Resolve to volunteer: a testimonial

By Richard E. Whitehead Jr, DMC, Regional Government Operations Chief and Emergency Management Program Lead

I thought I would share how the American Red Cross has assisted me and my family through the years. Giving back is just one of the many reasons I have been volunteering since 2005.  

The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program provided aid to my family when my uncle was killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict. Another family member was deployed in theater and SAF assisted in him receiving emergency notification and subsequent emergency leave.

The Red Cross was there again for me when I was a patient at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. The hospital ward was a mix of military personnel (several with combat injuries) and military dependents age 10 and over. It was one large open space with several beds, unlike hospital rooms today. I was 10 years old and there were only a handful of kids.

A Red Cross volunteer would come through the ward with a cart. The cart contained items to help occupy the time of the patients (newspapers, magazines, books, games, etc.). I was provided coloring books, comic books, puzzles, cards, toys, and even craft projects. She even gave me pads for my crutches, which a volunteer crocheted.  

When I wanted to find a way to help during Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross provided that opportunity.

In more recent times, I continue to benefit from the services of the Red Cross. From the support of first responders to the collection and distribution of life sustaining blood, the Red Cross has been there for me. I will continue to be there for the Red Cross. It is paying back for the assistance and opportunities the Red Cross has given me. 

Veteran Air Force combat rescue officer recalls how Red Cross provided critical assistance to military families in times of need

By Brinton Lincoln, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Board Member and Chair, Service to the Armed Forces Committee

In the middle of 2006, deep within Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province where the great Kunar and Kabul rivers conflate, I was jostled awake by our outpost’s on-duty watch sergeant. The American Red Cross was on the phone, looking to pass an urgent message to one of my team members. His sister, just a junior in high school, had been critically injured in a car accident. Unable to contact him directly, his mother and father called upon the Red Cross and the emergency contact services that the humanitarian organization provides. Within an hour, my service mate and his family were together on the phone. No more than 24 hours later, with the financial and logistical assistance of the Red Cross, he was on his way home to be with his sister. 

Brinton Lincoln

On three occasions, including the aforementioned, I bore witness to the benefits of the emergency communication services provided by the Red Cross. In each instance, the world’s most recognized nonprofit humanitarian organization served as the interlocutor between a family in need and their loved one deployed a world away. I, and my fellow service mates, so very much appreciated the support provided by the Red Cross.

As vital as this service is, it is just one of many things that the Red Cross does to support our nation’s military members, veterans and their families. The organization provides nearly a half million services every year to our military constituency. Though not widely recognized, the Red Cross has a presence on every military installation within the U.S., on 36 bases overseas and within your local community.

Chapters across the country brief more than 787,000 service members and their families each year through the “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” program. For the deserving military demographic, the Red Cross provides support programs within military hospitals and clinics, informational and referral services at a local level to assist veterans with unmet needs, mind-body workshops, educational programs to help military families cope with deployments, reconnection workshops, and various programs within our VA hospitals. 

Brinton Lincoln and Regional CEO Mike Parks at the annual meeting of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors in June, 2019

The wonderful volunteers of the Red Cross work tirelessly every day to provide comfort and care to service members, veterans and their families the world over. In doing so, they embody, quite literally, the spirit of Clara Barton who, during the Civil War, founded the Red Cross to care for combat wounded soldiers.   

Should you wish to contribute your time to support the military community, contact your local Red Cross chapter and ask to speak with a representative on its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) team. Perhaps you will be the one to assist an anxious family in their time of need by connecting them with their loved one serving in a far-off land.  

For more information on the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces, visit redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Photo credit: Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Red Cross to serve up breakfast and resources to service members and their families during drive-up Veterans Day event

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross communications volunteer

December 17, 2019. Louisville, Kentucky. Hero Care Call Center. Photo by Bill Wine/American Red Cross

As Veterans Day draws near, one of the American Red Cross’ major lines of service, Service to the Armed Forces, draws closer to our hearts. Year after the year, the Red Cross has sought to support current and retired members of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families in any way possible.

