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.

Get to know: Trina Capelli, Summer Intern

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By: Trina Capelli, American Red Cross Intern

My name is Trina Capelli and I am a summer intern for the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin located at the offices in Manitowoc. I just completed my second year as a Biochemistry Major at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. I plan on graduating a semester early in December of 2015. After receiving my Bachelors of Science degree, I hope to go on to Medical School.

A little bit about me: I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and attended Mary D. Bradford High School. I played Varsity Tennis, Basketball, and Softball in high school, and have continued to play tennis for Beloit College. I am a big fan of pretty much any Wisconsin sports team, especially the Packers. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, working out, and spending time with my family.

My connection to the American Red Cross began when I was about eight years old with the Babysitting and First Aid courses. Since then I have also completed the CPR and First Aid courses and have become a certified lifeguard as well. I am very excited to be interning with the American Red Cross this summer, and I look forward to having a positive impact on the Manitowoc community.

American Red Cross Honors Volunteers and Supporters at Celebration of Support Event

The American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin Chapter celebrated its partners at the annual Celebration of Support Event on Tuesday, June 24 at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay. Two hundred and sixty attended the event, comprised of Red Cross volunteers, community partners and The Grainger Foundation representatives; the event sponsor. The crowd was brought to their feet upon hearing the amazing acts of volunteerism and collaboration. WBAY-TV anchor, Kathryn Bracho served as the Mistress of Ceremonies.

The program kicked-off with incoming Board Vice-chair, Chris Vanderheyden of Double Digit Sales Growth, welcoming words and appreciation for all who give of their time, talent and treasure to help the Red Cross fulfill its mission. Following Vanderheyden was Greg Novinska, CEO, Badger-Hawkeye Blood Services Region with an update on our collection, testing and distribution of life-saving blood products.  The first awards were presented to One-a-Week Club businesses and clubs who committed to at least 52 donations of blood per year, or one per week during the previous year.

After dinner, the Volunteer Recognition Awards were presented to individuals and groups for their exceptional volunteer work.

Jean Frisch, of Wisconsin Public Service, Ed McHugh Worker of the Year award for front-line volunteers with exceptional reliability to the blood program.

(l-r)  Greg Novinska, CEO, Badger-Hawkeye Blood Service Regioin, Robert Hollenbeck, Hilary Lesperance Award Winner, and his daughter, Lori Hollenbeck

(l-r) Greg Novinska, CEO, Badger-Hawkeye Blood Service Region, Robert Hollenbeck, Hilary Lesperance Award Winner, and his daughter, Lori Hollenbeck

Associated Bank, Business, Group or Organization of the Year, given to a business or group of volunteers for years of commitment to the American Red Cross Blood Services program.

Robert Hollenback, of Sheboygan Falls, Hilary Lesperance Award for outstanding support in the Blood Services Program.

Territory Three Disaster Action Team,  Kerrie Forester Emergency Services Award for commitment and dedication to Disaster Services.

John Mueller, of DePere, Andrew Janssen Transportation Award, for outstanding work in transportation services for the American Red Cross and providing transportation for the elderly population and those with disabilities to help them sustain an independent lifestyle.

Rick Jerry, of Green Bay, Outreach Award, for outstanding service in Preparedness, Health and Safety, education and outreach.

Sharon Davister, of Green Bay& Bonnie Rozmarynowski, of Denmark, Behind-the-Scenes Award presented to a volunteer who assists with essential office work at one of our office locations in development, facilities, reception and other behind-the-scenes jobs.

Pakou Lee, of Green Bay, Rookie of the Year, presented to a volunteer for exceptional level of service and has started within the past year.

The Konop Company, of Green Bay, Community Partnership Award, awarded to a group, individual, or business for demonstrating extraordinary support, collaboration and fulfillment of the American Red Cross mission within its core lines of service

Schneider, Corporate Benefactor Award, for a business with outstanding commitment and dedication to the American Red Cross.

Aymee Balison, of De Pere, Mrs. Crane (Mary) Murphy Award, presented to a member of the Board of Directors for exceptional contribution and advancement of the American Red Cross.

John and Lynne Wilson, of Iron Mountain, MI, Volunteer of the Year Award, presented to the individual who has demonstrated long-term commitment to multiple programs of the American Red Cross.

(l-r) Shawn Kiser, Major Gifts Officer, Jody Weyers, Director of Volunteers, Jim Rivett, Clara Barton Award Winner, and Mary Gronnert, Foundation Manager, Schneider, Corporate Benefactor Award.

(l-r) Shawn Kiser, Major Gifts Officer, Jody Weyers, Director of Volunteers, Jim Rivett, Clara Barton Award Winner, and Mary Gronnert, Foundation Manager, Schneider, Corporate Benefactor Award.

James Rivett, of Green Bay, President of Arketype, Clara Barton Award, the highest award of the night, presented to an individual who exemplifies the qualities of American Red Cross pioneer Clara Barton.

Congratulations to all the award recipients and thank you to everyone for your time, blood and support of the American Red Cross.

Click HERE to see pictures of all the award recipients.

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.

Wisconsin Heroes Award

Recognizing exceptional Wisconsonites for their selfless contributions

(left-right) Elton Petersen, First Lady, Tonette Walker and Elton's wife, Mary Petersen

(left-right) Elton Petersen, First Lady, Tonette Walker and Elton’s wife, Mary Petersen

Wisconsin is home to some of the finest Midwestern hospitality and some of our nation’s friendliest people. Throughout the state, in small towns and big cities alike, countless individuals are eager to go the extra mile, take a stand for causes in which they believe, and use their time, effort and ideas to help make Wisconsin a better place.

Recognition is given each month to one outstanding Wisconsin resident. The first lady, Tonette Walker, visits and presents the award to the winner to say thank you for his or her willingness, compassion, and commitment to the betterment of our state.

Thanks to the Volunteer Center of Brown County for nominating 2014 Golden Heart Award winner, Elton Petersen, for the Wisconsin Hero Award.  We were so excited to have Elton selected as the June Hero!

A little more about Elton: 

Elton Petersen has been doing service for decades. During his almost 21 years of service at the Red Cross, Elton has volunteered over 5,500 hours and has provided about 10,000 rides to clients over the age of 60 and/or those who are disabled. He also has volunteered hundreds of hours delivering blood and blood products to patients in need at area hospitals. Additionally, as a member of De Pere Area Men’s club, Elton has delivered meals every week and heads a paper pick-up in De Pere every month. Elton has been involved with the De Pere Community Center since 1999. His volunteer efforts at the center consist of helping with the Nutrition Program, meal delivery, and seasonal events. On top of everything, Elton is a volunteer musician with three local bands, all of which he has played with for at least 25 years.

Thank you Elton for your years of service and for everything you do within our community!

Click HERE to see additional photos from the awards presentation.

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!

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