Volunteer of the Month – Rachel Goodrich

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Congratulations to Rachel Goodrich, the February 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

Many of us have a great appreciation for our military service members who have so proudly served our country, but how often do we actually reach out to say thank you or lend support to them and their families.  Since July of 2013, Rachel has been doing all this and more, as a Red Cross SAF ‘Services to the Armed Forces’ program volunteer.

Rachel has volunteered in many roles within the Red Cross, but having military service members in her own family, makes the SAF program especially important to her. She has volunteered as a SAF Caseworker, connecting military members with support and communications with their families and during countless SAF Special Events, helping with programs that honor military members, veterans and families. Rachel expresses such gratitude when talking about these volunteering opportunities, “I have met some of the most amazing people by volunteering in this program.  I have gained lifelong memories of moments that I will forever hold and cherish because of volunteering with the Red Cross.”

Taking on an even larger role this year, Rachel coordinated the statewide Red Cross- HMFH ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ program.  She not only promoted HMFH with TV and radio stations, she also organized card sorting and distribution events with Federal, State, local governmental and nongovernmental organizations throughout Wisconsin. Rachel’s says her favorite part about volunteering in this program is, “being able to hand deliver Holiday Cards to our active Military Service Members and Veterans, shaking theirs hands (the hugs are the best) and being able to show how much the community supports them.”  The Red Cross SAF relies on the talents of volunteers like Rachel to bring its programs to service members and veterans.  John Kost Regional SAF Manager credits Rachel for her perseverance in organizing an event of this grand proportion stating, “It’s indeed a gift to the organization, to have a volunteer like Rachel, who steps forward to coordinate all aspects of a region wide program and do it with such success.”

Rachel encourages others to get involved with SAF, “The more volunteers we have the more help we can offer our Veterans and their families. It truly is a life changing experience!” Thank you, Rachel for continuing to proudly represent the Red Cross in your community and for giving back to so many military service members with your heartfelt compassion.

To learn more about the important services the Red Cross SAF program provides please visit http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families

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 www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

ON THE GROUND AND IN THE SHELTER: RHINELANDER VOLUNTEER SHARES TEXAS TORNADO STORIES

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

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Carol on left with Marie (in ERV) who is from Nebraska and Jim (right) from Michigan.

Carol Miller started the New Year more than 1,000 miles away from home. She wasn’t on vacation or with her family. On January 1st, she arrived in Texas to help tornado victims for her 13th national deployment with the American Red Cross.

“I didn’t even think of it as a holiday. I just rolled up my sleeves and went to work. I just focused on what had to be done first,” Miller said in a recent interview with the Red Cross Public Affairs.

Miller, from Rhinelander, served as a Health Services Supervisor in communities near Dallas, following the deadly Texas tornadoes at the end of December. She was one of more than 580 Red Cross volunteers working in disaster zones across the state. Overall, the assisted close to 900 individuals and families in need.

“Insulation everywhere, piles of debris, all of their belongings, their lifetime… everything is stacked at the curb ready to be taken away,” Miller said.

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In part of her role, Miller saw first-hand the devastating aftermath of the tornadoes. In the city of Glenn Heights, she visited hard-hit neighborhoods with a Red Cross team offering a variety of assistance. Miller focused on securing immediate medical needs for residents.

“I helped replace a lot of prescriptions, wheel-chairs, walkers, eye glasses, helping people find sources for hearing aid replacement,” Miller said.

Miller also recalled helping a family find a new hospital bed for their mother and nebulizers for people with asthma. She talked about being an advocate for clients with their pharmacy and insurance company, and also helped with clinic referrals.

In the city of Garland, Miller spent time at Red Cross shelter. While serving there, she met a mother and her four kids, ages 2 to 13. Their father was in the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained in the tornado.

“The mom would get very tearful as she thought about her home and her concern about her husband and what they’re going to do next,” Miller said.

Miller worked with the family to get diabetic supplies for the mother and asthma medications for her five-year-old son. Other volunteers in the shelter helped with temporary housing assistance. Miller said the mother was grateful.

“My greatest reward is getting a hug from people like that,” she said.

During her deployment, Miller also heard stories from residents about the day the tornadoes hit. They described a pea-green sky and still surroundings, then the disaster.

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“This was more like five freight trains or a couple of jet engines,” she said residents told her.

The family she met at the Garland shelter said they took cover in a bathtub with the father holding a mattress on top of them. Afterwards, it took crews a half hour to 45 minutes to get them out of their home. She said the father had injuries that required surgery while everyone had cuts and bruises.

Miller spent more than a week in Texas. She’s now surpassed the dozen mark with 13 national deployments with the Red Cross. These are experiences she has grown to treasure.

“Just the thanks you get from the clients and just being able to help my fellow brothers and sister in their time of need. It’s very rewarding personally, it’s a way to give back because we’ve been very blessed,” she said.

Thank you Carol for proudly representing the Red Cross in Texas. Your desire to help others in their greatest times of need is inspiring.

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 www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

 

Local Red Cross Responder Shares Missouri Stories

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

New Year’s Eve in an American Red Cross shelter, a few 30-hour shifts and helping a woman on oxygen cope with a mandatory evacuation. Those were just a few of the powerful experiences for Becky Tiles during a two-week disaster deployment to   Missouri.

missouri blogTiles, of Oshkosh, spent most of her time in Manchester, Missouri near St. Louis. She served as a shelter supervisor at the Manchester United Methodist Church. The church turned into an emergency shelter for area residents, who were forced to evacuate their homes while authorities monitored nearby levies.

In late December, rising river levels in Missouri triggered hundreds of evacuations and severe flooding. As of this week, the Red Cross had opened 12 shelters across the state with nearly 600 overnight stays. Shelter volunteers have also served more than 31,000 meals and snacks.

“You talk with them but you also do a lot of mental health, a lot of encouraging them and helping them to look ahead,” Tiles said in a recent interview with Red Cross Public Affairs.

Tiles said her shelter operated around the missouri blog 1clock, with volunteers doing 12-hour shifts. There were some days, however, where she had to pull 30-hour days to make sure there were always two people on staff.

“Someone has to be there and I would never leave the shelter or the scene without adequate coverage,” Tiles said. “It just wouldn’t be the right thing for the shelter manager to do, when it has to be done, it has to be done. I feel pretty strongly about that.”

The shelter offered clients a safe place to sleep, eat and clean up, and also get updates on when they could return home. Tiles spent New Year’s Eve with residents and brought decorations, lemonade and cookies to celebrate.

“It really brought us together,” she said. “It was really a heart-warming moment because people weren’t at home and they were missing out on their own activities. I think we all had tears in our eyes after we sat around drinking our lemonade.”

Tiles also recalled helping a middle-aged woman with an oxygen tank, who showed up to the shelter with her cat. She said the cat was able to stay in a Humane Society trailer outside and Tiles gave the owner a stuffed animal to sleep with in place of her pet. “She just adored that,” Tiles said. She also remembers some tough moments with that woman.

“Just talking with her and crying with her and saying this is where you need to be, this is the safest place you need to be and taking care of her. Her medical needs were important,” Tiles said.

Red Cross shelters offer nurses on staff to help clients with immediate medical needs. Their expertise is just one part of a comprehensive package of emergency services offered by the Red Cross. From her experience in Missouri, Tiles said the clients appreciate the assistance.missouri blog 2

“They repeat over and over again, I don’t know what I would do without you having been here. They really meant it,” Tiles said.

This national deployment to Missouri was the first one for Tiles. She says she’d do it again and would be open to new roles, like case work.

Volunteer of the Month – Dennis Erickson

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Congratulations Dennis Erickson, the January 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

Starting the New Year conjures images of ‘what’s next’ personally and professionally for many people, from New Year’s resolutions to volunteerism. When January Volunteer of the Month Dennis Erickson looks at his reflection in the mirror, he’s reminded of the “new life” he’s been given thanks to a kidney and pancreas transplant.  Since undergoing the 2002 surgeries, he hasn’t forgotten those who donated life to allow him to live.

Dennis recalls, “When I was on medical leave, I made a list of non-profits and causes I would be passionate about and the American Red Cross was on the list.” Dennis has now been a dedicated Red Cross volunteer for over a decade. He is also an EMT and supports various military programs including Honor Flights, blood donations and organ donor networks.  In addition, he co-founded, TWI – Transplant Wisconsin Inc. and actively promotes http://www.YesIWillWisconsin.com so more lives can be saved through organ donation.

As a Red Cross casework supervisor, Dennis has assisted fire clients throughout Wisconsin, traveled to the Kentucky floods and flew twice to Texas for both tornados and floods this year alone.  “Every week he commits to three shifts, and has taken on new roles due to his commitment to learning, training and managing both people and processes. He is reliable, compassionate, dedicated and literally a true life-saver!” shares Marytha Blanchard, Disaster Program Officer.

His life-saving skills most recently helped him save a 60-year old woman on the side of the road. As a Juneau County volunteer EMT, he arrived on-the-scene and was checking her blood pressure when she began collapsing to the floor. Dennis began to administer CPR while his partner attached the AED pads.  Shocks were administered as she had officially ‘flat-lined’. They worked in tandem, following their training until the transport vehicle arrived. “She will live to see another Christmas,” he reports.  Dennis not only has these valuable skills himself, but recently completed his Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor Training. Hence, he will be teaching the newest life savers through Red Cross courses.

Thank you, Dennis for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community; we thank you for giving back to others in so many remarkable ways!

This month, consider starting the New Year by helping give someone a chance to share more joy, laughter and time with family and friends. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Blood transfusions are a very common medical procedure. A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States alone. Although 38 percent of people in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, only 3 percent actually do. Be the change in someone’s life by donating today. For more information visit http://www.redcrossblood.org

To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

A Holiday Mail Story to Warm Your Holiday Spirit

It is always rewarding to give something that means something, especially during the holidays. No matter how big or small the gift is, it is the touching emotions and gratuity that make it all worth it.

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Mr. and Mrs. Claus are definitely watching! Tara and Alexa made it on the nice list!

Rachel Goodrich, Holiday Mail For Heroes Coordinator from our Madison office shares her heartfelt experience delivering holiday cards, celebrating with veterans, and watching her daughters as youth volunteers.

This past Tuesday, Rachel and her two daughters, Tara and Alexa, along with other Red Cross volunteers delivered holiday mail to the veterans at Tomah VA. The holiday mail delivery is part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. The program gives people the opportunity to send holiday cards to U.S. Armed Forces members, veterans and their families. Cards may include thanks, support and holiday cheer. As Rachel describes it,

“… a magical night of laughter, tears, smiles and dancing. Red Cross volunteers helped serve cookies and punch. We danced the night away with veterans while wheeling, spinning them around in their wheel chairs on the dance floor. We even took some of them back to their rooms after the evening was over.”

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Special Delivery! Tara gives a veteran his holiday mail!

At the beginning of the eventful night, the girls were a bit timid but once they warmed up, they danced and even asked the veterans to dance with them. And how sweet is this? Tara received a kiss on the hand from a veteran and was thanked for dancing with him. She thanked him for his service too.

Rachel recalls the emotions in the room when the veterans received their cards, “We watched tears roll down the faces of some veterans while reading their cards, smiles lit up the room as we shook their hands and thanked them for all that they have done. The sound of laughter and pure happiness filled the air while volunteers danced with Veterans. ”

It is great to know that Tara, 10 on Christmas Day and Alexa, 8, are making a difference in their community as youth volunteers. They are also registered on the American Red Cross Volunteer Connection, where they log in their own volunteer hours and badges and earn certificates. Rachel continues with, “I don’t even know how to put this into words. Kids love the community service and learning how to give back, show their appreciation, there is more to the world than what’s in front of them”.

A total of 63 packs of holiday mail were given to the veterans! Both girls attend Caesar Chavez Elementary School in Madison. Students in their class created cards as well.

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Red Cross volunteers (L-R: Sharon Ernst, Rachel Goodrich and Jane Ramsey) posed with the big Red Cross holiday card! Can you imagine how many notes and signatures were filled with that card?

We thank each and everyone of our volunteers for their time and dedication. Special thanks to those that sent in and created cards for the members of our armed forces and their loved ones.

To learn more about the Holiday Mail for Heroes programs, please click here. For more ways to help and donate, please click here.

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Canada’s Wildfire Relief Efforts Supported by Hometown Gal

The Canadian and the American Red Cross joined forces to support 10,000 Saskatchewan wildfire evacuees, this Brenda’s story.

By Brenda Haney, American Red Cross Volunteer

On July 7, 2015 the Red Cross asked if I would represent the U.S. on an International Deployment to Canada. I agreed to go although I had only been home for a week from a deployment in Louisiana.

Diana O’Neill and I left Madison and flew to Edmonton, Alberta on July 8th. We made it through Customs and travelled five hours by bus to Cold Lake, Alberta. Once there we assisted with a shelter with approximately 600 people of several different native Canadian Bands.

Due to the large number of evacuations they were loaded on buses with only the clothes on their backs and bused six hours from Saskatchewan to Cold Lake, Alberta.  The City of Cold Lake opened up one of their buildings to accommodate the people coming in. There were many challenges dealing with this many people and the different cultures.

After two days Diana and I were promoted to shelter managers. We worked 12 hour shifts, both day and night. We were warmly welcomed by our counterparts with the Canadian Red Cross. We worked closely with the government officials to ensure a safe shelter operation.

There were several health issues that required the use of hotels and campgrounds as alternate shelters.

On the 11th day of our deployment we were given the “all clear” to start sending people home. In just two days we had everyone accounted for and on their way back home to Saskatchewan.

The tear down began and the massive task of tearing down cots began. We loaded all the cots in semis and hired a cleaning company to clean and sterilize everything.

It is time to take a break as this was my 5th deployment of 2015. Deployment number three was a driving trip to Texas. Diana and I drove over 4,000 miles roundtrip in the Emergency Relief Vehicle going from Madison to San Marcos, TX to assist with flooding.

I am thankful for the wonderful people I have met on these Red Cross deployments. I am happy that I have been able to help people in their time of need.

A collection of our 1st International Deployment memorabilia will be displayed at the Madison Red Cross Office.

To begin your American Red Cross adventure, please visit redcross.org/volunteer

2015 Heros Musicales / Red Cross Fundraiser / Central Wisconsin Photographer

*Blog reposted with permission from Studio 455 Photography.

On May 19th, I volunteered to photograph the 8th Annual Heros Musicales, an American Red Cross fundraiser founded and hosted by John and Vicki Jenks. Throughout the afternoon I had the privilege of hearing two different concerts. First, Greg Boerner, a singer / songwriter who played a blend of blues, folk, country, and rock and roll all in an awesome southern style. One of my favorites from his set was, “The Hong Kong Cafe.”

The last concert of the afternoon featured Liam Teague on steel pan and Robert Chappell on percussion. It was nothing short of magical. I was delighted that they started their set with one of my all time favorites, “Tico Tico.”

Throughout the course of the afternoon, concert goers had the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, learn about the Red Cross from people who have benefited from their services, share in hospitality, and visit with one another. It was a truly unique fundraiser and easy to see why it has grown to be so popular.  What could be better than an awesome concert for an important cause?

1:30 Concert - Greg Boerner Guitarist/singer/songwriter

1:30 Concert – Greg Boerner Guitarist/singer/songwriter

4:00 p.m. concert with Liam Teague and Robert Chappell

4:00 p.m. concert with Liam Teague and Robert Chappell

*We thank and recognize Jeremy and Kristin Albright from Studio 455 Photography for volunteering their time and talent to a great cause.

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