National Volunteer Week – opportunity to recognize the selflessness of Red Cross volunteers

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

April 17, 2020- National Volunteer Week is April 19 to 25, and it gives the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio an opportunity to honor the volunteers who are helping people in need, even during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emergencies don’t stop, and neither do local Red Cross volunteers, who are still providing care and comfort after disasters of all sizes, including home fires.

Next week, we will be featuring profiles of volunteers from the Northern Ohio Region, written by volunteers, right here on our regional blog. Be sure to subscribe to our blog; that way you will receive an email notification and will not miss any of these incredible volunteer-inspired articles.

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Due to this coronavirus outbreak, volunteers are providing relief services after home fires virtually, in coordination with local fire departments. Connecting with families by phone or video calls, we’re helping to provide support like lodging, health and mental health services, and emergency financial assistance, as well as link people to available recovery resources.

Here in Northern Ohio, there are 2,176 volunteers, who help support blood collections, provide emergency assistance to military families, respond to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. These individuals are also among the more than 300,000 volunteers who comprise more than 90 percent of the national Red Cross workforce.

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Red Cross volunteers keep our communities strong,” said Mike Parks, regional CEO for the Northern Ohio Region. “We honor these true heroes who give their time to help people in need.”

BECOME A VOLUNTEER Our need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as we navigate this coronavirus health crisis. Volunteer opportunities include supporting blood donations and delivering much-needed disaster services to your community. We even have a wide variety of volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find out more.

Interested in serving? Everyone’s safety is our top priority. Please review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your healthcare provider and follow local guidance.

Volunteering isn’t technical – except for this Northeast Ohio volunteer

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

With more than 10 years of volunteer service with the American Red Cross, Dave Riegler has volunteered on both a national and local level. After a life-changing experience in 2004, he wanted to find a way to give back. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, becoming one of the largest disaster relief efforts taken on by the Red Cross to date. Dave joined the Red Cross as a volunteer, serving as a support team member in the Washington, D.C., office.

Dave Riegler

Dave Riegler

Since then, Dave has been deployed nine times as a disaster services Technology Networking Services Associate. Using his professional skills in IT, he supported the Disaster Services Technology (DST) team to deploy technology infrastructures for volunteer offices to ensure they had the equipment they needed to respond effectively.

In addition to his support for disaster relief efforts, Dave has been a dedicated volunteer the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. In fact, in the past three years, he has logged over 700 volunteer hours with the Red Cross, which is an average of about 4.5 hours per week! In Northeast Ohio, he supports the IT needs of the regional chapters as a Volunteer Technical Specialist, performing device refreshers and network transformations. For those who aren’t tech savvy, his work helps the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio’s technology work for the volunteers and staff utilizing it every day.

Dave also manages the entire disaster relief inventory for the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio, including the locations of the disaster relief trailers in the region.

“Dave’s get it done attitude and willingness to jump in no matter the task is invaluable!” said Rachel Telegdy, Executive Director, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.

For Dave, volunteering his time with the Red Cross is all about giving back to others. Whether it’s volunteering locally here in Northeast Ohio or assisting in the response of a national disaster, he finds the work rewarding, as the Red Cross helps so many to get back on their feet again.

If you’re interested in learning more how you can volunteer for the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328 to check out all the different opportunities in your area.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteer dedicates ‘heart and soul’ during five decades of service

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

April 11, 2019- Volunteers are the lifeblood of the American Red Cross. But not many can say they have over five decades of service. In line with National Volunteer Week, we found a super committed volunteer in Tab Alden, who serves in the Lake to River Chapter. So naturally, I had some questions about her resilient service.

What was your profession before your volunteer career?

I was a bus driver for the Maplewood and Champion school districts in Trumbull County transporting and working with mentally challenged children and adults. I was also a workshop specialist for the developmental disabilities workshop program.

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Tab Alden at the Cleveland VA Medical Center during the Christmas season 2017

How did you first become involved with the Red Cross?

I became involved while working with a CB radio group doing the communications between the Red Cross teams at football games in Warren.

What are some of the Red Cross services you’ve been involved with?

After my CB radio operator stint, I received certification to treat basic and advanced first aid and taught as an instructor and later was added as a receptionist. I currently serve our chapter as volunteer coordinator and all around go-to person in our office.

What do you like best about your volunteer experience?

Meeting new people and learning new methods of helping wherever I can. I’m presently learning the ins and outs of DAT (disaster action teams).

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Tab Alden with fellow Lake to River Chapter volunteers

Why should one consider volunteering for the Red Cross?

If someone is willing to give their time and energy for volunteering, there’s not a better place to learn what the Red Cross can do for you. You must be committed to giving your heart and soul to do what is asked and have patience.

What do others say about Tab’s volunteer service?

The executive director of the Lake to River Chapter, Karen Conklin, offered these comments about Tab’s demeanor: “Lucky me, the first day I walked into the Red Cross in 2010, the first smiling and familiar face to greet me with a hug was Tab! She made me feel at home because she was a volunteer when I was CEO for another organization.”  Karen added, “For me, Tab is not just an amazing volunteer but also a good friend and my go-to when something needs done.”

The Lake to River Red Cross is blessed they have such a dedicated volunteer they can count on every day!

For more information and to learn of volunteering opportunities with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer. 

Former active duty social worker helps military families combat stress

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

April 9, 2019- Military life can be stressful for those in the service as well as for their families. Former Air Force social worker Sally Falasca strives to help military personnel and their loved ones by teaching them stress-relieving strategies.

Sally is a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer with the American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter. She has been volunteering as a mind-body workshop facilitator for the past year. She is one of eight mental health volunteers who are trained to deliver Red Cross resilience programs, according to Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Manager.

Sally Falasca

“Having volunteers like Sally allows us to meet the requests we receive from local units to support their service members and their families,” Jessica said.

A licensed independent social worker who lives in Youngstown, Sally currently works in a private practice setting. However, for more than nine years, Sally served in the United States Air Force as an active duty social worker.

“There were many times during my active duty career that I reached out to the Red Cross to assist service members and they were always there for our armed services personnel,” she explained. “Once I left active duty, I knew I had to continue to serve the armed forces population any way I could. The Red Cross is providing me with amazing opportunities to do just that!”

Through the Red Cross’ Mind-Body Workshops, Sally teaches service members, veterans and their families easy-to-use skills to manage the stresses of military life, helping them cope with stress and trauma. Workshops are free and offered in small groups.

“Sally has a unique combination of personal and professional experience working with the military, veterans and families,” said Jessica. “It is heartwarming to hear service members say how valuable they find Red Cross resilience programming, and that is especially true when Sally facilitates.”

Sally encourages others to volunteer their time and talents with the Red Cross.

“The Red Cross gives so much to communities,” she said. “Even if you only have a little bit of time to donate, the Red Cross can benefit from your time. There are so many different things you can do . . . they truly have a volunteer opportunity for any interest.”

To learn more about Red Cross Mind-Body Workshops or to register for one of the group workshops, visit our website at https://www.redcross.org.

Family connection leads local volunteer to a passion for the Red Cross

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April 8, 2019- As a child, Alice Martinez was surrounded by stories about the Red Cross. Her father, who immigrated from Switzerland, would inundate her with stories about the Red Cross being founded in Switzerland, how the Red Cross’ logo is an inverse of the of the Swiss flag and even informed her that her family raised St. Bernard dogs, which the Red Cross would use for rescues.  These stories not only showed Alice her family connection to the Red Cross, but it started her on a path to helping others.

Alice’s first interaction with the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio came in the 1980’s, when she worked for the Red Cross of Lorain County, then under the leadership of Clarence Wills. For six years, Alice worked as a transportation specialist.

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Alice Martinez

Following transitions to new employment opportunities and retirement, Alice was searching for opportunities to give back in her spare time and naturally she was drawn back to the Red Cross, an organization for which she says she always had a passion for its mission.

As a volunteer, Alice was deployed for the first time. In 2017, she was deployed following the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma. While deployed, Alice worked in shelters and helped take care of displaced residents who just lost everything. Even though the work was demanding and difficult, she found it rewarding.

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Alice Martinez teaching students about dangers of frostbite

Currently, as a youthful 73-year-old, Alice is a fixture for the Red Cross of Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. One area where she has made a significant impact is the Pillowcase Project, a Red Cross initiative, inspired by Loyola University students carrying their valuables in a pillowcase following Hurricane Katrina, to teach elementary school students about emergency preparedness. As a former teacher, Alice found the program a natural fit for her experience. She looks forward to entering a classroom or presenting to a group of children to teach them the importance of being prepared before an emergency occurs.

“Alice Martinez is a great ambassador of the Pillowcase Project and has been one of my program leads since the beginning,” said John Gareis, the regional preparedness & community planning manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Alice has a passion for our programs and has a great rapport with the kids. Alice is the backbone of our Pillowcase Project!”

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Alice Martinez, sixth from the left, at Great Northern Mall during the 2019 Dominion Preparedness Day

To Alice, seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and knowing she is helping to save lives is enough of a reward for her. In fact, yesterday, April 7, Alice drove from her home in Avon Lake to Salem, OH to teach a group of 4-H members.

Are you interested in volunteering with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio like Alice Martinez? For more information and to learn about volunteering opportunities near you, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Volunteer Profile: Jeanette Petrick

Greater Cleveland Chapter Volunteer is Passionate About Helping Members of the Military, Veterans and Their Families

By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

“I always knew I’d do volunteer work with the military when I retired from nursing, so I contacted the Red Cross and they put me in just the right place,” says Jeanette Petrick of Strongsville.

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Jeanette thrives on what she calls the “human contact” that she experienced as an acute care nurse and now as a volunteer for the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

“I do casework, calling to follow up with families that have had emergency communications (through the Red Cross) with family members on deployment,” she says. “Usually that’s in connection with a death, or maybe an illness; sometimes it’s something nice, like a birth in the family.

“We check to be sure the communications went smoothly, but then as I talk with them, I might find out they need other services – like financial help to get their service member home for a funeral – and we can point them to other resources, either through the Red Cross or military support organizations or their communities.”

Jeanette’s compassion is obvious as she recounts the story of a young Navy wife who is pregnant while her husband is deployed on a ship. “She hasn’t seen him all that much in the last two years,” she says. “It reminds you just how much military families really do sacrifice.”

For Jeanette, supporting our men and women in uniform is more than a professional or even a humanitarian issue: It’s personal. Her father served in the Navy during World War II, she had brothers and cousins in the armed forces during the Vietnam era and her only son is now in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.

“I love my country,” she says, “and I love that I can help people through the Red Cross.”

In Northeast Ohio, 62 volunteers like Jeanette are the manpower of the Service to the Armed Forces, according to their volunteer leader, Sharon Nicastro. In addition to active duty military, SAF serves veterans, reservists, members of the National Guard and their families.

If you’d like to fit into this vital volunteer role, or explore the many other volunteer opportunities within the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org/neo, and click the volunteer tab, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

 

 

Volunteer Profile: Sue J. Miller

Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter Volunteer Makes a Big Impact 

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross Volunteer

Sue J. Miller is a Red Cross Volunteer who has not just an uplifting charisma, but an extravagant courage that inspires everyone around her. Five years ago when Sue decided to retire, she had many plans to keep herself busy,  but her main aim was to help people with anything she could.  According to Sue, her Richland County community had done a lot for her family and she wanted to give back by getting involved in voluntary work. That is when in 2015, Sue joined the Red Cross. Among many other duties that she performs by giving more than 30-hours per week at Red Cross, she is an active member of the Disaster Relief Team, Shelter Response Team and Food Canteen Team.

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Sue J. Miller, left, and Sue K. Miller working at a canteen for first responders following a train derailment in Ashland County earlier this year.

The motivation to continue her extraordinary work comes from the community she serves. In her own words, “when people come to me and say thank you for everything you did for us, it fills my heart with satisfaction and happiness. I believe in the Red Cross mission of alleviating sufferings and pain of people and that is who I want to be”.

“Sue was one of our Chapter’s outstanding “stayployed” volunteers during the horrific national disasters last fall,” said Lara Kiefer, Executive Director of the Lake Erie/Heartland (LEH) Chapter.” Her compassion and commitment to our mission is an inspiration to all of us. We are very lucky to have Sue in our LEH chapter.”

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It is also important to note that while Red Cross Volunteers leave no stone unturned in helping the communities around them,  the Red Cross as a body also takes care of its volunteers. When Sue had an accident while on assignment in 2016, she broke both arms. Not only did the Red Cross take care of her treatment logistics, but they also made sure to give her a call every Wednesday 9:00 am for the next eight weeks to make sure she was okay. For Sue, that compassion means everything.  Eventually, the whole story is about human love and care. Whether you give it in some form or receive it back in any other form. Be it a hug or a thank you from a community member.

The Red Cross is fortunate to have a volunteer like Sue J. Miller.

You can volunteer too, get started at redcross.org/neo!

Volunteer Profile: Rich Rock

Stark and Muskingum Lakes Volunteer Proudly Delivers Great Service

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Q:  So how do you deliver great service to a four-county area?

A:  With great volunteers, that’s how.

One of the best, according to Kim Kroh, Executive Director of Stark County & Muskingum Lakes Chapter is volunteer Rich Rock.  A volunteer who just received his 10-year pin, Rich does it all. “He is a Godsend. We’d be out of luck without him,” says Kim.

Sometime, more than 10 years ago, a lifetime friend of Rich’s, who had moved to Texas, mentioned his volunteer efforts with the Red Cross there, and suggested that Rich would probably enjoy volunteering as well. They had grown up together, enjoyed similar interests, and enjoyed serving the community, so Rich took his advice and signed up.  His friend was right, and Rich is still serving.

Rich is a DAT (Disaster Action Team) member as well as a general volunteer, distributing emergency preparedness kits at the mall in New Philadelphia on Preparedness Day.

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Rich Rock, second from right, and other Red Cross volunteers prepare to install smoke alarms with the New Philadelphia Fire Department

In addition, Rich also installs smoke alarms during the chapter’s home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events.

Working as a DAT member, covering multiple fires and other catastrophes, he says he is always touched when he sees a family that has lost literally everything.  “It is heartbreaking to see,” says Rich.

He still recalls an event where the husband and wife had a major fire, not losing everything, but a significant loss nevertheless. By the time Rich arrived on scene, the husband had taken the car to run an errand. After spending quite some time talking with the overly stressed-out wife, he said he began to feel that they were making a personal connection.

When the husband returned, Rich made a tongue-in-cheek comment about the woman’s emotional state, at which the husband was taken aback.  Starting to laugh, the wife said, “Oh, don’t worry, that’s what I need now more than anything, just a chance to laugh about this horrific incident.”  Group hugs ensued, and Rich left feeling that he had made another good connection with the community.

“Those are the things that stick with you, and make you feel that it’s worth the effort,” says Rich.

If you like helping the community, do as Rich did, and VOLUNTEER.  You can start the process here.

Volunteer Profile: Dan Simcox

Lake to River Chapter Volunteer is a Former School Teacher and Principal

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member and Communications Volunteer Lead

April is National Volunteer Month and the Red Cross is featuring stories about some of the selfless volunteers that make up the team of people who help fulfill the organization’s mission. Today’s volunteer profile is on Dan Simcox, one of many everyday heroes who offer their time and talent to help those in their community.

Dan is a retired teacher and principal from Columbiana, Ohio. He grew up in Worthington, went to Muskingum College, and received his Masters from Youngstown State University. Dan credits his parents, teachers, and coaches as the biggest influences in his life.

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When Dan reflects on his incredible career in education, the memories he most treasures are what he calls the “smaller moments” like the extra 15 minutes he would take to sit down and listen to a student who was having trouble at home or school and in doing so, knowing he helped make their life a little easier. He treasures letters from former students that have come to him after those students went on to college.  A number of them have sent him the papers they wrote when given the assignment “Your life’s biggest influences besides your parents.” He sometimes reads those letters when he’s feeling nostalgic.

It’s is no surprise that a man who made a career of helping, teaching, and encouraging others would choose to volunteer with the Red Cross after retirement, which interestingly was just a short time before hurricane Katrina hit. At that time, Dan didn’t have a detailed understanding of exactly what the Red Cross did or how they operated. But he thought they could use some help so he volunteered and was quickly sent to New Orleans to work on an Emergency Response Vehicle in Mass Feeding. He said after the first day his supervisor told everyone that she was changing  the routes, since people were getting too emotionally involved with their clients. He didn’t understand then how that could happen. But that changed quickly. When it was time for him to go home, he thought, “How can I leave these people? What will they do without me?”

Yes, he got involved…and he has been a steady, hard-working, and passionate Red Cross volunteer ever since.

That is the volunteer spirit. That is the heart of Dan Simcox.

This week, appropriately during this time when the Red Cross is honoring its volunteers, Dan will lead a class on diversity.  He believes it is important for people who volunteer to understand they will be working in a very diverse world, using a plethora of different volunteers. He says to be effective, “we need to know how to use that diversity to our advantage by using different experiences and different world views to serve this diverse population in the best way possible.”

Dan says the most rewarding part of working for the Red Cross is that often you get the opportunity to be the first step towards someone’s recovery.  “After a disaster, a family may have lost everything and the future looks without hope,” Dan says. “But the Red Cross can tell them that there is a safe place for them and their children to stay for a few days, food to eat, and money for clothes and essentials, and that after they get rested we will help them find the resources they need to start the road to recovery.  The relief you see in their eyes when they realize there is a reason for hope is priceless. Through the Red Cross I can make the world a better place for someone who is having an extremely bad day.”

If Dan’s story inspired you to volunteer, you can find out more here.

Volunteers – The Lifeblood of the Red Cross

National Volunteer Week  – Spotlighting Red Cross Volunteers: Pam Williams

By Pat Kunklier, Red Cross Board Member and Communications Volunteer

Volunteers help neighbors in need and carry out more than 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross.

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Pam Williams, a Red Cross national disaster volunteer and chairperson of the board of trustees of the Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties, said that at national disasters “we are seeing the country at its worst, but people at their best.”

Pam cited a mother who had just lost everything she owned in a flood, staying in a shelter and with no idea where the next home might be for her and her family. But this mother pointed across the room to another group of people and asked that they be helped first because “they can use the help more.”

Pam said, “When I see this kind of spirit it puts a lot of things in perspective.”

She added, “If we can do anything to make the situation even a little less stressful, frightening, hopeless for people who really are having the worst days of their lives, how can we not feel blessed to have been given the opportunity.”

If you’re not already a Red Cross volunteer, please:

  • Volunteer at local or national fires, floods and other disasters. Disaster volunteers provide comfort and care, using Red Cross resources to help victims with food, clothing, shelter and more. Red Cross provides volunteer disaster training.
  • Become a health and safety instructor. With Red Cross training, you could teach CPR and other life-saving skills.
  • Donate blood. Save lives with your blood donation.

To volunteer, please complete an application at redcross.org/neo. Visit the “Volunteer” link. You’ll first be asked to create a Red Cross ID.

Thank you for your generosity.