Beyond National Hire A Veteran Day: Red Cross prepares veterans for the workforce through workshops and ongoing support services

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Support for the men and women of the armed forces has been central to the American Red Cross since the organization was founded 140 years ago.

One of our key services is helping military personnel as they leave active duty and look toward putting their skills to work in the civilian world.

Volunteering with the American Red Cross for over 20 years, Suzan Stafford, whom is trained as a psychologist has been hosting workshops with veterans to help them with their transition back to civilian life. Photo by Roy Cox/American Red Cross

National Hire A Veteran Day, coming up on Sunday, aims to focus attention on this valuable workforce, and the Red Cross is right in step with that effort.

“All the way back to our founder, Clara Barton, the Red Cross has been helping military veterans ease back into civilian life,” said Jessica Tischler, Service to the Armed Forces regional program manager for northern Ohio.

“We do this through free in-person workshops as well as small-group virtual modules. These sessions help veterans and their families build skills to successfully pivot into the non-military work world,” she explained.

Regional SAF Program Director Jessica Tischler and Koby Langley, Senior Vice President, Red Cross Service to The Armed Forces

In-person Reconnection and Mind-Body workshops are confidential, led by licensed mental health professionals with additional Red Cross training.

Virtual workshops, also led by professionals, include topics such as:

  • Creating calmness in stressful times
  • Psychological first aid and resilience
  • Effective communication
  • Stress solutions
  • Connecting with kids

U.S. Air Force veteran Sally Falasca, a licensed independent social worker in the Youngstown area, is a volunteer workshop leader.

“When I was on active duty, I relied on the Red Cross to assist me in helping service members from all branches,” she said. “I had seen them do so much good.” So Sally was glad to share her skills as a civilian.

Red Cross SAF Volunteer Sally Falasca

She began volunteering in 2018, doing reconnection workshops for adults, children and teens. Since COVID shut down most in-person sessions, she’s been impressed by how much the on-line sessions help veterans and their families strengthen their “emotional grit” and find that all-important work-life balance.

“The Red Cross is an ideal volunteer site for veterans because it offers the opportunity to serve others — just as service men and women do in uniform — in an organized and supportive environment,” Jessica said. “Think of being a disaster responder, locally or nationally, or a blood services volunteer or a first aid or water safety instructor, for example.

“There are lots of overlaps between military service and humanitarian service.”

Mike Parks, Rear Adm. (retired), USCG
Regional CEO, Red Cross of Northern Ohio

“I can speak from personal experience when I say that the American Red Cross dovetails with uniformed military service in terms of our dedication to mission and our high regard for leadership,” said Rear Admiral Mike Parks, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.), who now serves as Northern Ohio Regional Executive for the Red Cross.

The Red Cross has an online military occupation specialty (MOS) “translator” that makes it easy for veterans to find full-time opportunities that match their skills. The site currently lists more than two dozen paid positions right here in Ohio and more than 750 across the country: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/careers/military-occupational-specialty-translator.html

If you’re retired from the U.S. armed services, or know someone who is, and would like to know more about the many Red Cross services to the armed forces, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

If you’d like to financially support this important work and all of the other humanitarian work of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

The power of personal connections: Transitioning back to in-person disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many American Red Cross services are transitioning back to being in-person, especially in Disaster Response and Sheltering. While virtual response and other safety measures helped the Red Cross effectively respond to disasters during the height of the pandemic, in-person assistance was missed. As Mike Arthur, regional mass care and logistics manager for Northern Ohio, explained, the ability to provide hot coffee and a hug can mean a great deal.

In addition to Mike, I spoke with Tom Revolinsky, Red Cross disaster program manager for Northeast Ohio, and volunteer Mark Cline, whose many responsibilities include serving as lead for Disaster Action Team (DAT) and Sheltering Applications in Northern Ohio. Each spoke about how effective an in-person connection is for Red Cross responders and clients recovering from a disaster.

Red Cross volunteers respond to an apartment fire

Tom said the transition began a month ago and is going very well. The DAT team is ensuring volunteers are comfortable with the change, and it is safe. As we learn more, he said, we will adapt to ensure everyone’s safety.

Currently, 80% of disaster responses in our region are in-person. For the other 20%, virtual response remains the best option. Northern Ohio DAT has been highly active. Over the past two weekends they responded to 14 home fires, assisting 73 people.

Mark said an in-person meeting gives a chance to better connect with those in need of assistance, as it is much more personal. Similarly, Tom spoke of how meeting in-person better provides the opportunity to give hope, show someone cares and help with recovery. 

Tom recalled how after an exceptionally busy day, he received a late-night call to respond following a home fire. Upon arrival, he met a woman, in tears, sitting in front of her burned-out house. His being there greatly helped, provided comfort, and she soon moved from tears to smiles. Tom said it was empowering for him.

Disaster responder Jan Cooper assists resident Gabriella Asseff after a condo fire in Westlake

I had similar experiences during my time with DAT. The instances when I could see a person begin to recover, to smile and hope again, remain with me.

As for sheltering following a large disaster—fortunately not common in our region—Mike and Tom said congregate housing is now the first option. This will ensure enough space is available, as many hotels are currently near capacity. Safety protocols will be in place. Both Tom and Mike said the Red Cross remains flexible and adapts to each situation, and non-congregate housing remains an option.

Such adaptability has been a hallmark of the Red Cross. When the pandemic necessitated virtual responses to disasters, the DAT team responded. Additionally, technology implemented during the pandemic is also helping with in-person responses.

For many of us, the pandemic underscored the importance of personal connections, especially following a disaster. Thankfully, Northern Ohio DAT responders can provide that again, offering financial assistance along with comfort, hugs and hope.

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 17-18, 2021

Over the weekend, the American Red Cross was once again very active responding to calls across Northern Ohio and assisting residents who have suffered a local disaster.

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During the weekend of July 17-18, the Red Cross responded to 9 incidents across the region, including home fires and flooding. The disaster team assisted 15 adults and 11 children, and provided more than $5,5000 in immediate financial assistance.

While many of us hear “disaster” and think of large events like wildfires and hurricanes, local disasters are where much of our response happens. In fact, every 24 hours, on average, the Northern Ohio Red Cross responds to three home fires, as well as floods and severe storms. Red Cross volunteers are on call and ready to respond 24/7 when a disaster strikes. After emergency personnel, these individuals are often some of the first people to be on scene at a disaster. They assess the victims’ needs and ensure they have food, clothing, shelter and other services to help take the first steps to recovery.

The Red Cross is committed to helping our community prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. We are able to make a difference in our local communities because of the generosity of our donors and support of our volunteers.

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northern Ohio, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. If you cannot support the Red Cross monetarily but you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and sign up.

Donors continue to respond to blood shortage

It had been about five years since Ellen Eoff last donated blood. “I heard about the shortage,” she said as she rested on a donor bed at a recent blood drive at the Church of the Savior in Cleveland Heights. “I’m vaccinated and felt comfortable about donating blood again.”

Red Cross blood donor Ellen Eoff

Ellen was one of 44 people who donated at the blood drive, helping the American Red Cross address a severe blood shortage, as hospitals respond to an unusually high number of traumas and emergency room visits, organ transplants and elective surgeries.

In most cases, those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine – like Ellen – can donate. However, knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they received is important in determining donation eligibility.

Currently, the Red Cross needs to collect more than 1,000 additional blood donations each day to meet current demand. That’s why donations like Ellen’s are so important.

Red Cross blood donor Michael Melicoff and blood drive supervisor Shantel Haynes

“I donate for the public good,” said Michael Melincoff, who has been a Red Cross blood donor for more than 40 years. “I donate 2 to 4 times a year,” he said. He also makes financial donations in response to disasters.

Patricia Moyer said she’s working toward donating her second gallon of blood. “It was there when I needed it,” she said, referring to a past surgical procedure she experienced.

WEWS News 5 reporter Caroline Sweeney and photographer Anthony Garcia helped the Red Cross spread the word about the blood shortage by covering the blood drive. You can see their report here.

To thank donors who help refuel the blood and platelet supply this month, all who come to give July 7-31 will receive a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card via email and will also receive automatic entry for a chance to win gas for a year (a $5,000 value). More information and details are available at rcblood.org/fuel. Also, all those who come to donate throughout the entire month of July will be automatically entered for a chance to win a trip for four to Cedar Point or Knott’s Berry Farm. To learn more, visit rcblood.org/CedarFair.

Donors who give now will help stock the shelves for the rest of the summer season. Schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Wildfire season is upon us: What volunteers can expect if they deploy to help

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have already been 31,000 wildfires across the country, with more than 1.5 acres affected. As of July 4th, people have had to evacuate their homes for the Tennant, Salt and Lava wildfires in California. That means there will be a need to shelter and feed residents impacted, and more opportunities for American Red Cross volunteers. 

Volunteers often talk about how appreciative people are when offered water or buckets and rakes to assist their cleanup. Many I’ve spoken with mentioned that Red Cross trucks brought the first and only assistance they had encountered since the fire. It’s a privilege to serve those who’ve just lost most of their material possessions.

What can you expect if deployed to volunteer?

First, you won’t be anywhere near the flames. Shelters are selected in safe zone areas, so you can feel safe wherever they are located. Even if you are part of a Red Cross mobile feeding operation, you won’t be dispatched to burnt areas until the fire has been totally contained for a safe period of time.

There are three types of work most volunteers experience: sheltering, feeding or supply distribution.

Sheltering volunteers work to set up and maintain the sleeping/living areas for those displaced by the fire. After the setup and registering of incoming victims, just letting people tell their stories is very cathartic for those affected.

While deployed to the Camp Fire in California, I noticed most people just wanted someone to talk to. Not that they expected any earthshaking solutions, they just needed to verbalize their plight to a caring set of ears. Sometimes, just playing cards or a board game was a great distraction from their worries. 

November 17, 2018. Chico, California. At the Neighborhood Church shelter in Chico, California, Daniel Nieves grieves the loss of his friends, who perished in the Camp Fire. Red Cross volunteers Pamela Harris and Vicki Eichstaedt listen and offer comfort as Daniel remembers a special friendship. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Feeding volunteers help serve meals that are usually supplied by one of our Red Cross partners. Three meals a day are served to those affected. You might also be serving meals to first responders, cleaners and other service personnel involved around the shelter operation. 

In all the sheltering operations I’ve been involved with, there is always a 24/7 snack area for the shelter residents. Chips, cookies and snack bars are always available, along with coffee, tea, soft drinks and water.

Distribution volunteers are those who take cleanup tools and supplies out to the victims at the site of the fire after the “all clear” notice has been issued. 

Deploying on a national disaster usually requires a two-week commitment. However, local/regional events can be staffed on more flexible schedules. A limited amount of pretraining is necessary for either, but there are plenty of people ready to get you up to speed quickly. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/volunteer and select DCS – Disaster Cycle Services – Responder, or contact Emily Probst, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager, at emily.probst@redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer


More than 50 people flee from fires, receive assistance over the weekend

24 children among those forced from their homes

American Red Cross disaster responders were busy throughout northern Ohio on Friday and Saturday, July 9th and 10th, responding to 8 home fires – including 5 multi-family home fires. 54 residents, including 30 adults and 24 children were affected by the fires.

Six of the fires occurred in Cuyahoga County.

The residents received more than $11,300 in immediate financial assistance, to help them find a safe place to stay, provide food for their families, replace lost clothing, or fulfill other immediate needs. That assistance, coming at such a critical time, is only available because of generous people who make financial donations to the Red Cross.

If you have a desire to help members of your community recover from disasters like home fires, visit redcross.org/donate or call 1-800 RED CROSS.

Trained Red Cross volunteers will continue to help the families during the recovery process, providing information, resources and referrals to community partners. If health or mental health services are required, Red Cross volunteers with professional certifications will offer their assistance.

Whether you are a certified health or mental health provider, or just have a heart to help your neighbors in their darkest hours, visit redcross.org.volunteer to become a Red Cross volunteer.

Emergency preparedness programs remain virtual

 A variety of virtual programs being offered online to help you better prepare for emergencies

Despite pandemic restrictions being lifted in so many areas of our daily lives, our efforts to be sure you can Be Red Cross Ready remain available to you free of charge, and from the comfort of your own home.

Be Red Cross Ready is a national, standardized, FREE preparedness education curriculum for adults taught by certified presenters. The program is designed to help people understand, prepare for and respond appropriately to disasters big and small.

“We offer people good reminders about being prepared and staying safe,” said John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager. “It’s common sense information that people may not think about, like not opening a door when there’s fire burning on the other side.”

John said attendance numbers vary. He said 175 employees of First Energy were in attendance during one of the emergency preparedness sessions.

All you need is a laptop or smart phone to access the online classroom. This month, topics being covered include General Preparedness and Tornado Safety, Summer Fire Safety Tips, Smoke Alarm Safety, and Summer Pet Safety.

Visit our calendar of events to view the days and times for each session, and visit our website for more information on each topic.

4th of July: Red Cross issues tips for everyone to have a safe holiday

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, many people plan to attend fireworks displays, a backyard picnic, or just enjoy the outdoors. The American Red Cross wants you to enjoy a fun-packed, safe holiday and offers these tips you can follow over the upcoming holiday:

FIREWORKS SAFETY

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public firework show put on by professionals. Cities and towns across Northern Ohio are hosting events with fireworks throughout the weekend. Click the links below to find a celebration near you.

While attending, stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks. If you are setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

PICNIC SAFETY

  • Don’t leave food out in the hot sun. Keep perishable foods in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs.
  • Wash your hands before preparing the food.
  • If you are going to grill, always supervise when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  • Never grill indoors. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches or anything that could catch fire. 
  • Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.

HEAT SAFETY

  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water and shade.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat. If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.

DOWNLOAD OUR APPS. The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice. The Red Cross First Aid app provides instant access to information on handling the most common emergencies. Download these apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Follow COVID-19 Guidelines

Remember to review the latest COVID-19 pandemic guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with your family before you head out.

We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Police Sergeant honored for saving baby’s life

Awarded Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action

Sergeant Greg Patterson of the Richmond Heights police department was the first to respond, after a disturbing call to 9-1-1 about a baby who had stopped breathing.

“When I received the call, my first thought was to get there as quickly as possible,” said Sergeant Patterson. “When I arrived, the mother ran out the front door and handed the baby to me. When I saw that his face was blue and he wasn’t breathing, my training kicked in.”

He then described the actions he took to bring the baby back.

“I sat down on a chair on the front porch and began chest compressions,” he said. “I then turned the baby over and gave him a few back blows.” That’s when the infant began to respond, as he coughed up some mucous that Sergeant Patterson wiped away.

“I could see that he was starting to breathe again. When I saw the color coming back into his face, I was beyond relieved.”

Richmond Heights Police Sergeant Greg Patterson congratulated by Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

Sergeant Patterson has been awarded a Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action, which is given to those who step up in an emergency situation and help save or sustain a life. “Sergeant Patterson’s actions exemplify the mission of the American Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “He is to be commended for his willingness to help others in distress.”

Sgt. Greg Patterson, Mike Parks, and Kim Riley, Board Chair, Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

“When I arrived, the mother handed the baby to me. When I saw that his face was blue and he wasn’t breathing, my training kicked in.”

Sergeant Greg Patterson

Sergeant Patterson was honored during the June, 2021 meeting of the board of directors of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. He was accompanied by his wife and daughter, along with Chief Thomas Wetzel, Lieutenant Denise DeBiase, and Records Clerk Latrice Evans, who submitted the lifesaving award nomination.

The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is one of three awards bestowed by the Red Cross for lifesaving actions. The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.

Records Clerk Latrice Evans, Sgt. Greg Patterson, Lt. Denise DeBiase, and Chief Thomas Wetzel, Richmond Heights Police Department

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is given to an individual, or team of individuals, who saves or sustains a life, outside of a medical setting, as part of their employment or while on duty and had an obligation to respond. 

If you know someone who may qualify for a Red Cross Lifesaving Award, you can nominate that individual or group by using this online form. And you can visit LifesavingAwards.org to learn more.

Sergeant Patterson doesn’t think he acted any differently than any of his fellow officers would have acted when responding to that call.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Sergeant Patterson said. “I just happened to be the one to get there first. I am very grateful that I was able to be there to help.”

Vaccinated and ready to travel?

Here are some things to check before you leave Northern Ohio

By: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Travel restrictions have just been lifted for those who want to go to Europe, so it appears that travel season is about to switch into high gear here in Northern Ohio.  If you are planning a trip out of the country, there are a number of points you’ll want to check to ensure that it is a safe and enjoyable experience.   

Does your hospitalization cover you when you travel?  Some only work in this country, and some only with certain health organizations. Here’s a good reference. 

Driving? Will your car insurance cover you when you cross into Canada (probably) or into Mexico (probably not). Be sure to call your agent and verify. You also need to check if you’ll be renting a car – most local policies don’t cover rentals abroad.

And don’t forget to check very specifically about your cellphone rates outside the country. Many people didn’t check first, only to find out that international rates added thousands to their cellphone bill.   

Check your credit cards. Some issue surcharges for international transactions, while others do not. Also, avoid travelers’ cash exchanges at airports, which usually offer less advantageous conversion rates than banks in town.

Be sure to notify your credit card company about when you plan to be out of town (even in this country), so your cards are not held up pending “fraud protection” while you try to prove it’s really you buying shoes in Guadalajara.

Are you up to date on your vaccinations, malaria shots, tetanus shots, etc. Let your county health care professional know where you’ll be traveling and see if any additional shots are required. Here’s the link to Cuyahoga County’s board of health, but each county should have their own.

Are there any travel advisories issued by our State Department for the countries you plan to visit? You can sign up there for travel advisories.

Before you go, photograph or scan your passport, immunization record, any important medical information and emergency numbers for your credit cards and bank. Put it on a small USB flash drive that you can hide in your socks, just in case you are robbed.  Also leave a duplicate of the information with a friend or relative who is not traveling with you.

Lastly, before you go, make a blood donation appointment.  There’s a severe shortage right now, and the need is great.  If you’ve never donated before, you can load the Red Cross Blood app on your phone, and shortly after your donation, you’ll know what blood type you are. Then, while you are traveling, rest easy, knowing your donation can save up to three lives.

Click here for a printable checklist when you start your travel planning.