Red Cross prepares veterans for the workforce through workshops and ongoing support services

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Support for the men and women of the armed forces has been central to the American Red Cross since the organization was founded 140 years ago.

One of our key services is helping military personnel as they leave active duty and look toward putting their skills to work in the civilian world.

Volunteering with the American Red Cross for over 20 years, Suzan Stafford, whom is trained as a psychologist has been hosting workshops with veterans to help them with their transition back to civilian life. Photo by Roy Cox/American Red Cross

“All the way back to our founder, Clara Barton, the Red Cross has been helping military veterans ease back into civilian life,” said Jessica Tischler, Service to the Armed Forces regional program manager for northern Ohio.

“We do this through free in-person workshops as well as small-group virtual modules. These sessions help veterans and their families build skills to successfully pivot into the non-military work world,” she explained.

Regional SAF Program Director Jessica Tischler and Koby Langley, Senior Vice President, Red Cross Service to The Armed Forces

In-person Reconnection and Mind-Body workshops are confidential, led by licensed mental health professionals with additional Red Cross training.

Virtual workshops, also led by professionals, include topics such as:

  • Creating calmness in stressful times
  • Psychological first aid and resilience
  • Effective communication
  • Stress solutions
  • Connecting with kids

U.S. Air Force veteran Sally Falasca, a licensed independent social worker in the Youngstown area, is a volunteer workshop leader.

“When I was on active duty, I relied on the Red Cross to assist me in helping service members from all branches,” she said. “I had seen them do so much good.” So Sally was glad to share her skills as a civilian.

Red Cross SAF Volunteer Sally Falasca

She began volunteering in 2018, doing reconnection workshops for adults, children and teens. Since COVID shut down most in-person sessions, she’s been impressed by how much the on-line sessions help veterans and their families strengthen their “emotional grit” and find that all-important work-life balance.

“The Red Cross is an ideal volunteer site for veterans because it offers the opportunity to serve others — just as service men and women do in uniform — in an organized and supportive environment,” Jessica said. “Think of being a disaster responder, locally or nationally, or a blood services volunteer or a first aid or water safety instructor, for example.

“There are lots of overlaps between military service and humanitarian service.”

Mike Parks, Rear Adm. (retired), USCG
Regional CEO, Red Cross of Northern Ohio

“I can speak from personal experience when I say that the American Red Cross dovetails with uniformed military service in terms of our dedication to mission and our high regard for leadership,” said Rear Admiral Mike Parks, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.), who now serves as Northern Ohio Regional Executive for the Red Cross.

The Red Cross has an online military occupation specialty (MOS) “translator” that makes it easy for veterans to find full-time opportunities that match their skills. The site currently lists more than two dozen paid positions right here in Ohio and more than 750 across the country: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/careers/military-occupational-specialty-translator.html

If you’re retired from the U.S. armed services, or know someone who is, and would like to know more about the many Red Cross services to the armed forces, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

If you’d like to financially support this important work and all of the other humanitarian work of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

The shoulders of giants, the footsteps of heroes

2021 Memorial Day message from American Red Cross Regional CEO Mike Parks,
Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)

Family & Friends of the Northern Ohio Red Cross:  May—what a busy month!!!  There are many things we typically celebrate in May including this year:  Cinco de Mayo (5th), Military Spouse Appreciation Day (7th), Mother’s Day (9th), International Nurses Day (12th), Armed Forces Day (15th), the Red Cross’s 140th Anniversary (21st), and, last, but certainly not least, Memorial Day (31st). 

I’d like to focus on the last two—the founding of the Red Cross by Clara Barton in 1881 and the holiday we now know as Memorial Day both had their origins on the battlefields of the American Civil War.  Clara Barton was inspired and founded the American Red Cross years after she, as a nurse, cared for wounded soldiers during our War Between the States.  The compassion she showed those suffering troops still inspire all of us today fortunate enough to serve in “Clara’s Army”—arguably the world’s premier humanitarian organization—an organization that still serves veterans, members of the Armed Forces, caregivers and their families some 140 years later.  Thank you for all you do to support the American Red Cross!

Mike Parks

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day.  Following the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, the country’s first national cemeteries were established.  By the end of the 1860’s various towns and cities were holding springtime tributes to those countless fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.  The first official Decoration Day was May 30, 1868 and Ohio’s own General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery while 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.  Although initially focused on honoring those lost in the Civil War, Decoration Day expanded after World War I to honor those who died in all American Wars.  In 1968 Congress passed legislation which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May—a change that went into effect in 1971.   Now, every Memorial Day, we continue to honor those men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. 

“Let us never forget that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and walking in the footsteps of heroes.”

Mike parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

Memorial Day weekend is often seen as the unofficial start to summer and we often celebrate with parades, dedications, and other commemorative events.  Unfortunately, many of those activities were cancelled last year due to the global pandemic.  Fortunately, thanks to many restrictions being eased or lifted, a number of these patriotic activities are again being held this year.  I encourage all of us to take some time out of our weekends to help honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms we quite often take for granted.  Whether it’s our children or grandchildren, I believe we have an obligation to help ensure future generations will always remember freedom isn’t free and often comes at an extremely high price—a price paid by those heroes we honor on Memorial Day.  Whether we’re at a barbecue, a picnic, a ballgame, at the beach, out on the Lake, or working serving others, let us use Memorial Day to count our blessings as we remember those who courageously gave their lives in defense of our country.  Let us remember to proudly display our American flags and hopefully, we can all pause for a moment of silence at 3:00 pm local time for the National Moment of Remembrance. 

As I close, let us never forget that we’re standing on the shoulders of giants and walking in the footsteps of heroes.  May each of you have a memorable and enjoyable Memorial Day as we honor our nation’s fallen heroes!!  Best regards…Mike

This video was shot on Memorial Day, 2017 in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Mike spoke at the Memorial Day observance in Hiram, Ohio in 2021. Visit our photo album here. Photos by Dave Dreimiller. Visit Dave’s blog for more photos here.

Honoring and aiding those who serve: Armed Forces Day and Resiliency Workshops 

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer 

Saturday, May 15, is Armed Forces Day, in which we celebrate current service members and veterans of the US military. The American Red Cross is proud to help honor all those who serve, and of its role in supporting service members and their families, including two upcoming Resiliency Workshops.  

The first Armed Forces Day was in 1950, following the unification of the US military under the Department of Defense. On this day, we honor the sacrifice and commitment of those who serve. In 1963, President Kennedy remarked that, “Our Servicemen and women are serving throughout the world as guardians of peace–many of them away from their homes, their friends and their families.” Continuing, he said, “They are also evidence of a harsh but inescapable truth—that the survival of freedom requires great cost and commitment, and great personal sacrifice.”  

Such dedication and sacrifice deserve support, and the Red Cross is proud to play an important role. Each year, the Red Cross supports more than 513,000 service members, veterans, and their families. We also provide services on all military installations in the US and on 35 overseas installations.  

The Resiliency Workshop Program is one of many Services to the Armed Forces offered by the Red Cross. All courses are free and include skills-building activities, stress-management techniques, and small-group discussion. They are facilitated by licensed behavioral health professionals who receive training on military life and culture. Topics include Effective Communication, Stress Solutions, Connecting with Kids, and Caregivers of Wounded, Ill and Injured Service Members and Veterans. 

“With sacrifice comes resilience. Those words are often used to describe our service members, veterans and their families,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Program Director.  “Our Red Cross workshops support individuals in growing this resilience throughout their lifetime.”

Two workshops are taking place soon in Hancock County, Ohio.   

Effective Communication workshops are taking place on Monday, May 17, at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.  This program helps build effective communication skills with particular emphasis on transition points and the stress they can bring. It helps participants learn ways to communicate verbally and nonverbally as well as how to interpret and respond in positive ways to achieve a healthy outcome. 

Stress Solutions workshops are offered on Monday, June 21, at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.  This program assists in understanding the difference between health and unhealthy stress levels. Participants learn to recognize and manage stressors in their lives, particularly those related to transition and change. They also learn the physical and mental health consequences of allowing stress to build as well as some effective ways to address it. 

The workshops are offered both virtually and in person.  RSVP by email to Nichole Coleman at NRColeman@co.hancock.oh.us or visit the Hancock County Veterans Service Office website at www.hancockveterans.com

More information on Red Cross programs and initiatives for the Armed Forces is available here. If you are interested in additional workshops or other Deployment Services, please see this page. If you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, please visit here. 

National Volunteer Week spotlight: Carol Schemmer is dedicated to helping others

By: Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

Carol Schemmer of Ottawa County is no stranger to the amazing work that the Red Cross does here at home and abroad.

“When I was in the military, I saw the work of the Red Cross firsthand — when military members needed support to get back home in an emergency or to communicate with loved ones,” said Carol.

Carol has spent her life helping others. She has held many distinguished roles in her life, including spending 22 years serving as a nurse in the United States Navy, leading an emergency room in Connecticut and teaching at Lorain County Community College, just to name a few.

Currently, she spends her time as a volunteer with the State of Ohio Medical Reserve Core (MRC) administering COVID-19 vaccines and as a leader for Club Red, a local organization that supports the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross through fundraising and advocacy efforts.

“Carol is an idea person and an action person. She’s always willing to step up and offer advice or help coordinate boots on the ground. She is highly organized, extremely reliable and caring,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director of the Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.

As part of Club Red, Carol has led the group to fundraise for the Red Cross but also expanded its effort to teach CPR to communities. She believes that CPR is so easy to learn, yet can be so vital to saving a person’s life during an emergency.

Carol admires the Red Cross volunteers who coordinate and deploy to disasters to offer relief to those affected. When disaster strikes, volunteers are there to provide basic necessities to communities impacted by a flood, storm or other natural disaster—supplying food, water, medical care and more. These efforts are possible thanks to donations and the support of volunteers—who make up over 90% of the Red Cross workforce.

We cannot do the work that we do abroad and at home without the support of people like Carol. Her dedication to supporting others in need throughout her life as a nurse and as a volunteer has helped countless people. We are truly honored to call her a supporter.

If you aren’t a volunteer but are interested in how you could support the Northern Ohio Red Cross, there are many opportunities available for a variety of skill sets. You can visit our website or click here to learn more.

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

The forgotten gift of service of the military child

By: Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Volunteer

When most of us think of military service, the first thing that comes to mind is the men and women in uniform who selflessly chose to serve our country. We pass them in public places, and thank them for their service. We understand that when they take the oath, they do so knowing they’ll be away from their families, work long, hard hours to complete their mission, and always, they risk injury or death. But what we don’t often think of is the sacrifice made by the children in military families, and that they, too are deserving of our appreciation.

April is the month of the Military Child, and the American Red Cross is honoring special individuals who were born into a life a service by the decision a parent made to serve our country, and the extra special ones who have used the unique challenges of their childhood to serve others in a special way.

Red Cross volunteer Zoë Day is one such person. Both her mom and dad served 20+years in the Army. Zoë is currently on the Service to Armed Forces Team for the Northeast Ohio chapter, while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Being a military kid is not always easy. They experience multiple moves, schools, interruptions of friendships, parental separation and always, a fear of the risk their parents service entails. Zoë has moved 7 times, and lived in places as varied as Anchorage, Alaska, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and her favorite, Fort Jackson, SC. She believes that while her many moves have presented challenges, she’s learned useful life skills. “I’ve developed a thick skin when it comes to daily stressors,” says Zoë. “Being a military brat taught me how to feel at ease in any environment and adapt, despite quick changes and challenges. I’ve learned resilience and a sense of fortitude, a ‘get the job done’ attitude.”

Zoë’s supervisor. Jessica Tischler, Regional Program Director of Service to the Armed Forces, believes it is that attitude that makes Zoë so valuable. “Zoe’s background as the child of military parents gives her a sensitivity to the needs of service men and women, veterans and their families,” she said. “We are so fortunate that she is lending her talents as a volunteer to our Service to the Armed Forces casework.”

Friendships are another unique challenge facing military kids. “I am so used to moving that it is hard to keep in contact with old friends and try to make new ones at the same time,” Zoë said. The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t made that part any easier for the kids of military families.

Zoë said that one of the benefits of being a military kid is that her family likes to explore the state they are in and enjoy that region’s culture as much as possible. She said the virus has given everyone cabin fever, forcing us to be resourceful. This is true of other military kids, too.

“My friends, also mainly military brats, have struggled as their usual way to enjoy life is related to traveling to visit each other in new states, and continuing the tradition of seeing new places every so often. These trips are now facetime bound,” says Zoë

Zoë is currently pursuing her master’s degree in social work while she interns at the Red Cross. Did she ever consider following in her parent’s footsteps? “I thought I would, then I realized my passion lies in supporting those who have protected our country either by serving directly or by being their support system during duty. I see myself getting to know the military veteran and family population a lot better by being a boots-on-the-ground social advocate and fighting for their social-welfare.”

Zoë Day, the Red Cross salutes you, and offers a collective “Thank You” for YOUR service.”

Show your support: Since 1900, the American Red Cross has been entrusted by Federal Charter with providing care and support for our military. Your support enables us to continue this proud tradition for our military and their families. Learn more, and donate here.

The ‘hows’ of financial contributions: Your questions answered

Giving Day is Wednesday, March 24

By: Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

Donating when you are able to can be a wonderful way to give back to your community and help those who are in need. There are many ways you can support and give to the American Red Cross, including providing a financial gift.

You may be asking yourself: How is my donation used? How much of it is used? How can I donate? All of these are great questions, and ones you should ask before donating to any cause, charity or organization. For those who have questions about the Red Cross, we are providing the answers to some of these common questions about financial contributions.

How much of my donation goes to the Red Cross?

An average of 90 cents of every dollar we receive is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need.

How is my donation used by the Red Cross?

With the generous support of our donors, we help millions of people each year. Financial donations help to support our programs like disaster relief, blood drives, our Home Fire Campaign, training classes, services to the armed forces and more. Learn more about the work we do here in Northern Ohio.

How can I donate?

If you are looking to give a financial donation to the Red Cross, there are many ways you can donate:

  • Make a donation online
  • Send a donation by mail
  • Donate over the phone
  • Text to donate $10
  • Alexa Donations with Amazon Pay
  • Donate stock, your car, hotel points or airline miles
  • Give in tribute to someone
  • Give monthly

If you want your donation to go even further, ask your employer if they would sponsor a matching program for employees. In a matching program, your donation is matched by the organization or individual that is sponsoring the program.

There are many ways you can give back and support the Red Cross’ mission. We encourage you to learn more about our mission and our work, and if you are able to do so, consider donating this coming Giving Day on March 24—or any day. For details on how to donate or to make a secure donation online, click here.

We thank you for your support!

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Tiffany Circle members in Northern Ohio help support female military serving in Africa

By: Donna Gracon, American Red Cross Philanthropy Officer

The Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross recently gathered on Zoom to hear regional leaders, including CEO Mike Parks and Tiffany Circle member Patty Flowers, describe their deployment experiences as they helped communities by responding during the unprecedented wildfire and hurricane season in 2020.

During the virtual session, the region launched its Holiday Mission Project to help female members of the U.S. military serving in Djibouti, a country in East Africa. Learning of the difficulties these military heroes face in securing personal care and hygiene products due to inaccessibility caused by COVID-19, Tiffany Circle members stepped up by purchasing items from a locally created Amazon Wish List.

Donna Gracon, Red Cross Philanthropy Officer, stands among the packages of items purchased for female members of the military serving in East Africa.

“How special it is to be a part of a group of women who so willingly volunteer their resources and join together to support others during the holidays and also during all seasons,” said Northern Ohio Tiffany Circle Chair Laurie Laidlaw Deacon.

In attendance was Julia Bianchi, who immediately engaged help from Tiffany Circle sisters in South Florida and the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region of the Red Cross who also contributed to the effort. In total, 450 items were shipped to the Red Cross office at Camp Lemmonier, the primary base of operations for the U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa.

“It sometimes becomes apparent that women in the military feel overlooked or forgotten,” said Kelsey Smith, senior regional program specialist/site lead for the American Red Cross at Camp Lemonnier. “Generous donations that specifically target the needs of women are uniquely impactful, as they remind our female service members that their sacrifices and dedication do not go unnoticed. Females that serve deserve to be heard, supported and celebrated equally. By ensuring their health and wellness are maintained, we create a stronger and more resilient military community as a whole.”

Lt. Andrea Wright, Capt. Ellen Bramblee and Lt. Col. Abigail Lee at the Red Cross office at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, East Africa.

To learn more about the Tiffany Circle and how the philanthropic power of its women leaders advance the mission of the Red Cross, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

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