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.

texas

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.

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!

Red Cross Volunteers Inspect Family Homes for Fire Safety

Christopher Balderas’ home now has working smoke alarms and he knows what to do in case of a fire.  Photo Credit: Marci Pelzer

Christopher Balderas’ home now has working smoke alarms and he knows what to do in case of a fire. Photo Credit: Marci Pelzer

When the American Red Cross knocked on Sharmain Balderas’ door Saturday morning, the Racine resident agreed to a friendly fire safety inspection immediately.

In June, the 39-year-old hairdresser and her family survived a house fire caused by a faulty fireplace. The fire caused extensive damage and required her to rebuild the home’s chimney and wall. Fortunately, Balderas and three children who live in the home were not hurt.

“That’s the most important thing,” Balderas said.

During Saturday’s visit, the Red Cross volunteers found that Balderas’ existing smoke alarms were not working and installed two new devices with 10-year lithium batteries. They also counseled Balderas and her young children about developing an escape plan for the family.

“This is serious. Our fire burned for two hours with me in the home before we noticed,” Balderas said.

After the fire, Balderas cut off the gas line to her fireplace and did research to learn about flammable chemicals in common household products. But she never realized her smoke alarms were out-of-order.

“They say you only have two minutes after you notice a fire to get out. If there’s a next time, we’re ready, thanks to the Red Cross,” she said.

To learn more about our efforts in Racine, visit http://journaltimes.com/news/local/red-cross-hits-the-streets-to-prevent-fire-deaths-injuries/article_e8f1f499-2233-584d-a72e-e00d78ef77a0.html

Team Racine went door-to-door to share life-saving information.

Team Racine went door-to-door to share life-saving information.

Please join our initiative to reduce fire deaths by 25% over the next five years! We’re looking for volunteers around the state to install smoke alarms.

Share your fire escape plan with us!

Danz Street Fire Bring Multiple Agencies Together

The American Red Cross ran a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at our Green Bay, Wisconsin office on April 29th. This is the second in the state and the first following a large- scale apartment building fire. MARC is a collaboration of private and public agencies that come together and provide assistance in one convenient location. In a comfortable setting, victims of disasters learn and share what resources are available, help them receive assistance and take one giant step closer to recovery.

With the help of bi-lingual volunteers, we helped disaster clients create personal recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate assistance for their specific disaster-caused needs.  Representatives from government, non-profit, and religiously-affiliated disaster relief organizations included:

  • American Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Vincent DePaul
  • Green Bay & Brown County Housing Authority
  • First United Methodist
  • Brown County Human Services
  • 2-1-1
  • Crisis Center
  • Head Start
  • Register of Deeds
  • Preble High School Culinary Program served an amazing meal

Agencies in the MARC are vetted and their staff and volunteers adhere to high ethical standards to maintain the confidentiality and dignity of the clients. A verification system was implemented to confirm those who have been affected by the disaster. (click for WBAY-TV 2  ,  WFRV-TV 5 , Fox 11  and NBC26 video coverage)

The intentions of a MARC is to save the clients time, money and gas as there is no need to go from one organization to the next. Each client leaves with real assistance – some even received first months rental assistance and confirmation they could start moving into a new apartment later that same day after meeting with agencies! By the end of the day, 12 of the 16 families had confirmed new housing arrangements!

The mother who could now replace her son’s eye glasses was thrilled, the Red Cross would replace them at no cost. With the service, he will also have a complimentary eye exam. “He’ll be a better student when he can see again,” she exclaimed. For all the families, referrals for on-going services, bring them deeper into the recovery process and provide a little piece of mind.

The Danz Elementary School has served as the overnight shelter, provided food, snacks and hope for nearly 70-people after their apartment building fire earlier in the week.

Letter from a Danz Student written to the children of the families impacted.

Letter from a Danz Student written to the children of the families impacted.

Tiffany Circle Donates New Blood Services Van

“It’s been two years in the works, and it’s finally here!” exclaimed Aymee Balison, co-chair of the Wisconsin Tiffany Circle.  On April 14, 2015, members of the Wisconsin Tiffany Circle and their guests gathered at the chapter office in Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate the arrival of a new van for the American Red Cross Badger-Hawkeye Blood Services region.

The Dodge Pro Master, purchased with donations made by Tiffany Circle members in the region, has been on the road since January.

Tiffany Circle members Beth Anderson, Patty Flowers, Aymee Balison, Sara Horein, Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer and Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara celebrate the new Blood Services van.

Tiffany Circle members Beth Anderson, Patty Flowers, Aymee Balison, Sara Horein, Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer and Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara celebrate the new Blood Services van.

The van is on the road nearly every day, carrying supplies to and from blood drives around the state. Eighty percent of the blood donations collected by Red Cross are given through mobile blood drives like these; they are critical in helping the Red Cross meet the nation’s need for blood.  And, the new van has made a big difference.  In just the four months it has been on the road, it has allowed the Red Cross to collect an additional 1,500 units of blood – red cells, plasma and platelets that are being used to help patients in Wisconsin and beyond.

This project was very personal for Aymee, whose mother lost her battle with Leukemia when she was only 50 years old.  Though her mother died very young, Aymee explained that she was very grateful that blood donations had helped extend her mother’s life.  She advocated that the Tiffany Circle take on this project so that they could help others in a similar situation.

Today, the Wisconsin Tiffany Circle boasts a membership of 17.  With this project now finished, the members are now in the process of determining what their next project will be.

Please visit our website to learn more about Tiffany Circle and American Red Cross Blood Services.

The new van in action!

The new van in action!

April Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Arnold

MaxCongratulations to Linda Arnold of Milwaukee on being named one of the April 2015 American Red Cross Volunteers of the Month!

Intrigued by what nurses could do to help clients affected by disasters, Linda joined the Red Cross in February of 2008. Linda explains, “my daughter had volunteered for Red Cross when she was an undergrad at UW-Milwaukee (First Aid Service Team), so I checked it out and met April Eagleboy who was in charge of staffing and new volunteers at the time. She [April] was a good recruiter, and I took a number of classes at the Red Cross “Institute” a month later. In April there was a tornado outbreak in Atlanta and I was deployed. It was only a 6-day deployment, but by the time it ended, I was hooked on the Red Cross.”

Volunteering about 40-hours per week, Linda works in Disaster Cycle Services as the Health Services Lead for the state. Linda has taken the initiative to build the department by making policies and procedures strong, repeatable, and expandable. She has also invested a great deal of time building capacity among Health Services volunteers. Linda has set standards, developed organizational charts, and established efficient chains of command. Because of Linda, Health Services is stronger both in our region and nationally as well!

When asked about her favorite moment with the Red Cross Linda explained, “I would say it is not a moment, but a deployment. I was sent to Super Storm Sandy in New York just before the storm hit. I was on one of the last flights into New York before the storm. I was sent to Long Island to teach and mentor the Health Services Lead and to manage Health Services there. When I arrived, there were 10 shelters open with 1500 people in them. We worked together that night to get medications for 80 people who critically needed them. We worked all night with a pharmacy that had a small generator and was willing to help and asked the nearest open hospital if they could send a doctor to write prescriptions for the people who needed them…I stayed approximately two months and developed a long lasting friendship with the volunteer I mentored.”

Linda encourages everyone to consider volunteering their time with the Red Cross, “You can find something you enjoy doing by volunteering with the Red Cross. You can feel good about the work that you do. You can spend as much or little time as you have to give. You can make friends with people you would have never met otherwise. You can use your lifelong skills to learn new ones. You will have precious memories from working with the people who have been affected by disaster and may see parts of the country you’ve never seen before. You can be part of the solution!” Thank you, Linda, for sharing your talents and time with the American Red Cross!

To learn more about how you can get involved, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Services at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

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