Reflections on Volunteering with Amador County’s Interfaith Food Bank

the gang FB 2020The American Red Cross California Gold Country Region is helping to fill vacancies in the volunteer workforce at the Sacramento Food Bank and the Interfaith Food Bank in Amador County.

Both endeavors have added up to many hours of volunteering, many thousands of pounds of distributed food and a lot of pride in serving these communities.

Below is a note from Disaster Program Manager Debbie Calcote on what the experience has meant to her:

When the sheltering in place order was set, I was already working in the local Emergency Operations Center. My role was to help make sure that our food banks were able to maintain a supply of food for the communities.

Adel Welty and I worked with local churches to find all the places that had small food pantries, and we have maintained open communication with them throughout.

But working with other agencies to make sure food got out was way different than working the food bank.

When I was first reaching out to volunteers and friends to help there, I heard a lot of different excuses.

Here are some of the responses:

  • “It’s too far to drive.”
  • “Why would I want to stand all day and sort fruit and vegetables?”
  • “Can’t they (the food bank) just put stuff in a bag and hand it to them? Do we really have to bring it out to them?”
  • “ I really have to clean my house and go grocery shopping.”

These were just a few examples of what I heard. When my Operations Coordinator Carolyn Stinemates advised that there was a real need for more support there, I decided it was my duty to step in and help.

Well, I received an eye opening, and a heart filled with sadness, joy,  and much gratitude for having this opportunity to be there and to help our communities.

The first day, I was sorting good vegetables and fruit in the morning. Then the bank opened for people to come park in front.

We take their order and note the number of family members. We run that back inside to the warehouse where there are other people bagging and boxing just about everything (including some sweet treats, which everyone needs now and then).

Then someone brings the cart out to us to deliver to the car.

My first car was a piece of cake. It went smoothly. They said thank you and I told them to have a nice day.

My second car was an elderly woman in her late 80s to early 90s picking up for herself and a neighbor. I loaded a couple small boxes into her trunk and walked away waiting for them to bring out her shopping cart of groceries.

I just got back inside when I heard someone ask for some assistance. I walked to the door and there by her car was my little lady. She needed help closing her trunk.

When I asked why she wanted it closed her response was, “I can’t drive down the road with it open, dear.”

I smiled and told her the rest of the groceries would be out shortly. Her eyes got big and she said, “There is more?”

I smiled and said yes, there is more.

Shortly thereafter her cart came for me to load into her car. She stood there looking at me with bewildered eyes. “Who does all that belong to?” she asked.

When I told her it was hers and her neighbors, she started to cry. She was so grateful.

But best of all, she and her neighbor had been sharing the small amount of food they had left in their cupboards since neither of their families had come to bring them shopping in about six weeks due to Covid-19.

 Someone told them they could go to the food bank for groceries, but she told me they still had some canned food and powdered milk left and we didn’t want to take away from those who really needed it.

My heart swelled and we both had tears in our eyes. To watch as we loaded bag after bag into the trunk, the tears falling down her cheeks were priceless to me.

I was bringing joy, and much needed food to two wonderful ladies.

So to me, seeing the need, the gratitude, and overwhelming joy from receiving food was more than words could express.

Every person who has come when I have been there has so much appreciation. You cannot help but enjoy being there and be a part of a community that helps those less fortunate and  especially, our senior population.

The work is priceless. It will fill your heart and soul.

Working as a team with others and the staff at the food bank to accomplish this task is amazing. They are the best. I am grateful to help.

 I greatly appreciate everyone who will, has, and have been supporting this important mission.

Thank you all!

Embassy Suites Employees Honored by Red Cross After Saving Colleague’s Life

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Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront employees David Thrailkill and Amit Raj, along with their colleague and Red Cross CPR instructor Darryl Smalley (from left to right) were recognized with the Red Cross Lifesaving Award in January.

CPR and first aid classes are something that so many of us are mandated to do in our respective fields. It can become something that we dread if we already feel proficient and have been re-certified countless times. There are times, however, that this class proves most useful and ultimately saves a life.

For years, Darryl Smalley, the security manager of Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront, has been certifying his employees in CPR and first aid. By providing this service to them, Darryl was able to equip two employees with the skills and knowledge that they needed to save a friend and coworker.

