Girl Scouts donate blankets to Red Cross

Video provided by Nathan Phelps, Green Bay Press Gazette:

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Girl Scout blanket donation: Girl Scouts with Troop 4202 in Green Bay donated tie-blankets to the American Red Cross in Green Bay Saturday for distribution to people in need, like fire victims.

Girl Scouts Troop 4202 members were on hand at Green Bay Fire Department Station 3 on Saturday to donated blankets to the American Red Cross.

The blankets are intended for distribution to people in need, such as people who have been displaced from their homes by fires.

Seven Days of Giving: Volunteers bring hope to Sandy survivors

Written by Paul Srubas Press-Gazette Media

From left, Jan Traversa, Joe Gerrits, Bonny Chapman, Rudy Senarighi and Gayle Hein stand as five members of a group of 19 volunteers from the local community who traveled to the east coast to help during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. / Matt Robinson/Press-Gazette Correspondent

Charity begins at home, but it doesn’t have to stay there.

That’s the mindset of 19 volunteers with the Red Cross of Northeastern Wisconsin, all of whom recently pitched in to provide disaster relief in New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. They each spent about two weeks there, sleeping on cots in a gymnasium full of strangers, working 16 hours a day or more packing and trucking goods to people in areas of heavy devastation, going door to door to provide relief where needed.

For their volunteer efforts, they are being featured in the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s series, “Seven Days of Giving,” which identifies some of the local heroes of charitable efforts.

“There’s nothing like someone giving you a hug and saying ‘thank you,’” said one of them, Jan Traversa, 59, of Pulaski. “I’m so grateful I was able to go. I wish I didn’t have to work so I could do it full time.”

Like most other Red Cross volunteers — and there are 41 of them throughout Northeastern Wisconsin — Traversa and the other 18 do local disaster relief work. They can often be seen at the scene of fires, for example, where they do everything from providing temporary shelter for fire victims to handing out coffee to the tired firefighters.

The people

Red Cross volunteers recently returning from providing Hurricane Sandy relief: Joe Gerrits and Mary Roellchen, De Pere; Jan Traversa, Pulaski; Bonny Chapman, Dean Ekberg, Deb Harrington, Gayle Hein and Denise Mooren, Green Bay; Phil Everhart, Marinette; Ron Maloney, Rudy Senarighi, Judy Dobbins and Diane (Dee) Knutson, Sturgeon Bay; Donna LaPlante, Little Suamico; Mary Beth (Betsy) LeClair and Joel O’Connell, Two Rivers; Keith and Yvonne Stukenberg, Luxemburg; Lori Delain, Casco.

But these 19 also were willing to take their show on the road. In this case, that meant the Eastern Seaboard in the wake of some of the worst storm damage the nation has seen.

“A lot of the people who did this and Katrina felt this was worse because it’s a much more populated area,” said Jody Weyers, volunteer coordinator for the Red Cross of Northeastern Wisconsin.

Joe Gerrits, one of 19 local volunteers who helped out after Hurricane Sandy, celebrates with a group of friends at Legends in De Pere earlier this month. / Matt Robinson/Press-Gazette Correspondent

“You drive down the road, and all you see are piles of debris out on the street,” said Joe Gerrits, 46, a volunteer from De Pere. “Everything is junk — appliances, furniture. People are tearing out their dry wall. It’s because of the mold.”

Gerrits saw a lot of the devastation while he was out there, but he spent most of his volunteer time working in a warehouse, loading trucks with supplies.

He spent a little bit of his time on “search and serve missions,” in which Red Cross volunteers simply drive around looking for people who need assistance.

“We brought them drinks, Meals Ready to Eat, cleaning supplies,” he said. “People wanted coffee terribly. There was no power, and it was cold and damp.”

To get the time off from his office job here, Gerrits used up vacation time and also went without pay for the two-week period.

Traversa joined the Red Cross 11 years ago specifically because she wanted to help at the scene of the World Trade Center devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, the first of six national deployments she has participated in. That has included two hurricanes, two floods, tornado damage and the terrorist attack.

In the hurricane disasters, “I drove a 26-foot truck for bulk distribution,” Traversa said. “It’s awesome, because you’re driving around with a truck filled with supplies like tarps, bug spray, heater meals, comfort kits, cleanup kits.

“You just drive around doing search-and-serve, just looking for people … I like being with the client.”

Judy Dobbins, 60, of Sturgeon Bay is a newcomer to Red Cross volunteering and went on her first ever national deployment for the hurricane relief.

“It makes you think, because none of these folks thought this could happen to them, and here they ended up jumping out of second-story windows and getting into boats to escape,” Dobbins said.

She spent her entire time working in an evacuation shelter, serving as a shelter supervisor.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “There were almost 500 people in the shelter, such a diverse group, from older adults to heroin users taking methadone treatments and everything in between.”

The shelter, actually an arena attached to a high school, had to accommodate patients evacuated from a hospital and who were on oxygen and intravenous feeding tubes. It had a group of developmentally disabled adults evacuated from a group home. It had a collection of registered sex offenders who came in from various locations around the community but who were kept together and segregated from the rest of the shelter residents during the nights.

“We had everything from residents with total destruction of their homes and cars to those just not having power and not being able to stay in their homes,” Dobbins said. “It kind of ran the gamut.

“At one point we had a bus driver stop and tell us he had three busloads of seniors who had to evacuate their high-rise. They were in wheelchairs, had canes and walkers. They were scared to death. We had to accommodate, on the spur of the moment, large groups of very needy, very frightened individuals.”

As hard as it was, the volunteers agreed that the hardest part was leaving.

“It’s heart-breaking, because even though you’re working 16 hours a day, you know there are so many more in need,” Traversa said.

“I felt guilty, because there was so much left undone,” Dobbins said. “You get so close to the families and then just leave not knowing what’s going to be next for them. I still wake up and think, or I have a certain resident in mind, or a family, and wonder how they’re doing.”

— psrubas@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter@PGpaulsrubas

Finding a sitter requires some creative searching

Written by Jennifer Hogeland For Press-Gazette Media

As the holidays approach, and the invitations to parties pour in, parents must start their search for a sitter. If grandparents aren’t available to watch your little ones for that gotta-go-to bash, it’s necessary to enlist the help of a babysitter.

Finding just the right person to care for your children is no small task. The first challenge is finding a willing and capable teen. Then, before leaving your little darlings in his or her hands, there are several things you should discuss to be sure both of you will be happy with the arrangement.

Area experts offered suggestions on finding and interviewing potential babysitters before your night out on the town.

Finding the right match

Keep an eye open for responsible teens. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical list of certified and interested babysitters available from area organizations or the American Red Cross, so parents have to get creative.

Sara Weier oversees the babysitter training program for the American Red Cross in Wisconsin and she explains the best way to find potential babysitters is by reaching out to neighbors or community organizations.

“We tell potential babysitters to connect with neighborhood associations, churches and to talk with parents and other babysitters to make their interest in babysitting known,” says Weier.

Word of mouth is key, suggests Yvonne Duffek, an American Red Cross certified babysitting instructor. Babysitters are told not to put their information on public boards; students are encouraged to hand out personalized business cards to trusted adults that could assist with their job search. So, ask around. Chances are friends and neighbors have a name or two to share.

Several websites have also popped up in recent years as a resource for parents searching for sitters in the area. Sites like sittercity.com and care.com provide a list of babysitters by zip code. You need to create an account and there may be fees for the information you seek. Peruse the detailed profiles of potential candidates before setting up an interview.

Paying the going rate

Discussing payment is a necessary conversation when hiring a babysitter. While the typical hourly fee falls within a range, parents should consider the number of children, their ages and the expectations of the babysitter before determining their rate.

“I think it depends on the family,” said Denise Mancheski, enrichment director at the Greater Green Bay YMCA. “It varies. It isn’t like years ago when every parent paid $2 an hour.”

She shares some parents start at minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour in Wisconsin.

Duffek has done some research and determined the minimum going rate for a Red Cross certified babysitter is currently $5 an hour, although some parents pay as much as $10

Lambeau Field blood drive collects 328 pints

Written b Charles Davis  Press-Gazette

Sarah Kerbel, with her 5 month old son, Efrem.

Sarah Kerbel has never donated blood but is thankful others did.

That’s because during her first pregnancy she developed HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening condition that impacts pregnant women, usually during the third trimester. Kerbel required two units of platelets after her son was born eight weeks premature on June 17.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for the people that have donated,” the De Pere mom said Wednesday while holding her son Efrem, who will be five months old this weekend. “I’m obviously thankful for my family and life; and because of someone donating, I’m here to celebrate a Thanksgiving.”

In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of donating blood, Kerbel attended an American Red Cross blood drive on Wednesday at the Lambeau Field Atrium, 1265 Lombardi Ave. People who receive a blood transfusion must wait a year to donate, so Kerbel plans to donate blood for the first time next summer when she is medically cleared.

The blood drive lasted 12 hours and saw 328 pints of blood donated. Organizers had hoped to receive at least 350 pints of blood.

Last month’s Superstorm Sandy killed more than 110 people and caused the cancellation of 380 blood drives across the East Coast, which resulted in a shortage  of nearly 13,000 units of blood and platelets, said Bobbi Snethen, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Badger-Hawkeye Blood Services Region, which includes Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and eastern Iowa.

The greatest need is for O negative blood — which any patient can receive — followed by A and B negative blood types. O and A positive are the most common blood types, Snethen said.

The American Red Cross holds two blood drives at Lambeau Field each year, she said. This is the fourth year the Red Cross has partnered with the Green Bay Packers, and the event was held at the Legends Club Level.

In addition to donating blood, some people at Lambeau Field signed cards as part of the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program. The cards will be shipped to active duty soldiers and veterans for the holiday season.

cedavis@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.

Local Red Cross volunteers to help Sandy victims

Written by Charles Davis Green Bay Press-Gazette

American Red Cross volunteer Donna LaPlante of Little Suamico stopped at a Green Bay site before heading to New York to help victims of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 30, 2012. / Charles Davis/Press-Gazette

Two local American Red Cross volunteers are leaving this morning for New York to help feed victims impacted by post-tropical cyclone Sandy.

“They are going to be living in conditions and working in conditions that are identical to the people they’re helping,” said Steve Hansen, chapter executive of the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin. “This is not a vacation for our volunteers.”

Sandy hit the East Coast on Monday, leading to an estimated billion of dollars in damage, millions of people without electric power, thousands of flight cancellations, extreme flooding and at least 17 deaths.

Ginny Gibson of Iron Mountain, Mich., and Donna LaPlante of Little Suamico, will take an emergency response vehicle on a 17-hour drive to the East Coast. The women are expected to arrive late Wednesday in Middletown, N.Y., where they will then be directed to help residents in an area impacted by the storm. The response mission is expected to last from two to three weeks. Southern Baptist disaster relief teams will prepare meals, and the women will then deliver the food to neighborhoods that have been damaged.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to help and give someone a warm meal who hasn’t had a warm meal for days,” Gibson said, adding she has previously responded to several natural disasters, including helping victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Tuesday, the women helped load the vehicle with bedding, water and equipment at the American Red Cross offices at 121 Bader St. On the drive there, the volunteers expect to face road closures, downed trees and severe weather.

More than 3,000 American Red Cross volunteers nationwide are responding to the East Coast, Hansen said. Seven volunteers and one employee from the eastern region of Wisconsin already have responded, and another 15 volunteers are on standby to travel to the region once travel restrictions have been removed.

About 30 American Red Cross volunteers from the eastern region of Wisconsin helped in Gulf Coast relief efforts after Hurricane Isaac hit in late August, Hansen said.

“It’s our job to anticipate and prepare for these types of disasters. This is what we do,” he added.

The storm canceled about 100 blood drives in the East Coast region on Monday and local residents are encouraged to donate blood, Hansen said.

— cedavis@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.

Local blood supplies at critically low summer level

Ex-Pulaski basketball star, once cut badly, urges blood donations

Written by, Charles Davis, Green Bay Press-Gazette

Rod Ripley, left, and his fiancee Jennifer Born are shown in August 2011, two months after his accident. Ripley credits quick action and blood transfusions with saving his life. / Contributed photo

Summer is a time for vacations, trips to the pool and picnics. It’s also when blood supplies are at their lowest levels.

Rod Ripley is among those who know the importance of keeping up blood supplies in the summer months.

He lost half of the blood in his body last summer after suffering a severe cut to his arm while making repairs at his Madison bar. The former Pulaski High School basketball standout, who played at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980s, needed 10 pints of blood following surgery to help mend a severed artery and bicep muscle after a large mirror he was carrying broke and cut into his arm at Lucky’s Bar and Grille.

“I’m certainly appreciative of the (American) Red Cross and the people out there that take the one hour to donate blood. Those people saved my life,” he said.

Ripley received the blood he needed, but others — this year — may not be so lucky. Blood donations nationwide have dropped significantly and the blood supply has reached a critically low level, said Bobbi Snethen, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross regional blood services, which covers most of Wisconsin, eastern Iowa and Upper Michigan.

Anyone eligible to donate blood — about 38 percent of the population — is asked to give, she said. All blood types are needed, especially O-negative, O-positive, A-negative and B-negative, because those blood types can be given to more patients, Snethen said. Those eligible can donate a pint of blood once every eight weeks or up to six times a year.

Blood donations typically slow during summer and again during the winter holiday, in part because 20 percent of blood donations are gathered at high school and college blood drives, and most schools are closed during those times, Snethen said.

Donated blood is first made available to local residents in need before it is offered to patients nationwide. People diagnosed with cancer often require blood transfusions, as well as those with blood disorders or people, like Ripley, who are injured in serious accidents.

“It’s kind of a traumatic story with a really happy ending thanks to a Good Samaritan and the people who donate blood,” Snethen said.

After the injury, Ripley ran outside for help and a woman stopped to call 911 while a man later gathered towels from inside the bar to wrap Ripley’s wound to prevent bleeding.

Ripley, 47, of Waunakee, credits that move with saving his life, and the American Red Cross honored that man with an award in May.

Ripley, a father of three adult children, is still recovering from the injury, which occurred on June 25, 2011.

“I can’t hold a pen in my right hand,” he said, adding he is forced to write with his left hand and delegate some everyday tasks to friends and family. He’s hoping his recovery will be complete in about eight months, though he may always have some lingering effects from the injury.

Those who undergo a blood transfusion are not allowed to donate blood until a year after the procedure. Ripley, who says he donated blood off-and-on all his life and was raised in a family of committed blood donors, has begun speaking to others about the value of giving back. He is preparing to donate blood for the first time since the injury at a special blood drive next month in New York City.

“Simply encouraging other people to do something isn’t enough. You’ve got to get out there and do it yourself,” he said.

Ground Zero volunteer from Sheboygan recalls days after 9/11 attacks

Written by Hannah O’Brien Green Bay Press-Gazette

Speaking at Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Tony Rajer says he helped distribute food

Tony Rajer of Sheboygan talks Saturday at the Neville Public Museum of Brown County in Green Bay about his experiences in New York during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. / Hannah O’Brien/Press-Gazette

Nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Tony Rajer still gets choked up when he relives his experiences at Ground Zero.

“It’s been 10 years now, and I can’t believe how much has changed and how rapidly things have changed,” Rajer said.

Rajer, of Sheboygan, spoke Saturday about volunteering at Ground Zero to about 40 people at the Neville Public Museum of Brown County in Green Bay.

Rajer had been in Manhattan in September 2001 before the attacks doing art restoration for the American Folk Art Museum.

“My experience with 9/11 is only in New York, and it was only by chance,” he said.

A few days after the terrorist attacks, Rajer signed up with the American Red Cross to volunteer at Ground Zero. He stayed for two weeks.

“There was such a sense of community there. … This (was) the right thing to do — the Christian thing to do,” he said.

Audience members were eager to hear Rajer’s account of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I’m interested in his experience really, because I think we’ve all seen a lot of films and movies, but I don’t know a lot of people with firsthand experience,” said Olive Conley of Green Bay.

Rajer described the anxiety that he experienced in the days after the attacks.

“Our sense of security can be so quickly and easily distorted,” he said.

He explained the history of the World Trade Center towers and outlined details of the attacks. He also showed photos from Sept. 11, 2001, and of the cleanup and rescue efforts in the days following.

“Everything was covered in a fine layer of dust,” he said. “I remember it was surreal. It was like looking at snow.”

He said he couldn’t reach his wife for three to four days after the attacks because the main cellphone tower, which was located on top of the north World Trade Center tower, and some landlines were destroyed.

“It truly was like a war zone in my mind. It was like being on another planet,” he said about rescue crews working under high-intensity lights that illuminated the dust in the air. “I still remember the odor.”

As a Red Cross volunteer, Rajer helped distribute food to crews and people around Ground Zero. Food distribution took from 7 a.m. to about 11 p.m., and then he would deliver donuts and coffee to cops and FEMA personnel.

“As my wife knows, I’m not much of a cook,” he said. “I thought it was ironic that I would be the food distributor at the World Trade Center.”

Rajer said he continues to give talks about 9/11 to schools and interested groups because it’s important that people understand what happened.

“I just hope that young people, and the people that might not remember, that they truly appreciate the history and what happened … and how it so dramatically changed our lives,” he said.

He also showed pictures from a recent trip to New York of the construction of the new Freedom Tower at Ground Zero.

“I see it as a memorial, not only to the strength of our communities, but our need to overcome adversities. … We can only overcome them if we work together,” he said.

The Neville Public Museum and the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society sponsored the event.

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