Experienced nurse makes time to step outside caregiver role to volunteer for Red Cross

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

April 24, 2020- The worldwide pandemic has most of us sheltering at home. But the incredibly giving and generous volunteers who make up the bulk of the front lines at the American Red Cross are out helping those who need it most. That selfless spirit is noteworthy any time, but now, it is exceptionally heroic.

This week, the Red Cross is celebrating National Volunteer Week to honor these special individuals. Today we spotlight Kevin Sauer, B.S.N., R.N., a caregiver at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital and a volunteer for the Red Cross.

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Kevin Sauer

Kevin was born, raised and still lives on the west side of Cleveland. He received his bachelor’s in nursing from Xavier University, and has been practicing for 10 years. He recently returned to school to earn a master’s degree in executive leadership. Several years ago, as he was working on his professional career ladder application, he noted volunteering was part of the criteria, so he began volunteering at the local blood donation center.  In the eight years since, he has moved from Blood Services into Disaster Services, and is now a team leader/supervisor on the Disaster Action Team as well as the Disaster Health Services Team, among other roles.

Kevin functions as our Regional DHS Lead and, despite periodic months overseas, he rarely misses a Division call to stay up-to-date for the team,” said Renee Palagyi, Regional Senior Disaster Program Manager. “I had the privilege to deploy with Kevin during southern Ohio flooding and he set the bar high for mentoring and leading his nursing team through constantly changing needs.”

Prior to volunteering, Kevin admitted he didn’t know a great deal about the Red Cross beyond their blood services. “It wasn’t until I received a follow-up phone call from Debra Kellar [a member of the Volunteer Services Team] that I learned about Disaster Services and everything else the Red Cross does. After that, it was the people I volunteered alongside, together with the clients we helped, that roped me in—and I’ve been here eight years now,” said Kevin.

With Kevin’s incredibly busy work schedule, it’s amazing he finds time to volunteer, but he makes it a priority. For most of the past eight years, his 12-hour shifts, three days a week at the hospital allow him the time and opportunity to volunteer on his days off.

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L to R: Kevin Sauer, Chad Whitaker, Lora Taylor, disaster program manager- North Central Ohio, Renee Palagyi- senior program manager, Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager- Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley

“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “So making time to help those who potentially just lost everything is worth it to me.” Kevin said volunteering with the Red Cross allows him to step outside  his nursing role when needed, to help people who need help the most.

Kevin has seen a lot. His work with Disaster Services has taken him all over Northeast Ohio for home fires, multi-family apartment/condo fires, flooding, and even a home explosion where he helped open and operated a shelter for a few nights. He also deployed to Houston for Hurricane Harvey, and returned to his college town of Cincinnati to assist in flood relief in 2018. But one of his most memorable experiences? “I walked into a home with five kids, and that home had no electricity, no power and no running water after a fire,” said Kevin. “Their kitchen was literally ripped open and thrown outside their house. They were waiting, in the cold, for us volunteers from the Red Cross to come and help them. That experience reminded me, once again, why I continue to take calls for the Disaster Action Team.”

Kevin said the best thing about volunteering for the Red Cross is the people. “Some of the names and faces may have changed, but the dedication and willingness to serve are still there from everyone who puts on that Red Cross lanyard or vest,” Kevin explained. Also, the people we help every day. One minute these people are living their lives and the next, their lives are turned upside down by a fire, flood or other natural disaster. Being there for them, hearing ‘thank you’ from someone who just lost everything, is what keeps me going.”

During a global pandemic or an emergency close to home, volunteers like Kevin keep all of us going, and they deserve our thanks for being true heroes.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Helping others is never canceled: Coronavirus cuts student’s studies in Spain short prompting her to do good as new Red Cross volunteer

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

April 23, 2020- Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed about studying abroad in another country just as my mom had when she was in college. Four months ago, I was finally bringing that dream to fruition and packing my bags to depart for five months of living in Spain and traveling around Europe.

About two months into my experience, I found myself waking up every day with feelings of anxiousness about the developing global situation and wondering how the coronavirus pandemic would present itself in Spain. We had already seen the horrible effects it had had in Italy, and I watched my friends who were studying in Rome be sent home from their programs, away from the new homes and connections they had made.

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Olivia Wyles

Soon enough, Spain became the second country with the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Europe. So two-and-a-half months into my time abroad, I found myself packing my bags in utter disbelief and denial about the opportunities and experiences that I would be leaving behind. But also knowing that the Spain during a pandemic—empty streets and stay-at-home orders and travel bans—would not be the Spain I wanted to experience for an indefinite period of time.

When I arrived home I, like most of us, felt very unsure as to what my new daily life was going to look like. Before I knew it, my classes had switched to online courses, and I now had an incredible amount of extra time on my hands. I had to adjust to living in another environment yet again, without any real way to plan for the future as the uncertainty of a pandemic made it difficult to proceed in any one direction.

One thing has always been certain, though: helping others is the very best way that I can help myself. I began seeking out opportunities to reach out to others and started applying to various jobs and volunteer positions, including with the American Red Cross.

I have always admired the mission and work that the Red Cross does for their communities and the world at large. They are an inspiring organization as you can see from the innovative and impactful projects that they bring to the world, while operating almost solely from the efforts of volunteers.

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The Red Cross is a great example of the fact that even though stores have shut down and many things we were all looking forward to this spring have been canceled, helping others is never canceled. And I am excited to be a part of that mission.

Although my time studying abroad was cut short, I am a confident believer that we can make something good out of everything. I am looking forward to seeing what good we can create from this experience—whether that be getting involved with a new volunteer experience or simply learning how to love those around us even deeper.

If during the COVID-19 outbreak you have also had an interest to do more to help your local community and become a Red Cross volunteer, the Northern Ohio Region will be hosting two virtual volunteer information sessions. The two sessions, April 28 5:30-6:30 p.m. and April 29 12-1 p.m., will provide you an opportunity to learn how you can make a difference by providing disaster response assistance, including shelter, food and comfort following a home fire, flood, tornado, or other emergency, installing smoke alarms, creating fire escape plans to help make homes safer, assisting at blood drives which keep our nation’s blood supply stable and providing support to our military, veterans and their families

The information sessions will take place online.

For more information and to RSVP, contact Melanie Collins at (330) 204-6615 or melanie.collins4@redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Longtime Red Cross board member making a difference in North Central Ohio

Note: To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are featuring profiles of some of the volunteers who help the Red Cross fulfill its mission in Northern Ohio

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

April 22, 2020- Successful nonprofits can often trace their success back to a strong and dynamic board of directors. Such is the case in Findlay, Ohio, where Michael Epps, a commercial lender with Waterford Bank, N.A. has long been involved with the local American Red Cross chapter, serving eight years as a board member and two years as board chairman.

“Mike Epps is a passionate, strong volunteer leader for the North Central Ohio Chapter,” said Todd James, executive director of the chapter. ”He started volunteering with the chapter’s annual Oscar Night gala more than 10 years ago.”

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Mike Epps

“I first got involved as a community participant with the fundraiser during its second year in Findlay,” recalled Mike. Serving in a variety of roles from fundraising to logistics coordinator, he eventually chaired the committee for six years.

“We had a really great dynamic committee and were able to grow that into one of the more well-known, well-attended and, candidly, well-funded philanthropic events in town. A couple years ago, we raised more than $100,000 on that one event.”

“There’s a lot of competition for the philanthropic dollars within this community, so we felt good about that,” stated Mike, “but also we got a lot of feedback about how much joy people had at the event and how it raised awareness of the Red Cross mission.”

If you want to help your local community, but unsure of how you can help the Red Cross, well do not worry because there is a role for everyone to play to help the Red Cross mission. The most urgent needs are blood donor ambassadors, blood transportation specialists, disaster responders and virtual volunteers. Find our more at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 

National Volunteer Week – opportunity to recognize the selflessness of Red Cross volunteers

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

April 17, 2020- National Volunteer Week is April 19 to 25, and it gives the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio an opportunity to honor the volunteers who are helping people in need, even during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emergencies don’t stop, and neither do local Red Cross volunteers, who are still providing care and comfort after disasters of all sizes, including home fires.

Next week, we will be featuring profiles of volunteers from the Northern Ohio Region, written by volunteers, right here on our regional blog. Be sure to subscribe to our blog; that way you will receive an email notification and will not miss any of these incredible volunteer-inspired articles.

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Due to this coronavirus outbreak, volunteers are providing relief services after home fires virtually, in coordination with local fire departments. Connecting with families by phone or video calls, we’re helping to provide support like lodging, health and mental health services, and emergency financial assistance, as well as link people to available recovery resources.

Here in Northern Ohio, there are 2,176 volunteers, who help support blood collections, provide emergency assistance to military families, respond to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. These individuals are also among the more than 300,000 volunteers who comprise more than 90 percent of the national Red Cross workforce.

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Red Cross volunteers keep our communities strong,” said Mike Parks, regional CEO for the Northern Ohio Region. “We honor these true heroes who give their time to help people in need.”

BECOME A VOLUNTEER Our need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as we navigate this coronavirus health crisis. Volunteer opportunities include supporting blood donations and delivering much-needed disaster services to your community. We even have a wide variety of volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find out more.

Interested in serving? Everyone’s safety is our top priority. Please review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your healthcare provider and follow local guidance.

Northern Ohio Region actively assists residents in need during first week

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

April 13, 2020- During its first week following the territorial realignment, the new American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was active in assisting residents in need who were experiencing the worst day of their lives.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Last week, the Northern Ohio Region responded to disasters in Carroll, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Jefferson, Lorain, Lucas, Medina, Portage, Putnam, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. In those 14 counties, Disaster Action Team members assisted and comforted 115 residents, who suffered disasters such as home fires and storm damage, and provided $22,870 in immediate financial assistance.

Even during a pandemic, other disasters don’t stop—and neither does the work of the Red Cross.

Our brave volunteers are still responding to disasters like home fires, tornadoes and earthquakes, so impacted families receive help and hope—even during these trying times.

Tropical Storm Imelda 2019

The American public can help “flatten the curve” by practicing social distancing, staying home as much as possible, washing their hands, and taking other precautions to stay healthy.

You can help the Red Cross deliver its lifesaving mission nationwide during this public health emergency by donating at redcross.org.

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The Red Cross is also looking for individuals to join the Red Cross to continue to respond to disasters in local communities. We also have a wide variety of important volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find your opportunity to make a positive impact today by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.