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.

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.

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

Women of Tiffany Circle support Red Cross through leadership and philanthropy

New member launches donation match challenge

By Jason Copsey, American Red Cross volunteer

October 1, 2020- The generosity and talent of American Red Cross volunteers and donors bring the Red Cross mission to life in communities across the country every single day. This group is full of diverse and dedicated individuals constantly developing new, creative ways to help the Red Cross deliver critical services to those in need. One group, Tiffany Circle, provides a unique way for women to make a difference supporting the organization’s humanitarian mission.

Tiffany Circle is a community of women leaders who advance the Red Cross mission through focused investments of time, talent and treasure.Over 1,000 women belong to Tiffany Circle across the country. Membership enables women to support the Red Cross while building relationships with like-minded individuals committed to volunteerism, leadership and philanthropy.

Tiffany Circle members donate a minimum of $10,000 annually to support the Red Cross’ mission.

One of Northern Ohio’s newest Tiffany Circle members is Dr. Lydia Parker, owner of Parker Skin & Aesthetic Clinic. Dr. Parker joined Tiffany Circle in 2019.

“Tiffany Circle appealed to me as a group of women showing leadership and helping raise awareness of the Red Cross and all of the important work it does,” said Parker.

Dr. Parker was introduced to the Red Cross and Tiffany Circle by Donna Rae Smith, Tiffany Circle member and founder and CEO of Bright Side, Inc.

“I was surprised to learn the extent of what the Red Cross does,” said Parker. “The Red Cross is there when floods and wildfires create devastation, and here locally providing assistance after home fires and storms. This all requires strong philanthropic support. Many people believe Red Cross services are government funded, and miss how critical the philanthropy is.”

With this year’s contribution, Dr. Parker’s clinic is supporting a donation challenge, matching gifts raised up to $10,000. The clinic is directing participants to make donations on its online giving page at https://rdcrss.org/theparkerclinic.

“With the California wildfires turning families’ lives upside down, we all wish we could help in some way,” said Parker. “The match is one way we can all help and make even smaller donations more powerful.”

To learn more about Tiffany Circle and ways to give, visit Redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteer heals from personal loss by helping others in need

By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

September 16, 2020- Debbie Levison is filling monumental holes in her life – the loss of her husband to COVID-19, the end of her career – the best way she knows: Caring for others.

“I know I don’t really know what I’m getting into, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said, the day before flying to Oregon to help the American Red Cross provide shelter for tens of thousands fleeing historic wildfires.

Debbie Levison

Debbie readily admits 2020 has been a tough year for her. While her husband of 36 years struggled alone in a hospital against the virus that would take his life, she battled the same disease for a month at home, alone. When she recovered, she couldn’t bring herself to go back to her pharmacy job in the hospital where Bruce died, so she retired.

After a month of cleaning out closets, with family and friends sheltering in place elsewhere, “I realized I needed to do something; the walls were closing in on me.”

So Debbie turned to an organization she had long admired. “I always believed in the Red Cross. I believe in their mission.”

She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do; she started with a variety of online classes and – given her background in the medical field – chose blood services. She checks prospective donors’ temperatures, helps them check in, sanitizes surfaces and generally watches to be sure donors are feeling well after giving blood.

Debbie Levison (center) during her deployment to assist with the Oregon wildfires relief effort

In fact, having recovered from COVID herself, she has twice donated her blood with “convalescent plasma,” which may give a boost to those fighting the virus.

Next, she took training to join a Red Cross disaster action team, to help those displaced by home fires and other local disasters. On her very first call, she was struck by how much that Red Cross aid was a comfort to someone who had lost their home.

As natural disasters piled up across the United States – Hurricane Laura, the Midwest derecho, wildfires across the west – Debbie felt the pull, and the ability, to deploy in person. Once again, she turned to online training, specifically to help with sheltering evacuees in the COVID environment.

Headed for the west, she admitted to being in awe of the challenge. “The governor of Oregon said there might be as many as 60,000 people who would need shelter. That’s a lot of people,” to find housing for.

But she’s undaunted. “It has really given me a purpose,” she said. “It’s a very worthy mission.”

More than 5,000 Red Crossers are currently working to provide food, shelter, comfort and support to people dealing with major disasters across the country. And more will be needed to help those impacted by Hurricane Sally and whatever natural or manmade disasters follow.

You can help.

  • To make this humanitarian work possible, make a donation by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED-CROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • If you are able to give time, review our most urgently needed volunteer positions at redcross.org/volunteertoday. Training is free and protocols are in place to keep both our responders and our clients safe.

Help sustain the nation’s blood supply by going to redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive near you. The Red Cross can move lifesaving blood around the country safely to wherever and whenever it’s needed most, even in the pandemic environment. Blood donations are now being tested for COVID antibodies, so donors can learn if they’ve had the infection.

If you are in good health and you are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training and can deploy, you are invited to attend one of the upcoming virtual volunteer information session on Friday, September 18 or Saturday, September 19. Both sessions will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. For more information and to register, email Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or call 330-204-6615.

Editor’s note: Debbie Levison is currently deployed to the Oregon wildfire disaster relief operation, her first national assignment. She worked 12 hours shifts on Monday and Tuesday this week, helping displaced residents in need of shelter settle into hotel rooms.

Northern Ohio disaster workers continue to deploy to several relief efforts

9 working virtually; 18 have physically deployed

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

September 14, 2020- With Hurricane Sally approaching the Gulf Coast and expected to make landfall on Tuesday, the American Red Cross continues to respond to the California and Oregon wildfires, as well as the Hurricane Laura relief efforts in Louisiana and Texas.

Currently from Northern Ohio, one disaster worker has deployed to California, while nine have deployed to help with the Oregon wildfires.

In addition, 17 workers are continuing to assist people affected by Hurricane Laura, including three responding in Texas and 14 in Louisiana.

Northern Ohio Region leadership members Mike Parks, CEO and Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, are among the disaster workers assigned to assist with the disaster responses. Mike has deployed to the Hurricane Laura response, while Tim was assigned to respond to the wildfire in Oregon. Both are working virtually currently.

To date, as part of the Hurricane Laura and the west coast wildfires disaster relief efforts, the Red Cross has provided emergency lodging to more than 29,600 residents, and with the help of partners, the Red Cross has also served more than 769,000 meals and snacks and distributed more than 174,000 relief items.

September 13, 2020. Central Point, Oregon. Patty Albin of the American Red Cross checks on Travis Wagner as he rests at the Jackson County Expo and Fairgrounds shelter after fleeing the wildfires in Central Point, OR on Sunday, September 13, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

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.

If you are in good health and you are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training and can deploy, you are invited to attend one of the upcoming virtual volunteer information session on Friday, September 18 or Saturday, September 19. Both sessions will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. For more information and to register, email Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or call 330-204-6615.

August 31, 2020. Sulphur, Louisiana Pamela Harris of the American Red Cross looks out on damage caused by Hurricane Laura, in Sulphur, LA on Monday, August 31, 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

The Red Cross remembers September 11

By Renee Palagyi, senior program manager, Disaster Cycle Services

Note from the Regional CEO: As we begin this day, 9/11—Patriots Day, I can’t help but remember the 3000+ people who perished on that fateful day 19 years ago.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the countless first responders and others, including Red Crossers, who sacrificed to render aid to those in need.  I’m sure we all remember where we were when we heard the news of the attacks on our nation.  As I think back to the people I called immediately, my wife & my mom, I encourage all of us to take a moment today to call those same people, if they’re still with us, and just tell them how much they mean to us.  Thanks for all you do!!  Please stay safe and well–enjoy your weekends.  Best regards…Mike

September 11, 2020- Today marks the 19th anniversary of one of the most infamous tragedies in American history: September 11, 2001.

Following the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, along with Flight 93, the American Red Cross did what the Red Cross does when individuals are in need: support first responders, provide the world class Red Cross comfort and help individuals get back on their feet.

Immediately, the Red Cross:

  • Activated 6,000 Red Cross volunteers
  • Opened 13 Red Cross shelters
  • Sent disaster mental health workers to shelters, crash sites, airports and hospitals
  • Set up a mental health hotline
  • Opened respite centers for firefighters, police officers, port authority workers and others
  • Received 1 million calls on the blood donation line (the previous record in one day was 3,000 calls)
  • Every chapter in the nation supported stranded passengers at airports as air space was shut down
  • Launched the Family Registration Web, a predecessor to today’s redcross.org/safeandwell
  • Sent teams of Red Cross workers door-to-door in the Restricted Zone for families who had chosen to stay
  • After one year, the Red Cross had served 14 million meals for disaster workers and victims, mental health services for more than 237,000 people, and health services for 131,000 people.

To learn more about the Red Cross’ response following September 11, please read the following previous blog articles of reflection and rememberance:

Red Cross responds to disasters locally and across the country

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

August 31, 2020- Disasters do not stop. Regardless of weather, time of year or even a pandemic, disasters do not pause and consider what else is occurring before affecting lives.

While disasters do not stop, neither does the American Red Cross in responding to disasters and assisting residents affected.

As if a pandemic wasn’t a large enough concern, the 2020 disaster season has been very active, with the Red Cross currently responding to the California wildfires and to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Laura.

In the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts in California, Louisiana and Texas, the Red Cross has deployed more than 1,900 trained disasters workers, including 24 from the Northern Ohio Region, to help the more than 25,800 affected residents by providing emergency lodging and along with partner organizations, have provided more than 47,000 meals and snacks.

Homes destroyed by Hurricane Laura in Cameron Parish, LA, one of the hardest hit areas, on Sunday, August 30, 2020.

In Texas and Louisiana, the Red Cross is working with the World Central Kitchen, an organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, the Salvation Army and the Southern Baptist Convention to set up kitchens, which are able to serve tens of thousands of meals each day.

Along with deploying across the country, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio remains active back home assisting residents following local disasters, such as home fires.

Over the weekend, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted 38 adults, 12 children and provided more than $10,500 in financial assistance for lodging and other necessities following disasters in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Harrison, Lucas, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties.

To date during Fiscal Year 2021, which began on July 1, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 463 adults, 302 children and has provided $162,995 in immediate financial assistance.

Carol Miller of the American Red Cross speaks with David Suarez after giving him a case of water, in an area that was badly damaged by Hurricane Laura in Westlake, LA

COVID-19 has not changed the Red Cross mission, and we are still providing the same types of support as we always have.

To help keep people safe, we are following guidance from CDC and public health authorities — and have put in place additional precautions. Some of these plans include social distancing protocols, face coverings, health screenings, and opening additional shelters that can support fewer people than normal so that we can ensure social distancing protocols.

Ensuring people have a safe place to stay during a disaster is a critical part of the Red Cross mission, but how we support sheltering efforts may be different in each community, depending on local emergency operations plans.

The Red Cross is in need of healthy individuals who want to assist their local communities and respond to disasters. For more information and to see high-demand volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Unable to deploy? You can still make a difference in the lives of people impacted by disasters. Visit redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS to make a donation.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. This includes providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support and other assistance.