How to help during hurricane season

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

June 1, 2020- The Atlantic hurricane season 2020 starts June 1 and continues through November 30. According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this year has a 60% chance of being worse than normal.

Predictions include 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could develop into hurricanes, and three to six of those could develop into major hurricanes, Category 3 to Category 5.

We’ve already seen the first two tropical storms: Arthur, which began on May 16, touching the coast of North Carolina, and Bertha, which gained tropical storm status for a few hours on May 27, making landfall in South Carolina.

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So how can you help?

While Northern Ohio is far from most hurricanes, our volunteers often are called on to provide assistance to areas impacted by violent winds and high floodwaters. And due to new precautions being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, volunteers are needed more than ever to help with responses to large hurricanes and wildfires.

“This year hurricane preparations will be the same—yet different,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer. “This is due in large measure to working within the COVID-19 environment.”

He said COVID-19 makes everything more complex. “While our preference is to utilize non-congregate sheltering, such as hotel rooms and dormitories, large events such as hurricanes will require us to open congregate shelters. The COVID environment will require us to increase spacing in shelters in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. This means we may need to open more shelters, but with fewer people in them to provide an adequate response.”

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Tim said such a response will require a larger volunteer disaster workforce.  And that more volunteer health workers will be needed, as residents seeking shelter will be required to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

“However, we are trying to reduce the number of workers needed on the ground, and are hoping much of the management and recovery teams can be virtual,” he said. “We have had success with this model in responding to recent tornadoes and flooding in the southern U.S, but hurricanes and wildfires will be the real test.”

Virtual volunteers don’t have to leave their homes. They can perform valuable services doing family reunification work or casework.

All it takes is some free training that the Red Cross will gladly provide. If you start now, you could be trained and ready to help before the next big storm hits. Start your volunteer experience here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 22-25, 2020

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

May 26, 2020- While many across Northern Ohio were remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country and took time to get out of their homes to enjoy the summer-like temperatures, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was responding to local disasters to assist residents in need.

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During Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25, Disaster Action Team members were assisting residents experiencing one of the worst days of their lives. To comply with social distancing guidelines, the Red Cross responded virtually to assist 65 individuals in 9 counties, Ashland, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lucas, Stark, Summit and Trumbull, and provided more than $10,200 in immediate financial assistance.

“It is so gratifying to know our Disaster Action Team volunteers are ready, willing and able to respond to disasters like home fires, even on weekends and holidays,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio.  “And they have adjusted to the new protocol for responding virtually, so that they are safe and the residents they assist are kept safe.”

To date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,039 local disasters, assisted 4,553 individuals and has provided $881,325 in immediate financial assistance.

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Even during this historic, challenging time, the Red Cross continues to respond in times of crisis, thanks to the extraordinarily dedication and compassion of Red Cross volunteers.

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Wherever you are, there’s a role you can play right now with the Red Cross. Visit https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html to find an opportunity near you.

 

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 15-17, 2020

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

May 18, 2020-  With the sun shining and the temperatures allowing for shorts to be worn, many in Northern Ohio were taking advantage of the warmer weather and enjoying the outdoors to get outside of their homes. However for some, they were experiencing one of the worst days of their lives due to a local disaster, such as a home fire.

While other Northern Ohioans were basking in the sun, American Red Cross disaster responders were assisting residents in need.

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During the weekend of May 15-17, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted more than 80 individuals in 11 responses and and provided more than $9,300 in immediate financial assistance.

All of the weekend disaster responses were done virtually to comply with social distancing measures.

This year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,021 incidents, assisted 2,917 adults and 1,551 children, as well as provided $862,520.

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One of the responses was an apartment fire at a 36-unit building in Dundee, Michigan in Monroe County on Saturday. This was the second large response for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio in as many days.

“I’m proud of our disaster team. I’m always proud of them; but I’m especially proud during these uncertain times. Kudos to our staff and volunteers for continuing impeccable service delivery every day,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director.

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The Red Cross is looking for individuals to join the Red Cross to continue to respond to disasters in local communities. We also have a wide variety of important volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find your opportunity to make a positive impact today by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

Annual BASH event goes virtual, opening online auction to wider audience

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

May 15, 2020- Each spring, the American Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes holds a military-themed live and silent auction called BASH—loosely themed after the 1970s show “M*A*S*H*.” While the event is normally held at the MAPS Air Museum on the campus of the Akron-Canton Airport, in an effort to adapt to the current global health situation, this year’s BASH auction will take place virtually. The annual event raises tens of thousands of dollars to advance the mission of the Red Cross in Northern Ohio.

This year, BASH will be held online using a mobile auctioning platform called OneCause. In light of the current pandemic, the event has been rechristened, “BASH: Mission ImPossible. Not only will BASH continue amidst the recent challenges, but it will be available to more attendees than ever before with free and unlimited admission.

All of Northern Ohio’s past donors and volunteers will receive an email in the coming weeks. But everyone is invited to participate in this year’s event and can register by following the instructions at: redcross.org/bash20.

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More than 50 amazing items will be featured this year along with the chance to win a ride in the Goodyear blimp. You will have the ability to place and track your bids from wherever you may be; as long as you have an internet connection and a device with a browser, you can participate!

“We appreciate all the support we get from our partners and donors, who make BASH such a smash every year,” said Kim Kroh, executive director of the Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. “The money raised through the auction every year helps us provide essential services to people who experience disasters like home fires.”

The auction will open on May 30 at 4 p.m. with a Facebook live kickoff at Facebook.com/NOHRedCross , hosted by Emmy award-winning journalist and current children’s book author Denise Dufala, and will continue until June 3 at 4 p.m. On opening day, those who are registered will receive a text message with a link that will allow you to start bidding. The home screen will allow you to browse different categories of items and you can search for specific items. The platform makes it easy to select the highest price you’d like to bid. Then you will receive alerts letting you know where you are in the bidding process. You’ll even receive a text message when you are no longer the highest bidder. At the end of the auction, you can view what you have won and pay directly through the site. Another way to participate, without bidding, is the ability to simply donate to the organization through the platform.

Some may have experience with similar online platforms while others may not. The important thing to remember is that we are all learning and experimenting together during this unprecedented time, but these adaptations are done with one goal in mind: “to raise money to help prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies during this pandemic.”

Mark your calendars for May 30 and invite all of your friends and family to participate in our BASH: Mission ImPossible event! We are looking forward to embracing this challenge while social distancing to continue helping those around us amidst the pandemic.

If you have any questions regarding the event, do not hesitate to contact Sarah Leonhard at sarah.leonhard@redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 

 

National Nurses Day Profile: LaVern Nerlich answers call as volunteer disaster nurse

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

May 6, 2020- Nurses play supporting roles in our lives on a regular basis. Yet we’re especially grateful for their knowledge, skill and care when life creates the need for nurses to take on more prominent roles for our healing—or even for our survival. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the day-to-day responsibilities of many health care professionals. While they have always worked hard and placed themselves at risk, the current situation has intensified their experiences on the job.

Did you know the American Red Cross has nurses on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help the victims of disasters? They are dedicated professionals who volunteer their time to help others in addition to their regular jobs.

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LaVern Nerlich consoling residents following an apartment fire in Parma Heights in 2019

LaVern Nerlich, a nurse/volunteer for the Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Region, learned about the Red Cross as new nurse around 25 years ago. She became a disaster nurse and enjoyed it.

“It’s in my blood!” she said. LaVern loves helping others, and volunteering is a way to contribute to her community.

How do on-call nurses help after a disaster? LaVern told me that people often lose their medication or critical medical equipment when evacuating for a fire or flood. And they are often too exhausted to take the steps needed to replace them. Red Cross nurses are able to make the calls, and often get quicker results, since they know who to speak to and are familiar with medical terminology. Sometimes when speaking with a client, nurses can identify an immediate need. For example, while talking to a woman who had run back into a fire, LaVern realized the lady was having trouble breathing. LaVern directed her to go immediately to the hospital for treatment.

Nurses never know what the next phone call will bring. LaVern was called to assist after major flooding in Wayne County last summer. She also helped out after a big apartment complex fire in Parma last year. The nurses often continue with families, assisting with their medical needs resulting from the disaster. She said it’s possible to have over a hundred clients at a time.

“LaVern is an exceptional gift to Red Cross,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager of Disaster Cycle Services for Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Region. “She brings a strong nursing background, which allows her to make good decisions for our clients. Her devotion to the mission is always evident, and I am particularly grateful that while her real job involves working in a COVID-heavy environment, she did not hesitate to offer help with calling dozens of our volunteers to discuss how COVID impacts our current response. She’s a great asset!”

LaVern still loves her volunteer work for the Red Cross. Does it sound like something you’d like to do, too? Opportunities to volunteer as a disaster nurse or in other ways are listed on the Red Cross website. To learn more, visit: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters virtually

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

April 27, 2020- For everyone in Northern Ohio, and across the world, COVID-19 has changed many aspects of everyday life and forced us to adapt to this new normal. However, one aspect that COVID-19 could not change was the fact that emergencies do not take breaks.

