nutrients and minerals, which is why it’s critical that donors replenish their bodies with post-donation snacks and fluids.
  9. Scheduling a blood donation appointment is EASY! All eligible individuals can make an appointment by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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QUIZ: What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 08:53

As 2018 comes to a close, many of us are taking the time to self-reflect. We’re thinking about all of the experiences we had this year, all of the things we learned and what we’d like to change for next year. Having trouble coming up with your New Year’s resolutions? Take this quiz to find out what your Red Cross resolution should be for the new year.

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How to Prevent a Home Fire While Living with Roommates

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 05:00

I am a 22-year-old quickly approaching college graduation in May. One would think my housemates and I are aptly prepared and educated about living independently in our first house – think again. We have no idea what we’re doing – which made me wonder – do others living in their first houses know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to home fire safety?

Interning at the American Red Cross, I worked closely with the media team in charge of the Home Fire Campaign. This taught me the importance of keeping yourself and your home safe, but you don’t need an internship to learn how important and easy fire safety is! Below are some personal experiences illustrating what not to do and safety tips I learned through the Home Fire Campaign.

  • Wait to talk about fire safety until your housemate is heating the house with your gas oven.
  • Tie your plastic Christmas tree to the radiator for support.
  • When utilizing a space heater leave your mittens on it to “dry off” and then walk away.
  • Leave candles unattended because lighting your room exclusively with them improves your fengshui.
  • Let your housemates remove the batteries from the smoke detectors four months ago because they keep burning their food.

If you think many of these seem obvious, you’re right. Everyone grows up with different understandings of safety and there are many tasks and chores that may not be evident when you’re living in your first house. Here are some Home Fire Safety tips to follow so you may enjoy all that living in a house has to offer.

  • Make sure you or your landlord install the correct number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
  • Ensure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the meeting spot outside of your house.
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended, even for a minute.
  • Make sure your home heating sources are clean and in working order. Many home fires are started by poorly maintained furnaces or stoves, cracked or rusted furnace parts or chimneys with creosote buildup.
  • Avoid overloading outlets or extension cords.
    • Yes, that means not having the TV, cable, Wi-Fi, lamps and Christmas tree all on the same extension cord.

We might not know what the future holds, and we have so much more to learn in life, but at least we won’t burn down our house trying. For more home fire safety tips, visit

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2018: A Year of Record-breaking Disasters – How Your Donations Helped

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 06:24

This year, we experienced a number of record-breaking disasters across the country ranging from deadly hurricanes to volcanic eruptions. With each disaster, we were there every step of the way, providing relief and care to millions of people in their darkest hour. Here are some of the things we were able to accomplish this year with your generous support.

Deployed Disaster Workers

To help those impacted by disasters big and small, we mobilized more than 14,000 disaster workers. Ninety percent of these workers are Red Cross volunteers. Learn about one Red Crosser’s experience after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands.

Distributed Much Needed Supplies

Our volunteers distributed more than 2.2 million relief items this year, which wouldn’t have been possible without our emergency response vehicles. These vehicles traveled over 900,000 miles across the U.S. to help us fulfill our mission in communities. Check out this video to learn more about these vehicles.

Provided Food and Shelter

We helped serve more than 8.2 million meals and snacks and provide over 290,000 shelter stays with partners for those living in affected areas. This family of seven was thankful for a safe place to stay and warm meals to eat after Hurricane Michael destroyed their home in Georgia.

Reconnected Loved Ones

This year we’ve help reconnect more than 12,000 loved ones who have been separated by disasters and crises across the globe. Read how the Red Cross helped reconnect two sisters who had been separated for 72 years.

You Can Help Make a Difference

You can help people affected by disasters like wildfires, storms and countless other crises by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables us to prepare for, respond to and help people recovering from disasters big and small across the U.S. To make a donation, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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Video: Blood donations help cancer patients like Hannah

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 06:58

This holiday season roll-up a sleeve and donate blood with the American Red Cross. Did you know in the time it takes to complete your donation, 1,800 patients in the U.S. will have needed lifesaving blood products? Patients like Hannah.

Over the past two years, Hannah has received more than 50 blood and platelet transfusions in her battle against lymphoblastic leukemia. Thanks in part to generous blood donors, Hannah’s cancer is in remission. She says to all that roll-up a sleeve and give, “There is not enough gratitude. You’re giving a life to someone who needs a life, so thank you.”

This holiday season, Hannah, her family and the Red Cross are coming together to urge communities, organizations and individuals to host a blood drive this winter or schedule an appointment to give.

All eligible individuals—especially type O blood donors—are urged to schedule a blood or platelet donation today by using the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donors can help even more people by inviting a family member, friend or co-worker to donate too. Those who donate Dec. 20, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019, are eligible to receive a special long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt as our way of saying thanks, while supplies last.

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The Smith Family: Hope after a House Fire

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 06:23

Originally appeared on

The Smith family’s residence, located on the second floor of an apartment complex in Lawrenceville, felt like a warm, loving Georgia home. Holiday stockings had already been hung and Karen, her husband Michael, her 11-year-old son Michael Jr., and her mother-in-law, Laverne had plans to pick out the family Christmas tree later that day. Aside from the bare walls and shiny new living room furniture, you would never suspect the home was a temporary safe-haven—one that became necessary only after an electrical fire sent their house up in flames.

On September 8, 2018, Karen and her children were at home in the living room when, out of nowhere, Karen’s step-daughter came running out of her bedroom yelling, “The house is on fire!” Karen ran into her step-daughter’s bedroom and saw that the bed was on fire. She tried to put the fire out with water and a fire extinguisher, but neither worked. That’s when Karen told her son to call 911; and the 911 operator instructed the family to get out of the burning home.

“I was very devastated. I lived in that home for about 18 years and it was heart-wrenching to see my home go up in flames. All the smoke and soot and water from the fire department was very devastating to watch,” Karen said on Friday November 30, when we visited her previous and current residences.

That’s when the Red Cross came.

“They helped us and made me realized there was hope at the end of the rope. They made us realize that everything was going to be ok.”

Volunteers from the Red Cross of Georgia helped Karen and her family in the days immediately following the fire, with emergency essentials like lodging and clothes. Case worker volunteer Valencia Chavous followed up with the family during the next few weeks, to connect them with community resources and help them get back on their feet.

“Valencia was great. She spoke with me, she spoke with my mother-in-law. She would call me once a week and just encourage me—and make feel like everything was going to be all right.”

Karen gave us two thank you cards to bring back to Valencia, one from herself, her husband and her son and another from her mother-in-law.

Karen and her family had smoke alarms in their home, and they did go off to alert the family about the fire. The Red Cross of Georgia has been working to reduce deaths and injuries related to home fires since 2014, by installing free smoke alarms in homes throughout the state. To date, 10 lives in Georgia have been saved because of these efforts.

“Now, looking back, I am very glad that we were able to act quickly and get out safely, and right now we are doing ok, as you can see. Thanks to the Red Cross for helping us.”

Karen and her husband are working with their insurance company to rebuild their home. They plan to move back in within the next six months.

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After 72 years, sisters separated by war are reconnected by Red Cross

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 10:04

Originally appeared on the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region blog.

From 1941 to 1944, the Germans subjected Leningrad, the former capital of Russia known today as “Saint Petersburg,” to one of the longest and most destructive chapters of World War II. Historians believe that the Siege of Leningrad — occurring over a nearly 900-day period — resulted in the deaths of up to 1.5 million soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of another 1.4 million people, mostly women and children.

Two little girls — Tamara Haltsonen, who was then 6 years old, and her older sister, Lidia, who was 10 — illustrate the unfathomable human toll of the infamous siege: The girls suffered through the death of their mother, Tatiana, to starvation and/or illness, and the loss of their father, Alexsander, to the “German Labor Camps.” Devastated and suddenly with no one to care for them, the two were placed in separate sections of a local orphanage, before being moved with other evacuees to a monastery in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Tamara is holding a cherished photo of herself, her late husband Oleg, and their daughter, Natalie. (Photo: Samar M. Salma)

Both girls were eventually adopted by different families.

Miraculously, Alexsander survived and eventually found his two daughters. However, by then Tamara was in failing health, so he was counseled to leave his daughter with her new family. Tamara’s health would slowly improve, but she would never see her father again, as he and Lidia began a torturous decades-long odyssey that included difficult years in German-occupied Finland and even more hardships behind the Iron Curtain in war-torn Russia.

Young Tamara and her new family, meanwhile, moved to Germany, then to Chicago in the United States. After marrying years later, Tamara Terichow and her husband eventually settled in San Rafael, California.

After a separation that lasted more than 70 years, Tamara (right) and her sister, Lidia, embrace during their reunion in Finland. (Photo: Anna Haltsonen, Lidia’s granddaughter)

While Alexsander died in 1988, Lidia survived, never losing hope that she would one day be connected with her beloved sister.

Tamara too had known nothing about the fate or whereabouts of her older sister — for more than seven decades. She had tried to cope with the loss in part by never speaking of her adoption with her American family.

But that all changed last fall around Thanksgiving. Seventy-two years after being separated from her sister, Tamara received a phone call she will never forget. It was from the Red Cross Restoring Family Links (RFL) program, and the person on the phone informed Tamara that Lidia was alive and well — and looking for her.

It was a phone call to be truly thankful for. At long last, their long-hoped-for reunion was in the works.

Tamara, now 83, speaks tearfully about the sisters’ separation and their eventual reunion, which took place earlier this year in Finland. “It hurts me that for the longest time I tried to keep my mum in my memory and same thing with my sister,” she says, explaining that even the most hopeful memories fade over time.

But hope, luck, and the services of the Red Cross enabled Tamara to finally reunite with her sister. “It is such good work,” she says about the RFL program operated by the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network.

The United Nations reports that 68.5 million people were displaced worldwide in 2017 due to violence, war, and other forms of persecution. “No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help,” stated U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on the eve of World Refugee Day 2018.

During their special reunion, the sisters had plenty of catching up to do. (Photo: Natalie Rogen, Tamara’s daughter)

Given the scale of the challenge, humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross — through its Restoring Family Links program — are playing a vital role in reconnecting families, as well as supporting those who are displaced.

People in the USA who are separated from family members due to conflicts, disasters, or migration can start a search by:

  • contacting their local Red Cross chapter;
  • calling the American Red Cross’s free national helpline at 844-782-9441; or
  • visiting

Tamara has one other bit of important advice: “Keep on hoping,” she says, even if doing so becomes difficult to do. “If my sister didn’t talk about it, nothing would have happened,” Tamara says.


About the author: Samar M. Salma is a volunteer writer for the American Red Cross. She currently resides in Monterey.

About the Restoring Family Links program: Through RFL, the American Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the globe work together to locate people and put them back into contact with their relatives. This work includes looking for family members separated by conflict, disaster, or migration.

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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30th Anniversary of the Spitak Earthquake in Armenia

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 05:00

Thirty years ago today, on December 7, 1988, a 6.9 earthquake devastated Armenia. Also known as the Spitak earthquake due to the fault rupture’s proximity to the town of Spitak, the massive quake hit a densely populated region in Armenia. At least 25,000 died, 15,000 were injured and 500,000 were left homeless in the catastrophic earthquake. 

While Armenia existed behind the Iron Curtain at the time of the quake, the vast devastation compelled Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to formally request humanitarian aid from the United States — the first such request since the start of the Cold War. The American Red Cross responded by providing funds and people to assist with the relief efforts. In the year following the earthquake, the Red Cross directed more than $14 million in disaster assistance to Armenia, $6.5 million in cash and $8 million in in-kind goods, including antibiotics and other medical supplies. Anticipating the long process to rebuild cities and rehabilitate the injured, the Red Cross established a disaster preparedness program, prosthetic workshop and a spinal trauma rehabilitation unit. 

December 1988. Armenia. American Red Cross President Dick Schubert surveys the damage in Armenia following the earthquake in December.

Located on the lawn outside the 17th street Red Cross building in Washington D.C., is a 30-foot-tall bronze statue of a mother protectively embracing her child. Created by Armenian sculptor Frederic Sogoyan, “Motherland”, was a gift from the Armenian people to commemorate Red Cross relief services following the 1988 Armenia earthquake. This statue highlights just a small part of the global humanitarian contributions that have occurred since the organization’s foundation and that will continue to occur in the future.   

A close-up of “Motherland”, Washington, D.C.

“Motherland” embodies the ideal of service that has motivated the American Red Cross throughout its history: people giving generously of themselves to alleviate suffering, always ready to serve with warmth and compassion. For those visiting D.C. for the first time and even those who call D.C. home, we welcome you to visit Red Cross Square to experience “Motherland” and other remarkable memorials in person.  

*Just one block from the White House, Red Cross Square is between 17th and 18th streets, and D and E streets NW.  

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