Longtime Red Cross board member making a difference in North Central Ohio

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 Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

April 22, 2020- Successful nonprofits can often trace their success back to a strong and dynamic board of directors. Such is the case in Findlay, Ohio, where Michael Epps, a commercial lender with Waterford Bank, N.A. has long been involved with the local American Red Cross chapter, serving eight years as a board member and two years as board chairman.

“Mike Epps is a passionate, strong volunteer leader for the North Central Ohio Chapter,” said Todd James, executive director of the chapter. ”He started volunteering with the chapter’s annual Oscar Night gala more than 10 years ago.”

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Mike Epps

“I first got involved as a community participant with the fundraiser during its second year in Findlay,” recalled Mike. Serving in a variety of roles from fundraising to logistics coordinator, he eventually chaired the committee for six years.

“We had a really great dynamic committee and were able to grow that into one of the more well-known, well-attended and, candidly, well-funded philanthropic events in town. A couple years ago, we raised more than $100,000 on that one event.”

“There’s a lot of competition for the philanthropic dollars within this community, so we felt good about that,” stated Mike, “but also we got a lot of feedback about how much joy people had at the event and how it raised awareness of the Red Cross mission.”

If you want to help your local community, but unsure of how you can help the Red Cross, well do not worry because there is a role for everyone to play to help the Red Cross mission. The most urgent needs are blood donor ambassadors, blood transportation specialists, disaster responders and virtual volunteers. Find our more at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 

Volunteer profile: Jeanne Eisentrager, American Red Cross of North Central Ohio

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 Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

Jeanne Eisentrager’s story may surprise you, as it did me. She is a volunteer for the American Red Cross of North Central Ohio, working out of the Findlay office. Jeanne started as an administrative/operations volunteer and went on to become a Disaster Action Team (DAT) responder and caseworker. She’s become a vital part of the Red Cross team, known for her readiness to help with whatever’s needed and her ability to get the job done. Here’s the surprise: Jeanne has only been a volunteer since September 2018, but her enthusiasm, talents and boldness have earned the respect of those who work with her.

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“Jeanne is a vital part of our North Central Ohio Chapter team,” said Todd James, executive director of the American Red Cross of North Central Ohio. “In her work as an administrative volunteer and as a DAT member, she always gives her best and makes those around her smile and laugh. I look forward to the days Jeanne is working in the office because I know my day will be a little bit better thanks to her.”

Cheryl Wolfe, business operations coordinator, agrees. She said Jeanne “is dedicated, a hard worker, a shoot-straight-from-the-hip ray of sunshine to our office. She has a huge heart for those down on their luck and is often there to help her neighbors and family. She is a remarkable lady, and we are lucky to call her Red Cross family.”

Another surprise about Jeanne: she’s a senior citizen. Jeanne discovered the Red Cross volunteer opportunity while taking a class at the senior center to learn new skills to become “more employable.” Jeanne said, “I’m fortunate to have found my calling this late in life. I love what I do. I feel that I’m where I belong.”

She is currently the DAT supervisor, as well as the engagement coordinator. She also works with the smoke alarm program. Before the social distancing changes brought about by Covid-19, Jeanne was putting in 20 hours a week in the Findlay office, in addition to going out on emergency calls with the DAT. Her roles take her all around the region.

With the onset of social distancing, responding to emergency calls is a little more complicated. Recently, Jeanne went to the scene of a fire at an apartment complex involving multiple families.

“I just stood in the middle of the parking lot and called to the people, ‘The Red Cross is here to help. Give you me your phone numbers, go back to your cars, and I’ll call you.” She was able to assist five or six families, three of which she continues work with as their case manager. “We really need more volunteers,” Jeanne explained.

Inspired by Jeanne’s story? Wherever you are, there’s a role you can play right now with the Red Cross. The most urgent needs are blood donor ambassadors, blood transportation specialists, disaster responders and virtual volunteers. Find our more at https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.

Charlie Emick and his volunteer family help whenever disasters occur

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 Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

For the past five years, the American Red Cross has benefited from Charlie Emick’s extraordinary service—whether nationally, throughout Northern Ohio or in his current home chapter of Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes. He has taken on an impressive number of roles.

Just a few of Charlie’s volunteer roles include supervising disaster response teams and shelters, coordinating for his chapter, performing casework, training and helping develop other volunteers’ leadership skills, reaching out to the community and, especially, assisting those in need.

Charlie is modest about his contributions but his giving nature is immediately apparent. In fact, his response to my request for an interview was wanting to see other volunteers in the spotlight first.

Charlie spoke very highly of his fellow volunteers. They are all part of his family, he said, even more so after the loss of his wife two years ago, and he enjoys working with every one of them. Indeed, he has taken an integral role in helping his volunteer family, including assisting with training. He mentioned that his mom would likely be surprised that he advocates for training, as much as he disliked it in school.

Prior to volunteering with the Red Cross, Charlie worked in the oil industry for 38 years. Since his retirement in 2015, he has continued responding to calls for assistance at any time as a Red Cross volunteer.

When asked why he began volunteering, Charlie mentioned being inspired by the kindness of a stranger. He was stuck in a traffic standstill behind an accident, during a snowstorm, when a woman came out of the blue and let him use her phone. Charlie said he has never forgotten her generosity nor how much an act of kindness can mean. So when retirement felt slow, he reached out to the Red Cross.

“Charlie Emick is an outstanding volunteer,” said Mike Arthur, disaster program manager for the Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter. “He helped on most, if not all, of the larger responses across our region last year. He is happy to help anytime he is asked. He will bend over backwards to help our members feel welcome and meet their needs. His leadership and guidance have helped make our chapter as successful as it is.”

Helping those in need is important to Charlie and is his favorite part of being a Red Cross volunteer. Whether responding to a home fire, performing casework or aiding in another capacity, he enjoys helping people work through problems. While the Red Cross is providing assistance while maintaining social distance guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlie looks forward to the time he can again give hugs and shake hands.

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Charlie Emick at the 2019 Festival of Trees/Photo credit: Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Even during this historic, challenging time, the Red Cross continues to respond in times of crisis, thanks to the extraordinarily dedication and compassion of people like Charlie Emick and his volunteer family.

Be like Charlie.  Help your community.  Become a Red Cross volunteer.  You can explore opportunities and more on our website.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

National Volunteer Week – opportunity to recognize the selflessness of Red Cross volunteers

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

April 17, 2020- National Volunteer Week is April 19 to 25, and it gives the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio an opportunity to honor the volunteers who are helping people in need, even during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emergencies don’t stop, and neither do local Red Cross volunteers, who are still providing care and comfort after disasters of all sizes, including home fires.

Next week, we will be featuring profiles of volunteers from the Northern Ohio Region, written by volunteers, right here on our regional blog. Be sure to subscribe to our blog; that way you will receive an email notification and will not miss any of these incredible volunteer-inspired articles.

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Due to this coronavirus outbreak, volunteers are providing relief services after home fires virtually, in coordination with local fire departments. Connecting with families by phone or video calls, we’re helping to provide support like lodging, health and mental health services, and emergency financial assistance, as well as link people to available recovery resources.

Here in Northern Ohio, there are 2,176 volunteers, who help support blood collections, provide emergency assistance to military families, respond to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. These individuals are also among the more than 300,000 volunteers who comprise more than 90 percent of the national Red Cross workforce.

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Red Cross volunteers keep our communities strong,” said Mike Parks, regional CEO for the Northern Ohio Region. “We honor these true heroes who give their time to help people in need.”

BECOME A VOLUNTEER Our need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as we navigate this coronavirus health crisis. Volunteer opportunities include supporting blood donations and delivering much-needed disaster services to your community. We even have a wide variety of volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find out more.

Interested in serving? Everyone’s safety is our top priority. Please review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your healthcare provider and follow local guidance.

Northern Ohio Region actively assists residents in need during first week

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

April 13, 2020- During its first week following the territorial realignment, the new American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was active in assisting residents in need who were experiencing the worst day of their lives.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Last week, the Northern Ohio Region responded to disasters in Carroll, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Jefferson, Lorain, Lucas, Medina, Portage, Putnam, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. In those 14 counties, Disaster Action Team members assisted and comforted 115 residents, who suffered disasters such as home fires and storm damage, and provided $22,870 in immediate financial assistance.

Even during a pandemic, other disasters don’t stop—and neither does the work of the Red Cross.

Our brave volunteers are still responding to disasters like home fires, tornadoes and earthquakes, so impacted families receive help and hope—even during these trying times.

Tropical Storm Imelda 2019

The American public can help “flatten the curve” by practicing social distancing, staying home as much as possible, washing their hands, and taking other precautions to stay healthy.

You can help the Red Cross deliver its lifesaving mission nationwide during this public health emergency by donating at redcross.org.

DAT home fire responses Atlanta, Georgia video screenshots 2019

The Red Cross is also 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.

 

Homeless in less than 60 seconds

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer 

March 27, 2020- Editors Note:  Doug Bardwell is a Northeast Ohio volunteer, who was one of the first Red Cross volunteers to respond to Tennessee following the tornadoes in early March– before COVID-19 measures such as social distancing and shelter at home took effect. As disasters do not stop, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, American Red Cross disaster services team members continue to stand at the ready to assist residents in need. For more information, click here

One day after the devastating tornadoes ripped through areas in and around Nashville, TN, I deployed with the Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT) of the American Red Cross.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

 

Different than typical deployments where volunteers have one job and stay in one location for most of their deployment, our two-man teams job was to visit all the areas affected as quickly as possible. In the case of the Tennessee tornadoes, they touched down multiple times in a line some 89 miles long.

Our task was to document the extent of the damage and provide photos and captions to Red Cross Headquarters, where they would be used to start fundraising efforts for the event. Our immediate challenges were road closures, downed power lines and traffic jams.

The worst of the damage seemed to be in Cookeville, east of Nashville. Almost entire residential developments were wiped off the landscape by what appeared to have been a 500-plus-foot-wide twister. Home foundations and basements were about all left behind. Deaths in this area alone approached 20, as there was less than a one-minute warning for most of these residents. Then, in less than 60 seconds, the tornado passed, leaving lives changed forever.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

Many told stories of being thrown down their basement steps as the twister hit. In one case of a two-story home, a couple sleeping upstairs watched as their roof was torn off, their outside walls collapsed and they rode their mattress all the way into the basement.

Another fortunate man and his mother survived when his second-floor bedroom came crashing down on his mother who slept below him on the first floor. Luckily, with help from neighbors, he was able to dig her out and get her to the hospital with just a few broken ribs and a broken ankle.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

At the other end of the spectrum, I spoke with a man who emerged from the rubble of his home to discover the four neighbors to the side of him had perished, as did four people in the home right behind his. It’s hard to make sense of how tragedy happens so randomly.

Being the first Red Crossers on the scene in most of these locations, we passed out bottled water as we met people and learned of their needs. Everyone was happy to hear about remotely served meals that would be coming as they combed through their wreckage trying to salvage family mementos.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

Many were also surprised that they could go to Red Cross shelters for meals even if they weren’t living there. It felt good being able to spread a little “good news” to these people who hadn’t had much to smile about lately.

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Doug Bardwell (left) is holding a child as he listens and comforts a resident following the tornadoes. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In one case, all that was needed was spending 10 to 15 minutes holding someones baby so they could chase and round up their six little dogs that had run away during the storm.

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Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

As the days passed, we transitioned to covering those in shelters, often in the most vulnerable areas. There were plenty of people with harrowing stories to tell.

A few days after the event, Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) were set up where people could come and get mental health, public health, HUD, SBA and FEMA  assistance. It was great to see how our Red Cross mental health workers were such a blessing to those affected by the storm.

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Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

By the end of the week,  it was also heartwarming to see the volunteerism evident around Nashville. Reports indicated that more than 20,000 volunteers offered to help with cleanup efforts through an organization called “Hands On Nashville.” Even in the small community of Cookeville, in just one church alone, there were 3,500 members out helping people sort through debris looking for salvageable items.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

It was plain to see why Tennessee is called the Volunteer State.

If youd like to volunteer, the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio is in need of blood volunteers and disaster response volunteers. You can sign up here and receive all the training youll need.

In fact, right now, while the nation and world is battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is a severe blood shortage. There is an urgent need for eligible and healthy donors to give blood now. To make an appointment to donate blood, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org. Your blood donation can help save injured disaster victims and patients in need during these challenging times.

To see more photos from Doug’s deployment in Tennessee, visit our Flickr page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: March 26-29, 2020

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

March 30, 2020- Everyone in Northeast Ohio is trying to adjust to the new normal following the COVID-19 outbreak, including the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is known not only for the assistance we provide individuals who suffered from a disaster, but also for the comfort we provide residents, such as a hug, to let them know that everything will be okay. However, in the aftermath of COVID-19, the Red Cross has had to change how they provide assistance to those in need.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Emergencies do not stop, and over the weekend, the Red Cross, with the safety of our disaster team members and the residents we assisted in mind, responded to disasters throughout the region. Comfort was provided, despite the inability to provide a Red Cross hug to those suffering the worst day of their lives.

“Many thanks to our responders who use extra COVID-related precautions to make certain clients receive the help they desperately need. One of those adjustments is not giving the hugs they have given over the years,” said Renee Palagyi , senior program manager. “Social distancing now challenges them to show the compassion and care they feel through their words. And our clients continue to feel the love!”

During the weekend of March 26-29, 2020, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to local disasters, such as flooding in Cleveland, assisted 23 adults, 13 children and provided more than $7,600 in immediate financial assistance.

COVID-19 Volunteer

 

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.