Festival of Trees takes on new light this year

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

November 23, 2020- Each year, the American Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes holds its Festival of Trees event to raise funds for the Red Cross. This year’s event, typically held in Wooster, is being reinvented to allow not only the Wooster community to safely participate, but the greater Northern Ohio Region to join in the fun as well.

The event’s auction will be held online, running from Thursday, Nov. 26 at noon (Thanksgiving day) through Dec.1 at 8 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to bid on over 60 different items, including a variety of decorated trees, wreaths, a Cricut® Maker, gift baskets and even a cruise!

The event will culminate in a Facebook Live event on facebook.com/NOHRedCross on Dec.1 at 7:30 p.m., just before bidding ends, to celebrate the great work the Red Cross does to help those in need. The Facebook Live event will feature Red Cross volunteers who have deployed to disaster areas and will provide viewers an opportunity to ask questions about the Red Cross and the work being done by volunteers.

“The financial gifts we receive from Festival of Trees will allow us to continue serving our community in times of need,” said Kimberly Kroh, Executive Director for the Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. “The Red Cross is there if someone in our community experiences a devastating home fire or a life-threatening event that prompts a deployed military service member’s return. Thank you for supporting Festival of Trees!”

Funds raised from the event help the Red Cross continue to provide critical services to people in the community who are affected by a disaster such as a fire or flood.

A tree made of Ohio lottery scratch tickets is one of the many items you can bid on during the Festival of Trees auction!

If you can’t wait until Nov. 26, we’re with you! You can register for the auction today by clicking here. We look forward to virtually seeing you at this year’s event.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Give comfort, give joy, give blood!

By Christy Peters, Regional External Communications Manager, American Red Cross

This holiday season, the American Red Cross is asking you to give comfort & joy by giving blood. Medical treatments and emergencies don’t stop for the holidays. Patients at 80 hospitals in northern Ohio are depending on you to give and ensure the local blood supply stays strong throughout the winter months.

As a thank-you for helping meet the need for blood donations from Nov.15 through Dec. 15, Suburban Propane is offering those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma a chance to win an Outdoor Living Experience, powered by Propane, to enable a lucky winner to enjoy socially distanced celebrations with family and friends this holiday season. 

The prize includes a propane-powered pizza oven, fire pit, outdoor heater and stipend towards propane. See complete official rules and terms and conditions of the giveaway. Also, those who come to give Nov. 25 through 28 and Dec. 18 through Jan. 4 will receive an exclusive Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last.

The Red Cross continues to test blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. As part of this effort, plasma from standard blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, so does the need for convalescent plasma. If you, or someone you know, has recovered from COVID-19 learn how you can help meet the need for this product at RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.

To make an appointment to give blood or for more information, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Safety tips to remain safe celebrating Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

November 18, 2020- So are you planning to celebrate your Thanksgiving holiday this year over a Zoom meeting?

It sounds like a crazy idea, but that is one of the low risk suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

We all must make the personal decision to cancel our in-person gatherings, greatly reduce the size of our events, and/or get creative to move forward with plans. Our Northern Ohio weather can be unpredictable to move our Thanksgiving outdoors, but it can be done.

Millions of people may still celebrate their Thanksgiving by cooking a special meal. The American Red Cross would like to offer some suggestions:

  1. Place hand sanitizer, a basket of disposable masks and disinfectant wipes by the entry door and in bathrooms for your visitors to use during your celebration.
  2. Try to limit or even avoid close personal contact like handshakes and hugs.
  3. Suggest that everyone RSVP with any food allergies, special dietary needs or cultural/lifestyle requests. 
  4. Ask your visitors to wash their hands consistently, respect each other with the recommended six-foot spacing and promote use of masks. You could lead by example to help motivate your group.
  5. Limit the amount of people in the cooking area to reduce the chance of individuals from being burned with hot appliances, reduce injury around cutting stations and help reduce the stress levels of the people preparing food. 
  6. Leverage oven mitts and items designed to carry hot plates/serving bowls vs. using dish towels, which can result in bad burns.
  7. Use prepackaged snacks, sealed drinks and individually prepare meals to avoid buffet style food serving.
  8. When using a turkey fryer, do not use frozen turkeys, which could cause hot oil to spill onto heating sources resulting in a fire. Select a safe space for your turkey fryer to control access from attendees, avoid outdoor decks that can catch fire and never cook indoors with a propane fryer. A very limited type of electric fryer can be used indoors, so you would need to consult the manufacturer’s instructions.   
  9. Limit and control alcohol consumption to safe levels. You could offer to drive your guests home, call a taxi or order an Uber when sending your invitations.
  10. Download Red Cross Apps to access useful information on first aid for people and pets to weather emergencies.
  11. Review your first aid kit, make sure your medicine is up to date, consider purchasing an Automated External Defibrillators (AED) for your home and place your supplies in a common area to be prepared. The Red Cross offers first aid kits for purchase or can help you create your own.
  12. Sharpen your CPR skills and learn more about first aid skills by taking Red Cross training.
  13.  Inform your host if you are not feeling well after attending the Thanksgiving party to keep other guests informed. 

Some families may choose to cancel their plans this year to stay safe. Donating to the Red Cross is a wonderful way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.   

Stay up to date on Red Cross disaster alerts, preparedness tips and ways to get involved. Simply provide your email address to start receiving updates. Sign up at https://www.redcross.org/subscribe.html.

Be safe, healthy and have an enjoyable holiday season.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Help fulfill wish list for hospitalized veterans

Holidays for Heroes with a twist for 2020

Toothpaste, body wash and skin cream are not the most likely items for a typical holiday gift wish list.  But for those heroes who are being cared for in the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System, they are essentials.  And generous supporters of Northern Ohio’s hospitalized veterans can purchase these items and others on the Northern Ohio Heroes Wish List, created by the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region.

“People are generous and always willing to help our nation’s veterans, so we’re working with our partners at the VA to make sure their patients have what they need – and want – this holiday season,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Program Director. “In years past, people sent holiday cards to veterans and service men and women around the world, but this year, we are asking people to help our veterans in a different way.”

Adult coloring books and crayons are other items on the Northern Ohio Heroes Wish List, which can be accessed on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/registries/custom/7A8FY4ZJHLSM/guest-view

“We put this wish list together after consulting with the VA’s amazing health care providers,” said Tischler. “We hope that these items will help bring some comfort to men and women who can’t be home for the holidays, by letting them know Americans care about them and appreciate the sacrifices they made.”

Items purchased from the Northern Ohio Heroes Wish List will be delivered to Red Cross regional headquarters in Cleveland, and will be dropped off at facilities throughout the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare system throughout the holiday season.

Learn more about Red Cross Service to the Armed forces here.

Veteran Air Force combat rescue officer recalls how Red Cross provided critical assistance to military families in times of need

By Brinton Lincoln, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Board Member and Chair, Service to the Armed Forces Committee

In the middle of 2006, deep within Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province where the great Kunar and Kabul rivers conflate, I was jostled awake by our outpost’s on-duty watch sergeant. The American Red Cross was on the phone, looking to pass an urgent message to one of my team members. His sister, just a junior in high school, had been critically injured in a car accident. Unable to contact him directly, his mother and father called upon the Red Cross and the emergency contact services that the humanitarian organization provides. Within an hour, my service mate and his family were together on the phone. No more than 24 hours later, with the financial and logistical assistance of the Red Cross, he was on his way home to be with his sister. 

Brinton Lincoln

On three occasions, including the aforementioned, I bore witness to the benefits of the emergency communication services provided by the Red Cross. In each instance, the world’s most recognized nonprofit humanitarian organization served as the interlocutor between a family in need and their loved one deployed a world away. I, and my fellow service mates, so very much appreciated the support provided by the Red Cross.

As vital as this service is, it is just one of many things that the Red Cross does to support our nation’s military members, veterans and their families. The organization provides nearly a half million services every year to our military constituency. Though not widely recognized, the Red Cross has a presence on every military installation within the U.S., on 36 bases overseas and within your local community.

Chapters across the country brief more than 787,000 service members and their families each year through the “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” program. For the deserving military demographic, the Red Cross provides support programs within military hospitals and clinics, informational and referral services at a local level to assist veterans with unmet needs, mind-body workshops, educational programs to help military families cope with deployments, reconnection workshops, and various programs within our VA hospitals. 

Brinton Lincoln and Regional CEO Mike Parks at the annual meeting of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors in June, 2019

The wonderful volunteers of the Red Cross work tirelessly every day to provide comfort and care to service members, veterans and their families the world over. In doing so, they embody, quite literally, the spirit of Clara Barton who, during the Civil War, founded the Red Cross to care for combat wounded soldiers.   

Should you wish to contribute your time to support the military community, contact your local Red Cross chapter and ask to speak with a representative on its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) team. Perhaps you will be the one to assist an anxious family in their time of need by connecting them with their loved one serving in a far-off land.  

For more information on the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces, visit redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Photo credit: Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Mike’s Veterans Day message for 2020

By Mike Parks, Rear Admiral, US Coast Guard (Retired)
Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

Greetings Northern Ohio Red Cross Family:  2020 has been a year filled with enormous challenges for our country and the American Red Cross including a devastating global pandemic, significant economic downturn, civil unrest brought about by social injustice, an unprecedented hurricane season, deadly Western wildfires, and a contentious election season.  All of these things, as well as countless others, have impacted our workforce, families, clients, donors and partners, bringing some degree of concern, anxiety and uncertainty.  One thing that has remained constant throughout this tumultuous year, has been the American Red Cross—the Red Cross you serve—has continued to meet mission each and every day!!  Thank you!!

Mike Parks

This week, despite all of the challenges, we can also gain comfort and certainty, as well as have confidence, in those men and women who have served, and are serving, in our Armed Forces to keep us safe and ensure we never lose the freedoms that have been won at such a high price.   As we all know, the American Red Cross has its roots in serving those who served in our military—our Veterans.  In honor of Veterans Day 2020, which we commemorate on Wednesday the 11th of November, I’ve included a link to a video clip that I encourage you to watch.  The clip shows the Texas Tenors singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” 

I think its lyrics and the images are far more inspiring than anything I could offer in this message.  I know I felt my spirits lifted as I listened and watched it—I hope yours are as well.  In closing, please take time to reach out to a Veteran, past or present, and thank them for their service to our country—please show them by your actions that they served, or are serving, a grateful nation.  Please stay safe and well. 

Best regards…Mike

Red Cross to serve up breakfast and resources to service members and their families during drive-up Veterans Day event

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross communications volunteer

December 17, 2019. Louisville, Kentucky. Hero Care Call Center. Photo by Bill Wine/American Red Cross

As Veterans Day draws near, one of the American Red Cross’ major lines of service, Service to the Armed Forces, draws closer to our hearts. Year after the year, the Red Cross has sought to support current and retired members of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families in any way possible.

Since the tragic event of 9/11 that shook our country, the Red Cross has served well over 1 million military families through services including (but not limited to):

  • providing home comforts and critical services on military bases around the world
  • supporting families while their loved ones are deployed or are experiencing an emergency
  • offering continued support after their time with the armed forces ends

Despite the challenges that this year has presented, including preventing the Red Cross from hosting its usual events honoring those who have selflessly served our country, military members and their families will still receive Red Cross support. 

Every year, of Toledo, Ohio, and the Red Cross host a Veterans Day breakfast that typically draws over 500 members of the armed forces and their families and friends. All currently serving and retired members of the armed forces and their families are invited to participate in a huge breakfast as well as have the opportunity to meet other families and visit vendor booths to access resources and information. The goal of this breakfast has always been to foster community and provide information for crucial services available to veterans such as dental services, mental health access, housing options, legal services, educational opportunities and more. 

Veterans Day Breakfast, Toledo, Ohio 2019

Peggy Holewinski, Regional Gift Officer for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross, shared some insights as to what this breakfast will look like this year. This Veterans Day, Toledo officials and Red Cross staff will host a drive-up event for veterans and their families. Guests will arrive by vehicle and receive one of the over 500 bags of prepared breakfasts—thanks in part to local organizations that have donated food. Not only will veterans and their families receive a fresh, delicious breakfast, but those 500 bags will also contain resources and information attendees would normally receive at the in-person event. Although this year’s event will be quite different, Peggy expects a big turnout. 

“I think it’s really important to make sure veterans know how much we appreciate them and how much they have done for this country,” said Peggy. “Without them, we wouldn’t be free, and it’s so important for people to understand that.”

Well said, Peggy. The Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross plans to make sure our veterans feel supported and appreciated just as much this year as in previous years.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer


Saving Lives in Ashtabula

By Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross volunteer

November 4, 2000- More than one hundred blood donors turned out to support the 3rd Annual Blood Drive for Elite Employment Center held at Towne Square Mall in Ashtabula, Ohio in October. Elite Employment owner Angela Kendall personally understands and appreciates the value of blood donations, following her own emergency surgery and the four life-saving transfusions she received.

“From that moment on, I knew that donating blood would be something I would advocate for the rest of my life,” she said.

Angela began with a small drive at the Elite Employment Center. She now has one of the largest blood drives in Ashtabula County. The American Red Cross even extended the drive’s hours to accommodate everyone.

Angela Kendall at the Elite Employment blood drive

A large auction, expected to be held in the Mall’s Center Court went virtual this year because of COVID-19 precautions. “We already raised over $9,000 for non-profits in our area,” she said. “I have promised half to Feed Our Vets here in Ashtabula.” In addition, every donor received a commemorative sweatshirt, with the drive motto on the sweatshirt that read, “Be a hero. It’s in your blood.”

Angela Kendall delivers enthusiastic, dedicated family and staff to her blood drives. She also gives personal attention to practically every donor. This year’s sponsors included Huffman Mayer Wealth, Management on Wells Fargo Advisors, Molded Fiber Glass, Bascule Bridge Grille, Applebees, and Furniture Towne Ashtabula. The Elite Office can be reached at 440-998-HIRE. To find the blood drive nearest you, visit redcrossblood.org, or call 800-RED CROSS.

Editor’s note: As community organizations, businesses and schools restrict access to facilities due to COVID-19, Red Cross blood drives at these locations continue to be canceled. The Red Cross needs the ongoing support of blood donors and blood drive hosts to ensure blood products are available for patients when they need it. To learn more and sign up to sponsor a drive, visit RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.

‘I didn’t realize the variety, the national scope of what the Red Cross does’

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

November 2, 2020 – Is it time to add a breath of fresh air to your life? Are you ready to try something new? Do you feel like doing good for others, but you’re not sure how?

Gail Robinson of Wickliffe, Ohio, felt the same way. The retired health and physical education teacher was laid off from a part-time gig with the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers and was feeling restless.

“I needed something to do,” she said. “I saw that the American Red Cross was looking for people to volunteer and I decided to check it out.”

Gail Robinson

Gail checked out an online volunteer information session that opened her eyes.

“I was a Red Cross swim instructor for many years and taught first aid and CPR,” she said, “and I gave blood.

“But I didn’t realize the variety, the national scope of what the Red Cross does; how the Red Cross needs people to go to help with disasters in California and Florida and Louisiana. I guess I just thought the Red Cross there handled all those disasters.”

“Actually, more than 90 percent of our workforce are volunteers,” said Melanie Collins, volunteer recruitment specialist for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross. “Due to COVID, many of our volunteers are not able to deploy right now, which is completely understandable.

“At the same time, the need for volunteers to help with blood drives and local disasters such as home fires – as well as disasters across the country – hasn’t dropped off.”

The Red Cross has adapted in many ways to keep its workforce and the people it serves safe. Many of its activities are now done online; volunteer recruitment is one.

Melanie will host an online information session from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, to explore volunteer opportunities in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties.

“We’re looking for people who are willing and able to volunteer to help fill the gaps we’re currently experiencing,” Melanie said. The “gaps” include serving on Disaster Action Teams to comfort those affected by home fires and other local emergencies, serving as “ambassadors” at blood drives and driving blood products to area hospitals.

Charles Bluhm of Williamsfield, in far eastern Ashtabula County, works for a commercial construction company. He joined one of Melanie’s virtual information sessions and is now checking out the many aspects of Red Cross service through online videos.

“I’m interested in the hands-on things that the Red Cross does,” he said. “Emily (Probst, a regional disaster workforce manager) reached out to me and I think she’s going to get me involved with a local disaster response team. I appreciate that personal contact.”

Meanwhile, Gail Robinson is taking online Red Cross courses so she can go help house, feed and comfort those hit by this year’s relentless hurricanes or merciless wildfires.

Gail is looking forward to a new activity, a new sense of purpose at a time when so much seems to be on pause.

To join Melanie’s online volunteer information session, RSVP to melanie.collins4@redcross.org or call 330-204-6615. You can always find out more about what the Red Cross does and how you can get involved by going to redcross.org/volunteertoday. Be a Hero in your community

Inspired by American Red Cross founder, local nursing students help meet volunteer need

By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Northern Ohio Biomedical Services

October 30. 2020- During the Civil War, Clara Barton, a nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field. Today, inspired by her legacy, nursing students from colleges and universities throughout Northern Ohio are partnering with the Red Cross to meet the urgent need for volunteers in their communities.

Dr. Mariann Harding

Dr. Mariann Harding, professor of nursing at Kent State University,
Tuscarawas Campus, is coordinator for the Academic Service Leadership (ASL) in Northern Ohio. Dr. Harding teaches first year nursing students and current nurses returning to school for their bachelor’s degree. The ASL program provides students opportunities to volunteer in their community while earning their degrees. Approximately 100 students are participating from Kent State University (Kent and Tuscarawas campuses), Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron.

Last year, students taught hands-only CPR in the community. With changes brought about the COVID-19 pandemic, that program is not available. COVID-19 has also caused many older blood drive volunteers to pause their service with the Red Cross. The ASL students have filled a much-needed role as blood drive ambassadors at blood drives, welcoming and screening donors and assisting at registration. According to Dr. Harding, a partnership with the Red Cross seemed like a natural fit. “I believe to have a successful, engaging volunteer experience, matching interest and need is important. Clara Barton, a nurse, was the founder of the Red Cross, and providing care, including nursing care, remains an important part of the Red Cross mission,” said Dr. Harding. “With all the service lines and opportunities for volunteerism, I felt confident that there was a need we could meet.”

Students participating in the program have reported having a great experience. Many have remarked that they have been surprised by how warm blood donors have been, encouraging them in their studies and thanking them for volunteering. Dr. Harding notes that many students have shared with her that they feel the work they are doing is worthwhile and plan to continue to volunteer when they have time off from school.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need for Red Cross volunteers remains high. In addition to blood drive ambassadors, individuals are needed to help respond to disasters both locally and across the country, as an unprecedented number of disasters have required an ongoing response from the Red Cross. “Everyone has something to offer the Red Cross – and the Red Cross has an opportunity – and a need for you,” said Dr. Harding. “Just reach out. All you need is a desire to help others.” To learn more or to sign up to volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 1-800-RED CROSS.