Resolve to Make a Difference

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

January 11, 2020- Have you made your New Year resolutions yet for 2021? It’s never too early to check off a goal on your resolution list or to start making the most of this new year.

 In 2021, resolve to volunteer with the American Red Cross and help make a difference in your community! The vital work of the Red Cross supports communities across the country every day and throughout Northern Ohio – it’s at the heart of what we do.  Volunteers make up 90% of the Red Cross workforce and help deliver the vital services that the Red Cross provides.

The Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross needs volunteers in the following positions:

Blood Donor Ambassador

  • Age 16+
  • Help save lives in your community by supporting blood collection at a local blood drive.
  • Commitment: 1 shift (4-6 hours) per month

Blood Transportation Specialist

  • Deliver life-saving blood products from collection sites to processing a lab and/or hospital
  • Commitment: 2 shifts (4-6 hour shifts) per month

Disaster Action Team Member

  • Virtual Opportunity
  • Assist individuals and families who have been impacted by a home fire or other local disaster.
  • Commitment: monthly on call shift

SAF Hero Care Regional Caseworker

  • Ensure military families’ needs are met when faced with an emergency
  • Commitment: 2-4 hours per week

To learn more about these opportunities and to apply, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or 330.204.6615.

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

Founder’s vision paved way for volunteers to support those in need today

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

December 25, 2020- Clara Barton is one of my all-time heroes.

Born 199 years ago today, Clara shook off her 19th century “woman’s place” and founded a movement that continues to move hundreds of thousands of people to action.

“We are all in Clara Barton’s debt for her vision to found the American Red Cross,” said Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross. “We still follow her example today whenever we deliver comfort and care to the victims of disaster, support our men and women in the armed forces, and donate our blood to help save lives. Clara saw the urgent needs of others, and she created a way for generations of humanitarians to help meet those needs.”

Circa 1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton was 60 years young when she established the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881.

By then, she had been a trailblazer many times over: Founder of the first free school in New Jersey, first paid female employee of the U.S. Patent Office, “Angel of the Battlefield” for supplying critical supplies for the Union soldiers wounded during the Civil War, and head of the postwar Office of Missing Soldiers. On a trip to Europe to “relax” after a decade of war, she directed relief for civilians on both sides of the Franco-Prussian War under the auspices of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the 1880s, Clara and her fledgling organization began helping survivors of floods and famines, storms and outbreaks of disease. In 1897, at the age of 76, she sailed to Turkey to direct American relief for civilians suffering a humanitarian crisis. The next year, she worked in hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This woman’s energy and commitment to help ease suffering set the standard the Red Cross continues to follow. During fiscal year 2020 alone, 2,800 Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio responded to disasters here and across the country, using new procedures to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Regionally, the Northern Ohio Red Cross:

  • Responded to nearly 1,200 local disasters and distributed more than $1 million in aid to meet immediate disaster-related needs
  • Taught nearly 61,500 people potentially lifesaving CPR, AED, first aid, aquatics and babysitting skills
  • Collected more than 168,700 units of blood that were converted into some 506,000 life-supporting blood products for patients in more than 80 medical facilities across Northern Ohio
  • Presented community preparedness education, most of it virtually, to more than 10,500 individuals, and disaster preparedness education to 4,441 youngsters in grades 3 through 5
  • Handled nearly 5,500 urgent contacts between armed forces members and their families, and briefed some 5,400 deploying men and women, and their families, about Red Cross emergency services

“None of this would be possible without the generosity of our thousands of volunteers and donors,” said Gail Wernick, volunteer services officer for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “ Hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors over the years are indebted to Clara for her founding example.”

1902. Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Clara Barton with graduating class of nurses at Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Miss Barton spoke to the graduating class.

So this is my birthday salute to Clara Barton. And my thanks to generations of Red Cross heroes of every age, gender, race and creed who have given selflessly of their time, their talents and their treasure to help humanity. If you’d like to follow in Clara’s footsteps in the new year, find the volunteer spot that fits you at redcross.org/volunteertoday. To financially support the work of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Olmsted Township resident escapes home fire after hearing smoke alarm

Alarm was installed by the Red Cross in 2016

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 16, 2020- Smoke alarms save lives. Just ask Gail Renfro.

The former resident of Olmsted Township was in her living room on the night of October 24, 2020 when she heard a smoke alarm sound. It was coming from her bedroom. When she opened the bedroom door, she saw fire and knew there was no time to waste; she had to get out.

Gail Renfro, center, is flanked by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, and Ellen Braun, Red Cross volunteer.  They installed the smoke alarm in Renfro’s home in 2016

“I turned around and walked out the front door, with the clothes I had on, socks on my feet, and cell phone in hand,” Gail said in a recent interview.

The smoke alarm had been installed four years earlier by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, during a day-long installation event in the Columbia Park development. Mrs. Renfro was recently reunited virtually with Tim and Ellen Braun, a Red Cross volunteer who accompanied Tim the day the alarm was installed, and who shared with the residents fire safety information, including how to create an escape plan.

That information – and those alarms – have proven to be lifesavers. Not only was Ms. Renfro alerted to the fire that destroyed her home, but one of her neighbors was alerted in a similar way more than a year earlier. Barbara Kovolenko escaped safely from a fire in her home, after hearing the smoke alarm in her home. It was also installed that same day – November 19, 2016.

Barbara Kovolenko with Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly

“Both of these fires show the importance of having a working smoke alarm,” said Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly. “The alarm went off and alerted (the residents) with enough time to be able to exit. That’s what they’re designed to do.”

Chief Kelly credits his department’s partnership with the Red Cross for helping keep residents in his community safe. And while the in-home visits to install smoke alarms are on hold due to the pandemic, lives are still being saved as a result of the alarms that were installed before the program was paused.  

Ellen Braun

Gail Renfro and Barbara Kovolenko are now among more than 800 people whose lives were saved as a result of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“Our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms since the inception of the Home Fire Campaign in 2014,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Once deemed safe to proceed, the Red Cross will resume all Home Fire Campaign programs.”

Tim O’Toole

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.

And we’re grateful Gail and Barbara did just that.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for free resources.

Watch the reunion of Gail Renfro, Tim O’Toole, Ellen Braun and Chief Kelly here.

Listen to the audio of the reunion on our podcast here.

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. 

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

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.

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