All Fired Up

September 29, 2018– It was fire that led me to the American Red Cross. 

My husband and I moved to Durango, Colorado, June 2nd of this year – only the second day of the “416 Fire”, north of Durango.  

For more than a month, we witnessed the huge clouds of billowing smoke and ash raining down on southwest Colorado. We saw the devastating effects on local peope  and businesses. The “416 fire” is now out, but the memory of that disaster stayed with me and inspired me. I guess you could say, I got fired up. 

On a Wednesday, I went to the Red Cross website and completed an application, thinking I might help the local chapter. 

The very next day, I was surprised and thrilled when a Red Cross manager emailed me. She asked if I would be available to respond to Hurricane Florence. Pleased, but nervous, I responded immediately, “Yes!”  

09-27-18-Photo 1- Serving SnacksAfter learning I could get trained on line, I spent the next two days, Friday and Saturday, learning all about sheltering those effected by disasters. By Saturday, I had completed my online courses, submitted my health survey, and was cleared through a background check.  

On Monday I was asked to deploy to South Carolina and was on a plane the next day!  

My job is to run a staff shelter, a place where about 30 volunteers live while they work for the Red Cross in recovery efforts. They sleep in rows of cots, share the bathrooms in the building, and just try to relax after their work. My two coworkers and I make sure they are safe, that there is food, snacks and water and whatever we can get to keep them comfortable and strong. 

Curious, we posted a map on the wall and asked them put thumbtacks to show where they are from. Of course, they were from all over. 

I am so impressed by their dedication and the endless hours these people work to help others get through each day.  

I have met many incredible people and I am honored and proud to be a part of this amazing volunteer force. I am so pleased and grateful the Red Cross needs my help. 

Story by Madeline Marquardt 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Carolina Cafeteria Lady Feeds Evacuees

September 30, 2018It’s nothing new to see Pam Clark busy preparing lunch at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. But this week, Clark isn’t feeding students. She’s feeding dozens of people who came to the American Red Cross shelter looking for a safe place to stay as Hurricane Florence made landfall.

When the hurricane arrived, Clark couldn’t cross the Cape Fear River to get home. She sought shelter at the school where she’s been a cafeteria manager for many years. She woke up to find her skills in great demand.

Clark made one call to the high school’s booster club asking for help in feeding the evacuees.

The club put Clark’s request for meals on social media and the community responded in a big way.

09-22-18 -- Pine Forest Photo 1“Our kids did volunteer hours (at the cafeteria) for different school clubs,” said booster club member Summer Gonzales as she ticked through all the examples of “overwhelming” support they’ve seen.

“We’ve all come together as a community.”

Clark’s assistant Melanie and her husband stayed at the shelter to pitch in. So too did the school’s custodian, who also slept at the school, fielding requests from shelter staff at all hours.

In addition to the meals prepared by Clark and her assistant, several local restaurants provided enough food to cover several days. There were donut deliveries and beverages from the school’s concessions stockpile.

“Each day we’d coordinate with (shelter manager) Traci Porter of the Red Cross,” said booster club member Tammy May. “What was the need for the day? Whatever the need for the day, we’d put a blast out (on social media).”

Gonzales said the community came through because the storm impacted everyone directly. “Our county was under water. The people affected by this storm were hit hard.”

May and Gonzales are proud and reflective about what they experienced at Pine Hill High School during the aftermath of the hurricane. “We don’t have beach houses or lake houses. This is our home away from home,” May said. “This is our vacation home.”

If you would like to help the Red Cross Hurricane Florence recovery effort, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to donate.

Story by Stephen Walsh/American Red Cross

American Red Cross Volunteer Delivers 600 Meals by “Bass Boat Express” 

September 30, 2018 – Slowly ebbing floodwaters left many Wallace, North Carolina residents stranded, unable to reach their nearest American Red Cross shelter to access supports. Volunteer Joe Apicelli, a native of Mystic, CT, who was on his way to deliver meals to the shelter, was left with an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) loaded with 600 meals and no one to give them to. 

Undeterred, Apicelli approached local firefighters to determine the quickest way to get his truckload of 600 meals to impacted people and families. An enterprising group of volunteers from Poston Baptist Church, located a few miles away in a remote, forested area, had been ferrying supplies to impacted people by what was affectionately called the “bass boat express.” 

09-27-18-Photo-Poston Baptist Church_edited.jpgRed Cross’ arrival at the Poston Baptist Church came as a surprise. The team was greeted by Pastor Chris Jarman and an excited group of children and volunteers who were in the process of preparing supplies for the upcoming delivery. Volunteers hurriedly unloaded the meals, ferrying them to residents that had been isolated on island-like parcels of land due to floodwaters.  

Over four days, 1550 meals have been delivered to Poston Baptist Church and distributed by “bass boat express” to families in need. 

Your donation makes this work possible. You can make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, visiting http://www.redcross.org or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

Story and Photo by Joseph Rousseau/American Red Cross  

 

 

 

Couple Reunited After Fleeing Hurricane Florence

September 29, 3018– Red Cross volunteers Michael Burks and Katye Faulkner are reunification associates. Reunification associates specialize in helping missing family members find one another during a disaster. During a disaster, families can easily become separated. The Red Cross Safe and Well website connects missing family and friends by giving them an opportunity to receive and post messages for one another. People can search for missing family members by name, phone number or address and can post messages such as “I’m safe and well” or “I’m at the local shelter.”

Safe & WellMichael and Katye were volunteering at a school shelter when they found a woman in the corner who was crying. She hadn’t eaten in three days and was searching for her missing husband who had been taken to a hospital. Michael and Katye visited every hospital in the area until they finally located him at Cape Fear Valley Health Center. He had also been looking for his spouse and had suffered a nervous breakdown and high blood pressure due to the stress. Now, he was minutes from being discharged.

They called the shelter and reunified the couple. After his discharge, he was unable to find a ride to the shelter and cab fares were too expensive. Finally, a Good Samaritan drove him to the shelter and the team held a face-to-face reunification.

The couple was delighted to be together again, after having been separated in the chaos of the storm. What an amazing first day on the job for Michael and Katye!

For help locating missing family or friends visit redcross.org/safeandwell.

Story submitted by Beth Bernhardt

Wake Forest Soccer Team Helps at Red Cross Shelter

Sept. 28, 2018 – The Wake Forest University women’s soccer team won its Atlantic Coast Conference opening game Sept. 20 by a score of 2-0 over nationally ranked North Carolina State. But that wasn’t the team’s biggest “win” of the season. 

That victory occurred after all 28 members of the team volunteered to help Hurricane Florence evacuees at the American Red Cross shelter operating at the university’s basketball arena since the storm made landfall earlier this month.  

09-23-18 -- Photo 1 - soccer-team 1“Sometimes we college students live in a bubble,” says Madison Hammond, one of the players who helped organize the team’s support of the shelter. “It’s important that we also get involved in the Winston-Salem community.” 

Madison says the team’s involvement initially stemmed from the fact that a scheduled game had been cancelled by the hurricane.  

“We don’t usually have that much free time in the season, so one of my teammates reached out to the Red Cross and was told they need help now.” 

Running with the ball, so to speak, Madison and a couple of teammates decided to visit the local shelter — where they quickly learned that the Red Cross needed as much volunteer help as the team could offer to as many as 450 residents affected by the hurricane. 

Every single team member signed up for shifts, helping serve meals, doing some of the cleaning and supporting children’s activities at the shelter. 

09-23-18 -- Photo 2 - soccer-team 2“Going into it, you could tell that some members of the team might have preferred having a day off,” says Madison, a third-year Wake student-athlete from Arlington, Virginia. “But everyone ended up feeling so good about their Red Cross experience.” 

Serving food to the residents was especially meaningful for her, Madison says.  

“I asked one man if he wanted the chili or the mac-and-cheese, and he got kind of teary-eyed. He told me ‘I can’t believe this. This is so much help.'” 

It’s a moment that made a permanent impression on Madison.  

“I will remember that forever,” she says. Maybe even more than her team’s ACC opener. 

 Story by Jim Burns/American Red Cross

Red Cross Uses Disability Integration Program with Gus the Dog

09-23-18- Photo 1- DI Gus 1September 28, 2018— American Red Cross volunteer Michelle Harris was an instant hit when she arrived at disaster relief headquarters with her service dog, Gus, in tow. Working in North Carolina as part of a 10-member Disabilities Integration team, Gus and Michelle were welcome as a much-needed distraction following Hurricane Florence.

Michelle lives in Flowery Branch, Georgia and has been with the Red Cross for nearly 20 years. She said she came to North Carolina to help those in need. As she spoke, the 16-month-old English golden retriever leaned against her await a pat on the head.

“He helps me in many different capacities,” she said.

The Disability Integration, or DI, program is fairly new in the Red Cross and addresses the needs of individuals with access and functional needs, including those with disabilities during all phases of the disaster cycle.

People with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are disproportionately affected before, during and after disasters.

09-23-2018-Photo 2-DI Gus 2Dana Goldsmith, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the Red Cross volunteer overseeing the DI program in the state. Among other things, the team checks out the access at shelters and other facilities to ensure there are no barriers that would prevent access.

She said the DI team has also created quiet rooms at some shelters for those with autism or sensory disabilities. At other locations, they set up a video relay service so those using sign language could contact someone and have a person with them to translate.

People with disabilities were often unable to evacuate because transportation was inaccessible. For example, most evacuation buses did not have wheelchair lifts. Moreover, people with visual and hearing disabilities were unable to obtain necessary information pertinent to their safety because said communication did not comply with federal law.

09--27-18- Photo 3-- DI Gus 3For this reason, the DI program was initiated and implemented to assure equal access for all clients, disaster workers, and partners to all service delivery and work sites; delivery of our programs and services in the least restrictive setting possible; and effective communications delivered in all appropriate formats for dissemination of information to the whole community.

Story and Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross

Volunteer-Built Castle Charms Little Girl

Sept 28, 2018 – Abby is two years old. She’s energetic, positive and a lot of09-23-18 -- Photo 1 - castle fun — the perfect way to be when you’re in an evacuation shelter.

The bubble-blowing toddler spent several nights at a Red Cross shelter at W.T. Brown Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her three older siblings and mother after they were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence.

“She had the biggest personality of anyone in the shelter,” said volunteer Chelsey Griggs, who deployed from Minnesota’s Twin Cities chapter. “She would always come around the corner of the registration desk to say good morning to everybody.”

Abby’s family had been through this before, losing everything they had in Hurricane Matthew. This time, their Spring Lake home was spared.

The family helps at the shelter whenever they can.

“Probably because they experienced Matthew so they carried it through to this shelter,” said Griggs.

09-23-18 -- Photo 2-castleAbby’s good vibes were rewarded when Griggs gathered a bunch of discarded cot boxes and built a kiddie castle for the delighted guest. It was a perfect way to help the pint-sized princess pass the time. After all, life in a shelter can be pretty boring for little ones who aren’t surrounded by the comforts of home.

Abby, who “lit up the shelter” with her big personality, had a face that lit up at the sight of the box castle.

“Is that for me?” she asked.

Using plastic cups for the spires and filling the inside with a Red Cross blanket and toys, Griggs’ finishing touches were a tinfoil crown for Abby and a sign that read “Red Cross Castle.”

Even the local sheriff’s deputies got in on the fun, posing as guards in front of Abby’s castle door.

“At one point she didn’t want to let anybody else in so we 09-23-18 -- Photo 3-castle 3told her the castle is like the Red Cross,” said Griggs. “We let everybody in.”

You can make make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, by going to http://www.redcross.org or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

 

 

Story and Photos by Stephen Walsh/American Red Cross

A Year After Hurricane Maria

Sept. 28, 2018 –

Almost exactly a year ago, Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico, knocking out power and leaving thousands of people in need of humanitarian aid.

Ally Broco and Leonardo Lugo, a husband and wife team of American Red Cross volunteers in Puerto Rico, were fortunate; they live in an area of the island that wasn’t affected. The two spiritual care volunteers sprang into action though and travelled to the northeast of the island to respond.

Ally and Leo spent eight months providing assistance to people affected by Maria. Much of this assistance included visiting residents that had been referred to them as needing some extra help. They organized integrated teams of spiritual care, mental health and health services to visit residents in their homes and provide the help they needed, travelling to 78 affected towns.

When Maria hit, some of the first American Red Cross volunteers on the ground were from North Carolina. “We really appreciated it,” says Ally. “A lot of volunteers came from across the country during the response, but the North Carolina volunteers were here first.” A year later, Ally and Leo have found themselves in North Carolina returning the favour. They arrived in Winston-Salem on September 19 and are providing spiritual care to the people staying at the shelter here.09-22-18-- Photo 1- Maria Ally & Leo

Both retirees, Ally and Leo have been full-time Red Cross volunteers for about four years. They both find the experience incredibly rewarding. Leo loves working with children and adolescents. Ally’s favorite part is the relationships she builds with the people she helps, when they greet her in the hallway with a big smile.

On their first day here in Winston-Salem, they met a 17-year-old young man staying at the shelter who was very depressed. They listened to him and explained the possibilities that lay head for him. “A lot of the time, it just helps to know someone’s listening,” says Ally.

Thousands of Red Cross volunteers from across the country are currently responding to Hurricane Florence. To donate to support continued recovery efforts, visit red cross.org

Story by Stephanie Murphy/American Red Cross

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers Robinson Volunteers to Help Those in Need

September 27, 2018–

Flowers has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than a year. She’s originally from Michigan but has resided in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the past 14 years. She was looking to help youth and to travel when she signed up with Red Cross Corps, a branch of Americorp. As part of her Red Cross volunteer experience, she has helped install smoke alarms for the Red Cross  home fire campaign home fire campaign and helped with the Pillowcase Project Pillowcase Project, a collaboration between the Red Cross and Walt Disney Studios. As part of the Pillowcase Project, kids get a Disney pillowcase to fill with items to take with them in an emergency. The pillowcases are personalized, and the program teaches preparedness.

Flowers Robinson talks with a Red Cross volunteerFlowers was deployed to assist at the Chapel Hill evacuation shelter a few days ago following the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence. She’s a Reunification Associate, helping families find one another by using the Red Cross Safe and Well Safe and Well website. This site enables families to search for one another by name, address, or telephone. People can post a message that they are “safe and well” for family members to find. Friends and family can even find loved ones who suffer from dementia. The Red Cross works with police and local agencies to identify these people based on what they were wearing, and other visual cues.

Flowers was still working in an evacuation shelter when 28 Burmese evacuees were found staying in a single apartment. An executive director at the Red Cross found the residents by driving around looking at license plates in a nearby apartment complex. “It was a lovely experience; we were able to laugh and bond with them even though they didn’t speak English,” Flowers says.

She notes how large and spread out the Chapel Hill shelter is, affording the residents more privacy. Clients are trying to get home, and are bussed around to different locations as shelters are consolidated. Anxiously waiting to return home, the residents continue to wait for their neighborhood to be deemed safe to return. With many roads still closed and several neighborhoods without power, the wait can seem to take an eternity. Flowers tells of an elderly couple who were all packed and ready to go when they were told it’s still unsafe to leave. “That’s got to be heartbreaking,” she says.

After the disaster is over, Flowers will continue her grad school studies in student affairs. For now, she wants to “stay with the Red Cross and continue to help people.”

To volunteer at the American Red Cross visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Story by Beth Bernhardt/American Red Cross

Photo by Cassidy Penney/American Red Cross

 

High School Senior James Alligood Jumps Into Action to Help Victims

Sept 20, 2018 – Like most high school seniors, Greenville native James Alligood, is looking forward to graduation in the Spring.  The 18-year-old is excited about heading off to Wingate College next fall where he’ll study Special Education on a four-year academic scholarship.  In many ways, James is a typical North Carolina teenager, but as much as he has in common with his peers, a greater number of attributes sets him apart.

Last week, James spent four and a half days working in an evacuation shelter in Greenville as an American Red Cross volunteer. In the days leading up to, and following landfall, more than 150 people sought refuge at E.B. Aycock Middle School as Florence approached.   “Most of the people that were there were from my community that I’m close to. I felt like the clients would like to see someone they know to insure them that everything is going to be ok,” explained James.

09-22-18 -- Photo 1 - James AlligoodCommunity service hours are a prerequisite at J.H. Rose High School, where James attends; with Florence looming, James chose the Red Cross to complete his required service. “I blew through my required volunteer hours in one week–last week,” James said proudly.  “It feels like I’m doing something good for the community and I like that feeling.”

James holds down a couple of different part-time jobs where he works about 40 hours per week. He took a week of vacation to volunteer because he felt the time after Florence would be the most hectic for the Red Cross. James has quickly become a “go-to” volunteer for Cally Edwards, the Northeastern North Carolina Chapter Executive.  James spent Friday running errands, setting up and answering phones at the WITN disaster relief telethon. “He’s a real dynamo,” Cally said of James.  “He’s a very impressive young man who gives his heart and soul to help the Red Cross.”

You can make also make a financial donation to aid in disaster relief by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, by going to www.redcross.org or by texting FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Story by Marita Salkowski/American Red Cross