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

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Festival of Trees spreads holiday cheer and the Red Cross mission

Annual event goes virtual

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year’s winners are:

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

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

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

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

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Northern Ohio Region!

By Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

November 26, 2020- Friends and family of the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio!! 

As challenging as this year has been, and is, for all of us, I feel strongly we still have so much for which to be grateful—not the least of which is your American Red Cross—and YOU ARE the American Red Cross!!

Thank you for everything you do to support our lifesaving mission. Please take less than a minute and watch the video below because if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be priceless!! 

Cynthia, Tiffany and Halle join me in wishing you and yours a blessed and wonderfully Happy Thanksgiving!! 

Best wishes- Mike Parks

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

Festival of Trees takes on new light this year

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

November 23, 2020- Each year, the American Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes holds its Festival of Trees event to raise funds for the Red Cross. This year’s event, typically held in Wooster, is being reinvented to allow not only the Wooster community to safely participate, but the greater Northern Ohio Region to join in the fun as well.

The event’s auction will be held online, running from Thursday, Nov. 26 at noon (Thanksgiving day) through Dec.1 at 8 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to bid on over 60 different items, including a variety of decorated trees, wreaths, a Cricut® Maker, gift baskets and even a cruise!

The event will culminate in a Facebook Live event on facebook.com/NOHRedCross on Dec.1 at 7:30 p.m., just before bidding ends, to celebrate the great work the Red Cross does to help those in need. The Facebook Live event will feature Red Cross volunteers who have deployed to disaster areas and will provide viewers an opportunity to ask questions about the Red Cross and the work being done by volunteers.

“The financial gifts we receive from Festival of Trees will allow us to continue serving our community in times of need,” said Kimberly Kroh, Executive Director for the Red Cross of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. “The Red Cross is there if someone in our community experiences a devastating home fire or a life-threatening event that prompts a deployed military service member’s return. Thank you for supporting Festival of Trees!”

Funds raised from the event help the Red Cross continue to provide critical services to people in the community who are affected by a disaster such as a fire or flood.

A tree made of Ohio lottery scratch tickets is one of the many items you can bid on during the Festival of Trees auction!

If you can’t wait until Nov. 26, we’re with you! You can register for the auction today by clicking here. We look forward to virtually seeing you at this year’s event.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Safety tips to remain safe celebrating Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

November 18, 2020- So are you planning to celebrate your Thanksgiving holiday this year over a Zoom meeting?

It sounds like a crazy idea, but that is one of the low risk suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

We all must make the personal decision to cancel our in-person gatherings, greatly reduce the size of our events, and/or get creative to move forward with plans. Our Northern Ohio weather can be unpredictable to move our Thanksgiving outdoors, but it can be done.

Millions of people may still celebrate their Thanksgiving by cooking a special meal. The American Red Cross would like to offer some suggestions:

  1. Place hand sanitizer, a basket of disposable masks and disinfectant wipes by the entry door and in bathrooms for your visitors to use during your celebration.
  2. Try to limit or even avoid close personal contact like handshakes and hugs.
  3. Suggest that everyone RSVP with any food allergies, special dietary needs or cultural/lifestyle requests. 
  4. Ask your visitors to wash their hands consistently, respect each other with the recommended six-foot spacing and promote use of masks. You could lead by example to help motivate your group.
  5. Limit the amount of people in the cooking area to reduce the chance of individuals from being burned with hot appliances, reduce injury around cutting stations and help reduce the stress levels of the people preparing food. 
  6. Leverage oven mitts and items designed to carry hot plates/serving bowls vs. using dish towels, which can result in bad burns.
  7. Use prepackaged snacks, sealed drinks and individually prepare meals to avoid buffet style food serving.
  8. When using a turkey fryer, do not use frozen turkeys, which could cause hot oil to spill onto heating sources resulting in a fire. Select a safe space for your turkey fryer to control access from attendees, avoid outdoor decks that can catch fire and never cook indoors with a propane fryer. A very limited type of electric fryer can be used indoors, so you would need to consult the manufacturer’s instructions.   
  9. Limit and control alcohol consumption to safe levels. You could offer to drive your guests home, call a taxi or order an Uber when sending your invitations.
  10. Download Red Cross Apps to access useful information on first aid for people and pets to weather emergencies.
  11. Review your first aid kit, make sure your medicine is up to date, consider purchasing an Automated External Defibrillators (AED) for your home and place your supplies in a common area to be prepared. The Red Cross offers first aid kits for purchase or can help you create your own.
  12. Sharpen your CPR skills and learn more about first aid skills by taking Red Cross training.
  13.  Inform your host if you are not feeling well after attending the Thanksgiving party to keep other guests informed. 

Some families may choose to cancel their plans this year to stay safe. Donating to the Red Cross is a wonderful way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.   

Stay up to date on Red Cross disaster alerts, preparedness tips and ways to get involved. Simply provide your email address to start receiving updates. Sign up at https://www.redcross.org/subscribe.html.

Be safe, healthy and have an enjoyable holiday season.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Saving Lives in Ashtabula

By Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross volunteer

November 4, 2000- More than one hundred blood donors turned out to support the 3rd Annual Blood Drive for Elite Employment Center held at Towne Square Mall in Ashtabula, Ohio in October. Elite Employment owner Angela Kendall personally understands and appreciates the value of blood donations, following her own emergency surgery and the four life-saving transfusions she received.

“From that moment on, I knew that donating blood would be something I would advocate for the rest of my life,” she said.

Angela began with a small drive at the Elite Employment Center. She now has one of the largest blood drives in Ashtabula County. The American Red Cross even extended the drive’s hours to accommodate everyone.

Angela Kendall at the Elite Employment blood drive

A large auction, expected to be held in the Mall’s Center Court went virtual this year because of COVID-19 precautions. “We already raised over $9,000 for non-profits in our area,” she said. “I have promised half to Feed Our Vets here in Ashtabula.” In addition, every donor received a commemorative sweatshirt, with the drive motto on the sweatshirt that read, “Be a hero. It’s in your blood.”

Angela Kendall delivers enthusiastic, dedicated family and staff to her blood drives. She also gives personal attention to practically every donor. This year’s sponsors included Huffman Mayer Wealth, Management on Wells Fargo Advisors, Molded Fiber Glass, Bascule Bridge Grille, Applebees, and Furniture Towne Ashtabula. The Elite Office can be reached at 440-998-HIRE. To find the blood drive nearest you, visit redcrossblood.org, or call 800-RED CROSS.

Editor’s note: As community organizations, businesses and schools restrict access to facilities due to COVID-19, Red Cross blood drives at these locations continue to be canceled. The Red Cross needs the ongoing support of blood donors and blood drive hosts to ensure blood products are available for patients when they need it. To learn more and sign up to sponsor a drive, visit RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.

‘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