Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 22-25, 2020

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

May 26, 2020- While many across Northern Ohio were remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country and took time to get out of their homes to enjoy the summer-like temperatures, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was responding to local disasters to assist residents in need.

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During Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25, Disaster Action Team members were assisting residents experiencing one of the worst days of their lives. To comply with social distancing guidelines, the Red Cross responded virtually to assist 65 individuals in 9 counties, Ashland, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lucas, Stark, Summit and Trumbull, and provided more than $10,200 in immediate financial assistance.

“It is so gratifying to know our Disaster Action Team volunteers are ready, willing and able to respond to disasters like home fires, even on weekends and holidays,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio.  “And they have adjusted to the new protocol for responding virtually, so that they are safe and the residents they assist are kept safe.”

To date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,039 local disasters, assisted 4,553 individuals and has provided $881,325 in immediate financial assistance.

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Even during this historic, challenging time, the Red Cross continues to respond in times of crisis, thanks to the extraordinarily dedication and compassion of Red Cross volunteers.

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Wherever you are, there’s a role you can play right now with the Red Cross. Visit https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html to find an opportunity near you.

 

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 15-17, 2020

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

May 18, 2020-  With the sun shining and the temperatures allowing for shorts to be worn, many in Northern Ohio were taking advantage of the warmer weather and enjoying the outdoors to get outside of their homes. However for some, they were experiencing one of the worst days of their lives due to a local disaster, such as a home fire.

While other Northern Ohioans were basking in the sun, American Red Cross disaster responders were assisting residents in need.

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During the weekend of May 15-17, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted more than 80 individuals in 11 responses and and provided more than $9,300 in immediate financial assistance.

All of the weekend disaster responses were done virtually to comply with social distancing measures.

This year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,021 incidents, assisted 2,917 adults and 1,551 children, as well as provided $862,520.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

One of the responses was an apartment fire at a 36-unit building in Dundee, Michigan in Monroe County on Saturday. This was the second large response for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio in as many days.

“I’m proud of our disaster team. I’m always proud of them; but I’m especially proud during these uncertain times. Kudos to our staff and volunteers for continuing impeccable service delivery every day,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 8-10, 2020

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

May 11, 2020- Over the weekend, Northern Ohio residents were finding new and creative ways to show their love and appreciation to the mothers they know, while adhering to social distancing to ensure everyone’s safety from COVID-19.

Home Fire Save Story New Orleans, Louisiana 2019

While many were celebrating mothers, unfortunately some were experiencing the worst days of their lives due to a local disaster and the Northern Ohio Region Disaster Action Team was there to provide support and assistance because emergencies don’t take breaks.

During the weekend of May 8-10, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted 34 individuals and provided $8,995 in immediate financial assistance.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

To date, the Northern Ohio Region has responded to 996 emergencies, assisted more than 4,300 individuals and have provided $838,790 in immediate financial assistance.

Safety for Red Cross Disaster Action Team members and the residents we assist is our number one priority. While our workers can no longer hug people due to social distancing, it does not mean the renowned comfort the Red Cross is known for has to stop.

DAT home fire responses Atlanta, Georgia video screenshots 2019

The Red Cross has come up with new ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who are experiencing the worst day of their lives:

  • We have screening questions that we ask residents before we respond, to protect our volunteers and those we assist.
  • We can conduct interviews over the phone, to ensure that we have a timely response in order to meet their needs and get them assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothing, disaster health services or disaster mental health services.
  • We have the capability to conduct video interviews, so the resident sees the smile, and the helping demeanor of our volunteers.
  • We have developed ways to deliver cards loaded with financial assistance to a location of the resident’s choosing, always with the safety and health of our volunteer and those in need of assistance at the forefront.
  • We also have volunteer caseworkers who will work with residents on the phone to connect them with community partners.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

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

A V-E Day remembrance: Charles Buccini saw each day as a gift

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

May 8, 2020- May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe during World War II, known as V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). To help honor it, I spoke with veteran and American Red Cross volunteer Jim Buccini about his father, Charles Buccini, a WWII veteran and former Prisoner of War (POW).

Charles Buccini’s life and outlook are inspiring. Orphaned at a young age, Charles went between foster homes until, at 13, a family in Bellevue, Ohio, took him in. Charles lived and worked at the family’s farm until he was 21, when his foster brother was drafted. To help the family, Charles took his place.

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Charles Buccini

Charles saw action in Europe with the United States Army 9th Armored Division, 73rd Artillery Battalion, until he and around 900 others were captured on December 18, 1944.

Charles spent the next six months as a POW. Food was scarce, and the POWs were often moved through long marches and packed box cars, staying in stalags and bombed-out buildings. Charles dropped from 165 pounds to 100 pounds, and nearly half of his group did not survive.

Charles rarely spoke of his time as a POW. In fact, Jim first heard many accounts in 1978, when he took his father to visit John Taibi, a friend and fellow POW. While the two often communicated, they hadn’t seen one another since being liberated. Jim relayed how emotional it was to witness their first meeting in over 30 years, hearing the stories, and realizing the extent of his father’s heroism.

Jim learned more through John Taibi’s diary, which describes hardships, relief of a Red Cross package and the day they were liberated. They woke, saw no Germans, heard American voices, and realized they were free.

Although his time as a POW caused lingering issues, Charles never complained and took pride in his service. Jim said when asked about difficulties, his father was spiritual and pragmatic. Charles explained that some things are left in God’s hands, it was all part of life and you deal with it.

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Jim Buccini

Charles saw each day after liberation as a bonus, a gift. Following the war, Charles worked as a pipefitter for 36 years, focused on his family and helped others. Charles passed away in 1991. On April 11, 2019, several family members and friends gathered at his gravesite for his 100th birthday.

Charles inspired many, especially his children, and helped instill confidence and caring. Two of them, Jim and his older brother, Chuck, are also Army veterans. Chuck’s service included a year in Vietnam. Jim was stationed near the Berlin Wall. Like many in his family, Jim helps others. After retiring in 2016, he volunteered with the Red Cross where his duties include Services to the Armed Forces.

People like Charles Buccini helped overcome one of humanity’s greatest challenges. For Jim and Chuck, his lessons help during another crucial time. As we now face a pandemic, Jim looks to his grandchildren, remembers his father and remains confident. Throughout this time, it may help us to follow Charles’ example and see each day as a gift.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

National Nurses Day Profile: LaVern Nerlich answers call as volunteer disaster nurse

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

May 6, 2020- Nurses play supporting roles in our lives on a regular basis. Yet we’re especially grateful for their knowledge, skill and care when life creates the need for nurses to take on more prominent roles for our healing—or even for our survival. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the day-to-day responsibilities of many health care professionals. While they have always worked hard and placed themselves at risk, the current situation has intensified their experiences on the job.

Did you know the American Red Cross has nurses on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help the victims of disasters? They are dedicated professionals who volunteer their time to help others in addition to their regular jobs.

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LaVern Nerlich consoling residents following an apartment fire in Parma Heights in 2019

LaVern Nerlich, a nurse/volunteer for the Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Region, learned about the Red Cross as new nurse around 25 years ago. She became a disaster nurse and enjoyed it.

“It’s in my blood!” she said. LaVern loves helping others, and volunteering is a way to contribute to her community.

How do on-call nurses help after a disaster? LaVern told me that people often lose their medication or critical medical equipment when evacuating for a fire or flood. And they are often too exhausted to take the steps needed to replace them. Red Cross nurses are able to make the calls, and often get quicker results, since they know who to speak to and are familiar with medical terminology. Sometimes when speaking with a client, nurses can identify an immediate need. For example, while talking to a woman who had run back into a fire, LaVern realized the lady was having trouble breathing. LaVern directed her to go immediately to the hospital for treatment.

Nurses never know what the next phone call will bring. LaVern was called to assist after major flooding in Wayne County last summer. She also helped out after a big apartment complex fire in Parma last year. The nurses often continue with families, assisting with their medical needs resulting from the disaster. She said it’s possible to have over a hundred clients at a time.

“LaVern is an exceptional gift to Red Cross,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager of Disaster Cycle Services for Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Region. “She brings a strong nursing background, which allows her to make good decisions for our clients. Her devotion to the mission is always evident, and I am particularly grateful that while her real job involves working in a COVID-heavy environment, she did not hesitate to offer help with calling dozens of our volunteers to discuss how COVID impacts our current response. She’s a great asset!”

LaVern still loves her volunteer work for the Red Cross. Does it sound like something you’d like to do, too? Opportunities to volunteer as a disaster nurse or in other ways are listed on the Red Cross website. To learn more, visit: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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Kevin Sauer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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Olivia Wyles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The information sessions will take place online.

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

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer