Bidding Farewell to a Dedicated SAF Volunteer

Rosa Rivera has served as a Cape Fear Chapter volunteer since 2010, first as the Cape Fear Chapter SAF Lead Caseworker and then in August 2012 becoming the Regional Lead SAF Caseworker. Rosa’s leadership and service has resulted in hundreds of emergency services being delivered to the military and their families throughout Eastern NC.

Rose Rivera accepting the 2012 SAF Volunteer Leadership Award.
Rose Rivera accepting the 2012 SAF Volunteer Leadership Award.

Military service is a significant part of why Rosa served in the Service to the Armed Force program. She is the wife of a soldier and the mother of two soldiers. This background has allowed Rosa to provide a unique perspective and passion to her service.

Rosa’s experience leads her to ask military family members the right questions and give out correct information and referrals to help close cases and move families forward as they recover from their emergency.

As Rosa steps down from her leadership role to pursue her education, the American Red Cross would like to thank her for her years of dedicated leadership and service!

How Eastern NC Supported the Superstorm Sandy Response

Chris Nienow of Wilmington, NC (right) and Kerry Karusse (Emergency Communication Coordinator with ARES) worked to set up satelitte communications in Elizabeth City, NC during Superstorm Sandy.
Chris Nienow of Wilmington, NC (right) and Kerry Karusse (Emergency Communication Coordinator with ARES) worked to set up satellite communications in Elizabeth City, NC during Superstorm Sandy.

Click Here for the National One-year Superstorm Sandy report.

The Eastern NC Region of the American Red Cross supported Superstorm Sandy preparation and response here at home and throughout the northeast.  Before the storm hit, the Red Cross set up command centers staffed with local Red Cross workers in New Bern and Elizabeth City.

Four emergency shelters were opened which housed 82 residents whose homes were threatened by storm surge flooding.   In eastern NC, 71 local Red Cross workers sheltered, fed and distributed supplies to communities along our coast affected by Sandy.  A total of 1,900 meals and snacks were served to local residents in the storms wake along with 45 comfort kits containing hygiene items and 561 clean up kits.

After our communities’ needs were met, the local Red Cross shifted volunteers and resources to areas hit the hardest by Sandy including Virginia, New York and New Jersey. A total of 112 individuals from the American Red Cross Eastern NC Region deployed to assist with the Superstorm Sandy response.

Volunteer Charlotte Rodriguez of Jacksonville, NC (right) helps a group of young men get food and information about Red Cross assistance as they work to clean up storm ravaged homes in Breezy Point, NY.
Volunteer Charlotte Rodriguez of Jacksonville, NC (right) helps a group of young men get food and information about Red Cross assistance as they work to clean up storm ravaged homes in Breezy Point, NY.

Some of those workers took on multiple assignments going back for weeks at a time to help out in the northeast. These volunteers were involved with essential activities including shelter operations, feeding, client casework, distribution of supplies, damage assessment, and health and mental health services.

Five emergency vehicles from Red Cross chapters in Elizabeth City, Goldsboro, New Bern, Rocky Mount and Wilmington were driven to the northeast by teams of Red Cross volunteers to help with mobile feeding and bulk distribution of relief supplies.  These local chapter vehicles were utilized by the response operation for approximately 5 months.

The local community was an essential part of the Sandy recovery and response.  Approximately $750,000 in donations came from people here in eastern NC.  Those donations were put to good use in the communities most impacted by the storm.

Eight year old Rileigh Pedersen of Wilmington, NC sold cookies in her neighborhood to help victims of Superstorm Sandy and brought in a $208 check to the local Red Cross.
Eight year old Rileigh Pedersen of Wilmington, NC sold cookies in her neighborhood to help victims of Superstorm Sandy and brought in a $208 check to the local Red Cross.

As Sandy was making its way across the east coast, the Red Cross received a call to assist the survivors of the HMS Bounty. On Monday, October 29th, 2012, amidst treacherous waves and storm surge caused by Superstorm Sandy, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 people from the HMS Bounty, a 180 ft. sailing ship that sank off the coast of Hatteras, NC. Representatives from the Eastern NC Region of the American Red Cross, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, met with the 14 survivors to offer comfort and support after the rescue. Red Cross disaster workers provided the individuals with food, clothing, and shelter, and assisted with additional immediate needs to aid them in their recovery.

On April 11, 2013 at Elizabeth City State University, the American Red Cross honored the heroism, courage and selflessness of the HMS Bounty rescue mission by paying tribute to the men and women of the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City.  At the event, the Red Cross presented awards to 22 members of the Coast Guard who risked their safety to save 14 people during a hurricane.

Members of the Coast Guard in Elizabeth City, NC receive awards from the Red Cross for the HMS Bounty Rescue during Superstorm Sandy.
Members of the Coast Guard in Elizabeth City, NC receive awards from the Red Cross for the HMS Bounty Rescue during Superstorm Sandy.

In the midst of responding to Sandy, your Red Cross of Eastern NC was also preparing for and responding to disasters at home—we provide food and shelter, distribute supplies and provide other types of support to the victims of nearly 800 local disasters a year.

We are grateful for contributions from everyone in our community who saw the devastation caused by Sandy and were determined to ease the suffering.

When Help is Needed, Helen Miller, Onslow County Will Be There

Helen Miller
Helen Miller, Onslow County, awaiting her next assignment

Jacksonville, NC October 21, 2013—When the American Red Cross needs volunteers to respond to a local fire or teach a disaster class, you’re likely to find Helen Miller helping out.   Miller, a well-known asset around the Onslow Chapter, started volunteering with the Red Cross more than twenty years ago by answering the phones at the office.

Recently, Miller deployed to Colorado for more than two weeks to assist with the ongoing flood response.  Red Cross volunteers worked around the clock providing food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort to those affected by the devastating flooding.  As residents returned to their homes, Miller and other Red Cross caseworkers conducted interviews with families affected by the flooding to determine if they required any additional assistance for their disaster-caused needs.

Miller has been on many national deployments but indicated that the Colorado deployment was different because there were people of so many socioeconomic backgrounds affected.  Disasters do not discriminate and disaster recovery is a long and involved process whether you live in small trailer or a large mansion.  Miller was humbled by the gratitude expressed by the disaster victims for the support they were provided whether it was a hot meal, a roof over their heads or food to kit to clean up their flooded homes.

While her husband was serving our country in Desert Storm, Miller became a Red Cross disaster volunteer and the rest is history. “I became a volunteer because I figured my husband did his duty defending our freedom so I needed to do my part for our people,” said Miller.

Miller can often be found at the Onslow County Chapter office teaching a class or preparing to respond to a local disaster like a home fire.  When she’s not helping out locally you will likely find Miller on a national disaster response; she has deployed to more than forty responses throughout the United States.  During a large-scale disaster, the Red Cross can bring in additional resources from other chapters throughout the country and even the world as we saw during the Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy responses.

Miller’s primary volunteer duty is mass care, providing shelter and food during a disaster although she is experienced in other areas of disaster response and is always willing to learn a task.  During Superstorm Sandy, she was trained to drive a forklift and conduct warehouse operations in the New York City area.

Having been a long time Red Cross volunteer, Miller says that she likes mentoring new volunteers to be prepared for disasters and to teach the community to be prepared.  Her guiding tenet is to always be ready to assist in any situation where  people need feeding, sheltering and a shoulder to lean on.

Miller reflected on her most memorable deployment- volunteering in Louisiana and Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.  For thirty-three days, she was in Louisiana feeding people every day.  On one of her two days off, she joined other Red Cross volunteers to fill sandbags in the bayou to reduce the impact from future storms.  After returning home for a short period, Helen returned a month later to Mississippi for two more weeks to continue helping feed Hurricane Katrina victims.

“The best thing about being a Red Cross volunteer is giving people hope and encouragement to get through a disaster and giving them a hug,” remarked Miller.

When she’s not at the Red Cross, Miller volunteers with the Disabled American Vets driving veterans to their hospital appointments in Fayetteville and Durham.  Miller is a small lady with a big heart that never stops giving.

Home Fire Prevention Week October 6-12

American Red Cross Fire Safety Tips Help to Save Lives

Install Smoke Alarms and Create a Fire Escape Planhome fire logo

This October 6-12 the American Red Cross is helping families and businesses learn how to protect themselves and others from fires in observance of National Fire Prevention Week. Last year, the Eastern NC Region responded to Red Cross to more than around 700 home fires throughout our 33 counties by providing comfort and basic necessities to more than 1,000 residents.

“Across the country we respond to one home fire every nine minutes. The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to install a smoke alarm and  develop and practice a fire escape plan,” said David Garrison, Regional Disaster Officer. “Fires can spread very quickly, so everyone at home, school and work should know what to do when they hear the sound of a smoke alarm.”

Additional recommendations include:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
  • Follow your escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.

Visit for additional fire safety tips.

Business, too, should be prepared. Fire is the most common of all business disasters. According to the United State Fire Association, non-residential building fires resulted in $2.4 billion in losses in 2010. Companies, schools and other organizations can learn how to prepare for fires and other emergencies by becoming a member of the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program at Complete a free, online assessment of your current readiness level and receive customized feedback with tips to improve preparedness.

In addition to helping families and businesses prepare their homes and facilities for potential fires, the Red Cross is there to help those in need when fires break out. The Eastern NC Region responded to more than 700 home fires last year, Earlier this summer, the local Red Cross responded to a fire in Kinston Towers (Kinston, NC) housing complex that displaced nearly 150 people for almost 4 weeks.  Volunteers worked in collaboration with other community partners to ensure all of the residents had access to temporary housing, daily meals, supplies and additional services while they waited to return home.

“In order to continue responding to disasters like fires at homes and businesses here in eastern NC, the Red Cross depends on the generous support of individuals and businesses in the community,” added Garrison. “To make a donation to your local Red Cross chapter you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or go to