It Takes a Partnership

Story and Photos by Michele Maki, American Red Cross

“It’s a blessing to help in a time of need. “  These heartfelt words were spoken by Ron Hughes, a volunteer with the Southern Baptist Convention- California Disaster Relief.  While visiting the Red Cross shelter at the California State Fairgrounds in Sacramento, his words were repeated by numerous fellow volunteers from the organization. “We are a small part of a bigger picture in disaster relief.” Ron continued.  “We know none of us can do it all. It takes cooperation and partnership to be successful.”

img_0683It’s Thursday, just four days into the relief operation at the shelter.  The volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention are busy unloading supplies in preparation to cook and deliver 150 meals for the staff and residents at the shelter.  The coordinated teamwork between the two humanitarian agencies made it clear there was a mission to be accomplished and everyone was focused on its success.

“We’re all a part of the same team with the same goals.” one volunteer remarked. “There is no “me” in this.  It’s all about service to others……those in need.”

Mike Bevins, State Director for the Southern Baptist Convention agreed.  Bevins has a 20 year history with the organization and has high praise for his organization.  “They’re all volunteers. They pay their own way to serve others. I’m honored to be their servant leader.”  Bevins explains.3

There is high praise for the Southern Baptist Convention volunteers from the Red Cross too.  “They are fabulous! There is just no way we could be successful in our mission without their partnership. Today, we were able to feed a good hot meal to 150 hungry residents and staff at the shelter this afternoon, because of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are essential to our success.”


Semper Gumby! Always Flexible

Story and Photos by Michele Maki, American Red Cross

“Semper Gumby! That’s my motto.”  Tirtza Pearl, a Red Cross Volunteer from the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter currently deployed to the Oroville Spillway Incident, shares her philosophy and why working as a Red Cross Volunteer is so important to her life.

“I think my path to the Red Cross began back when I was living just outside of img_0707Anchorage and experienced the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.  The Red Cross response was incredible.”  Later in life, Pearl experienced another series of disasters, the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991.  “I saw the good work of the Red Cross all those years, and I now wanted to be a part of it.”  Pearl showed up at her chapter office to help and was put to work answering phones. “I just kept coming back, day after day. I guess the staff had a lot of faith in me, because they then put me in charge of the switchboard.  That was my beginning with the Red Cross and I’ve never left. That was 26 years ago.”

Since then, Pearl has volunteered in a variety of capacities: sheltering, client casework, damage assessment, and more.  “I’ve done a little bit of everything and met lots of different people in the Red Cross.  Being flexible is the key.” Pearl explains. “When I deploy to a disaster operation, I may be asked to help with feeding or sheltering one day and client casework the next.  It’s all about the needs of those we are serving. They are in need and we are there to help.”

tirtza-pearl-1About three years ago, Pearl was on a deployment when someone put a sign over her desk that read:  Semper Gumby “I loved that-always flexible!  That fit my philosophy perfectly.”   Gumby was a popular flexible clay animation figure with a show of his own in the early 60’s and again in the 80’s on television.   “Gumby was always kind, agreeable and VERY flexible….literally.” Pearl explains.   “Semper means ‘always’.  So, ‘Semper Gumby’ is just perfect.  What a great motto for Red Crossers, especially for deployments, where remaining flexible is so important.”

Pearl truly lives that motto when volunteering too.  “I’m happy to do and be wherever I’m needed, and I take my Gumby (who now sports an official Red Cross pin!) with me. This is his 4th deployment.  He reminds me to stay cheerful and flexible and he’s a great icebreaker in meeting new volunteers and making new friends in the Red Cross.”  Pearl picks up her Gumby and continues, “He doesn’t say much, but his message is clear: stay flexible…….semper Gumby!”

We Are Family

Story and photo by Michele Maki, American Red Cross

“We’re their family while they’re away.”  This is the unofficial motto of one of the unsung heroes of the American Red Cross-the nurses that staff its Staff Wellness Services during Disaster Response Operations.  Most folks are aware of some of the history of the Red Cross and its nurses, especially Clara Barton in its early years and the bravery of the Red Cross Nurses during pandemics such as the Spanish Influenza that killed millions following World War I.  But few know, even within the Red Cross itself, the important role our nurses play in keeping our own volunteers healthy and caring for them during a disaster operation when they fall ill.

mary-jean-kippenbrockMost Red Crossers think of each other as “family” and these nurses take that caring seriously.  Mary Jean Kippenbrock, RN and Red Cross Volunteer explains, “We do take the health of our volunteers very seriously. They are here, away from their own families to help those in need.   When they fall ill, we’re here to help. We become their family.”

Earlier in the day, Nurse Kippenbrock came to the aid of a volunteer who had become ill by getting his prescription filled and delivering it to his hotel room, ensuring his rest and recovery.  “This is just the kind of thing his family would do for him if he were home.  He’s here to help others and can’t because he’s ill, so we become his family and will take care of these things so he can recover.”

But the caring of these Red Cross Nurses doesn’t stop there. “If a volunteer is so sick that we need to send them home, we make sure this is done safely and with their health in mind.”  Nurse Kippenbrock went on to explain that in some cases the nurses in Staff Wellness will book their flight home for them and if need be, escort them home, or even to the emergency room if necessary. “Their health and safety is our concern. Again, we are their family while they are away from their own.”

Truly, the American Red Cross is Family.



Make a Plan, Be Prepared and Stay Informed

Story and Photo by: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

Late Sunday night, J.P. Campos, a young man of only 20 years old, received a phone call from a friend warning him to evacuate quickly. There was, he learned, a mandatory evacuation order for Oroville due to the damage to the Oroville Spillway. Campos decided to initiate his own disaster plan for his family.

Campos immediately checked for weather and road conditions by searching news and weather on his computer. He knew he had to have several options for travel in case there was flooding. He also checked the location of Red Cross Shelters. Camps was worried about his 25 family members located in 3 different cities nearby. He decided to take nothing to chance called each one of them to direct them to the nearest shelter.

After loading his car with clothing and bedding, Campos and 3 of his siblings, drove to the store to buy basic essentials for his family. He knew that they would need water, snacks and some hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. He also bought diapers for his 11 month old brother. He was trying to leave nothing to chance.

John Craig, Red Cross Volunteer and J.P. Campos looking over the evacuation route Campos drove .

Meanwhile, Red Cross volunteers were busy setting up shelters in several towns, including Cal Expo at the California Fairgrounds to house the evacuees. The numerous drills and careful planning by the Red Cross and its community partners made it possible for the Red Cross to quickly meet the immediate needs of the Campos family and the thousands of other families who evacuated.

The Campos family of 25 were safe and cared for due to J.P.’s quick thinking and preparedness. Although not all family members were able to be together in the same shelter to start with , eventually, they were all reunited at the Cal Expo Shelter.

“J.P. Campos is a perfect example of what we, in the Red Cross, stress in Disaster Preparedness. He made a plan, he followed the orders of the emergency officials and he kept calm. He did everything right, and because of that, his family is safe. He’s a shining example of what do in an emergency such as this,” Praised Cindy Huge, Public Affairs Officer for the American Red Cross. “Make a Plan, Be Prepared and Stay Informed.” Campos adds, “I am thankful for the Red Cross for helping my family. They have been so very kind to us.”

Local Shelter Strikes Gold with Event Based Volunteers

Written by Maggie Buckenmayer, American Red Cross Volunteer

Volunteer Natalie Wren, performs a medical test on a shelter resident. Photo by Maggie Buckenmayer/Red Cross

“We didn’t have any first aid supplies when we first arrived, but we could triage and call 911 for ambulance support,” stated Natalie Wren who lives in the Chico area. Natalie was one of the first ‘event-based volunteers’ – community members who volunteer to help during a local emergency – who showed up at the Red Cross shelter at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on February 12, following mandatory evacuation orders in the area of the Oroville Dam. She learned of the call for health care practitioners from a friend on Facebook and contacted four of her friends, all of whom are in their fifth semester in nursing school. All five rushed to the shelter to volunteer.

After the customary background check, Natalie earned her official 30 day probationary Red Cross volunteer badge and jumped right to work helping shelter residents with their health care needs. When asked what made her volunteer, she responded, “I volunteered to feel part of something bigger than myself. Helping the shelter residents was why I became a nurse and having it happen in my own backyard is a crazy experience.”

Natalie also commented that during her first nursing classes she learned about Clara Barton and the Red Cross and has wanted to become a volunteer for the Red Cross since.

Natalie’s story is just one of many event-based volunteer success stories. Since the Red Cross opened the Silver Dollar Fairground shelter, more than 375 people have registered to be volunteers.

Niko Marin chats with Red Cross volunteer Diane Wilson as he registers to help at the Chico shelter. Photo by Maggie Buckenmayer/Red Cross

Niko Marin, another future volunteer, registered as a volunteer and is also a student at the fire academy at nearby Shasta College. Niko is excited about using his fire fighting training to make him a better Red Cross volunteer.

Eva Marquez, lead for the event-based volunteers at the Silver Dollar shelter was touched by the communities support. “We have lots of volunteers from Chico State as well as area residents. The turnout has been very good.”

Volunteers Eva, Diane, and Anita work to welcome new volunteers at the Chico, CA shelter. Photo by Maggie Buckenmayer/Red Cross

Engaging event-based volunteers in Red Cross work is a win-win proposition for the community and for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross provides community members with an outlet to channel their desire to assist their neighbors in the aftermath of a disaster. In turn, the volunteers bring a variety of skills, the motivation to help, and their knowledge of the community. Together, the American Red Cross and event-based volunteers are able to provide support to those affected by disaster when they need it most.

Red Cross Urges Residents to Be Prepared for Rain and Flooding

SACRAMENTO – The American Red Cross is urging residents to be prepared for additional rainfall and possible flooding as heavy rain is expected to impact much of California through the weekend. Local Red Cross chapters throughout the state are monitoring weather conditions and working with local government officials, and stand ready to respond with additional shelters and resources for affected populations.

FLOOD SAFETY: Residents are encouraged to follow flood safety tips to prepare for and respond to flooding in their area. Tips include the following:

  • Keep car gas tanks full, so that in the event of an evacuation, you can get quickly to safety.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for possible flood warning and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Turn around, don’t drown! If water is flowing above ankle level, stop, turn around, and go another way.
  • Keep children out of the water which can be swift moving or contaminated.

Find these and other flood safety tips at or in the Red Cross Emergency App.

FIND A SHELTER: The Red Cross Gold Country Region is still operating three shelters for those affected by the Oroville Spillway emergency and flooding in other areas of the region. These locations are:

Silver Dollar Fairgrounds
2357 Fair St.
Chico, CA 95928

Hammon Senior Center
1033 W. Las Palmas
Patterson, CA 95363

California State Fairgrounds – Cal Expo
1600 Expo Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

To find the latest information on Red Cross shelter locations, visit , call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or download the Red Cross Emergency App.

Be Prepared for Potential Emergencies

Taking steps now to prepare for the potential weather impacts is critical to keeping you and your loved ones safe should an emergency situation arise. There are three actions everyone can take that can help make a difference: get a kit, make a plan, be informed.

GET A KIT: Pack your emergency kit in an easy-to-handle container. Make sure to include a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, medications, hygiene items, extra clothing, and copies of important documents. Full information about what to include is available on

MAKE A PLAN: Work with every member of the family to identify two places to meet if separated in an emergency. Identify responsibilities for each member of the household and plan to work together as a team. Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where family members live, learn, work and play.

BE INFORMED: Residents should stay alert to weather patterns and surroundings. Listen closely to local weather alerts and follow orders from emergency personnel.

DOWNLOAD THE EMERGENCY APP: You can download the FREE Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information available on your mobile device, including open shelter locations, emergency weather alerts and flood safety information. Red Cross apps are available in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to

GET CONNECTED: Follow the Red Cross Gold Country Region on social media for the latest information as it becomes available.



About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The Gold Country Region serves a twenty-four county territory including Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @RCSierraDelta.

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Islamic Relief Volunteers Provide Helping Hand in Response to Oroville Spillway Emergency

Written by Cindy Huge, American Red Cross Volunteer

Volunteers with Islamic Relief and the Red Cross unload supplies for shelter residents at Cal Expo in Sacramento, CA.

When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross reaches out to community partners to help in the relief effort. One of these important partners is Islamic Relief USA.

Since the onset of the Oroville Spillway emergency, Islamic Relief has been among several community partners working alongside our Red Cross teams to provide critical assistance in support of the ongoing response effort. Volunteers from Islamic Relief have been instrumental in helping with transportation of food and supplies as well as providing food and shelter for affected communities.

Abdullah Ibrahim, along with nine fellow Islamic Relief volunteers, first heard of the Oroville emergency when they saw a social media request for supplies and volunteers. Within hours the group had assembled a team willing to take time from their jobs or schooling to help those in need. They arrived 12 hours later, bringing along nearly 6,000 personal hygiene items to distribute to those in need.

“We wanted to be able to help in any way we can,”  Ibrahim explained, “and we enjoy working alongside the American Red Cross to help those in need.” This sentiment was echoed by his fellow volunteers.

In times of disaster the American  Red Cross is proud to work closely with many community partners like Islamic Relief to meet the needs of affected communities.