The American Red Cross Responds to Wildfires; Local Volunteer Answers the Call to Help…. Part II

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Shirley and Rudy Senarighi

On Tuesday, July 22, Rudy Senarighi, of Sturgeon Bay, WI, packed his bags and was on a flight to Seattle, Washington to assist in the area of Disaster Mental Health for those impacted in the WA Wildfires.  We brought you Rudy’s story on July 25 and to read the first part of his story click HERE.

We are proud of Rudy for putting his life on hold to answer the call to help. We are happy to share that Rudy will be coming home to Wisconsin on Thursday from his Red Cross deployment. We thank him for sharing his thoughts, experiences, and how the Red Cross is helping those impacted….here is the rest of his story.

DAY 4:

It was a long, hot day in Pateros. Up at 5:00 AM to get some coffee before the drive north for a meeting of organizations in Pateros. We set up two tents near the high school to accommodate Disaster Mental health, Health Services and Client Casework. Had a number of folks stop in, some just to sit and relate their stories. The fire has burned down enough so damage assessment can get in and take a look around. The estimate prior to this was 200 homes destroyed. They now are saying they estimate over 300 were lost. Some are talking about rebuilding, some are just leaving, its sad. The town still has no power as 300 miles of wire and poles were burned and are down. They are hoping to get the main line along the highway and into town done over this weekend, but the laterals to the folks in the back country won’t be up for at least a month. Most of them are on generators, but there has been a rash of generator thefts. The orchard growers are bringing in big diesel generators to be able to water the orchards. They are estimating that they have lost 12 – 18% of their trees and fruit from the fire. A 75 year old smoke jumper team captain said in all his years of dealing with fires, he has never seen one as devastating as this one. By the way, my hot shower tonight was WONDERFUL!!!!

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DAY 5:

 91 degrees and clear sky in Pateros today but the good news is power is back on to most of the town. The outlying areas (dirt roads to the interior) are still w/o electricity. However, we are bringing in food, water and tomorrow will begin to bring in ice to them. Temps are predicted to hit mid 90s tomorrow. People continue to show up at Pateros high School with trailers or truck loads og goods to donate. Talked with a couple today who drove from Walla Walla to Pateros to donate. (mapquest that one) Some folks were sharing that they had been allowed back into their property and were sifting through the ashes. they said the found some ceramic stuff intact (been fired already) but everything else was burned or melted. As in every disaster there are weird stories about things surviving. A family pulled their trailer away as the flames were rolling up the hills toward their place. Their buildings were destroyed, but the patio table, chairs and umbrella were still standing untouched.


They are moving us to Brewster,WA in the next two days as they begin to restructure the approach. that will give us less driving to get to the affected area. Working in that temperature today was pretty draining. Kept hydrated, but I am really bushed tonight. Five more active days for me and then I outprocess and head home. Great experience here, but it really helps ground you in the reality of how fortunate you are to have a comfortable home and loved ones to return to.

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DAY 6: 

Flexibility. Plans changed. The fire blew up again in Black canyon which is 7 miles up the road from Pateros, so that’s where we were sent back to this morning. The scooper planes and helicopters along with firefighters on the ground handled it well. air was smokey for the morning but the fire was out. We made outreach trips to the Alta Lake area. 47 homes completely destroyed there along with many vehicles. Good news for the day is the temperature did not hit the predicted 102 degrees and stayed at 94. People are beginning to really come to our service center, which lessens our time driving the back roads looking for people. we’ve coordinated well with other agencies, and there is minimal duplication of services. At one point we thought we would be ramping down the operation, but there still is a lot of the forest hot and burning.

The reception that we have gotten from the people here is very positive and welcoming. My big “in” with one of the local leaders is that her favorite uncle is named Rudy. What a lucky guy.

DAY 7:

 

The community at Pateros is ending their mass feeding tomorrow. They have been operating from the high school, but need to get ready for the school year. All the donations stored there (and as Jacob Marley would say about the quantity, “it is a ponderous thing) need to moved and stored by Friday. We will be working with the Southern Baptist group to continue the feeding from our ERVs. Temperature is rising, hitting 106 today. We have put up tent awnings to deliver our casework from, but it still gets quite warm under the tents. People continue to return and shift through the ashes.
I have downloaded a couple of pictures of the area from my camera. You have to imagine 400 square miles looking like this. There is a picture of two cars in a driveway. The shiny ribbons of metal between them is melted aluminum from the cars. There is a constant smell in the air of wet ashes, like when you drown a campfire. Fire is now at the stage similar to a controlled burn. Most of the really hot spots are in the national forest. The terrain is rugged and remote and much of that will burn or be controlled by back fires.

It has been a week now and the shock is setting in for the people. Business is picking up.
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Day 8: 
Last day in the field. 109 degrees at 4:.00. Drank a LOT of water today. The fire flared up again and planes were ferrying water from the Columbia River back to the blaze and dropping it. Got a couple of pictures from the rise overlooking Pateros. Smoke made the air hazy for most of the morning, but it cleared off slightly by afternoon. Talked to one resident who lost his house who told me the ground got so hot the buried wires and PVC pipe melted. Attaching some photos of the planes scooping water from the river. tomorrow is my day off. Plan on a lazy day and doing some laundry. I out process on Thursday. If I don’t work that day I am going to try for a flight home. Got a nice goodbye from the folks in Pateros.

 

Pakou Lee Honored with Rookie of the Year Award

June 24, 2014 the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin hosted our spring Celebration of Support event.  We had 260 staff, volunteers, blood donors and community members attend this annual event. Every year we honor a few volunteers who have gone above and behind. Here are their stories.  

(l) Pakou Lee, Rookie of the Year with Jody Weyers, Volunteer & Communications Director.

(l) Pakou Lee, Rookie of the Year with Jody Weyers, Volunteer & Communications Director.

The American Red Cross has so many stories to share of the amazing generosity of our volunteers, donors and the great work we do in the community.  It is a gift when you come across a volunteer who has the talent and skills to capture these stories to share with the public.

Pakou Lee is vital to the public affairs team. She is involved with writing stories about our services and her experiences and then sharing those on our blog and other social sites. She updates our Northeast Wisconsin Facebook page and Twitter account daily promoting local blood drives and campaigns.

She volunteers at many of our special events assisting with promoting that event through social media or helping where needed. For the past two years she has assisted at the Packers 5k, along with bringing her nieces to help, our Dancing with Our Stars kick off and many fundraising events for our Star Dancers.  

Pakou has taken training classes in public affairs to gain additional knowledge and did her first live television interview as a Red Cross spokesperson this year.  Through her volunteer experience, she received a promotion with her employer working on their social media team.

She has a wonderful talent of being able to draw people in with her words.  It is for her dedication and commitment to sharing the Red Cross story that honored Pakou Lee with the Rookie of the Year Award.

The American Red Cross Responds to Wildfires; Local Volunteer Answers the Call to Help

Disaster Mental Health Manager Diane Hermanson looks at damaged property from the Washington wildfires. The fires have forced people to leave their neighborhoods and more than 200 people have stayed in numerous Red Cross shelters since the fires started.

Disaster Mental Health Manager Diane Hermanson looks at damaged property from the Washington wildfires. The fires have forced people to leave their neighborhoods and more than 200 people have stayed in numerous Red Cross shelters since the fires started.

Wildfires have already destroyed almost 300,000 acres in Washington and officials are asking for other states to send firefighters to help put out the flames. The American Red Cross is supporting the affected residents and first responders fighting to extinguish the blazes.

 The fires have forced people to leave their neighborhoods and more than 200 people have stayed in numerous Red Cross shelters since the fires started. Many others visit the shelters during the day to get the latest information about the fires and have access to other services.

Red Cross workers have already provided more than 3,200 meals and snacks and the Southern Baptist Convention has opened a mobile kitchen to help the Red Cross distribute meals throughout the affected areas as they are deemed safe. They are also providing health and mental health services and meeting one-on one with people to determine what other services they need.

The Red Cross is also distributing things such as trash bags, heavy work gloves and masks to people who are starting to sift through the ashes where their homes once stood. Red Cross workers remain in close coordination with Emergency Management teams to identify what additional help people may need.

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Shirley and Rudy Senarighi

On Tuesday, July 22, Rudy Senarighi, of Sturgeon Bay, WI, packed his bags and was on a flight to Seattle, Washington to assist in the area of Disaster Mental Health. This is not his first deployment, and usually he goes out with this wife, Shirley, who is also a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Volunteer. Between the two of them, the couple has over 60 years of professional experience as counselors, teachers and administrative supervisors.

We are proud of Rudy for putting his life on hold to answer the call to help. Rudy is now into day three of his Red Cross deployment. We thank him for sharing his thoughts, experiences, and how the Red Cross is helping those impacted.

Day 1:

Made it to Wenatchee. Really a pretty place on the floor of the river valley. Tomorrow I head up to Brewster, WA. Most of the place burned to the ground. Will be meeting with townspeople. We also will go to Omak which is nearby. There are 13 of us that will be divided into 6 teams. We heard tonight that the fire has shifted and is heading toward a wilderness area near the Canadian border.

Burned-vehicles-NW-wildfires-jpgDay 2:

Spent the day in and around Pateros, WA connecting with people and bringing water to those in part of the burned out area. The town is still without power, but has drinkable water now. I am amazed at the heat that fire must have generated. Saw cars that had burned with puddles of melted aluminum around the ends of the axles from what had been the hub caps. The only evidence of some homes were cinder blocks stacked in a rectangle. I’m scheduled to go back to Pateros tomorrow with my partner to meet with the community. The big fire is 0% contained, but the fire fighters are trying to direct it NE. That is an area that was burned a few years ago and thus there is less fuel in that area for the fire to really burn. Today, just after my partner and I returned to Pateros, there was a lightening strike along the road we had just driven, and started another fire. These guys just can’t get a break.

Day 3: 

Pateros was an exciting day. Heard lots of stories, connected with many people. The fire was described by many as a “Fire Storm”. It rolled through the town and valleys very fast, only about 20 minutes. The fire trucks tried to keep up but they drained the cities water and couldn’t do anything more. The only interruptions came when the tanker planes flew over and scooped water out of the Columbia River, a sight I had only seen in movies. National guard moved in today and are doing 24/7 checks of property and people in the back country. Still some looting happening. People are very friendly and appreciative of our presence. we are working closely with the people of Pateros, they really have things under control, an exemplary job. Will go back tomorrow and set up a permanent site for Red Cross at the supply station there. Fire is 52% contained, but we were cautioned that contained does not mean controlled. however, the fire fighters are making progress every day. The hot weather and wind is a problem, both for the fire and for blowing loose ash and dust in the air. Skin feels pretty gritty tonight. But, they just moved us into a different staff shelter, Wenatchee High School. That means hot water and showers tonight.

The work of the American Red Cross is made possible by donations. Donations can be made by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions can also be sent by mail to a local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross via P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Deployment Spotlight: Barbara Behling – Communications Officer – Shelter Keepsake & Autographs

Barbara Behling, left on Friday, May 16, 2014 when she got the call that her help was needed in the Red Cross response efforts for the wildfires in California. She flew back Wednesday, May 21, 2014 and here is one of the many stories she has written during her deployment. We thank Barbara for giving of her time and talent and for sharing the stories of how the Red Cross is helping those in need.

Photos & Story by: Barbara Behling, American Red Cross  

Eloise Aleman Pillow is autographed by Martin Astl

Eloise Aleman Pillow is autographed by Martin Astl

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Barbara Behling, (left) with Eloise Aleman and her signed pillow.

Pillow closeup

 

It’s not often you have to leave your home with a 5-minute warning but for Eloisa Aleman this was San Diego wildfire reality. From frantic moments she found comfort, friendship and compassion in the Mission Hills High School shelter for several days.

From a collection of individuals, a community was formed thanks to a sea of red vested American Red Cross responders. Each person was welcomed to their ‘temporary home’ with a safe place to sleep, food and snacks around the clock. Medical professions provided a watchful eye to ensure any health issues were addressed including replacing medications left behind from a hasty exit.  Compassionate care was provided to help calm fears and reduce stress as the flames grew and the smoke came closer.  Through partnerships, all their pets were housed, fed and even walked. A few individuals even slept next to their furry friends in separate quarters.

When the evacuation orders were lifted many returned home to resume normal daily activities. However, for some, a new reality was about to begin with clean-up to begin as their homes were reduced to ashes.

Eloise Aleman was so impressed with the hospitality! She wanted a lasting reminder.

“You are all like family!” she exclaimed.

So she wanted to keep her shelter pillow and pranced to each red vest for an autograph and a hug.  This act of appreciation, gratitude and memory will last a lifetime for each Red Cross worker.

Help Provide Swimming Lessons to those in Need!

CLICK HERE to participate in this GROUPON DEAL: $10 Donation to the American Red Cross

m6040248_241x164-learn-to-swimThe Issue: Lack of Swimming Skills

Every day, an average of 10 people die from unintentional drowning in the U.S.—two of those being children aged 14 or younger. For every child who dies from drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another five received emergency care from water-related incidents. A 2014 Red Cross survey found that while 80 percent of Americans said they could swim, only 56 percent are self-described swimmers and 33 percent of African American respondents can perform all of the five basic swimming skills that are needed to be competent in the water.

The Campaign: Teaching Children to Swim

All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by the American Red Cross to support the Aquatics Centennial Campaign, a new initiative to cut the drowning rate by 50% in 50 cities in the next 3 to 5 years. For every $10 raised, the organization can help provide a swimming lessons for one child or adult from an at-risk community.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross’s water safety education program. To celebrate, through its Centennial Campaign, the organization aims to teach 50,000 more people in these cities how to swim and respond to emergency situations. The program targets families in high-risk areas, and includes teaching parents how to perform CPR as well as equipping older teens and young adults with the skills to become lifeguards and swim instructors. People are also encouraged to download the free Red Cross Swim App to track their or their children’s swim progress and learn about water safety with videos and quizzes.

In A Nutshell: 

Donations help prevent drowning accidents during the summer by providing swimming lessons for children in underserved communities

The Fine Print

100% of donations go directly to American Red Cross. Donations are automatically applied. See Grassroots FAQs that apply to this campaign. Merchant is solely responsible to purchasers for the care and quality of the advertised goods and services.

Download the Red Cross Swim App!

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Learn more about water safety, including simple steps you can take to help ensure the safety of your family in a variety of environments, such as home pools and the ocean.

TEXT ‘SWIM’ to 90999 or download from the Apple App StoreGoogle Play or Amazon Marketplace.

Red Cross Issues Tips to Keep You Safe This 4th of July

 Throughout the Fourth of July week, many people will be traveling, firing-up the backyard grill or enjoying fireworks, and the American Red Cross offers a series of steps everyone can follow to safely enjoy the holiday.

FIREWORKS SAFETY The best way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Here are five safety steps for people setting fireworks off at home:

1. Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
2. Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
3. Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
4. Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
5. Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.

GRILLING SAFETY Every year people are injured while using charcoal or gas grills. Here are several steps to safely cook treats for the backyard barbecue:

1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
2. Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
3. Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
4. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

signsHIGHWAY SAFETY Millions of people will be on the highways throughout the Fourth of July week. The Red Cross offers five things everyone should do to stay safe while traveling:

1. Buckle seat belts, observe speed limits.
2. Do not drink and drive.
3. Pay full attention to the road – don’t use a cell phone to call or text.
4. Use caution in work zones.
5. Clean the vehicle’s lights and windows to help the driver see, especially at night. Turn theheadlights on as dusk approaches, or during inclement weather.

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE FIRST AID APP  PHSS_FIrstAid_IMGv1-JH

The Red Cross has a free Red Cross First Aid App to put expert advice for everyday emergencies at your fingertips. The app is available for smart phones and tablets and can be downloaded from the Apple or Google Play for Android app stores.

Have a safe and fun 4th of July!

Northeast Wisconsin Board Member Spotlight – Tom Rettler

Tom Rettler
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Menasha Corporation

Thomas Rettler - Menasha Corporation

Red Cross Board Member Since: 2012

We want to thank Tom for sharing his Red Cross story with us and are honored to have him as a member of the American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin Chapter Board of Directors.

What are your responsibilities as a board member?
My primary responsibility is raising awareness of the Red Cross mission among my personal and professional network, which hopefully leads them to getting involved as either volunteers, donors or both.

Why did you choose to volunteer for the Red Cross?
Being a finance person, I was attracted to the scope, scale, speed and efficiency of the resources the Red Cross can bring to bear on disasters when and wherever they occur.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the Red Cross?
Playing a small part in assisting a great organization that serves a vitally important mission.

Where do you see yourself in the future with the Red Cross?
Right now I see my involvement primarily at a local level (NE Wisconsin Chapter) and staying involved as a board member.

Do you volunteer for other places/non-profit organizations?
I am on the Board of the Menasha Corporation Foundation. I occasionally volunteer at my daughter’s elementary school.

What do you and your family like to do together?
Traveling and just spending time together whatever the activity might be.

What are your favorite hobbies or past time activities?
Golfing and fishing are my two favorite recreational activities

What is one interesting fact about you that would surprise your friends and colleagues?
My oldest child is 26 and my youngest is 7. The youngest one keeps me young.

What is your favorite quote that you live by?
“Everyone faces adversity. How you respond to that adversity defines your character.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We will never eliminate disasters or the need for blood. These are situations, for the most part, that can’t be prevented, they can only be responded to and supported. No organization does it better than the Red Cross.

 

 

 

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