Grateful parishioner returns the favor

By Ekland Durousseau, American Red Cross Public Affairs

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From right: Maria Cardenas with her two daughters Michelle, 11 and Yaritzel, 4 and best friend Jesenia Sanchez.

It’s close to 6 o’clock and the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) feeding team is about to hand out the last meal of the day at Iglesias Pentecostal Vino Nuevo, a church along their feeding route. A car pulls up and like so many before them, a family of four get out and walk toward the ERV but this time instead of taking food they are giving.

Marcial Sanchez, pastor of Iglesias Pentecostal Vino Nuevo, sent word to his parishioners that if anyone was still in need their church was on a Red Cross feeding truck route and hot meals would be provided. Maria Cardenas got the message but had no need for the service. Her home sustained no water damage and the power had been restored to her neighborhood. She was grateful the Red Cross was helping her community and thought she could contribute in a similar way by cooking one big meal a couple of times a week and bringing it to the church as a supplemental feeding. This night however, her dishes were a little heavier. She asked the ERV team if they would walk to her car because she wanted to show them something.

Opening the trunk of her car, Maria uncovered an enormous container, releasing a cloud of aromatic steam that filled the air with a roasted corn aroma. Stuffed within the pot lay large homemade tamales.  When the oohs and ahhs died down Maria smiled and said “Because you shared with us I want to share with you. Thank you for helping my community.”

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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.

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.

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.

Canadian Red Cross Worker Inspires Her Family to Volunteer

By Courtney Wilson, Canadian Red Cross Public Affairs

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It can be difficult to work in a disaster situation. You meet people who have lost everything, and you see communities that have been completely devastated. The days are long and the work is hard, and when you get home it can be challenging for loved ones to truly understand what you have experienced.

Sarah Oberholzer, from the Canadian Red Cross was deployed to Goldsboro, North Carolina to support the American Red Cross response to Hurricane Matthew.

Having deployed multiple times to provide aid and relief to people that have been affected by a disaster or conflict, this time Sarah was able to share a bit of her experience with some of her family.

Sarah’s aunt and cousin, Renee and Lauren respectively, are from High Point, North Carolina, and travelled to the Red Cross disaster response headquarters in Goldsboro to see Sarah in action and to lend a hand to hurricane affected families.

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Lauren, playing with children in a Red Cross supported shelter in North Carolina.

“It was really good to see how people can actually make a difference for others and be so selfless and contribute so much,” Lauren said of the experience. “It was good to see how much [Sarah] loves [her] job and how that should be a goal for my future.”

The feeling was mutual. “It was amazing to be able to share this with them and expose them to what I do in the field,” Sarah said.

The Red Cross would not be able to do the work we do if it wasn’t for so many dedicated volunteers. We are so grateful for all of our volunteers, including Lauren and Renee. If you are interested in volunteering please visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

 

Oldest Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle Driver Assisting in North Carolina

By Red Cross Public Affairs, Charlotte Rodriguez and Rich Woodruff

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Bruce Travis, from Shawnee, Oklahoma, will soon be 90 years old, and is likely the oldest Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver at the Red Cross.   

After several disasters in their home state of Oklahoma, Bruce and his wife, Pam, wanted to help but felt that they needed training to properly assist.  “We wanted to have the knowledge needed to help,” Pam said.  “So we signed up to take Red Cross classes.”

Bruce and Pam took every disaster training course the Red Cross had to offer in their area; from sheltering, to feeding, and even case work.  It was after they took Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) training that they knew they found their calling. That was 17 years ago, and they are still driving an ERV and volunteering for the Red Cross until this day.

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Deploying is not new to the hard-working couple, as they have assisted in approximately twenty other disasters across the United States.  Most recently, they flew to Missouri to drive an ERV to North Carolina to help with the impacts of Hurricane Matthew.

Four years ago, Bruce suffered a heart attack, but it has not slowed him down.  According to Bruce, “My good health is a result of healthy eating, exercise, and faith in God.”   Pam agrees that he is “healthy as a horse!”  The couple have no plans to slow down and look forward to helping again, wherever and whenever needed.