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!

Service to Armed Forces Among Many Roles of Volunteer

By Sharon Nicastro, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

Sharon Nicastro

My first exposure to the Red Cross was in the 1960s when I took a first aid course in middle school.  I maintained my connection to the Red Cross through the 70s and 80s by taking additional training.  By 1990 I had become a member of the first aid team and blood drive recruiter at my workplace and a Red Cross volunteer instructor. I graduated from the Cleveland Red Cross EMT-Basic program in 1999.  The next year I joined Disaster Services as a member of the Disaster Action Team and Disaster Health Services.  I have since added Government Liaison, Disaster Assessment, and Training to my disaster activities.  Last year I became an instructor for Volunteer Services and a volunteer partner of the Regional Director for Service to the Armed Forces (SAF).  For SAF,  I participate in outreach events to acquaint service members, veterans, and their families with Red Cross services and coordinate Red Cross volunteers who serve at Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

SAF is especially important to me because of my family’s military service.  My five great-uncles served in World War II.  My father was one of the pioneers of the U.S. Army Air Forces where he was a navigator on a B-17.  One of my uncles served during the Korean War with the U.S. Air Force; another uncle was in the U.S. Army; my brother-in-law was in Thailand during the Vietnam War; and my nephew did a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia with the U.S. Air Force.  Especially because of my father’s stories and patriotism I have some understanding of the courage and sacrifice that is required of service members and their families.

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Sharon Nicastro, assisting in a smoke alarm installation event in Maple Heights on 4/22/17

The American Red Cross has a long, distinguished history of service to military members and their families.  At outreach events I meet people who were helped by the Red Cross and are grateful to this day.  At the American Red Cross I can do my part by ensuring that services – sometimes life-altering services – are available to the men, women, and families of our military.

Sharon Nicastro lives in Independence, and serves residents of the Greater Cleveland Chapter. She has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1990.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Red Cross Volunteer Offers “Priceless” Service

By Chuck Victor, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

Chuck Victor

Throughout my adult years I have had a passion for volunteerism and helping others.  I prefer the behind the scenes work as opposed to the out front spokesperson.

During my working years, I had the opportunity to work with some great non-profit organizations and their boards; which taught me the value of the front line volunteer.

I was fortunate to retire at an early age but not yet ready to retire from being active. I had a colleague who I had always admired for their drive, commitment and dedication to the American Red Cross. I inquired as to how I could serve local needs through Red Cross.

That was over four years ago.  Today I apply my time and talents as a Local Disaster Action Team (DAT) Lead in responding to fires, shelter situations and unfortunately plane crashes.  As part of a team of initial responders to a disaster scene, I am able to help provide assistance to both those affected as well as first responders.

The job DAT members do is, as they say, priceless. We provide needed comfort and necessary reassurance to those who have just experienced tragedies that most hope they will never see. It goes beyond the monetary value of the financial assistance provided for housing and immediate needs.  The greatest value comes from a listening ear and a caring heart. Victims of fires, floods, storms and other such disasters appreciate someone who can hear what they say, even if they don’t have the words to express themselves. We provide direction and re-assurance.

Likewise, I am grateful for the opportunity to support our first responders by offering a hot cup of coffee or a snack when they need to know that their efforts are appreciated. I always make sure to thank them for their service and to remind them to be safe. Too often, they are taken for granted.

Why would anyone want to get a call at 2:30 in the morning and get out of bed on a cold winter night to respond to a fire and a family displaced? Trust me, when I say the reward derived from helping someone in need at his or her worst moment far exceeds the minor inconvenience of losing a little sleep.

Akron ResponseVolunteer Chuck Victor providing assistance to first responders at the scene of a plane crash in Akron, November, 2015

Disaster Action Team may not be your thing, But I would urge anyone with time on his or her hands and a desire to serve others to consider volunteering with the American Red Cross.  Many great opportunities are available.

(Chuck Victor has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than four years.  He is a resident of Tallmadge, and serves residents in the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.)

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Former Trucker Loves Logistics

By Michael Shipley, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

Hello. My name is Michael Shipley and I am a Red Cross volunteer. My Red Cross story is probably typical.Mike Shipley

I was a working trucker for eighteen years, and logged approximately 1.8 million miles. Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I suffered a major “attack” and lost the use of my legs for three months, which ended my career as a trucker.

I was at  an MS walk and met a lady who actively recruited me to volunteer for the American Red Cross. I went to a meeting and signed up that day.

I am a Disaster Services volunteer. I started with casework, meaning I helped people who experienced a disaster by introducing them to the services offered by the Red Cross, including initial financial assistance, mental health services, and community referrals to help them with their recovery.  After about nine months of case work I decided to start doing logistics and I absolutely love it!

Mike ShipleyII

American Red Cross volunteer Mike Shipley

I take care of logistics for the Red Cross in seven counties and three offices. I have met some really great folks and been on five deployments in one year! I stay busy and I am very happy to find an organization that lets me be me.

(Michael Shipley has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for nearly three years.  He is a resident of Mansfield, and serves residents in the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.)

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Disability Doesn’t Deter Disaster Services Volunteer

By Mark Cline, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

From my earliest memories, I can remember volunteering with my family, which taught me the value of giving back.  In Boy Scouts I obtained the rank of Eagle Scout. I was also an Explorer Scout with the Wickliffe Fire Department. That turned into a 20 year job of being a part-time fire fighter/EMT.  I later went to work for Continental Airlines, where I was on their Emergency Response Team, and I was an Explorer Post Adviser working with teens in an Aviation Post sponsored by Continental Airlines.  On one of my assignments, I worked an aircraft crash in Buffalo, NY, where 51 souls were lost.

After working some very physical jobs over the years,  my back developed issues and I began to receive Social Security Disability, but I wasn’t ready to retire to a rocking chair.  Working with Lake County RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), they introduced me to the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team in the Greater Cleveland Chapter.  All my emergency training and experience pulled together in one organization. I currently hold a number of positions with Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services (DCS).  I’m a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Leader, Administrator-on-call, DAT Induction Trainer, Pillowcase Presenter and DCS Volunteer Partner to our Disaster Program Manager.

Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services Volunteer Partner Mark Cline, assisting residents who were affected by home fires in Greater Cleveland 

All of these positions allow me the chance to give back in many different ways.  Being on call I get a chance to be instrumental in someone’s life.  When the team responds, we help people who hours before didn’t know what hit them.  Then we train and plan for the next response.  I am able to work along side WONDERFUL co-volunteers and employees, knowing that whatever challenge comes around the corner, we’ll be able to respond.

I may be on disability, but that doesn’t make me totally disabled.  Someday a rocking chair may be a major part of my day, but not right now.  The Red Cross gives me the ability to help and enjoy life, being part of amazing team or even more like a family. There will be another disaster around the corner.  I don’t know when, I don’t know what, I just know I’ll be part of the team responding to it.  Tomorrow there maybe time for that rocking chair and sleeping in, but today I’ve got things to do and places to go, and people to see!Mark Cline

Mark Cline just celebrated his first anniversary as a Red Cross Volunteer.  He lives in Euclid, and serves residents of the Greater Cleveland Chapter. 

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Marine Gains “Second Family” Volunteering for the Red Cross

By Manuel Andrews, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays written by volunteers for the American Red Cross in the Northeast Ohio Region)

My name is Manuel Andrews I am a volunteer Disaster Action Team (DAT) member in disaster cycle services. I’ve been a volunteer since July 2014.

Manny & Clients

Red Cross Disaster Action Team member Manuel Andrews, assisting residents who were forced to flee their home due to an apartment building fire in Brunswick in 2016.

I moved to Ohio back in 2011 after serving 5 years in the Marine Corps. After a few years, it came apparent that I was missing something, so I sought to find work that related to what I did overseas in Civil Affairs. After finding several nonprofit organizations online, I found the Red Cross to be closest to what I had hoped to get out of volunteering. After a review of all the services the Red Cross offers we found that I would be a great fit at the Akron chapter as a DAT member. The experience alone made it easy to volunteer any time I had available. We provided smiles, coffee, snacks and jokes for first responders during long cold Ohio nights and helped provide immediate assistance to clients that lost their homes due to a disaster. I even got to volunteer on a national deployment to Florida and North Carolina, providing safety in shelters and food distribution sites.

The Red Cross offers a continued learning experience through annual mini-institutes and always make sure my volunteer time goes toward what I value. I could not be happier with my decision; I have gained a second family with the staff and volunteers. Now I’m a team leader and proudly serve my community as a Red Cross volunteer as often as I can.IMG_3752

Manuel Andrews is a resident of Akron, and serves residents in the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, or to begin an application, visit our volunteer page or call 216-431-3328.  To help the Red Cross train volunteers and provide them with the resources needed to assist people who experience disasters, big and small, visit our Giving Day page.

Thank You, Volunteers!

During National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) we will feature the Red Cross stories of some of our 1,750 cherished Regional volunteers who help fulfill the Red Cross mission: to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. The generous donation of time, skill, and caring of ALL of our volunteers make us truly grateful.

Beginning Monday, you will read about a different volunteer each day.  We hope their stories inspire others to devote their time and expertise to help others in need.

Regional CEO Mike Parks offers his own words of appreciation to the volunteers of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region:

Dear Valued Volunteer,

As this year’s National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) begins, again I offer a sincere “thank you” for the tremendous support that you are to the American Red Cross and for all that you accomplish for our organization each and every day.  I continue to be invigorated everyday by the passion and energy that you bring to everything you do and to everyone that you work with at the Red Cross.  I am amazed by the incredible skill, knowledge and dedication that you, our volunteers, share with us as our trusted and valued colleagues.  As volunteers, you not only support and enhance the work we do, but also guide it.   We count on you and you are always there.  Again, thank you for all that you do as we carry out our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.  Happy Volunteer Week!

With grateful appreciation,

Mike Parks

RADM, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

Chief Executive Officer

Northeast Ohio Region

American Red Cross

 

She Runs Because Help Can’t Wait

For one local woman, what began as a simple way to stay fit has become a wonderful way to give back to the community.

Mucci Run Team 1Jen Mucci started running as a source of exercise after the birth of her son, but it soon grew into a hobby. She began running longer distances and qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon after completing her first local marathon. Since then, she has run 14 marathons.

And, for each mile she runs, Jen is earning money for the Red Cross. And she is not alone. Jen has grown an amazing team who helps by running relay, half and full marathons – particularly at the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame marathon in Canton. Each year she hosts a kick-off meeting at her home where team members receive a Red Cross shirt to wear during the events. She also invites a speaker to share with the group how the Red Cross services affect so many individuals and families throughout the community.

“We run because help can’t wait,” said Jen. “The real goal is educating people on what the Red Cross does. No one is exempt; there is nothing you can do that precludes you from needing the Red Cross.”

This year her team pledged to earn $15,000 for the Red Cross. To date, she and her band of runners have earned more than $16,000 dollars!

“It’s been great being associated with such a great organization,” said Jen.

To support Jen’s annual fundraising campaign, visit https://www.facebook.com/WeRunForRedCross or visit her at Mainstream Boutique at Washington Square,  for the next scheduled fundraiser on May 20, where 10% of the day’s proceeds will benefit the Red Cross.

Your Thoughtfulness is Appreciated

No one who willingly gets out of bed in the middle of the night to go out and meet a person in the midst one of their worst experiences, does it expecting to reap glory and praise.

For most of our volunteers, it is simply in the quiet moments when they are offering hope and a sense of guidance through a dark time that a rewarding feeling can be found.

But, from time to time, those we have assisted reach back out to confirm just how important the services of the Red Cross were in the moment and the days following a home fire or other disaster, to share with us the story of their recovery.

Here is one such Thank You card:

Your Thoughtfulness is Appreciated

A special thanks to all the people at the Red Cross. It made this bad time a good time when I took the kids to the store to buy school clothes and they walked right to the pajama rack to get their mother back her favorite pajamas she got for Christmas. You should have seen the smiles on their faces when they found the pajamas. It is a moment I will never forget. Without your help I wouldn’t have this special moment I will remember forever. – Grandma

If you are interested in volunteering in the middle of the night – or anytime – visit www.redcross.org/neo and click on VOLUNTEER along the left.

Why I volunteer: Kevin

By Kevin Murphy, American Red Cross Volunteer

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 A few years after I graduated from high school I adopted this quote as the mission statement for life.  Having been born with a disability, I had learned that the world isn’t always fair. Even though I had setbacks of my own, I could still do something that would benefit others.

My first experience with the American Red Cross was in the summer of 2013 when the City of Barberton experienced devastating flooding and my employer, the Lake Anna YMCA, was selected as a shelter site for the city.  The next nine days were a whirlwind of activity, but in the end we were able to help a lot of people and do a lot of good in our community.  I knew from that point on that the Red Cross was the place for me!

Disasters do not pick and choose who they affect.  They can strike any person, in any neighborhood, at any time — even at 3 a.m. or when it’s -10 degrees outside. Being a part of the Disaster Action Team has helped me to make a big impact on my community.   It makes me feel good to know that I can help someone at a time when the help matters most to them.

Across the country the Red Cross is a strong organization that helps numerous men, women and children each day.  I strongly believe that our work should be shared with as many people as possible.  I often post on my personal Twitter handle (@macfankevin) when I am responding to a disaster.   It’s not for personal recognition, but rather to help raise awareness of the needs in our community.

Imagine what would happen if I could inspire someone else to help and then they inspire another person. It’s a never ending cycle of good in the world!

I strongly encourage you to do something to give back to your community.  Give. Volunteer . Advocate. Small things that you do today can have a big impact on what happens tomorrow. I have found my niche with the Red Cross. I look forward to many more years of developing my self-capacity and helping others.