World Health Day 2021 focuses on health equity, which Red Cross works to address

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Today, April 7, is World Health Day, a day in which the World Health Organization (WHO) raises awareness of an important issue. This year’s theme is one the American Red Cross strives daily to address: health equity and “building a fairer, healthier world.”

This is an important issue for the Red Cross as humanity, impartiality and universality are among our fundamental principles. Each day in the Northern Ohio region, as everywhere, Red Cross volunteers and staff work to assist anyone in need of our lifesaving and emergency relief services. This commitment is conveyed in several personal perspectives on this webpage, including recent articles from Chris Chmura and Doug Bardwell.

As the WHO points out, the COVID-19 pandemic has more clearly shown how some have better access to health care and have healthier lives than others. In addition, the CDC states, “There is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 demographics also indicate a disparity.

While many of us may feel limited in addressing the causes of health inequality, there are several ways we can have an impact. Assisting the Red Cross in its mission is among them, whether through volunteering, donating blood or providing financial support.

Volunteering with the Red Cross has helped me see the health inequality in our region, and I am honored to have taken part in helping those in need. If you are interested in volunteering, there are a variety of opportunities available in Northern Ohio, including in Disaster Response, Blood Services and Services to the Armed Forces.

Blood donations are critical. As this article states, the blood supply needs to be as diverse as our region. A diverse blood supply is necessary for treating diseases like sickle cell, which mostly affects those of African and Latino descent. As I reported last September, blood donations from African Americans are vital in treating sickle cell disease, as blood must be closely matched to reduce the risk of complications.

The Red Cross would not be able to provide so much assistance without the generous support of its donors. If you can provide financial support, any amount helps. 

Hopefully, we are approaching the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we cannot forget its difficult lessons. We must also continue to face other illnesses, health concerns and disasters. We need to work toward a better future with greater health equity. The Red Cross—with the support of its donors, volunteers and staff—will continue to honor its fundamental principles to assist all in need.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Celebrating Red Cross Month: Volunteer shares reasons why role is fulfilling, invites others to join

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Throughout the month of March, we honor people like you who make the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross possible — the individuals across the country who turn compassion into action, helping others in times of crisis. Our Red Cross Month celebration has been an annual tradition since 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first Red Cross Month proclamation.

 My Volunteer Story

For close to a year, I have been an American Red Cross Transportation Specialist. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically challenged all of us in our daily lives but has also resulted in many learning what is important in their personal lives—family, friends and local communities. I was searching for a way to give back with the extra time I had during the stay-at-home orders. The Transportation Specialist role was a great match.

Volunteer Transportation Specialists deliver lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals, using a Red Cross-owned vehicle. Simply put, you pick up processed blood at a distribution center, drive it to assigned hospitals and return to drop off empty boxes that you collect.

Chris Chmura delivers blood to a local hospital in his role as a volunteer transportation specialist with the American Red Cross.

My commitment is two to four shifts per month (or more if I can) based on my personal and professional schedule. Typical shifts are about four hours, so I usually schedule to cover routes in the evening /night after work. The Red Cross offers training online and then time spent with a veteran driver to shadow a few days. The amazing employees at the Red Cross support you by answering questions, helping to work with your schedule and steer you in the right direction as you learn your role.  

A few reasons I enjoy the role:

  • My day job is not in the medical field, and I find visiting the Red Cross lab and various hospitals interesting to learn about. You get to experience “behind the scenes” how the Red Cross collects donated blood, how they prepare it for hospitals and see first-hand who it goes to. My favorite route is delivering to Akron Children’s Hospital.
  • You feel a pride and satisfaction volunteering.
  • When I donate blood, I feel a connection to the group who supports the whole process.
  • Other volunteers are welcoming, fun to connect with and build relationships with.
  • I enjoy meeting various people throughout the Red Cross and hospitals that I visit across Northeast Ohio.
  • A large percentage of my time volunteering is drive time, so I relax by listening to podcasts, sports radio or music. 

 Is this Position for You?

Do you enjoy helping your neighbors, giving back to your community and want to enhance your life by using your talents? The Transportation Specialist position might be a good fit for you. You will also need to meet these qualifications to become one:

  • Have a valid state driver’s license and proof of insurance
  • Have three years driving experience and a clean driving record
  • Ability to lift up to 45 lbs.

Check out more details here: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/deliver-blood.html.

The Men and Women Behind Our Mission

 We invite you and others to join the Red Cross mission by volunteering, giving blood, learning lifesaving skills or making a financial donation. We are ordinary individuals with the innate desire to do extraordinary things. Red Cross staff and volunteers bring their diverse backgrounds and skills to the table, united by the passion we share for our mission—to prevent and alleviate suffering in the face of emergencies.

 Safety First!

Interested in serving to meet essential service needs in the public? Be sure to review the CDC guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your health care provider and follow local guidance. The number one priority of the American Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve. 

Blood Donations

Don’t forget to donate blood! You don’t need a special reason to give blood. You just need your own reason.

  • Some of us give blood because we were asked by a friend.
  • Some know that a family member or a friend might need blood someday.
  • Some believe it is the right thing to do.
  • Some do it for the free cookies and juice.

To find a blood drive near you, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

Everyone can experience and enjoy the great feeling of helping save lives!

When the world stopped, the Red Cross didn’t

Reflections on the response to the pandemic on the one-year anniversary

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 2020 would prove to be one of my most memorable volunteer months with the American Red Cross. Within weeks, the world began to see signs like this everywhere.

Everywhere, except at the Red Cross.

Let’s go back to March 1, 2020. This was the day the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the United States, in New York. By then, we had heard about the 400 Americans trapped on a ship in Japan, but we didn’t really consider that the virus was a U.S. problem at the time.

Two days later, everyone forgot about that story when multiple tornadoes ripped through central Tennessee, killing at least 25 people. I recall getting the call that morning and leaving immediately for Nashville to cover the details of the cleanup effort, the sheltering and feeding of hundreds of now homeless people and the mobilization of hundreds of truckloads of supplies.

As I drove home on March 10, New York Governor Cuomo had called on the National Guard to stop traffic around New Rochelle, where 108 cases had been discovered. COVID-19 was now a United States problem.

Just one day later, March 11, the WHO (World Health Organization) would declare this to be an official pandemic with more than 120,000 cases worldwide. That started a landslide of events, and before day’s end:

  • The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season until further notice
  • The NHL paused its 2019-20 season
  • The Dow Jones Industrial 30-day average plunged 20%, ending an 11-year bull market

But what didn’t come crashing to a stop…the Red Cross. 

That same day, President of the American Red Cross Gail McGovern, issued a long memo to all Red Cross volunteers.

In it, she detailed how we would be making all sorts of changes to our day-to-day operations, but what would not change, was our mission to deliver services to those in need.

Blood drives needed to be rescheduled as many businesses closed down, but the need for blood didn’t slow down. By finding larger venues where people could be scheduled and kept socially distanced, the flow of blood continued.

Fires and disasters didn’t stop, but our Humanitarian Services division devised new ways to house people in motels instead of congregate shelters, and our Disaster Action Teams learned to respond virtually using electronic funds transfers to get money quickly into the hands of those left homeless from fires and floods. 

As the rest of the world came to a virtual standstill one year ago today, the Red Cross quickly pivoted to maintain our services to those most in need. If you’d like to help, consider becoming a volunteer or make a contribution to the Red Cross to support our ongoing mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross Volunteer

March is Red Cross Month because #HelpCantWait

By: Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed March “Red Cross Month” in 1943, he called on Americans to join a movement that was providing vital services to the nation’s war effort.

“I request that during that month (March) our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross,” FDR declared.

During World War II alone, the American Red Cross recruited more than 104,000 nurses for the armed forces and sent more than 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. It launched a national blood donation program to support U.S. armed forces; by the end of the war, it had collected more than 13 million pints of lifesaving blood!

FDR knew the Red Cross could muster Americans for a heroic cause.

That’s still true today, because #HelpCantWait.

As COVID-19 continues to upend our lives, families across the country rely on the Red Cross for lifesaving blood, comfort and care after disasters, support for the military and veterans, and lifesaving training and preparedness skills.

With nearly 140 years of experience under its belt, the Red Cross knows how to pivot to meet unprecedented challenges – and this past year has been no exception.

New guidelines are in place to ensure the safety of Red Crossers – 90% of them volunteers – as well as those receiving services. And Americans have stepped up, just as they did in FDR’s time: Last year, more than 70,000 people across the country became new Red Cross volunteers, including more than 550 in Northern Ohio.

And we still need more folks to join us.

“We have plenty of opportunities for blood donor ambassadors to greet donors, take their temperatures and brief them on how to donate safely,” said Gail Wernick, who heads up volunteer services for the Red Cross in northern Ohio.

“And we need more blood transportation specialists to drive blood products from collection sites to our processing labs or to hospitals where patients need them.”

Unfortunately, there’s never a break from home fires and other local disasters, so the Red Cross is always looking to train more Disaster Action Team members to provide comfort and care to those in distress. Now, that’s being done virtually so volunteers can “respond” from the safety of their own homes.

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

Hero Care caseworker volunteers also help from home, fielding calls from military and veterans’ families for Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces aid.

March is the ideal time to step up and “do your bit” as we all battle through this coronavirus siege. If you’re healthy, there’s no better feeling than giving the gift of life with a blood donation. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 are especially needed for their convalescent plasma, which is being used to treat acute COVID cases.

March 31, 2020. Washington, DC Blood donation at Dr. Charles Drew Donation Center during COVID-19. Photo by Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross

If you can’t give time or blood, you can support Red Cross disaster relief activities financially on Giving Day, March 24. Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a home fire or other disaster. A gift of $95, for example, will feed a family of three for a day and provide blankets and other essentials when they need them most.

To learn more about volunteering here in northern Ohio, reach out to Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or 330-204-6615. To schedule a blood donation, check out redcross.org/blood or download the free Red Cross blood app from your app store. And to make a financial gift, go to redcross.org/donate or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Resolve to volunteer: a testimonial

By Richard E. Whitehead Jr, DMC, Regional Government Operations Chief and Emergency Management Program Lead

I thought I would share how the American Red Cross has assisted me and my family through the years. Giving back is just one of the many reasons I have been volunteering since 2005.  

The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program provided aid to my family when my uncle was killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict. Another family member was deployed in theater and SAF assisted in him receiving emergency notification and subsequent emergency leave.

The Red Cross was there again for me when I was a patient at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. The hospital ward was a mix of military personnel (several with combat injuries) and military dependents age 10 and over. It was one large open space with several beds, unlike hospital rooms today. I was 10 years old and there were only a handful of kids.

A Red Cross volunteer would come through the ward with a cart. The cart contained items to help occupy the time of the patients (newspapers, magazines, books, games, etc.). I was provided coloring books, comic books, puzzles, cards, toys, and even craft projects. She even gave me pads for my crutches, which a volunteer crocheted.  

When I wanted to find a way to help during Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross provided that opportunity.

In more recent times, I continue to benefit from the services of the Red Cross. From the support of first responders to the collection and distribution of life sustaining blood, the Red Cross has been there for me. I will continue to be there for the Red Cross. It is paying back for the assistance and opportunities the Red Cross has given me. 

Resolve to Make a Difference

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

January 11, 2020- Have you made your New Year resolutions yet for 2021? It’s never too early to check off a goal on your resolution list or to start making the most of this new year.

 In 2021, resolve to volunteer with the American Red Cross and help make a difference in your community! The vital work of the Red Cross supports communities across the country every day and throughout Northern Ohio – it’s at the heart of what we do.  Volunteers make up 90% of the Red Cross workforce and help deliver the vital services that the Red Cross provides.

The Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross needs volunteers in the following positions:

Blood Donor Ambassador

  • Age 16+
  • Help save lives in your community by supporting blood collection at a local blood drive.
  • Commitment: 1 shift (4-6 hours) per month

Blood Transportation Specialist

  • Deliver life-saving blood products from collection sites to processing a lab and/or hospital
  • Commitment: 2 shifts (4-6 hour shifts) per month

Disaster Action Team Member

  • Virtual Opportunity
  • Assist individuals and families who have been impacted by a home fire or other local disaster.
  • Commitment: monthly on call shift

SAF Hero Care Regional Caseworker

  • Ensure military families’ needs are met when faced with an emergency
  • Commitment: 2-4 hours per week

To learn more about these opportunities and to apply, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or 330.204.6615.

Red Cross disaster workers ring in new year helping others

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

January 4, 2021- While many in Northern Ohio were celebrating the ushering in of 2021, and the Cleveland Browns returning to the NFL playoffs, disaster workers from the American Red Cross were active during the holiday weekend helping neighbors in need.

Despite the cold temperatures and the constant uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Disaster Action Team (DAT) members took time out of their New Year’s celebrations this weekend (December 31-January 3) to virtually and socially distant respond to 16 incidents in Cuyahoga, Erie, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Medina, Summit and Trumbull counties and assisted 51 individuals. In addition, the Red Cross provided the residents with more than $11,000 in financial assistance for immediate needs such as lodging, clothing and food.

“If it was not for the dedication and selflessness of our DAT members, we would not be able to fulfill the Red Cross’ mission,” said Renee Palagyi, senior disaster program manager. “Despite the pandemic, they continue to put weekends and holiday celebrations on hold to help a neighbor in need. The Red Cross of Northern Ohio is constantly grateful for our DAT members and everything they do.”

To date this year, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 1,410 adults, 807 children and has provided more than $455,000 in immediate financial assistance.

Additional volunteers are needed to train for disaster responses, specifically to respond to home fires locally. People in good health and who are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training can visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday, or can call 1-800-RED CROSS.

The number one priority of the Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve, and we have implemented several measures, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to protect our workers and those who need our assistance.

If you are unable to volunteer but you would like to support the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts, donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Consider resolving to volunteer in the new year

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer 

January 1, 2021- I first stepped into the American Red Cross’ Cleveland office three years ago on a frigid, vibrant January morning. A few weeks earlier, I had resolved to do more to help others, to take part in making the world a bit better. Since then, I have taken on various volunteer roles, each of which has been challenging and exceptionally rewarding. I have gotten to see the relief and hope on people’s faces when assisting after a disaster, had the honor of sharing extraordinary life stories on this blog, assisted first responders during major events, and have seen communities pull together to donate blood or begin to move on after a disaster. I have also seen the incredible levels of dedication and caring from Red Cross staff and fellow volunteers. Through it all, I have learned a great deal about myself, our community and humanity.  

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, please consider volunteering with the Red Cross. While there are several opportunities, depending on your skills and interest, below are brief overviews of needed roles in the Northern Ohio region: 

Disaster Response

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Disaster Action Team (DAT), several positions are available. To give a sense of DAT’s vital importance, in 2020, members responded to nearly 1,200 events in Northern Ohio, most of them home fires, and provided more than $1 million dollars in financial assistance. Several DAT members also deployed nationally following major disasters. Several safeguards are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including responding virtually when possible. For more information, click here

Biomedical Services

There are several roles for those interested in helping the Red Cross collect and transport blood. In fiscal year 2020, the Northern Ohio Red Cross created 506,000 life-supporting blood products to help patients in 80 hospitals across Northern Ohio, all with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Open volunteer roles include:

  • Blood Donor Ambassadors (must be at least 16 years of age) to assist during blood drives
  •  Blood Transportation Specialists to deliver blood products to processing labs and hospitals
  •  Blood Donor Transporters in Holmes and Wayne counties to drive donors to appointments

For details on Biomedical Services, visit redcrossblood.org

Services to the Armed Forces (SAF)

If you would like to help support those in the U.S. military, veterans, and their families, there are several opportunities. These include facilitator roles for mental health professionals as well as caseworker and other roles. In 2020, the SAF group completed 5,500 case services for military families and delivered “Get to Know Us” briefings to nearly 5,400 military members and their families before deploying from Northern Ohio. Many positions are currently operating virtually during the pandemic but will return to in person when possible. More information on how the Red Cross serves the military community is available here

If you are interested in these or other volunteer positions, visit this web page. More information on assistance provided in 2020 is available here. To read the national Red Cross “Resolve to Volunteer” press release, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Founder’s vision paved way for volunteers to support those in need today

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

December 25, 2020- Clara Barton is one of my all-time heroes.

Born 199 years ago today, Clara shook off her 19th century “woman’s place” and founded a movement that continues to move hundreds of thousands of people to action.

“We are all in Clara Barton’s debt for her vision to found the American Red Cross,” said Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross. “We still follow her example today whenever we deliver comfort and care to the victims of disaster, support our men and women in the armed forces, and donate our blood to help save lives. Clara saw the urgent needs of others, and she created a way for generations of humanitarians to help meet those needs.”

Circa 1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton was 60 years young when she established the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881.

By then, she had been a trailblazer many times over: Founder of the first free school in New Jersey, first paid female employee of the U.S. Patent Office, “Angel of the Battlefield” for supplying critical supplies for the Union soldiers wounded during the Civil War, and head of the postwar Office of Missing Soldiers. On a trip to Europe to “relax” after a decade of war, she directed relief for civilians on both sides of the Franco-Prussian War under the auspices of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the 1880s, Clara and her fledgling organization began helping survivors of floods and famines, storms and outbreaks of disease. In 1897, at the age of 76, she sailed to Turkey to direct American relief for civilians suffering a humanitarian crisis. The next year, she worked in hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This woman’s energy and commitment to help ease suffering set the standard the Red Cross continues to follow. During fiscal year 2020 alone, 2,800 Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio responded to disasters here and across the country, using new procedures to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Regionally, the Northern Ohio Red Cross:

  • Responded to nearly 1,200 local disasters and distributed more than $1 million in aid to meet immediate disaster-related needs
  • Taught nearly 61,500 people potentially lifesaving CPR, AED, first aid, aquatics and babysitting skills
  • Collected more than 168,700 units of blood that were converted into some 506,000 life-supporting blood products for patients in more than 80 medical facilities across Northern Ohio
  • Presented community preparedness education, most of it virtually, to more than 10,500 individuals, and disaster preparedness education to 4,441 youngsters in grades 3 through 5
  • Handled nearly 5,500 urgent contacts between armed forces members and their families, and briefed some 5,400 deploying men and women, and their families, about Red Cross emergency services

“None of this would be possible without the generosity of our thousands of volunteers and donors,” said Gail Wernick, volunteer services officer for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “ Hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors over the years are indebted to Clara for her founding example.”

1902. Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Clara Barton with graduating class of nurses at Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Miss Barton spoke to the graduating class.

So this is my birthday salute to Clara Barton. And my thanks to generations of Red Cross heroes of every age, gender, race and creed who have given selflessly of their time, their talents and their treasure to help humanity. If you’d like to follow in Clara’s footsteps in the new year, find the volunteer spot that fits you at redcross.org/volunteertoday. To financially support the work of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Stuff happens…but the Red Cross still responds

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer 

December 11, 2020- Despite coronavirus, despite masks, despite quarantines, despite lockdowns, despite political controversy, despite all these things; one thing remained constant for the American Red Cross through most of 2020; the need to help others – which has always been the overall humanitarian effort for employees and volunteers based here in Northern Ohio.  

Disasters don’t take time off for COVID-19, so while the Red Cross has had to change methods, we still need to complete our mission.  Reviewing the numbers, it appears we have done just that.

Luckily, Northern Ohio was spared from the huge disasters that plagued the West Coast and the Gulf Coast. However, due to the size of the disasters and the fact that they lasted so long, more than 100 Northern Ohio (NOH) volunteers left the comfort of their homes and headed west to battle the wildfires, while others provided shelter and comfort to those affected by hurricanes Laura, Sally, Beta and Zeta; all the while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19. They were among almost 2,800 volunteers who served in the region in FY 2020. 

Here at home, Disaster Action Team members responded to nearly 1,200 local events – most of them home and apartment fires. More than a million dollars of financial aid was made immediately available to those who were experiencing possibly the worst days of their lives.

To help Ohioans save lives, a big part of Red Cross activities is teaching children and adults through community preparedness education.  In 2020, more than 10,500 people took part community wide. Age-appropriate disaster preparedness classes were offered to 4,441 3rd, 4th, and 5th-grade students.  

Being proactive, nearly 61,500 individuals completed potentially lifesaving classes from babysitting to lifeguarding, as well as CPR, first aid and the use of an AED.  

Our Service to the Armed Forces group completed 5,500 case services for military families and delivered “Get to Know Us” briefings to nearly 5,400 military members and their families before deploying from Northern Ohio. 

And if those numbers weren’t enough to impress, how about our Biomedical Services group which collected more than 168,700 units of blood in FY 2020 during hundreds of blood drives, using the best COVID protocols available.  

And from those donations, we’ve been able to create 506,000 life-supporting blood products to help patients in 80 hospitals across Northern Ohio.  In addition, we’ve recently been able to collect and distribute 40,000 convalescent plasma products. 

Nationally, the need is greater than ever, as shown on the graph above, and by some totals of our national response below. 

All these accomplishments are possible through the generous donation of time from our volunteers and the financial contributions of our generous donors.  If you’d like to be a part of this great humanitarian effort, consider volunteering or making a contribution before year end.