Regardless of the pandemic, local disasters, such as home fires, are still occurring and the Red Cross’ mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies must go on. However, the Red Cross has had to find a new way to provide the Red Cross assistance that many rely on following an emergency.

Safety for Red Cross Disaster Action Team members and the residents we are assist is our number on priority. While we no longer can give a hug or a handshake due to social distancing, it does not mean the renowned comfort the Red Cross is known for has to stop.

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The Red Cross has come up with new and inventive ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who are experiencing the worst day of their lives:

  • We have screening questions that we ask our clients before we respond, to protect our volunteers and our clients.
  • We can conduct interviews over the phone, to ensure that we have a timely response in order to meet their needs and get them assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothing, disaster health services or disaster mental health services.
  • We have the capability to conduct video interviews, so the client sees the smile, and the helping demeanor of our volunteers.
  • We have developed ways to deliver cards loaded with financial assistance to a location of the client’s choosing, always with the safety and health of our volunteer and clients at the forefront.
  • We also have volunteer caseworkers who will work with our clients on the phone to connect them with community partners.

Over the weekend, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio virtually assisted 13 adults, 6 children and provided more than $3,500 in immediate financial assistance.

The Northern Ohio Region will be hosting two virtual volunteer information sessions this week. The two sessions, tomorrow, April 28 5:30-6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 29 12-1 p.m., will provide you an opportunity to learn how you can make a difference by providing disaster response assistance, assisting at blood drives which keep our nation’s blood supply stable and providing support to our military, veterans and their families

The information sessions will take place online.

For more information and to RSVP, contact Melanie Collins at (330) 204-6615 or melanie.collins4@redcross.org.

 

Red Cross Northern Ohio Region thanks Progressive and Marathon Petroleum for generous, lifesaving support

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

April 15, 2020- The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting one of humanity’s greatest challenges, one which the American Red Cross is working diligently to meet. Two Northern Ohio-based companies and their foundations, The Progressive Corporation/The Progressive Insurance Foundation and Marathon Petroleum Corporation/Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc., are providing generous support to the Red Cross at this critical time.

Both Progressive and Marathon are including the Red Cross in wide-ranging initiatives to help address vital needs. In addition, Marathon is joining the Red Cross’ Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). It is the second Northern Ohio-based organization to do so, alongside the J.M. Smucker Company.

Progressive contributes as part of its Apron Relief Program

Progressive has provided $2.5 million to the Red Cross as part of a wide-reaching $1 billion package—dubbed the “Apron Relief Program”—to assist its customers, employees, agents and communities. The gift to the Red Cross is part of The Progressive Insurance Foundation’s $8 million donation to charities focused on hunger, health and homelessness.

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In addition to this extraordinary donation, Progressive has partnered with the Red Cross for many years. Progressive’s assistance has included matching its employees’ donations, promoting the Red Cross during times of disaster and recovery, and the regular sponsorship and hosting of blood drives. In fact, Progressive has collected 6,283 pints of blood since it began hosting drives.

Regarding the gift, Michelle Polinko, chief development officer of the Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Region, said, “The Progressive Foundation and the employees of Progressive have been amazing supporters of the Red Cross mission. They have generously donated funds to help us prepare for and respond to disasters, and have provided much-needed blood to help save lives every day. A sincere thanks to Progressive for caring about those in need!”

Information on the full “Apron Relief Program” is available in Progressive’s press release, linked here.

Marathon joins the Red Cross’ Annual Disaster Giving Program and donates N95 masks to healthcare facilities

As part of its COVID-19 pandemic response, The Marathon Petroleum Corporation has donated $1 million to the Red Cross through the Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc. Marathon is also donating 575,000 N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities.

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With this exceptional gift, Marathon joins Smucker’s as the second Northern Ohio-based company to join the Red Cross’ Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). Through the ADGP and Disaster Responder Program, companies, foundations and organizations pledge financial and in-kind support in advance of major disasters. This support allows the Red Cross to prepare for and quickly respond to disasters, wherever and whenever they occur.

As reported in Marathon’s press release, Trevor Riggen, senior vice president of Disaster Services at the American Red Cross, said, “Thanks to partners like the Marathon Petroleum Foundation, the Red Cross can continue to provide food, shelter and care to people impacted by disasters nationwide. We are extremely grateful for their support during this public health crisis.”

More information on Marathon’s assistance is available in its press release, linked here. More information on the ADGP is available here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly increased the need for medical supplies, blood and support. Meanwhile, other disasters continue to occur. In Northern Ohio, as everywhere, the Red Cross is deeply committed to helping all of us through these critical times. Thanks to organizations like Progressive and Marathon, we are able to do so.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer