“Hey, Don’t Freak Out!”

 

For Denise Parker hitting ‘send’ to her husband Anthony Parker, who is stationed in Kodiak, Alaska and serving in the US Coast Guard, was a scary proposition. Upon opening his email, he knew the next words would not be good. Thankfully, seven days after the Northern Wisconsin floods, he can chuckle about it “that’s the best she could do?” he smiled a sheepish grin knowing his wife experienced a harrowing experience and her life may have been in danger. Through the support of the American Red Cross, Services to Armed Forces Emergency Communications program, he was by her side as the reality of several feet of water in their home set in.

On July 11th, more than a foot of rain fell with several inches of rain in just over an hour. The babbling streams turned into torrent rivers, washing away roads and scaring the landscape adjacent to majestic Lake Superior.

As the water rose above her ankles, Denise knew she and the pets were in trouble. She called 9-1-1. They traveled three separate routes but could not reach her; they retreated. She felt alone.  Via Facebook, her mother was able to reach a gentleman nearby with a ‘pick-up’ truck. She was rescued, with no time to spare, after she waded through chest deep water. In each hand, she carried a five-pound pet. The Great Dane wanted nothing to do with the water outside and refused to swim so he was left in the home. Her eyes filled with tears as she shared the thought of him drowning as the Marengo River now ran through her home.

Once safe, she sent an email to her husband serving on the USS Alex Haley. Fortunately, the ship was coming into dock.

She also reached out to her local American Red Cross, like she had done twice before to reach her husband serving abroad throughout the course of his career. In each instance, the Red Cross validated the emergency – a father’s illness and her surgery – for the commanders and in each instance; he was granted emergency leave to be with his family.

“Hey, don’t freak out. I’m o.k. that’s what is most important. The house is under water and the rabbits died.”  As he says, “Don’t freak-out is the best she could do? She also didn’t say the water was up-to the steering wheel in my 2010 F-150 truck.”  She retorts, “I could have died last night.” They can smile about it now.

For Red Cross responder, Marilyn Skrivseth, this case struck a similar cord as her first contact with the Red Cross when her brother was serving oversees and the Red Cross made an emergency connection.  At first, she worked with the Parkers on the phone to begin casework.

She also encouraged them to visit the Multi-Agency Resource Center for cleaning supplies, bottled water and to garner referrals for assistance. Upon arrival, they received bottled water, cleaning supplies, bleach and more material goods. What they also received was contacts for a “muck-out” team which helps families remove the water, sludge, drywall and personal items.  Any soft material will be destroyed.  Knowing he has a short emergency leave, the race is on to recover from this disaster. Thankfully, due to the Red Cross support, they are not alone.

By: Barbara Behling

Photos: Marilyn Janke

 

Wisconsin Floods — Red Cross Responds

Heavy rains caused flooding throughout Northern Wisconsin earlier this week. Since then, it’s been a flurry of flood relief activities with the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter leading the charge. Red Cross services have included providing clean up supplies, bottled water and connecting one-on-one with affected families who need shelter, health or other immediate disaster relief. An Incident Integrated Care & Condolence Team is also working with the families of the three fatalities.

Today, Red Cross workers are delivering clean-up kits (bucket, mop, broom, squeegee, gloves, bleach, brush, etc.) to the following locations:

  • Methodist Church, Hayward – 35 kits and Flood Recovery  Booklets
  • Minong, Town Hall, Washburn – 50 clean-up kits and Flood Recovery Booklets
  • County Health & Human Services, Ashland – 40 additional Clean-up kits, 60 cases of water, flathead shovels, garbage bags, gloves (Yesterday, 37 Clean-up kits, bleach, bottled water, perishable food and Flood Recovery Booklets.)

All locations listed above are coordinating distribution to the public.

As of Thursday evening, our Client Casework team met one-on-one with individuals/families affected by flooding and had opened 24 cases, with the majority being on the Bad River Reservation in Ashland County. Case work will continue through this weekend and by appointment should contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 800-236-8680.

The Red Cross encourages residents to stay safe by following safety tips:

  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Dry-out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building.
  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent/bleach and water.
  • Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.

We are greatly appreciative of Premium Waters and Kwik Trip who both donated pallets of water.

The best ways for you to help is by supporting our efforts with a financial gift or volunteering your time. We rely on volunteers to provide humanitarian relief during times of disaster and we’ll get you trained before the next disaster strikes.   To learn more, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

Throughout Wisconsin, we respond to nearly 900 disasters every year. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Click http://www.redcross.org/Wisconsin or call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

 

 

Meet Kendall – Our New Disaster Cycle Services Intern

We have a new Disaster Cycle Services Intern Kendall Stauber at our Oshkosh office. Kendall is a student at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and plans to graduate by next spring. She majors in Human Services Leadership with a minor in Communication Studies.

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Kendall enjoys traveling, concerts, jet skiing and spending time with her family and friends.

We have a new Disaster Cycle Services Intern Kendall Stauber at our Oshkosh office. Kendall is a student at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and plans to graduate by next spring. She majors in Human Services Leadership with a minor in Communication Studies.

“I love to volunteer and help where I can. I have volunteered for several Hands on Oshkosh events where I was put with groups of people on campus and sent into the community to help certain organizations. I have also volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh and I was an intern this past spring semester at the Oshkosh Seniors Center.  These volunteer opportunities have led me to work with diverse age groups and help with a variety of projects that were rewarding to see the impact that I can do to help.”

Although this is Kendall’s first time interning with the Red Cross, she has been aware of their mission and services for a while. When she was younger, she obtained her babysitting certification through the Red Cross. Now that Kendall is an intern with the Red Cross, she’s excited to assist in carrying out the mission, stating:

“The American Red Cross is an interest to me because I wish to help, inform, and be there for people and communities after a disaster has struck or to inform people with possible resources before a disaster occurs. I am really excited to see what I can learn and give during this summer internship.”

Post college Kendall plans to continue her education with a focus on social work . She then hopes to pursue a career in counseling, specifically helping those affected by disasters and trauma.

The Red Cross is grateful to have Kendall as an intern, and to be a part of her educational experience. To start volunteering like Kendall, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.

 

 

 

 

 

Milwaukee Volunteer Tackles the Logistics of Disasters on Month-Long Deployment to Missouri!

By: Max Seigle

It’s a role you don’t always see in the headlines when it comes to American Red Cross disaster help. But if you ask volunteer, Phyllis Wiggins, she’ll tell you Logistics is vital to ensure clients get help.

“We get you the people, places and things you need to be successful on the operation,” Wiggins said in a recent interview with Red Cross Public Affairs.

Wiggins, of Milwaukee, spent a month helping with flood disaster relief in the St. Louis area. She left in late December and served as a Logistics Manager at the Red Cross headquarters in the city.

“If you need a 26-foot truck to load things around, Logistics gets that for you,” Wiggins said.

Requests also included more basic things, like food, bleach, gloves and comfort items for children staying at Red Cross shelters.

“We actually had to go out and make a run for coloring books and crayons,” she said.

PHYLLIS WIGGINS PICTURE(1)

Phyllis (middle) is an essential part of the Logistics team. With a motto of “Mission First”, she makes sure people are taken care of in times of need! L-R: John Trieb, Phyllis Wiggins and Megan Bessett

Wiggins said Logistics plays a big role in securing locations for shelters and assistance centers during disaster relief. She explained the Red Cross works with community partners to find places, like schools, churches and office buildings. The Red Cross also has its own technology team to equip those facilities. On her deployment to St. Louis, Wiggins said churches, especially, rose to the occasion to offer space. She was also amazed with additional support from corporate donors.

“I’ve been on some operations where people were just begging for help — just trying to dig up that big truck of stuff. Here, it was just never an issue,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins recalled one day where a fellow Wisconsin Red Cross volunteer, Megan Besset, was on the phone working to get meals for the mission. What came next was a major delivery, and all of it donated.

“All of the sudden we had food from Popeyes, White Castle, pizza, Italian…” she said.

Wiggins worked about eight to 11 hours a day on her deployment. She was even on the ground New Year’s Eve and Day.

“If you’re doing good as the year rolls over, then the year is going to be good for you,” Wiggins said.

It’s clearly “Mission First” for Wiggins. And serving behind the scenes in Logistics is a role she’s happy to take on with a humble nature.

“It’s more important that people get help, that they feel safe, that they feel taken care of,” Wiggins said.

“That is much more important than me getting a slap on the back or a Thank You.”

Volunteer of the Month – Sanya Baillie

Congratulations, Sanya Baillie the June 2016 Volunteer of the Month!
Sanya joined the Red Cross in July of 2013, seeking to find an organization that would support her efforts to directly help people affected by disaster. Previously, Sanya and her husband had been Foster Parents for fourteen years and had helped many children even adopting three wonderful children of their own.  So, when they decided not to renew their Foster Care License, Sanya began to feel a void in her life, “I have always had the desire to help others,” she explained. Looking for a new way to reach others in need, she traveled on two separate occasions on tornado relief trips under no organization affiliation. Sanya explained, “We just packed our car with donations from friends and family and headed out. It was such a moving and humbling experience.” During her time in Joplin, Missouri and Moore, Oklahoma for those relief trips Sanya befriended many Red Cross volunteers, learned more about the Red Cross mission and knew she needed to become a Red Cross volunteer.
Sanya currently volunteers in the Disaster Services department of the Red Cross as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) leader. Nick Cluppert, the Disaster Program Manager shared, “Sanya is an extremely supportive, warm person who works well with all clients. She has an approachable and calming demeanor that is greatly admired and considered a huge asset to the team during big and small responses alike”.  Sanya is an exceptional volunteer and has become someone that can be relied on to respond in any number of situations. She has provided canteening services to area response workers including firefighters, assisted families displaced from fire and managed Direct Client casework, a process used to give supportive resources to people who need them after a disaster.  “My favorite part of volunteering is all the different people I meet and the moments when I can help them. When someone is affected by a home fire or larger disaster we often meet them at such a scary and vulnerable moment in their life, if I can be there for them and help to brighten their day, even if it’s just a little I know I’ve helped,” Sanya explains.

Her most memorable Red Cross moment was one marked by unrealized community connections. Sanya responded to a single family home fire just down the road from her own house. The house was a total loss and although everyone escaped the fire safely, they were all very shaken up. The family set up in a neighbor’s house who turned out to be a friend of Sanya’s husband from work. When talking to the family of the house fire she realized their daughters were friends with her own and went to the same Church Youth Group together. And later, when she went out to feed the Firefighters that were working the fire she realized her Uncle, who is a Volunteer Firefighter in that area, was there working the fire. Sanya emphasized, “What was a really great moment, amidst such a tragedy was realizing that we have so many wonderful people all around us who we a connection with in our community to lean on and to get through it”.

Sanya encourages others to join the Red Cross mission, “Volunteering for Red Cross has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. I never imagined how much fun volunteering would be. The relationships I have made and memories I have experienced are the best rewards I could ever receive. It’s a special thing to be there for someone who is at one of their most vulnerable and most frightening times in their life. Putting a smile on someone’s face, just to listen to them or to lend a shoulder to cry on is an amazing thing to experience. At some point in life everyone needs help, I hope we can be there for each other and continue to lend a hand to those in need.”

Thank you, Sanya for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community, we are so grateful for your continued support and work within Disaster Services!
To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

Six Decades of Service: Red Cross Volunteer, Bill Murgas, Shares Experiences over the Years!

By Max Seigle

At his home in Brookfield, Bill Murgas still has his first American Red Cross Membership Card from 1956.

There are more cards from the 1970’s, showing his Red Cross certifications to teach
Advanced First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, or CPR.

MURGAS 1956 CARD.jpg

Murgas’s 1956 Red Cross Membership card!

Above his fireplace, the mantle is a white oak beam that was once part of a Dodge County barn destroyed in a tornado. The farmer gave the beam to Murgas as a token of his appreciation for disaster assistance.

These signs of service around his house are just a taste of a steadfast devotion to the Red Cross. This past March, Murgas, who is 85, marked 60 years as a volunteer and donor. “One thing that I’ve talked to kids about all these years and I live myself is that service is the price you pay for the space you occupy,” Murgas said during an interview with Red Cross Public Affairs.

Murgas started teaching that motto to kids after returning home in 1956 from military service in Europe. He became an advisor for an Explorers unit in Wauwatosa and formed his first link with the Red Cross. “My goal was to make an emergency service post and that was the place to start,” he said.

Murgas said Red Cross instructors taught the Explorers Basic and Advanced First Aid and CPR. He recalled the volunteers as “very professional, very friendly (and) very knowledgable.” He would later become one of them, joining the Red Cross First Aid Corps (now called the First Aid Service Team).

“We provided First Aid at various civic events, like the South Shore Frolic (and) Summerfest,” he said. “Anyone who wanted Red Cross presence would contact the Red Cross and they’d be assigned to it.”

The First Aid Corps also served at the South Milwaukee Festival of Music and Milwaukee’s 4th of July parade. Murgas remembers setting up large tents with the Red Cross name on them. Volunteers helped marchers and performers with everything from heat exhaustion to cases of the jitters.

“If you’ve been to those things in the summer, if one of the ladies or the girls gets panicky and passes out, it’s amazing how it spreads,” he said.

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Murgas’s CPR card from 1977!

As a certified First Aid and CPR instructor for the Red Cross, Murgas estimates teaching courses to several hundred people over the years. He also helped form and serve on the State Red Cross Service Council, which brought together chapter representatives for idea-sharing and developing state-wide projects. Loads of disaster response work marked his tenure, too.

“We had a nice system, we could make a telephone tree and in 45 minutes our group was on the road with all the equipment we needed,” he said.

Murgas was part of the Red Cross response after a deadly tornado in the Village of Lomira in Dodge County in 1996. His crew, of about 30 to 40 people, spent the day on a farm helping with clean-up and rescuing cattle.

“We got to this farm and a tornado went down three sides of (the owner’s) 40 acres, it was eerie,” he said. The twister “knocked down his barn on top of the cattle and we had chain saws, we had wenches and we raised the stuff off of the cows and saved (them).”

Murgas remembers the farmer in tears but grateful for the Red Cross assistance.

“He was so thankful, he gave me a beam off his barn, that’s a white oak beam that goes back probably a hundred years and we lugged that thing home and it became my mantle,” he said.

MURGAS BY MANTLE

Murgas standing nex to his mantle, a gift from a farmer to show his appreciate of disaster relief assistance.

Now a part of his home, Murgas can’t help but remember that day in Lomira when he looks at the mantle. He also has vivid memories of an ice storm in Hartland in Waukesha County in 1976.

“Trees were all over the place, trees and wires,” he said.

“We went up with chain saws to clear the road because the whole place was blocked and the fire department needed access, so we chain-sawed our way through the main street in town.”

These days, the 85-year-old admits he’s moving a little slower and can’t do the disaster response calls. But he remains active. Murgas is a Lifetime Honorary Board Member of the Red Cross and serves on the Finance Committee. He also helps out at events promoting the organization’s mission.

If you stop by the headquarters for the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter in Milwaukee, you’ll see some of Murgas’ financial support. He donated the funding for an Education Wing there. Since it opened, he loves seeing the classrooms filled with volunteers and staff.

“It furthered the mission of the Red Cross and it was the right thing to do,” he said.

We asked Murgas what’s kept him going for six decades. He said it all starts with that motto he mentioned earlier, “Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy.” Then, there’s the personal gain he gets from giving back.

“The biggest reward is when somebody turns to you in times of distress and they’re hurting and say thank you, Wow, you know that’s big,” he said.

Murgas encourages people to get out there and give back to organizations, like the Red Cross. He says, not only can you make a difference, but life-long friends with fellow volunteers along the way.

“Plus, you get to know so many people, and they are all good people,” he said.

MURGAS CERTIFICATION CARDS

Murgas’s Red Cross Certification Cards

 

Volunteer of the Month Anne-Marie McDonald

roc_blog_img_McDonald Anne-Marie

Congratulations to Anne-Marie McDonald, the April 2016 Red Cross Volunteer of the Month.

Anne-Marie joined the Red Cross in 2005 explaining, “After seeing how much my husband enjoyed volunteering with the Red Cross I followed his lead,” and eleven years later she continues to support the Red Cross by giving of her time and talent.  She ensures Blood Donors receive a warm smile, answers to their questions and have a fantastic overall experience. Disaster clients get her full attention during local disasters, national disaster response and through preparedness outreach.  And if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, recently Anne-Marie took on the role of Community Volunteer Leader (CVL).

As a Donor Ambassador, Anne-Marie works with donors at Blood Donor Centers and Blood Drives. She makes every person feel special–whether they are regular donors, first time donors, staff or volunteers.   Panghoua Maua notes, “Anne-Marie is always going above and beyond. She also assists as a volunteer trainer for new Donor Ambassador Volunteers to ensure they get the information and tools they need to be successful. This has been instrumental in the satisfaction and retention of Blood Services volunteers.”

As a Disaster Response volunteer Anne-Marie is always willing to step-up and takes on responsibility to help when-ever and where-ever needed. Last July she helped opened a shelter, during some torrential rain, in the Hudson area for residents of a flooded mobile-home park. Even though Anne-Marie spent much of the day on site at that shelter, when a request for assistance from a flooded out family in the neighboring city of River Falls came through, she volunteered to help go and meet that family’s needs. Luong Huynh said, “The thing that I am most proud of when it comes to Anne-Marie has been her commitment to the Red Cross mission. In tough situations, she responds with grace and strength of character.”

Anne-Marie said her most memorable volunteer moment took place when responding to a residential fire earlier this year. While offering support to the family, she learned that she had also assisted the client’s mother after her residence burned in early 2015. “The client remembered us! This family was so grateful for our help and resources provided by the Red Cross. It was so rewarding, we were very happy to be able to help both family members begin to get back on their feet.”

Throughout local communities Anne-Marie’s impact as a CVL has been felt. She encourages others to join the Red Cross stating, “Part of the Red Cross mission is to ‘prevent and alleviate human suffering’.  There are so many ways to contribute to this mission through Disaster Services, Blood Services, Service to Armed Forces, and Preparedness Services.  Select an area which interests you and dedicate as little or as much time as you have available to help.  Volunteering with the Red Cross is a very rewarding experience.”  Kyle Kriegl,says, “As a CVL Anne-Marie is just a great person to work with.  She is always willing to help and make a difference in her community!”

Thank you, Anne-Marie, for promoting the importance of the American Red Cross mission throughout your community! To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

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