Dedicated volunteer of 12 years delivers customer service with a smile

By Ryan Lang, Red Cross Volunteer

What started as more of a convenience for Red Cross volunteer Anita Hicks , quickly became one of the most fulfilling parts of her life.

Anita is one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers dedicated to the Red Cross Mission and providing an invaluable service to the community. Working at the front desk at the Akron Red Cross headquarters, she spends most of her days answering phones and greeting blood donors, volunteers and others as they walk through the doors, helping them find where they need to go. With her background in customer service, Anita says it was a match made in heaven from the moment she walked through the doors at 501 West Market Street 12 years ago.

Anita Hicks, Red Cross Volunteer

Before that, though, Anita says it was simply the location that drew her in, as the building was within walking distance of her apartment. She was recently retired and needed something to do, so she walked next door. And then, she says, she “immediately fell in love with it.”

Now, after 12 years of walking to work (at least on sunny days), Anita has developed a bond with so many of the blood donors, volunteers and Red Cross staff in the building. “They should be met with the Red Cross standard,” which Anita describes as “120% customer service,” adding, “Nothing beats a smile and a cheerful hello.”

But over the past two years, in dealing with COVID-19 protocols and even shutdowns, it’s been more of a challenge than ever before. The office has been more desolate and for nearly a year and a half, Anita was at home due to pandemic protocols. “I was a fish out of water,” she said of her time away from the office she loves so much.

Today, she’s back in the office two days a week.

“Anita has been a front desk volunteer as long as I can remember, always greeting everyone with a smile and willing to help chip in on any task that needs to be done,” said Rachel D’Attoma, executive director of the Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley. “She will drive through a snowstorm to get to the building and still be smiling when she arrives.  It is wonderful to have Anita and know that the Red Cross can count on her!”

“It’s just a pleasure. It’s always been a pleasure and it has continued to be a pleasure to be able to give a little bit of myself to someone else.” Anita adds, “I’ve bought into the Red Cross Mission 100%, and it means the world to me to offer my time to the Red Cross.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

2022 Acts of Courage Award winners honored

Annual H. Peter Burg Community Leader award also presented

By the American Red Cross and Ryan Lang, Red Cross Volunteer

Two police officers, an off-duty firefighter, an assistant middle school principal, a municipal recreation worker, a vacationing teenager and a professional model will be honored for bravery and acts of heroism, at the 26th annual Acts of Courage awards, presented by the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley.

The annual dinner and award ceremony will take place on Thursday, March 3, 2022, at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, 3180 W. Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44333.

Bernett L. Williams, H. Peter Burg Community Leader Award recipient

As a special feature of the Acts of Courage awards, the Red Cross takes an opportunity to present a community member, who has spent a lifetime pursuing good deeds, with the H. Peter Burg Community Leader award. This year, the award will be presented to Bernett L. Williams, Vice President External Affairs at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Acts of Courage Award Winners:

LaDonya Williams, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

LaDonya S. Williams, day care provider and model, Akron, Ohio
While sitting at a traffic light at V. Odom and Raymond St., a motorist careened wildly down the street, crashing into the car in-front of LaDonya Williams and her father, off-duty Akron Police Department detective, Donny Williams.

A woman leapt out of the vehicle, screaming that her 7-month-old baby was choking. Working quickly, LaDonya pulled the 7-month old child out of the car and successfully performed infant abdominal thrusts, taught by the American Red Cross.

LaDonya, who in addition to being a licensed day care worker, is a professional model, and was supposed to be in Chicago on a modeling job, but canceled at the last minute. It was a decision that may have saved that baby’s life.

Tim Haas, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

Tim Haas – Asst. Chief, Brunswick Hills Fire Department
On just the second day of a family vacation to Mexico, Brunswick resident Tim Haas played the hero. While at the main pool of the resort where the family was staying, Hass, saw a 2 year-old girl being taken out of the pool.

The child had drowned. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Tim utilized his extensive training and performed CPR until she was revived, about two minutes later. Emergency personnel at the resort then responded, and later told Haas the girl was “doing well.”

Anthony Hermann, Assistant Principal, Barberton Local Schools
Eighth grade Assistant Principal Anthony Hermann was helping clean up on a Taco Tuesday during lunch at Barberton Middle School. As students were getting ready to return to class, Mr. Hermann was called on to use the first aid training he and other administrators are required to learn.

Anthony Hermann, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

A student was choking on his meal and unable to verbalize his distress. Mr. Hermann could tell immediately what was wrong and moved into action. As he patted the child’s back, trying to dislodge the food that was blocking his airway, the student passed out.

As the situation unfolded, Mr. Hermann called for the room to be cleared and began to perform abdominal thrusts to dislodge the food. Eventually, the student regained consciousness.

John Doyle, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

John Doyle, Recreation Supervisor, City of Macedonia
During Macedonia’s SummerFest 5K in 2021, Recreation Supervisor John Doyle was clearing the trails toward the end of the run and noticed a man face down on the trail. Recognizing him as the runner who had just passed him, John immediately radioed for EMS and approached the man. After performing multiple rounds of CPR, several other workers arrived with an AED and LUCAS device.

The runner regained his pulse and was breathing before being taken to the hospital.

Officer Lenny Kunka, Officer Kyle Auckland – Kent Police Department
A 14-year-old girl was babysitting a 1-year-old around 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, when she heard someone trying to get inside. Unable to get away, she hid in a bathroom and bravely called 911. Through whispered exchanges, she spoke with dispatch.

Kent Police Officers Kyle Auckland and Lenny Kunka, Acts of Courage Award Recipients

Two Kent police officers, officer Lenny Kunka and officer Kyle Auckland, responded to the call. Almost immediate shots were fired by the intruder. Officer Kunka was shot in the hand. Officer Auckland’s bullet-resistant vest saved his life when he was shot in the chest. Both officers have recovered.

The suspect was subdued and arrested.

Travis Shrout, College Student, Stow, Ohio
While vacationing in Topsail, North Carolina, 19-year-old Stow resident Travis Shrout went swimming. While at the beach, he noticed a mother and young child in distress in the water.

Travis Shrout, Acts of Courage Award Recipient

Travis pursued them using his body board. He first reached the mother and gave her the body board. He then swam toward the boy, who was struggling to stay above the waves some 10-yards away. Travis used his Red Cross lifeguard training to calm and rescue the boy, navigating both mother and son out of the rip current and safely to shore.

My first Acts of Courage Awards as a Red Cross Board Member:

Working in radio news for the past six years in Akron, I’m very familiar with the Red Cross Acts of Courage event. In fact, I’ve covered a lot of these heroes in the news over that time.

Acts of Courage Awards (Photo credit: Debbie Chitester, Red Cross)

But this year was my first in-person Acts of Courage event as a Red Cross board member, and the experience was even more rewarding that I could have imagined.

Prior to Thursday night’s ceremony, I had the chance to meet several of this year’s heroes and hear their stories firsthand. That was a few weeks ago, and as emotionally affected as I was then, I figured I was prepared to keep my composure during the main event.

I was not.

Hearing these stories from the men and woman that lived them was once again an emotional experience for me. LaDonya’s selflessness, Tim’s training in action, Anthony’s sense of duty to his student, John’s quick reaction, Lenny and Kyle’s bond, and Travis’ maturity and composure… Every single story moved me as if I was hearing them again for the first time.

These folks are heroes. They represent the best parts of our community and the Red Cross is proud to recognize them for their extraordinary acts of courage.

Bernett L. Williams, H. Peter Burg Award recipient with Ryan Lang, Red Cross Board Member (Photo credit: Debbie Chitester, Red Cross)

And then there was Bernett L. Williams, this year’s H. Peter Burg Award recipient, who was presented the award by her two sons, Todd and Jacob; two impressive young men who spoke so highly of their mother.

Bernett L. Williams and her sons Todd and Jacob (Photo credit: Debbie Chitester, Red Cross)

Bernett’s resume and long list of contributions to the community speak for themselves, but from where I was sitting, it was the testimony of her sons that truly spoke to Bernett’s character and her impact on the people around her. The way those young men carried themselves and spoke of their mother was beyond impressive and as the son of a remarkable woman myself, I could feel the pride swelling within them.

From her work with Akron Children’s Hospital to her leadership role in the Akron Urban League to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and the Women’s Endowment Fund, Leadership Akron, Summit for Kids, and the list goes on, Bernett is the epitome of selflessness in the community.

The H. Peter Burg Community Leadership Award was made for Bernett L. Williams.

I was honored to be there last night and I’m honored to represent the Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley, if only from my small seat at a very large and distinguished table.

See more photos from the award ceremony in our photo album.

Weekend disaster responses include helping people affected by flooding

Jewett Flooding

Flooding during the President’s Day weekend kept some Red Cross disaster workers busy across the Northern Ohio Region. Heavy rains in some parts of the region, along with melting snow caused flood damage that brought a Red Cross response to Lorain, Stark, Wayne and Harrison counties.

The village of Jewett in Harrison County was especially hard hit. Red Cross disaster program managers Tim Reichel and Mike Arthur were accompanied by volunteers Dan Best and Arden Tohill on Saturday, when they distributed clean-up kits to nearly two-dozen affected residences.

Jewett Flooding

“Those buckets have everything they need to get a good start,” Tim said during an interview with WTOV 9 news. “They’ve come out of their homes, they’ve welcomed us, we’ve gotten a few hugs along the way,” Tim continued. “It’s what we do and it’s a pleasure to do it.”

Weekend responses also included home fires in Cleveland, Akron, Wooster, and Masury, Ohio in Trumbull County. More than 60 children and adults received Red Cross assistance throughout Northern Ohio.

February has been a very busy month for Red Cross Disaster Action Teams. Responses are up more than 30% over February of 2021, and Red Cross caseworkers are continuing to help hundreds of people find a path to recovery.

While President’s Day is a federal holiday, the Red Cross remains ready to respond to emergencies, today and every day of the year.

“While many will be relaxing with family and friends, our teams remain vigilant,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer.

Jewett Flooding

If you’d like to help neighbors in need following a home fire, flooding or some other disaster, visit redcross.org/volunteer to apply for a spot on our Disaster Action Teams. The Red Cross is also in need of trained medical and mental health professionals to assist people following disasters big and small. A virtual information session for licensed healthcare and mental healthcare providers will be held this Thursday, February 24, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. To RSVP for this event, email neovolunteer@redcross.org, or call 216-431-3328. A Microsoft Teams meeting link will be emailed to you prior to the event. A conference call option will also be available.

Community members come together to give back this holiday season

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

The American Red Cross of Northern Ohio held holiday blood drives across the region, providing an opportunity for donors to give the gift of life for people in need during this holiday season.

Hailee Horstman, Blood Donor

The drives were held between December 14th and December 23rd at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, the Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls, the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg and Stambaugh Auditorium and Packard Music Hall in Youngstown.

Daniel Salmons, Blood Donor

The Red Cross put the call out to the public, encouraging them to donate at our holiday drives, and our community members answered. Across all of the holiday blood drives, 1,240 pints of blood were donated to provide critical help for patients across the region.

Each donation can help up to three patients awaiting a blood product – red blood cells, platelets, or plasma. That means more than 3,700 people will possibly benefit by the donations made at this year’s holiday blood drives.

Lee Holmes-Blood Donor

Blood donations help patients in our community of all ages, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer, among others. In fact, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

The need this year is high, as pandemic challenges and concerns, along with the typical winter lulls, have resulted in historically low levels of blood supply. If you haven’t had a chance to donate—don’t delay. We are calling all eligible donors this January as part of National Blood Donor Month to roll up their sleeves and donate. To find an upcoming blood donation drive near you, click here.

Akron middle school students present creative ideas for disaster relief

By Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties

January 24, 2020- Two years ago I partnered with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School in Akron. This year I was asked to partner with the STEM Middle School sixth grade on a project. They use problem-based learning in their school. The problem they were presented with was: How can we, as concerned citizens, work together to assist the emotional needs of survivors of natural disasters and consider:

STEM Ozobot game

  • The structure of the response needed
  • The geographical location
  • The emotional needs of the young people affected

The class of more than 100 learners identified the American Red Cross as an organization that helps with disaster relief but was not sure how we did that. In mid-December I visited the classroom and talked about what we do during disasters, including sheltering, feeding, how we use GIS and mapping to make decisions, how we work with partners as well as how we deal with the emotional part of disaster relief. Their questions were thoughtful, and they had a lot of them.

STEM augmented reality cube

A month later, I was invited back for the presentations. “Impressive” and “amazing” were the words that kept coming out of my mouth. The students were separated into small groups and had been assigned various disaster types — flood, tornado, hurricane, drought, chemical spills, blizzards, etc. The solutions were unique, well thought out and, in some cases, mind blowing. I couldn’t believe sixth graders came up with these things!

STEM Droughtgameboard

One team, assigned drought, developed a board game. This game was fun as well as educational. Through question and answer cards, it detailed how to conserve water or reasons drought happens.

STEMComicBook

A few teams created websites. One for chemical spills addressed how to avoid them, what to do if one affects your home and who can help. They handed out a card with a QR code linking you to their website, and plan on distributing them around Akron so residents can learn more. Another website created a pen pal site for those affected by a disaster so they could connect with someone willing to share their experiences with others. One team created an augmented reality with a 3D cube that when you put your phone or tablet in front of the cube it showed, from all angles, a beach, the fish swimming in the ocean and the sun shining above it. The student said, “Well this is pretty basic.” Far from basic to me!

STEM1

This list can go on and on. I wish I had a few more hours to have walked through every display to hear all their ideas and presentations.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer 

127 Homes Made Safer in Maple Heights and Akron

Simultaneous Sound the Alarm Events Held Last Saturday

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

More than 300 smoke alarms were installed in homes last Saturday as the American Red Cross Sound the Alarm campaign hit the halfway point. The nationwide effort to install 100,000 smoke alarms across the country, and to save lives, began on April 28. The final Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event in Northeast Ohio takes place this Saturday in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood.

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Sound the Alarm in Maple Heights, 5/5/18

On Saturday, May 5, 204 alarms were installed in 77 homes in Maple Heights. In Akron, 50 homes were made safer, as 115 smoke alarms were installed. In addition, volunteers from the Red Cross and a number of civic groups and corporate partners offered residents valuable fire safety information and helped them create escape plans.

Akron Groupshot 5-5-18

Sound the Alarm in Akron, 5/5/18

“The Red Cross and our partners helped save lives by making homes safer and communities more resilient,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “And we are truly grateful for the invaluable partnerships that are either created or strengthened through the Sound the Alarm campaign, with local fire departments, community groups like the VA, and corporations like KeyBank helping families throughout the Region.”

41014600845_59af47a044_z

Volunteers from the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System, including Director Sue Fuehrer, center, with Regional Red Cross CEO Mike Parks, right

You can see more photos from Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events here.  There is still time to volunteer for one of the three remaining Sound the Alarm events. Join the effort to end home fires in Akron this Thursday, May 10 and Friday, May 11, and in Cleveland on Saturday, May 12. Visit soundthealarm.org/neo for more information.

New Chapters Heed the Call During WWI

Looking back 100 years at the Summit, Portage & Medina Counties Chapter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

(Editor’s Note:  This is the latest in a series of centennial-related stories involving the founding of Red Cross chapters in Northeast Ohio)

April 18, 1917 – The Akron Evening Times ran a story that Kent planned to organize a Red Cross chapter in that community.  A meeting had been held the night before with pastors of Kent churches all in attendance, along with officers of church organizations, lodges and clubs. A follow-up meeting was to take place that week to make sure the people of Kent did their part in the war crisis.

April 20, 1917 – Barberton began work to organize a Red Cross chapter and communicated their desire to do so to the national office in Washington.

By June 1917, Akron had already formed a Red Cross Chapter primarily for men. It was followed by an auxiliary for women on June 30, 1917. Election of officers found Mary Gladwin elected as president of the women’s auxiliary. She had just returned from serving in Serbia the year before. She was also named to the Akron executive committee along with six gentlemen.

At the June 30 meeting, 24 members of Battery B lined up on either side of the church entrance as people arrived. Upon the start of the meeting, they marched into the auditorium and joined in the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

Wasting no words, Miss Gladwin addressed their first meeting and scolded the Akron citizenry for their lack of patriotism during the recent deployment of troops the prior week as they headed off to Columbus. Her concern centered around the fact that in the “American” residence districts of Akron, there were entire blocks with not one American flag on display.

Centennial SPM-Submarine-U14[1]

November 1, 1917 found the formerly organized chapter in Medina to be doing an excellent job with their sewing.  Unfortunately, a German submarine sank a boat filled with Red Cross supplies. When a local Medina member told District Supervisor Mrs. Harrison Ewing that,  “I don’t think I want to knit if that is to be the fate of my work,” Mrs. Ewing would have nothing of it, responding “Don’t think, KNIT.” That appeared to be the end of that conversation, and discussion turned to lack of yarn and the need to prepare Christmas packets.

By the beginning of December, the yarn had been received and was already knitted into sweaters for the troops.

Girl Red Cross Workers.

Schools were already starting to organize their own chapters, with Seville and Medina schools ready to go. Children all over were raising money for the Red Cross in support of starving children in Belgium and Poland.  One little girl wrote the following:

“Dear Red Cross,

I have earned another dollar for the poor children. I have piled up all the pumpkins, and hauled four loads of chips, and pulled some weeds for the pigs and picked up all the scattered beans. I am eight years old today.”

 

With such dedication from someone so young, how could adults not pitch in?

Today, you can do your part.  Volunteer or donate.  Volunteers can learn more here.

Donating couldn’t be easier. Donate by text, by email, by mail or online. You can even set up a monthly automatic donation.  All five links to giving are here.

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All photos creative commons licensed