Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs through October 15

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Our weather has started to cool in northern Ohio as we to shift from summer to fall. One of my favorite months is October, with its dramatic changes in weather, kids back in school, and the holiday season beginning to ramp up.

The American Red Cross celebrates this important time by acknowledging our strong relationship with the Latino community in recognizing National Hispanic Heritage month.

Last year, I was fortune enough to write about the American Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Latino initiative, explain why we need to focus on this cultural group and share ways to get involved. The fundamental principles of the Red Cross instruct us to help all people in times of need.

Latino initiative

The Northern Ohio Latino initiative’s mission is to deepen our relationship with this diverse community, provide education about services we can provide, offer tools and support regionally, and partner with local groups to bridge trust.

Why?  The short answer is that the growing Latino community has varying levels of connectivity to Red Cross services. One gap we discovered is the large percentage of Spanish-only speaking people who are disconnected from the Red Cross based on language barriers.

One way we continue to build on our momentum is to have strong partnerships with groups like HOLA Ohio, with their incredible leaders and strong members.

HOLA was founded in late 1999 as an informal group of Hispanic women in Lake County who wanted to help the growing Latino community, comprised of Mexican immigrant workers employed by area nurseries and their families. Few services were accessible to this demographic, and HOLA worked to bridge gaps. Today, HOLA is an award-winning, 501c3 charitable nonprofit organization which works with families across the state. HOLA is currently developing a Commercial Kitchen Incubator and Hispanic Community Center in Painesville.

HOLA’s work has been spotlighted in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Telemundo, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Torchlight Prize, a prestigious national award honoring community-driven work that empowers the Latino community. Recently, founding executive director of HOLA Ohio and the HOLA Hispanic Community Center Veronica Isabel Dahlberg was named a 2019 Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note.

HOLA’s work in the community

HOLA and volunteers and employees with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio have partnered in the past to install smoke alarms in the Latino community.

“HOLA is a key partner in helping us provide assistance to Hispanic residents who have been affected by home fires,” said Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “They help us with translation, give additional financial assistance and help overcome any cultural barriers to recovery.”

In October 2021, working with HOLA and the Painesville Fire Department, the Red Cross installed 62 smoke alarms in 25 homes in a largely Latino neighborhood.   Fire safety information was shared in Spanish and, according to Tom, was very well received by the community.

“HOLA is very grateful for our partnership with the Red Cross,” said Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Executive Director HOLA Ohio and the HOLA Hispanic Community Center. “Working together, we have been able to assist Hispanic families in crisis, and also help with fire safety education and prevention, such as the installation of smoke alarms in the homes of Spanish-speaking families. There is no doubt that our combined efforts will save lives.”

Seeking Latino volunteers

The Red Cross of Northern Ohio has a need for Latino volunteers to help us grow our mission in their communities.

You can learn about being a volunteer here.

Web resources

Did you know that the American Red Cross has a Spanish language website? You can access it here.

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer

From home fires to large scale disasters, organizations help Red Cross respond

The J.M. Smucker Company, Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc., and FirstEnergy Corporation aid through Annual Disaster Giving Program

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

One of the many memorable experiences as an American Red Cross volunteer came soon after first joining. I had spent two days assisting families and first responders during and after a large condominium fire in one of Cleveland’s western suburbs. While packing up as evening fell, I received a call. A large apartment building in an eastern suburb was now burning. I stopped by the Red Cross’ Cleveland office, resupplied a response vehicle, and headed off to meet the volunteers and staff already on the scene.

It was comforting to know that, even with the high number of people needing aid, we were able to provide it. No one impacted would have to wait for financial assistance, for a place to stay, for food and water. Such immediacy is critical in a disaster, as the Red Cross has emphasized that #HelpCantWait.

Our ability to quickly respond is due to generous donations, whether from individuals or large organizations like those taking part in the Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). Such support is critical, as locally and nationally, disasters are increasing.

This national Red Cross news release celebrates the 130+ corporate and organizational members of the ADGP. Three of them, The J.M. Smucker Company, Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc., and FirstEnergy Corporation assist the Northern Ohio region.

As The J.M. Smucker Company reports, it became a Red Cross Disaster Responder in 2017 and went on to become an ADGP supporter in 2019. It currently contributes at the $500,000 level. Community involvement is important to the company, including Disaster Relief. It states, “Major tragedies are a heartbreaking reality, and it is critical our communities have the resources to recover and rebuild. Through our partnerships, including with the Red Cross, United Way and Habitat for Humanity, we have helped support these efforts with product and financial donations. Our employees have also stepped up, volunteering time and effort to help their neighbors in need.”

As I reported in 2020, Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc., became an ADGP supporter and currently contributes at the $250,000 level. As the organization writes on its community investment page, “We provide funding, equipment and support to first responders, government agencies and community- based organizations to increase the overall safety of the communities where we operate. Preference is given to projects and organizations that help communities better prepare for, mitigate the risks of and respond to disasters, hazards and emergencies.”

FirstEnergy is also an ADGP supporter at the $250,000 level. Through the FirstEnergy Foundation’s Investing with Purpose initiative, the organization has given more than $3.43 million to support “nonprofit organizations that advance health and safety, workforce development, educational and social justice initiatives.”

Preparation and education are also vital parts of the ADGP program, and September is National Preparedness Month.

Thanks to ADGP members and other donors, the Red Cross has the resources, personnel and training to respond, whether to the three-per-day home fires we average in Northern Ohio, or a large-scale disaster. Our Regional Disaster Officer Tim O’Toole explained, “Without the generosity of our donors we would not be able to assist the nearly 1,800 families we have in the past year. These resources are critical to many families being able to begin their pathway to recovery after these life-altering events.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer

You’re never too old to learn new tricks

It’s National Online Learning Day – September 15

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Albert Einstein is reported to have stated, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Well, assuming that’s not in your immediate plans, I’d suggest some of the less obvious, but very rewarding learning opportunities to all Red Cross volunteers.

I’m not referring to the voluminous number of classes on how to be a disaster, or blood, or SAF volunteer, but rather, skills you’ll use at home or outside of your Red Cross activities. And they are available online – whenever you’ve got some free time.

Two shockers for me

I used to drive competitively in Sports Car Club of America national events, so I always considered myself one of the better drivers on the road. But, despite that, I picked up some invaluable information in the Defensive Driving class available on Edge. Learning how to adjust rear view mirrors turned out to be a game changer for me.

Another class I took was Basic Food Safety. While I knew you should always wash hands before handling food, it turns out there is an incredible amount of science in handling food safely. From being aware of food serving and storage temperatures, to how easily germs can become foodborne was a real eye-opener.

More unique classes

Ever meet someone that has just lost a loved one or received some terrible health news? We all have. Did you know what to say? (Or, in my case, what NOT to say?) The Psychological First Aid: Helping Others in Times of Stress training will certainly come in handy. It did for me.

Or heaven forbid, you find yourself in an active shooter situation – there’s actually training for how to survive. Look for IS-907: Active Shooter – What You Can Do. Or watch the video: RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event.

Plus, everyone should know CPR and basic first aid – so yes, those classes are available online also.

Even more skill development classes

Thinking about learning new job skills or need a refresher on computer skills? With the addition of Precipio classes available to all volunteers, just look at all the classes you
might enjoy.

The opportunities are there. All you have to do is give them a try. Classes are available to watch, to read, and as audiobooks. They are all free, so if you find they aren’t right for you – no harm, no foul.

And if you aren’t a Red Cross volunteer already – you should be. Start that process right here.

Stock photo by @thoughtcatalog on Unsplash.com

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer

Needed: Health and Mental Health Professionals to Volunteer

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

Home fires, floods, hurricanes, wildfires. When American Red Cross volunteers respond to these disasters, they offer shelter, food and compassion — as well as health and mental health attention.

The public generally doesn’t see the health and mental health services. For the most part, they don’t show up in coverage of urgent disaster responses. But they’re critical in the first hours and days of helping victims cope with their new reality.

Lost medications, destroyed medical equipment, missed doctor’s appointments, emerging conditions such as COVID or the flu. These are all pressing needs that trained medical professionals know how to meet. And they can administer first aid for victims as well as disaster workers.

Meanwhile, licensed mental health professionals address the emotional side of a disaster, triaging who needs a few sessions with a skilled listener and who needs to be referred to local mental health resources for extended care.

Faced with an almost unprecedented number of natural and human-caused disasters, the Red Cross has launched a targeted recruitment drive: Be One, Bring One. The goal is to enlist volunteers from the medical and mental health fields. Trisha Horvath, RN MSN, from Kirtland, Ohio, is one of the leaders of this drive.

Trisha Horvath, Red Cross Volunteer, RN MSN, from Kirtland, Ohio

“I think all nurses are humanitarians,” Trisha said. “That’s why they do what they do, to alleviate suffering.”

The reality is, the vast majority of licensed medical and mental health professionals don’t have flexibility in their work schedules to volunteer for disaster response, much as they might like to, she said.

So Trisha is helping the Red Cross “think outside the box.” They’re emphasizing the opportunities for virtual “deployments” and the rewards to volunteers in the form of resilience training and CEUs — not to mention the personal satisfaction of helping people in their most vulnerable situations.

The Red Cross is approaching graduate school students and faculty as well as non-traditional workplaces where health and mental health professionals are found, such as insurance companies. Many of these folks already work virtually, so they know how to engage with people remotely.

Gail Wernick, the Red Cross Northern Ohio regional volunteer services officer, emphasizes that volunteer shift scheduling is flexible for on-call and scheduled commitments. Typically, volunteers are expected to be available, as needed, for two weeks every three months.

Gail Wernick, Red Cross Northern Ohio Regional Volunteer Services Officer

Gail’s goal is to have a roster of 21 trained disaster health volunteers with active and unencumbered licenses: RNs, LPNs, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Advance Practice Nurses, Medical Doctors, Doctors of Osteopathy or Physician Assistants. Tap here for more information or to apply.

Trisha is particularly concerned about what she calls the “dearth of mental health volunteers.” There are currently half of the goal of 17 such volunteers on the Northern Ohio team.

The Be One, Bring One campaign is aimed at currently licensed mental health professionals holding a master’s degree as well as retired mental health professionals who were in good standing when they retired and held a license within five years of onboarding as a Disaster Mental Health volunteer. Tap here for more information and to apply.

“We really appreciate the generosity of our health services and mental health volunteers. Needless to say, when people are struggling to cope with a disaster — – anything from a home fire to a flood or tornado — – immediate health and mental health support can be just as essential as food and shelter,” said Barb Thomas, Northern Ohio regional recovery manager for the Red Cross.

If you’re someone who’d like to help turn tragedy into hope in a rewarding opportunity to share your time and talents, visit redcross.org/volunteer to explore the wide variety of roles you can play, at home or away. And thank you!

Recognizing Red Cross phlebotomists during National Blood Collectors Week

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

Often, when I tell someone I work for the American Red Cross, I get one of two responses. The first is usually a story about how the Red Cross helped the person or someone they knew. The second reaction is an immediate explanation of how the person really wants to give blood but they’re nervous and they just don’t think they could ever do that.

I can make you feel better right now if you happen to be one of those people who’s never given blood. I didn’t start giving until I began working for the Red Cross and, even then, it took me a really long time to finally do it. What’s even worse? A big part of my job is talking about why we need more people to give! So, what made me finally take the plunge? Getting to know the amazing phlebotomists at the Red Cross.

I recently gave my 12th pint of blood and, as always, I was nervous as I went through the process. But I was lucky because that day, La’shawn Sims was my phlebotomist. She was incredible…funny, kind, enthusiastic and she calmed my nerves immediately. La’shawn has been with the Red Cross for three years as a phlebotomist/driver.

Red Cross Northern Ohio phlebotomist La’shawn Sims prepares blood products for transport during a blood drive at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

“I love my job because of its mission, the ability to help others save lives,” said La’shawn. “I love listening to the donors and the reasons why they donate.”

September 4-10 is National Blood Collectors Week, a time to recognize the amazing work done every single day at the Red Cross by phlebotomists like La’shawn. In the Northern Ohio Region nearly 100 individuals work in this role, helping to collect blood in communities across the Region. The position requires an individual to complete weeks of specific Red Cross training, both in the classroom and on the job, prior to working independently.

Northern Ohio phlebotomist Ariel Blanks prepares to draw blood from Martha Liechty at the 2022 Cleveland Browns Blood Drive

In addition to collecting blood, many staff members drive Red Cross trucks loaded with the equipment needed to set up and run a successful blood drive. The driver role often requires first heading to Regional headquarters in downtown Cleveland, loading the truck and then driving it to the blood drive location. Phlebotomists can also take additional training to learn how to collect Power Red or platelet donations, which require a different process than whole blood collection. Above all else, these individuals are the face of the Red Cross, helping donors through the blood donation process, ensuring a positive experience and hopefully, a lifetime of blood donations.

During National Blood Collectors Week, we give thanks to you – all the phlebotomists who are on the front lines each day, ensuring patients have the blood they need. And, even if you’re nervous like me, La’shawn encourages everyone to donate blood.

“It only takes 30 minutes of your time, and you’ll help save three lives with just one pint.” And, whether it’s La’shawn, or another great Northern Ohio collections staff member, you can know you’ll be in great hands.

Mom makes plea for diverse blood donors

Appeal comes during Sickle Cell Awareness Month

By Theresa Carter, guest blogger and proud supporter of the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley

In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people – the majority of whom are of African descent – have sickle cell disease and may require blood transfusions throughout their lifetime to help manage their disease.

Theresa Carter, speaking at the Acts of Courage Awards in March, 2022

The American Red Cross has launched a national initiative to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients with sickle cell disease and improve health outcomes.

Sickle cell disease is an enduring – and often invisible – health disparity in the U.S. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there has been fewer health resources available to help those currently suffering from sickle cell disease in comparison to similar diseases.

The Red Cross currently provides sickle cell trait screening on all donations from self- identified African American donors. This additional screening helps the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell and provides our African American donors an additional health insight during a time when health information has never been more important.

This cause is near and dear to my heart because both my daughters have sickle beta thalassemia disease, a minor form of sickle cell. You see, I have a sickle trait and their father has the thalassemia trait. We had no clue until our children were born that we had these traits and that our girls would have this disease. Therefore, screening is so very important…. just to know; to understand the cause and then educate ourselves so that we can be our best advocates if and when the time arises for medical care.

Garvin and Theresa Carter with daughters Erin and Cesily

Please take action today and schedule a blood donation appointment by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Editor’s note: Regular blood transfusions are critical to managing extreme pain and life threatening complications faced by many. Unfortunately, they may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. However, because most individuals who are Black have unique structures on their red blood cells that are not often found in other donor populations, 1 in 3 African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause severe pain. “When cells harden, they can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure,” says Dr. James Westra, Regional Medical Director. “Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, unblocking blood vessels and delivering oxygen, minimizing crises patients with sickle cell may face.”

Seasonal changes can trigger pain crises for those battling sickle cell – possibly increasing the need for lifesaving blood transfusions. As summer ends, book a time to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). As a thankyou, all who come to give through Sept. 18 will get an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer

Planning ahead for National Preparedness Month

By Ryan Lang, Red Cross volunteer

January 17, 2022 (MLK Day): Walking into the office, stomping my feet to get the snow and the slush and the slop off of my boots, I thought to myself, That’s the worst commute to work I’ve ever experienced. What normally takes 25 minutes took roughly an hour and a half through the driving snow and treacherous road conditions. 

February 2, 2022: After spending more than an hour shoveling more than a foot of snow from my driveway at 2 in the morning, I tried to drive to work. Didn’t make it. In fact, I only made it to the end of my driveway before my vehicle became stuck in the street. Thanks to the help of New Franklin Police Officer Shearer, I was safely guided back into my driveway, but there I stayed. There was no way I was making it to the office. 

Two of the largest winter storms I can remember hit Northeast Ohio in a matter of two weeks, and both had me feeling less prepared than I’d ever felt before. 

From that point on I vowed to take preparedness more seriously, and not just for the winter season. After all, I’m a dad now – what better reason?

As we’ve seen countless times in Northern Ohio, across the country, and around the world, storms can affect our lives very quickly and very seriously. That is why the American Red Cross is urging you to prepare for emergencies, right now, during National Preparedness Month all September long.

HOW TO GET READY FOR A DISASTER

It takes just three simple steps to help prepare your household for potential disasters –

1) Get a Kit – First, build your emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio. Also include a first aid kit, medications, supplies for infants or pets, a multi-purpose tool and personal hygiene items. And don’t forget to add copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.

2) Make a Plan – Next, plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate. Make sure to coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Include your pets in your emergency plans. Remember, if you and your family need to evacuate, so does your pet.

3) Be Informed – Finally, stay informed by finding out what emergency situations may occur where you live, work and go to school, how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.

Depending on the people in your household, there might be additional considerations to take into account as part of your emergency planning. Older adults or people with mobility, hearing, learning or seeing disabilities may need to create a support network of people that can help during an emergency. Create a plan tailored to their capabilities, any help they may need and who can provide it, especially if they need to evacuate or if the power goes out for several days.

Disasters can be scary for children. Take time to talk with your kids about preparing for common emergencies, how to stay safe and what to expect. The Red Cross has free programs and tools to help, visit redcross.org/YouthPrep for more information.

HELP GET YOUR COMMUNITY PREPARED

You can help ensure your community is ready for an emergency by volunteering, donating blood or learning lifesaving skills. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Red Cross volunteers play critical roles in their local communities, including helping families affected by home fires and other disasters get back on their feet. Join us as a Disaster Action Team volunteer to help make sure that families don’t have to face tough times alone.

Learn lifesaving skills so you can help people in a crisis until medical professionals arrive. Sign up for first aid, CPR or other classes available online or in-person. 

A strong blood supply is key to preparedness for disasters and medical emergencies, and donors can ensure blood is on the shelves the moment it’s needed. As a thank-you, all who come to give Sept. 1-18 will get a limited-edition Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. Plus, those who race to give Sept. 1-30 will automatically be entered for a chance to win a VIP NASCAR experience, including two tickets to a 2023 race, and will also receive a coupon for a free haircut by email, all thanks to Sport Clips Haircuts.* Donors can schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). If you are unable to give blood you can volunteer to support blood collections. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.


Volunteers share their pets to help members of the military and veterans

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

So, you thought the dog days of summer were over? Wrong! Today is National Dog Day.

At the American Red Cross, we celebrate every day as Dog Day, in honor of our animal volunteers and their human teammates.

Pre-deployment event at Youngstown Air Reserve Station

Bree, a Goldendoodle, and Shane, a Rough Collie, are trained members of the Red Cross Animal Visitation Program (AVP) here in northern Ohio. They – along with their owners, Paul and Katie Svasta of Canfield – bring comfort to members of all branches of the military who deploy from or return to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. The dogs are also welcome at family days at the air base.

Paul and Katie Svasta with Bree and Shasta

“Bree is spot on,” Paul said. “She can identify somebody who needs her. She’ll pull me over to the person, and if that person gives me the go-ahead, she’ll lean right up next to them, for
them to pet her or hug her.

“It breaks the tension, the anxiety. That unconditional connection,” he said. “It’s rewarding, that something so simple can give so much comfort.”

Paul and Katie began acclimating Bree to therapy work five years ago, when she was a puppy, so she’s the pro of the pair. Shane got a slow start because pandemic protocols interrupted the conditioning all therapy dogs go through. “But he’s coming along,” Paul said affectionately.

The animal visitation program has been operating at the Youngstown base, which hosts the 910th Airlift Wing, for a number of years. The Svastas are part of a team of more than three dozen handlers and their dogs who attend events there.

Red Cross volunteer Kate Mazzolini and Sully

Recently, Jessica Tischler, manager of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces in northern Ohio expanded the visitation program to send canine therapy teams into the northeast Ohio VA healthcare system, to lift the spirits of hospitalized veterans.

“We’re so grateful that our volunteers are willing to share the love these animals offer during their visits,” Jessica said. Now she’s looking to make contact with more dog owners who already have therapy experience, as the Svastas did.

The Red Cross has been training and dispatching therapy dogs into military hospitals to comfort wounded warriors and veterans undergoing treatment since shortly after World War II.

Red Cross volunteer Michael Falatach and Macee

At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Jen O’Keefe and her Leonberger (“They were bred to look like lions.”) Digory carry on the tradition. Digory is a three-legged cancer survivor, so he’s a uniquely positive presence, especially for amputees.

“We (Digory and I) can’t fix people, but we can help lift the anxiety, the stress, for patients, their families – and for the staff,” she said. “The staff is a huge part of our job.

“For me, this is the highlight of my week,” she said. “This is how I de-stress from my job as an emergency veterinarian. I don’t often get to bring good news, but with Digory, I know we’re welcome.”

If you’d like more information about the animal visitation program or any of the other volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, go to redcross.org/volunteer.

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross volunteer

Buckeye native shines light on humanitarian needs worldwide

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When there’s a humanitarian crisis somewhere around the world, the American Red Cross sends Jenelle Eli to bear witness.

In the spring, Jenelle – who hails from Trumbull County, in the Mahoning Valley of northeast Ohio – spent a month aboard the Ocean Viking in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. She was reporting on the rescue of hundreds of desperate migrants trying to reach safety in flimsy boats.

Ivan Jimenez Garra, Mexican Red Cross and Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross survey damage in Jojutla, a small Mexican city that suffered massive damage when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in September 2017. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Then she spent July in Warsaw, reporting to the world on the arrival in Poland of hundreds of thousands of refugees from warfare in Ukraine.

With more than a dozen years in disaster and refugee communications, Jenelle has become a highly skilled and widely respected voice.

In May, she spoke at the United Nations about the importance of humanitarian aid, drawing on her first-hand experiences with Red Cross relief efforts around the world.

Recently, the professional organization PRNews recognized her as one of the 2022 Top Women in its Industry Innovators category.

“It’s not easy to get attention from audiences about humanitarian crises – especially because there are just so many taking place at one time,” Jenelle said. “People get disaster fatigue and start tuning out all the hurt that’s happening in the US and around the world. Yet, harnessing people’s attention for good is the only way that things are going to change.

“I’m really pleased that the professional world of PR recognizes the importance of humanitarian communication – and that communicating in a way that ensures dignity for refugees is key.”

Jenelle Eli delivers humanitarian aid to Ines (right) and her neighbors in Morelos, in the wake of a 7.1 earthquake in 2017.  Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

This is how Jenelle describes her mission: “Right now, there are more people displaced from their homes than at any other point in history. I studied refugee issues in school and have devoted my career to raising awareness about people’s needs on migratory routes and even once they’ve reached safety. I raise my hand for international missions because I know that getting refugees’ stories out and elevating their voices is the only way to truly create space for empathy.

“Humanitarians’ work speaks for itself; I simply pull out the megaphone.”

“For nearly two decades, Jenelle has vowed to amplify the stories of displaced survivors through a lens of empathy and empowerment rather than victimization and pity,” said Emily Osment, Red Cross senior media relations manager.

“Through her work, Jenelle has helped secure ports of safety for stranded migrants at sea, enforced the importance of upholding the Geneva Conventions as a neutral, impartial aid actor in the midst of war, protected the identities of vulnerable families fleeing violence and ensuring lifesaving blood reaches patients during national shortages here at home.”

Now, Jenelle has moved from senior director of media relations at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to a six-month stint as head of media relations and advocacy at the headquarters of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies in Geneva, Switzerland.

In this role, she’s directing efforts to focus attention in 192 IFRC member countries on the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“I do want people to know that they don’t have to deploy to crisis zones to make a huge difference! EVERYONE can have a humanitarian impact in their own way – whether that’s volunteering in their own community, donating money, raising awareness, or choosing a career responding to crises.

June 30, 2019. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Kids make ‘heart’ symbols alongside American Red Cross team member, Jenelle Eli, in Kutupalong—a displacement camp in Cox’s Bazar, Myanmar.  Photo credit: Brad Zerivitz, American Red Cross

“In the US, if you want to help refugees, volunteer for an organization helping to reconnect them with separated family members (like the Red Cross!) or a group that welcomes newly- arrived refugees in small cities and helps them navigate their new lives here. There are loads of ways to be a humanitarian.”

To learn more about American Red Cross activities worldwide, powered by the generosity of volunteers and donors, click here.

National Senior Citizen Day: Why should you care?

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

What, you’re not a senior citizen? Stay with me, as I bet you know one . . . or two.

When President Reagan signed Proclamation 5847 in 1988, he set the date as August 21 to be celebrated as National Senior Citizen Day. He proclaimed the date to raise awareness of issues that affect senior citizens, including quality of life.

One of the best things you can do for a senior is to make sure they stay busy. Tests have shown that the more a person stretches their mind to learn new tasks or talents, the sharper they will be in their later years. It’s also a known fact that social interaction is important to seniors— especially if they live alone.

Wouldn’t you know it – the American Red Cross has the perfect solution for both recommended strategies. Volunteers are needed in all sorts of fields, and the Red Cross will be happy to train seniors in anything they choose to take part in. There are opportunities to go out and about the community as well as those that can be done by someone homebound.

Red Cross Volunteer Doug Bardwell – Tennessee

Interested in sitting and chatting with new people?

The Blood Ambassador position could be a perfect fit. You could be engaging with the community at a registration table at a local blood drive. There are dozens of blood drives every day in different neighborhoods, so there’s likely one a few minutes from their home. Volunteer as many days as you like. Watch video to learn more.

Interested in driving?

The Red Cross could use your past professional training to help teach life-saving skills or deliver medical or spiritual care to those in need.

Interested in humanitarian assistance?

You hit the bonanza here. Opportunities abound to:

  • Drive to local neighborhoods to provide financial assistance to those who’ve experienced a home fire. (Don’t worry about the money. The Red Cross provides that – you just hand it out.) Watch video.
  • Help pass out water and snack at large community events or to first responders at disaster events.
  • Make phone calls as a caseworker to provide follow-up care to those who are trying to pull their lives back together after a fire or other disaster.
  • Help assemble self-help pamphlets and toiletry kits for disaster victims.
  • Teach fire safety at local schools with the Pillowcase Project for third through fifth graders. Learn more.
  • Assist at a disaster shelter or warming center, serving any of three meals a day to those without shelter. Watch video.
  • From home, help families reconnect during natural disasters by working with the Red Cross Family Reunification Network. Watch video.

Actually, there are so many more opportunities beyond the ones mentioned above. How about a quiz to see what’s available near you? Take quiz. Then, start the volunteer process here and make being a senior citizen both rewarding and life-changing for the better.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross volunteer