Volunteers show their versatility and willingness to help

Northern Ohio disaster workers in Kentucky assist at the scene of a car crash

Arden Tohill and Al Irwin are volunteers who responded to the call for help from the people of Eastern Kentucky, after devastating flooding there in late July. Among the first to deploy to the devastated region, they have been driving an emergency response vehicle through “the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky,” as Arden puts it, delivering much-needed food, water and other essential supplies. But last Saturday, their day took an interesting and unexpected turn, as Arden wrote in an email:

Al Irwin, left, and Arden Tohill – Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Interesting day, Saturday. On the way back to the kitchen, we were among the first to come upon a traffic accident. Al (Irwin) is still a licensed EMT, so there was no question about stopping.

Some firemen, who were nearby doing wellness checks, heard the crash and came flying on their 4-wheelers. The only problem was that they weren’t packed for a medical situation. One of them saw that I had my nitrile serving gloves on and asked if we had any more so I ran back to the ERV, grabbed the box of gloves we had just purchased and the first aid kit for the minimal supplies we had. 

After they got the passenger out, Al was holding her head steady to prevent spinal injury until an ambulance arrived with a collar. Al had me take over while he went on to something else.  In a few minutes a doctor who was out running household errands popped in to examine the passenger.  He asked if anyone happened to have a small flashlight so that he could check pupil reaction . Of course I had one, so I passed head-holding to a fireman and dug the light out.

After they finally got the driver out and boarded, we started passing out water to the first responders.

Al Irwin and Arden Tohill preparing to distribute meals to residents in flood-stricken Kentucky at Carr Creek Elementary school in Knott County – Photo credit: Remy Kennedy/American Red Cross

We don’t know the condition of the passenger, but we do know that Arden Tohill and Al Irwin are two talented, dedicated volunteers and true humanitarians, as illustrated by the account above. We are grateful for their service to the Red Cross.

Editor’s note: As of Monday, August 8, more than 430 trained Red Cross disaster workers were on the ground in Kentucky helping to provide a safe place to stay, food to eat, critical relief supplies and emotional support for those affected by this tragedy. Volunteers are also replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment, like canes and wheelchairs, which were left behind in the rush to get to safety.

  • Sunday night, the Red Cross and our partners provided comfort and care for almost 500 residents in numerous shelters across Eastern Kentucky. In the last week, the Red Cross and our partners have provided a total of more than 4,500 overnight stays for residents forced to leave their homes.
  • With the support of local partners, the Red Cross has helped to provide some 56,000 meals and snacks to people in need. In addition, we’ve given out thousands of critical relief items to nearly 800 households.

People in Eastern Kentucky are really hurting

People from Northern Ohio are really helping

They are working in shelters; they are distributing food and water; they are arranging logistics and they are establishing communications.  10 American Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio are playing crucial roles in the massive effort to bring comfort and care to people in eastern Kentucky, following deadly flooding last week. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the flooding that has upturned lives and destroyed homes across at least nine counties in the state.

Photo credit: Mike Parks, American Red Cross

Nearly 250 trained Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, and more help is on the way.  Sunday night, almost 640 residents took refuge in one of the many shelters being supported by the Red Cross and other partners. The Red Cross is providing a safe place to stay, food to eat, emotional support for those affected by this tragedy, and is helping with replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment that were left behind in the rush to get to safety.

Northern Ohio volunteers: Al Irwin and Arden Tohill drove an emergency response vehicle to Kentucky on Saturday. Mahogany Coward is helping with logistics from the University of Kentucky.

More than 15,400 people are without power, and as many as 60,000 are either without water or under a boil advisory.

This deadly flooding — along with the recent heavy rainfall in Missouri, explosive wildfires in California and the ongoing Northwest heatwave — are clear examples of how more intense climate-related disasters are happening more often. Over the last two years, on average, the Red Cross responded a new, major disaster every 10 days. We see firsthand how families and communities are suffering and depending on us for help – with our volunteers continuously on the ground, setting up shelters, arranging for hot meals and offering comfort for people forced from their homes.

You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Helping those in need after a disaster is challenging but rewarding

By Mike Arthur, Regional Mass Care & Logistics Manager, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

I’m grateful to live in northern Ohio, one of the safest areas of the country from a weather-related disaster standpoint. We don’t have to worry about a hurricane coming and wiping our homes away. We are unlikely to walk out our front doors and have trouble breathing due to smoke from a nearby wildfire.

I have never worried about the fate of my family and myself, where we would live and work after a disaster destroyed my home and place of work. I have never had to make a decision about which of my hard-earned belongings I need to take with me when I evacuate. I have never had my community devastated. Every year thousands of families have their lives changed drastically when their homes and communities are affected by disasters large and small.

Mike Arthur, during the Red Cross response to hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas in 2017
 

I’m also grateful that I get the opportunity to help people in need. As a Regional Mass Care & Logistics Manager, I get to put the skills and talents learned over the course of my life to good use leading and supporting the American Red Cross workforce in meeting the needs of our clients locally and nationally.

I get to deploy for a few weeks each year making an immediate difference in someone’s life. Deployments to large disasters are tough but incredibly rewarding. The hours can be long. The food is not always five star. I sometimes sleep on a cot in a staff shelter with my fellow workers. It can be stressful. Compassion fatigue is a risk.

Residents wait to receive clean up supplies from the Red Cross after hurricane Harvey in 2017.

I look forward to each deployment and go as often as I can. I feel like I make a difference. I have made incredible friends across the country. I have great stories to tell. I get to bring hope to those in need. I help provide a safe place to sleep and food in bellies, and sometimes, most importantly I can provide a warm hug, bright smile and a sympathetic ear. My life is fuller because of my deployment experiences. I hope you will take to opportunity to join me out in the field this year and experience the magic of helping.

Help those in need when they need it most by becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross. To find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

From intern to trusted volunteer

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Maria Ford lives in Toledo and is a member of the Northwest Ohio chapter. She has two children; a five- year-old son who keeps her running, and a nineteen-year-old daughter. They love to get out and hike the trails in the woods and enjoy being out in nature. In her spare time, Maria’s starting a collection of teapots.

Maria Ford

She’s been working for the Toledo Municipal Court for seven years now. Presently, she is a supervisor in the Probation department and really enjoys the work. “We’ve got so many good programs going now – it’s a great time to be here.”

Maria started with the Red Cross as part of an internship in connection with her Master’s Degree program through Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Able to take the program online, she obtained a Master of Science in Social Administration with a concentration in social work, completing the program during the pandemic. “During the internship, I realized that I enjoyed working with Red Cross so much that I’ve stayed with the organization ever since.”

Presently, she is actively involved as Community Preparedness Coordinator, educating people about home fire prevention. “I also help people get their smoke alarms and plan rallies, working with volunteers and our clients. I also do a bit of DAT (Disaster Action Team) on the side, and I’ve even done some sheltering, which was cool, and I enjoyed that too.”

“Maria has been with us for a number of years now,” says Rachel Hepner, Chapter Executive Director. “She’s been instrumental in making our home fire campaign a success and is a great person to have on board as we get closer to Sound the Alarm.”

When asked about what she would say to someone who’s not sure if they would enjoy being a Red Cross volunteer, Maria says, “Red Cross seems to attract some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, with such big hearts and willing to give back to the community when people may be experiencing the worst time of their life. Being able to be with those people, to love them, and to support them, is really a blessing. If anyone is inclined to give back and help people in their community, the Red Cross has a position for everyone, where you can make a difference.”

Dedicated volunteer of 12 years delivers customer service with a smile

By Ryan Lang, Red Cross Volunteer

What started as more of a convenience for Red Cross volunteer Anita Hicks , quickly became one of the most fulfilling parts of her life.

Anita is one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers dedicated to the Red Cross Mission and providing an invaluable service to the community. Working at the front desk at the Akron Red Cross headquarters, she spends most of her days answering phones and greeting blood donors, volunteers and others as they walk through the doors, helping them find where they need to go. With her background in customer service, Anita says it was a match made in heaven from the moment she walked through the doors at 501 West Market Street 12 years ago.

Anita Hicks, Red Cross Volunteer

Before that, though, Anita says it was simply the location that drew her in, as the building was within walking distance of her apartment. She was recently retired and needed something to do, so she walked next door. And then, she says, she “immediately fell in love with it.”

Now, after 12 years of walking to work (at least on sunny days), Anita has developed a bond with so many of the blood donors, volunteers and Red Cross staff in the building. “They should be met with the Red Cross standard,” which Anita describes as “120% customer service,” adding, “Nothing beats a smile and a cheerful hello.”

But over the past two years, in dealing with COVID-19 protocols and even shutdowns, it’s been more of a challenge than ever before. The office has been more desolate and for nearly a year and a half, Anita was at home due to pandemic protocols. “I was a fish out of water,” she said of her time away from the office she loves so much.

Today, she’s back in the office two days a week.

“Anita has been a front desk volunteer as long as I can remember, always greeting everyone with a smile and willing to help chip in on any task that needs to be done,” said Rachel D’Attoma, executive director of the Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley. “She will drive through a snowstorm to get to the building and still be smiling when she arrives.  It is wonderful to have Anita and know that the Red Cross can count on her!”

“It’s just a pleasure. It’s always been a pleasure and it has continued to be a pleasure to be able to give a little bit of myself to someone else.” Anita adds, “I’ve bought into the Red Cross Mission 100%, and it means the world to me to offer my time to the Red Cross.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Man of many talents shares them with the Red Cross

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

Doug Bardwell was already volunteering to help people in need when he first encountered the American Red Cross. In 1983, Doug and his sons drove to St. Genevieve, Missouri to help during a devastating flood. They stayed in a Red Cross shelter while helping sandbag the town. After that experience, Doug was hooked and decided to become a Red Cross volunteer after he retired.

March 7, 2020. Donelson, Tennessee. Homeowner Linda Bennett tells Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell that she can’t thank everyone enough that’s stopped to check on her since the tornado hit. She related to Doug about being sucked through her house when the twister hit. “I felt things hitting me as I was thrown about the house,” said Linda. “When the wind stopped, I went outside, and a neighbor lent me a pair of his shoes. “ Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Fast forward several years and Doug has become an integral part of the volunteer team in Northern Ohio. You can’t mention the name “Doug Bardwell” without someone saying how much he has helped them meet the Red Cross mission.

In September 2016, Doug became a communications volunteer in the Northern Ohio Region. His first assignment was a bit of a tall order…photographing and writing about a smoke alarm installation with the Harlem Globetrotters. He continues to contribute articles to the Northern Ohio region blog and takes fantastic photos of many different events whenever needed.

Regional Red Cross CEO Mike Parks and Senior Disaster Program Manager Emily Probst observe, as Harlem Globetrotter Zeus McClurkin installs a smoke alarm in a home in Cleveland

Doug also joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT), which helps residents affected by local fires and severe weather events around northern Ohio.

“The day Doug Bardwell walked into my office was my lucky day,” said Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications Director. “It was OUR lucky day, because Doug has such a broad array of skills he shares so freely, in the Northern Ohio Region and at the national Red Cross level.”

Doug also serves as a lead volunteer for the Volunteer Services department. In that role, he welcomes new volunteers, helps troubleshoot IT issues volunteers may face navigating Volunteer Connection, the online portal for volunteers, as well as writing and publishing the NOH Notables, a weekly wrap-up of local and national Red Cross stories that are published on Volunteer Connection.

March 7, 2020. Nashville, Tennessee. Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell listened as (L to R) Machaela , Raniesha, Terriona , and Ray Shawn told stories about all that happened as the tornado hit their home. They are now staying at the Red Cross shelter at Centennial Sportsplex. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In addition to all the support Doug provides the Northern Ohio Region, he also serves as a national communications volunteer. As part of the national Advanced Public Affairs team, Doug has helped manage communications and gather stories and photos for multiple disasters, including the California Camp Fire in 2018, floods in Texas and Louisiana in 2020 and deadly tornadoes in Tennessee in 2021. In fact, anyone clicking around the RedCross.org site will see photos of Doug in action, helping the victims of these various disasters.

Bardwell family

For all the amazing volunteer work Doug has done, his greatest delight is his family. He and his awesome wife have seven children and 19 grandchildren who keep them quite busy! His grandchildren provide never-ending opportunities to attend baseball, basketball, football, soccer, cross country and track and field events. And there’s also marching band, orchestra, jazz band, choral, drama and the list goes on and on. When he’s not busy with family or the Red Cross, he also helps at his church and takes photographs for Properties Magazine.

When asked what he would say to someone looking to volunteer, Doug feels giving back to the community is something everyone should do. “The Red Cross is so big and does so many things, there is bound to be a use for whatever talents and availability you bring with you,” he said. “From volunteering at one blood drive, to sitting at home and making phone calls, there is literally a role for everyone.

Thank you, Doug, for all you do. We are so fortunate to have you as a Red Cross Northern Ohio Region volunteer!

Red Cross salutes volunteer leadership

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Sally Carter has made a career of volunteer leadership.

No matter where she’s lived – and she’s moved a lot – Sally has found needs to fill in her community.

She helped found a children’s theater company and organized volunteers for a third grade “reading buddies” program. PTO and PTA, classroom volunteer, juvenile vision screening, United Way, Newcomers Club, Chamber of Commerce, Learning Disabilities Association – Sally has grown and shared her volunteer “chops” with infectious enthusiasm.

The American Red Cross is lucky to have her.

Sally Carter, Red Cross volunteer

Sally was living in Ogden, Utah, when she saw a newspaper ad for a front -desk volunteer at the local Red Cross chapter.

“It was two weeks before (Hurricane) Katrina hit,” she recalled with a chuckle. Needless to say, that was an extraordinarily challenging moment to be manning the phones, answering a myriad of questions about Red Cross services, volunteer needs and financial donations.

But Sally found her niche. “I was hooked instantly. We were just a family. After that first rush of hurricane response, I got promoted: We did workshops and forums; I started a newsletter, and we did fundraisers.

“I watched all the wheels turning. Red Cross was helping people with house fires, hurricanes; when a semi overturned on the highway, we were feeding the firefighters. Earthquakes, avalanches, mudslides – I didn’t even know about mudslides,” she said, reflecting on the variety of hazards Americans face.

When Sally and her husband Lee moved back to Sandusky to be near family, we crossed paths; she and I had worked together decades before. As we caught up, she mentioned her Red Cross experience and I pounced: “Join us on the chapter board!”

And of course, she did.

“I love working with Sally as a member of our board of directors and as the leader of our Community Outreach team because her passion for the mission of the Red Cross shines through in everything she does,” said Todd James, executive director of the North Central Ohio chapter.

Sally has organized a pool of volunteers to attend community events, to spread the word about the many things the Red Cross does – disaster prevention, preparedness and response, blood collection, health and safety education – as well as the many ways the public can get involved, – as volunteers, blood donors or financial supporters.

She also edits the chapter newsletter, Chapter Chatter.

“You get so hooked,” Sally said. “It’s almost a selfish thing: I may have done some good as a volunteer, but I got back 20 times over.”

Sally’s dedication to volunteerism is a family thing. Her parents were committed volunteers and she laughingly said she’s “volun-towed” her husband Lee, a retired newspaper executive, into a variety of activities. “I’m hoping I’ve instilled it in my sons,” she added.

Sally is a sterling example of the tens of thousands of volunteers who make it possible for the Red Cross to fulfill its mission to “prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”​

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio Red Cross volunteer finds the path to yes, no matter the challenge

The first in a series of volunteer profiles during National Volunteer Week

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Deb Day, Red Cross volunteer and Toby

The American Red Cross has many outstanding volunteers in Northern Ohio, and we
are proud to profile a few for Volunteer Week. Today we are featuring Deb Day, a
community volunteer leader in the Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes (HSML)
chapter.

Since joining the Red Cross in 2017, Deb has helped a tremendous number of people recover from disasters—both in Ohio and throughout the U.S. She frequently assists during blood drives and has taken a key role in several Red Cross initiatives.

Deb Day, Red Cross volunteer

Deb brings a lifetime of learning and experience to the Red Cross. She retired from a public education career almost seven years ago, where she coached, taught and served as a guidance counselor. Her interests and hobbies include the outdoors, travelling , and sports. Deb has always loved helping others and seeking adventure.

“Now that I have the time to volunteer,” she said, “I truly enjoy helping out whether it is deploying to disasters, working as a blood donor ambassador, or working at the local food pantry.”

Deb first joined in 2017, after seeing a Red Cross call for volunteers during coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

Deb was soon assisting those impacted by the hurricane. She said her deployment started with “hurry up and wait” but soon changed to needing to be flexible, avoiding frustration, and getting the job done. Deb served in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), feeding those in a community about 45 minutes away from the kitchen in Sugar Land. “We were the first to leave and the last to come home,” she said.

Deb also saw the best of humanity. “Amidst all the destruction was hope and determination,” she said. “A community came together to look out for one another. It was a time when I could provide food, hugs, words of comfort, and a shoulder to cry on. It was remarkable!” She also spoke of the warm, welcoming the Southern Baptist kitchen volunteers and how “Red Cross deployments create families whose members stay in touch for life.”

Antique Day Parade, 10-10-21

Of course, most of Deb’s work is in her home chapter. In addition to helping with daily responses and initiatives, she assisted following the tornado in Shelby and flooding in the Wooster area. Speaking very highly of her fellow volunteers and staff members, Deb remarked how everyone in their small but mighty group pitched in and served the needs of the community, something which they consistently achieve.

“I truly appreciate everyone’s dedication to their community and the Red Cross,” Deb said. Whether Sound the Alarm, community assistance, disaster response, training, or meetings, “volunteers and staff find the path to ‘YES’ no matter the challenge.” And while the pandemic has been difficult, the Red Cross has not wavered in its humanitarian commitment to those in need.

“I am amazed and so thankful for everyone affiliated with the Red Cross,” she said.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

March 23rd is Giving Day, and the need for Red Cross services is critical

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

March 23rd is the eighth annual American Red Cross Giving Day, when communities come together to raise awareness about our critical disaster relief mission and fund our lifesaving work across the country. As recent events show, the Red Cross mission and services are critically needed, as #HelpCantWait.

As I reported earlier this month, Disaster Action Team (DAT) responses in our region increased by over 30% in February, mainly due to home fires, and March has continued to be exceptionally busy. Nationally, the Red Cross responded to more than 15,900 home fires since January 1, providing help to almost 60,000.

Please see this video for a behind-the-scenes look at the work Giving Day makes possible.

The blood supply is vulnerable, and help is greatly needed, from blood donors, volunteers, and those providing financial support.

In addition, climate change, global instability, and the effects of the pandemic will continue to pose challenges for all humanitarian services. Challenges that, with your help, the Red Cross will rise to meet. 

On a personal note, as a disaster responder I have seen the benefits of Red Cross services. I often saw the relief on people’s faces when we arrived after a home fire, knowing they would have help recovering. And, as assistance was provided, I also frequently saw human resiliency and signs of hope returning. Such moments occur, on average, more than three times a day in Northern Ohio and are made possible by donors and volunteers.

Here are some examples of what a financial gift can provide:

  • $3: one comfort kit containing hygiene items.
  • $15: one smoke alarm installation with fire safety education.
  • $50: a full day of food and shelter for one person.
  • $135: one smoke alarm and fire safety education for a hearing-impaired person.
  • $150: travel, meals, and shelter for one day for a deployed Red Cross disaster relief, health, or mental health worker.
  • $200: a full day of food and shelter to a family of four. Includes the cost of Red Cross workers to provide this service.
  • $350: the daily cost to deploy an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).
  • $605: financial assistance for a family impacted by a local disaster, like a home fire. This helps the family purchase food, lodging, clothing, and other critical needs.
  • $4,000: a Sound the Alarm event. Includes installing smoke alarms and providing a fire safety package, deploying an ERV for the day, and lunch for volunteers. Average events install around 200 alarms.

To participate in Giving Day, please visit redcross.org/GivingDay. A gift of any size makes a difference.

For Northern Ohio volunteer opportunities, please visit this link..

To donate blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

To learn lifesaving skills like CPR and First Aid, consider taking a class at redcross.org/TakeAClass.

Video streamers can also help. See here if interested.

Northern Ohio Red Cross volunteer awarded for a lifetime of service to others

If you had 4,100 hours to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? If it helps, that’s almost 175 days. Would you take a vacation? Or a few? Catch up on sleep? Finally read all those books on your nightstand?

American Red Cross Northern Ohio volunteer Sharon Nicastro took her hours and spent them helping others. In fact, she took exactly 4,172 hours working to assist the military and their families as a Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and International Services (SAF/IS) volunteer. During a virtual ceremony on Martin Luther King Jr., Day this past February, Sharon was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a civil award bestowed by the President of the United States. Also called the Presidents Call to Service Award, a volunteer must give 4,000 hours or more over a lifetime of volunteering to receive this prestigious award.

Admiral Mike Parks, CEO of the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region, presents Sharon Nicastro with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award

During the ceremony Koby Langley, Senior Vice President, Red Cross International Services and Service to the Armed Forces, said “This level of achievement represents a person who’s dedicated their entire life to improving the world around them. They’ve dedicated themselves to being a humanitarian, to help others in need.”

Sharon Nicastro volunteers at the Cleveland VA Medical Center on Pearl Harbor Day (Photo taken prior to COVID-19)

With how busy life seems to be for everyone these days, many may wonder why Sharon has spent so much time in serving others. She says her lifelong commitment began with her father, who encouraged his children to volunteer. “If dad went to the clambake to help, all us kids went to the clambake to help,” said Sharon. For Sharon and her family, it wasn’t a question of will you help but why wouldn’t you?

During her time as an SAF/IS volunteer, Sharon has supported military families during deployments and emergencies. She has also helped our nation’s veterans after their service ends. Sharon has taught CPR and hands only CPR classes in Northern Ohio and volunteers at the VA Medical Center in Cleveland. “Sharon is an inspiring woman to work with. Her dedication to support service members, veterans and their families is humbling,” said Jessica Tischler, SAF/IS Regional Program Manager. “She is also a force multiplier as she engages and leads new volunteers in delivering services and works with community partners. Winston Churchill said ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give’ and that encompasses what Sharon has shared with the Red Cross.”

Sharon Nicastro and volunteer Jackie Otte teach a CPR class in Cleveland. (Photo taken prior to
COVID-19)

The Northern Ohio Region is incredibly fortunate to have Sharon Nicastro on our team. We congratulate her on this outstanding achievement. And we look forward to what she does next because, of course, Sharon doesn’t plan to stop volunteering anytime soon!

If Sharon has inspired you the way she inspires all of us, learn how you can become a Red Cross volunteer and start working your way to that 4,000-hour milestone, at RedCross.org/VolunteerToday.