Keeping it All in the Family

Story and photos by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

SSgt Adrian Guerrero carried a large box full of donated items from the shelter to a large

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Adrian Guerrero and son, Isaiah, carry boxes filled with in-kind donations from Westover shelter to a truck that will carry them to a warehouse for further distribution.

truck. He joked and laughed as he carried the load, obviously enjoying the work and clearly enjoying the feeling he gets from helping others. Guerrero is originally from El Paso, TX and currently stationed at Fort Bragg. His career with the U.S. Army is nearing an end and he is very proud of his service. “I’m an HR [Human Resources] manager who has jumped out of perfectly good airplanes,” Guerrero said as he lifted another box. His attitude and humor were infectious and spread throughout the other workers.

SSgt Guerrero and his son Isaiah (19) have been helping the people affected by Hurricane Mathew since before landfall, driving in heavy rain and high water to deliver food and supplies to shelters. They have stayed with the response working every spare hour. “I like to help and so does my son,” he said. “It’s great when we can work together and see that it makes a difference.”

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The Guerrero family, Adrian(l), Corina and Isaiah helping at Westover shelter in Fayetteville.

Guerrero’s wife, Corina, is also a volunteer for the Red Cross. She had moved back to El Paso pending Adrian’s retirement to enroll their daughter in high school. When the storm hit she knew she had to help and quickly returned to North Carolina. Corina has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than four years. She began with the Service to Armed Forces program in Italy and when they returned to the states she continued as a disaster responder. Since she has been back in North Carolina the family has been extremely busy. “My son was hoping I would come back and cook for him,” she said with a tinge of guilt. “So far I have only been able to do that one time.”

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Adrian and his son carry a cot loaded with in kind donations at the Westover shelter in Fayetteville.

Despite being busy every day helping others the family is close and it was pretty clear they all care deeply about the Red Cross mission. It’s also clear that the Red Cross is proud to have them on our team.

If you would like to be part of the Red Cross just go to redcross.org and click on VOLUNTEER. Don’t have time and still want to support the Red Cross? Go to the same website and click on DONATE.

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Truck drivers of the Red Cross

By Ekland Durousseau, American Red Cross Public Affairs

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Robert “Spike” Dominic Ventura

During the span of a day Robert Dominic Ventura is called many names. His nametag says Robert, but he introduces himself as Dominic. His friends call him Bear but his Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) crew call him Spike. What does he prefer? “I got all sorts of nicknames,” said Ventura. “On the bus I’m Bear, on the ERV I’m Spike. Call me whatever you need to. I’ll answer to anything.”

Ventura is a bit of a free spirit. He got together with several of his friends and renovated a large school bus, christening it “The Skallywagon”. This year they decided to travel the country exploring various cities and campgrounds. When they heard about the hurricane disaster they knew they wanted to help. All of them had skills that could be useful to relief and recovery and this was a perfect opportunity to use them. They packed tree supplies to do free tree work and went to food pantries to gather food and bottled water but they had trouble finding affected areas.

One morning they happened to pass the Red Cross North Carolina Greenville chapter and thought it would be a great place to find the information they needed. By the end of the day everyone on the bus had signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer. From there they were assigned various tasks. Ventura started out in mass distribution, moved on to a warehouse assignment and when that finished, he did shelter uptake and takedown and now he is in feeding and he likes it the best.

“When you are in the warehouse you know it’s going somewhere and it’s doing something good for somebody but you don’t actually get to see it face to face. When you are out here feeding people, you get to see them appreciate it, hear the thank you and see it make an impact,” said Ventura.

Two weeks ago Ventura didn’t know anyone on the ERV team, now they all feel like family. “It’s just a hodgepodge of all different types of lifestyles and creeds just slammed into one van and we all have a good time with it, “ said Ventura.

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The ERV team (left to right) Ventura, Salterella, Mendoza and Hoffman.

Michael Hoffman, Mario Mendoza and Jennifer Salterella complete the ERV family.

The crew is led by Hoffman, a former police chief from Maryland. A highlight of his Red Cross experience has been reaching out to a community that is not well represented. “I truly care about the people,” he said. “The people that can’t get the help, or won’t come out and get the help for one reason or another.” Hoffman believes his crew is more than capable of accomplishing this task and feels the atmosphere on the ERV is almost like a party, simply because everyone brings something different to the table. “Because our crew is so diverse we have the ability to reach every spectrum of client from the elderly, middle aged, educated youth, and the very young,” said Hoffman.

Mendoza deployed shortly after Hurricane Matthew made landfall driving an ERV all the way from San Antonio, Texas to North Carolina.

When he realized the Hispanic population along their route were not aware of the services the Red Cross provides he impressed upon his crew the need to educate and distribute information. “We want the Hispanic community to know that we are here,” he said “And that we will be here until the end.” Mendoza made great strides in fulfilling his mission when his crew befriended the pastor at Iglesias Pentecostal Vino Nuevo in Snow Hill, North Carolina. Mendoza believes gaining the trust of respected community leaders will prove to be vital in helping an underserved community.

Salterella, a teacher in Atlanta, has been a volunteer since 2008 but for her, the Red Cross is a family affair. Her brother is a longtime volunteer and this year her mother was awarded volunteer of the year in Atlanta.

As a teacher, Salterella is the kid connection in this crew. “I am special education teacher with a focus on autism,” she said. “I specialize in autism because I have autism. I teach kids how to cope with a disorder I have learned to cope with.” Of all the jobs she has had working on a disaster her favorite is being an ERV feeding crew member.

“Being on the ERV is a bit like being a truck driver,” Salterella said with a chuckle. “The truck drivers of the Red Cross, caravanning from place to place out in the community, free spirted and mobile. We are like a roving band of gypsies. Little family groups in our little wagons and we just roll. “

Time Out for Oneself

By Charlotte Rodriguez, American Red Cross Public Affairs

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Rachel Brubabu, American Red Cross volunteer from Ohio, took advantage of a quiet spot and beautiful weather in North Carolina to read in some off-duty moments.  On disaster assignments for weeks at a time, volunteers are encouraged to take  care of themselves  so that they can continue taking good care of others.

A volunteer for about a year, this is Rachel’s first deployment but she’s already served in two states. She first went to Florida where she worked in an evacuation shelter and was sent to North Carolina when that shelter closed.  In North Carolina, she has been assisting with the distribution of cleaning supplies to residents as they return to their homes.

In her home chapter, Rachel serves on a Disaster Action Team and has helped install smoke detectors through the Home Fires Campaign.  .

“I started volunteering to help people and that is what I am doing,” she said.

Athletes travel from Kansas to lend a hand in North Carolina

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Russell Torres is no stranger to hurricanes – he grew up in the Caribbean.

So when his Bethany College baseball coach, Andrew Bartman, mentioned that the baseball and softball teams would be traveling to North Carolina to help with Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts, Torres was all in.

“I felt what [North Carolina] was feeling,” Torres said.

He’s one of 40 athletes that traveled from the Kansas-based college to Eastern North Carolina for a seven-day deployment.

Bartman said the trip allowed the players to practice one of the school’s core values, servant leadership.

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“It gives them a chance to see that the world is bigger than you,” Bartman said. “They get to see what it means to help other people.”

Bethany College softball player Taryn Hargash was prepared for the devastation she may see in North Carolina because she’s witnessed flooding in her home state of Colorado.

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Four members of the Bethany baseball team (L-R)  Robert Eakin, justin Bennett and Dalton Bidon at the Westover shelter inFayetteville, NC. Photo by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

“If I were in that situation, I’d want someone to help me,” the outfielder said. “And we’re here for them.”

During their stay in North Carolina, the teams delivered meals, helped in shelters and pitched in with storm clean-up.

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Team members Robert Eakin (L) and Taylor Nielson (R) stack cases of water for residents of the Westover shelter in Fayetteville, NC. Photo by Bill Fortune,American Red Cross

“It’s all going to be OK in the end,” Hargash said.

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Top Photo: Coach Andrew Bartman and softball player Shannon Williams serve DonDra Worley lunch at the Red Cross Shelter in Fair Bluff, NC. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross.

Middle Photo: Bethany College students made the 1,300-mile journey from Lindsborg, Kansas to Fair Bluff North Carolina to help residents suffering from flooding that devastated the area. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross.

Bottom Photo: Bethany College athletes complete volunteer training at the Triangle Red Cross Chapter office before departing into the field. Photo by Emma Kirkpatrick.

Eastern NC continues to recover from Hurricane Matthew

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People in the southeast continue to deal with the effects of Hurricane Matthew weeks after the storm made landfall. The American Red Cross is with them, providing food, shelter and help with recovery.

In North Carolina, Red Cross has served more than 1,300,000 meals and snacks, dispatched about 280 emergency response vehicles to hard-hit areas, and provided more than 101,000 overnight stays in shelters.

But our work is far from over. In the U.S. alone, the response to Hurricane Matthew is anticipated to cost between approximately $24 – $28 million. We need the public’s support to help the thousands of people still suffering.

Help those affected by Hurricane Matthew by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

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Photos by Chris Polydoroff, American Red Cross volunteer.

Red Cross volunteer aids citizen in need of medical help

By Mark Mason

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There are no ‘wrong turns’ on the road of life. Nobody knows that better than American Red Cross Volunteer Marian Green who recently came to the aid of a woman suspected of having a heart attack. Marian manages the Red Cross Donation Center in Lumberton, North Carolina.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, after a busy morning of sorting out donations for the victims of Hurricane Matthew, Marion decided to make a lunch run for her staff.

“I took a wrong turn and got lost, so I pulled into a gas station to ask for directions and I noticed the attendant wasn’t looking very well,” said Marian, who is a retired Emergency Medical Technician. “I saw that she was having trouble breathing so I had her sit down. She had all the indications of someone having a heart attack… I asked her if I could call for help and she said, ‘OK.’ When the ambulance arrived, they evaluated her and immediately rushed her to the emergency room.”

After hearing the news of what had happened, Red Cross Volunteers at the donation center gave their supervisor a well-deserved standing ovation.

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The Hospital was unable to comment on the victims condition.

Red Cross supports state fair amid storm recovery

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While hundreds of Red Cross disaster relief volunteers helped residents of eastern North Carolina recover from Hurricane Matthew, several health and safety volunteers helped manage one of North Carolina’s most beloved traditions—the North Carolina State Fair.

Every year, thousands attend the North Carolina State Fair, a 10-day event, to celebrate the best of the Tar Heel state with unique food, carnival games, rides and live entertainment.

Red Cross health and safety volunteers play a key role at the fair. These volunteers help fair attendees who are suffering from minor and major medical conditions, including, but not limited to, heat exhaustion, dehydration, cuts, bruises, vomiting, asthma attacks and headaches.

For Larry Cockrell, a Red Cross veteran and volunteer shift supervisor, 2016 marks his 38th year volunteering at the fair. He said as shift supervisor, he helps with an array of situations.

“I help coordinate teams in the field, handle what’s going on in this building, mop, oversee paperwork, settle any disputes and prioritize who helps when,” Cockrell said.

Red Cross health and safety volunteers are trained in CPR and first aid courses that teach life-saving skills and help respond in an emergency situation. Some volunteers become health and safety volunteers because they have a medical background and want to serve their community.

“I was in EMS and looked for a way to use my skills,” said Carrie Franklin, a Red Cross volunteer of four years. “I’ve been a contributor to Red Cross for years, so when this opportunity for health and safety came up, it was a no-brainer.”

For some, this is their first time volunteering with the Red Cross. Lisa Hubbard, a rookie volunteer, said, “I hadn’t done it before but with all the storm stuff and increase talk about the Red Cross, I wanted to help. This is my first time [volunteering], and it has been great. Watching everyone come together, knowing everyone has other full-time jobs, to work on this, it’s very enjoyable.”

If you are interested in being a Red Cross volunteer, please visit www.redcross.org/volunteer.

By Emma Kirkpatrick

PHOTO: Red Crosser Bill Koch volunteers at the fair. Courtesy Sharon Penn.