Celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day May 8

By: Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

May 8th is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, in which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) collectively thanks its 13 million volunteers worldwide—about 2,000 of which are in Northern Ohio—for their dedication, bravery, kindness, and selflessness.

This day also coincides with Sound the Alarm, as American Red Cross volunteers and staff are helping area residents develop fire safety plans through doorstep visits. Please read this article for more information.

May 8th is the birthday of Henry Dunant, who was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1828, founded the IFRC, and received the first Nobel Peace Prize. After witnessing one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century, Solferino, and assisting in its aftermath, Dunant wrote A Memory of Solferino, published in 1862. After detailing the horrors of the battle and describing efforts to care for the wounded, Dunant offered a plan that the world’s nations form relief societies and appeal to everyone to volunteer. The following year the Geneva Society for Public Welfare appointed Dunant and four others to examine putting the plan into action. This began the foundation of the Red Cross. More on Henry Dunant is here

It would take more than a century, two world wars, and the 1918 flu pandemic before a Red Cross day would be created, however. During that time, the need and effectiveness of Red Cross societies became even clearer. Following World War II, the Board of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies requested the study of an International Red Cross Day. It was approved two year later, and May 8, 1948 became the first commemoration of what we now know as World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Further details are here.

In 2021, the Red Cross’s mission and services are as needed as ever, and the resilience, dedication, flexibility, and selflessness of its volunteers and staff has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the past year has been especially active. In the US, 2020 had the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year. Here in Northern Ohio, the Red Cross has continued to respond to disasters—including more than three home fires every 24 hours, on average—collect and distribute much needed blood, teach life-saving skills, assist members of the armed services and their families, and help educate the community on home fire safety, virtually and with doorstep visits during tomorrow’s Day of Action.

We recently profiled a few extraordinary volunteers during Volunteer Week. As a Red Cross volunteer, I have been privileged to see such caring and dedication firsthand and have been honored to work alongside some of the kindest, most effective, and remarkable people I have met. Please see here if you would like to join us.

On this World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we celebrate those who put the Red Cross’s mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering into action, each day.

A summer full of life: Perfect time to give and receive

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Been cooped up since COVID-19 started? Now that mask mandates have been relaxed for your time in the outdoors, it’s the perfect time to get out and rediscover nature.

The woods are getting green again, with lots of new leaves on the trees. Creeks and rivers have lost their icy cover. Flowers are bursting out all over, and gentle breezes make it a joy to be outdoors.

In addition, fresh air is associated with all types of health improvements: from mood enhancement to clarity of focus to brain, lung, digestive and blood benefits.

Speaking of blood, did you realize that blood donations go down around the summer holidays, but accidents and hospitalizations don’t. For instance, a serious automobile accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood. And, it’s the blood products already on the shelves that help save lives in emergencies.

Type O negative is the universal blood type and is what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Type O positive blood is the most used blood type because it can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

Not sure what blood type you are? Come donate and you’ll find out. Your blood will also be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Test results will be available to donors via the American Red Cross Blood Donor App or at RedCrossBlood.org within one to two weeks.

Now would be a DOUBLY beneficial time to donate.

In thanks for making it a summer full of life, those who come to give May 1-15 will receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card by email. Those who make it in to donate during the month of May will also automatically be entered for a chance to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps five, powered by Suburban Propane.*

Additional details are available at http://RedCrossBlood.org/SummerFullOfLife.

*Restrictions apply. Winner must provide tow vehicle with the appropriate tow capacity for use with the prize vehicle at all times, i.e., such as a full-sized truck or SUV, in order to take delivery of the prize (2021 Coachmen Clipper Cadet 21CBH, estimated at 5,000 pounds).

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross employees walk to raise funds, build friendships

By: Mary Williams, Events Specialist, American Red Cross

There is a certain something that drives every Red Cross volunteer. There is much to be said about the focused care they give to each disaster client, blood donor, military member/veteran/military family member from the first moment until the last.

That is not necessary a trait that you attribute to your co-workers.

But on April 30, four of my co-workers and I found ourselves at the Wooster office to (social distance style) walk the “last mile” of a 75-mile journey we had started together on April 1. The office had been identified as the central point to our scatter-shot lives, with each of us driving anywhere from 45-minutes to 2-hours to gather in celebration.

There were eight of us who walked 75-miles to promote the mission of the Red Cross (though only five of us could get together in Wooster); Erica van Pelt, Carolyn Wild, Sarah Leonhard, Staci Thomson, Emily Probst, Cheryl Wolfe, Maggie Lenhart, and myself. Through our own family and friend networks we earned a total of $1,510. And beyond that, we began to form a bond that came from encouraging each other each step of the way.

Each time I would think, ‘it’s cold and I don’t want to go out to walk two-miles’, there would be a picture of one co-worker or another, bundled up and outside. We shared pictures of our walking companions – dogs, children, and lots of sarcastically earnest gifs of encouragement. Little by little we learned more things about each other, that we would not have learned otherwise. Time and geography have long conspired to keep many of us perfect strangers, but these 75 miles have brought us closer together. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

And what amazes me the most about this group is that they truly don’t see what an amazing accomplishment it has been for each of them to push beyond what they do as part of their day-to-day work responsibilities, to further blur the lines of work-life and home-life by completely steeping themselves in that thing – that heart – that volunteers demonstrate. For each of these women, it seems that to work here, is to fully encompass the mission and values of the Red Cross as part of your own essence.

It’s just what they do.

It’s just what we do.

Why I’m thankful for a Red Cross app I thought I would never need

By: Christy Peters, American Red Cross Communications Manager

Growing up, my parents sat firmly in the “no pets” camp. Until the week my father left on a business trip and my mom found herself at the local shelter, adopting a tiny mutt. Family lore varies as to what led to this decision, but one thing was for sure. My father, upon returning home, could not take back the puppy all three of his children were now in love with. Our tiny rescue puppy was a lot of fun and a lot of work and, much to my father’s dismay, wreaked havoc on our house on more than one occasion. She died while I was in college and my parents quickly returned to the “no pets” camp and remain there to this day.

I also sat firmly in the “no pets” camp for most of my adulthood. And then I met my now husband who, at that time, owned a dog, cat and horse. He is also a registered veterinary technician who spends his days helping other people’s pets. I quickly realized marrying him met entering a new world as a lifelong pet owner. So here I am, a reluctant but committed dog mom to an American Bulldog named Tyler Eugene. (Our cat passed away in 2015. The horse still lives on our property, but has a new owner, so I get to enjoy him without the added pressure of keeping him alive).

Since April is National Pet First Aid Month, it’s the perfect time to share my love for the Red Cross Pet First Aid app. Sure, I’m married to a vet tech, but there have been plenty of times Tye and I have been alone and if something happens, it’s nice to know I have this amazing resource at my fingertips. The app is free and provides instant access to expert guidance on what to do in emergencies, how to include pets in your emergency preparedness plans, and suggestions for a first aid kit. The app also helps owners keep their pets safe by learning what emergency supplies to have, when they should contact their veterinarian, and where to find a pet care facility or pet-friendly hotel. The Pet First Aid App can be downloaded by texting GETPET to 90999, by going to redcross.org/apps, or by searching American Red Cross in app stores.

Pet owners can also take a free Red Cross Pet First Aid course on their home computer. The online course takes about 30 minutes and you will learn the basics in caring for cats and dogs through a variety of topics – from understanding and checking your pet’s vital signs, to preventative care for cats and dogs, to caring for the most critical emergency situations – including breathing and cardiac emergencies, wounds, bleeding, and seizures.

Of course, all these terrific resources do not replace regular veterinary care, which is extremely important. But I know my family and Tye would agree that, in an emergency, we’re all thankful the Red Cross has mom’s back.  

Volunteers to share free fire safety resources with residents this spring

Sound the Alarm campaign this year features doorstep visits for home fire safety

This spring, Red Cross volunteers will Sound the Alarm in Northern Ohio neighborhoods as part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety. Volunteers will meet with residents by appointment outside their homes to share fire safety information and help them create an escape plan to practice their two-minute fire drill.

“Home fires remain the most frequent disaster during COVID-19, yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “As families spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s critical that we help our vulnerable neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

To schedule an appointment for a doorstep visit to learn more about keeping your home and family safe from fire, visit the registration page on our website at soundthealarm.org/noh.  Residents can also ask for a virtual visit from local volunteers to review fire safety for their household. Home fire safety visits are part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety nationwide this spring.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE Help protect your family against home fires by taking two simple steps: Practice your two-minute escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org for more information and to pledge to prepare your family against home fires.

  • Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Pete Ulrich remembered as dedicated trainer and great guy who saved lives

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Everyone on the American Red Cross Transportation Specialist and Disaster Program teams knew Peter Ulrich simply as “Pete.” He was well known across Northern Ohio for being an excellent teacher with a natural teaching talent who trained countless volunteers for the Red Cross. Pete was based out of his hometown of Akron, Ohio, but his influence reached across the region. Volunteer transportation specialists deliver lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals. 

My first time meeting Pete was just over a year ago to learn my role as a transportation specialist. From the start, I was truly impressed with how professional, organized and genuine Pete was. We worked together for about four hours that night. Pete was not only an incredible trainer but he was a lot of fun to work with, hard to keep up with and had a quick-witted sense of humor. 

Over this past year, I would run into Pete while on my routes. He would take to time to say “hi,” ask how I was doing and offer to help if needed. Pete said two things that come to mind whenever I am working in the Akron Red Cross office and delivering to Akron General Hospital. He would say, “This is the world’s slowest elevator,” referring to the Akron Red Cross building each time we were in it. (He just wanted to keep moving!) Second, Pete was showing me around at Akron General Hospital and I feel he was starting to trust me because he said in a witty way, “You will learn really fast that I like to do things my own way,” meaning he had a creative style to get the job done. He made volunteering fun.

Sadly, Pete, age 63, passed away March 13. The retired high school band director and high school administrator was a lifelong learner. In retirement, he earned his Doctor of Education and continued to consult with colleagues. An enthusiastic volunteer, Pete served as an usher for the Akron Civic Theater and E.J. Thomas Hall before becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

“Pete was great guy. That is what everyone says about him that he has touched,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley Red Cross. “He was always someone who would go out of his way for someone. Even during COVID, I would see him there on Sundays making sure the vehicles were all set to go for the drivers. He always took that extra step. Pete trained many of the Biomed drivers, so his legacy will live on.”

“Pete Ulrich was a Red Cross hero. In his volunteer role, he saved lives every day. He took great pride in volunteering for the Red Cross and the transportation program,” said Shelby Beamer, transportation coordinator for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “The organization will forever be grateful for having Pete Ulrich on our team and his hard work and dedication in helping grow the transportation program in Northern Ohio.”

Pete, you will be missed because you were a good human being, dedicated to your family, an educator, volunteer and hero. In his obituary, Pete suggested taking time each day to communicate with someone you love, be they near or far.

Your time and talent can make a real difference in people’s lives. To learn more about volunteering, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Carol Schemmer is dedicated to helping others

By: Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

Carol Schemmer of Ottawa County is no stranger to the amazing work that the Red Cross does here at home and abroad.

“When I was in the military, I saw the work of the Red Cross firsthand — when military members needed support to get back home in an emergency or to communicate with loved ones,” said Carol.

Carol has spent her life helping others. She has held many distinguished roles in her life, including spending 22 years serving as a nurse in the United States Navy, leading an emergency room in Connecticut and teaching at Lorain County Community College, just to name a few.

Currently, she spends her time as a volunteer with the State of Ohio Medical Reserve Core (MRC) administering COVID-19 vaccines and as a leader for Club Red, a local organization that supports the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross through fundraising and advocacy efforts.

“Carol is an idea person and an action person. She’s always willing to step up and offer advice or help coordinate boots on the ground. She is highly organized, extremely reliable and caring,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director of the Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.

As part of Club Red, Carol has led the group to fundraise for the Red Cross but also expanded its effort to teach CPR to communities. She believes that CPR is so easy to learn, yet can be so vital to saving a person’s life during an emergency.

Carol admires the Red Cross volunteers who coordinate and deploy to disasters to offer relief to those affected. When disaster strikes, volunteers are there to provide basic necessities to communities impacted by a flood, storm or other natural disaster—supplying food, water, medical care and more. These efforts are possible thanks to donations and the support of volunteers—who make up over 90% of the Red Cross workforce.

We cannot do the work that we do abroad and at home without the support of people like Carol. Her dedication to supporting others in need throughout her life as a nurse and as a volunteer has helped countless people. We are truly honored to call her a supporter.

If you aren’t a volunteer but are interested in how you could support the Northern Ohio Red Cross, there are many opportunities available for a variety of skill sets. You can visit our website or click here to learn more.

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Recovery Coordinator Debbie Ziss aids victims after disasters

By: Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

Today we recognize Debbie Ziss, one of the American Red Cross recovery coordinators for the Northeast Ohio Region who also serves on the Disaster Action Team. The Disaster Action Team (DAT) is a group that is dedicated to helping their communities respond to the scene of disasters. The DAT does this not only by responding to the immediate needs of individuals after a disaster, but also by guiding them as they navigate what their life will look like post-disaster and assisting them in accessing resources they need. Debbie has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for about two years and typically manages the recovery for 50+ people every week.

“Debbie is a fearless advocate for the client in assisting them to find resources for overcoming barriers in their recovery,” said Tom Revolinsky, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.

One of the common disasters that the DAT group responds to is home fires, and Debbie has recounted helping individuals who have experienced house fires, entire apartment fires and fires resulting in the unfortunate death of a family member. Although it is challenging to help individuals work through the experience of losing the most important things or people in their lives, Debbie feels that it is an honor to be able to help them through.

“Whether you work at the Red Cross or you’re a client of the Red Cross, you have a story,” Debbie said. “As a volunteer, I’ve learned to make their story my story as well.”

Debbie serves the DAT mostly through casework assignments. She is constantly looking to get things done as well as she can and take the lead in new cases. When asked about some of the skills needed as a DAT volunteer, Debbie said that it is important to pay close attention not only to what people are saying, but how they say it.

“Everyone handles trauma differently,” Debbie explained. She hopes to be able to make a difference in the lives of the individuals who she is able to work with.

Volunteers with an open heart and dedicated spirit like Debbie’s are crucial to the work of the Red Cross. We thank Debbie for her impactful work with us. If you would like more information on the Disaster Action Team and would like to assist the Red Cross advance its mission, visit: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/disaster-action-team.html.

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Roger Barton of North Central Ohio

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the dedicated volunteers who help the American Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio.

Roger Barton fills a pivotal volunteer role with the Red Cross: Leadership.

In his second year as chair of the North Central Ohio Chapter of the Red Cross, Roger is enthusiastic about the nonprofit organization and its many services: blood collection, disaster response, support for the armed forces and emergency preparedness.

But as an executive in private enterprise—he’s general manager of Reineke Ford Lincoln in Findlay—Roger understands that none of those activities would be possible without the financial support of the American people.

“I’ve been active in fundraising,” he said, explaining how he feels he’s making a difference. “It takes money to run an organization.”

“Roger is well known in the community and he knows how to inspire people, to get them enthusiastic about helping others,” said Todd James, executive director of the Red Cross’ North Central Ohio Chapter, who has worked closely with Roger since he joined the chapter board six years ago.

“Not many people appreciate the importance of raising the dollars it takes to pay the people who draw blood or buy the gasoline for disaster vans or provide AED and CPR training equipment.”

Roger had personal experience with the Red Cross long before he stepped into his current role. “I’ve always given blood,” he said, and when he was in the U.S. Navy, he learned that if he or a family member needed emergency messaging, it would go through the Red Cross.

In 2007, the Blanchard River overflowed, flooding Roger’s basement along with scores of other homes in Findlay. “The Red Cross had a pickup truck going through the neighborhood and they were handing out cleanup supplies.

“That really hit home,” he recalled.

Roger is looking forward to the easing of pandemic restrictions, when “normal” activities can resume, including fundraising events that he knows are important to meeting needs that never end.

“The more you get involved, the more you understand how vital the Red Cross is,” he said.

If you’d like to get involved in a vital organization—as a leader, donor, trainer or responder (on-the-ground or virtual)—contact your local Red Cross chapter or visit https://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Ralph Lee of Heartland, Stark & Muskingum Lakes

By: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the dedicated volunteers who help the American Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio.

Regional offices of large organizations are fortunate when they have representation on the governing councils at national headquarters. Such is our fortune, having Ralph Lee as chairman of the National Diversity Advisory Council (NDAC) for the American Red Cross. Meeting quarterly with Red Cross CEO and President Gail McGovern, NDAC sets the direction and policies of inclusiveness with all that the Red Cross does nationally.

If you’ve ever had the chance to take some of the excellent Red Cross classes like “Uncovering Unconscious Bias,” like I did recently, these are just part of what NDAC brings to our employees and volunteers.

“We are also working hard to make sure that our disaster responders look like the communities they serve, especially now with the Asian and Hispanic communities, so people feel comfortable when our volunteers show up and say they want to help. That’s really been my challenge and my guidance since I became chairperson,” said Ralph.

Ralph, who serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Kenan Advantage Group, started as a volunteer in 2013 in Cincinnati, helping recruit 150 community volunteers for a Sound the Alarm event there. Ralph and his wife Janelle now live in Canton. They have two sons – one living in St. Louis and one in Cincinnati, where they still go frequently to see their two grandchildren.

In Canton, he has organized a “My Story” event for their local chapter, where each meeting, someone introduces themselves and tells a bit of their personal story. “Through learning more about our fellow volunteers, people find that despite skin color or background, we are all more alike than we are different,” explained Ralph.

When Ralph moved to Canton, Kim Kroh, executive director for Heartland, Stark & Muskingum Lakes, admits to “stalking and seeking him out” to join their chapter.

“Ralph Lee is a driving force when it comes to being a Red Cross volunteer, and is currently the chairperson of NDAC. Ralph was actively involved at the Red Cross’ regional board in Cincinnati before moving to Canton where he joined our board. Ralph has used his connections to assist us in strengthening partnerships throughout our chapter footprint, leading to sponsorships, board representation and blood drives. Our chapter has been made stronger thanks to Ralph’s efforts.”

If you’d like to help your local community but are unsure of how you can help the Red Cross, fear not, there is a role for everyone to play to fulfill the Red Cross mission. Find out more at: https://nohredcross.org/volunteer/.

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer