New Americorps Member Ready to Help Hurricane Ian Evacuees

By Jenny Farley

Americorps member Ajaya Fullmore

One of the California Gold Country Region’s newest Americorps members is anxiously awaiting word on whether she will deploy to Florida to help those impacted by Hurricane Ian.

It would be Ajaya Fullmore’s first deployment as she continues to settle into her new job working in Disaster Services.

“I want to be there to help everybody,” she said.

Losing two women in her life who meant everything to her inspired Ajaya to seek the assignment with the Red Cross. “Once you get into the American Red Cross you start to think, ‘I’m here for a mission.’ It’s changing my life already.”

Ajaya’s sister Mahogany died two years ago and her grandmother Brenda Ann died recently. “She has been a woman in my life that I look up to. She was into making a difference. She was a humanitarian.”

Ajaya Fullmore with her sister, Mahogany and grandmother Brenda Ann.

In that humanitarian spirit, the Red Cross has had more than a thousand workers and volunteers helping provide shelter, food and meals in states impacted by Ian.

Ajaya is ready to go but she’s asking herself a few questions. “I want to see the impact I can make. Can I be in these shelters and make these people comfortable? Can I do the things I am sent there to do?” she said.

Seeing media coverage of Hurricane Ian’s destruction makes Ajaya feel for those who have lost their homes and belongings. “My heart goes out to those people. These individuals have built their lives in their homes. For all that hard work to just disappear within a matter of hours or days, that’s a scary thing.”

More than a hundred people lost their lives in Hurricane Ian. If Ajaya deploys to Florida, memories of her grandmother and sister won’t be far away. “I do this to honor her. My grandma was the embodiment of love.”

Despite knowing the deployment may be challenging, Ajaya said she’s not worried about her own life. She wants to show people in Florida that it doesn’t matter where you are, the message is the same.

“Love is nationwide and I am here to spread it.”

To learn about volunteering with the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Local boy, 10, struggles with sickle cell disease; Family encourages blood donations to help

Jah’Sear Lusk, 10, is a sickle cell anemia patient in the Sacramento area. His family encourages people to donate blood at redcrossblood.org to see if they have antigens that can be used to treat the disease.

Editor’s note: September was Sickle Cell Awareness Month, a time when the American Red Cross emphasizes the importance of a diverse blood supply to help meet the needs of those with sickle cell disease – the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S. Since the California Gold Country Region’s social media space has been so focused on the wildfires that have ravaged much of Northern California, we chose to wait until now to share Jah’Sear Lusk’s story to give it the attention it deserves.

By Robin Blomster, Volunteer

Sickle cell anemia is an insidious disease. It sneaks around in deformed blood cells, painfully blocking oxygen, creating clots and affecting the body’s ability to fight infections. And it’s not satisfied with a physical toll – it wreaks havoc on the mental health of a patient and their community, too.

The American Red Cross is bringing awareness to the disease and the ongoing need for research, blood donations and work toward a cure. Sickle cell anemia affects approximately 100,000 individuals in the United States, one of whom is Jah’Sear Lusk, 10.

Jah’Sear was born with sickle cell anemia (SCA), and the physical and mental challenges have shaped his life and the lives of his Northern California family for nearly a decade. 

“From ages 1 to 3, he was always sick,” said Jah’Sear’s mom, Andrea Lusk. She kept a “go bag” in the car because of the frequency with which she was visiting doctors.

“When you’re immune compromised, you catch viruses and infections easily. And SCA patients (are kept for) 72 hours … to run tests, take labs, and make sure … antibiotics are working. Every month and a half I was (in the hospital).”  

The most serious complication of Jah’Sear’s illness hit him when he was just 3 years old. 

“He had a bad virus. His fever never broke,” Andrea said. “His body became very inflamed, and then he had a massive ischemic stroke when he was 3, in 2016.”

Because he was 3, he’s had remarkable “get back,” how Andrea terms his recovery. He had to learn how to walk, talk and eat again. He was left with physical disability, mental/cognitive disability and vision impairment, and he’s a fall risk. 

“He’s struggling. I’m getting him all the help he can get. It’s a struggle for him and he has a lot of self awareness (at this age). He asks, ‘Why did God let this happen to me?’ It was the hardest thing to answer. I knew it was coming. I ask God to give me the words to say to him to continue to build his confidence.”

Andrea has made it her life’s work to advocate for her son. She says she’s grateful to have her “village,” which includes her husband, William; her mom, Linda Castro; and her aunt, Patricia Franklin, who is a retired UC Davis registered nurse. But even so, it’s not easy. 

When you donate, blood is tested for specific antigens that are needed to treat sickle cell disease. If your blood contains those characteristics, the Red Cross will let you know so you can help sickle cell patients by donating whole blood, plasma or platelets. 

“We both work, we’re both self employed, which is amazing because at any given minute I have to drop everything to go be there with him. My husband doesn’t get to go to work, I don’t get to go to work (when Jah’Sear needs support),” Andrea said. “There are mental health ramifications for everyone involved. I can’t imagine other families and what they’re going through when I already know what I’m going through.” 

Jah’Sear’s ongoing treatment is blood exchanges every five weeks, which are done through an apheresis machine. Many patients get transfusions, Andrea said, but she advocated for Jah’Sear to have apheresis because it pulls out a portion of the patient’s blood while giving them new blood. 

“It’s like an oil change,” she said. 

While there are promising treatments on the horizon, like DNA editing, for now because of Jah’Sear’s medical conditions he relies on blood.

“It’s life threatening. People with sickle cell wouldn’t be able to survive without blood donors. And we greatly appreciate it.”

Sickle cell is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States and affects individuals of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. The majority are of African descent, and blood from donors of the same race or similar ethnicity is important in ensuring the best results, with the least potential reaction.

When you donate, blood is tested for specific antigens that are needed to treat sickle cell disease. If your blood contains those characteristics, the Red Cross will let you know so you can help sickle cell patients by donating whole blood, plasma or platelets. 

Call us at 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800­-733-2767) or download the free Blood Donor App for more information or to schedule a blood donation appointment.

Red Cross works closely with local departments after wildfires to help residents

By Alicia Dorr

“We’re grateful the Red Cross is here.”

The Mosquito Wildfire was first detected more than three weeks ago, but residents near it are still reeling from its destruction. As Red Cross volunteers go into the communities to help families get back on their feet, fire information officers Kimberly Peterson and Andrew Dowd are also in the community working to educate residents about wildfires.

“This is such a great classroom for talking about wildfire,” Andrew says.

The Red Cross partners closely with local officials to help communities get on the road to recovery – but also to help educate on how to protect your family should a fire spark again. For the Red Cross, this means offering hope for the future through immediate assistance or resources like our Emergency Preparedness App. Kimberly says hope is what they want to share, too.

“Life is still here,” Kimberly says. “In those areas where the fire cleared up the forest floor, new growth will come back – not all is lost.”

Kimberly and Red Cross disaster job director Betsy Witthohn discussed ways buildings can be protected, from prescribed burns by local fire departments to ensuring low brush is cleared out around your home. Kimberly also shared that the red fire retardant used to push back fires has ammonium nitrate in it.

“It actually puts nutrients back in the soil,” she explains.

Red Cross volunteers go into the communities affected by the Mosquito Fire doing everything from handing out clean-up kits to connecting people with long-term resources, and they interact regularly with local officials who are also the boots on the ground. Kimberly says it does not go unnoticed.

“We’re grateful the Red Cross is here,” she says.

To find out more about how you can prepare your family for disasters, or to find out how you can donate or volunteer, call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit redcross.org.

Recovering from the wildfire: A story in pictures

By Alicia Dorr

Volunteers have been at Local Assistance Centers and out in the communities helping and caring for residents affected by the wildfires. Call 1-800-RED CROSS to donate or find out more about how you can get involved with the mission.

Community Connector: How Red Cross volunteers link residents to resources after wildfires

By Alicia Dorr

Evelyn McMahon has always been a connector. She likes helping people gain access to resources, to provide them with support, to listen to them and help them navigate barriers so that they can live healthier, happier lives. That’s why she says she loves serving as a Community Engagement and Partnerships (CEP) volunteer. Evelyn has taken on this role as a part of the response to the Mosquito fire and the Mill fire in Northern California.

“It is very gratifying work,” Evelyn says. “When you connect a person who has a need to something that will make a difference – it’s just wonderful.”

As a CEP volunteer, Evelyn is constantly interacting with community organizations, businesses, churches, local authorities and more to ensure residents affected by the wildfires get everything they need to get back on their feet. She IDs all of the resources in the community and gives that information and help to residents who may not have known what was available to them.

“We help agencies and partners in the community understand what people need, too. We thank them for the support and help them understand the extent of the need so we can coordinate,” Evelyn explains.

This was especially important in the case of the Mill fire. Evelyn says she feels really privileged to have worked with in Weed, California. Within the town is an area called Lincoln Heights, a historically black community settled by black lumber mill workers in the 1920s. The Mill fire is believed to have sparked near the Roseburg Forest Products lumber mill, just down the road from Lincoln Heights, where the quick-moving flames destroyed or damaged a significant number of homes. Evelyn says despite the devastation, the community is incredibly resilient.

“They want to move back. When you look in their faces, you see hope,” Evelyn says. “So we’re going to do what we have to do to get them what they need.”

She and other Red Crossers gathered information about all of the affected families and learned what was lost and what benefits were available. Evelyn worked with local officials, agencies, churches, community centers and more to connect them to everything from replacing lost medical supplies to options for long-term shelter.

Evelyn is passionate about the work because she says she sees the difference it makes, every day. Whether she’s working to help people after a disaster like a wildfire or she is in her home state of North Carolina doing day to day connection to resources after home fires, she says volunteering with the Red Cross is definitely worth it – and she recommends it to anyone.

“If you like helping people even a little bit, you will love being a volunteer for Red Cross.”

To find out more about the Red Cross mission and what volunteer roles might interest you visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Evacuees thank Red Cross volunteers at shelter before heading home after wildfires

By Alicia Dorr

“The Red Cross volunteers fly in from all over, give up their time – I didn’t know that. They go above and beyond,” Marco says. “It’s a lousy situation, but they are the best of it.”

Marco blowing up a balloon animal for the shelter manager, Addie, as a thank you. The Cameron Park shelter closed today as all residents affected in that area have evacuation orders lifted.

Marco, known as Marco in the Morning, is a local radio host in one of the evacuation areas in El Dorado county. He hasn’t been home for nearly two weeks, but he was able to go home as evacuation orders were lifted. He says he is impressed by the American Red Cross volunteers who have been helping others during this trying time.

“The Red Cross volunteers fly in from all over, give up their time – I didn’t know that. They go above and beyond,” Marco says. “It’s a lousy situation, but they are the best of it.”

Red Cross shelters in response to the Mosquito Fire have closed, and all of the affected residents have been connected with long-term lodging solutions. While evacuation orders have been lifted, the Red Cross response doesn’t just end. Our volunteers are out in the communities handing out supplies, snacks, cleaning kits, and providing services for anyone affected as they work to get back on their feet.

You can help people affected by disasters like fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters. Call 1-800-RED CROSS to find out more today.

‘There’s No Place Like Home’ – Reflections from a Mosquito Fire Shelter Guest as He Prepares to Leave

By Alicia Dorr

During the Mosquito Fire, Glenn Lodwig, Jr. stayed at the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College in Rocklin for more than 11 days and says he is thankful for the support.

Glenn Lodwig, Jr. expressed his appreciation for the Red Cross during the Mosquito Fire evacuations.

“It’s been charitable and kind.”

But – as the saying goes, “There’s no place like home,” Glenn says.

Glenn says if he had to pay for shelter at a hotel he would have been out of money in just days, but the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College allowed him to continue his life until the evacuation order lifts.

“Everything went smooth. There were meals, coffee – I could take a shower and get to work every day,” Glenn says.

As Glenn and others like him transition back to home, it is vital to remember that the Red Cross is there for you every day for every disaster – large or small.

We will be with these evacuees as they make their way back, but easiest way to help people like those affected by the wildfires in California is simply to give a donation. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS to find out more.

A Story in Pictures: A Day in the Life of the Sierra College Red Cross Shelter

Mosquito Fire Evacuee Thankful for Community Support at Shelter

Derek Jones’ dogs, Nelson and Roscoe, rest in the parking lot of the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.

By Debbie Imlay, Volunteer

In the first week of September, Derek Jones was forced to evacuate from his mobile home in Foresthill with his two dogs, Nelson and Roscoe.

His neighborhood was under a mandatory evacuation order due to the Mosquito Fire. He was among dozens of people at the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.

“I was so scared and in tears,” Jones said. “One of my neighbors came up and handed
me the key to one of his spare vehicles and said, ‘Get your dogs and your stuff and get off the hill.’”

Jones said the most important thing for him was to make sure his two dogs were safe. He evacuated from Foresthill wearing only the clothes on his back. But he said the generosity of community donations, either directly or through non-profit agencies, has been a blessing.

Mosquito Fire evacuee Derek Jones took refuge at the Red Cross shelter in Rocklin, Calif. with his two dogs.

As one of many evacuees who chose to stay outside the Sierra College shelter with his pets, Jones gave thanks to the citizens of Rocklin for their generosity and compassion toward the shelter guests who camped outside.

“Now I’ve got about 10 outfits, all the supplies, all the dog food, cases of water, air
mattress,” Jones said.

You can support Red Cross disaster relief by making a financial donation at redcross.org/donate or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Hoy Family Finds Help at Local Assistance Center in Weed, Calif.

By Marcia Antipa, Volunteer

Eric and Yvette Hoy’s family has farmed in Siskiyou County on the same piece of property for five generations.  Now the farm’s future legacy is at risk, after the Mill Fire swept through earlier this month, destroying the family’s home, barn and grazing lands.

“It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s all I’ve ever known,” said Eric.

The Mill Fire destroyed the Hoy family’s barn, home and grazing lands. Their 400 head of cattle survived.

On September 9, Red Cross Volunteers helped Eric and his wife, Yvette, take their first steps toward recovery, at the Local Assistance Center in Weed.  

The Red Cross joined dozens of county agencies and nonprofit organizations in offering help to people who survived the wildfire. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles provided temporary driver’s licenses, and county health workers gave out tetanus shots and other immunizations. Families also were able to pick up food boxes and other supplies.

Red Cross caseworkers documented the losses these people suffered, and in some cases, offering financial assistance. Other Red Crossers handed out cleanup kits, rakes, shovels and other supplies to help families whose homes were left in rubble.

Eric and Yvette were still reeling from the fire, staying in a hotel and trying to plan their next moves.  For now, they are grateful that they and their little dog, Lincoln. Their 400 head of cattle were able to survive the fire also. 

The Hoy family’s 400 head of cattle after the Mill Fire swept through their property.

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief, consider a financial donation by visiting redcross.org/donate or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.