‘If you can bring relief…your mission is complete’

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Moe Darden is no stranger to the Red Cross ― or to responding to hurricane disaster relief missions.

He began volunteering with the Red Cross following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He’s since helped those affected by Hurricane Sandy, and has now added Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria to the list.

Moe, along with three other Eastern North Carolina Red Crossers departed for Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday, Sept. 24, en route to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to render aid to those affected by recent back-to-back hurricanes.

“If you can bring relief to a 3-year-old who lost his blanket in a storm, then your mission is complete,” Moe said.

The crew of volunteers each said they wanted to bring back a sense of normalcy and comfort to those who’ve lost homes and loved ones because of Hurricane Maria.

Mycaela Crouse, disaster program specialist for the Central NC Chapter of the Red Cross, began volunteering with the Red Cross at age 16, and said she was fully prepared to help in Puerto Rico. “The idea of giving back is so rewarding. The chance to do that every day is a gift,” she said.

 

And new volunteer Duy Phan, said he wants to help because he lost his home to a flood three years ago and understands the pain of starting new.

While on the islands, the team of volunteers will be focused on quickly distributing supplies such as food, water and clean-up materials to residents.

 

Stay tuned for updates on Eastern NC volunteers and the work they are doing on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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From arms of war to arms of compassion

“This is my calling.”  Hurricane Irma was the first deployment for Tetoya Gibson.  She was taking personal leave from her job as an Air Force aircraft armament technician, a tech sergeant at Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina.  Gibson, from Goldsboro, NC, started in her home state, deployed in an EmergencyIMG_1485y Response Vehicle, and made her way down though South Carolina and then to Georgia.

By Saturday, September 16, she was working at a major bulk distribution site at the College of Coastal Georgia in Kingsland.  An indication of the major damage to the area was the long line of cars moving patiently and stopping periodically for supplies in the drive-through setup.  Gibson happened to be working alongside fellow members of the military from several branches.  Her job was to pass out bleach, trash bags, work gloves, water and Red Cross comfort kits.

“I’m having the best time,” she said.  “I’ve met so many great people.”

She’s a veteran with 18 years of service. She’s planning to retire from the Air Force in two years.    The Red Cross is her new passion.

“I’m going home because I’m out of personal leave.  As soon as I get some more, I’m going to go again. To be able to serve my country in two ways is a blessing.”

Red Cross Prepares for Hurricane Irma – Issues Safety Steps, Calls for Volunteers

Hurricane Preparedness

Sept. 7, 2017, RALEIGH – The American Red Cross continues to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey while getting ready to respond as powerful Hurricane Irma nears the United States and its territories.

Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm on record and people in the possible path of this storm should monitor weather reports and get prepared now.

In North Carolina, the Red Cross is establishing a statewide relief operation based in Charlotte, working closely with government officials and community partners to coordinate potential response efforts. In addition, supplies are now being staged across the state so they can be dispatched quickly should shelters be opened.

“The Red Cross continues to monitor Hurricane Irma closely and is prepping as if the storm will be destructive in North Carolina,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern NC. “We encourage the community to take the next few days to prepare their homes and families.”

Hurricane Safety Steps

Find a shelter by visiting redcross.org or by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The Emergency App also puts real time information about the storm and hurricane safety tips at your fingertips. The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps. You can also follow these safety steps:

  • Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radioor TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
  • Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
  • Make sure you have a plan and supplies for your pets. Download the free Red Cross Pet First Aid Appfor emergency preparedness tips, a pet-friendly hotel locator and an animal hospital locator.

During the storm:

  • Stay indoors.
  • Don’t walk on beaches, riverbanks or in flood waters.
  • Use flashlights in the dark if the power goes out. Do NOT use candles.
  • Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
  • Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors and maintain direct control of them. Prepare an emergency kit for your pets, including sturdy leashes or pet carriers, food and water, bowls, cat litter and pan, and photos of you with your pet in case they get lost.

Find more information on preparedness on redcross.org.

VOLUNTEER: The Red Cross is currently seeking volunteers to help those affected by Hurricane Irma. To volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer to complete a volunteer application and see what opportunities are available.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Sandhills Chapter volunteer has a ‘heart for this job’

In the Sandhills Chapter of the Red Cross, Lois Croxton volunteers about 45 hours a week helping community members in need.

Volunteers are the backbone of the American Red Cross, making up about 90 percent of the workforce. Croxton is one of those key volunteers. Her volunteer roles span multiple areas of the Red Cross, from children’s disaster preparedness teacher, to disaster casework manager.

As a casework manager, much of Croxton’s work involves listening to victim’s stories, advocating for their cause, and directing them to the right resources for recovery.

“You have to have the heart for this job,” Croxton said as she reflected on some of the cases she has received, and the trauma many of her clients have experienced.

But to Red Cross volunteers and staff members in the Sandhills, they say Croxton is the perfect person to work one-on-one with families who’ve experienced disasters.

“She has exactly what is takes to be a Red Crosser. She is caring, has a gentle heart and knows how to talk with people. She is dedicated and takes ownership of what she does,” said Pat Smart, Red Cross disaster program specialist in the Sandhills Chapter.

Sandhills Chapter Volunteer Specialist, Tracey Kohut, echoed similar comments. “Lois Croxton is very reliable, very knowledgeable, and very valuable to the American Red Cross,” she said.

Despite the affects she’s had on others in the chapter, Croxton said volunteering has made the most powerful impression on her own life.

“I’m not so much giving to the Red Cross as the Red Cross has given to me. [Working with the American Red Cross] gave me my life back,” Croxton said.

Croxton’s journey to becoming a Red Cross volunteer began seven years ago. She underwent a knee surgery that went awry and left her physically disabled and bedridden for two years. She said she felt helpless in her life.

Croxton went from being a busy mother of three, volunteer in the community, and fulltime school teacher, to being unable to perform many day-to-day tasks.

“To be as active as I had been – raising a family, working full time, volunteering, etc., and then nothing, became depressing,” Croxton said.

In that time, she visited numerous doctors, trying everything recommended in an attempt to become mobile again. Without success, Croxton began to question her usefulness.

“I couldn’t drive because, even though it was my left knee, I couldn’t find a place in the car to put my leg that didn’t cause a lot of pain,” Croxton said. “I hated the way I felt, and didn’t know what to do about it.”

After two years of searching for a cure, Croxton finally found a wrap that allowed her to become somewhat mobile again.

“God must have finally said it is time for you to get back on your feet and go forth into the world again,” she said.

Though it was still painful for her to move around, she managed to drive again. Now she wanted something to do. On a whim, Croxton visited the American Red Cross to learn about volunteer opportunities.

She recalls walking in the Red Cross and feeling that she could be of use. So, she interviewed, filled out her paperwork, and embarked on her volunteer journey.

After working the front desk for a while she was approached by the disaster services team.

While working in disaster services, it became apparent to staff that Croxton also had a knack for computer programs. She worked with multiple programs, which helped keep track of data from home fires, to families being served, and available shelter information.

“I felt I could use my brain again and [working with computers] let me know I still had one,” she said.

Croxton has now been volunteering with the Red Cross for five years.

“I honestly never even considered that I would be as involved as I am. It just sort of grew with every passing day,” Croxton said. “I think I was just meant to be here.”

To learn more about how to volunteer with the Red Cross, like Lois, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Story by By Andrea Gulley/ American Red Cross

Fayetteville Red Crosser preps for six-month deployment to Horn of Africa

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Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Manager Jeannette Salcedo is packing her gear and saying her goodbyes before embarking on the 32+ hour trip from Fayetteville, NC to Dijbouti, Africa, where she will serve with Red Cross for six months.

Jeannette will be stationed  at Camp Lemonnier, as the only Red Cross staff member on the base. There, she will deliver emergency communication messages from military family members to troops stationed at the base. She will also teach CPR and First Aid, as well as children’s disaster preparedness courses.

Jeannette speaks with the Red Cross about her upcoming deployment to Djibouti, a developing country located on one of the world’s largest shipping routes, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia.

Q: How were you selected to deploy to Camp Lemonnier?

A: I am a mobile staff member for [Red Cross] Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), as such we deploy the same as the military.

Q: What do you think a typical day in Djibouti will look like?

A: HOT!!! I am a certified First Aid/CPR Instructor and a Pillow Case Project Instructor. I will be holding classes to get folks certified. I will also be handling emergency communication messages for the military. Djibouti is a one-man station, so I will be the only Red Cross staff member. [I also expect to be] working out [in my downtime].

I am looking forward to meeting our ally partners in the area and [creating] some fun events to help boost morale.

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Jeannette Salcedo deployed to Afghanistan for five months with the American Red Cross in 2013. 

Q: This is not your first time deploying with Red Cross. You spent five months in Afghanistan in 2013. What was that like? 

A: On Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, we were a four-member team.  We worked around the clock handling emergency communication messages.  We were scheduled 9-hour shifts, but usually worked 10-to-12-hour shifts, seven days a week. We overlapped our schedules so we could assist one another and get caught up on the queue. My shift was 3 p.m. to midnight, but I came in early to assist if needed and usually stayed until 1 a.m. After work, I would go to the gym and workout, go to the USO facility and use the free phones to call home.

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Jeannette Salcedo (right) on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in 2013.

We also had some morale building events to give our [military members] a break from being on 24/7.  As a team, we would go meet the various units on Bagram to introduce ourselves and let them know what we do. We did an Armed Forces Radio broadcast once a month just to update everyone and remind them Red Cross is there.

 

Oh, and [it was] HOT!!

Q: Is there anything  you are looking forward to doing in your free time while in Djibouti?

A: As SAF, we are embedded with the [military] and we are their responsibility, as such we are not allowed to leave the camp. I would like to be able to meet some of the local people and perhaps volunteer in some capacity.

Q: The primary languages in Djibouti are Arabic and French. Do you expect there to be any language barriers?

A: No, not really. In my experience, people in other countries speak English as a second or third language. The Americans have been in the country for some time so I am sure the local population is at least familiar with English. I certainly hope so because my French is limited to a few phrases and I do not speak Arabic at all.

Q: How are preparing for your six-month trip?

A; I live in an apartment so I am packing up all my belongings and putting them in storage until I return. I will suspend service for my cell phone, cancel utilities, etc. Spending as much time I can with friends and family, especially my two grandchildren, Madison and Jacob. They are my moon and stars!

Q: You have two sons and two grandchildren.  How are they feeling about your deployment?

A: My sons Miguel and Jose’ are very proud of me and what I do.  They think it’s great that I am willing to go to these “not so glamorous places” to help out the military. My grandchildren are 8 and 5 so they really just understand that “Gran” will be gone for a long time.

Q: What are you packing?

A: I will be sending packages in advance, which will contain hygiene/toiletry items: body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. I will also send ahead a first aid kit, sewing kit, towels, and sheets. In my suitcase, khakis, Red Cross polos, sleepwear and pictures of my family and friends.

I will be wearing the military battle uniform six days a week so I do not have the need to pack much in the way of clothing.

Q: Is there anything you hope to gain from this experience?

A: I hope to broaden my exposure to different cultures and gain further experience relating to people from different cultures and points of view. I want to be there for our troops to assist in any way possible, and to bring them a little bit of home.

Q: Are there any local foods you are looking forward to trying?

A: So during our deployment briefs, we are warned against eating anything from the local economy as they do not have the same health standards as we do, and you can become very ill.

Q: Is there anything else we should know about your deployment?

A: Djibouti, Africa is still a Third World country with all the health risks that entails. Raw sewage, dumping of chemicals and lack of proper plumbing.

To find out more about what American Red Cross does for Service to the Armed Forces visit, www.redcross.org/military. 

Story by Andrea Gulley/American Red Cross

Red Crosser strengthens Service to the Armed Forces program with extensive military family history, desire to make a difference

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When Lora Alexander called the RedCross in February 2016, searching for a volunteer opportunity, she never expected to walk away from orientation with a new job and a new way to help people.

Alexander has been a part of the military community since she was a little girl. A lot of the men in her family have been members of the military, including her grandfather, father, husband and son.

While these men play significant roles in Alexander’s life, her most influential role modelis her mother, Master Sgt. Laura Bellanger, retired Air Force. “Her path to the Air Force started with the Red Cross,” Alexander said.

Bellanger began volunteering with the Red Cross in the OB-GYN clinic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. Alexander was in first grade at the time and her family had just returned to the United States from her father’s tour in the Azores islands, off the coast of Portugal.

The Officer in Charge of the clinic recruited Bellanger into the Air Force after witnessing her dedicated volunteerism for two years. Upon completing basic training, she returned as a military leader to the clinic on Tinker Air Force Base. “That’s my very first interaction with the Red Cross,” Alexander said about watching her mother.

Years later, Alexander’s family also received help from the Red Cross following a homefire. “In January 2014, my mother lost her home to a fire. Watching the Red Cross work with her and the service lines that reached out was one reason [I wanted to work with the Red Cross],” Alexander said. “Another reason being that I wanted to give time to an organization that was in the business of helping others, particularly the armed forces.”

In 2016, Alexander called the Red Cross and started volunteering. That quickly led to her new job as Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) manager in Eastern North Carolina.

In this role, Alexander manages Red Cross SAF volunteers and community outreach programs at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro; the VA Hospital in Durham; and the North Carolina National Guard in Raleigh. Alexander will also work one-on-one with military service members, veterans and their families.

“It is my hope to continue the programs that are currently in place and increase the visibility of the Service to the Armed Forces group in my region,” Alexander said. “It is my goal to increase the number of active volunteers.”

Alexander has been in the staff development and training field for 30 years, as well as the human resources and facilities operations management fields with companies including Wachovia (now Wells Fargo), Hatch Early Learning, Lexington City Schools, Forsyth Community College and the North Carolina Department of Revenue. She has been a health and safety instructor with the Red Cross since February 2016 and served asa volunteer educational and outreach coordinator for Service to the Armed Forces. She is also an adjunct professor at Miller-Motte Technical College in Cary, teaching non-clinical medical courses.

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Alexander also has an extensive educational background. She is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She also holds a master’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in Business from Liberty University, and a graduate certificate in General Business.

To learn more about how to volunteer with the Red Cross, like Lora and her mother, visit redcross.org/volunteer or to learn more about how the Red Cross works with the military community, visit redcross.org/military.

By Rachel Jennings/American Red Cross

Region celebrates 100 years of service, opens art exhibit by marines

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Red Cross flags flew high along Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh as General Pershing welcomed guests into the North Carolina Museum of History for the Centennial Celebration of the Red Cross of Eastern NC on June 24.

Marines played smooth jazz in the lobby as World War I reenactors mingled with nearly300 guests who were in attendance. The evening, sponsored by Wells Fargo, featured the opening of an art exhibit with pieces by wounded Marines, and the presentation of the humanitarian of the year award for the Triangle Chapter.

Guests were also able to participate in a Lenovo-sponsored virtual reality booth, created by OnecallVR in Wilmington. Virtual reality goggles and headphones transported attendees to the flooded streets of Eastern North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew, and inside an emergency shelter to help feed hungry residents.

Keynote speaker, Congressman Walter Jones, helped to lead the evening’s program. Jones discussed his family ties to World War I, his experiences while being a congressman and his appreciation of the Red Cross.

“Eastern North Carolina Red Cross, I want you to know that you are making a difference,” Jones said.

This year’s Humanitarian of the Year award was given to Eliza Kraft Olander for her compassion and involvement in her community. Olander thanked her parents and her son and recognized her grandmother who coincidentally became a member of the Red Cross in 1917, the year the Raleigh Chapter of the Red Cross began.

“Giving back is and always has been my way of expressing my gratitude, my joy, and striving to help make stories beautiful,” Olander said during her acceptance speech.

After the keynote address, the presentation of the Humanitarian of the Year award and a video clip telling the history of the Red Cross, guests were invited to view the new art exhibit, American Red Cross: Healing the Warrior’s Heart through Art.

The gallery featured more than 20 pieces, consisting of paintings, drawings and sculptures that were created by Marines who were wounded while serving. They created the artwork through a Red Cross art therapy class at Camp Lejeune, led by world-renowned artist Craig Bone.

“Art therapy does make a difference for men and women recovering from traumatic injury, from traumatic experiences,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern NC.

The exhibit is now open to the public at the North Carolina Museum of History and will be on display until Jan. 7, 2018. Visitors can walk through the halls of the exhibit and see what war looks like through a Marine’s eyes.

The Red Cross would like to thank everyone who attended the Centennial Celebration and everyone who has partnered with or volunteered for the Eastern Region of NC over the past 100 years.

“The Red Cross never gets really anything accomplished without partners,” Porter said.

Story by Rachel Jennings/American Red Cross