A Trip to IKEA, But Not to Shop: IKEA Donates 100 Comfort Kits

By Marlene Stamper, Public Affairs Volunteer, Photos by Bob Eger    A few days ago I went to the IKEA store in West Sacramento. For me, a trip to IKEA is usually about new throw pillows or maybe something to brighten up the kitchen or patio. But this trip was different. It was not about shopping or buying stuff, it was special. Why? Because I got to spend time with some great IKEA folks who were packing up 100 bright blue shopping bags with cool stuff to donate to the American Red Cross.

When I got to the conference room where the IKEA team was working (although they seemed to be having too much fun to call it “work”) they had already organized a colorful assembly line of towels, washcloths, sheet sets, pillows, and teddy bears. They were busily packing everything into shopping bags ready for giving. We call these bags “comfort kits.” It didn’t take long for these energetic workers to complete the job of assembling 100 comfort kits.

Once the kits were packed, the team put everything into carts and then we all headed down to the parking lot for the final step—loading up the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). What an enthusiastic and energetic team! And what a pleasure for me to spend a little time with them!

Thanks to these folks and everyone at IKEA, people in emergency situations will receive the comfort of new fresh bedding, pillows, and towels. Maybe this sounds a bit humdrum to you, but imagine if you were trying to rebuild your life after a fire, you might feel a little different. In fact, a Red Crosser told me when she delivered comfort kits to victims of last summer’s Butte Fire, they reacted as if she’d given them “a pot of gold.” But, it’s not just recipients of the comfort kits who benefit. I spoke to several members of the IKEA team who put together the kits. They were proud to work for IKEA because IKEA is committed to helping the community. Angel R. told me that it makes him happy to work for IKEA due to their support for this great cause. Well, Angel, what IKEA and people like you do makes a lot of people happy, including me. Thanks, again to you and everyone at IKEA!

Here’s the official scoop on the five-year partnership between the American Red Cross and IKEA:

IKEA has generously committed to a national in-kind donation of 4,300 “IKEA Care Packages” nationwide for Red Cross disaster clients. Annually they have committed to provide 100 packages per IKEA location across the United States (currently 41 IKEA stores and 2 IKEA Offices) to 31 American Red Cross Regional offices.

The care packages include the following items:

  • 1- 4 pack washcloths
  • 1-bath towel
  • 2-standard pillow cases
  • 2-pillows
  • 1-queen flat sheet
  • 1-queen fitted sheet
  • 1-optional plush toy
  • 1-large blue plastic bag —shopping bag that contains all of the items.

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Also, IKEA comes through when times get tough. Michelle LaPierre Bell, Executive Director, Northeastern California Chapter told me that IKEA donated an additional 400 each of towels, washcloths, and lap blankets for victims of last summer’s fires here in California. Currently, we are in year two of our five-year partnership with IKEA. And, as Michelle said, “IKEA is a great partner and we look forward to many more years of partnering with them.”


Gold Country Volunteer Making an Impact Across the Country

Henjeremiah 6ry Braxton was among the first to assist the American Red Cross when he and his neighbors were caught in the path of rising water in the Natchez, Louisiana, area. Every day for nearly a week, he did whatever he could do to lend a hand, from helping to distribute cleanup kits to showing volunteers flood-damaged areas.

“The Bible says put my hometown first and put myself last, and I think God will bless me for that,” Henry said one recent evening at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Natchez, where the Red Cross offered hot meals, cleanup supplies, emotional support and casework assistance.

He was among dozens who attended, but he wasn’t there to seek help. Rather, he assisted people carrying cleanup supplies and other items to their vehicles.

Inside the church, Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out a Red Cross challenge coin that he received for his efforts—a coin that few receive and even fewer have ever seen. When he displayed the coin, it was obvious to Red Cross volunteers that Henry was a person who had been singled out for recognition.

“It was a high honor and brought tears to my eyes. I was just doing the best I could to help the people needing help,” he said.

Henry, a big man with rippling muscles and an infectious smile, said his late mother raised him to be kind to others and to go to church. To honor her, Henry said his philosophy is simple: “Any way I can help out, I will.”

As he talked, it was clear that Henry deserved more than the thanks of a grateful Red Cross. Henry said he hadn’t signed up with the Red Cross for help, and with that, he

jeremiah 3
Jeremiah Norrell, a volunteer from Sacramento assisting Henry in Louisiana

was introduced to Jeremiah Norrell, a Red Cross Jeremiah Norrell, a Red Cross caseworker from the Sacramento, California area. Henry explained how he had lost his refrigerator, stove and furniture to rising water, which soaked his floors. Yet he hadn’t asked for anything.

Henry indeed qualified for Red Cross immediate assistance, as he and Jeremiah together checked a map to see that his home was in a flooded area. He was eligible for supplemental Red Cross assistance and in position to be referred to various partner agencies for things such as clothing and furniture.

As he left, Henry stopped and hugged volunteers who helped him get assistance. When he walked out the door, he turned around, waved and smiled before disappearing into the night.

—Carl Manning/American Red Cross


CPR In High School Legislation Passes First Committee

Sacramento, CA, (Wednesday, April 6, 2016) – Today, the Assembly Education Committee approved Assembly Bill 1719, authored by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D – Chino) on a 6-0 vote. The measure stands to create a generation of lifesavers by ensuring high school students learn CPR before they graduate high school.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States yet too few people know how to perform CPR,” says Gary Strong, CEO of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. “Our lawmakers have a bill before them that could create a generation of lifesavers by requiring hands-on CPR training before high school graduation. We support AB 1719 as it will better prepare our students; therefore, build prepared communities.”


Nearly 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, and sadly, only 10 percent survive. In addition, a recent study by the National Institutes of Health shows CPR to be effective in children and adolescents who suffer from non-traumatic cardiac arrest due to drowning, electrocution, or choking. Despite these statistics, 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac or drowning emergency because they do not know how to perform CPR.  Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

pictures of the 4 new commissioners
Assembly member Freddie Rodriguez (District 52)

“CPR is one of the most important life skills a person can have,” said Rodriguez. “By teaching CPR in high school, we are sending students into the world with essential, life-saving skills.”

Under AB 1719, school districts would be required to teach hands-only CPR in any required high school course, such as P.E. or Health. The bill is co-sponsored by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association who have led the effort to pass similar legislation in 27 other states.

“The American Heart Association’s goal is to teach lifesaving CPR skills to as many teens and young adults as possible in California to help keep our communities safer, year after year,” said Dr. Franklin Pratt, medical director of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “Having a new generation of lifesavers will deliver an increased amount of safety and security to all of our communities.”


Assemblymember Rodriguez is Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Local Emergency Preparedness, and Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management.  He represents the 52nd Assembly District which includes the cities of Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona and portions of unincorporated Fontana

3 Reasons and 4 Ways to #Help1Family on Red Cross Giving Day


Nearly every eight minutes, the American Red Cross extends a helping hand to a family in need that has lost everything – the roof over their heads, their clothes, their most cherished possessions – to a home fire.

The Red Cross Northeastern California Chapter has been busy helping those affected in and around 13 northeastern counties from Sutter and Colusa to the Oregon Border, but we need your help on one special day to continue to provide the emergency services that your neighbors depend on.

On April 21, you have a chance to help families in need whenever and wherever they need it by participating in the Red Cross’ Giving Day to #help1family. A donation of just $88.50 can provide a family with a day’s worth of food, plus blankets and other essentials.

We are proud of the work we accomplished to help people in Northeastern California last year:

  1. Installing 424 smoke alarms in the community
  2. Providing 380 overnight stays to families in need
  3. Serving 24,000 meals and snacks to people affected by disasters

Spread the word about Red Cross Giving Day – the more people who support Giving day means we can help even more.  Use your social media channels to reach out to friends and family and ask them to donate to #help1family by visiting redcross.org/giving day.

Here are four ways your donation will #help1family:

  1. Supporting a family in urgent need: provide funding to give them a day’s worth of food, blankets, and other essentials.
  2. Supplying warm meals: help provide hearty, comforting meals to those impacted by disasters.
  3. Providing clean-up kits after a disaster strikes: make clean-up kits available for families in need that include vital items like a mop, bucket, and disinfectant.
  4. Deploying an emergency response vehicle for a day: Red Cross workers travel to impacted neighborhoods in fully stocked Emergency Response vehicles to provide food, water and critical relief.

Imagine the impact that we could have on our community if everyone wanted to #help1family.

Pizza Guys Joins Red Cross Giving Day


Who is hungry for some pizza?!

We are excited to announce that Pizza Guys is kicking off a Red Cross Giving Day Campaign tomorrow!  The campaign begins on Friday, April 15 and runs through Red Cross Giving Day on April 21.

Giving-Day-EblastPizza Guys has 61 stores participating in the campaign located throughout Northern and Central California, as well as Oregon and Nevada.  Throughout the campaign, Pizza Guys employees will as
k customers if they would like to make a donation to the Red Cross at the register.  Customers will also have the opportunity to donate to the Red Cross through the Pizza Guys website.

The best part is that on Giving Day, 50% of online Large and X-Large pizza sales on pizzaguys.com will be donated to the Red Cross when customers use coupon code: REDCROSS at checkout.

Please help us spread the word!  Encourage family, friends and colleagues to get a Pizza Guys this week and on Giving Day.

For more information, please contact Chelsea.Fahr@redcross.org.


Nurse Assistance Training Program Opens at Sacramento Red Cross Office

By Marlene Stamper, Public Affairs Volunteer

25745337850_f277357b06_zOn March 24, 2016 Rosiris Guerra, Red Cross Nurse Assistance Training Program Manager, welcomed attendees to a ribbon-cutting and open house to commemorate the opening of the Nurse Assistance Training (NAT) Program at the Sacramento Red Cross office. The American Red Cross is the premier provider of Nurse Assistant Training and has prepared individuals for work in the nursing field for over 100 years. The program is designed with input from educators, caregivers, and long-term industry representatives from across the United States.

The NAT Program is a 180-hour course that prepares students to take the state competency exam to be a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA). The program places a high emphasis on learning excellent communications skills and the Art of Caregiving to provide compassionate care for people in the health care system.

Gary Strong Opens NAT Training Center

Gary Strong, CEO of the Red Cross Gold Country Region, performed the ribbon cutting honors and formally opened the Sacramento training center. The training center includes a traditional classroom and a hands-on clinical training area equipped with hospital beds, practice mannequins, and various medical equipment. Mr. Strong was enthusiastic about the future of the NAT Program, and excited to welcome NAT students to the Sacramento office.

Lisa Lopez, Red Cross Registered Nurse and NAT Program coordinator described the training and what students could expect over the six-week course, “we do everything hands-on,” said Lopez. “We don’t simulate any practice. We like to make sure all students are ready and prepared…”

Liza Lopez explains how the NAT Program benefits the community

In addition to Sacramento, the Red Cross offers the NAT Program in Santa Rosa, Oakland, San Jose, and Yuba City. Scholarships are available on a limited basis to eligible students.

For more information, visit http://www.RedCross.org/GoldCountry.

The BASH 2016 – A Night to Remember

By Amy Magallanes, Public Affairs Volunteer

IMG_3865The first annual BASH benefit – A salute to service, took place on Saturday April 2nd, 2016.  Inspired by the TV series MASH, the McClellan conference center whisked the guests away to another era.  Military Jeep escorts to and from the building, dog tag souvenirs, and the Peter Petty Orchestra set the scene for an evening dedicated to celebrate and honor the military and the important work of the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program in the Gold Country Region.

The Red Cross SAF program has served more than one- million military families since 9/11,  helping them prepare for, cope with, and respond to the trials of military service.

Close to 300 guests came together to honor three local Korean War veterans. LTC Robert Burns, Richard Austin, and John Murphree Lowery; as well as Susan Savage, who received the Spirit of Tiffany award for her philanthropic work in the Sacramento region.

IMG_7214Events like these have a hand in getting the word out to those who can help. LTC Robert Burns stood in service to our country during three wars, he enjoyed the evening with his wife Beverly, “many Korean War veterans have been forgotten,” said Robert Burns.  His work with the Elks lodge, in conjunction with the Red Cross, spreads awareness to our community, as well as to those veterans unaware of the resources these organizations provide.

“We hope to create an event that is accessible to everyone in our community, in a fun, loose, and open environment,” explained Gary Strong, CEO of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. This expands the neighborhood of people dedicated to honoring the men and women who have, and continue to protect our country.

IMG_6845Guests went to great lengths to pay tribute to the MASH inspired theme. Jeffery and Eleanor Snively took this very seriously, researching costumes to procure an accurate “Hawkeye” character. He and his two sons, who serve in the Army, are passionate about spreading the word, “people are forgetting,” said Jeffery Snively, BASH attendee. Jeffery and Eleanor’s attendance tonight is indeed an example that he and his family are breathing life into the SAF program. With the table set for one on the stage, in memory of those who didn’t return home from battle, the guests reflected on how important the work of revering those who endured the greatest sacrifices are to this great nation.

In compliment to the lovely evening, David Sobon led the auction, where attendee Dennis Smith bid and won, ‘Sutter’s Gold’, a painting by artist Greg Kondos. His father was stationed at McClellan, his mother worked on base as well. He was led to bid, as if completing a circle, started by the contributions his parents made. His enormous smile indicated his wish to honor them, and all those who serve, has been granted.

IMG_7068Much like the TV show in which was revived at the event, the stories of those who lived to tell the tale of the Korean War, remind us that we can all be called to honor those who valiantly pledge to protect our country. Volunteer. Donate. Spread the word. The SAF and the American Red Cross provide a platform, which allow us to appreciate, in whichever way we can, the men, women, and families, of our military, so no one is ever forgotten.

Check out all the fun we had at The BASH 2016 on our Flickr page.


 Fito & The Red Cross:  A Lifelong Adventure

A conversation with Fito Ruano, Red Cross Volunteer

By Jesus Sanchez, Public Affairs Volunteer

First aid responce
Fito joined the Red Cross more than 40 years ago in his native       El Salvador.

There was civil war in El Salvador in 1984. Soldiers were everywhere trying to recruit men to fight, “I was 15 years old and I didn’t want to kill people,” said Fito siting at a table in a local coffee shop in Turlock.

I asked Fito how he came to be a Red Cross volunteer, he told me how one day he was recruited by the state National Army and put on a truck en-route to an army base… “So what I did, as we were passing the market… I jumped out of the (army) truck and I ran to the Red Cross.” He hoped they could help.

“The soldiers chased me through the market to the Red Cross. When I got there, my friend, told the soldiers not to take me or he would call the international Red Cross.”

A few days later, he returned to the Red Cross and asked the workers how he could join.

The Red Cross continued to save Fito from joining the army, in one occasion Red Cross workers went into the army base to get him back when they found out he had been taken.  That was more than 30 years ago and Fito, now 47, continues to volunteer for the Red Cross.

The Red Cross in El Salvador or Cruz Roja Salvadoreña is very involved with the community. As one of the most important pre-hospital services in the country, the organization responds to everyday accidents as well as large scale disasters. In those days, the civil war between government guerrillas and paramilitary forces together with high levels of poverty throughout the country resulted in a dire need for Red Cross services. Fito saw the need and recognized the opportunities to help within the organization.

Search and rescue training
Fito Search and Rescue training with         Cruz Roja Salvadoreña

Over the next couple of years he received training, becoming certified in first response as well as Search & Rescue.

As Fito showed me old photographs of his early days volunteering with the Red Cross, he admits: “there are happy times and there are sad times with the Red Cross.” Some of those sad times where the loss of fellow volunteers to the war. “Wearing a Red Cross t-shirt or logo doesn’t mean bullets aren’t going through your body,” explained Fito.

Ultimately it was this chronic violence and the lack of opportunities in his homeland that took Mr. Ruano to move to the United States in 1989.

Fito is energetic and speaks a slightly accented English. He is quick to smile and a conversation with him reveals a profound commitment to the welfare of others. A commitment he developed as a young man and one that would positively affect those around him time after time. He recalls how he jumped into action on October 17, 1989.  He was in San Francisco when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook the city.

Fito used his Red Cross training in Search and Rescue, joined rescue teams and helped those trapped in the rubble.

I first met Fito at a community outreach event where I handed out Red Cross pins and toy ambulances to kids while he educated parents on disaster preparedness and first aid. He’s also a part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT) and helps teach courses for the Red Cross Modesto office.

Red Cross Identification

Fito enjoys teaching what he’s learned over the years as a volunteer and shared how he is now a local celebrity guest on Spanish Radio shows in the area. His hope is to energize the Latino community to get involved and develop their emergency plan in case of a disaster.

Fito has been involved in responding to many national disasters including Hurricane Katrina. He is a visible figure within the Red Cross and his efforts have been recognized. Fito appreciates the recognition, but explains that Red Cross volunteers do what they do because they love it. He added that the presence of the Red Cross in his life during hard times has made a lasting impact that he hopes to pay forward. “I will be with the Red Cross for as long as I live, I’m not planning to retire from volunteering.”


Gary Strong: A salute to hundreds of Red Cross volunteers during their week


The American Red Cross Gold Country Region is honoring its volunteers and the work they do in the community during National Volunteer Week, April 10-17.

Last year, our volunteers helped 739 local families who faced home fires and other disaster situations. They trained 43,250 people in lifesaving skills and assisted 1,132 military members, veterans and their families. Volunteers also went door-to-door in neighborhoods at high risk for home fires to install more than 2,500 smoke alarms and teach people about home fire safety.

We invite the public to join us and become a Red Cross volunteer. Go to redcross.org/goldcountry to learn more about the many ways people can help and how to submit a volunteer application.

We want to extend our sincerest thanks to the 2,700 local Red Cross volunteers who help us fulfill our mission here in the Gold Country Region which serves more than 4.4 million people across 24 counties. The support of our volunteers allows us to help people when they need it most.


Gary Strong
American Red Cross
Gold Country Region


Gold Country Region Disaster Responders Help Flooding Victims in South

April 1, 2016, Sacramento (CA) – As we begin April, it’s been a little over 3 weeks since torrential rains hammered Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas relentlessly for a week causing horrific flooding and breaking records that have stood since the late 1800s.  So severe was the flooding that some areas have only become accessible in the last few days, which means we’re still sheltering evacuees and conducting damage assessments on the first day of April for storms that began in the first full week of March—that’s highly unusual, to say the least.

Notwithstanding two Presidential disaster declarations, the national media paid little attention to these disasters and have long since moved on, so you might think there’s not much of a story here.  But there is. As best we can tell as of last night, these storms and floods destroyed or caused major damage to 9,208 homes in 3 States. Imagine how just one family might struggle if they were barely getting by before these storms only to have their home destroyed by a massive flood.  Now, multiply that by 9,000.

Gold Country Region disaster responders are currently providing disaster relief and recovery assistance in the hardest hit areas of those states.

The volunteers and staff members, who live in cities throughout Northern California, have been assigned to work for a two-week period in a variety of roles helping disaster victims. The Red Cross has opened 89 shelters which supported 6,586 overnight stays, served nearly 305,000 meals and snacks, and distributed 124,439 relief items including comfort kits and cleaning supplies.

Thank you to the following responders who have traveled across the country to help those who have lost so much:

  1. Frederick Aw
  2. Darren Courtney
  3. Pat Day
  4. Elizabeth English
  5. Dana Epstein
  6. Kathleen Griffith
  7. Bob Grosch
  8. Terri Hartner
  9. Kevin Hedahl
  10. Rose Marie Laraby
  11. Al Lee
  12. Dennis Lewis
  13. Kathy Massar
  14. Lau Miller
  15. Jeremiah Norrell
  16. Kathy Pascoe
  17. Jim Piper
  18. Colleen Ranalli
  19. Michael Reeves
  20. Colleen Turay
  21. Bill Waits
  22. Paula Watts-White
  23. Kevin West
  24. Richard Yoder
  25. Christine Yoo

“The Red Cross response is just beginning,” said Gary Strong, CEO, Red Cross Gold Country Region. “Our volunteers will continue to provide help and hope to those people who are recovering from this disaster.”

The Red Cross depends on the continued support of the public to help people affected by this disaster and other emergencies big and small. Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like flooding and countless other crises can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

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