Grandparents Day: Caring goes both ways

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Believe it…Grandparents Day is really a ‘thing.’ Actually, it’s been a thing for 43 years now. Congress passed a resolution declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as Grandparents Day, which President Jimmy Carter signed into law in 1978. Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Mexico also celebrate Grandparents Days, albeit on different dates.

According to NationalToday.com, “Like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we also have a whole day dedicated to our grandparents. Grandparents and children have a special connection that is proven to both make grandparents live longer, and also make children more emotionally resilient. Grandparents Day is an opportunity to treasure that connection and spend some quality family time together.”

As a grandparent of 19, we are unusual in that only three of our grandkids  live outside Cleveland, and the rest are all within 15 minutes of our home. Rarely does a week go by without talking to or seeing many of them. ‘Opportunities’ to get together abound with football, baseball, soccer, tennis, cross country, track, swimming, basketball, band, dance, gymnastics and theater.

Now that many of them are older, the grandsons eagerly anticipate being old enough to come to our monthly Bardwell boy’s night out (BBNO) events.

On the other side of the spectrum, we know plenty of people our age who rarely see or hear from their grandchildren. That’s sad, not only for the grandparents, but for the grandchildren as well.

Parents, it’s your job to encourage those visits. Or if your parents have passed, consider a night out at an assisted-living community and maybe adopt a grandparent. It would certainly make that senior’s day to have youngsters around they could talk with.

As someone who has experienced a great deal in life, I feel one of my biggest jobs now is to pass along good examples to my grandchildren. I will never be one of those preachy grandparents, and we try to never contradict what their parents have told them, but I know lots of them are picking up what we demonstrate by our social norms, our religious participation and by our volunteerism.

While I haven’t landed any American Red Cross volunteers from the family yet, I know we’ve gotten many to start making blood donations during their college years, and I think some may be considering volunteering after graduation.

Have you got someone in your family who might make a great volunteer with the Red Cross? Talk up your experience and make sure they have the information they need to get started. There are opportunities for even high school aged students. Get started here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Recognizing International Day of Charity

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Nine years ago, the United Nations designated Sept. 5 as International Day of Charity to highlight the role of volunteerism and philanthropy in alleviating humanitarian crises and human suffering.

The day was chosen to honor the work of renowned missionary Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who became a role model of selfless action on behalf of the poor, sick and homeless.

Does this mission statement sound familiar: “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.”

Clearly, the Day of Charity and the Red Cross fit together like hand and glove.

Every day, trained Red Cross volunteers step forward to offer care and compassion to those in distress: people bereft by home fires, or displaced by western wildfires, Tennessee flash flooding or Hurricane Henri and Ida’s savage winds and rain. We’ve provided nearly 20,000 overnight stays in COVID-safe accommodations for those impacted by high-profile disasters just this summer.

At the same time, volunteers turn to the Red Cross to donate 40% of the nation’s blood supply for folks undergoing surgery, critical emergency care or life sustaining treatments.

September 1, 2021. Ramstein Air Base, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. The American Red Cross is welcoming evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, at the request of the Department of Defense. Red Cross team members are offering hygiene supplies, baby items, and other necessities. Photo by Emily Osment / American Red Cross

Of course the Red Cross is continuing its tradition of care for America’s veterans and their families, many of them stressed by recent events in Afghanistan. And at the request of the U.S Department of Defense, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are helping meet basic human needs of American and Afghan evacuees as they arrive at U.S. military bases for repatriation or screening. (For more information, check out “Afghanistan: How the Red Cross and Red Crescent Are Helping” at redcross.org.)

None of this would be possible without financial support from the American public – individuals, foundations, and businesses and corporations large and small.

People like me. I’m certainly no “deep pockets” donor, but I give what I can to causes I believe in – the Red Cross high among them – because I think they build a better world for the present and for my grandchildren. I think of it as “doing my bit;” hardly Mother Teresa-level sacrifice, but doing what I can to ease burdens.

Michelle Polinko, chief development officer for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross, deals with donors that out-give me many times over.

“We have corporate partners here in northern Ohio that understand the need to be ready at a moment’s notice,” Michelle said.  “When a disaster strikes, we need to deploy resources like trained responders, emergency vehicles, comfort kits, food and water immediately.

“Thanks to our Annual Disaster Giving Program partners, like the J.M. Smucker Company, who provide annual donations allowing us to pre-invest in supplies and readiness, we can take action right away.”

The Smucker company is one of dozens that add their big support to the smaller donations that you and I can give to drive the humanitarian engine.

By the way, Sept. 5 is also Cheese Pizza Day (who knew?) and Be Late for Something Day. So it’s not too late to donate financially at redcross.org/donate. Or volunteer (We really need trained disaster volunteers right now!) at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Or find the date, time and location of your nearest Red Cross blood drive (You know someone out there is relying on you for blood, right?!) by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or accessing RedCrossBlood.org.  Or text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search “Red Cross Blood” on the App Store or Google Play to get the free Blood Donor App.

Back-to-back disasters require nationwide Red Cross response

More than a thousand volunteers deploy to help those affected by wildfires, Hurricane Ida and flooding

Back-to-back massive disasters have more than 1,200 American Red Cross volunteers, including 32 from Northern Ohio, working tirelessly from coast to coast right now providing food, shelter and comfort to thousands of people in need. We are working around the clock with our partners to provide help to people struggling with the heartbreaking damage left behind by Hurricane Ida.

The Red Cross is working to provide help to people struggling with the massive flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Wednesday night, some 430 people sought refuge in 13 Red Cross and community shelters across Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Some 130 trained Red Cross workers are on the ground now to support relief efforts. The Red Cross and its partners have already provided some 1,300 meals and snacks and distributed more than 100 relief items. Trained Red Cross volunteers have already made nearly 100 contacts providing emotional support, health services and spiritual care for people who’ve been evacuated.

Wendy Halsey of the American Red Cross hands boxes of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) to Cassandra Simon in LaPace, LA, one of the areas of Louisiana which suffered extreme damage from Hurricane Ida. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

While massive flooding affected many states in the northern U.S., many southern states continue to deal with the aftermath Ida. Nearly 900 trained Red Cross workers are on the ground now to support relief efforts. The Red Cross and our partners have provided nearly 51,000 meals and snacks and distributed more than 16,000 relief items to people in need.

And, in the midst of responding to Hurricane Ida, the Red Cross continues to help people in California where tens of thousands of people are under evacuation orders as massive wildfires continue to spread. Red Cross workers have been on the ground since June helping evacuees find a safe place to stay, food to eat and emotional support during this heartbreaking time.

Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner looks over damage from the Dixie Fire in Greenville, CA, a small town that was devastated by the fire on Saturday, August 7, 2021. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

The Red Cross expects to respond to more disasters in the coming months, as the season is only beginning. Financial donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters. To give, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Individuals in unaffected areas of the country are urged to make an appointment to give blood to ensure a sufficient blood supply remains available for patients. Schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733- 2767).

The Red Cross needs more volunteers now. If you have the time, you can make a significant impact. Review our most urgently needed volunteer positions at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Northern Ohio volunteers respond to disasters at home and across the country

Busy weekend highlights need for additional volunteers

Over the weekend, disaster action team members from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to local events and traveled across the country to assist those affected by national disasters. Locally, nine incidents occurred, affecting more than two dozen individuals. The Red Cross provided more than $7,000 in immediate assistance.

Fire damaged home in East Cleveland – Photo credit: David Huey, American Red Cross volunteer

As of today, 12 Red Cross workers from Northern Ohio have been deployed to a variety of national disaster responses, with a majority in California for the ongoing wildfire response. As tropical depressions like Grace and Henri are expected to continue in the coming weeks and wildfires continue to burn, the need for more volunteers is urgent.

Brigit Jackson is a nurse from Wooster who deployed to Portola, California to assist those affected by the Dixie Fire. She’s a nurse serving as a disaster health volunteer. In a message this morning, Brigit notes the winds have shifted southwest and more evacuations are expected.

Portola, California – Photo Credit: Brigit Jackson, American Red Cross Volunteer

“Just a little update! The smoke is dense today and it smells like burning wood/fire. Air quality is terrible. The Red Cross shelter in Quincy is probably being evacuated today as the fire is getting too close. We only have 3 nurses in this section of the disaster response operation. There are so many fires and not enough nurses. Most of the roads are closed, so travel is not easy.”

The Red Cross needs new volunteers to support disaster shelters. Volunteers will help with reception, registration, food distribution, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks inside disaster shelters. And, like Brigit, the Red Cross also needs volunteers who can work in disaster shelters to address people’s health needs and provide hands-on care in alignment with their professional licensure (registered nurse and licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse). Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with a current and unencumbered license, this position could be right for you.

To learn more, please visit RedCross.org/volunteer.

Take action this World Humanitarian Day

By Samantha Pudelski, Red Cross volunteer

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, when we recognize those around the world who help people affected by global crises. In 2021, a record 235 million people required humanitarian assistance according to USAID. Life-threatening crises around the world such as hunger, poverty and conflict are intensifying due to forces such as climate change.

Northeast Ohio native Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross joins Ines and her neighbors in Morelos, Mexico in receiving humanitarian aid from the Red Cross in the wake of a 7.1 earthquake in 2018.

Organizations around the world, including the American Red Cross, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies, provide humanitarian aid to help communities affected by intense storms, hurricanes and devastating wildfires that have increased in frequency, especially in the last few years. They also are working to provide climate-smart disaster risk reduction—helping communities reduce their risks, increase their resilience and prepare for emergencies that may happen in their region.

Annually, on average, natural hazards cause 67,000 deaths, affect 199 million people and drive 126 million individuals into poverty according to the IFRC. Climate change is causing the number of disasters to increase drastically—doubling the average number of disasters in the last 40 years.

April 7, 2020. Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. The American Red Cross helped expand the Bahamas Red Cross home meal delivery program to include more people put at risk to food insecurity due to the COVID-19 outbreak causing government implemented lockdowns and 24-hour curfews.

You may be asking yourself, how can I help here in Ohio? There are a few things you can do:

  • Learn more about the effects of climate change and the work organizations like the Red Cross and IFRC are doing to help those who are impacted by disasters. Share what you learn with family and friends.
  • Donate to the Red Cross to help provide aid to victims of disasters and education to communities on how to prepare for future events.
  • Volunteer with the Red Cross in your community and/or consider becoming a member of the Disaster Action Team.

Read more about World Humanitarian Day here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Disaster volunteers respond to storm damage, flash flooding

Stormy summer weather prompted calls for assistance from the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross during the weekend of August 13-15.

A family of five received assistance on Friday, after experiencing storm damage at their home in Toledo.

Flash floods in Elyria affected more than two dozen people, who received assistance totaling more than $4,400. The affected residents were able to use the funding to find safe shelter, buy food, clothing, and any other assistance they needed.

March 28, 2021. Ohatchee, Alabama. American Red Cross canvassing the area to provide assistance to all those affected by the devastating spring storms in and around Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Jaka Vinsek/American Red Cross

Disaster assistance over the weekend was also provided to 10 adults and children who were forced from their homes by fire. Volunteers assisted fire-stricken residents in Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Ashtabula, and Monroe County, Michigan.

Andy Garcia – Photo credit: Meg Brinkman, Red Cross volunteer

In an effort to prevent fatal home fires, volunteers in Hancock County helped install smoke alarms and provided home fire safety information to residents in Findlay on Saturday. The effort was organized by Ben Garcia of Findlay, as his Eagle Scout project. Ben is a member of Troop #319 in Findlay. Teams of scouts and volunteers recruited by Ben were joined by local Red Cross volunteers to visit residents in Riverview Terrace and the surrounding neighborhood to install smoke alarms and teach residents about what to do in case a fire breaks out.  

22 homes were made safer, as Ben and the rest of the volunteers installed 49 smoke alarms.

Accompanying Ben were his father, Andy Garcia (pictured here), his mother and his brother.

If your home needs the protection of working smoke alarms, visit our Home Faire Campaign page to request a visit from trained Red Cross volunteers who can provide free smoke alarms, install them, and offer vital home fire safety information.

Local volunteers and blood donors needed for busy disaster season

Many weather experts predict a destructive wildfire and hurricane season this year. The American Red Cross needs volunteers to help people who are affected by these disasters.

“We’re preparing for another extremely busy disaster season, and it’s critical to have a trained, ready volunteer workforce to make sure we can provide relief at a moment’s notice,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “This year’s wildfire season is already very active and dangerous because of the severe drought and dry woodlands across the west. And experts are predicting we could see 10 or more hurricanes in the upcoming weeks.”

“We’re preparing for another extremely busy disaster season, and it’s critical to have a trained, ready volunteer workforce to make sure we can provide relief at a moment’s notice.”

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

SHELTER VOLUNTEERS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS NEEDED

The Red Cross needs new volunteers to support disaster shelters. Volunteers will help with reception, registration, food distribution, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks inside disaster shelters. Both entry and supervisory-level opportunities are available.

The Red Cross also needs volunteers who can work in disaster shelters to address people’s health needs and provide hands-on care in alignment with their professional licensure (registered nurse and licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse). Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with a current and unencumbered license, this position could be right for you.

Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner looks out damage from the Dixie Fire on the outskirts of Greenville, CA, a small town that was devastated by the fire on Saturday, August 7, 2021. Many of the evacuated residents found shelter with the Red Cross in nearby Quincy and Susanville, CA.
Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

DISASTER ACTION TEAM MEMBER

Local Disaster Action Teams provide 24-hour emergency response to local disasters, particularly home fires, ensuring that those affected have access to resources for basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing. If you are team-oriented and want to help your neighbor, the DAT responder may be just the thing for you.

Disaster Action Team members from Northern Ohio respond to a fire in Lakewood on Aug. 4, 2021.

At 1 p.m. today, the Red Cross will host a Facebook Live event where our experts will discuss the various volunteer roles and how you can get involved in helping families after disasters here locally and across the country. Tune in to learn more and get your volunteer questions answered.

Last year, the Northern Ohio Region provided immediate emergency assistance to more than 5,100 people after nearly 1,200 home fires and other disasters.

If you can’t join us this afternoon but are interested in helping your community when disasters occur, you can sign up online or contact our area offices at 216-431-3328 or neovolunteer@redcross.org.

BLOOD AND PLATELET DONORS NEEDED

Wildfires, record-breaking heat and a busy hurricane season can also impact the nation’s blood supply. On top of the toll extreme weather events take on the lives of millions, disasters can cause blood drive closures or prevent donors from being able to give safely. Eligible donors can help overcome the critical need for blood and ensure blood is readily available by making an appointment to give by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

The power of personal connections: Transitioning back to in-person disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many American Red Cross services are transitioning back to being in-person, especially in Disaster Response and Sheltering. While virtual response and other safety measures helped the Red Cross effectively respond to disasters during the height of the pandemic, in-person assistance was missed. As Mike Arthur, regional mass care and logistics manager for Northern Ohio, explained, the ability to provide hot coffee and a hug can mean a great deal.

In addition to Mike, I spoke with Tom Revolinsky, Red Cross disaster program manager for Northeast Ohio, and volunteer Mark Cline, whose many responsibilities include serving as lead for Disaster Action Team (DAT) and Sheltering Applications in Northern Ohio. Each spoke about how effective an in-person connection is for Red Cross responders and clients recovering from a disaster.

Red Cross volunteers respond to an apartment fire

Tom said the transition began a month ago and is going very well. The DAT team is ensuring volunteers are comfortable with the change, and it is safe. As we learn more, he said, we will adapt to ensure everyone’s safety.

Currently, 80% of disaster responses in our region are in-person. For the other 20%, virtual response remains the best option. Northern Ohio DAT has been highly active. Over the past two weekends they responded to 14 home fires, assisting 73 people.

Mark said an in-person meeting gives a chance to better connect with those in need of assistance, as it is much more personal. Similarly, Tom spoke of how meeting in-person better provides the opportunity to give hope, show someone cares and help with recovery. 

Tom recalled how after an exceptionally busy day, he received a late-night call to respond following a home fire. Upon arrival, he met a woman, in tears, sitting in front of her burned-out house. His being there greatly helped, provided comfort, and she soon moved from tears to smiles. Tom said it was empowering for him.

Disaster responder Jan Cooper assists resident Gabriella Asseff after a condo fire in Westlake

I had similar experiences during my time with DAT. The instances when I could see a person begin to recover, to smile and hope again, remain with me.

As for sheltering following a large disaster—fortunately not common in our region—Mike and Tom said congregate housing is now the first option. This will ensure enough space is available, as many hotels are currently near capacity. Safety protocols will be in place. Both Tom and Mike said the Red Cross remains flexible and adapts to each situation, and non-congregate housing remains an option.

Such adaptability has been a hallmark of the Red Cross. When the pandemic necessitated virtual responses to disasters, the DAT team responded. Additionally, technology implemented during the pandemic is also helping with in-person responses.

For many of us, the pandemic underscored the importance of personal connections, especially following a disaster. Thankfully, Northern Ohio DAT responders can provide that again, offering financial assistance along with comfort, hugs and hope.

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 17-18, 2021

Over the weekend, the American Red Cross was once again very active responding to calls across Northern Ohio and assisting residents who have suffered a local disaster.

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During the weekend of July 17-18, the Red Cross responded to 9 incidents across the region, including home fires and flooding. The disaster team assisted 15 adults and 11 children, and provided more than $5,5000 in immediate financial assistance.

While many of us hear “disaster” and think of large events like wildfires and hurricanes, local disasters are where much of our response happens. In fact, every 24 hours, on average, the Northern Ohio Red Cross responds to three home fires, as well as floods and severe storms. Red Cross volunteers are on call and ready to respond 24/7 when a disaster strikes. After emergency personnel, these individuals are often some of the first people to be on scene at a disaster. They assess the victims’ needs and ensure they have food, clothing, shelter and other services to help take the first steps to recovery.

The Red Cross is committed to helping our community prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. We are able to make a difference in our local communities because of the generosity of our donors and support of our volunteers.

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northern Ohio, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. If you cannot support the Red Cross monetarily but you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and sign up.

What volunteers can expect if they deploy to help residents affected by wildfires

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have already been 31,000 wildfires across the country, with more than 1.5 acres affected. As of July 4th, people have had to evacuate their homes for the Tennant, Salt and Lava wildfires in California. That means there will be a need to shelter and feed residents impacted, and more opportunities for American Red Cross volunteers. 

Volunteers often talk about how appreciative people are when offered water or buckets and rakes to assist their cleanup. Many I’ve spoken with mentioned that Red Cross trucks brought the first and only assistance they had encountered since the fire. It’s a privilege to serve those who’ve just lost most of their material possessions.

What can you expect if deployed to volunteer?

First, you won’t be anywhere near the flames. Shelters are selected in safe zone areas, so you can feel safe wherever they are located. Even if you are part of a Red Cross mobile feeding operation, you won’t be dispatched to burnt areas until the fire has been totally contained for a safe period of time.

There are three types of work most volunteers experience: sheltering, feeding or supply distribution.

Sheltering volunteers work to set up and maintain the sleeping/living areas for those displaced by the fire. After the setup and registering of incoming victims, just letting people tell their stories is very cathartic for those affected.

While deployed to the Camp Fire in California, I noticed most people just wanted someone to talk to. Not that they expected any earthshaking solutions, they just needed to verbalize their plight to a caring set of ears. Sometimes, just playing cards or a board game was a great distraction from their worries. 

November 17, 2018. Chico, California. At the Neighborhood Church shelter in Chico, California, Daniel Nieves grieves the loss of his friends, who perished in the Camp Fire. Red Cross volunteers Pamela Harris and Vicki Eichstaedt listen and offer comfort as Daniel remembers a special friendship. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Feeding volunteers help serve meals that are usually supplied by one of our Red Cross partners. Three meals a day are served to those affected. You might also be serving meals to first responders, cleaners and other service personnel involved around the shelter operation. 

In all the sheltering operations I’ve been involved with, there is always a 24/7 snack area for the shelter residents. Chips, cookies and snack bars are always available, along with coffee, tea, soft drinks and water.

Distribution volunteers are those who take cleanup tools and supplies out to the victims at the site of the fire after the “all clear” notice has been issued. 

Deploying on a national disaster usually requires a two-week commitment. However, local/regional events can be staffed on more flexible schedules. A limited amount of pretraining is necessary for either, but there are plenty of people ready to get you up to speed quickly. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/volunteer and select DCS – Disaster Cycle Services – Responder, or contact Emily Probst, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager, at emily.probst@redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer