Red Cross Latino initiative in Northern Ohio

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

As October is National Hispanic Heritage month, it is the perfect time to highlight the American Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Latino initiative, explain why we need to focus on this cultural group and share ways to get involved. The Northern Ohio Red Cross is one of many local chapters across the United States that was designed to help all people in times of need.

Latino initiative

Our Northern Ohio Latino initiative’s mission is to deepen our relationship with this diverse community, to educate on what services we can provide, offer tools and support regionally and to partner with local groups to bridge trust. 

Why?  Our short answer is that the growing Latino community has varying levels of connectivity to Red Cross services from urban to rural communities that could benefit. One gap we discovered is that there is a large percentage of Spanish-only speaking people who are disconnected from the Red Cross based on language barriers.

Luckily, we have some passionate leaders in the Northern Ohio chapter like Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, and Monica Brunner, disaster volunteer/member of LET (Latino Engagement Team).  Tim and Monica work as part of the Disaster Action Teams. Their Disaster Action Teams provide disaster relief services on an on-call basis. They may provide free emergency food, clothing, shelter assistance, and assist disaster victims in planning their immediate and long-term recovery from disaster. 

Bridging the gap

Tim gained a firsthand perspective while he was the assistant director for the recent Oregon wildfires. His experience taught him that Red Cross services were not being extended into the Latino communities based on communication challenges and a disconnect of what services were available.  Furthermore, Tim and his team discovered that an underlying cultural independence of not wanting to ask for help, some fear of a police officer present at shelters mixed with the perception of the Red Cross being a government group created a reluctance to accepting our services. Tim understands that we need to focus on teaching about all the resources and services that the Red Cross provides, but a level of trust is needed to really bridge the gap.

Monica is in the process of taking her local volunteering role to a national level through multiple positions, extensive culture training and her personal approach based on Argentinian roots. She is taking local level experiences and teaching successful best practices at the national level.   

Partnering to prevent home fires

Recently, Monica and other Red Cross volunteers and employees teamed up with Painesville, Ohio-based HOLA Ohio and their local fire department to install smoke alarms in the Latino community. HOLA was founded in late 1999 as an informal group of Hispanic women in Lake County who wanted to help the growing Latino community, comprised of Mexican immigrant workers employed by area nurseries and their families. Few services were accessible to this demographic, and HOLA worked to bridge gaps. Today, HOLA is an award-winning, 501c3 charitable nonprofit organization that works with families across the state. A team comprised of Spanish-language interpreters from HOLA Ohio joined members of the Painesville Fire Department and staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio region on Oct. 9 to provide fire safety education and install 62 smoke alarms in 25 homes in Painesville and Perry. HOLA’s support provided a trusting platform for the Red Cross to go into their homes, to provide a positive program with action and to teach that the Red Cross cares about their community. This partnership was a wonderful first step of this type of co-op programming in Northern Ohio. Read about the effort on our blog HERE

HOLA’s work has been spotlighted in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Telemundo, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Torchlight Prize, a prestigious national award honoring community-driven work that empowers the Latino community. Recently, founding executive director Veronica Dahlberg was named a 2019 Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note.

Learn more about HOLA’s work in the community

Click on the donate link to make a secure donation online:  You may also mail a check to: HOLA Ohio
PO Box 3066 
Ashtabula, OH 44005-3066

If you have questions about your donation, please contact Kelsey at

Seeking Latino volunteers and blood donors

The Northern Ohio Red Cross has a need for Latino volunteers to help us grow our mission in their communities.

You can learn about being a volunteer here:

Every day, blood donors help patients of all ages: accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. In fact, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

There is a constant need for all blood types, but the demand is often higher for types O and B blood.  Some ethnic groups have higher frequencies of these blood types and play a key role in ensuring availability for patients.

Latino populations have a higher frequency of type O blood than other ethnicities.

  • Type O positive blood is the most transfused blood type.
  • Type O negative is the universal blood type which can be transfused to patients of any other blood type and is routinely in short supply.
  • More than half of all Latinos in the U.S. have type O blood.

Consider donating blood today:

Web resources

Did you know that the American Red Cross has a full accessible Spanish website called

For information related to the Northern Ohio Latino initiative, contact Tim O’Toole at

Red Cross, HOLA Ohio, and Painesville Fire Department partner for fire safety 

October 2021 Home Fire Campaign kicks off in Painesville and Perry Twp.

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer 

A team comprised of Spanish-language interpreters from HOLA Ohio joined members of the Painesville Fire Department and staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio region  on Saturday, October 9, to provide fire safety education and install 62 smoke alarms in 25 homes in Painesville and Perry, Ohio.  

This is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week, and Hispanic Heritage Month

The Home Fire Campaign launched nationwide in October 2014 and has roots in Northern Ohio. In 1992, businessperson/philanthropist Sam Miller and other civic leaders partnered with the Red Cross and Cleveland Fire Department to find ways to reduce fire fatalities. 

The efforts have been effective. In the past seven years, the campaign has saved 1,048 lives, installed more than 2.2 million smoke alarms, made 948,535 homes safer, and reached 1,698,165 youth. Yet the efforts must continue. According to FEMA, Ohio has had 97 fire fatalities reported in the media so far this year, and on average, seven people die and 36 are injured in the US each day as a result of home fires.  

Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager of the Red Cross’s Northern Ohio Region said, “As part of Hispanic Heritage Month and Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross, HOLA, and the Painesville Fire Department have five bilingual teams installing smoke alarms in 25 homes throughout the Painesville/ Perry Area. Fire safety education is the most important part of the installation event, as awareness helps prevent fires. Having bilingual volunteers ensure the message is properly communicated is key to making homes safer.”  

Tom added, “Smoke alarms are the second line of defense in a fire when prevention measures fail. Education, smoke alarms, and an escape plan are all components.” 

Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Executive Director, HOLA Ohio, said, “We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Painesville Fire Department, the Red Cross, and the volunteers for such an important cause that not only brings our community together, but will also save lives.” 

Chief Thomas C. Hummel Jr. said, “The Painesville City Fire Department is very happy that we are able to partner with the Red Cross and HOLA to provide smoke detectors in our community. We not only installed smoke detectors, we provided valuable fire safety education and offered answers to questions, thanks in a large part to our HOLA volunteers, who assisted with translation. We look forward to continuing this partnership. Any resident who needs a smoke detector installed can contact our office at 440-392-5848 or 5849 during normal business hours to schedule an installation time with our fire department.” 

Participants follow COVID-19 safety protocols. Smoke alarm installations are by appointment and participating Red Cross personnel must be vaccinated, wear masks, practice social distancing, and limit time in homes, among other precautions. Partner organization participants must also adhere to Red Cross guidelines. 

For more information on the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, fire safety tips, or to request a smoke alarm, please visit this site. A Spanish-language version is available here

Visit our photo album for more pictures from the smoke alarm installation event.