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

In the midst of flu, colds and COVID-19, healthy blood donors fill a vital need

By Christy Peters, Regional Communications Manager

It’s that time of year, when many of us are reaching for Kleenex, sipping hot tea and hoping our “slight” headache isn’t the start of something worse. And, as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, the occasional sniffle and cough fills many with more dread than usual.

If you’re one of the fortunate individuals still in tip-top shape, your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions. In order to give blood, donors must be feeling healthy and well on the day of their donation. As illness spreads, the number of eligible blood donors decreases. However, the need for blood is constant. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and the Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood donations and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 80 hospitals in northern Ohio.

Christine McKenzie of Westlake at the Holiday Blood Drive at Crocker Park, 12/18/20

The Red Cross is encouraging all who are healthy and well to consider making a blood, platelet or plasma donation in the coming weeks. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you can help patients who are currently fighting the disease by giving convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation that contains antibodies that might help patients actively fighting the virus. An increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has caused the Red Cross to distribute a record number of convalescence plasma products in the past month. In fact, our hospital distributions of convalescent plasma increased 250% in November compared to September. To learn more about giving convalescent plasma visit RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.

Your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions.

To ensure a great donation experience, make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you give, drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy meal before giving. You should also continue to drink plenty of fluids after your donation. In the time between donations, make sure to eat iron-rich foods such as fish, poultry, spinach and broccoli. If you have questions about your ability to give, you can review all the eligibility requirements on the Red Cross website or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Megan Coffman of Rocky River at the Holiday Blood Drive at Crocker Park, 12/18/20. “I’m not afraid of needles. I give for those who are.”

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid colds, flu and COVID-19 so far this season, please consider giving blood for patients in need. Good health is a gift – please share it with those who need it most.

A Blood Donor Ambassador’s advice for a great experience when donating blood

Prepare your body with food and extra water. Eat a meal within four hours of donating and avoid caffeinated beverages. 

Prepare for a ‘walk through’ experience. Do the Rapid Pass (the reading and the questions) on the same day. Less waiting time for all donors. Another benefit. You contribute towards more donors saving lives. 

The Donor App is available for smartphones and tablets. Safe guard your read and question/answer time. Do a ‘screen shot’ of your QR (scanning square). Avoids having to redo the Rapid Pass, again. Text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search Red Cross Blood in your app store. The Donor app has your ‘Donor ID card’ and the ‘Start Rapid Pass’. Other helpful and interesting features included in the app. 

On computer with printing or e-mail capability:  redcrossblood.org/RapidPass.

Trouble accessing your Donor app or account? Call Red Cross for IT help (1-800-733-2767). Consider the ‘remember me’ feature for auto-login.

Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador and Communications Volunteer

Olmsted Township resident escapes home fire after hearing smoke alarm

Alarm was installed by the Red Cross in 2016

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 16, 2020- Smoke alarms save lives. Just ask Gail Renfro.

The former resident of Olmsted Township was in her living room on the night of October 24, 2020 when she heard a smoke alarm sound. It was coming from her bedroom. When she opened the bedroom door, she saw fire and knew there was no time to waste; she had to get out.

Gail Renfro, center, is flanked by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, and Ellen Braun, Red Cross volunteer.  They installed the smoke alarm in Renfro’s home in 2016

“I turned around and walked out the front door, with the clothes I had on, socks on my feet, and cell phone in hand,” Gail said in a recent interview.

The smoke alarm had been installed four years earlier by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, during a day-long installation event in the Columbia Park development. Mrs. Renfro was recently reunited virtually with Tim and Ellen Braun, a Red Cross volunteer who accompanied Tim the day the alarm was installed, and who shared with the residents fire safety information, including how to create an escape plan.

That information – and those alarms – have proven to be lifesavers. Not only was Ms. Renfro alerted to the fire that destroyed her home, but one of her neighbors was alerted in a similar way more than a year earlier. Barbara Kovolenko escaped safely from a fire in her home, after hearing the smoke alarm in her home. It was also installed that same day – November 19, 2016.

Barbara Kovolenko with Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly

“Both of these fires show the importance of having a working smoke alarm,” said Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly. “The alarm went off and alerted (the residents) with enough time to be able to exit. That’s what they’re designed to do.”

Chief Kelly credits his department’s partnership with the Red Cross for helping keep residents in his community safe. And while the in-home visits to install smoke alarms are on hold due to the pandemic, lives are still being saved as a result of the alarms that were installed before the program was paused.  

Ellen Braun

Gail Renfro and Barbara Kovolenko are now among more than 800 people whose lives were saved as a result of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“Our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms since the inception of the Home Fire Campaign in 2014,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Once deemed safe to proceed, the Red Cross will resume all Home Fire Campaign programs.”

Tim O’Toole

The need for home fire safety doesn’t end during a pandemic. We urge everyone to take steps to keep their household safe by installing and maintaining smoke alarms, talking with loved ones about fire safety and creating and practicing a home fire escape plan.

And we’re grateful Gail and Barbara did just that.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for free resources.

Watch the reunion of Gail Renfro, Tim O’Toole, Ellen Braun and Chief Kelly here.

Listen to the audio of the reunion on our podcast here.

Out on a date and saving lives

By Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross volunteer

December 14, 2020- Richard and Margaret LaDu have been dating throughout their sixty-four years of marriage. Now, they date to donate their own life’s blood to save lives.

Richard began donating blood while in the Army Reserves during the Korean Conflict Era. Margaret started early during her thirty years career as an elementary school teacher. When asked why they donate, this simple response was spoken: “To help others”.

“When we value another person over ourselves, we share life,” added Richard.

Richard and Margaret LaDu

The traditional slump in blood donations, which occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, comes as the blood supply already faces challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. Required medical treatments and emergencies don’t pause for the holidays or a widespread coronavirus outbreak. Blood, platelet and plasma donors are urged to give now to help avoid delays in lifesaving medical care for patients.

Do you need a last minute gift ideas for that person who has everything? Donate blood in honor of a loved one and inform them that their present is the gift of life. Then together you can follow your blood’s journey on the Red Cross Blood Donor App and see the lives you helped.

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 to make an appointment and for more information about any of the drives listed here.

May we keep in mind that ‘the giving of ourselves to others’ occurs every day throughout the year.

Stuff happens…but the Red Cross still responds

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer 

December 11, 2020- Despite coronavirus, despite masks, despite quarantines, despite lockdowns, despite political controversy, despite all these things; one thing remained constant for the American Red Cross through most of 2020; the need to help others – which has always been the overall humanitarian effort for employees and volunteers based here in Northern Ohio.  

Disasters don’t take time off for COVID-19, so while the Red Cross has had to change methods, we still need to complete our mission.  Reviewing the numbers, it appears we have done just that.

Luckily, Northern Ohio was spared from the huge disasters that plagued the West Coast and the Gulf Coast. However, due to the size of the disasters and the fact that they lasted so long, more than 100 Northern Ohio (NOH) volunteers left the comfort of their homes and headed west to battle the wildfires, while others provided shelter and comfort to those affected by hurricanes Laura, Sally, Beta and Zeta; all the while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19. They were among almost 2,800 volunteers who served in the region in FY 2020. 

Here at home, Disaster Action Team members responded to nearly 1,200 local events – most of them home and apartment fires. More than a million dollars of financial aid was made immediately available to those who were experiencing possibly the worst days of their lives.

To help Ohioans save lives, a big part of Red Cross activities is teaching children and adults through community preparedness education.  In 2020, more than 10,500 people took part community wide. Age-appropriate disaster preparedness classes were offered to 4,441 3rd, 4th, and 5th-grade students.  

Being proactive, nearly 61,500 individuals completed potentially lifesaving classes from babysitting to lifeguarding, as well as CPR, first aid and the use of an AED.  

Our Service to the Armed Forces 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. 

And if those numbers weren’t enough to impress, how about our Biomedical Services group which collected more than 168,700 units of blood in FY 2020 during hundreds of blood drives, using the best COVID protocols available.  

And from those donations, we’ve been able to create 506,000 life-supporting blood products to help patients in 80 hospitals across Northern Ohio.  In addition, we’ve recently been able to collect and distribute 40,000 convalescent plasma products. 

