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.

My First Large Scale Disaster

By Jenny Berry, American Red Cross Disaster Services Intern

(left-right) Brenda Haney, Denis Davenport, Nick Cluppert and ME!

Can you believe it is only my second day interning with the American Red Cross and I have already been on a local disaster response call and now traveled to Platteville to be a part of a larger scale disaster operation. It all seems so surreal. I did not expect to gain this much experience in so little time.

On Thursday, I went with Nick Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager, and Maxine Klumb, disaster volunteer, to Platteville to observe the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) that the Red Cross was opening with the help of community partners. We wanted to gain information on the MARC because the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter is looking to invite our local partners to information sessions come fall to educate the different partners on what a MARC is before a disaster strikes and we need to set one up. By doing this we will be able to provide information to community partners in the area and are able to demonstrate how they are a great resource for a community following a disaster.

When we first arrived we went to where the MARC was being held at Platteville’s High School. We were warmly welcomed by the American Red Cross Badger Chapter. Funny thing was that the first person I saw was a good family friend, Brenda Haney. Wow, it is small of a world! The Red Cross staff and Red Cross volunteers immediately filled us in the information we needed and much more about the MARC. I thought it was great with how much input we received. I think it will be very helpful when we create and setup a MARC come fall.  I also think that a MARC is a wonderful idea to have in times of a disaster because it makes it easier and more convenient for those who are suffering.

Some of the damage I saw as we toured the area.

Some of the damage I saw as we toured the area.

Volunteers, Brenda Haney and Diana O’Neill, invited us to go see the affected area. It was not until we reached the affected area when I realized how badly the area was hit. I understand that this was not a “major” disaster, but to me this was devastating. I still have crystal clear images of the damage that was caused to the homes of the community and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. It is unbelievable how incredibly strong and destructive a natural disaster could be. When we arrived at the center of the scene I was in shock. Since I had never experienced or seen something even close to this, it took me a moment to take it all in. Nick, Maxine, Brenda, and Diane jumped right out of the Red Cross van without hesitation and went into action, going door to door of those affected. I then snapped out of it and jumped right out there with the others and started to help in our own little way by distributing information about the services provided by the MARC to those in the community that were affected by the disaster.

After that initial shock, it all started to come natural to me. In my opinion being able to lend a hand to even a few people is something that I have always aspired to do and to be. I now know that after even a few short days with interning with Red Cross so far, that I am meant to be helping others in any way that I can. It is beautiful to have been an observer of how the volunteers and staff of the Red Cross will travel and do anything possible to bring some light back into the lives and communities that are affected by emergencies and natural disasters. For someone who has had their eyes witness events that they have never seen before (house fire and community affected by tornado), I cannot say enough that the services provided by Red Cross is one of grave need in times of emergencies and natural disasters. Without a doubt in my mind, the Red Cross staff, volunteers, and community partners truly fulfill their mission and values which were one of the many things that drew me to the Red Cross.

My First Disaster Call

By Jenny Berry, American Red Cross Intern 

Jenny Berry - fire winneconne

Jenny Berry observing the two disaster team leads as they talk with the clients to determine their emergency needs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014, was my first day interning at American Red Cross in Oshkosh, WI and I would not have wanted my first day any other way!  I immediately felt welcome and at home with the American Red Cross especially after my boss, Nick Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager for Territory 2, sent out a welcome email to staff and volunteers and the warm, kind and insightful welcome emails started to pour in. I even received my own desk and computer to work with during my time at the American Red Cross.

I spent most of my first day researching and updating information for community referrals as well as partnerships and hotels for the County Annexes.  I think that this is a great resource readily available for communities and individuals when a natural disaster occurs. I also helped Nick with filling out client information for a fake/mock case so Red Cross workers can gain more experience with how a case works, follow-up, and entering information into the new CAS 2.0 disaster intake system.

The environment in the office was so welcoming and engaging that I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time in the office brings! I have been given an amazing opportunity to learn and to grow with this organization and can’t wait to take it all in.

Towards the end of the day, I was asked to respond with the Disaster Action Team (DAT) to a fire that had happened the previous day in Winneconne in Winnebago County.  I thought that this was a perfect opportunity to get out in the field and gain some first-hand experience. I then received my American Red Cross vest and headed out for the call.

Disaster Volunteer, Dick Henderson, writing out our forms to assist clients in need.

Disaster Volunteer, Dick Henderson, writing out our forms to assist clients in need.

While riding with DAT Captain, Becky Tiles, I started to become very nervous and anxious because I did not know what to expect or exactly how to approach individuals when something so terrible like this happens to individuals. So basically, my mind was running in a million different directions before arrive at the scene. Thankfully, Becky calmed my nerves by preparing me for what to expect and giving me excellent advice for this type of experience. We then met another DAT responder, Dick Henderson, at a parking lot in Winneconne and road to the scene together.

When we got to the scene, I mainly observed how Becky and Dick were responding to the clients and the scene which is precisely how I wanted my first time out to be like. An event and scene like this is a lot to take in for a first-time responder so performing the paperwork and additional support would have been difficult to pursue. Personally and fortunately, I have never experienced any type of disaster so my heart sank for the clients. I was surprised at how well and how strong the clients were handling their situation, but I still wanted to snap my fingers and make everything better for them.  Knowing that snapping my fingers was an impossible task, we instead were able to provided assistance for food and clothing.

Even though, it may not seem like a lot, providing the littlest of assistance and alleviating the smallest of pain to those who suffer from a natural disaster or an emergency like this is something that is truly remarkable that the American Red Cross and the partners of American Red Cross are able to do.

I feel that we all hope that we will not have to go back out to another scene, but sadly, natural disasters cannot always be controlled. I am grateful and appreciative for being able to attend the scene with two individuals who offered their experience and knowledge so when the next time (praying there won’t have to be) comes I am one step closer to being able to respond full-force at the scene.

I am so thankful to be interning alongside a great organization that is filled with incredible individuals that are making first-hand differences in people’s lives. I am eager to continue to explore, participate, and learn more of what the American Red Cross and the individuals are doing to lend a helping hand to those in need.  I could not have imagined a better way to start my journey with the American Red Cross and excited to see where the journey heads next!

Stories from our Volunteers: Tornado Deployment in Little Rock Arkansas

By Kathy Schuh-Ries, Disaster Volunteer 

Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services, working with Kathy Schuh-Ries in filling out her deployment paperwork.

Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services, working with Kathy Schuh-Ries in filling out her deployment paperwork.

On May 2nd, I was deployed by the Red Cross to assist as a Mental Health volunteer in Little Rock Arkansas. An F4 tornado had touched down the Sunday before leaving 16 people deceased, with mass destruction to the towns of Mayflower and Velonia.  The tornado was ¾ of a mile wide and left behind slabs with piles of debris where homes and neighborhoods once stood.

After signing in at Red Cross Headquarters in Little Rock and receiving my assignment, I joined other workers in setting up an outreach center in Beryl Baptist Church in Conway Arkansas. I was part of a team of three. Two of my co-workers followed a Red Cross ERV (emergency response vehicle) delivering food to disaster areas and talking to people in the neighborhoods while I met people who walked in at the church. I listened to their account of the events that happened to each one personally. In assessing the needs through these conversations I was able to refer for resources to assist in recovery.

At Beryl Baptist, the Red Cross staffed a shelter that assisted families and individuals during the first week. When the shelter was no longer needed, the church assisted in food distribution. Volunteers from the church assisted in this distribution of canned goods, water and other items that where donated. Clothing was distributed in a church down the road.

Some of the destruction in the Arkansas area, but the American Flag still stands.

Some of the destruction in the Arkansas area, but the American Flag still stands.

I was able to meet individuals and families and refer them for other services at the MARC (Mass Assistance Recovery Center) a place in town where twelve different agencies were equipped to assist people who needed medical services, eye glasses, food, clothing, tree and debris removal etc. The center was located four miles away from the church.

I was touched by the many volunteers who responded to this horrific disaster. While there were too many to remember, I want to note a few. The Southern Baptist, who cooked thousands of meals which then were delivered by the Red Cross throughout the town and on Saturday, the day we arrived, bus loads of volunteers (1,500), came to assist in debris removal and clean up.

To read more about Kathy’s deployment, here is a link to the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter who did a story about her deployment.  

THANK YOU Kathy from your friends at the Red Cross for being there to answer the call!!

When You Lose Not Only Your Home, but Your Safe Haven

Barbara Behling, Communications Officer, left on Friday when she got the call that her help was needed in the Red Cross response efforts for the wildfires in California. She is flying back today, 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.

 May 18, 2014 By Barbara Behling, Advanced Public Affairs Team, Harmony Grove, California Wildfire

Harmony Grove.spider

Harmony Grove home owner Chris Meredith (left) and Barbara Behling, American Red Cross by Koi pond. Photo by: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross

It was not his home but his Koi pond that grabbed national attention.

The devastating San Diego wildfires of 2014 destroyed 25 of the 29 homes of the Harmony Grove Spiritual Association community. Yet, thirty-six of Chris Meredith’s forty Koi survived the burning embers. While watching news the day of the fire, Chris saw his home of 27-years go up in flames. Knowing the importance of this spiritual community, the fire department connected a generator to pump fresh air and clean water into the murky pond to increase chances of the Koi’s survival. The Koi Club of San Diego agreed to relocate the colorful fish until they can be returned to a rebuilt Harmony Grove.

When the first responders gave an ‘all clear’ for residents to return, the American Red Cross was there too. As Harmony Grove residents began searching through ashes, the pain of what was lost was apparent on their faces. Red Cross mental health workers were on the scene to talk with people, provide comfort and support them as a range of emotions swept over them.

Red Cross caseworkers were on hand to assist with short and longer-term recovery plans. Through a partnership with Campesinos Unidos, short-term lodging and emergency funding was provided for residents who lost their homes and all their belongings. The Red Cross also provided water, food, snacks, comfort kits and other supplies to residents returning to where their homes once stood.

With continued oversight by the Red Cross, each resident will have support for days, weeks and even months to come as Harmony Grove rebuilds its community.  “This is more than a home – it’s our safe haven,” Chris said.

Harmony Grove home owner Chris Meredith (right) and Barbara Behling, American Red Cross.  Photo by: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross

Harmony Grove home owner Chris Meredith (right) and Barbara Behling, American Red Cross. Photo by: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross

Many of the residents were philosophical about the losses, emotionally supported by the spirituality of the community.  “With a wooden house and deck and surrounded by trees, it’s not a good combination. We are simply passing through this land and we take the experiences with us,” Chris concluded.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 62,000 residential fires a year and has trained disaster responders available to respond to disasters large and small.

The American Red Cross provides all their services as a gift to the American people from the American people.  If you would like to help us with a financial gift and learn about fire prevention, readiness and tips for disaster recovery please visit www.redcross.org.

 

 

 

Red Cross Wants to Recognize Nurses During National Nurses Week

Nursing Week

National Nurses Week is May 6 – 12 and the American Red Cross is joining the celebration, recognizing the important contributions of its nurses.

This year’s theme for National Nurses Week is “Nurses: Leading the Way” to recognize nurses as leaders at the bedside, in the boardroom, throughout communities and in the halls of government. For more than 130 years, nurses have been an important part of the mission of the Red Cross, providing assistance during times of disaster and conflict.

Today, nurses provide a health perspective for the Red Cross, serving across all lines of service. Across the country, nurses serve in management and supervisory roles at Red Cross chapter and blood service regions, many in executive positions. Nurses hold leadership roles as Regional, State and Division Nurse Leaders and as members of the Red Cross national Board of Governors as well as board members on the local level.

Throughout the past week, professionally licensed nurses who double as trained Red Cross responders  have been deployed to southern states ravaged by tornadoes and floods. Plus, they serve locally at residential fires to community events.

Red Cross nurses make a difference. Would you like to be part of their proud tradition of dedicated service? Join the more than 15,000 Red Cross nurses who respond to disasters, teach health and safety classes, help members of the military and their families and assist at Red Cross blood drives. You too can be a Red Cross Nurse. For more information, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training is available at six locations. The course provides skills to start a new career in the health care industry. Students learn in a hands-on environment under the eyes of caring and professional nurses, bolstered by a nationally developed Red Cross curriculum that is approved by the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services.  Scholarships and enrollment details are available at www.redcross.org/winat.

Safe and Well – Helping to Reconnect Families and Loved Ones

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After a disaster, like the recent tornadoes we have seen, letting your family and friends know that you are safe and well can bring your loved ones great peace of mind. This website is designed to help make that communication easier.  

About Safe and Well 

When disasters strike, loved ones can become separated. If you have been affected by a disaster, you can register yourself on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website.

Family and friends can search the list of  those who have registered themselves. A successful search will bring up a loved one’s first name, last name and a brief message.

“Safe & Well is a simple and easy tool that everyone needs to be aware of.  When disasters strike our normal ways of communicating with each other may be disrupted.  Individuals can register themselves on the website, or Red Cross can do it for them, and family members can search to see if their loved one is okay after the disaster,” said Nick Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager.  

“When I deployed with Red Cross to Alabama in 2011 for tornadoes, and to Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey I saw first-hand how people became disconnected, and the Safe & Well website helped to bring those people back together.”

Always Available

Safe and Well is always available. Access to the Website is made available at shelters, service delivery sites and many partner agency locations. During large-scale disasters, when Internet and phone lines may be compromised, trained volunteers can help you register using a paper form.

Privacy

Your privacy is preserved. No specific location or contact information is displayed unless you choose to do so in your custom message. People will need to know your name and address or phone number in order to see your post.

Integration with Social Media

Do you use Facebook or Twitter? After registering, you can click on these icons to post your selected messages right on your Facebook or Twitter page. And your loved ones won’t need to remember any logins or passwords to see that you are safe

For more information or to search for a loved one go to: redcross.org/safeandwell  

Red Cross Helps Arkansas Tornado Survivors with Shelter, Food and Relief Supplies

As severe weather threat continues, people should prepare and use free app alerts 

Tornado damage, Mayflower Arkansas 27April2014. Early reports and images show that Mayflower Arkansas suffered heavy damage.

The American Red Cross is helping people in Arkansas and several other states affected by Sunday’s devastating tornadoes.

More than 200 people spent Sunday night in shelters in Arkansas that were opened or supported by Red Cross workers. The Red Cross is also providing health and mental health services and Red Cross emergency vehicles will be distributing food throughout the affected areas.

“Our thoughts and sympathy are with all those impacted by these horrific tornadoes,” said Richard Reed, senior vice president, Disaster Cycle Services for the Red Cross. “Red Cross disaster teams are helping now and will continue to help for weeks to come.”

RED CROSS SENDS BLOOD The Red Cross provided several units of type O negative blood to two hospitals in Arkansas before the storm and supplied 40 units of plasma this morning to help treat those who were injured. The hospitals say they have a sufficient blood supply to handle the situation at this point. The Red Cross stands ready to assist with any additional blood needs. Anyone interested in donating blood should call 1-800-RED CROSS or your local blood bank to schedule an appointment in the weeks ahead.

The Red Cross also has shelters open in Oklahoma and is responding in northern Louisiana where flooding occurred after yesterday’s storms. Shelter and services also are being provided in North Carolina, which was hit Friday night by tornadoes.

SEVERE WEATHER NOT OVER The chance of severe storms is moving eastward today and could impact people in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Red Cross chapters in those areas are preparing to respond by readying shelters, supplies and volunteers.

support-american-red-cross-in-arkansas-disaster-relief-for-arkansasDOWNLOAD TORNADO APP People should download the Red Cross tornado app onto their mobile devices. They can use the app’s “I’m Safe” button to let loved ones know they are okay and find the location of Red Cross shelters. The app also includes a high-pitched siren and warning alert that signals when a tornado warning has been issued, as well as also an all-clear alert that lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled. The Red Cross sent out 2.1 million severe weather notifications over the weekend through its tornado app for tornado and thunderstorm watches and warnings.

If someone needs to find a shelter, they can contact their local Red Cross chapter or access the Red Cross shelter map which is updated every 30 minutes with shelter locations by address, city, state and/or zip code.

HOW TO HELP Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Fond du Lac Fire Department ‘Tames Flames’ for Red Cross

Local Disaster Relief Partnership Announced

Last year the Brat fry raised $4,006.38 for local disaster relief!

Last year the Brat fry raised $4,006.38 for local disaster relief!

Once again this year, the Fond du Lac Fire Department will be “taming the flames” of the barbecue grill to help the American Red Cross help our community.

When: Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Where: Main Street Fire Station (815 S. Main St.)

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

The Red Cross and the Fire Department are partners on several community initiatives from emergency education to disaster relief and recovery. Emergency responders have requested Red Cross assistance at 24 fires the past year alone! This is the largest number in recent years; a few years ago, it was only seven requests for help. With two recent larger apartment fires, the number of people being assisted is at an all-time high!

“The Red Cross is a tremendous asset to our entire community so we want this event to be our biggest and best yet,” stated Fire Chief Peter O’Leary.

To help the cause, you can pre-order brats and burgers by calling the Main Street Fire Station’s non-emergency number at 920-322-3800 by 9:00 a.m. on April 22.

Delivery is available for orders over 20 items. You can also place an order in-person between 10:00 a.m. – 2:00p.m. at the Main Street Fire Station and enjoy our cuisine at the picnic tables.

Get to Know: Paul Fruit, Regional Logistics Specialist

Kayleigh Kaminski and Kaylee Kuhn are seen handing over the greeting cards to Nick Cluppert (left) and Paul Fruit, from the Red Cross

Kayleigh Kaminski and Kaylee Kuhn are seen handing over the greeting cards to Nick Cluppert (left) and Paul Fruit, from the Red Cross

Hello everyone!  My name is Paul Fruit and I’m the Regional Logistics Specialist for the American Red Cross.  I’m excited to be able to share a little bit regarding my continuing career evolution within this remarkable organization and how I ended up in my current position, as it has been one amazing journey.

I grew up in a little town outside of Madison, and graduated from UW-Madison in 2009 with a degree in Economics.  Having absolutely no real idea as to where I wanted to begin my career, and willing to explore a wide range of options, I was particularly intrigued by an AmeriCorps service listing with the Red Cross in Oshkosh to help provide service and support to military members, their families, and the VA facilities that support them.  Knowing very little information about the Red Cross, I dove in headfirst and was quickly exposed to both the wide array of humanitarian services this organization provides, as well as the incredible volunteers that support them.  All I can say is that it was love at first sight!

My experiences as an AmeriCorps member were enough for me to know I wanted to stay with the Red Cross in any capacity I could, and when my two years were up, I accepted a position in Appleton working with a local community program and managing the local office.  I continued in this role for two more years before accepting my current position in disaster services, a position I very much enjoy.  I’m responsible for material resources and volunteers that support 28-counties including vehicles, shelter trailers and warehouses.

Each and every day, I wake up knowing that our organization has the most dedicated, intelligent, and caring volunteers on the planet, and I’m lucky enough to be able to work and engage with them on a daily basis as we continue our mission.  The last 4+ years have been the best years of my life, and I look forward to many more!

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