Since the tragic event of 9/11 that shook our country, the Red Cross has served well over 1 million military families through services including (but not limited to):

  • providing home comforts and critical services on military bases around the world
  • supporting families while their loved ones are deployed or are experiencing an emergency
  • offering continued support after their time with the armed forces ends

Despite the challenges that this year has presented, including preventing the Red Cross from hosting its usual events honoring those who have selflessly served our country, military members and their families will still receive Red Cross support. 

Every year, of Toledo, Ohio, and the Red Cross host a Veterans Day breakfast that typically draws over 500 members of the armed forces and their families and friends. All currently serving and retired members of the armed forces and their families are invited to participate in a huge breakfast as well as have the opportunity to meet other families and visit vendor booths to access resources and information. The goal of this breakfast has always been to foster community and provide information for crucial services available to veterans such as dental services, mental health access, housing options, legal services, educational opportunities and more. 

Veterans Day Breakfast, Toledo, Ohio 2019

Peggy Holewinski, Regional Gift Officer for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross, shared some insights as to what this breakfast will look like this year. This Veterans Day, Toledo officials and Red Cross staff will host a drive-up event for veterans and their families. Guests will arrive by vehicle and receive one of the over 500 bags of prepared breakfasts—thanks in part to local organizations that have donated food. Not only will veterans and their families receive a fresh, delicious breakfast, but those 500 bags will also contain resources and information attendees would normally receive at the in-person event. Although this year’s event will be quite different, Peggy expects a big turnout. 

“I think it’s really important to make sure veterans know how much we appreciate them and how much they have done for this country,” said Peggy. “Without them, we wouldn’t be free, and it’s so important for people to understand that.”

Well said, Peggy. The Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross plans to make sure our veterans feel supported and appreciated just as much this year as in previous years.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer


Mental health professionals: please help the Red Cross assist service members, veterans, and their families

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

October 7, 2020- As part of their extraordinary service and commitment, members of the US armed services, veterans and their families face an array of challenges, some of which can impact mental health. In addition, 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for all of us. To help with vital mental health services, the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross is seeking additional volunteers to serve as mental health facilitators as part of its Service to Armed Forces.

The Red Cross, which has served the military for over 135 years, provides services on all military installations in the US as well as 36 overseas installations. An important component of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces is providing mental health and emotional support. Two such services are reconnection and mind-body workshops.

Reconnection Workshops focus on assisting service members, veterans and their families with the transitions that come with military service. Topics include building strong and effective communications skills, managing stress, discussing and finding methods to cope with trauma, emotional grit, connecting with children and defusing anger. There are also workshops which help children effectively cope and communicate. Another important workshop helps non-professional caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans.

With Mind-Body Workshops, the Red Cross teaches easy-to-use skills that connect the body with the mind to help participants cope with stress and trauma. Topics in the introductory course include breathing, mindfulness techniques, stretching and movement, body awareness and functioning, and guided imagery. A module to use mind-body skills includes drawing, journaling, meditation and mindfulness, body awareness through body scan, progressive muscle relaxation and mirroring, and self-directed imagery.

These workshops are free, confidential and offered in small groups.

Due to the pandemic, mental health facilitator roles are currently virtual but will return to being in-person once it passes.

If you are a mental health professional with a current and unencumbered license and hold a master’s level or above mental health degree, please consider volunteering to help the Red Cross provide these crucial services. Volunteering with the Red Cross provides a multitude of professional and personal benefits. These include training; professional development opportunities; remaining clinically active; the ability to advocate, provide feedback, and promote information in your area; and, most importantly, assisting those in need. For more information on volunteering please visit this page or call one of the numbers listed here.

More information about Red Cross Service to Armed Forces is available here.

Personal Memorial Day reflections of RADM Michael N. Parks, U.S.C.G. (Ret.), CEO of the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region

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

May 25, 2020- Memorial Day 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly be like no other in my lifetime. The first Memorial Day I remember was when I marched (in the loosest meaning of that term!) as a young Boy Scout in our rural Upstate New York town’s annual parade. A few years later, I marched in the same parade (with just slightly more precision) in our high school’s small marching band. When I joined the Coast Guard, my marching definitely improved and the parades got bigger until I was honored to be marching in front of the largest Memorial Day parade in our nation, held in Chicago. When I retired, I had the pleasure of taking in a true slice of Americana with my family as we watched our small town parade in Bay Village, Ohio. Truly, Norman Rockwell could have used those scenes for any number of his iconic patriotic paintings!

Now that I’m part of the American Red Cross, I’ve had the privilege of sharing our humanitarian organization’s story at local Memorial Day events. In Pepper Pike, I explained how the Red Cross’ treasured history finds its roots on the battlefields of the Civil War when its founder, Clara Barton, rendered aid and comfort to wounded soldiers. That tragic war between the states was also the genesis of Memorial Day, which was originally known as Decoration Day.

Mike - uniform

Regional CEO Mike Parks

And that brings us to 2020 when our nation, and the world, battle the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Parades and special events have been cancelled all over our country due to social-distancing requirements and concerns about large gatherings impacting the spread of the often-fatal coronavirus. Yes, our commemoration of this important holiday we celebrate on the last Monday in May will definitely change this year. But what won’t change is the enormous debt we owe those men and women who sacrificed everything so we could enjoy the freedoms that we still enjoy today, despite COVID-19. As is often said, “All gave some, some gave all!”

I will still proudly display “Old Glory” on Memorial Day. I hope you will as well.  Memorial Day is one of 22 days during the year we should display the American flag. That said, Memorial Day is the only day when the flag is flown at half-staff for the first half of the day, and then raised to full height from noon to sundown. This unique custom honors the deceased for the morning and living veterans for the rest of the day.

mike-whites

Although our weekend gatherings with families and friends may be curtailed this year, I do hope we will all take time to reflect on those who have gone before us and not take for granted our precious freedoms. I’m reminded of President Abraham Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, “…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”  Yes, “how” we commemorate this Memorial Day will change, but the “why” we commemorate this Memorial Day remains unchanged—to honor and pay fitting tribute to those men and women who gave their lives in service to this great country. I’m proud to be an American representing a grateful nation that honors those fallen service members on this unique Memorial Day. I hope you’ll join me. God bless America!

Military mom offers thanks

November 22, 2019- Editor’s note: Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Program Manager, recently receive this heartfelt message from the grateful mother of a serviceman.

This email is long overdue. My name is Barbara Freeman and I donate financially to the Red Cross and give blood every three months. There is a very special reason why I will always support your organization.

My father passed away 10 years ago. During that time my son was enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Therefore, in order to get him home when my father was in critical condition, I had to go through the Red Cross.

Barbara Freeman

Jason Mitchell and his grandfather, Daniel Bryant.  Photo provided by Jason’s mother, Barbara Freeman.  With permission.

My father helped raise my son. He was always my son’s idol and it was the reason my son joined the Navy because his grandfather served in the US Navy during WW2. When I had to make the call to the Red Cross I was not in a good place. As I was speaking with one of your representatives, she asked me questions that I was unable to answer. In the state I was in, I could barely remember my child’s name let alone know if he was in A School or C School. She was so kind and told me to go be with my father at the hospital and she would take care of everything. When I got to the hospital, I remember telling my mother that I was sure I would need to call back the Red Cross because I was sure I did not have enough information for them to be able to get my son home, but I was wrong.

Within 20 minutes of that call my son was on his way home. Because of this, he was able to see the most important man in his life before he passed away. Because of this, I will always support the Red Cross. I tell everyone this story, especially to the employees of the Red Cross that take my blood, but I realized I never told you directly. I hope you know what a difference you make in people’s lives. I apologize that it took me 10 years to personally thank all of you for all you do. I hope it is true that it is better late than never.

Thank you,

Barbara Freeman

When the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio asked for permission to reprint Ms. Freeman’s message here, this was her response:

“I have no problem with you sharing my story. I would love for as many people as possible to know what an amazing organization you are. I worked in nonprofit for many years and would tell that story to our new staff to explain what a difference they make in people’s lives. I can’t even put into words what an impact the Red Cross has made in my life but most importantly the lives of my son and his grandfather. Bless you for all you do.”

Commemorating Flag Day in a special way at the VA in Cleveland

Story and photos by Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Sherwin-Williams workers make some of the best paint on the planet.  And while the color palette is vast, it was good ol’ red, white and blue that kept more than two dozen SW employees busy on Friday, June 14.  They planted more than 3,000 U. S. flags on the campus of the Cleveland VA Medical Center to commemorate Flag Day 2019.

Red Cross volunteers joined the Sherwin-Williams workers for the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System’s 2019 Flag Day Walk and Roll.

“We planted the flags to recognize the great work and the people who have supported our country and served over the years for us,” said Sean Osysko,  Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Sherwin-Williams.  “We’ve been around for 153 years and this is our opportunity to get out into the community and give back. It’s just what we do.”

After planting the flags in the morning, they walked alongside veterans being treated at the Medical Center, who were happy to be out in the sunshine and moderate temperatures.  Those veterans who were unable to walk were pushed along in wheelchairs.

“This is just one of the many ways we serve our veterans, active military members and their families,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Program Manager for Service to the Armed Forces in Northeast Ohio. “Here at the VA Medical Center, we serve coffee out of a mobile cart, we provide a phone battery charging station, and we offer resiliency workshops.”

 

VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System Director Sue Fuehrer, a member of the Board of Directors for the Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter, thanked the Sherwin-Williams employees and the Red Cross volunteers for their efforts.  Afterwards, they enjoyed cake decorated like the Stars and Stripes –  wishing Old Glory a happy 242nd birthday.

For more photos from the 2019 VA Flag Day Walk and Roll, visit our Flickr album here.

For more information about volunteer opportunities to help our nation’s veterans, active military members and their families, visit us here.

Memorial Day message from CEO Mike Parks

Members of the NEO Red Cross Family:

I wanted to share a few thoughts about the meaning of one of the most special times of the year.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving their country in the Armed Forces (more than 1.265 million people have given their lives!). Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday, “Memorial Day,” in 1971.

Although Waterloo, New York is known as the birthplace of this holiday because of the community remembrance event it held in 1866, the first national commemoration was held at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868.  At that ceremony, former Union General and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield, gave a speech before 5,000 participants who then helped decorate more than 20,000 soldiers’ graves.

Memorial Day BlogGarfield inspired the crowd when he proclaimed, “We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” I still find those sentiments spoken by a Northeast Ohioan inspiring more than 250 years later!

Memorial Day has become synonymous with the unofficial beginning of summer with parades and backyard barbeques, and for many, a three-day long weekend.  As appropriate and enjoyable as all those things are, my sincere hope is that as members of an organization that also traces our roots back to the Civil War, we will not forget the real meaning of this important day when we honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we still enjoy each and every day.

The more of these special commemorative days I celebrate, the more I avoid wishing others a “Happy” Memorial Day—instead I like to encourage them to have an enjoyable weekend as they “honor” Memorial Day.  So as you take in a parade (don’t forget to stand and put your hand over your heart when the American Flag passes by as it’s carried by a marcher), enjoy a barbecue with friends, take in a ballgame, or take a family trip, I hope you each have an enjoyable weekend as you honor Memorial Day and remember those who gave their all so we could enjoy our weekends in peace and freedom!

Thank you for all you do as dedicated members of the world’s premier humanitarian organization!!

Enjoy and stay safe.

Best regards,

Mike Parks- Regional CEO and U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retired)

A Donut Dollie recalls her year spent serving the armed forces in Vietnam

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Rosanna Sprague is fearless. She was a Donut Dollie.

“After generals and congressmen, no one scares me,” the Cleveland Heights woman said, recalling the year she spent in Vietnam, from 1970 to 1971. She served her country with the American Red Cross in a program called Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO).

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The American Red Cross SRAO team in 1970.  Rosanna Sprague is second from the left.

“Armed with nothing but cookies and homemade entertainment programs, the Donut Dollies risked their lives every day as they tried to fulfill their mission and cheer up the U.S. troops,” according to the website promoting a documentary called The Donut Dollies.

On average, more than 280,000 servicemen participated in recreation activities in Vietnam and neighboring countries every month during the eight years of American combat activity (1965-1972). Many took place at Red Cross recreation centers, where there would typically be a piano, books, pool and ping pong tables, and a kitchen, “to make snacks for the guys. Kool-Aid was very popular,” Sprague said. That was confirmed by Allen Lynch, a Medal of Honor winner who recently visited Red Cross headquarters in Cleveland while promoting his memoir.

“Those girls played a crucial role in Vietnam,” Lynch said. “It was just a comfort to see someone from home.

That’s what many of the men called the Donut Dollies, according to Sprague. “99% of the time, the CO of the firebase wanted us there, so he did everything necessary to make us feel welcome and comfortable.”

The Donut Dollies split their time between forward firebases and Red Cross Recreation Centers, like the ones at Cam Ranh Bay and Danang, where they brainstormed ideas for games and fashioned whatever pieces and parts were needed to make the games work. They also worked up song and dance routines.

“During Christmas of 1970, my unit at Long Bing created a parody of the Bob Hope Show, with a story line, singing and dancing, some jokes . . . just a special way to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the guys on the firebases who didn’t or couldn’t get into the main city for the real show,” Sprague said. They performed about seven shows a day for the week leading up to Christmas, and on Christmas Day, they performed in three hospitals.

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Rosanna Sprague, left, played the role of Bob Hope during a Christmastime parody of the comedian’s USO shows.

 

“I do believe we made a lot of military a little less homesick that Christmas,” she said.

The Red Cross provided other services to members of the military in Vietnam, including more than 2 million emergency communications between servicemen and their families. Red Cross field directors and chapter staff at home assisted an average of 27,800 servicemen each month with personal and family problems. Vital service to the Armed Forces continues today, with volunteers providing humanitarian support to service members, veterans and their families around the clock and around the globe.

Back home, Rosanna Sprague now serves as an Ambassador at the Destination Cleveland Visitor’s Center, where people from around the world come to learn about the city. “I have so much fun welcoming them and relating easily to all kinds of people on so many levels. I learned that in Vietnam, too!”

The third Saturday in May is recognized each year as Armed Forces Day.  For information about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org or call 216-431-3328.

This article was edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Steve Bullock’s Red Cross legacy is local and national

Local leader once helped guide the National American Red Cross 

By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

February 22, 2019 – Steve Bullock’s career with the American Red Cross spans six decades. During that time, he has been one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers and paid staff striving to help Americans and people around the world prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

But there’s one thing no other Red Crosser will ever be able to claim: Steve was the first African-American to sit at the helm of our nation’s premier humanitarian organization.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more inspiring role model than Steve,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio. “It’s no wonder our Northeast Ohio Red Cross Humanitarian Award is named in his honor. He has lived a life of service to mankind.” Parks added “I am humbled by his friendship and continued support.”

Steve Delano Bullock was the youngest of 22 children born to a sharecropper family in segregated North Carolina. He was in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1962 when he first volunteered with the Red Cross. He found a fit in the organization that upholds impartiality – not discriminating on the basis of nationality, race, religion, class or political beliefs – as one of its fundamental principles.

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By 1998, Steve had been executive director of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Red Cross for 15 years when he was tapped to serve as interim president of the American National Red Cross in Washington, DC.

Steve had already distinguished himself as a model of leadership: Having led successful chapters in St. Paul, Minn., and Cleveland, in 1988 he was named chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee, a group of senior Red Cross field executives who counseled top management on issues facing the organization. Several years later, he was appointed to head the 1996 national American Red Cross fundraising campaign.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, he oversaw the launch of Operation Save-A-Life, which aimed to reduce injuries and deaths due to home fires by providing residents in at-risk neighborhoods with fire safety education and free smoke alarms and installations. That initiative has been adopted by the Red Cross nationwide and as of the end of 2018, more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed and more than 500 lives have been saved.

When the call came from Washington, Steve was no “filler” between high-profile national leaders. He quickly outlined his “100-day plan” to enhance the organization’s strengths, support local chapters, strengthen international relationships and address problems in the blood services division. “It’s a matter of making sure we’re performing at an excellent level,” he said.

That commitment to excellence led him to found The Bullock Group, a Cleveland-based management consulting firm focused on strengthening nonprofits. He has also shared his expertise by taking leadership positions in a wide variety of civic organizations as well as University Heights City Council and his alma mater, Virginia Union University.

Steve has distilled his experience as an African-American leader in a predominantly white society into a book, “My Name Is Steve Delano Bullock: How I Changed My World and The World Around Me Through Leadership, Caring and Perseverance.” Through it, he wants to empower others to succeed in business and in life, regardless of any hurdles before them.

Read more about Steve Bullock and other African Americans who have helped shape the Red Cross here.