Nationally, the need is greater than ever, as shown on the graph above, and by some totals of our national response below. 

All these accomplishments are possible through the generous donation of time from our volunteers and the financial contributions of our generous donors.  If you’d like to be a part of this great humanitarian effort, consider volunteering or making a contribution before year end. 

Be the Lifeline Patients Need This Holiday Season – Give Blood!

Read on for a list of blood drives in Northern Ohio

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

December 9, 2020- Without volunteer blood donors, patients would not have the lifesaving treatments they need. The American Red Cross is urging the community to donate blood and be the lifeline patients need this holiday season.

The traditional slump in blood donations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s comes as the blood supply already faces challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. Required medical treatments and emergencies don’t pause for the holidays or a widespread coronavirus outbreak. Blood, platelet and plasma donors are urged to give now to help avoid delays in lifesaving medical care for patients.

All who come to give Dec. 18-Jan. 4 will receive a Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last. Join us at one of several holiday blood drives happening in northern Ohio and give the gift of life this holiday season

May 29, 2020. Rockville, Maryland. Whole blood donor Gloria Thornton. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

All who come to give Dec. 18-Jan. 4 will receive a Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last. Join us at one of several holiday blood drives happening in northern Ohio and give the gift of life this holiday season:

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020

Holiday Bazaar Blood Drive

Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center

1360 W. Mall Dr., Cleveland, 44114

8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 18, 2020

Holiday Blood Drive

Market Square at Crocker Park

239 Market St., Westlake, 44145

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Monday & Tuesday, Dec. 21 & 22, 2020

Holiday Blood Drive

Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls

1989 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 44221

Monday: 1 p.m.-7 p.m.

Tuesday: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

WNWO Holiday Blood Drive

Hilton Garden Inn Perrysburg

6165 Levis Commons, Perrysburg, 43551

7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

Mahoning Valley Holiday Blood Drives

Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 5th Ave., Youngstown

Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave., Warren

9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2020

Give From the Heart Blood Drive

Cleveland Marriott East

26300 Harvard Road, Warrensville Heights, 44122

7 a.m.-7 p.m.

The Red Cross is testing 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. Donors are required to wear a face covering or mask while at blood drives, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance. We are grateful to our philanthropic partners, including The Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, for supporting our COVID-19 antibody testing program.

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 to make an appointment and for more information about any of the drives listed here.

Candles can cause colossal catastrophes: Tips to ensure a safe holiday glow

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

December 7, 2020- “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This phrase has been attributed to many people, from Confucius to Eleanor Roosevelt; but neither of them ever manned a Northern Ohio Disaster Action Team and saw the consequences of a candle left burning unattended.

Pulling up to what used to be a beautiful home in Chardon and seeing a giant hole gaping through the roof, was testament to the destructive power of lighting one little candle. In addition, one person was temporarily hospitalized and the family’s pet was lost to the fire. Not the way they anticipated starting the holiday season.

The holiday glow is something everyone loves. Here are nine tips to safely enjoy the holidays:

  1. If you want candles, make them the battery-operated kind.
  2. If you use outdoor lights, make sure the cords aren’t frayed or broken.
  3. When using decorations outside, make sure the cords are rated for outdoor use.
  4. If you get an artificial tree, make sure it has a fire-resistant label attached.
  5. If you get a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. If needles fall off, select another.
  6. If the stockings are hung above the fireplace, don’t light it. Find somewhere else to hang them.
  7. Check for safety labels on other decorations –- some are lead based and some artificial snow is toxic to breathe.
  8. If you climb a ladder to decorate, make sure it’s placed on secure ground and don’t climb higher than recommended.
  9. Check your home’s smoke alarms one more time before the holidays. Replace batteries if needed or replace the alarm if it’s more than 10 years old.

Okay, now you’re less likely to have a problem. How about sharing these tips with your parents or elder relatives? They are more likely to have old ornaments and lights that should have been replaced years ago. They’ll be grateful that you took an interest in their safety.

For even more safety preparation ideas, download and check out the free Red Cross Emergency app, for either iOS or Android, available from app stores. Then, light that one little battery-operated candle and have a happy holiday season!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Festival of Trees spreads holiday cheer and the Red Cross mission

Annual event goes virtual

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 4, 2020- Some of our holiday traditions will look a little different this year due to COVID-19, and the desire to keep everyone safe. It was no different for the annual American Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Festival of Trees.

While still featuring the decorated holiday trees, beautiful wreaths and other auction items, this premier Northern Ohio holiday event went virtual in 2020.

The event helps neighbors who experience a disaster like a home fire. The money raised by this event helps the Red Cross in our community provide financial assistance that will give these families a warm, safe place to sleep, food, and any other immediate assistance needed.

The 2020 Festival of Trees honorary chair was Sean Ulik. Sean, a native of Canton, has spent the last seven years in service on the Red Cross board and has chaired the event for the last two years

Beginning at noon on Thanksgiving Day, bidders were able to help finish their holiday list through an online auction.

The Festival of Trees ended on December 1, which was also Giving Tuesday, with a virtual Facebook Live event, which even had a special guest appearance by Cousin Eddie from the holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!

This year, the event auction raised nearly $15,000, along with an additional $2,000 in generous donations.

On Giving Tuesday, the Red Cross across the country raised $2.1 million, which is an increase of 46% from last year.

In addition to the auction, every year there is great anticipation as to which of our generous designers, who donated the trees and wreaths, will be named award winners.

This year’s winners are:

  • Best Use of Theme Designer- Tree Root Santa
  • Most Christmassy Designer- Tree Root Santa
  • Most Whimsical Designer- Magical Disney Tree
  • Best Wreath Designer- Dashing Through the Snow
  • People’s Choice Designer- Champagne Wishes
  • Honorary Chair Choice Designer- O-H-I-Ho ho ho

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2020 Festival of Trees a success. If your bid did not win or you are looking for another way to help the Red Cross, you can show your support by volunteering, donating blood and platelets and making a donation.

In case you missed the virtual wrap-up event, or just want to enjoy the fun again, you can watch it below:

December’s Be Red Cross Ready presentations focus on winter, holiday, pet, and COVID-19 safety

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer.

December 1, 2020- As I write this, our first winter storm of the season taps at the window as the wind begins to wail. Appropriately, this post concerns this month’s Be Red Cross Ready presentations. These free, one-hour, online presentations are available to everyone. They offer tips and advice on how to prevent and respond to disasters.

The American Red Cross helps everyone prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters year-round. Additionally, winter and the holiday season pose unique challenges, and we continue to face a global pandemic. The expertise offered in these presentations is designed to help.

The first presentation of the month, General Preparedness & Home Fire Safety, is offered today at 3:00 p.m. The General Preparedness portion helps families prepare for emergencies of all kinds, while the Fire Safety portion focuses on how home fires happen and steps to help avoid them. 

Many of us across Northern Ohio will face the first significant snowfall of the season this week. It is quite timely, then, that the 2nd is the date of the General Preparedness & Winter Safety session. General Preparedness will focus on preparing for all types of emergencies, while Winter Safety helps us deal with winter storms and avoid being victims. This would be an excellent, timely session to join as the snow flies. A similar session, General Preparedness & Winter Storm Safety will take place on the 10th.

To help ensure pets are safe this winter, the Red Cross offers three Winter Pet Safety presentations in December. These sessions remind dog and cat owners of potential hazards and suggest precautions that will help keep pets safe. The presentation also provides emergency care tips to take until veterinary assistance is available. Signs of a healthy pet is also discussed, so owners are better prepared to recognize health problems early.

Home Safety is critically important throughout the year, and the Holiday Season presents additional risks and concerns. To better help participants and their families stay safe, four presentations on Holiday Home Safety are offered this month. These sessions focus on avoiding mishaps during the season and offer advice on general preparedness.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

While December is a time of gatherings and celebrations, the COVID-19 pandemic is surging, and we must all focus on reducing its spread. Three Holiday Gatherings & COVID presentations are offered this month. These sessions focus on how the coronavirus is still very much around us and what actions can be taken during holiday gatherings to keep our families safe.

To join any of these presentations, please register by clicking the date and time of the topic in which you are interested. The password is Prepare20. All times are Eastern Standard.

Additional safety tips and resources are available at redcross.org and the free Red Cross mobile apps.