Remembering the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King

By Mike Parks. Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (1/15/29 – 4/4/68) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.  A truly gifted and inspirational orator, one of his lasting legacies is the moving quotes attributed to him, including one that I’m sure resonates with all of us, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question, ‘What are you doing for others?’”  Fitting for any Red Crosser!

Mike Parks

As we’ve all seen, we’re living in turbulent times.  Around the country the Red Cross is preparing to support those impacted by potential unrest.  Two of Dr. King’s most important tenets were, “ Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” and “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”    Yes, Dr. King fully supported and participated in many peaceful protests.  Our sincere hope is those who choose to protest over the next few days live by one of Dr. King’s other key principles, “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon.  Indeed it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it.”

As I think about our service in the Red Cross and some of the things Reverend King said in his life, which was cut tragically short, I reminded of his comment, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  You’ve heard me say many times, the Red Cross, in a word, is all about “caring.”  In my mind, our form of caring is also a form of love, as we show compassion to those we serve, as we bring light to the darkness they may be feeling at their most vulnerable.  Thank you for caring!

Finally, one of my personal favorite quotes from Dr. King are words he spoke 55 years ago right here in Ohio at the Oberlin College Commencement speech in 1965, “The time is always right to what is right!”

Thanks again for all you do.  Please stay safe and well, always remembering to practice C-D-C (cover-distance-clean)!!  Best regards…Mike

Editor’s note: Resolve to volunteer in honor of MLK Day of Service. Learn more about ways in which you can help others here.

FirstEnergy Foundation becomes Red Cross Disaster Responder partner

$250,000 donation to help prepare for, respond to future disasters

The American Red Cross is recognizing Akron-based FirstEnergy Foundation for supporting Red Cross Disaster Relief through the Disaster Responder Program with an annual pledge of $250,000. Thanks to contributions in advance of disasters, the Red Cross is prepared to help meet the needs of people affected by disasters big and small, anytime and anywhere across the U.S.

The gift was presented this week during a virtual check presentation.

Disaster Responder members—along with their employees and customers—pledge financial and in-kind donations in advance of disasters, powering the Red Cross with strong infrastructure, trained volunteers, innovative technology and critical resources necessary to provide relief and support to those in crisis. These annual contributions allow the Red Cross to respond whenever and wherever disasters occur, help families during the recovery process and prepare people for future emergencies.

Jill Patterson, Red Cross philanthropy officer (top), Ed Shuttleworth, regional president, Ohio Edison, Rachel Telegdy, executive director, American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley, and Lorna Wisham, President, FirstEnergy Foundation

“Every day in the face of disasters, the generosity of Disaster Responder members like FirstEnergy Foundation ensures the Red Cross can provide comfort and care to people in their darkest hours,” said Michelle Polinko, regional chief development officer at the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “We are extremely grateful for these contributions before disasters strike because it enables us to respond to disasters immediately and compassionately, when help and hope are needed most.”

While large disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires typically draw national attention, each year, the Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters across the country—the majority of which are home fires. Generous contributions from Disaster Responder members enable the Red Cross to provide services to people in need of assistance at no cost and regardless of income.

Generous contributions from Disaster Responder members enable the Red Cross to provide services to people in need of assistance at no cost and regardless of income.

And thanks to Disaster Responder members, Red Cross volunteers are also in their local communities every day, conducting disaster preparedness presentations virtually and giving people the reassurance and confidence to face crises of all kinds.

Other Northern Ohio members of the Disaster Responder program include the Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc. and the J. M. Smucker Company.

Individuals can help people affected by disasters big and small by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Donations to Disaster Relief enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Resolve to volunteer: a testimonial

By Richard E. Whitehead Jr, DMC, Regional Government Operations Chief and Emergency Management Program Lead

I thought I would share how the American Red Cross has assisted me and my family through the years. Giving back is just one of the many reasons I have been volunteering since 2005.  

The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program provided aid to my family when my uncle was killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict. Another family member was deployed in theater and SAF assisted in him receiving emergency notification and subsequent emergency leave.

The Red Cross was there again for me when I was a patient at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. The hospital ward was a mix of military personnel (several with combat injuries) and military dependents age 10 and over. It was one large open space with several beds, unlike hospital rooms today. I was 10 years old and there were only a handful of kids.

A Red Cross volunteer would come through the ward with a cart. The cart contained items to help occupy the time of the patients (newspapers, magazines, books, games, etc.). I was provided coloring books, comic books, puzzles, cards, toys, and even craft projects. She even gave me pads for my crutches, which a volunteer crocheted.  

When I wanted to find a way to help during Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross provided that opportunity.

In more recent times, I continue to benefit from the services of the Red Cross. From the support of first responders to the collection and distribution of life sustaining blood, the Red Cross has been there for me. I will continue to be there for the Red Cross. It is paying back for the assistance and opportunities the Red Cross has given me. 

Resolve to Make a Difference

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

January 11, 2020- Have you made your New Year resolutions yet for 2021? It’s never too early to check off a goal on your resolution list or to start making the most of this new year.

 In 2021, resolve to volunteer with the American Red Cross and help make a difference in your community! The vital work of the Red Cross supports communities across the country every day and throughout Northern Ohio – it’s at the heart of what we do.  Volunteers make up 90% of the Red Cross workforce and help deliver the vital services that the Red Cross provides.

The Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross needs volunteers in the following positions:

Blood Donor Ambassador

  • Age 16+
  • Help save lives in your community by supporting blood collection at a local blood drive.
  • Commitment: 1 shift (4-6 hours) per month

Blood Transportation Specialist

  • Deliver life-saving blood products from collection sites to processing a lab and/or hospital
  • Commitment: 2 shifts (4-6 hour shifts) per month

Disaster Action Team Member

  • Virtual Opportunity
  • Assist individuals and families who have been impacted by a home fire or other local disaster.
  • Commitment: monthly on call shift

SAF Hero Care Regional Caseworker

  • Ensure military families’ needs are met when faced with an emergency
  • Commitment: 2-4 hours per week

To learn more about these opportunities and to apply, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or 330.204.6615.

What’s more likely? The Browns in the playoffs or you going to Super Bowl LVI

By: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

January 6, 2021- They said it would never happen. It almost did take forever. However, our beloved Cleveland Browns had 1) a good plan, 2) followed through, and on game day, 3) they all delivered. For the first time in almost 20 years, the Dawgs find themselves in the NFL Playoffs. It might be a stretch to expect the Browns to make it all the way to the Super Bowl this year, but maybe next year? And if they did, wouldn’t you like to have a couple tickets to be there? Just plan to donate blood during National Blood Donor Month, and you too could be as lucky as the Browns.  

Stock photo by Vangelis Kovu, digitally edited by Doug Bardwell

1) Here’s your game plan:

The American Red Cross and the National Football League are teaming up this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 – to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage. Right now, more donors are needed to help hospital patients get back in the game.

During this critical time, the Red Cross and NFL are thrilled to offer all those who come to donate an opportunity to receive a special thank you this month. Those who come to donate blood or platelets this January will be automatically entered to win two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. In addition, those who come to give January 1-20, will also be automatically entered to win the Big Game at Home package for an awesome viewing experience safely at home, with a 65-inch television and a $500 gift card to put toward food and fun.

2) Here’s the follow through:

Make an appointment to donate at a convenient location by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa. To protect donors and Red Cross volunteers, walk-ins are no longer permitted during this COVID-19 time. You must make an advance reservation.

Special teams note: There are two ways COVID-19 survivors can help – through a convalescent plasma donation or by simply giving whole blood. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness.

Leading up to game day, drink plenty of water and eat iron rich foods. The Dawgs recommend lean red meat, but chicken and seafood are good as well.

3) Get ready to deliver on game day:

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online. On the day of your donation, before arriving at the blood drive, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

Grab your helmet and shoulder pads, or at least bring your mask, and arrive a few minutes before kick-off time. If you’ve maintained this game plan, you are definitely going to score – aiding as many as three people with each donation you make. And who knows, you might even be sitting in the stands for Super Bowl LVI. 

Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

Red Cross disaster workers ring in new year helping others

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

January 4, 2021- While many in Northern Ohio were celebrating the ushering in of 2021, and the Cleveland Browns returning to the NFL playoffs, disaster workers from the American Red Cross were active during the holiday weekend helping neighbors in need.

Despite the cold temperatures and the constant uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Disaster Action Team (DAT) members took time out of their New Year’s celebrations this weekend (December 31-January 3) to virtually and socially distant respond to 16 incidents in Cuyahoga, Erie, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Medina, Summit and Trumbull counties and assisted 51 individuals. In addition, the Red Cross provided the residents with more than $11,000 in financial assistance for immediate needs such as lodging, clothing and food.

“If it was not for the dedication and selflessness of our DAT members, we would not be able to fulfill the Red Cross’ mission,” said Renee Palagyi, senior disaster program manager. “Despite the pandemic, they continue to put weekends and holiday celebrations on hold to help a neighbor in need. The Red Cross of Northern Ohio is constantly grateful for our DAT members and everything they do.”

To date this year, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 1,410 adults, 807 children and has provided more than $455,000 in immediate financial assistance.

Additional volunteers are needed to train for disaster responses, specifically to respond to home fires locally. People in good health and who are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training can visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday, or can call 1-800-RED CROSS.

The number one priority of the Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve, and we have implemented several measures, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to protect our workers and those who need our assistance.

If you are unable to volunteer but you would like to support the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts, donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Consider resolving to volunteer in the new year

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer 

January 1, 2021- I first stepped into the American Red Cross’ Cleveland office three years ago on a frigid, vibrant January morning. A few weeks earlier, I had resolved to do more to help others, to take part in making the world a bit better. Since then, I have taken on various volunteer roles, each of which has been challenging and exceptionally rewarding. I have gotten to see the relief and hope on people’s faces when assisting after a disaster, had the honor of sharing extraordinary life stories on this blog, assisted first responders during major events, and have seen communities pull together to donate blood or begin to move on after a disaster. I have also seen the incredible levels of dedication and caring from Red Cross staff and fellow volunteers. Through it all, I have learned a great deal about myself, our community and humanity.  

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, please consider volunteering with the Red Cross. While there are several opportunities, depending on your skills and interest, below are brief overviews of needed roles in the Northern Ohio region: 

Disaster Response

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Disaster Action Team (DAT), several positions are available. To give a sense of DAT’s vital importance, in 2020, members responded to nearly 1,200 events in Northern Ohio, most of them home fires, and provided more than $1 million dollars in financial assistance. Several DAT members also deployed nationally following major disasters. Several safeguards are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including responding virtually when possible. For more information, click here

Biomedical Services

There are several roles for those interested in helping the Red Cross collect and transport blood. In fiscal year 2020, the Northern Ohio Red Cross created 506,000 life-supporting blood products to help patients in 80 hospitals across Northern Ohio, all with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Open volunteer roles include:

  • Blood Donor Ambassadors (must be at least 16 years of age) to assist during blood drives
  •  Blood Transportation Specialists to deliver blood products to processing labs and hospitals
  •  Blood Donor Transporters in Holmes and Wayne counties to drive donors to appointments

For details on Biomedical Services, visit redcrossblood.org

Services to the Armed Forces (SAF)

If you would like to help support those in the U.S. military, veterans, and their families, there are several opportunities. These include facilitator roles for mental health professionals as well as caseworker and other roles. In 2020, the SAF group completed 5,500 case services for military families and delivered “Get to Know Us” briefings to nearly 5,400 military members and their families before deploying from Northern Ohio. Many positions are currently operating virtually during the pandemic but will return to in person when possible. More information on how the Red Cross serves the military community is available here

If you are interested in these or other volunteer positions, visit this web page. More information on assistance provided in 2020 is available here. To read the national Red Cross “Resolve to Volunteer” press release, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Founder’s vision paved way for volunteers to support those in need today

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

December 25, 2020- Clara Barton is one of my all-time heroes.

Born 199 years ago today, Clara shook off her 19th century “woman’s place” and founded a movement that continues to move hundreds of thousands of people to action.

“We are all in Clara Barton’s debt for her vision to found the American Red Cross,” said Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross. “We still follow her example today whenever we deliver comfort and care to the victims of disaster, support our men and women in the armed forces, and donate our blood to help save lives. Clara saw the urgent needs of others, and she created a way for generations of humanitarians to help meet those needs.”

Circa 1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton was 60 years young when she established the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881.

By then, she had been a trailblazer many times over: Founder of the first free school in New Jersey, first paid female employee of the U.S. Patent Office, “Angel of the Battlefield” for supplying critical supplies for the Union soldiers wounded during the Civil War, and head of the postwar Office of Missing Soldiers. On a trip to Europe to “relax” after a decade of war, she directed relief for civilians on both sides of the Franco-Prussian War under the auspices of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the 1880s, Clara and her fledgling organization began helping survivors of floods and famines, storms and outbreaks of disease. In 1897, at the age of 76, she sailed to Turkey to direct American relief for civilians suffering a humanitarian crisis. The next year, she worked in hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This woman’s energy and commitment to help ease suffering set the standard the Red Cross continues to follow. During fiscal year 2020 alone, 2,800 Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio responded to disasters here and across the country, using new procedures to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Regionally, the Northern Ohio Red Cross:

  • Responded to nearly 1,200 local disasters and distributed more than $1 million in aid to meet immediate disaster-related needs
  • Taught nearly 61,500 people potentially lifesaving CPR, AED, first aid, aquatics and babysitting skills
  • Collected more than 168,700 units of blood that were converted into some 506,000 life-supporting blood products for patients in more than 80 medical facilities across Northern Ohio
  • Presented community preparedness education, most of it virtually, to more than 10,500 individuals, and disaster preparedness education to 4,441 youngsters in grades 3 through 5
  • Handled nearly 5,500 urgent contacts between armed forces members and their families, and briefed some 5,400 deploying men and women, and their families, about Red Cross emergency services

“None of this would be possible without the generosity of our thousands of volunteers and donors,” said Gail Wernick, volunteer services officer for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “ Hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors over the years are indebted to Clara for her founding example.”

1902. Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Clara Barton with graduating class of nurses at Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Miss Barton spoke to the graduating class.

So this is my birthday salute to Clara Barton. And my thanks to generations of Red Cross heroes of every age, gender, race and creed who have given selflessly of their time, their talents and their treasure to help humanity. If you’d like to follow in Clara’s footsteps in the new year, find the volunteer spot that fits you at redcross.org/volunteertoday. To financially support the work of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Happy Holidays from the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

By Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 23, 2020-Season’s Greetings family and friends of the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio!! 

Mike Parks

Thank you for all your support throughout this incredible year! 

Please watch the video below and have a safe, happy and healthy holiday. 

Looking forward to welcoming in 2021 together!!!! 

All the best…Mike Parks

Safety tips to prepare you for another Ohio winter

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

December 21, 2020- Within the last few weeks, Northern Ohio has turned into a land of white amidst the first snowfalls of the season. As I write this, white powder lines the tree branches and there’s snow on the ground as far as the eye can see. It’s really quite enchanting. However, it’s not so enchanting when the roads are icy, your pipes are freezing and your pets are chilled if left outside too long.

As we enter into another season of Ohio winters, there are numerous precautions that we could all take to save us some stress this snowy season.

Winter storms are a real danger for many, but there are certain steps you can take to be “Red Cross Ready.” For example, stay involved with your community’s risk and response plans, and consider creating one for your own household. If your heater stops working or your house floods from melting snow, where can you go for help? Whether a family member or nearby friend, these are good things to keep in mind in case of an emergency.

Another area to improve your winter preparedness is related to vehicle precautions. Have your vehicle “winterized” to decrease your chances of being stuck on the road in cold weather.

“Winterizing” your car can mean a variety of things such as:

  • Having your heater and battery checked
  • Making sure your brakes are working correctly
  • Checking your tires to ensure they have an adequate tread to combat icy roads
  • Having blankets, gloves, hats, some spare food and any other supplies in your vehicle in case you happen to be stranded on a very cold day to keep you warm and comfortable while waiting for assistance
  • Use a windshield scraper and small broom to make sure that you are driving with full vision

There are several precautions you can take to protect your home during the winter. First, make sure that your home heating sources are operating correctly and refrain from putting off that call to your heating service if you suspect any issues arising.

In addition, make sure that your home is properly insulated so that all that heat you’re pumping in stays inside where it’s supposed to be. Lastly, as a backup to any heating problems you may encounter, consider purchasing emergency heating equipment such as an electric heater or wood-burning stove.

Although this list is nowhere near complete, these precautions will be a good start to making sure that your family, vehicles and home are prepared to brave yet another Ohio winter.

And before you know it, that winter ice will be melting and spring will commence!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer