Giving back this Good Neighbor Day

By Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

National Good Neighbor Day is September 28, a day that celebrates our neighbors and encourages us to get to know our community better. Neighbors look out for one another and help each other out.

Good Neighbor Day was created in the 1970s in Lakeside, Montana, and President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed the day, saying: “Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family.”

Neighbors extend past the individuals who share a common wall or property line. At the American Red Cross, our communities are our neighbors. Whether they are next door or beyond, the Red Cross works to help and support individuals who are in need—after a disaster, when a blood donation is needed or preparing before the next disaster strikes.

This Good Neighbor Day, there are many ways you can give back to your Northern Ohio neighbors through the Red Cross.

  • Donate. There are different ways you can make a financial contribution to support the work of the Red Cross, both in your local community and around the world.
  • Give Blood. Donating blood is a simple thing you can do to help save lives. Blood donations help people going through cancer treatment, having surgery, who have chronic illnesses and those who experience traumatic injuries. The Red Cross holds blood drives across Northern Ohio every week. You can find and sign up for an upcoming blood drive here.
  • Volunteer. 90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available right here in our area. You can learn more and apply to be a volunteer in Northern Ohio here.
  • Learn a Lifesaving Skill. The Red Cross has been teaching emergency and safety training for more than a century. You can learn first aid, be trained in administering CPR or using an AED, to be prepared for when a need for these skills arises. You can review and sign up for a class here.

There are endless possibilities of ways you can be a good neighbor and help give back to the community. You never know how one small act of kindness can impact a neighbor near you.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Multiple weekend home fires keep Red Cross volunteers busy

Need for volunteers continues amidst busy disaster season

Disaster action team members from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Home fires continue to be the main disaster affecting people in our area. In Northern Ohio, the Red Cross responds to an average of 3 home fires every day. And, tragically, recent home fires in the area have resulted in fatalities. 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. Learn more and download resources now to help your family prepare.

The Red Cross also has a need for volunteers to assist families who have been affected by local disasters, often a home fire. From offering a caring and compassionate ear, to meeting the disaster-caused needs of individuals and households, such as lodging and clothing, and connecting them with long term recovery services, our volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face tough times alone. During the pandemic, for the safety of you and those impacted by disaster, you will mostly respond virtually to provide compassionate and immediate care and assistance to those impacted. On occasion, a larger response may require some on-scene presence and coordination with your Disaster Action Team. To sign up, visit RedCross.org/volunteer.

The Red Cross is responding to local disasters and continues to assist those affected by natural disasters across the country, including the western wildfires and Hurricane Ida. The Northern Ohio Region currently has 13 individuals from our area deployed across the country. We expect to see the need for volunteers to deploy to continue in the coming months, as hurricane season continues.

The Red Cross could not continue to fulfill its humanitarian mission without the generous support of the American public. If you are not able to volunteer at this time, consider making a financial donation to help us provide the necessary resources for those facing disaster. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift. The Red Cross also has an ongoing need for blood and platelet donors. To schedule an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

Recognizing International Day of Charity

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Nine years ago, the United Nations designated Sept. 5 as International Day of Charity to highlight the role of volunteerism and philanthropy in alleviating humanitarian crises and human suffering.

The day was chosen to honor the work of renowned missionary Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who became a role model of selfless action on behalf of the poor, sick and homeless.

Does this mission statement sound familiar: “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

Clearly, the Day of Charity and the Red Cross fit together like hand and glove.

Every day, trained Red Cross volunteers step forward to offer care and compassion to those in distress: people bereft by home fires, or displaced by western wildfires, Tennessee flash flooding or Hurricane Henri and Ida’s savage winds and rain. We’ve provided nearly 20,000 overnight stays in COVID-safe accommodations for those impacted by high-profile disasters just this summer.

At the same time, volunteers turn to the Red Cross to donate 40% of the nation’s blood supply for folks undergoing surgery, critical emergency care or life sustaining treatments.

September 1, 2021. Ramstein Air Base, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. The American Red Cross is welcoming evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, at the request of the Department of Defense. Red Cross team members are offering hygiene supplies, baby items, and other necessities. Photo by Emily Osment / American Red Cross

Of course the Red Cross is continuing its tradition of care for America’s veterans and their families, many of them stressed by recent events in Afghanistan. And at the request of the U.S Department of Defense, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are helping meet basic human needs of American and Afghan evacuees as they arrive at U.S. military bases for repatriation or screening. (For more information, check out “Afghanistan: How the Red Cross and Red Crescent Are Helping” at redcross.org.)

None of this would be possible without financial support from the American public – individuals, foundations, and businesses and corporations large and small.

People like me. I’m certainly no “deep pockets” donor, but I give what I can to causes I believe in – the Red Cross high among them – because I think they build a better world for the present and for my grandchildren. I think of it as “doing my bit;” hardly Mother Teresa-level sacrifice, but doing what I can to ease burdens.

Michelle Polinko, chief development officer for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross, deals with donors that out-give me many times over.

“We have corporate partners here in northern Ohio that understand the need to be ready at a moment’s notice,” Michelle said.  “When a disaster strikes, we need to deploy resources like trained responders, emergency vehicles, comfort kits, food and water immediately.

“Thanks to our Annual Disaster Giving Program partners, like the J.M. Smucker Company, who provide annual donations allowing us to pre-invest in supplies and readiness, we can take action right away.”

The Smucker company is one of dozens that add their big support to the smaller donations that you and I can give to drive the humanitarian engine.

By the way, Sept. 5 is also Cheese Pizza Day (who knew?) and Be Late for Something Day. So it’s not too late to donate financially at redcross.org/donate. Or volunteer (We really need trained disaster volunteers right now!) at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Or find the date, time and location of your nearest Red Cross blood drive (You know someone out there is relying on you for blood, right?!) by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or accessing RedCrossBlood.org.  Or text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search “Red Cross Blood” on the App Store or Google Play to get the free Blood Donor App.

Three R’s plus a dose of Three C’s

Cover up, Caution around traffic, Car seats

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

As of this writing, Cleveland, Akron, and Massillon have declared that all returning students will be required to wear masks until further notice. With the Delta variant as dangerous as it is, that’s the only way to protect those too young to be vaccinated.

But that’s not all

The virus isn’t the only thing parents and caretakers need to be aware of. Accordingly, the American Red Cross has issued a list of ten tips to help make this school year a safe one.

  1. If your student rides a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. 
  2. Students should board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed them to get on. They should only board their bus, never an alternate one.
  3. All students should stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus. 
  4. Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  5. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  6. If children go to school in a car, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  7. If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and avoid eating or drinking while driving.
  8. Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right, in the same direction as the traffic is going. 
  9. When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. 
  10. Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for students to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

“Parents and kids are both eager to get back to normal and return to the classroom as a new school year starts,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “But don’t forget to make safety a top priority.”

While most people realize that the Red Cross responds to disasters, we try equally hard to promote safety at home, at work, and at school; so your donations are always welcome.

World Health Day 2021 focuses on health equity, which Red Cross works to address

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Today, April 7, is World Health Day, a day in which the World Health Organization (WHO) raises awareness of an important issue. This year’s theme is one the American Red Cross strives daily to address: health equity and “building a fairer, healthier world.”

This is an important issue for the Red Cross as humanity, impartiality and universality are among our fundamental principles. Each day in the Northern Ohio region, as everywhere, Red Cross volunteers and staff work to assist anyone in need of our lifesaving and emergency relief services. This commitment is conveyed in several personal perspectives on this webpage, including recent articles from Chris Chmura and Doug Bardwell.

As the WHO points out, the COVID-19 pandemic has more clearly shown how some have better access to health care and have healthier lives than others. In addition, the CDC states, “There is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 demographics also indicate a disparity.

While many of us may feel limited in addressing the causes of health inequality, there are several ways we can have an impact. Assisting the Red Cross in its mission is among them, whether through volunteering, donating blood or providing financial support.

Volunteering with the Red Cross has helped me see the health inequality in our region, and I am honored to have taken part in helping those in need. If you are interested in volunteering, there are a variety of opportunities available in Northern Ohio, including in Disaster Response, Blood Services and Services to the Armed Forces.

Blood donations are critical. As this article states, the blood supply needs to be as diverse as our region. A diverse blood supply is necessary for treating diseases like sickle cell, which mostly affects those of African and Latino descent. As I reported last September, blood donations from African Americans are vital in treating sickle cell disease, as blood must be closely matched to reduce the risk of complications.

The Red Cross would not be able to provide so much assistance without the generous support of its donors. If you can provide financial support, any amount helps. 

Hopefully, we are approaching the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we cannot forget its difficult lessons. We must also continue to face other illnesses, health concerns and disasters. We need to work toward a better future with greater health equity. The Red Cross—with the support of its donors, volunteers and staff—will continue to honor its fundamental principles to assist all in need.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

The ‘hows’ of financial contributions: Your questions answered

Giving Day is Wednesday, March 24

By: Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

Donating when you are able to can be a wonderful way to give back to your community and help those who are in need. There are many ways you can support and give to the American Red Cross, including providing a financial gift.

You may be asking yourself: How is my donation used? How much of it is used? How can I donate? All of these are great questions, and ones you should ask before donating to any cause, charity or organization. For those who have questions about the Red Cross, we are providing the answers to some of these common questions about financial contributions.

How much of my donation goes to the Red Cross?

An average of 90 cents of every dollar we receive is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need.

How is my donation used by the Red Cross?

With the generous support of our donors, we help millions of people each year. Financial donations help to support our programs like disaster relief, blood drives, our Home Fire Campaign, training classes, services to the armed forces and more. Learn more about the work we do here in Northern Ohio.

How can I donate?

If you are looking to give a financial donation to the Red Cross, there are many ways you can donate:

  • Make a donation online
  • Send a donation by mail
  • Donate over the phone
  • Text to donate $10
  • Alexa Donations with Amazon Pay
  • Donate stock, your car, hotel points or airline miles
  • Give in tribute to someone
  • Give monthly

If you want your donation to go even further, ask your employer if they would sponsor a matching program for employees. In a matching program, your donation is matched by the organization or individual that is sponsoring the program.

There are many ways you can give back and support the Red Cross’ mission. We encourage you to learn more about our mission and our work, and if you are able to do so, consider donating this coming Giving Day on March 24—or any day. For details on how to donate or to make a secure donation online, click here.

We thank you for your support!

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

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.

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.

Volunteer finds role that allows her to give back to her community during pandemic

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

October 15, 2020- In the last four months, the Northern Ohio region of the American Red Cross has welcomed Lucy Anne Christopher, a Cleveland native, to our team as a Blood Donor Ambassador. Lucy Anne is no stranger to volunteerism. Before she began serving with the Red Cross, she has humbly taken on other opportunities to give back to the community, including her role with the Ronald McDonald House where she carries out activities for patients and their families. She serves as a “red coat volunteer” at PlayHouse Square Theater and also tutors adults in reading and other subjects. 

Lucy Anne Christopher

When the coronavirus pandemic made its mark on the United States in March 2020, Lucy Anne’s involvement began to change. Her roles at PlayHouse Square and the Ronald McDonald House were both put on hold but Lucy Anne still wanted to be involved and help her community. She was no longer able to tutor her students at the local library, so she began conducting reading exercises over the phone with her students. In June, she took on the role as a Blood Donor Ambassador with the Red Cross.

As a Blood Donor Ambassador, Lucy Anne takes the temperatures of each person who comes in to donate blood, checks them in and out of the computer system, and interacts with donors, ensuring that they have a positive experience. Lucy Anne explained that it’s a very simple role, but it makes a big difference in maintaining the seamless flow of blood donors in and out of the blood drive and provides relief to those drawing blood so that they can focus on their direct tasks rather than needing to also check people in. Lucy Anne reflected that she does not feel at risk of contracting the virus in her role because there is a high level of cleanliness and safety measures in place at the Red Cross blood drives that make her feel comfortable performing her role.

Lucy Anne is a fantastic example of how we all have the capability to make a change, big or small, in the communities where we live. She said, “I volunteer because I think it’s important to give back. There are so many areas that have a need, and you can always find an avenue to serve in that is compatible with your current lifestyle.” The Red Cross collects and distributes approximately 40% of the United States’ blood supply. Our Blood Donor Ambassadors play a big part in creating a positive donation experience for our donors. There is a great need for volunteers as we navigate the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. If you are interested in becoming a Blood Donor Ambassador in your area, click here to learn more and apply

If you want to meet Lucy Anne and the other wonderful Blood Donor Ambassadors in Northern Ohio, while providing lifesaving blood to those in need, you can schedule your blood donation today. The need for blood never stops, even during this COVID-19 pandemic. Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to ensure the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

Healthy individuals who are feeling well are asked to make an appointment to donate in the weeks and months ahead by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer