Why I’m An American Red Cross Volunteer!

By Tara Williams 

I became part of the American Red Cross young professional group, Club Red of Northeast Wisconsin in November 2014, only to realize I loved volunteering! At my first fire safety canvassing, I helped install smoke alarms in Green Bay. Nationwide, the Red Cross launched a nationwide Home Fire Preparedness Campaign to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25% over the next five years and locally we are working with fire departments and community groups to install smoke alarms in communities with high percentages of fires.

I went to my sefiresafetysheboygan1cond fire alarm installation in Sheboygan recently. Because of a second fire within a short time frame, the Indian Meadows mobile home park was targeted for this grassroots effort. Along with the Sheboygan Fire Department, nine Red Cross volunteers including myself came together to install free 10-year lithium battery smoke alarms & educated residents on fire safety materials & escape plans. The teams went to 243 mobile homes & installed 63 smoke alarms! The whole neighborhood was covered in just three hours!

It was an eye-opening experience to see how many people haven’t checked their fire alarms in their own homes; many didn’t even work! We also created an escape plan if there was a fire in their home. I learned, a person has as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. The Red Cross recommends families create a home fire escape plan and practice it with every member of your household several times a year. Fire escape plans should include at least two escape routes for every room and families should consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes above the ground floor. The Red Cross also recommends families pick a meeting place outside your home and make sure everyone knows where it is.

One memorable moment was when a husband and wife greeted us with wide smiles & were so excited and grateful to the Red Cross & fire department for the work we were doing.  She said she needed to give me a hug! It feels so good to make someone that happy & aware of fire safety and this is why I choose to volunteer.

redcrossThere are many ways to get involved with the fire campaign across the state. The first is even in your own home. The Red Cross is asking every household in America to take the two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills. Also, download our new Red Cross Emergency App which provides a guide to fire prevention and the Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies including burns. And finally, join me in a community project by volunteering, please call your local Red Cross office or send an email to volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

See more pictures here: http://wps.sx/1JDaNHw

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.

American Red Cross WI CEO, Patty Flowers, Shares Her Red Cross Passion with Young Adults

By Patty Flowers

As the Regional CEO of the American Red Cross in Wisconsin, I often get a chance to speak to groups about what we do and it’s one of the parts of my job that I love the most.  I can talk about the Red Cross and what we do for hours!  When you’re as passionate as I am about helping others and with the multitude of things we do at the Red Cross, it’s not hard to find lots of things to talk about.  Recently, I was asked to speak with a group of young adults who are learning English as a second language before they enroll in college here in the United States.  It was a mixed class of young men and women from China, Saudi Arabia, Japan and India.

Here is another note from the class which is one of many telling me they want to volunteer:

A note from the class which is one of many telling me they want to volunteer.

This very ambitious group was quite interested in what was happening in Nepal after the earthquake but also wanted to learn about the American Red Cross as a whole.  I brought some props along with me – a blanket, some comfort kits, water.  As I told them stories about all five components of our mission:  Educating through Classes, Service to Armed Forces, Disaster Relief, International Services, and Blood, they were all engaged.  I had to speak slowly so they could understand me but I constantly saw nodding heads, smiles and other signs that they were very interested in the information I was giving them.  Not one of them was on their phone texting and no one fell asleep – success!  When I paused for questions they had wonderful, very thoughtful questions for me.  As a group, they were very interested in how we keep our volunteers safe, how we manage volunteers who don’t do their job (I thought that was interesting!), and how much money we receive from the government.

This is her thank you note to me that I received just today.

This is her thank you note to me that I received just today.

They were all very surprised when I told them that most of our money comes from the American public and not from the government and that our relief services are free.  After I wrapped up the presentation, one of the young women approached me and told me that her friend was in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck and that the American Red Cross had saved her life.  She broke down in tears as she recalled the experience and thanked me several times for saving her friend.  It was such an emotional end to my time with them and as we hugged goodbye she told me she was going to tell her friend that she got a change to thank someone for her.

What an incredibly fulfilling day it was for me!  These young people who are trying to make a better life for themselves now all want to volunteer in some way for the Red Cross.  It’s my hope that they one day do show up at one of our offices and learn how to become a volunteer.

Would you like to volunteer with us?  Go to www.redcross.org and click on Volunteer Now to start learning the many different ways you can assist us and those in need.

Wisconsin Red Cross Helps in Texas, Oklahoma

Texas and Oklahoma are feeling the devastating effects of weeks of heavy rain, tornadoes and flooding and the American Red Cross is there, helping people in the Lone Star State get back on their feet.


American Red Cross Texas Storm 2015 Response. Click for a full sized image.

The storms have impacted about 35 percent of the state, destroying or damaging thousands of homes. The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, water, relief supplies, health services and emotional support to people in need.

Since early May, hundreds of Red Cross workers, including 33 from Wisconsin, have opened 37 shelters, served more than 34,000 meals and snacks and handed out more than 33,000 relief items and cleaning supplies in Texas. In addition, 40 emergency response vehicles, three from Wisconsin are distributing food and relief items in the affected communities and additional volunteers and vehicles are on alert if needed.

Let’s listen to a few of our volunteers, courtesy of our TV partners:

If you don’t have the time to volunteer, please consider a financial gift.

Heroes 2015 Musicales = Resounding Success!

On a picture-perfect Saturday, in “wild” Wild Rose, the 8th annual HEROES 2015 Musicales were “over the top” in every conceivable way.  More than 200 guests experienced world-class music, dined on delectable hors d’ oeuvres and refreshments and bid high on 250 silent auction treasures.

May 16th was specially chosen by John and Vicki to celebrate Armed Forces Day.  Vicki’s own father served in World War II and was a 63 yr. member of his local American Legion in rural, northern North Dakota.  Additionally, as strong Red Cross supporters, John and Vicki wanted to also recognize the 110th anniversary of Service to the Armed Forces.

Prior to the first performance, the Wild Rose American Legion Daniel Dopp Post #370 honor guard posted the colors. Later in the afternoon, Kathy Marschman, Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Eastern Wisconsin SAF Director, John Kost, spoke.  Spontaneously, well-known Wild Rose native and Korean War veteran, John Jones, spoke about his Red Cross-facilitated trip back home to be at his father’s bedside.

The music was spectacular! The Kat Trio (founded in Ekaterinburg, Russia), Greg Boerner (master blues guitarist/singer), Liam Teague (steel pan virtuoso) and Robert Chappell (multi-instrumentalist/composer)–all thoroughly inspired the audience.

The Musicales began in 2008 as a small concert presented by the Jenks Duo, a grand total of $3,308.39 was raised which purchased a shelter trailer.  This year, an estimated total of $80,000 (cash and in-kind donations) will support disaster education, relief and Service to the Armed Forces in Waushara, Green Lake, Marquette and Waupaca counties

SAVE THE DATE:  HEROES 2016Saturday, April 30th!!  Musicians to be announced later this summer.

May Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy Johnson

Nancy JohnsonCongratulations to Nancy Johnson of Walworth County on being named one of the May 2015 Volunteers of the Month!

Intrigued by disaster response activities and supporting clients affected by disasters, Nancy joined the American Red Cross in early 2005. Nancy explains, “Being a military wife and mother, I have found that volunteering has always made life easier. I began by going into the Racine office once a week and helping wherever necessary. When Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast we began getting clients in Wisconsin, and I worked with getting clients settled in the area. When Rita came six weeks later, I knew I wanted to go and immediately made myself available. I was assigned to Lake Charles and worked with a team doing disaster assessment. The joy of working with clients in need, meeting and sheltering with volunteers from various places in the United States was very fulfilling.”

Since 2006, Nancy has continued to volunteer as a deployment officer. Her nominator, Melisa Myers, of Disaster Staff Services said, “Nancy has been a deployment officer for years now, since becoming one statewide region, deployment officers have been asked to take on other roles, including further developing our national deployment process. Nancy was asked if she would be able to help reach out and talk to returning volunteers from national responses. Nancy was able to help by contacting volunteers and having conversations with them about their experience, current roles, and future roles. With Nancy’s help, we as a region are able to help volunteers feel supported before, during and after a deployment.”

“Staff Service has been my favorite part of working with the American Red Cross. Now that I am unable to travel myself, I feel that being a deployment officer makes me feel just as much a part of the American Red Cross.”

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your talents and time with the American Red Cross!

May Volunteer Spotlight: Jeremy Oswald

Jeremy OswaldCongratulations to Jeremy Oswald on being named one of the May 2015 Volunteers of the Month!

Jeremy joined the American Red Cross in 2007. Jeremy explained, “It was a couple of years after the attacks of 2001 and I wanted to do something that served our country, thinking I would go to hurricane sites. It turns out the help I give is much closer to home, right in my community.”

Jeremy volunteers with the Disaster Action Team in Bayfield and Ashland counties. With very few responders in these areas, Jeremy is always willing to travel and meet with families after a devastating event, typically taking the lead covering calls. Just recently, he assisted six families in Ashland after their apartment was destroyed by a fire.

Jeremy shared his favorite part about volunteering is knowing that what he does helps individuals and families who may not receive support in any other way by being there to get them started on a path to recovery. Jeremy encourages everyone to join as a volunteer of the American Red Cross.

“It is really easy to volunteer and do something that makes a gigantic difference in someone’s life. You may be scared to do it, to take that step into the unknown, but think about the people that may have just lost their home, they have no clothes, its ten degrees below zero, and you hand them a bag with a toothbrush, soap, a towel, and take them somewhere they can finally get warm and feel safe.”

Thank you, Jeremy, for sharing your talents and time with the American Red Cross!


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