On Thursday, June 6, 2019, at about 8 a.m., David Thrailkill, the guest services manager, was walking down the hallway and found his coworker flat on his face, tucked behind a cart in cardiac arrest. David had seen him just 30 minutes prior on the roof of the hotel where they work. He radioed out to Amit Raj, the assistant chief engineer, for help and then called 911.

They had trouble rolling their colleague over because of how he was positioned. It took four people to roll him onto his back in order to start CPR.

The 911 operator gave step by step instructions on what they needed to do as Amit started CPR. There was no response for the first few minutes as David and Amit took turns.

The man gasped once — a sign that CPR was working. Compressions continued with slight gasps coming from the man they assisted as they waited for EMS to arrive. Eventually he was taken to an area hospital for care.

The Embassy Suites team was then assembled in the board room to discuss what had occurred. It was hard to go back over the incident so soon after it had happened, it was said. In the moment, there had been adrenaline and calm, there were tasks to do and composure had to be kept in order to save a life.

When David and Amit went to the hospital later that day, it was shocking to see their coworker in his present state. David and Amit had been preparing for the worst but they were relieved to see him conscious.

Months later, that day is not one that David or Amit will forget. “The CPR class is the best way that you could spend six hours of your day,” said David.

Other employees at the hotel have shown interest in becoming trained in CPR as well. This incident showed hotel staff how important it is to be prepared and to have a team that is well trained.

David and Amit were recognized by the American Red Cross in January with a national Lifesaver Award, signed by President Donald Trump, the honorary chairman of the Red Cross.

If you know someone who has saved a life after taking Red Cross CPR or first aid training, you can nominate them here.

Red Cross Statement to Address Community Unrest and Uncertainty

Two Virtual Concerts Supporting the American Red Cross Tonight

Brett Eldridge

Calling all Brett Eldredge fans!  This afternoon at 4 p.m. PT, Brett Eldredge is the featured performer on iHeart’s Living Room Concert Series streaming on iHeart’s Facebook and YouTube channel.

It’s a 20-25 minute, commercial-free show with Brett entertaining his fans and raising money for the Red Cross. Brett personally chose the Red Cross as the beneficiary for his episode and the Red Cross will receive a $75K donation from iHeartRadio, plus fan donations during during the stream.

You can tune in and watch Brett Eldredge’s special and intimate at-home performance via iHeartRadio’s YouTube Channel, as well as across iHeartRadio stations nationwide and iHeartRadio’s iHeartCountry Radio station.

southwest

Are you a fan of Train, Andy Grammar or Carly Pearce?

If so, tune in tonight at 5 p.m. PT to Southwest Airlines’ Facebook and Twitter platforms that will stream Southwest Heart Strong Concert while raising money for charities, including the American Red Cross.

Viewers can choose to donate to the American Red Cross and Southwest Airlines will provide 10 Rapid Reward points for every dollar donated with a minimum required donation of $25 and a maximum of 10,000 Rapid Reward Points per person.

The show will last approximately 40 minutes.

Visit the Southwest Airlines Facebook event HERE for more details and to tune into the event.

CA Gold Country Region Welcomes DPM Andrew Bogar

AndrewAndrew Bogar recently arrived from Alaska where he was the Disaster Program Manager for Juneau and Southeast Alaska for 4 1/2 years.

He joins the California Gold Country Region as the DPM for Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

He has worked very closely with tribal, government, and not-for-profit partners to build capacity to prepare, respond, and recovery from disasters in Alaska, ranging from wildfires to earthquakes.

Before coming to the Red Cross in 2014, Andrew served in the Alaska National Guard, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.

Welcome, Andrew!

Fully Recovered from Covid-19? You May Be Eligible to Help Others

The American Red Cross is seeking people who are fully recovered from #COVID19 and may be able to donate plasma to help current patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.

Learn more here: RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid

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Gold Country’s Victoria Donoso Reflects on Puerto Rico Quake Deployment

By Nick Blasquez, Red Cross Volunteer

PR1Four months after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory continues to experience serious seismic activity – the latest a 4.2 magnitude quake on March 30.

This latest quake hit during a month-long curfew enforced to curb spread of the coronavirus.

The January earthquake left an estimated PR87,500 residents displaced. For American Red Cross Senior Engagement Specialist Victoria Donoso, the need for disaster assistance was too urgent to ignore.

It had been over 100 years since Puerto Ricans had experienced an earthquake of this magnitude. Houses made of cement to withstand hurricanes were defenseless against the tremors of a shaking earth.

