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.

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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.

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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.

Romance scams: don’t fall for one

By Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications and Marketing Manager, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

We’ve been warned by the Better Business Bureau, law enforcement officials and others about the proliferation of scams this time of year.  Sadly, not everyone has the holiday spirit.  A scam that recently caught our attention involves a scammer impersonating someone in the military, finding a sympathetic soul online, and asking for cash under false pretenses.

“It happens too often,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Director, Service to the Armed Forces, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.  “Scammers try to take advantage of vulnerable people who think they’re giving assistance to a member of the military.”

Armed Forces 2011Romance scams are the most commonly reported scams, according to the U. S. Army.  The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) receives hundreds of allegations a month from victims who say they got involved with someone who claims to be a U.S. soldier online, on a legitimate dating website or other social media website.

Suspicions should arise if:

  • There are requests for money
  • If social media is the only means of communications
  • If the .mil suffix is not a part of an email address.

Other red flags include the scammer saying he/she is on a peace keeping mission, saying he/she can’t talk on the phone due to security reasons, and professes his/her love almost immediately, using terms of affection like “my love” or “my darling.”

An obvious warning sign is when someone who claims to be a U.S. military member does not have English and grammar skills that should match those of someone born and raised in the United States.

“While the Red Cross can’t help someone who has been victimized by a scam, we do offer vital services to members of the military, veterans, and their families,” Jessica said.  Among those services are emergency communications, for members of the military who are currently serving on active duty. Armed Forces 2011

“Loved ones must have some specific information about the family member they need to contact, like name, rank, branch of service, social security number or birth date, and the address of their military unit. Non-disclosure of this information is another red flag that you may not be dealing with a legitimate service member.”

The Army CID urges anyone who feels they have been scammed by a someone claiming to be a member of the military to contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.  The FTC Identify Theft Hotline is 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338.)

NEO Red Cross collecting supplies to support military service members and veterans in need this holiday season

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist,American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Communications volunteer.

This holiday season, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is teaming up with the Ohio Troop and Family Assistance Center (TFAC) to provide supplies to military families and veterans in need.

During the holiday season, to give thanks to our military for everything they do for us each day, the Red Cross is collecting toiletries and paper goods. The TFAC has a “pantry”/ “care room” at the North Canton National Guard Armory but supports all 22 counties of the Red Cross’ Northeast Ohio Region. The pantry is in need of feminine products, diapers (all sizes), laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap and men’s razors. It is recommended that items be smaller in size but not trial size

The Red Cross has a long history of assisting military service members, their families and veterans. Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, risked her life during the Civil War to bring supplies to soldiers in the fields. This service and the continued need to support and protect the sick and wounded during wartime led Clara to establish the Red Cross in 1881.This commitment to the military and those in need in times of conflict and humanitarian crises led to the Red Cross receiving a congressional charter in 1905 to fulfill provisions of the Geneva Conventions. These responsibilities are to provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military and to maintain a system of domestic and international disaster relief. Despite this close relationship with the federal government, the Red Cross is an independent nonprofit that does not receive federal funding.

Today, the Red Cross continues our strong commitment to our service members, their families and veterans, which began with Clara on the battlefields. Service to the Armed Forces remains one of our five service areas. From the first day of enlistment, service members and their families are eligible for Red Cross assistance. Every day, the American Red Cross provides 24/7 global emergency communication services and support in military and veteran healthcare facilities across the country and around the world. Some of the services the Red Cross provides are helping to cope with deployment, delivering verified messages during emergencies at home, keeping in touch with military families and informing them that help is always available, helping find access to financial assistance, providing information and referral services and assisting with veterans appeals, building skills for successful reintegration and much more. 

If you are interested in donating items to military members, their families and veterans in need in Northeast Ohio, Red Cross chapter locations in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria, New Philadelphia,Wooster and Youngstown are accepting donations. Donated items will be delivered to TFAC pantry. You can find the addresses to each drop-off location by visiting the locations page at redcross.org/neo.

Red Cross program manager recognized as high impact leader

Provides leadership to offer Service to the Armed Forces 

By Jim McIntyre, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Jessica Tischler has been all over Ireland, Western Europe and Southeast Asia, but she never imagined being on a calendar.

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Jessica Tischler, Regional Program Manager, Service to the Armed Forces

That’s one of the ways in which she is being recognized as a Woman WELDing the Way.

WELD is an acronym for Women for Economic and Leadership Development. The national organization’s Cleveland chapter recognized Jessica, the Regional Program Manager for the American Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) in Northeast Ohio. Jessica is one of 12 Cleveland women honored as a “high impact leader” who supports the leadership development of other women and gives time, talent and resources to the community.

“WELD’s Cleveland Chapter is thrilled to announce the names of the diverse group of talented leaders who will be featured as its 2019 calendar honorees,” said WELD President and CEO Barb Smoot. “In countless ways, these women are indeed WELDing the Way® by making an impact in their communities. They inspire others by living WELD’s mission to develop and advance women’s leadership to strengthen the economic prosperity of the communities we serve.”

As the SAF Program Manager, Jessica coordinates the delivery of Red Cross services, including emergency communications, pre-deployment preparedness and resiliency workshops for members of the military, veterans and their families. Much of the work is done with the help of volunteers.

“If you have the opportunity to work with young women or volunteers, you want them to be successful, to far exceed anything you’ve ever done,” Jessica said.

“The (WELD) recognition is important, because it gives me a way to promote our mission and to recognize the work done by our volunteers,” she said. “It also allows me to reflect on all the ways the Red Cross assists service men and women, veterans and their families,” she said.

Anyone interested in helping the Red Cross provide services to military men and women, veterans and their families can visit redcross.org/neo to apply.

Jessica and the other WELD honorees were recognized during a ceremony at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association on Nov. 8, 2018. Each honoree will be featured in the 2019 Women WELDing the Way calendar.