Red Cross salutes nurses, ‘angels’ of its mercy mission

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Nurses are vital to delivering the lifesaving services of the American Red Cross – an organization founded by Clara Barton, whose own nursing during the Civil War earned her the title “Angel of the Battlefield.”

“Nurses fill so many roles in the Red Cross. We couldn’t function without them,” said Barb Thomas, recovery manager for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region.

Nationwide, more than 20,000 Red Cross nurses – both paid and volunteer – do everything from caring for disaster victims to working in military hospitals to collecting lifesaving blood. They teach CPR/first aid and disaster preparedness, and even serve in the management and governance of the Red Cross itself.

“Nurses are integral to what we do at the Red Cross, so we try to keep them engaged and be sure they know how much we appreciate them,” Barb said. “We don’t just salute them during National Nurses Week (starting today), but all year long.”

Barb introduced me to two of the dozens of nurses in northern Ohio who apply their time and skills to those who need them, near and far.

Phyllis Esposito of Massillon, Ohio, is enthusiastic about her role in Red Cross disaster health services.

Phyllis Esposito, Red Cross volunteer, with Tim Reichel, Disaster Program Manager, Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter

“I can honestly say, I talk up the Red Cross every time I can,” she said. “It’s such a rewarding thing. My only regret is, why didn’t I do this 10 years earlier?”

After more than 50 years as an emergency room nurse, Phyllis understands how stressed people can be in the wake of an emergency. She knows how to help calm them, assess their health-related needs and – most importantly – fill those needs.

That can range from getting glasses, dentures or refills for medications lost in a fire evacuation to replacing a child’s aerosol machine or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine destroyed by a tornado or flood.

Early in her Red Cross “career,” Phyllis was glad to travel to disaster sites, to look after the medical needs of home fire victims, shelter residents or even Red Cross volunteers. But she said as she’s gotten older, she’s glad to be able to serve virtually, reaching out by phone all the way to victims of a hurricane in Louisiana, for example.

This kind of long-distance service is a vital and efficient way for the Red Cross to help local disaster survivors or even a whole community where medical resources are overwhelmed.

“Phyllis is a disaster health service star,” Barb said. “She’s eager to learn as we evolve our ways of helping people, especially as we adjusted to COVID. And her personality just lets people know, there’s light at the end of this dark tunnel they’re in, after a disaster.”

Jennifer Dremann of Deerfield, Ohio, has a special rapport with those who’ve experienced tragedy in the course of a disaster.

Jennifer Dremann, Red Cross volunteer

“I lost my brother in a house fire in 1996; he was 19 years old” when he succumbed to smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide, she said. “He’s why I became a nurse.”

When Jennifer heard about what the Red Cross does, particularly for home fire victims, she knew this was a fit for her. “I’ve lived it; I’ve lost somebody. I’ve done several cases where somebody has passed. It’s got to be the absolute worst nightmare, especially when a child has perished.”

She’s also moved by cases involving an elderly adult who doesn’t have family or social support nearby.

Like Phyllis, she works with folks by phone, day or night, finding out what their disaster-related medical needs are and helping them replace prescriptions and/or medical equipment, navigating insurance and then dipping into Red Cross funds if necessary.

But perhaps the most important help she can give is to listen, not just to survivors’ physical needs but to their emotional wounds. “People are like, ‘You volunteer to do this?’ she said. “I don’t think most people realize what the Red Cross does, and how rewarding it is.”

The Red Cross is proud to have tens of thousands of skilled, compassionate nurses like Phyllis and Jennifer on the team, ready across the country and around the clock to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

To learn more about the many services of the Red Cross and how you can be involved as a volunteer, financial supporter or blood donor, go to redcross.org.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Thirty years of lifesaving preparedness: Northern Ohio initiative helps Sound the Alarm

By Tim Poe, Red Cross Volunteer

Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White and then CEO of the Greater Cleveland Chapter, Steve D. Bullock

Part of a lifesaving campaign with its roots in Cleveland, 2022’s Sound the Alarm has begun. Over the next few weeks, the American Red Cross, fire departments and other partners will be visiting neighborhoods, with a goal of installing 50,000 smoke alarms, teaching fire safety and helping families develop two-minute escape plans. The smoke alarm installation portion, paused during the pandemic, returns this year.

The idea began in 1992 when 28 Cleveland residents, half of them children, died in home fires. Businessman and philanthropist Sam Miller chose to act. He joined with other civic leaders, the Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department to create “Operation Save-A-Life,” installing smoke alarms throughout the city. Thanks to this and other safety initiatives, annual fire fatalities in Cleveland have remained below the 1992 level.

Other regions took note, and the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign became national in 2014. Sound the Alarm is part of the effort. Read this article for more on Operation Save-A-Life and Sam Miller, who passed in 2019.

The program has been an astounding success. Since becoming national, Sound the Alarm and the Home Fire Campaign have saved 1,275 lives in the U.S., 402 under the age of 18. That includes 21 in Northern Ohio; 70 statewide. John Gareis, regional manager, Disaster Preparedness, Northern Ohio Region, pointed out that there are countless additional lives saved that we do not even hear about.

It is critical that the campaign continues, as home fires claim seven lives per day, on average, and are the most frequent disaster in the U.S. And sadly, deaths continue, with 45 fire fatalities reported in Ohio so far this year.

Preparation and smoke alarms are effective. When a fire occurs, you have as little as two minutes to escape, so having a plan and a working alarm are critical.

John has been a key part of the campaign since its beginnings in Cleveland, helping it grow into the national effort it is today.

John said, “We are excited to return to in-person smoke-alarm installation this year, along with continuing to provide fire education. Home fires, like other disasters, can happen anywhere, anytime, and Sound the Alarm helps people be ready. So often we see the effects of those who had prepared and those who, unfortunately, did not. Understanding the basics of fire safety, having escape and communication plans, and knowing what to do does save lives. Helping people during disasters is at the heart of the Red Cross mission, and preparation is key.”

Additional volunteers are welcome.

“Sound the Alarm is a meaningful way to be a part of a larger movement while directly helping local families,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer in Northern Ohio. “In just one day, you could help save a neighbor’s life by installing smoke alarms—which can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half.”

If you would like to volunteer, donate, request a smoke alarm or receive assistance preparing for a home fire, visit this site.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

From intern to trusted volunteer

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Maria Ford lives in Toledo and is a member of the Northwest Ohio chapter. She has two children; a five- year-old son who keeps her running, and a nineteen-year-old daughter. They love to get out and hike the trails in the woods and enjoy being out in nature. In her spare time, Maria’s starting a collection of teapots.

Maria Ford

She’s been working for the Toledo Municipal Court for seven years now. Presently, she is a supervisor in the Probation department and really enjoys the work. “We’ve got so many good programs going now – it’s a great time to be here.”

Maria started with the Red Cross as part of an internship in connection with her Master’s Degree program through Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Able to take the program online, she obtained a Master of Science in Social Administration with a concentration in social work, completing the program during the pandemic. “During the internship, I realized that I enjoyed working with Red Cross so much that I’ve stayed with the organization ever since.”

Presently, she is actively involved as Community Preparedness Coordinator, educating people about home fire prevention. “I also help people get their smoke alarms and plan rallies, working with volunteers and our clients. I also do a bit of DAT (Disaster Action Team) on the side, and I’ve even done some sheltering, which was cool, and I enjoyed that too.”

“Maria has been with us for a number of years now,” says Rachel Hepner, Chapter Executive Director. “She’s been instrumental in making our home fire campaign a success and is a great person to have on board as we get closer to Sound the Alarm.”

When asked about what she would say to someone who’s not sure if they would enjoy being a Red Cross volunteer, Maria says, “Red Cross seems to attract some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, with such big hearts and willing to give back to the community when people may be experiencing the worst time of their life. Being able to be with those people, to love them, and to support them, is really a blessing. If anyone is inclined to give back and help people in their community, the Red Cross has a position for everyone, where you can make a difference.”

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

Man of many talents shares them with the Red Cross

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

Doug Bardwell was already volunteering to help people in need when he first encountered the American Red Cross. In 1983, Doug and his sons drove to St. Genevieve, Missouri to help during a devastating flood. They stayed in a Red Cross shelter while helping sandbag the town. After that experience, Doug was hooked and decided to become a Red Cross volunteer after he retired.

March 7, 2020. Donelson, Tennessee. Homeowner Linda Bennett tells Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell that she can’t thank everyone enough that’s stopped to check on her since the tornado hit. She related to Doug about being sucked through her house when the twister hit. “I felt things hitting me as I was thrown about the house,” said Linda. “When the wind stopped, I went outside, and a neighbor lent me a pair of his shoes. “ Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Fast forward several years and Doug has become an integral part of the volunteer team in Northern Ohio. You can’t mention the name “Doug Bardwell” without someone saying how much he has helped them meet the Red Cross mission.

In September 2016, Doug became a communications volunteer in the Northern Ohio Region. His first assignment was a bit of a tall order…photographing and writing about a smoke alarm installation with the Harlem Globetrotters. He continues to contribute articles to the Northern Ohio region blog and takes fantastic photos of many different events whenever needed.

Regional Red Cross CEO Mike Parks and Senior Disaster Program Manager Emily Probst observe, as Harlem Globetrotter Zeus McClurkin installs a smoke alarm in a home in Cleveland

Doug also joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT), which helps residents affected by local fires and severe weather events around northern Ohio.

“The day Doug Bardwell walked into my office was my lucky day,” said Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications Director. “It was OUR lucky day, because Doug has such a broad array of skills he shares so freely, in the Northern Ohio Region and at the national Red Cross level.”

Doug also serves as a lead volunteer for the Volunteer Services department. In that role, he welcomes new volunteers, helps troubleshoot IT issues volunteers may face navigating Volunteer Connection, the online portal for volunteers, as well as writing and publishing the NOH Notables, a weekly wrap-up of local and national Red Cross stories that are published on Volunteer Connection.

March 7, 2020. Nashville, Tennessee. Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell listened as (L to R) Machaela , Raniesha, Terriona , and Ray Shawn told stories about all that happened as the tornado hit their home. They are now staying at the Red Cross shelter at Centennial Sportsplex. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In addition to all the support Doug provides the Northern Ohio Region, he also serves as a national communications volunteer. As part of the national Advanced Public Affairs team, Doug has helped manage communications and gather stories and photos for multiple disasters, including the California Camp Fire in 2018, floods in Texas and Louisiana in 2020 and deadly tornadoes in Tennessee in 2021. In fact, anyone clicking around the RedCross.org site will see photos of Doug in action, helping the victims of these various disasters.

Bardwell family

For all the amazing volunteer work Doug has done, his greatest delight is his family. He and his awesome wife have seven children and 19 grandchildren who keep them quite busy! His grandchildren provide never-ending opportunities to attend baseball, basketball, football, soccer, cross country and track and field events. And there’s also marching band, orchestra, jazz band, choral, drama and the list goes on and on. When he’s not busy with family or the Red Cross, he also helps at his church and takes photographs for Properties Magazine.

When asked what he would say to someone looking to volunteer, Doug feels giving back to the community is something everyone should do. “The Red Cross is so big and does so many things, there is bound to be a use for whatever talents and availability you bring with you,” he said. “From volunteering at one blood drive, to sitting at home and making phone calls, there is literally a role for everyone.

Thank you, Doug, for all you do. We are so fortunate to have you as a Red Cross Northern Ohio Region 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

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.

Love to drive? Become a Volunteer Transportation Specialist

By Courtney Roach, Manager, Biomedical Volunteer Workforce Engagement

How does it feel to help save a life? This is your chance to find out! If you have a little free time, love driving, and enjoy meeting new people, the Red Cross has a great volunteer position for you. We are currently seeking Volunteer Transportation Specialists in Cuyahoga County. It’s a unique volunteer position that supports blood pickup at both mobile and fixed site blood drives.

blood 1-11Why Is This Position So Important?

The Red Cross collects and distributes about 40% of our nation’s blood supply. When you pick up blood, platelets or other blood products from a blood collection site or deliver them to a hospital, you’re delivering hope to a person when they need it most.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Transport blood and blood products from blood collection sites to the laboratory for processing
  • Pick up and return boxes as needed
  • Complete required paperwork and obtain signatures
  • Communicate and share feedback between Red Cross personnel and customers
  • Drive in a safe and responsible manner in a Red Cross Vehicle and always provide strong customer.

The Ideal Candidate:

  • Enjoys driving
  • Is physically able to lift up to 50 lbs.
  • Is timely and prompt
  • Is highly self-sufficient and dependable

The vital work of the American Red Cross is made possible by volunteers who contribute their time and talents. Every day our drivers help save people’s lives.

To apply or for more information, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact Melanie Collins at 330-204-6615 or melanie.collins4@redcross.org.