Bound by Love and Emergency

By Mary Falconer-Williams, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

Editors Note: September is National Preparedness Month. Nonstop massive disasters have kept thousands of American Red Cross volunteers busy for weeks, working tirelessly to provide food, shelter, comfort and support to people in need. Our work is just beginning; we will be providing support for weeks to come.In response to Hurricanes Laura and Sally, and the western wildfires, the Red Cross has served more than 1.2 million meals and snacks, and distributed nearly 190,000 relief items with the help of partners. While our region is not affected by hurricanes, we are not immune to disasters. Read the following blog article to learn how you can help keep your family prepared and safe during a disaster.

September 18, 2020- In the summer of 2018 my husband, my two small children, cat, dog and I merged households with my in-laws. One of the home projects I requested was a FAMILY EMERGENCY BINDER. This is a robust collection of personal information that can be grabbed in the event of an emergency, such as a medical need or if your family needed to quickly evacuate.

I began researching organizing tips to help us combine all of our pertinent information so that any one of us could know – at a moment’s notice – insurance information, medical details, and many other bits of information that we, ourselves, know but may not have organized. Drawing from a few sources (links in the sentence before this!) I came up with a format that would help four adults, two children, and two pets have all the necessary details at hand in case of emergency!

With so many other home projects needing to take priority, plus the start of school, birthdays, and other callings of life, my project was put on the back burner. Until a pandemic kicked it into high gear!

With this being PREPAREDNESS MONTH, it is the perfect time for you to start a Family Emergency Binder for your home. Pro tip: If you have aging parents, be sure to add a section for them so that you have all their information at your fingertips as well!

If you want to go full-on-organizing-crazy, like me, here are some things you’ll need in your next Amazon order:

  • 3” Binder*
  • 3-hole-punch (if you don’t already own one) *
  • Printer (or access to a printer)
  • Ink for the printer!
  • Label maker
  • A set of 5-tab binder dividers (I like the Avery Big Tab for the section headers) *
  • A set of binder dividers that matches the number of people in your household (for us – 4 adults + 2 kids +2 pets = an 8-tab pack)
  • Fire-proof/water-proof safe*
  • A USB* stick

Otherwise, you can just pick up the starred items.

Once you’ve collected and sorted all your information, you’ll want to save a digital copy to a USB stick. Put the USB in your safe as backup!

Keep in mind that this is not a “one-time” project! You will need to update this binder as things in your life (medicines, insurance providers, etc.). But once you’ve done the initial lift of gathering and recording all of the information in one binder, you will have the security that comes from knowing that if an emergency happens you and your family will have a primary source to help you stay prepared.

LinkedIn ranks Red Cross as leading volunteer organization

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

September 8, 2020- The American Red Cross is the nation’s top volunteer organization, according to Each year, LinkedIn tallies those companies with the highest number of monthly volunteers. The Red Cross now proudly sits at #1 among these top 10 volunteering organizations of 2020, surpassing other organizations like the Crisis Text Line and Toastmasters International.

Digging into the statistics, LinkedIn data states that people under age 25 are the most likely to list volunteering activities, relative to their overall share in total membership. People over age 55 are least likely.

Maybe those over 55 aren’t listed, but as I look around the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross, I consistently see dozens (if not hundreds) of silvers and golden-agers actively engaged. My guess is that they just don’t have profiles on LinkedIn and, consequently, if they were added, they would rank even higher. (Well, maybe not higher than first place.)

What does the Red Cross offer volunteers?

Fortunately, the Red Cross has something for anyone and everyone. If you can only help sporadically, we’ve got random opportunities or shifts you can select whenever the opportunity presents itself. Volunteer opportunities are also available across Northern Ohio, with chapters from Ashtabula to almost the Indiana line.

If you enjoy traveling, Red Cross deploys disaster workers across the entire country. Conversely, if you’re a homebody, we have virtual opportunities as well. I just assisted on Hurricane Laura while sitting home in my office.

Red Cross provides training for most of their positions, from personal to professional development. Free classes are available from disaster response to diversity training to services to the armed forces. Or maybe your interests lie within human resources, public affairs or the biomedical field. Within just hours, you could learn enough to be providing valuable assistance taking temperatures or greeting people at blood drives or disaster shelters.

Why volunteer?

The reasons to volunteer are endless. Some volunteer to pass the time. Some look for comradery. While still others are looking to gain experience that might lead to other opportunities.

Whatever the reason for volunteering, once a volunteer meets someone down on their luck and are able to offer comfort, food and shelter, they’’ll be forever touched.

Meet the team

Volunteer recruitment and engagement for our region is handled by Gail Wernick, regional volunteer services officer, Melanie Collins, senior volunteer recruitment specialist and Debra Kellar, senior engagement specialist. Thanks to them and their counterparts across the country, the Red Cross took this top honor.

“I realize our efforts around volunteers require an all-hands on deck effort and genuine commitment from leadership,” said Mike Parks, our Regional CEO. “That said, these three staff members live and breathe the recruitment and engagement of volunteers every hour of every day…thank you!  Keep up the great work—it’s not only recognized but greatly appreciated.”

How about you? Are you ready to help make a difference? Or do you know a friend or relative who has what it takes to be a great volunteer? Get started on our volunteer recruitment page and find out where your or your friend’s talents could be best utilized

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Being prepared is the first step to endure and recover from disaster

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

September 1, 2020- September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s events have underscored the importance of being prepared for a disaster in Northern Ohio as everywhere. The American Red Cross is also focusing on the needs of seniors in disaster preparation, as new research from the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the American Academy of Nursing  finds that, “Older adults are more vulnerable and experience more casualties after a natural disaster compared to other age groups experiencing similar events.”

While Northern Ohio rarely faces large-scale disasters, we do face home fires, flooding, and tornadoes, among other events. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that all of us need to be ready.

To discuss preparedness for Northern Ohioans and the needs of seniors, I spoke with John Gareis, the Red Cross’s Regional Manager for Individual Community and Disaster Preparedness for Northern Ohio. John has a wealth of experience in preparing for and recovering from disasters of all types.

Preparation and lessons from COVID-19

John emphasized that in any disaster, including a pandemic, the needs remain the same: food, shelter, clothing, information, and emotional support. “Taking steps to prepare, before any emergency event would happen, is key,” he said. This is especially important for seniors.

John said the COVID-19 pandemic taught us to better prepare for emergencies. He pointed out that many were caught off guard, causing shortages of everyday staples. “People began to hoard and stock up on items taken for granted in everyday life,” he said.

We can learn from this, however. John recommended that every household prepare an emergency kit or supplies based on what is used every day. While having enough for at least three days is good, he said, supplies for one to two weeks is better.

August 30, 2020. Cameron, Louisiana Pamela Harris of the American Red Cross looks out on a home destroyed by Hurricane Laura in Cameron Parish, LA, one of the hardest hit areas, on Sunday, August 30, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Especially consider necessities for seniors, children, and those with special needs. John pointed out that emergency supply kits don’t have to be expensive and can be gathered from items already owned. In addition to daily supplies, have copies of important documents and contact information for doctors, family, and close friends. He also said to think about your home and, if you had to evacuate in under two minutes, could you?

John also said, “Information is key in any disaster. Knowing what could happen and how to keep informed are the main things people need and want.”

Ensuring seniors are prepared

As older adults are more vulnerable during a disaster, the Red Cross especially encourages seniors to prepare, and that everyone ask older adults in their lives if they need help, whether relatives, neighbors, or fellow seniors.

August 24, 2020. Vacaville, California. LNU Complex Fire burn zone on Pleasants Valley Road in Vacaville, California. Red Cross volunteer Jillian Robertson explores the burned area, stepping over discarded fire hoses that had been left behind. Photos by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

In addition to preparing supplies, seniors should maintain and grow communications and social networks. “In any emergency,” John said, “having someone to check on you or that you can check on is key. It’s the buddy system.”

For help preparing, please visit Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults, How to Prepare for Emergencies, and COVID-19 Safety Tips. Red Cross apps are available here.

Red Cross executive helped launch disaster financial assistance program for Hurricane Harvey in 2017

Part II of Todd’s reflections on his deployment three years agoClick here to read Pt. 1

By Todd James, Executive Director, American Red Cross of North Central Ohio

August 26, 2020 – Note: At the time of this posting, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, Hurricane Laura was expected to gain major hurricane status – possibly category 4 – and make landfall in the same general area of the Gulf Coast ravaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Six volunteers from Northern Ohio were deployed prior to Laura’s landfall.

Ten days after returning home from Austin, where I had been deployed to lead communications following Hurricane Harvey as part of the American Red Cross’ Public Affairs team, I got a call asking if I could go back to Texas to lead a team in Houston. I am blessed to have a very understanding, compassionate wife who said, as she always does, “People need help, you need to go.” So, I headed out for my third deployment in six weeks.

Todd James in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2017

Here’s the thing about being deployed: there are thousands of Red Cross responders who answer the call for help every day. Even though we come from all across the country, these operations often feel like a big family reunion. So many people I had worked with before and since were in Houston to help. And so much help was needed! Thousands of people were still staying in shelters, while hundreds of thousands were beginning the long road to recovery. 


Thousands of Red Cross responders worked ceaselessly, providing shelter, food, comfort and much more, as they always do when disasters happen.

In the face of the unprecedented scope of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Red Cross was about to take a quantum leap forward in disaster response, launching the new Immediate Assistance Program (IAP). The IAP gives us a way to almost instantly verify people’s needs and provide immediate financial assistance so they can begin their recovery. Until now, this could mean days and, in large events, even weeks as Red Cross teams went house to house to verify damage and need, meet with families and provide financial help.

With the IAP, people apply with a phone call and with the help of technology and digital mapping, we verify their need and deposit help directly into their account or for pick up at their local Walmart. What a game changer! My team couldn’t have been any busier getting the information out so people could take advantage of this help.

Now, as you can imagine with any new technology like this being launched on this scale, there were some glitches. But thousands of people every day received the help they needed to get started on their recovery. In the first five months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, 575,000 households received $230 million to use for help with groceries, gas, clothing, rent, bills and other needs for their families.

Since launching the IAP, the Red Cross has continued to improve the process. It’s now a regular part of our disaster response.

Outstanding in our field

A favorite story from my time in Texas happened one afternoon while my staff partner Matt and I were following one of our mobile feeding vehicles to get pictures and talk to the families they were helping. We received calls from our headquarters for interview requests to talk about the relief operation. So somewhere in the middle of rural south Texas, standing by a fenced-in pasture and surrounded by longhorn cattle, I was on my phone talking to a radio station in Maryland while Matt was on his phone being interviewed by a radio station in Phoenix, AZ. Welcome to the glamorous world of disaster Public Affairs!

After two weeks, I finished my deployment and returned home. But three years later, families and communities are still working to recover from the storm, and the Red Cross is still there supporting them. You can see a full report on our efforts at

Red Cross executive reflects upon Hurricane Harvey deployment

Disaster struck the Gulf Coast three years ago

By Todd James, Executive Director, American Red Cross of North Central Ohio

August 25, 2020- Note: At the time of this posting on Tuesday, August 25, the third anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Laura was expected to gain major hurricane strength and target the same area along the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning, August 27.   

Three days before Hurricane Harvey would make landfall, I returned home from a 10 day deployment in Hopkinsville, KY. The small town of a couple of thousand was the point of totality for the recent total eclipse and expected an influx of up to 300,000 visitors to witness the event, putting a severe strain on local resources in the case of an emergency. I had been home for a few days when I got the call to head to Houston. The next day, all travel into the area was suspended because of the storm. I was diverted to Baton Rouge, where American Red Cross teams were staging to deliver supplies and help when the conditions were safe to travel.

Todd James helping hand out water from an emergency response vehicle (ERV) outside of Sealy, TX

Austin City Limits

In Baton Rouge, hundreds of Red Cross responders waited and prepared as Harvey continued to batter Texas and Louisiana. In total, 60 inches of rain flooded Texas and Louisiana with 33 trillion gallons of water, creating unprecedented flooding and destruction. As the storm ended, I headed to Texas. But instead of Houston, I was sent to Austin to support the response. Thousands of families had been driven from the Gulf Coast and were headed north seeking safety, many to the Austin area. 

Todd and his team in Austin with Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross, when she came to Austin

I arrived in Austin and met the Public Affairs team I would be leading. Our job was to communicate critical information about what help was available, where to find safe shelter and to let the American people know how they could support our efforts. 

Harvey was my 21st deployment, but it was the first time I’ve seen our team set up a mega-shelter for more than a thousand people. In just a few days, a large, empty warehouse was turned into a clean, safe shelter for hundreds of families with a kids play area, tented shelters and an area for pets, an internet café, showers, a cafeteria, a medical area and other amenities to give displaced families the best care possible. It was an amazing effort!  And that was just a small part of the work done in response to this disaster. 

Todd helping 7 year old Carsyn Collins unload about 200 toys she collected and donated for kids in Houston

The Red Cross moved quickly to address people’s immediate needs after Hurricane Harvey with thousands of trained workers supporting emergency relief efforts by: 

  • providing more than 414,800 overnight shelter stays with partners
  • serving over 4.5 million meals and snacks with partners
  • making more than 127,000 health and mental health contacts
  • distributing more than 1.6 million relief items

providing more than $345 million in financial assistance to hundreds of thousands of households

 Little Ol’ Band from Texas        

There are a hundred stories to tell from this deployment. One of my favorites is the day my partner and I visited several shelters in the rural areas that were hit by the storm. One town we visited was LaGrange, TX. Being a rock n’ roll fan, I couldn’t head into town without playing LaGrange by ZZ Top at a very loud volume. Luckily, my partner was a fan too!

Todd with local volunteer Tom Hill at a warehouse in San Antonio

I spent 10 days in Austin, working with dedicated, passionate people doing all they could to give these families a sense of safety, comfort and hope while getting ready for the recovery effort to come. I didn’t know it then, but I would very soon be part of that effort.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Even during pandemic, Northern Ohio volunteers deploy to help those affected by disasters

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

August 21, 2020- For the past six months, we have faced a new reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have learned to make kitchen tables into offices and classrooms, learned to celebrate birthdays by standing in our front yards and wave as well-wishers drive by and we have even learned to make wearing masks when shopping or eating at a restaurant our new normal. However, one thing that has not changed, despite the pandemic – disasters do not stop, which means the American Red Cross will be there to support residents and communities affected.

This year’s disaster season has already been historically active. In any year, this is a cause for concern, but with a pandemic, the stakes are increased as the logistics are more difficult and there is an extra layer of safety that needs to be taken into consideration.

John Lavelle: “The tall building is our headquarters, the stained glass window is by Grant Wood, this is one of Cedar Rapids pride and joys.”

While the Red Cross continues to follow CDC guidelines, as well as implementing addtional protocols to keep disaster workers and residents safe, it is thanks to our selfless volunteers that we can continue to perform our mission.

Photo credit- John Lavelle, American Red Cross volunteer

Last week, a derecho devastated parts of Iowa. To assist with the Red Cross response, the Northern Ohio Region deployed 5 disaster volunteers. One of the volunteers that deployed was John Lavelle. John is from Avon Lake and a member of the North Central Ohio Chapter.

While in Iowa, John provided his thoughts and observation on the Red Cross’ disaster response:

“The area of disaster is so large that my job is to go out and find people that need help. We get connected that people have been given no assistance and my task is to go out and find them. I’m mostly working with isolated trailer parks and the destruction to them is immense. We find people living in tents and our immediate objective is to get them housing.”

Are you healthy and willing to travel, when necessary, to lend a helping hand? Visit for more information and to apply to become a volunteer.

August 17, 2020. Veterans Memorial Colosseum Red Cross operated shelter. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After a long day, shelter client Grace takes a nap knowing she is supported and cared for. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

Are you unable to deploy but you have an interest to help local communities and residents in need? Don’t worry! We have positions like blood donor ambassador that will allow you to spread the Red Cross’ mission and help others while being close to home.

Student will live to see graduation because of duo’s quick action

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

July 24, 2020- Imagine seeing a high school student fall to the ground while watching a football team practice. Would your first inclination be to assume he was horsing around? Fortunately, Shamara Golden, a student at Youngstown State University, was watching and had a sense there was more to it than that.

Shamara and athletic trainer Alex McCaskey rushed to his aid. Finding that he was still breathing and still had a pulse, but was unresponsive and unconscious, Alex stayed by his side and called 911. Shamara ran for the AED machine and medical kit.

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Shamara Golden with her Red Cross Certificate of Merit

While she was gone, the student stopped breathing. Alex immediately began CPR. As she returned, Alex cut open his shirt as Shamara attached the AED pads for assessment. Following the instructions on the AED, they delivered a shock, which caused him to start breathing again.

Once the victim began to breathe again, Alex stabilized the victim’s spine while Shamara rolled the victim into recovery position. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the victim stopped breathing again and the AED advised to continue CPR. Alex began to again administer five rounds of CPR until the ambulance arrived.

“I received a call from the boy’s mother when he was taken off the ventilator in the hospital,” recalled Alex. “That was an amazing feeling, getting that call. After that, a number of the Warren G. Harding High School administration members came down to congratulate Shamara and me at future football games.”

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Virtual award presentation featuring Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley Chapter Executive Director Rachel Telegdy, Northern Ohio Region CEO Mike Parks, Dr. Morgan Bagley, Shamara Golden and Alex McCaskey

“The day after it happened,” explained Shamara, “I didn’t mention it to my class, because I still hadn’t heard how the boy was doing. After we heard that he was fine, my classmates found out and there were cheers all around.”

Alex and Shamara were nominated for American Red Cross lifesaving awards by Dr. Morgan Bagley, associate professor at Youngstown State University where Shamara was studying to become an athletic trainer.

Alex received the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for those who step up in an emergency to save or sustain a life. Shamara received the Certificate of Merit, the highest award given by the Red Cross to a person who saves a life using the skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.

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Alex McCaskey

“I’m so proud of both of them,” said Dr. Bagley. “Shamara told me, ‘It’s just like you said, we have to constantly practice to be prepared for anything and everything.’”

Without a doubt, the skills learned in the American Red Cross CPR and AED Training class helped to save the life of this student.

You, too, can sign up and receive training in CPR, AED and First Aid with the Red Cross. Online classes are available. Click here to get started.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

End of the Fiscal Year message from Northern Ohio CEO Mike Parks

July 2, 2020- Greetings Family and Friends of the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio—I trust this finds you all safe and well!  What a glorious week of summer weather we’re having!!  I have three things I want to share with you today: 

Mike - uniform

Northern Ohio Regional CEO Mike Parks

 First: CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to all of you for an incredibly successful Fiscal Year 2020 which officially ended this week! What a year it’s been as we bid farewell to the former Northeast Ohio Region (22 counties serving 4.5 million people) and the Crossroads Division (seven regions)—both with rich histories of successful service. We ushered in our newly created Northern Ohio Region (31 counties serving 5.4 million people) as well as the newly formed Central Atlantic Division (six regions). All of you have been part of the tremendous accomplishments of this past year—thank you for all your efforts each and every day! Here are just a few of the highlights of FY 2020:

  • We provided more than one million dollars of Direct Client Assistance to over 5000 people averaging more than five cases per day throughout the region!
  •  We provided aid and comfort to more than 1100 servicemembers and their families during this past year!
  • We partnered with our colleagues in Biomed to help them respond to numerous blood emergencies—none more challenging than the pivot required by COVID-19, as well as collecting convalescent plasma and supporting anti-body testing.
  • We also supported our friends in Training Services by presenting numerous Lifesaving Awards.
  • We launched our own podcast—one of the first in the Red Cross.
  • We held our first “virtual” fundraising event—our highly successful BASH.
  • We continued to grow our critically important volunteer workforce, including a vibrant Young Professionals Council.

We couldn’t have met all those mission requirements without the fantastic fundraising efforts by all of you—spearheaded by our development team, executive directors, and board members.  We actually exceeded our fundraising goal for the third consecutive year!!

And none of this would have been possible without our incredibly dedicated workforce of staff and volunteers who overcame numerous challenges throughout the year but still found ways to meet our mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies.  Thank to our Volunteer Services team for continuing to recruit and engage!!

 It certainly has been a year of challenges—none of them small in scale—regional realignment, a global pandemic, social and civil unrest throughout the nation—all these things required enormous flexibility and teamwork on all of your parts.Thank you for that and special thanks to our operations folks for helping keep our facilities safe and our teams properly supplied under the most trying of circumstances.

 Second: I’m excited about FY 2021—hard to believe but it’s here! Yes, to be clear—the challenges of the past year are still with us in one form or another. COVID-19 is still a serious threat to health and safety—we’re starting the year in the “red”—our facilities remain closed to the public but the Red Cross is still very much open for business providing critical lifesaving care every day!  Please stay safe—remember CDC—”Cover, Distance, & Clean”—the Red Cross’ number one priority remains the health and safety of our workforce, clients, donors, stakeholders, and communities. 

Even though the date for realignment has officially passed, and we have made great initial strides, our unification efforts have been hampered by COVID-19 and our inability to travel and meet. I don’t know when it will happen but I do look forward to us being able to meet our Northern Ohio colleagues and partners in person and continue to build on the strong foundation already laid by all of you!

I also realize the Red Cross has an important role to play in dealing with the social turmoil around our country. As our leadership continues to find ways to be a positive voice, I encourage each of us to look inward to see how we can affect change in our personal sphere of influence and span of control. Let’s commit to “talk to people, not about people,” as well as to “think the best of people” that we encounter every day. We must all strive to make each interaction as positive as possible!

You might be asking yourself, with us all still facing these challenges, why am I so excited about FY 2021? The answer is simple—it’s all of you–the incredible family and friends of the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio—what a tremendous team!!! Your tireless dedication and unwavering commitment to our Red Cross life-saving mission inspires me every single day!  Thank you for that!!  Thank you for being part of the world’s premier humanitarian organization—the American Red Cross!!

Finally: I wish all of you a safe and healthy 4th of July. I know this year may be drastically different in how we celebrate but the reason why we celebrate the 4th of July hasn’t changed one bit—I hope you’re able to rest, relax, and reflect on the wonderful blessings we have as Americans as we recognize our nation’s 244th Anniversary!! 

God bless you all, God bless the American Red Cross, and God bless the U.S.A.!!! 

Happy Anniversary, American Red Cross

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

May 21, 2020- William Lawrence, former Republican US Representative from Ohio, was asked to attend a meeting held by Clara Barton on May 12, 1881. She had recently returned from working with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War, and was determined to start a similar organization in the United States


James Garfield, 20th President – Photo by Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Thanks to her persuasiveness, Lawrence went to fellow Ohioan, President James Garfield, to argue for the creation of an American Red Cross. In a mere nine days from the date of the original meeting, the president signed the declaration creating what was then known as the American National Red Cross on May 21st.

The following year, Barton and Lawrence convinced the U.S. to ratify the Geneva Conventions, guaranteeing humanitarian treatment during wartime.

139 Years of “Being There” for us

Since the beginning in 1881, the Red Cross has grown in response to our humanitarian needs and has five lines of service.

Disaster Services was one of the first responses by the new Red Cross. On May 31, 1889, a dam broke flooding Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Clara Barton and the Red Cross were credited with providing housing and relief to hundreds of the survivors.

Service to the Armed Forces was one of Barton’s initial goals, and she’d be proud to know of how it’s expanded over the years. One look at the Hero App and it’s evident how much the Red Cross provides for our military.

Blood Services provides 40% of the nation’s blood needs and now is beginning to collect convalescent plasma in the fight against COVID-19.

Training Services continues to save lives through first aid, CPR training, swimming instruction, baby sitting and more.

International Services is ready when global disasters happen, deploying local members to assist wherever needed.

How you can help

In these strange times, no matter what your situation, you can be a part of the Red Cross mission.  Donations are always needed, and even if unable to donate financially, maybe you could donate some time to help in our mission. Volunteers are needed now for both Disaster Services and Blood Services here in Northern Ohio.  Virtual positions even exist for those who can’t leave home. Find out more here and complete an online application.

SAF volunteer sews face masks to assist VA hospital

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross

April 10, 2020- Jennifer Blatnik is delighted to be using her quilt-making skills to fill a vital need in the face of COVID-19.

Working through the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program of the American Red Cross, Jennifer is turning out dozens of face masks for use at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland.

In her professional life, Jennifer actually works at the VA center: She talks with geriatric patients who are admitted through the emergency room and their families to find out what other services – beyond immediate medical care – they need to live successfully at home.


Jennifer Blatnik

“I love it,” she says of her job, so the veteran of 20 years in the Navy decided to get her degree in social work. That led her to the SAF, where she can fulfill her course requirement for hands-on social work experience.

“When I saw something about making masks, I thought, ‘I could totally whip out a whole bunch of those’.”

Jennifer turns out close-fitting “bird beak” style masks, which have space for an extra filter layer made of furnace vent material.

So far, the full-time worker, full-time student and full-time mom has churned out more than four dozen of the colorful – but vital – face coverings.

Meanwhile, Jeanette Petrick is adding homemade face masks to her Red Cross volunteer portfolio. Normally, she mans the SAF coffee and cookies cart every Friday at the VA center.

“I’m in the process of making 200 masks for whoever can use them at the VA,” she said. “As part of the SAF, we wanted to help, as so many are, during this health crisis.”


Just this week Jennifer recognized one of her creations on a co-worker. “That’s one of my masks!” she thought. “It was really cool,” to know she could put her hobby to serious purpose.

Meanwhile, her experience with the Red Cross has given her a new perspective.

“It makes me appreciate everyone who has ever volunteered,” she said. “It’s all for the greater good.”

For more information about Red Cross volunteer activities to support our men and women in uniform and our veterans, contact Jessica Tischler, Regional Director, Service to Armed Forces & International Services at or 216-496-2998, or Regional SAF Volunteer Lead Sharon Nicastro at or 216-469-0805.

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors