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.

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. 

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.

Volunteering Spans Generations for Arizona Family

Grandfather, Grandson in North Carolina Helping with Hurricane Response

Alejandro Reynoso is trying to teach his grandson a lesson. His classroom is a Red Cross emergency response vehicle.

Mr. Reynoso and his grandson, 18-year old Dominic drove the ERV from Arizona to North Carolina to help people affected by Hurricane Matthew.

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“I think we should all take some time to contribute to society,” Mr. Reynoso says.  “It’s more of a duty.”

Dominic just graduated from high school, and isn’t sure what he wants to do in the future.  But for the present, he and his grandfather are busy dishing out bratwurst and baked beans, canned pears and potato chips to North Carolina residents impacted by flooding and other storm damage.

They make a good team.

“That lady told me she hadn’t eaten in three days,” Dominic says of one Whiteville resident, who received food prepared by the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization.  He gave her two meals and a case of bottled water.  “She said she has no water either.”img_2663

Mr. Reynoso is a Vietnam veteran who left his engineering firm to volunteer in North Carolina.  “That’s the price you pay.  It’s unconditional.  The reward is being asked to come back.”

That is the lesson he hopes to impart on his grandson.

If you would like to volunteer for the Red Cross, log onto redcross.org.

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