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.

 

January is National Blood Donor Month

Photographer: John Meinke, Red Cross Volunteer

Photographer: John Meinke, Red Cross Volunteer

Make a resolution you can keep in 2016! Become a regular blood or platelet donor with the American Red Cross. January is National Blood Donor Month, which makes it the perfect time to schedule your first appointment of the new year.

National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. Severe winter weather may result in canceled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, can cause donors to be temporarily unable to give.

The Red Cross needs blood and platelet donors of all types to maintain a sufficient supply. Eligible donors with types O, B negative and A negative blood are encouraged to donate double red cells where available. During a double red cell donation, two units of red blood cells are collected while most of the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.

Make your commitment to help save lives in the new year by using the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule your appointment.

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 Safer Way to Get that Candle Glow

By Jody Weyers, Communications Volunteer

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The weekend after Thanksgiving I was so excited to get out all my holiday decorations and go to town decorating in a new space. I moved into a new duplex seven months ago and this was my first Christmas in my new place. What makes a place feel cozy and warm during the holidays –candles and lots of them.

I have been with the American Red Cross for almost 15 years, so I know candles are dangerous. According to the National Fire Protection Association, one-fifth of home decoration fires occur in December, and over half of these are started by candles.

This year, I transitioned to the battery operated candles. I know you are thinking, it is not the same…. But yes, it really is. Battery operated tea-lights are all over my house and you cannot tell the difference from a real candle. They are available in all sizes, shapes and colors. I went to Michael’s Craft Store and was floored by all the different varieties available. I know they don’t give off any scent, and part of the holidays I love is the smells of cinnamon, pine and vanilla so I also invested in an aromatherapy room mist in all my favorite scents and for when I have guests.

IMG_20151128_172634At first you might think they are expensive, but when you look at the cost of your house burning down or investing in battery operated candles, that price tag soon becomes a non-factor. They also provide peace of mind.  If I go to bed or leave my house with one of these candles still on, I don’t have to worry about it.

This is just one small change I am making this year so my holiday is a little safer. The Red Cross offers these additional tips to keep your home safe during the holiday season.

  • If you do decide to burn candles, make sure to keep them away from children, pets and decorations.
  • Choose decorations and artificial trees that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Place away from heat sources and exits. Water real trees daily.
  • Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.
  • Install smoke alarms.
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as sources of heat or stoves.
  • If hanging stockings on a fireplace, do not use the fireplace for fires.

On average, 7 people die and 36 people suffer injuries from home fires every day. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it is too late. The Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign works to reduce this number by urging American to follow two simple steps: check existing smoke alarms and practice home fire drills.

People can visit www.redcross.org for more information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones from home fires.

Volunteer of the Month – Tara Williams

 

Tara williams rco_blog_img_Congratulations Tara Williams, the December 2015 Volunteer of the Month!

Tara became an American Red Cross volunteer just over a year ago. Since then, she has been a tremendous volunteer for multiple departments and entrusted Young Professionals Group leader. It all began when she blood at the Shopko company blood drive, in Green Bay, when Ben Delcore shared his volunteer experiences with her. The rest may be history as they say.

Tara jumped in from the start with both feet. Through her Young Professional Club experience her involvement within the different lines of service began to grow. She has been involved with The Club since its inception just over a year ago and has served as in active member participating in the Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign, volunteering at blood drives, donor thank-a-thons and much more. Just recently, Tara was chosen to the new President of the Red Cross Young Professional Club effective November 1st. In this role, she will lead the Club into its second year of program development and membership recruitment. She is always the first to rally support and participate in events such as; the Packer 5K, Holiday Mail for Heroes, Dancing with Our Stars (DWOS) and Lambeau Field’s Spooktacular.

“Tara is the perfect volunteer example of a person who thinks with her heart and goes to work with her hands. She’s making life better for people around her and at the same time, it lifts her up too!” stated Barbara Behling, Communication Officer.

Tara has been an active participant in the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. During these events, she has used her skills as a social media ambassador to post comments and reflect on her observations and the positive interactions she has had with smoke alarm recipients.

In a one of a kind event, Tara was vital for the Trout Museum Pillowcase project. Not only did she work with their Public Relations person, she utilized Red Cross promotional materials to create a the news release and media alert and then drove to Green Bay early one morning to be on live TV to discuss the program. The day of the event, she worked with the materials, captured photos and so much more. She even rallied other young professionals to support the project.

This month, Tara will take on yet another role by becoming an adjunct Northeast Wisconsin Chapter board member. This young volunteer undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of her, as she continues to demonstrate the power of her ongoing commitment to the Red Cross mission.

Thank you, Tara for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community, we wish you a lifetime of continued success!

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

10th Annual Dancing with the La Crosse Stars Shines Bright

Community leaders and professional dancers from Southwest Wisconsin came together on Saturday, November 28th to participate in the 10th Annual Dancing with the La Crosse Stars! Now in its tenth year, the event has raised $141,000 this year which brings the 10 year total to more than $740,000! All funds go right back into the community to support disaster relief, fire prevention outreach, life-saving programs to support of our military members and Veterans.

Eleven local celebrities and their professional dance partners competed to win the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. Each team was raising funds since July to earn “votes” for their team. Final “votes” were cast during the intermission in which “Team Flower Power” (Bob Mock and Heidi Tabbert) raised the most votes, earning them the People’s Choice Award.

Each team received a fundraising score towards their overall total. The top fundraising team was Team “Make it Rain,” composed of Nehomah Thundercloud and professional dancer Amy Garvin. Together, they raised more than $25,000.

The near capacity crowd was treated to outstanding dance routines! In fact, two teams earned perfect scores from the judges: “Team Rock ‘N’ Reed” (Jim Reed and Katie Fish) and “Team Legal Motion” (Gifford Collins and Kate Phillips). “Team Rock ‘N’ Reed” was also selected as the Judge’s Choice Awards Winners.

"Team Rock ‘N’ Reed" (Jim Reed and Katie Fish)

“Team Rock ‘N’ Reed” (Jim Reed and Katie Fish)

At the end of the completion, fundraising scores and judge’s scores were combined to determine the overall winners. “Team Rock ‘N’ Reed” came out on top with a score of 47 out of 50 earning them to coveted Mirror Ball Trophy! “Team Flower Power” came in second with a score of 46. Third place went to “Team Legal Motion” with a score of 45, and fourth place went to “Team ‘You Go Girl’ (Leah Misch and Tiffany Brookman) with a score of 44.

In the end, every dance, professional and supporter is a winner in our eyes as they made our community stronger!

Check-out our photo album!

We’ll be putting our dance shoes back-on for the 11th annual next November! Will you join us?

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?

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