“In this case, the biggest issue is the fear. People were fearful to go back into their homes, so they lost everything and just had to start again,” Victoria said.

PR7She deployed to San Juan after being requested for the job by name. Her role was three weeks as assistant director of workforce, only one of two trained for disaster assessment and emergency assistance.

On the front lines of the natural disaster, a unique challenge she faced was navigating the waters where Red Cross services met Puerto Rican governance. Sheltering and feeding was being done by the local government, providing services to only 2,000 residents who secured a place within the shelters.

PR6“People that were being counted were only those staying in government shelters, but the reality is there were encampments everywhere with sometimes hundreds of people who had never had anybody come out there to help them, yet.”

The primary role of the American Red Cross during this disaster was supporting the local government shelter efforts, but the undocumented encampments is where help was needed most.

PR5“Working with government agencies, they would notify us, ‘Hey, there’s an encampment of 80 people here. We need to get services to them,’” said Victoria.

She and her team of local volunteers traveled in vans to provide individual disaster care to those most in need. Water for those trapped under debris and so much bug spray to battle swarms of tropical biting insects. She would assess the encampments, reporting back on the condition of those present, especially those disabled and unable to seek shelter without assistance.

PR4Victoria had visited San Juan back in 1995, checking out the most populous, tourist-friendly areas of the city. This time around was different, experiencing the remote and devastated places few Americans will ever see, she was out in the jungle assisting people living in tents among piles of rubble.

Her personal takeaway? The resilience of the Puerto Rican people: always polite, generous, happy, and warm. “Very loving and very welcoming, I think this speaks a lot to the way they are going to handle the recovery process and the way they are going to persevere.”

15-Year Volunteer Jim Horning on Why Sound the Alarm is So Important

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Sound the Alarm Volunteer Lead Jim Horning (white shirt, center) stands with his San Joaquin County team.

By Nick Blasquez, Red Cross Volunteer

Did you know: The risk of dying in a house fire drops by 50% in homes with a working smoke detector? Yet nearly 5 million houses across the United States do not have one installed.

That’s the message Jim Horning, a 15-year Red Cross volunteer, would like you to know.

Jim is the volunteer lead for the Red Cross Sound the Alarm campaign in San Joaquin County.

The national Sound the Alarm program has been rescheduled out of an abundance of caution during the coronavirus outbreak. Once it is rescheduled, some 27,000 Red Cross volunteers will install 100,000 smoke alarms nationwide for free.

WATCH: Horning helped the Gold Country Region educate donors on the importance of the ERV

Around Stockton, Jim and his team of 15-20 volunteers will install smoke detectors in 250 homes and educate the residents on the importance of fire preparedness.

They have protected 9,000 homes to date throughout the region, Jim said.

The death rate is much higher when a smoke alarm was present but not working during a fire than in homes that had no smoke alarms at all.

The number one cause of non-operational alarms? Dead batteries.

“Protecting people and their lives feels really good,” said Jim, who began his volunteer journey after watching Hurricane Katrina ravage New Orleans back in 2005.

After deploying to five major disaster sites in a six-month period, it’s safe to say that he takes great satisfaction in being part of the solution. “Red Cross is there every day, every year, for every major disaster.”

With over two million smoke alarms installed thus far (and many more to come), enthusiastic volunteers are welcomed and appreciated. From donations to joining an installation crew to starting a social media fundraiser, everyone can make a life-saving impact in their community.

In addition to free smoke detector installations, the American Red Cross will educate at-risk communities on fire safety essentials while fundraising to help families prepare, respond, and recover from home fires.

In the Gold Country Region, the goal is to install 1,100 smoke alarms this year. According to Jim, “The satisfaction is in the work. Come get trained and change some lives. You’ll be a changed person.”

Jim is a former Gold Country Region board member and chair of our golf tournament. With the realignment of our regional boundaries, he and his team will be working with the Northern California Coastal Region once Sound the Alarm resumes.

We are so appreciative of Jim’s work with the Gold Country Region and know he will continue to inspire NCCR volunteers with his dedication to Sound the Alarm and all the Red Cross does.

NOTE: As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic grows, the American Red Cross continues to work closely with public health officials to deliver our lifesaving mission where and when it’s safe to do so. To protect everyone’s safety, we have postponed all Sound the Alarm events, home fire safety visits and preparedness presentations until further notice.