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

255716_10150657111325305_4482481_n

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!!!!

10517924_10154446548510305_2783490725839508214_o

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.

10487619_10154446548430305_5676022919638772110_o

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.
10494418_10154450649475305_8176926758726387652_o
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.

255716_10150657111325305_4482481_n

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

IMG_1583

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!!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers