Share Holiday Cheer!

The Holiday Mail for Heroes program is an avenue for people to share their appreciation of those who have served our country. The goal is to give service members and Veterans a little holiday cheer by presenting them with letters and cards of thanks.

This year, we are collecting hand-made or store bought cards. Plus, we have JUMBO cards around the state and at special events for residents to sign.  We kicked-off the campaign at the state Capitol.  Cards received by December 11th will be sorted and then presented at common Wisconsin venues, military installations, VA Hospitals, State Veteran Homes and more.

IMG_2134Get in the holiday spirit and send us your best cards! We’ll do the rest!  Here are few guidelines to get you going:

What is the Holiday Mail for Heroes Program? Since 2006, the American Red Cross has received and distributed nearly 10 million holiday cards for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Veterans. The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program enables Americans to “Give Something That Means Something” this holiday season by signing and sending cards of thanks, encouragement and holiday cheer to members of our U.S. Armed Forces and Veterans.

I don’t know anyone in the military; how do I participate? You don’t need to know anyone in the military. Red Cross workers will distribute signed cards from the community to members of the military and Veterans right here in Wisconsin.

Cards are not addressed to anyone specific, so who gets these cards? We will distribute cards to service members and Veterans throughout Wisconsin. Cards will be handed to service members and Veterans, or displayed at common venues in military installations and hospitals.

Can I drop cards off at my local Red Cross office? Yes, your created cards can be dropped off by December 11th at your local Red Cross office or even better mail them to: American Red Cross, 4860 Sheboygan Avenue, Madison, WI 53705

Will my card be distributed to our troops overseas? Our National office has shipped cards to military bases around the globe so your cards will make the holiday brighter throughout Wisconsin.

What is the goal for the 2015 Holiday Mail for Heroes Program? The goal is to share season’s greeting and holiday cheer to the members of our Armed Forces and Veterans, creating millions of smiles.

Are there other restrictions and guidelines for cards? In order to make cards as meaningful as possible to a wide audience, choose or create  “Happy Holiday” cards and use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member, or Veteran” when writing cards.  Cards should not contain:

  • Glitter that could aggravate existing health issues.
  • Enclosures such as money calling cards, photos, or other gifts.
  • Complete mailing address.  (City and State are okay)
  • Email addresses.

Can I include money in the cards? Please do not enclose money with the holiday cards. If you wish to provide financial support for Red Cross services to the military, please donate online.

How can I find out more information about the Holiday Mail program?

Volunteer of the Month November 2015 – Laurel Cooper

Cooper, Laurel

Congratulations to Laurel Cooper for being selected as the November 2015 Volunteer of the Month by the American Red Cross.

“Laurel lives for the time of year when she can deploy, ready at a moment’s notice to take the ERV on a new adventure,” shares Wendy Savage, Red Cross Chapter Executive Director. Laurel has been part of the American Red Cross since January of 2006. During this time she has served in the Disaster Services Department as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member trained in Mass Care, Bulk Distribution/Sheltering/Feeding and is also the volunteer ERV (emergency response vehicle) Coordinator for her chapter. “Having things ready and in working order can take more time and attention than people think but, I enjoy knowing that things are well organized, maintained and available for use,” said Laurel.  This is a clear expression of her dedication.

As one of the “go to” people, Laurel is often the first to volunteer, offering administrative office support, providing leadership as a Home Fire Documenter or deploying to help people recover from disasters. Brian Cockerham, Disaster Program Manager says, “Laurel keeps our ERV in serviceable condition and is an essential part of our Home Fire Campaign.  She is an enormous help to our chapter sharing her dedication, trustworthiness, and leadership which have earned her the respect and confidence of her fellow volunteers and chapter staff.”

Laurel has a great appreciation for the support shown to the Red Cross by neighbors, family, friends and businesses. Even her employer kindly allows her to be available for deployments from Labor Day through Memorial Day each year. Laurel’s most memorable Red Cross moment was during a deployment to Tuscaloosa, AL after a tornado. “I was sent to a valley north of Tuscaloosa that was also hit.  For a week I was there helping people who had lost everything yet, on Friday night the community invited Red Cross members to join them for a fish fry! It was really great, we were there to help them and they fed us!” An unmeasurable amount of fulfillment comes from assisting others as a Red Cross volunteer. Laurel stated, “I’m not real sure why I became a Red Cross Volunteer but, I’m sure glad I did, I’ve learned so much! Becoming a Red Cross volunteer allowed me to help others and much more with my training”

Thank you, Laurel for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community!

Right now, the American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed. To learn more, visit or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at

Mid-Winter Dangers

winter home fire

Mid-December evenings can mean extremely cold temperatures. It is definitely not the time to be out in the elements, especially with a one-year old child. Unfortunately, this was the case for a young family; their dreams were going up in flames, while the temperature was falling to 30 below zero.

The home was their first, and they were remodeling it, putting everything – both money and sweat equity — they had into it. Like many Midwest families, they use a wood-burning stove to keep their home warm. The father was at work, while the mother was home with their son.  The fire began on the lower level of the two-story home and smoke quickly consumed the upper level.

Luckily, the mother heard the smoke alarm, ran to her infant son, called for the dog and escaped safely – barefoot, and with just the cloths on their backs. The fire grew so large that four separate fire companies responded.  Even with their most valiant efforts, the firefighters were unable to save the home. The family lost everything – all their remodeling efforts, all the Christmas presents, already bought and wrapped. The ruin was later bulldozed.

The American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, including Sharon Rohrer, arrived shortly after the firefighters. They had two missions: support the young family through this devastating situation, and provide hot coffee, water and nourishment to the firefighters and first responders. Neighbors opened their doors to keep everyone warm, and the Red Cross was welcomed throughout the neighborhood.

For the family specifically, the Red Cross ensured they took the first step to recovery. This included giving them someone to talk to, help in figuring out what comes next, the community resources that were available to them, and immediate funds to jumpstart their recovery. A client assistance card was provided so they could purchase winter clothing, shoes, and even food.

As for Sharon Rohrer, it turns out this RN has been responding to disasters since Hurricane Andrew (1992) as a Red Cross volunteer! She was also on the Condolence Team for the OSO Mudslides.  Having seen her share of destruction and despair, she is acutely aware of how each emergency affects a family. She stated, “I gained back more than I have given just knowing how my own family was helped.” That’s right; this was the home of her grandson, significant other & great-grandson.  “Recalling the situation in its entirety, our physical and emotional support for all involved plus our presence may have been appreciated more than anything.”

The support of the American Red Cross is only possible due to the dedicated staff and volunteers, community partners and donors alike. For more information on how you can help, please visit

When Letting Go Saves A Life

By Barbara Behling, Wisconsin Red Cross Chief Communications Officer

Baby Adrianna and Mom

Three day weekends for many include family, fellowship, food and fun. For the Garcia family, Labor Day turned into a day of panic, horror and help from the American Red Cross.

In the early morning hours, Felipe Garcia was woken by the faint sound of the hallway smoke alarms, and he smelled smoke. He rose from his bed, went to hallway door, opened it and immediately shut-it. “It was filled with black-smoke so thick I didn’t want to take my family out there,” he stated. He turned, yelled for his two teenage boys to wake-up, and for his wife to get herself and 5-month old Arianna up.

Even though they lived on the second floor of the Middleton, Wisconsin apartment building, he knew they would have to escape out the window. “We did what we had to do. So I lowered the first boy out the window as far as I could reach and then let him go. He hit the ground hard. We repeated this for the second teenager. When I turned to my wife for the baby, we knew it was imminent I would have to drop her too. With the boys on the ground, they caught her softly,” he recalls.

Standing outside their burning building, they watched as the fire department fought to save the building, and assessed their injuries. One of the boys’ ankle, and the others’ wrist, was throbbing and the baby wouldn’t stop coughing, so all went to the Emergency Room for immediate help. X-rays for the boys proved nothing was broken.

Upon returning to the apartment complex, the Garcia family was met by American Red Cross disaster responders. Even with English being their second language, it did not take long to translate the fear and pain in each of their stories. Our bi-lingual responder assured them the Red Cross would be there for them as they asked, “What do we do next?”

The fire investigation was going to take all day, and depending on power and water, residents were likely not be able to return for up to a week, or longer, due to the damage. With the weekend temperatures reaching 92 degrees, and humidity nearing the same level, it was miserable for anyone to be outside for long periods of time. Therefore, the Red Cross opened a shelter in the nearby Middleton High School. This air conditioned building had bathrooms, cool air and places to gather. Not only that, but the residents were greeted with coffee, juice, water and hot breakfasts, plus some donuts too! From the time they arrived, the sense of relief was evident on their faces.

As people started to relax, the Red Cross’ mental health and health services responders went table-to-table to casually strike up conversations, check on everyone’s emotional state, and to ensure no injuries were overlooked.  To a casual observer, the shelter almost looked like a regular family reunion: people were chatting, kids were playing and food and beverages were provided throughout the day. Best of all, little Arianna was smiling, giggling and acting like a 5-month old. As this was happening, the Red Cross team back at the fire site was working with the apartment management and fire and local officials to determine what emergency housing needs would be needed.

As for the Garcia family, they were able to fill clothesbaskets with clothing, medications, a few toys and items they would need. Family and friends stepped in to offer shelter while their apartment underwent cleaning and repairs. In addition, the Red Cross provided financial assistance for food and miscellaneous needs. The Red Cross also provided personal hygiene items and helped them navigate the recovery process.

The support of the American Red Cross is only possible due to the dedicated staff and volunteers, community partners and donors alike. For more information on how you can help, please visit

Stepping into a Client’s Shoes

By Viv Chappell, Red Cross Grants Specialist

MKE Simulation_3 Photo Layout On September 23, 2015, I stepped into the shoes of an American Red Cross disaster client. Fortunately for me, it was part of an emergency training drill, rather than a real event. I took part as an actor in a simulated aviation crisis—the General Mitchell International Airport 2015 Full Scale Exercise. Every three years, the airport and community partners put the Airport Emergency Plan into action, simulating a response to help prepare for the real thing.

In this scenario, a commercial airline—Dairy Air—experienced an emergency when a plane with 120 souls aboard landed short of the airport runway. The impact resulted in several small fires, major damage to aircraft, mass casualties and much scattered debris. In an aviation disaster response such as this, numerous stakeholders are involved, from the airline, to first responders, to the Red Cross. During this exercise, the Red Cross mobilized Health Services and Disaster Mental Health responders to assist with triage, as well as Government Liaisons, Public Affairs, Staffing personnel, and Family Assistant Specialists (FAS).

MKE Simulation_Actor AssignmentFAS volunteers work with specific families affected by an aviation disaster. They assist in the flow of information to and from families and friends of the people on the flight. FAS workers also provide support by listening to the concerns of the crash victim’s loved ones, obtaining or contacting resources, as well as providing logistical support for their needs.

My assignment was that of distraught and angry friend of Mary Jo Noyse, a passenger on the plane that went down. The other loved ones and I were guided to the Family and Friends Center, and each assigned a Red Cross Family Assistant Specialist. My assigned volunteer, Taira Grubb, sat down with me and assured me that she would do everything she could to help me get through the situation. She listened to my fears and angry demands with a soothing calmness. She confirmed that my friend Mary Jo was on the flight manifest, and took down identifying information about her. She helped me contact my friend’s family to notify them of the crash. She brought me water and a snack as we awaited news. As we talked, I thought of a real friend of mine, and imagined what it would feel like if she had really been in a plane crash. When I welled up with emotion, Taira comforted me and patted me on the back, a tear in her eye brought on by sincere compassion.

MKE Simulation_Disaster Vols w VestsI looked around the room filled with Red Crossers in their familiar disaster relief vests, providing comfort to a dozen more people. I hope we never have to activate this response for a real situation. But if we do, I know from first-hand experience that the Red Cross will be there to provide care and support to people in their darkest hour.

To find out more about the Red Cross disaster relief, please visit the Wisconsin Red Cross Disaster Services page.

An Experience of a Lifetime – Tiffany Circle Summit 2015

Story and Photos by Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer, WI Tiffany Circle, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter (BMH) Member

The Tiffany Circle was formed in 2006 to unite and engage a group of generous and highly-involved women to continue to ensure that the Red Cross has the ability to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to life's emergencies.

The Tiffany Circle was formed in 2006 to unite and engage a group of generous and highly-involved women to continue to ensure that the Red Cross has the ability to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to life’s emergencies. Visit the Tiffany Circle page to find out more information.

I don’t believe I have ever experienced such a delightful, passionate and generous gathering of women in my life! The American Red Cross Tiffany Circle Summit 2015, held recently in Washington, D.C., was all that, and more.

From the moment I checked in and gathered with some of the Circle Members in the Tai Pan Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I knew this was a very special group. Each person with whom I came in contact was genuinely interested in getting to know me, and helping me understand our Mission – whether that be Time, Talent or Treasure.

Washington DC offered an amazing setting for our events within the Summit. There were incredible speakers – who were both intelligent and entertaining – and, learning sessions, which were informative and focused. I found myself drawn into components within the Red Cross mission. I look forward to learning more about them, and getting more deeply involved.

I cannot think of a better way to ‘give back’ than through an organization of women who deeply care, are incredibly kind and generous, and passionate about their cause. I left the Summit thinking, “I have made friends from across the globe with whom I share so much in common!”

My only concern? The next Red Cross Tiffany Circle Summit is not until 2017!

For more information, Visit the Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle page.

Wisconsin Tiffany Circle members. Back row: Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer, Patty Flowers; Front row: Sara Horein, Aymee Balison, LA Walker, Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara

Wisconsin Tiffany Circle members. Back row: Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer, Patty Flowers; Front row: Sara Horein, Aymee Balison, LA Walker, Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara

he Tiffany Circle mission is to advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure by engaging women locally, nationally and internationally.

The Tiffany Circle works to advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure by engaging women locally, nationally and internationally.

Sheboygan Fire Prevention Campaign

sheboygan6Seven times per day, someone dies from a home fire in the United States. The Red American Cross is helping people take simple but effective steps to drive that number down. On September 17, 2015, the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter installed nearly 70 smoke alarms in Sheboygan homes as part of its Home Fire Preparedness Program.
The Red Cross event was held in conjunction with the United Way of Sheboygan County’s Day of Caring, which brought hundreds of volunteers together to participate in service projects throughout the community. Employees from Kohler and Sargento joined Red Cross volunteers and staff to spread the message about the importance of fire safety and to provide life-saving resources to Sheboygan families.
The volunteers canvassed the Gateway and King neighborhoods in teams of three, offering checks of smoke alarms, and sheboygan3free replacement alarms and batteries when needed. Volunteers also discussed fire safety information and escape plans with households, and offered disaster preparedness activity books featuring Disney characters for Sheboygan’s littlest residents. “Over 75% of the homes our team entered needed our services—either new smoke alarms or batteries,” said Viv Chappell, a Red Crosser that participated in the installation event. “Having working smoke alarms doubles a person’s chance of surviving a fire. It’s gratifying to know that our actions may help prevent a tragedy.”
The goal of the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Program is to reduce the number of fire-related injuries and deaths in the United States by 25% by 2019. As part of this initiative, the Red Cross and its partners plan to install 2,500 smoke alarms throughout the Wisconsin this year!

To learn more about fire safety please visit

Will you join us in life-saving community programs? Please contact us at

sheboygan5 sheboygan7


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 64 other followers