Red Cross disaster response teams active in early April

One-hundred residents of Northern Ohio received Red Cross assistance during the past week, April 4-10, as volunteers responded to two-dozen home fires.

Five of the fires affected multiple-family homes.

Cleveland Fire

“Our volunteer disaster responders have been very busy, and we are grateful that they answer the call, no matter when or where it happens,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer. “They are true humanitarians. We could not respond to the needs of people in crisis without our volunteers.”

Immediate financial assistance totaling more than $22,700 was given to the affected residents. The money can be used for a hotel room, to replace clothing or other lost items, for meals or for whatever each resident prioritizes as a need.

In addition, Red Cross volunteer caseworkers reach out to the affected families to connect residents with additional community resources, as they try to move forward with their lives following the loss of their homes and possessions.

And if needed, Red Cross health and mental health volunteers are available to provide assistance as well.

The Red Cross never requires payment for the services provided to people who have experienced a disaster like a home fire. Such assistance is made possible through the generous donations of supporters. To help the next family that is forced by fire to flee their home, visit redcross.org/donate. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) to make a donation on the phone.

One Man’s Dedication: The Joseph DeRosa Legacy

By Sue Wilson, Red Cross Community Volunteer

The lifeblood of the Red Cross is its volunteers, and in particular, its blood donors. Joseph DeRosa was the definition of lifeblood, having donated an astounding 165 pints of blood in his lifetime. 

Joseph DeRosa, lifelong blood donor

Valerie Stanley shared the story of her grandpa and his dedication to the American Red Cross and its blood donor program last month. She and her children, Joseph’s great grandchildren, Eva and Isaac delivered a check to the Red Cross for $1,860 in his name. 

Joseph DeRosa was a dedicated high school math/psychics/chemistry teacher for over 30 years. After retirement, Valerie said she and her brother spent their summers at their grandparent’s house. One day, years before he passed, her grandpa told her he had something very important to share with her. He opened a cupboard and took a white box from the shelf. It was filled with pins from the Red Cross honoring his many blood donations over the years. “Here are all my Red Cross pins,” he said. “I want you to make sure that when I die, they are buried with me.”   

It was not something Valerie wanted to think about at the time. “My grandpa was one of those people who went through so much in his life, faced health challenges and got through them, and to me he was invincible,” she said. When he passed on March 5, 2021, the first thing that came to her mind was her grandpa’s request. She went straight to his house to get that box of pins, which had continued to grow in number. 

The Red Cross recommends donors wait 56 days between blood donations. Joseph kept a calendar for the year, with the first day he could donate again marked, and he always went right away to make his donation. Valerie said she never knew exactly when her grandpa’s commitment to blood donation began, or if there was a particular reason behind it. “He knew it was something he could give, to help others in need. If he could convince the world to donate blood, he would!”

Valeria, Isaac, and Eva

If there was a word to describe her grandpa, Valerie said it would be: dedicated.  “He was passionate in everything he did in life, from his dedication to his family, to the students he taught in his many years as a teacher, to his volunteering for the Special Olympics for over 35 years, to the Red Cross.”   

Joseph DeRosa is survived by his wife of 66 years, Patti DeRosa, his 2 sons, Joe DeRosa and Bob DeRosa and his legacy of grand and great grandkids. 

“I want to make sure that when I die, they are buried with me.” – Joseph DeRosa

“After his passing, I remember reading comments on his online obit and saw so many of his former students commenting how he changed their lives. So many have successful careers that they attribute to him and I know he would be so proud of that legacy.” 

Every blood donation can help save up to three lives. Blood donations are used for patients in need of surgery, cancer treatment and transfusions for blood loss from traumatic injuries. The lives Joseph DeRosa has saved are in the thousands. Can you imagine, if everyone had such dedication to blood donation?

Learn more about blood donation and where you can donate HERE.

How to keep safe this severe weather season

By Sam Pudelski, Red Cross volunteer

Now that it’s spring, the storms that come along with the season and summer months also arrive. While many rainy days are part of the season, Northeast Ohio usually experiences several severe weather events throughout the year. The American Red Cross has tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe when severe weather strikes.

Severe Weather Safety

If thunderstorms are likely to occur, postpone outdoor activities. Many people who are struck by lightning aren’t in the area of a storm where it is raining.

Watch for storm signs – these can include darkening skies, lightning and increasing wind. If thunder roars, head indoors! If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger of being stuck by lightning.

If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued for your area and arrives:
– Take shelter in a substantial building. If you aren’t near a building, shelter in a vehicle with the windows closed. Make sure to get out of mobile homes, as they can blow over in high winds.
– If you’re driving, make your way to safely exit the road and park. Stay in your vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers so other cars on the road can see you until any heavy rain ends.
If you are outside and are unable to seek shelter inside of a safe building or vehicle, avoid high ground, water, tall or isolated trees and metal objects, such as fences and bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts, sheds and pavilions are not considered safe shelters.
Keep away from windows.
Don’t take a bath, shower, wash dishes or use plumbing.

If a tornado warning is issued for your area:
– Move to an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If none of these are available to you, moving to a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
Note: No area of a mobile home is safe during a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, move to this immediately.
– If you are able to, go to the nearest local emergency shelter.

Superstorm Sandy 2012 November 5, 2012. Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

If someone is struck by lightning:
– Call for help immediately. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Anyone who has been struck by lightning requires professional medical care. Check the person for burns and other inquiries.
– If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR. If the person is breathing normally, look for other possible injuries and care for them as necessary.
– People who have been struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge in their body.

Flooding Safety
Flooding often occurs following a hurricane, thawing snow or several days of sustained rain. Flash floods, on the other hand, occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream, body of water or low-lying area.

If there is a flood risk in your area:
– Listen to local radio, NOAA or TV news stations for the latest updates and information about weather in your area.
– Be prepared to evacuate quickly if you need to evacuate. Know your routes and destinations ahead of time. Find a local emergency shelter.
– Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or that are in short supply, such as medical supplies and medications.

If you have pets or livestock:

  • Consider a precautionary evacuation of your animals, especially any
    large or numerous animals. Waiting until the last minute could be
    fatal for them and dangerous for you.
  • Where possible, move livestock to higher ground. If using a horse or
    other trailer to evacuate your animals, move sooner rather than later.
  • Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of
    them. Be sure that your pet emergency kit is ready to go in case of
    evacuation.

For more information on how to prepare and respond in a severe weather emergency, visit redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Local pharmacist recognized with national Red Cross Lifesaving Award

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross

Mike Parks, CEO of the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross, Janet Coleman, and Pharmacist Matt Kirby – Photo credit: Christy Peters/American Red Cross

Anyone who has spent any time in Northeast Ohio, driving around listening to the radio could probably finish this sentence in a flash – “Discount Drug Mart saves you the runaround…” If it didn’t immediately pop into your head, it’s “you’ll find everything you need.” The jingle was probably talking about a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. But, for one North Olmsted woman, being at Discount Drug Mart recently saved her more than the runaround – it saved her life.

Matt Kirby, a pharmacist at the North Olmsted Discount Drug Mart, was going through a normal day when a fellow employee ran to the pharmacy and alerted him that someone had collapsed near the deli. Matt sprang into action and found a woman lying on the floor. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Using lifesaving skills he learned in a Red Cross class, Matt began CPR. On his 22nd chest compression, the customer was revived. She was transported to a hospital and recovered.

See coverage from Fox 8 here.

In an interview with Cleveland.com, Matt said, “I think the more amazing part of the story was that a week later, they (the customer and her husband) celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and she was around for that. That was my reward – her being able to make it to that. Also, seeing her walk back into the store, that made it all worth it.”

Janet and Kevin Coleman with Pharmacist Matt Kirby and CEO of the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross Mike Parks

Because of his heroic actions, Matt was awarded the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, one of the highest honors given by the organization. The award honors someone who embodies the spirit of the Red Cross by using action to help alleviate human suffering in the face of an emergency.

See coverage from News 5 here.

Like Matt Kirby, you never know when you may be called upon to help save a life. Make sure you’re prepared by signing up for training classes with the Red Cross. The organization offers a variety of courses to help the community be prepared when an emergency arises.

Do you know a hero? The Red Cross wants to recognize ordinary people who perform extraordinary acts of courage. If you know a hero who has used their Red Cross skills to help save a life, please share their story with us!

Edited by Glenda Bogar/American Red Cross volunteer

Platelet donor sets a new goal

600 units not enough for Painesville Township man

Richard and Carol Gundelach – Photo Credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Richard Gundelach donates platelets every two weeks, and on March 11, 2022, he reached a milestone: 600 platelet units donated.

His wife Carol baked a carrot cake to mark the occasion.

“Compared to giving (whole) blood, it’s easier,” Richard said after the donation. “People need it.”

Platelets are cell fragments in our blood that form clots and stop or prevent bleeding. They can be essential to helping patients survive surgeries such as organ transplants, and to fight cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries.

During the platelet donation, the blood clotting portion of whole blood is “spun” out and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor; typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours.

Platelets are always in short supply because they only have a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone needs platelets.

Richard Gundelach – Photo Credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Encouraged by a friend, Richard began donating platelets during a time of unemployment 27 years ago. He’s retired now, and he wants to continue giving regularly.

His new goal: to donate 1,000 units of platelets.

When he achieves that goal, Carol may need to bake a bigger cake!

Donors can make an appointment to give platelets, whole blood or plasma by visiting redcrossblood.org, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or by installing the Red Cross blood app on their smartphones.

Edited by Glenda Bogar. American Red Cross volunteer

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

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To donate blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

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

Video streamers can also help. See here if interested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Turn and Test to stay safe and on time

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Good news is on the horizon: If it’s time to “spring ahead” one hour on Saturday night, can spring be far behind?

Good news right away: You can protect your home and family now by “turning and testing” Saturday night.

American Red Cross volunteers like John Muni, a retired firefighter in Medina County, are urging everyone across northern Ohio to test the batteries in their smoke alarms this weekend, before they turn their clocks ahead one hour to stay in step with their neighbors.

“Smoke alarms are our silent sentinels, our sleepless watchers to alert us to a disaster nobody wants –- a home fire,” John said.

Fox 8 reporter Todd Meany interviews Red Cross volunteer John Muni

“Just since the first of the year, our Red Cross Disaster Action Teams have responded to more than 250 home fires across northern Ohio, bringing comfort, support and immediate assistance to 1,000 families who were living through a nightmare,” John said. “It’s been a rough start to the year, and we don’t want more folks to go through that.”

That’s the purpose of the fall and spring “Turn and Test” campaigns nationwide, because home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster.

The Red Cross wants people to take three simple steps:

Install smoke alarms. If you don’t have smoke alarms, install them. At least, put one on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. If you have an alarm that’s more than 10 years old, replace it; smoke detection strips wear out.

Check smoke alarm batteries. This is “Turn and Test.” Push the test button on each alarm and replace batteries, if needed. It’s a good time to check carbon monoxide detectors too.

Practice an escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.

In May, the Red Cross will resume its “Sound the Alarm” campaign, working with partners to install free smoke alarms in homes and to brief residents on fire safety and escape planning. The campaign had to be adjusted during 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

This year, the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross has a goal to install more than 7,200 free smoke alarms and make more than 3,000 homes safer. Local fire departments, civic groups and workplace teams will provide the volunteer manpower for these important efforts.

“Sound the Alarm” is a national Red Cross program similar to one that started in Cleveland in 1992 as a partnership between the city’s fire department and the local Red Cross chapter. Since 2014, the campaign has installed more than 2.2 million(!) smoke alarms across the country that have saved more than 1,200 lives.

For more information, including safety tips and free resources, visit redcross.org/homefires or download the free Red Cross Emergency app by searching for “American Red Cross” in app stores.

And if you need free smoke alarms in your home, visit our website to ask for a home fire safety visit.

Edited By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Courage in the face of adversity

By Ryan Lang, Red Cross Volunteer

One of the definitions of courage you’ll find in the Oxford Dictionary is “strength in the face of pain or grief.”

Most people can say they’ve exhibited courage at least a few times in their life. Not as many can say that every day for the past year, just simply facing the day has been an act of courage.

Lynn Decker, Wadsworth School District Head Nurse

If you asked Lynn Decker about it, she’d probably tell you that was an overstatement. But after hearing her story about her fight against breast cancer and her unwavering commitment to the students and staff of the Wadsworth City School District, there was no question that Lynn embodied the true meaning of courage.

Lynn is the District Nurse for Wadsworth City Schools. She’s been a nurse for a long time, working in the ICU at Summa Akron City Hospital for more than a decade. In 2014, Lynn joined the district and the world of school nursing. “I thought it was just Band-Aids and ice packs; no big deal,” she said of the job, but as she quickly found, it was a lot more than that. It was much more critical care than she’d first anticipated, which Lynn says was a good thing, as that’s been her “bread and butter” throughout her career.

As the head of eight school nurses, Lynn says she quickly realized that there were several “areas of improvement” that needed to be addressed, one of those being CPR training. “I decided to get my certificate over at the Red Cross to become a certified instructor so I could help employees here, and also train coaches and administrators in CPR.”

June 22, 2018. Washington, DC. CPR stock photos by Roy Cox for the American Red Cross.

Throughout her years in the Wadsworth School District, Lynn trained dozens of her fellow employees in CPR, but only recently started training 8th grade students as well. “We realized how important it is for kids of a young age to learn CPR, and actually found that they are much easier to teach.” And they’re interested in learning, Lynn says: “They love it! They get super excited when we’re coming in with the mannequins and the mock AED machines and more.”  

And then, a setback.

It was about a year ago that Lynn was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in the middle of a pandemic, no less. “When the entire world is shutting down and you’re worried about hospital care and being able to get your surgery and your chemo, but still being part of running the district.” In spite of the diagnosis and facing a double mastectomy, Lynn still was concerned about her students and her staff in Wadsworth. “People still have to be taken care of and we need to be sure that our students and our faculty are safe.”

After finishing her chemo treatments and her surgery in May, Lynn was visiting her parents’ home for a small get together at their pool in the backyard a little more than a month later, in July last year. A neighbor had fallen into the pool and gone under the water. Without regard for herself and how she was feeling after her treatments, Lynn deployed her Red Cross training and did everything she could to help that family friend.

Unfortunately, there was no helping that friend. He eventually passed away. It was an experience Lynn says she’ll never forget and a real world reminder of how important her training is and how important it is that she pass along what she learned through the Red Cross.

Today, Lynn’s treatments continue. And Lynn continues to provide an invaluable, potentially life-saving skill set to her colleagues and her students alike. Additionally, she’s become an advocate for early and regular health screenings and now helps others in similar situations as hers face their diagnoses head on, with strength and with courage.

Down, but not out – Blood supplies are still vulnerable

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Last month the blood supply was in “crisis.” This month it’s rated “vulnerable.” Neither of those are optimal – the latter being only incrementally better. Bottom line = we still need everyone to donate if they are able.

Photo Credit: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

With relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, doctors are once again allowing elective surgery. Don’t associate “elective” with just things as tummy tucks and facelifts.

Elective means it can be scheduled in advance instead of being scheduled as an emergency. Some heart surgeries, including bypass and valve surgeries, as well as some cancer surgeries or biopsies are scheduled electively. When elective surgeries are delayed for too long, life-threatening emergencies can occur.

Since issuing its first-ever blood crisis alert, severe winter weather has further complicated efforts to rebuild the Red Cross blood supply. So far in 2022, approximately 600 blood drives have been canceled across the country due to winter storms, forcing nearly 20,000 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected.

Photo Credit: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Don’t let the supply go back to “crisis” mode – make and keep those appointments. It’s quick and easy to find a location and time near you at redcrossblood.org.

If you have either type O positive or O negative – you are needed most urgently:
o Type O positive is the most transfused blood type and can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.
o Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations.

Platelet donations are also urgently needed. Platelets are the clotting portion of blood, which must be transfused within five days of donation. Nearly half of all platelet donations are given to patients undergoing cancer treatments.

Need more motivation???

For drives March 1-31: All who come to give blood or platelets will get a $10 e-gift card, thanks to Fanatics, world’s largest collection of officially licensed sports gear.

Plus, donors will also automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip for two to the 2022 MLB® All-Star Game® in Los Angeles, California, when you come to give March 1-31. The package includes two tickets to 2022 MLB® All-Star Saturday, the 2022 Home Run Derby and the 2022 MLB® All-Star Game®, round-trip airfare to Los Angeles, four-night hotel accommodations (July 16-20, 2022), plus a $750 gift card for expenses. Details available at rcblood.org/team.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer