Buckeye native shines light on humanitarian needs worldwide

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When there’s a humanitarian crisis somewhere around the world, the American Red Cross sends Jenelle Eli to bear witness.

In the spring, Jenelle – who hails from Trumbull County, in the Mahoning Valley of northeast Ohio – spent a month aboard the Ocean Viking in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. She was reporting on the rescue of hundreds of desperate migrants trying to reach safety in flimsy boats.

Ivan Jimenez Garra, Mexican Red Cross and Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross survey damage in Jojutla, a small Mexican city that suffered massive damage when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in September 2017. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Then she spent July in Warsaw, reporting to the world on the arrival in Poland of hundreds of thousands of refugees from warfare in Ukraine.

With more than a dozen years in disaster and refugee communications, Jenelle has become a highly skilled and widely respected voice.

In May, she spoke at the United Nations about the importance of humanitarian aid, drawing on her first-hand experiences with Red Cross relief efforts around the world.

Recently, the professional organization PRNews recognized her as one of the 2022 Top Women in its Industry Innovators category.

“It’s not easy to get attention from audiences about humanitarian crises – especially because there are just so many taking place at one time,” Jenelle said. “People get disaster fatigue and start tuning out all the hurt that’s happening in the US and around the world. Yet, harnessing people’s attention for good is the only way that things are going to change.

“I’m really pleased that the professional world of PR recognizes the importance of humanitarian communication – and that communicating in a way that ensures dignity for refugees is key.”

Jenelle Eli delivers humanitarian aid to Ines (right) and her neighbors in Morelos, in the wake of a 7.1 earthquake in 2017.  Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

This is how Jenelle describes her mission: “Right now, there are more people displaced from their homes than at any other point in history. I studied refugee issues in school and have devoted my career to raising awareness about people’s needs on migratory routes and even once they’ve reached safety. I raise my hand for international missions because I know that getting refugees’ stories out and elevating their voices is the only way to truly create space for empathy.

“Humanitarians’ work speaks for itself; I simply pull out the megaphone.”

“For nearly two decades, Jenelle has vowed to amplify the stories of displaced survivors through a lens of empathy and empowerment rather than victimization and pity,” said Emily Osment, Red Cross senior media relations manager.

“Through her work, Jenelle has helped secure ports of safety for stranded migrants at sea, enforced the importance of upholding the Geneva Conventions as a neutral, impartial aid actor in the midst of war, protected the identities of vulnerable families fleeing violence and ensuring lifesaving blood reaches patients during national shortages here at home.”

Now, Jenelle has moved from senior director of media relations at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to a six-month stint as head of media relations and advocacy at the headquarters of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies in Geneva, Switzerland.

In this role, she’s directing efforts to focus attention in 192 IFRC member countries on the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“I do want people to know that they don’t have to deploy to crisis zones to make a huge difference! EVERYONE can have a humanitarian impact in their own way – whether that’s volunteering in their own community, donating money, raising awareness, or choosing a career responding to crises.

June 30, 2019. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Kids make ‘heart’ symbols alongside American Red Cross team member, Jenelle Eli, in Kutupalong—a displacement camp in Cox’s Bazar, Myanmar.  Photo credit: Brad Zerivitz, American Red Cross

“In the US, if you want to help refugees, volunteer for an organization helping to reconnect them with separated family members (like the Red Cross!) or a group that welcomes newly- arrived refugees in small cities and helps them navigate their new lives here. There are loads of ways to be a humanitarian.”

To learn more about American Red Cross activities worldwide, powered by the generosity of volunteers and donors, click here.

People in Eastern Kentucky are really hurting

People from Northern Ohio are really helping

They are working in shelters; they are distributing food and water; they are arranging logistics and they are establishing communications.  10 American Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio are playing crucial roles in the massive effort to bring comfort and care to people in eastern Kentucky, following deadly flooding last week. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the flooding that has upturned lives and destroyed homes across at least nine counties in the state.

Photo credit: Mike Parks, American Red Cross

Nearly 250 trained Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, and more help is on the way.  Sunday night, almost 640 residents took refuge in one of the many shelters being supported by the Red Cross and other partners. The Red Cross is providing a safe place to stay, food to eat, emotional support for those affected by this tragedy, and is helping with replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment that were left behind in the rush to get to safety.

