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.

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, 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

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. 

Thanksgiving weekend disasters drive dozens from their homes

Red Cross workers kept busy during the holiday weekend

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

November 30, 2020- In between second helpings and Thanksgiving leftovers, disaster workers from the Northern Ohio Region were active this holiday weekend assisting residents following several local disasters.

During the long holiday weekend, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio provided comfort and support, both virtually and socially distant, to 70 individuals who experienced a home fire, and provided more than $14,000 in financial assistance to aid those affected with immediate needs, such as food, lodging and clothing.

In addition to the weekend disasters, the Red Cross continued to assist 80 residents, and provided shelter at two hotels for more than 60 of the residents, following an apartment fire last Monday at the Oblate Residences apartment complex in west Toledo

Red Cross disaster workers helping to provide meals to residents affected by the Oblate Residences fire

The residents were unable to be home for Thanksgiving due to the fire damaging the apartment building’s electrical system, and it could be several days before repairs are completed.

Partners like Mobile Meals of Toledo helped the Red Cross provide meals to the displaced residents.

Hotel rooms are being used, instead of more traditional congregate shelter space, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  In addition, Red Cross workers are wearing face coverings and sanitizing their hands frequently, as well as adhering to social distancing guidelines.

For the fiscal year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 1,157 adults, 643 children and has provided more than $369,000 in immediate financial assistance.

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.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals following a disaster, please visit redcross.org/donate to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Disaster volunteers thankful to be able to answer the call for help with support of friends, family

By Mark Cline, American Red Cross disaster volunteer, Disaster Action Team Leader, Regional DAT Team Leader, DAT Duty Officer,  and National Shelter System Regional Lead 

November 25, 2020- This being the season of Thanksgiving, I would like to express my thanks not only to the volunteers I work with in the American Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services but to their families and friends, too. Volunteers do what we do because we’re driven to help people in need affected by disasters. But what I think many people don’t understand is that our volunteers couldn’t do the work they do without the support of their families and friends.

Mark Cline

There have been many times volunteers are called upon at family functions like birthday parties, anniversaries, holiday celebrations and even that long-needed quiet evening at home. My family has gotten used to me parking my car out on the street for easy access at family events. Then the phone rings and it’s a disaster call. Whether a home fire, flood, windstorm or some other disaster, the look on our volunteer’s face tells the story, they have to leave to help somebody experiencing a disaster. But they can only leave with the support of their families and friends. Knowing that when they get back, their family and friends will be waiting for them and giving them the support, our volunteers need to be able to respond to the next call.

I hope the families of our volunteers know that their family members who are out working a disaster scene realize that without their family’s support, the work they are doing would be so much harder. Our volunteers know that when somebody is affected by disaster, they need to respond. They don’t look outside to see if it’s warm or cold, dry or wet, daylight or nighttime, they know somebody needs the help that we can give them.  

To my family and friends, thank you for your support! Being an American Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services volunteer, I’ve seen and experienced a lot—hopefully things you’ll never have to experience. And with the help of my volunteer partners, we’ll be able to continue to help people in need during a disaster.

Mark Cline with fellow volunteer Bill Conley

If you want to help those in your community affected by a local disaster, visit redcross.org/volunteer to apply today.

I’m sending out Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

Gail Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Club Red women raise funds and awareness of Red Cross mission

Ottawa County supporters stay engaged despite the pandemic

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

October 21, 2020- The women of Ottawa County Club Red have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Red Cross to carry out its humanitarian activities.

Just as importantly, this “sisterhood with a cause” advocates for the many lines of service of the Red Cross mission.

It started with one woman. Cindy Amerine came home from a “life-changing experience” as a volunteer in a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina. She was determined to do whatever she could for the organization. She reached out to her friends to organize Club Red and inspired a whole team of Red Cross ambassadors.

Pictured are Karen Blizzard, Lynn Majce, Peggy Rolf, Cindy Amerine, Beth Leggett and Danis Putzbach

For 13 years, beginning in 2008, the 100 women or so — mostly residents of eastern Ottawa County or “friends of friends”— have staged an annual fundraiser. “Sherry and Chocolates,” which featured a tour of lovely homes on Catawba Island, became the annual membership drive and prelude to each of 11 fun-filled galas. Every one sold out as the Club Red event was the area’s hottest ticket of the summer.

In 2019, the group switched it up and organized a golf scramble and auction. This year, because of the pandemic, they had to resort to a letter-writing campaign for a “non-scramble,” which was still a success. 

“These are women who know how to network,” said Beth Leggett, former Ottawa County Red Cross director. “When we have a need, they use their circles of influence on behalf of the Red Cross.”

“We live in an area with a very active community spirit, a very active sense of giving back,” said Club Red member Carol Schemmer. “It comes out of a need to serve. It’s what we do.”

It’s not hard to get people to donate time, talents or money to their cause. “Everyone around here knows the good work of the Red Cross. And if they don’t, we tell em!,” she said with a grin in her voice.

At the same time, the women enjoy the growing fellowship. Deb Biro, the group’s current chair, admits that current COVID limits on gatherings have cut into the group’s many activities. But, “We’re trying the best we can to keep engaged and recruit,” she said.

Members have taken Red Cross disaster preparedness and response training, taught citizen CPR, collected supplies and packed “care boxes” for armed forces posts overseas, and served as a “speakers bureau” to spread the word about Red Cross activities. Deb points out that club members still help conduct blood drives.

Because many are “snow birds” or have homes elsewhere, they carry their enthusiasm with them. “These women are far-reaching,” Beth said. They “use their influence to promote Red Cross there as well.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Red Cross and its many humanitarian activities, visit redcross.org. You’re sure to find a mission to get excited about, whether it’s as a volunteer (local or national; in person or virtually), a financial supporter, a blood donor or a Club Red-style influencer. 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio disaster workers continue to support relief efforts across the country

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

October 19, 2020- For a majority of 2020, our days have been consumed with COVID-19. While our daily lives may be at a standstill due to the global pandemic, disasters do not stop.

Since the end of August, from multiple major hurricanes and tropical storms in the south to devastating wildfires in much of the west, back-to-back massive disasters have kept the American Red Cross working tirelessly for months across the country to provide food, shelter and comfort to thousands of people in need.

Over the past several weeks, the Red Cross has provided more than 1 million total overnight stays in emergency lodgings across multiple states, has served more than 2.6 million meals and snacks, and distributed 304,900 relief items with the help of partners and has also provided more 6,870 households with emergency financial assistance to help them replace essential items and begin to recover.

September 23, 2020. Pensacola, Florida. Peggy Martin of the American Red Cross walks her assigned route in West Pensacola to conduct damage assessments. Peggy just returned from an earlier assignment in Louisiana. As a testament to the dedication Red Cross volunteers put into their work, Peggy remains committed to the task at hand and is happy to be here helping out even through personal difficulty – recovering from recent dental surgery and suffering a loss in the family. Photo by Jaka Vinšek/American Red Cross

To assist with the coast-to-coast relief efforts, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has deployed 65 disaster workers since the end of August.

Currently, there are 20 disaster workers from Northern Ohio lending a helping hand. Four of those 20 workers are Callene Derrick, Tom Johnson, Mike Arthur and Todd James, who are deployed to Louisiana following Hurricane Delta. Callene is helping with staff planning and support, Tom is aiding with transportation, Mike is serving as a shelter manager and Todd is helping tell the Red Cross story as a public affairs manager.

Left to right: Callene Derrick,  Tom Johnson, Mike Arthur and Todd James

Additional volunteers are needed to train for disaster responses, specifically to respond to home fires locally and to staff shelters during national disaster responses. Licensed health care professionals are also needed to help people in disaster shelters. People in good health and who are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training and can deploy for up to two weeks can visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday, or can call 1-800-RED CROSS.

September 20, 2020. Salem, Oregon. American Red Cross volunteer Mary Jo “MJ” Henrickson hands a 3M mask to Christie Davis at a Red Cross shelter for evacuees of the Oregon wildfires, in Salem, OR. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

The number one priority of the American 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 deploy 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.

Northern Ohio disaster workers continue to respond to disasters across the country

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

October 9, 2020 — Since late August, disaster workers from the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio have been actively responding to hurricanes and tropical storms in the south and wildfires out west.

As Hurricane Delta approaches the Gulf Coast, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has deployed five disaster workers ahead of the storm to assist with the Red Cross’ relief efforts once the storm makes landfall.

September 20, 2020. Mill City, Oregon. American Red Cross volunteer Eric Carmichael explains how to use a 3-M N-95 mask to Elizabeth Ruck at a supply distribution site for residents affected by the Oregon wildfires, near Mill City, OR. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In addition, there are also 19 disaster workers responding to the relief efforts following Hurricane Laura, the Oregon wildfires, Tropical Storm Sally and the California wildfires.

To date, the Red Cross has provided more than 939,700 total overnight stays in emergency lodging across multiple states, served more than 2.3 million meals and snacks and has distributed more than 291,300 relief items with the help of partners. The Red Cross has also provided more than 5,130 households with emergency financial assistance to help them replace essential items and begin to recover.

Additional volunteers are needed to train for disaster responses, specifically to respond to home fires locally and to staff shelters during national disaster responses. Licensed health care professionals are also needed to help people in disaster shelters. People in good health and who are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training and can deploy for up to two weeks can visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday, or can call 1-800-RED CROSS.

The number one priority of the American 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. 

September 19, 2020. Gates, Oregon. American Red Cross volunteers Sean and Kristen Flanagan speak with Virginia, in front of the home where she lived that burned down in the Oregon wildfires, in Gates, OR on Saturday September 19, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

If you are unable to deploy 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