Colorado Floods – One Year Later!

By Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

It is hard to believe one year ago today, I was boarding a plane for Denver, CO to help tell the story of so many that were impacted by the devastating floods. Here’s a look back at the many faces who touched my life and the stories I wrote about during my deployment experience.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

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Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Deployment – Day 1 

Colorado Floods – Telling our Story: Part 1

 

Click HERE to the American Red Cross one year update report.

Never Forget

We all remember where we were on this day 13 years ago. It is a day that will live in our hearts and minds forever. Thoughts of comfort and support go out to the many families that lost loved ones on this tragic day.

To look back, and to never forget, here is a story from Carl Ducharme, of Green Bay, who was deployed to Ground Zero as an American Red Cross volunteer. We thank Carl, and all the volunteers who gave of their heart and soul to help those in need.

September 11 1

Kerrie Forester Volunteer Award goes to the Extraordinary Territory 3 Disaster Team

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.  

Congrats to our entire Territory Three Disaster Team award with the Kerrie Forester Emergency Services Award.

Congrats to our entire Territory Three Disaster Team award with the Kerrie Forester Emergency Services Award.

The Kerrie Forester Volunteer Award each year goes to a Disaster Services volunteer who has shared their time and talents above and beyond the high expectations of Disaster Response team members. This award is named after Kerrie Forester who symbolized all this and more, and left us way too soon.

This year we could not pick one single person, because an entire team stepped up when faced with multiple adverse conditions and challenges.

First, our weather – It may be warm and sunny now, but I am sure you remember multiple sub-zero days, wind and snow. No matter what the weather was like, the team was there because they knew help was needed.

Second, thirteen year Disaster Program Manager, Judy Gregory, left on Christmas break and due to a serious medical issue was unable to return to work until April 14th. 

The Red Cross story states we are an agency run by volunteers and this is a prime example of volunteers being leaders.

“It was amazing to see how the volunteers stepped up to the plate, coordinated amongst themselves, and filled in every gap to meet the challenge in Judy’s absence. Whether a large apartment fire, a single family response, or administrative tasks, they exemplified what it means to be a volunteer-led organization.”  Said Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services

These wonderful volunteers went out of their way and pulled together to continue providing exceptional care to people directly affected by a Disaster.

Congratulations and thank you to our ENTIRE Territory 3 Disaster Team.

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.

 

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.

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.

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