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

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Volunteer of the Month – Sally Reamer

Pic2 for RC
Congratulations, to Sally Reamer for being selected as the October 2015 Volunteer of the Month by the American Red Cross.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Sally serves in many roles within the Disaster Services Department. She is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Leader, a Dispatcher and a Preparedness Project- Pillowcase Presenter. “The more I saw the Red Cross and all the good service the organization was providing, the more involved I wanted to get! I really like the fact that volunteering gives me so many new opportunities and allows me to meet so many interesting people.” For Sally, being a Red Cross volunteer, is near and dear to her heart, it gives her great purpose and an unceasing desire in serve her community.

Sally joined the Red Cross in September of 2012, Sally stated, “For years and years, I would see the Red Cross on the news at disasters helping and I knew I wanted to be a part of that someday.  So, the first thing I did when I retired was to sign up to volunteer.”  She demonstrates a great commitment to the Red Cross mission through assisting people during some of the most difficult events in their lives. Sally feels strongly about recognizing her fellow Red Cross members, stating that, “we would not be able to help so many people if, we didn’t work with such a great volunteer group.” Sally’s devotion is evident by the more than thirty hours she volunteers each week. As a Disaster Dispatcher on a 24 hour hotline she is an integral part of the Red Cross disaster response effort, taking calls from 911 and dispatching Red Cross volunteers to respond to disasters. Fellow Red Cross DAT member and dispatcher, Melody says, “Sally is caring, understanding and always there when needed, often taking dispatch shifts that are not covered.” Others who work with her explain that Sally does her job and much more, with great accuracy and attention. According to Sally, who started dispatching over two years ago, “It is a great way to stay involved, and I have learned so much more about what the Red Cross does by being a dispatcher.  Plus, I can do that right from my house!”

October is National Fire Prevention Month and as a Pillowcase Project Presenter, Sally helps children prepare for home fires and other possible disasters. “This is a wonderful project, because it allows children to learn how to prepare for a possible disaster in a way that doesn’t scare them,” Sally says. The Pillowcase Project is a free interactive preparedness program designed for youth ages 8 to 11 and offered by Red Cross to youth in schools, after-school programs, and at other sites and events. The program aims to increase awareness and understanding of natural hazards, teach safety and emotional coping skills, as well as the importance of personal preparedness. Through instructor-led presentations, students learn the best ways to stay safe, how to handle stressful situations, and what tools they can use at home to prepare for emergencies. For more information about The Pillowcase Project, visit the Pillowcase Project webpage at .

Sally encourages everyone to join the Red Cross. According to Sally, “The Red Cross, unlike many other volunteer organizations, has so many DIFFERENT ways to give back to the community.  It’s like one stop shopping for volunteering.”

We, thank you, Sally for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community!

To learn more, visit or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at

Through the Eyes of a Red Crosser

By: Anna Fernández-Gevaert, Regional Communications Director of the American Red Cross of Idaho & Montana

I am at a Red Cross shelter in Browning, MT, sitting around a large collapsible banquet table with a handful of Red Cross volunteers. We are eating baked potatoes and chili off Styrofoam plates, in the middle of a warehouse the size of an airplane hangar. All around us, people are unloading supplies, cleaning, talking, eating and sleeping. A radio is blaring on one end of the hangar and just 20 feet farther away, a Blackfeet boy with a long braid down his back is watching a zombie movie on a 13-inch portable TV.

I look around the table and see tired faces. These Red Crossers have only been here a few days, but the work is hard and the emotions are harder. Volunteering for the Red Cross is never easy, even on a good day. During a disaster like this, when hundreds of evacuees rely on a small group of trained volunteers to meet their immediate needs, it is all hands on deck, each giving their all. It takes a toll.

Gene Wallis smiles his way through a day at the Browning Shelter

Gene Wallis smiles his way through a day at the Browning Shelter

Yet, these people look—happy. Across the table, Gene Wallis, a bon vivant in his seventies from Appleton, WI, with the gift of gab and an impish smile, is holding court. Gene started volunteering with Red Cross 4 years ago and has seen a thing or two. When I ask him what distinguishes this disaster from the others he has seen, his answer is immediate: “The people-–never seen anything like it.”

I ask him what he means. “The Blackfeet people–they are dignified, resilient, they don’t complain. And they are helpful–to us as volunteers and to each other,” he explains. You don’t have to ask them to help—they look around for what is needed and they just do it. It is part of their culture.” He pauses, searching for the right words. “It’s impressive,” he adds.

Joan Richards, a proper-looking lady in her sixties whose face exudes goodness, nods in agreement. “I mentioned that very thing to my supervisor yesterday,” she says. “How impressed I was with this community. I am from Hyannis, MA, and I really did not know anything about the Blackfeet Nation before I arrived at the shelter a few days ago. As soon as I started working here, I noticed how warm and friendly and solicitous the people are in this community.” She leans in, and adds, woman to woman: “Have you noticed how attentive the men are to their children?” I nod, having remarked on that very thing only a few hours earlier. “They also show such respect to their elders,” she says. She adds quietly: “I feel so privileged to have had this experience.”

Nancy McKenney, who sits to my left, adds her own experience as shelter manager. “I needed to do a shelter check, writing down the names of each guest,” she explains. “A group of local women who had been helping us just took over. They knew everyone and got it done in 20 minutes. It would have taken us 2 hours.” Nancy, who is from Pierre, SD, is veteran Red Crosser, the type that has seen it all and takes no prisoners. If she’s impressed, that means something.

I smile to myself and sit back in my chair, looking at the tired faces around me. I marvel at these people, these Red Crossers, who are enthralled with the people they are serving. I wonder if they realize how awestruck I am with them.

Volunteer of the Month – Larry Griffin

Larry Griffin 2

Congratulations, to Larry Griffin on being named the September 2015 American Red Cross Volunteer of the Month!

When Larry retired in 2012, he along with his wife Pat decided that volunteering for the Red Cross Disaster Cycle Service (DSC) efforts would be worthwhile. Larry stated, “I now realize, more and more, the many facets in which the Red Cross is active, preparing to prevent misfortunes, is as important as responding to disasters, is as important as providing ways to recover from a loss.”

The Red Cross is so thrilled to have volunteers like Larry. “Larry is always not only willing to help but expresses gratitude when called out to a disaster site,” says Jenny Legaspi, Red Cross Disaster Program Manager. As a Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer he shows a high level of commitment. “Larry consistently signs-up for DAT response shifts. Even when not on-call, he is happy to assist with a response whenever he is available,” states Luong Huynh, Red Cross Disaster Program Specialist.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Larry serves as a DAT member, helping people during times of disaster.  “We help people who experience a sudden misfortune due to fire, storm or other unexpected cause,” Larry states. Larry enjoys providing comfort to clients and working professionally with first responders to ensure community members are supported during times of disaster. “He’s the guy that I would want to come and help me!” notes Barbara Behling.

Larry is also making significant contributes to the Red Cross Preparedness Programs while volunteering with the Home Fire Prevention Campaign. This Campaign involves Red Cross volunteers joining with local fire departments and community groups to visit neighborhoods at high risk for fires. Visits include educating people about fire safety, creating safety plans and installing free smoke alarms in homes. View this link to see Larry and other Red Cross DAT team members in action!

“When volunteering with the Home Fire Preparedness Program, Larry has become my go-to Documenter and Reporter Lead. His reporting is accurate and I can always count on him to train new volunteers in the role,” Luong Huynh DPS.  Over the last six months, Larry devotion has been evident as he has now volunteered at five separate Home Fire Preparedness events and helped to install sixty-four smoke alarms in homes. “I take satisfaction in possibly preventing a house fire and saving a life,” Larry state

Larry’s humble response when asked of this honor was simple, “Really my efforts have not been any greater than that of other Red Cross members. Anyone who becomes involved with the Red Cross will feel the same way!” Thank you, Larry, for making a real difference in your community and the Red Cross!

Join us! Volunteer like Larry and help your neighbors recover from disasters like home fires by becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Contact the Red Cross to get trained.

To learn more, visit or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at

We Need a Hero!

We’re holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night!

Not all heroes wear capes
The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is now accepting nominations for 2016 Hero Award recipients.  Each year, the American Red Cross recognizes everyday heroes in our community at three events in Wisconsin: the Evening of Heroes in Wisconsin Dells, the Heroes Breakfast in Altoona and Brave Hearts: Heroes Among Us in Milwaukee.   Nominations for recognition for the spring 2016 events are open until December.

Whether they’re stepping up during a medical emergency to provide assistance or helping others through a lifetime of volunteerism, heroes reflect what is best about our community. They also inspire others to follow their example.

Heroes abound everywhere we look at the Red Cross. Our heroes are there to help a family who just lost their home in a fire—any time of the day or night. Our heroes teach the community lifesaving CPR and first aid skills to respond in an emergency. Our heroes spend a lifetime donating blood and recruiting others to donate in order to save patient lives.

Do you know an everyday hero who deserves recognition?  Then submit them for recognition at one of our three hero events across the state! Details and categories vary by event.  For more information:

Or contact: Megan Bessett at or (608) 232-5832.

Photo-Hero Trumpet player

Restock the Shelves – Blood Donations Still in Need for this Summer

With the kiddos heading back to school in some areas and vacation tans starting to fade, it may feel like summer is beginning to wind down. For the American Red Cross, though, summer isn’t over yet, and it still needs blood and platelet donations to help ensure a sufficient blood supply throughout August.

IMG_4042Platelet donors and those with types AB, O negative, B negative and A negative blood are especially needed to help restock Red Cross shelves and prevent an emergency shortage. Donors are encouraged to download the free Blood Donor App to schedule a convenient appointment and keep abreast of current blood supply needs. The app even notifies donors when their donation is distributed to a hospital.

If you gave earlier this summer, you might be eligible to give again. For those who have been meaning to donate, but haven’t gotten around to it, please don’t put it off until some other time.

How important is it to donate this month? From June through August, on average, about two fewer donors schedule an appointment at Red Cross blood drives than what is needed for patients. That can add up to more than 100,000 fewer donations during the summer. Your donation counts more than you might think.

If you are unable to give blood, you can still support the Red Cross by signing up to host a blood drive, volunteering your time, asking others to donate or creating a SleevesUp virtual blood drive.

Every day this summer is a chance to help save lives. Make an appointment to help #RestockTheShelves by downloading the Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Two States + Two Disasters = One Team

Mary Gagnon

Mary Gagnon

For six non-stop weeks, the Texas weather was dreadful. Residents were experiencing multiple tornadoes, large hail, heavy rainfall and flooding causing the dams to breach. More than 100 counties were affected by this treacherous weather. (Wisconsin only has 72-counties; so this was a massive area) American Red Cross chapters throughout Texas helped residents affected by opening 60 shelters, served more than 350,000 meals and snacks and engaged 2,300 trained Red Cross responders. Wisconsin provided 42 responders; this is the first-hand story of our own Mary Gagnon.


On June 15, the Red Cross asked my husband Dean and I to deploy to Houston, Texas to help with disaster relief. Both of us volunteer with the Red Cross and reside in Texas AND Wisconsin. We arrived on the 16th and were reminded immediately of the heat and humidity that sends us back north each spring.

After a week of providing shelter and food near Houston, we were reassigned to the Rio Grande Valley, near the tip of Texas. Coincidentally, this general area is where we live during the winter. And our ‘hometown’ Red Cross Chapter there became headquarters.Flooded road, Edinburg, TX

There were so many people with so few personal resources. Residents told us of flood waters three feet deep in their homes and side streets were impassable for days. When we found an unflooded driveway, we parked the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), which contained water, food and hygiene kits. There, we asked people to phone neighbors down the street to let them know we were there to help. Invariably, word travelled fast, and people lined-up to receive what they needed and wanted: hot food, bottled water, Clorox, shovels and mosquito repellant.

Cruz Roja at Edinburg shelter

When there were still items remaining in the ERV, which is a large ambulance sized vehicle so we could haul large amounts of supplies, we drove to a nearby street and started the process again.

Steve Stringer with Cruz Roja in Edinburg-2

The American Red Cross increased its staffing resources when Cruz Roja Mexicana (Mexican Red Cross) arrived. As the flooding decreased and people could get out of their homes, the Cruz Roja site provided necessary cleaning materials and, just as importantly, the ability to respond in Spanish to needs and stories provided by those flooded out of their homes. We felt fortunate to work with Cruz Roja! They understood the community needs; the difficulties of the weather and the support needed to bring back ‘normalcy’ to Hidalgo and Cameron Counties.


The following week, on our way back to the local Red Cross Chapter to re-fill our ERV with cases of water and clean-up materials, we stopped at a gas station. The search-and-distribute system of helping home owners during the recent Texas floods brought much-needed supplies directly to people considering the scorching 96 degree weather. This system created a need for us to get just a few minutes of rest. An ice cream bar and air conditioning altered my core temperature just enough to make getting back on the road OK. But it was the unexpected ‘coolness’ of hearing The Spinners singing on the store’s music system that recouped my energy! With only the bathroom mirror watching, I danced to ‘Rubber Band Man’ with all of my best ‘60s and 70s moves.

And Coolness was achieved.


Upon returning to Wisconsin for the ‘summer’ they were deployed to Columbus, Wisconsin to open an evacuation center/shelter for people affected by the July 13th 90-mile per hour winds. Two (states) plus two (disasters) really can equal ONE RED CROSS. To begin your own Red Cross adventure, please check here for volunteer opportunities.


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