Red Cross continues to provide comfort and support despite COVID-19

By Ben Bellucci, Disaster Program Manager, Greater Cleveland Chapter

March 27, 2020- A handshake, a comforting approach, and most of all, a relieving hug is what Red Cross disaster volunteers have ingrained in them from the moment they desire to give back to their communities. In an instant, that has all changed: COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with our community during their darkest hours – in a physical sense.

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Ben Bellucci

Disasters are taking place around our nation, as we are challenged with stopping the spread of COVID-19. Home fires are still taking place every day and are our number one disaster in Northeast Ohio. We as a team, with the direction of our leadership, have had to come up with new and inventive ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who have lost everything.

  • We have screening questions that we ask our clients before we respond, to protect our volunteers and our clients.
  • We can conduct interviews over the phone, to ensure that we have a timely response in order to meet their needs and get them assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothing, disaster health services or disaster mental health services.
  • We have the capability to conduct video interviews, so the client sees the smile, and the helping demeanor of our volunteers.
  • We have developed ways to deliver cards loaded with financial assistance to a location of the client’s choosing, always with the safety and health of our volunteer and clients at the forefront.
  • We also have volunteer caseworkers who will work with our clients on the phone to connect them with community partners.

We always talk about how we are honored to be in the position to facilitate a hug from members of our community, and volunteers play an integral part in our service delivery. We know that these are challenging times, and we know our community needs us to be there, now more than ever.

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Ben with his family at the Cleveland script sign at Edgewater Park

Because of social distancing, we can no longer give the physical hugs; however, we know you will feel the virtual hug from our community partners, our donors and, of course our volunteers.

We can’t wait for the days in which our physical hugs will return. Together, we will get through this!

If you are interested in volunteering and helping our community feel these virtual hugs, please click here.

If you are healthy and can donate blood, please visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).

To learn more about the steps the Northeast Ohio Region is taking to protect disaster service team members and residents, listen to the latest episode of the Be A Hero podcast. Be A Hero can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio Podcasts.

 

Fires force families to flee their homes

Disaster workers respond to nearly a dozen home fires in Northeast Ohio over the weekend

Nearly three-dozen people, including nine children were left homeless – at least temporarily – following weekend fires in Cleveland, Lorain, Eastlake, Mansfield and Cadiz, Ohio.  Disaster action team members responded, tending to their immediate needs by providing financial assistance, comfort kits that include personal hygiene items, and hope for finding a way forward.

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One of the fires near downtown Cleveland forced eight adults to flee in the middle of the night on Saturday.  Ben Bellucci, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Greater Cleveland, said the tenants and property owners expressed heartfelt appreciation for the help being offered.

fire6“They had no idea we do this,” Ben said. “When I told them we respond to fires like these 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they were shocked.  They could not have been more appreciative.”

Financial assistance totaling more than $6,300 was distributed to the 34 people who found themselves out in the cold.  Additional assistance was also offered, including help replacing prescription medications and eyeglasses, and making connections with other community resources.

Only by the power of our volunteer workforce and the generosity of our donors are we able to provide such assistance.  There is no government funding for the help residents receive – on average, three times every 24 hours in Northeast Ohio.  To make a financial contribution, visit www.redcross.org/donate.  And to volunteer to help your neighbors by responding to home fires and other disasters, apply here.

Photo credit: Ben Bellucci, American Red Cross