Northern Ohio volunteers: Al Irwin and Arden Tohill drove an emergency response vehicle to Kentucky on Saturday. Mahogany Coward is helping with logistics from the University of Kentucky.

More than 15,400 people are without power, and as many as 60,000 are either without water or under a boil advisory.

This deadly flooding — along with the recent heavy rainfall in Missouri, explosive wildfires in California and the ongoing Northwest heatwave — are clear examples of how more intense climate-related disasters are happening more often. Over the last two years, on average, the Red Cross responded a new, major disaster every 10 days. We see firsthand how families and communities are suffering and depending on us for help – with our volunteers continuously on the ground, setting up shelters, arranging for hot meals and offering comfort for people forced from their homes.

You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross salutes volunteer leadership

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Sally Carter has made a career of volunteer leadership.

No matter where she’s lived – and she’s moved a lot – Sally has found needs to fill in her community.

She helped found a children’s theater company and organized volunteers for a third grade “reading buddies” program. PTO and PTA, classroom volunteer, juvenile vision screening, United Way, Newcomers Club, Chamber of Commerce, Learning Disabilities Association – Sally has grown and shared her volunteer “chops” with infectious enthusiasm.

The American Red Cross is lucky to have her.

Sally Carter, Red Cross volunteer

Sally was living in Ogden, Utah, when she saw a newspaper ad for a front -desk volunteer at the local Red Cross chapter.

“It was two weeks before (Hurricane) Katrina hit,” she recalled with a chuckle. Needless to say, that was an extraordinarily challenging moment to be manning the phones, answering a myriad of questions about Red Cross services, volunteer needs and financial donations.

But Sally found her niche. “I was hooked instantly. We were just a family. After that first rush of hurricane response, I got promoted: We did workshops and forums; I started a newsletter, and we did fundraisers.

“I watched all the wheels turning. Red Cross was helping people with house fires, hurricanes; when a semi overturned on the highway, we were feeding the firefighters. Earthquakes, avalanches, mudslides – I didn’t even know about mudslides,” she said, reflecting on the variety of hazards Americans face.

When Sally and her husband Lee moved back to Sandusky to be near family, we crossed paths; she and I had worked together decades before. As we caught up, she mentioned her Red Cross experience and I pounced: “Join us on the chapter board!”

And of course, she did.

“I love working with Sally as a member of our board of directors and as the leader of our Community Outreach team because her passion for the mission of the Red Cross shines through in everything she does,” said Todd James, executive director of the North Central Ohio chapter.

Sally has organized a pool of volunteers to attend community events, to spread the word about the many things the Red Cross does – disaster prevention, preparedness and response, blood collection, health and safety education – as well as the many ways the public can get involved, – as volunteers, blood donors or financial supporters.

She also edits the chapter newsletter, Chapter Chatter.

“You get so hooked,” Sally said. “It’s almost a selfish thing: I may have done some good as a volunteer, but I got back 20 times over.”

Sally’s dedication to volunteerism is a family thing. Her parents were committed volunteers and she laughingly said she’s “volun-towed” her husband Lee, a retired newspaper executive, into a variety of activities. “I’m hoping I’ve instilled it in my sons,” she added.

Sally is a sterling example of the tens of thousands of volunteers who make it possible for the Red Cross to fulfill its mission to “prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”​

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio Red Cross volunteer finds the path to yes, no matter the challenge

The first in a series of volunteer profiles during National Volunteer Week

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Deb Day, Red Cross volunteer and Toby

The American Red Cross has many outstanding volunteers in Northern Ohio, and we
are proud to profile a few for Volunteer Week. Today we are featuring Deb Day, a
community volunteer leader in the Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes (HSML)
chapter.

Since joining the Red Cross in 2017, Deb has helped a tremendous number of people recover from disasters—both in Ohio and throughout the U.S. She frequently assists during blood drives and has taken a key role in several Red Cross initiatives.

Deb Day, Red Cross volunteer

Deb brings a lifetime of learning and experience to the Red Cross. She retired from a public education career almost seven years ago, where she coached, taught and served as a guidance counselor. Her interests and hobbies include the outdoors, travelling , and sports. Deb has always loved helping others and seeking adventure.

“Now that I have the time to volunteer,” she said, “I truly enjoy helping out whether it is deploying to disasters, working as a blood donor ambassador, or working at the local food pantry.”

Deb first joined in 2017, after seeing a Red Cross call for volunteers during coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

Deb was soon assisting those impacted by the hurricane. She said her deployment started with “hurry up and wait” but soon changed to needing to be flexible, avoiding frustration, and getting the job done. Deb served in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), feeding those in a community about 45 minutes away from the kitchen in Sugar Land. “We were the first to leave and the last to come home,” she said.

Deb also saw the best of humanity. “Amidst all the destruction was hope and determination,” she said. “A community came together to look out for one another. It was a time when I could provide food, hugs, words of comfort, and a shoulder to cry on. It was remarkable!” She also spoke of the warm, welcoming the Southern Baptist kitchen volunteers and how “Red Cross deployments create families whose members stay in touch for life.”

Antique Day Parade, 10-10-21

Of course, most of Deb’s work is in her home chapter. In addition to helping with daily responses and initiatives, she assisted following the tornado in Shelby and flooding in the Wooster area. Speaking very highly of her fellow volunteers and staff members, Deb remarked how everyone in their small but mighty group pitched in and served the needs of the community, something which they consistently achieve.

“I truly appreciate everyone’s dedication to their community and the Red Cross,” Deb said. Whether Sound the Alarm, community assistance, disaster response, training, or meetings, “volunteers and staff find the path to ‘YES’ no matter the challenge.” And while the pandemic has been difficult, the Red Cross has not wavered in its humanitarian commitment to those in need.

“I am amazed and so thankful for everyone affiliated with the Red Cross,” she said.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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.

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.

Red Cross response in 2021: Families face emergency needs

Bring hope to the holidays by donating on Giving Tuesday or giving blood to help overcome the nation’s emergency blood shortage

In 2021, people in Northern Ohio and across the country faced great emergency needs as the ongoing pandemic exacerbated the challenges related to severe disasters, blood shortages and global conflict.

“Our most vulnerable neighbors are facing unique and pressing struggles when crisis strikes on top of COVID-19,” Mike Parks, Regional CEO said. “This holiday season, join us to provide help and hope in these difficult moments by making a financial donation or by giving blood or platelets.”

Watch Mike’s Thanksgiving video message here.

Visit redcross.org to make a financial donation or an appointment to give blood or platelets. Individuals can also learn about volunteer opportunities in their area and give back in honor of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, whose 200th birthday will be commemorated on December 25.

RELENTLESS DISASTERS COMPOUND COVID-19 STRUGGLES 2021 marked one of the country’s most active years for severe weather — which battered many communities still reeling from last year’s disasters. For thousands of people in need, the Red Cross launched a new major relief effort every 11 days to provide refuge, food and care.

August 10, 2021. Chicago Park, California. Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner surveys damage from the River Fire on Meyer Drive in Chicago Park, California. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

This year, a family displaced by a disaster in the U.S. spent an average of nearly 30 days in a Red Cross-supported emergency shelter. These extended stays were largely due to a lack of savings and community housing shortages — signs that climate-driven disasters are compounding the financial hardships of the pandemic.

Tom Revolinsky and Tracy Endress travelled to the hurricane-ravaged gulf coast

65 disaster workers from Northern Ohio, most of them volunteers, helped people across the country who were impacted by disasters, including western wildfires, Hurricane Ida, Tropical Storms Fred and Henri, flooding in middle Tennessee, and the repatriation of refugees from Afghanistan in Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In Northern Ohio, Red Cross workers responded to nearly 1,200 disasters – the vast majority of them home fires. More than 1,800 families received assistance in the immediate hours and days after experiencing their darkest hours.

GLOBAL CONFLICT CREATES MASS NEEDS FOR DISPLACED FAMILIES Around the world, massive humanitarian needs emerged in 2021 for a growing number of families displaced by the overlapping challenges of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change. This year, at the request of federal government partners, Red Cross workers from Northern Ohio and across the country distributed more than 2.1 million essential items — like blankets, diapers, medicine and toys — for Afghan evacuees arriving on U.S. military bases and unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

September 1, 2021. Ramstein Air Base, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. The American Red Cross is welcoming evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, at the request of the Department of Defense. Red Cross team members are offering hygiene supplies, baby items, and other necessities. Photo by Emily Osment / American Red Cross

COVID-19 STRAINS BLOOD SUPPLY FOR PATIENTS To meet the increasing needs of hospital patients, the Red Cross distributed 250,000 more blood products in 2021 than last year, until the delta variant began to spread in August. The pandemic also resulted in fewer blood drives at schools and colleges, contributing to a 34% drop in new blood donors from last year — one of the largest year-to-year decreases and one that could threaten essential medical care for patients. Locally, the Northern Ohio Red Cross Region has experienced a 32% decrease in new blood donors this year.

Blood donor Ed Lewis gives at the WNCX Rock and Roll blood drive in April, 2021

As a result of low blood donor turnout in recent months, the Red Cross is heading into the holidays with its lowest blood supply in more than a decade at this time of year. Blood donations are desperately needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

All those who come to give Nov. 29-Dec.16 will automatically be entered for the chance to win a private screening for the winner and 50 of their guests of the epic new film The Matrix Resurrections. Plus, those who come to give Nov. 29-Dec. 16 will also get a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card by email, thanks to Amazon.*

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 17-18, 2021

Over the weekend, the American Red Cross was once again very active responding to calls across Northern Ohio and assisting residents who have suffered a local disaster.

IMG_5580

During the weekend of July 17-18, the Red Cross responded to 9 incidents across the region, including home fires and flooding. The disaster team assisted 15 adults and 11 children, and provided more than $5,5000 in immediate financial assistance.

While many of us hear “disaster” and think of large events like wildfires and hurricanes, local disasters are where much of our response happens. In fact, every 24 hours, on average, the Northern Ohio Red Cross responds to three home fires, as well as floods and severe storms. Red Cross volunteers are on call and ready to respond 24/7 when a disaster strikes. After emergency personnel, these individuals are often some of the first people to be on scene at a disaster. They assess the victims’ needs and ensure they have food, clothing, shelter and other services to help take the first steps to recovery.

The Red Cross is committed to helping our community prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. We are able to make a difference in our local communities because of the generosity of our donors and support of our volunteers.

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northern Ohio, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. If you cannot support the Red Cross monetarily but you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and sign up.

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

Northern Ohio disaster workers continue to respond to disasters across the country

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

October 9, 2020 — Since late August, disaster workers from the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio have been actively responding to hurricanes and tropical storms in the south and wildfires out west.

As Hurricane Delta approaches the Gulf Coast, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has deployed five disaster workers ahead of the storm to assist with the Red Cross’ relief efforts once the storm makes landfall.

September 20, 2020. Mill City, Oregon. American Red Cross volunteer Eric Carmichael explains how to use a 3-M N-95 mask to Elizabeth Ruck at a supply distribution site for residents affected by the Oregon wildfires, near Mill City, OR. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In addition, there are also 19 disaster workers responding to the relief efforts following Hurricane Laura, the Oregon wildfires, Tropical Storm Sally and the California wildfires.

To date, the Red Cross has provided more than 939,700 total overnight stays in emergency lodging across multiple states, served more than 2.3 million meals and snacks and has distributed more than 291,300 relief items with the help of partners. The Red Cross has also provided more than 5,130 households with emergency financial assistance to help them replace essential items and begin to recover.

Additional volunteers are needed to train for disaster responses, specifically to respond to home fires locally and to staff shelters during national disaster responses. Licensed health care professionals are also needed to help people in disaster shelters. People in good health and who are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training and can deploy for up to two weeks can visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday, or can call 1-800-RED CROSS.

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, and we have implemented several measures, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to protect our workers and those who need our assistance. 

September 19, 2020. Gates, Oregon. American Red Cross volunteers Sean and Kristen Flanagan speak with Virginia, in front of the home where she lived that burned down in the Oregon wildfires, in Gates, OR on Saturday September 19, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

If you are unable to deploy 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