Congratulations to Spirit of the Pacific Award Winner Liz Ford

Liz Ford Congratulations to Gold Country Regional Deployment Program Lead Liz Ford for winning the Spirit of the Pacific Award!

Liz was nominated by Disaster Workforce Engagement Program Manager Christine Yoo who recognized her for acting with a sense of purpose, having a passion for service and a willingness to go above and beyond.

All Red Cross team members are encouraged to work together and personify a set of cultural values and behaviors that exemplify these Pacific Division ideals. The Spirit of the Pacific Award is specifically designed to acknowledge and reward these
outstanding efforts on the part of employees and volunteers.

The award was created in 2016. This is the second time a Gold Country Region volunteer has won!

Take a look at Liz’s nomination:

As the Regional Deployment Program Lead, Liz has played an integral role in the successful development of our regional deployment team and has been actively engaged in recruiting and training every member from the very beginning!

Her vision and commitment to develop a volunteer-led and sustained program has greatly enhanced our region’s ability to provide our volunteers with more opportunities for deployment to disasters all across the country by ensuring that a dedicated volunteer member of our team is on duty each day to monitor the open positions as they are requested by the relief operations (7 days a week, 365 days a year).

She will often take on extra days if no other team members are available and even offers to do this while she is away on vacation or traveling across country! Not only that, she also enthusiastically took on the challenge for the deployment team to conduct debrief calls with each and every disaster responder that deployed during fall 2018 (and there were several hundred!).

From when it was first brought up, she was already on the same page with feeling that this is something we needed to start doing and promptly proceeded to devise a plan, communicate with the team to get everyone on board with the plan, and executed the daunting task – a true reflection of her dedication and passion for our volunteers’ experiences on deployments to be a positive one.

Liz has also continued to step up time and again when those disasters have occurred in our very own backyard, taking on leadership roles in Staff Services in the chaos of the initial phases of standing up an operation to support our workers as they serve our impacted communities and she often stays on for weeks until the job is done. Not only during disasters but throughout the year, she is committed to building our regional cadre of trained Staff Services volunteers and gladly makes herself available to instruct the Staff Services Fundamentals course all over our region!

Liz is someone that we count on to step in when the unforeseeable happens, as with last July’s institute, when both the volunteer and paid staff lead for the event were unexpectedly taken out of commission days before the event. She graciously stepped in to pick up the reigns and provide coordination on site at the event, along with the other members of the planning team, to ensure that the event proceeded as planned.

Having the privilege of getting to work with Liz in all these roles has truly been a joy and honor – I couldn’t imagine where we’d be or what I’d do without her!

Congratulations, Liz! Thank you for all you do for the American Red Cross.

Once a Recipient of Red Cross Assistance, Volunteer Steps Up to Help

Tammy ArtolaTammy Artola had not anticipated needing the American Red Cross’ assistance when she headed up to Truckee with her family for some time away.  She was with her daughter and grandson while her daughter’s boyfriend had stayed home to work.

At 2 a.m. she got a call that the mobile home on their 15 acres was on fire and that the flames were heading toward their home.

She remembers two members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) who were called in to help. They comforted the family and helped with what was needed in alleviating the stress of all that was going on.

In the weeks that followed, they sorted through losing the mobile home, a workshop and many valuables. Tammy’s daughter and her family struggled to figure out where to go and how to process it all and ended up moving to Alabama in order to be near her boyfriend’s family. Their departure was incredibly hard on Tammy and she struggled with not being near her family.

Tammy was depressed for several weeks after her family left, and realized that she needed to add something to her life. She wanted to give back to those who might be in need and decided to call one of the DAT responders who had helped them through their ordeal.

Tammy has been a Red Cross Volunteer for a year now. She has received training in sheltering and is now a member of her local DAT team. In addition, she has gotten involved with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and has taken on a lead role in her local Sound the Alarm campaign.

One of the hardest parts of volunteering for Tammy is that she struggles with letting go after helping a client. She says she wants to follow up and provide as much care as possible, often wondering about the people she’s helped long after assistance is provided.

She experienced this on her first DAT call after helping a gentleman who experienced a fire at his mobile home. She recalled that it was a bit unsettling a first, not being sure of what to expect as she traveled into the park on a single access road. The gentleman was waiting for her team at the home of his landlord.

Tammy spent much of the time listening to him talk and providing a needed distraction from all that was going on. They were able to call a nurse to help with the man’s needs and found transportation to get him started on the next steps.

Tammy stated that she wished they could have done more and still wonders how he is doing from time to time.

Through the process of volunteering, Tammy feels that she has learned better listening skills, how to be prepared, and has gleaned so much from the volunteers around her.

Tammy says she enjoys volunteering for the Red Cross because it makes her feel good helping others and it reminds her of how lucky she is. She would encourage those who are thinking about volunteering to attend a local meeting to meet other volunteers and ask questions.

Even though a lot of training is involved, Tammy advised new volunteers to stick it out because it is so worth it.

Story by Americorps member Lauren Crutchfield

Irish Red Cross Volunteer Reflects on Her Time in the Gold Country Region

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The American Red Cross Gold Country Region was fortunate last year to have met and provided training to Niveta Ramakrishnan, a third-year medical student and volunteer with the Irish Red Cross.

 

We were so impressed with her dedication to the Red Cross and her tenacity in learning all she could about what we do in the United States.

Read Niveta’s blog post about her time in Sacramento!

 

Despite Cancer Diagnosis, Volunteer Loretta Walker Dives into Blood Services, Focuses on Kids

53588532_2195174303872708_2859472256537460736_nTwelve years ago, doctors told Loretta Walker she had only few months to live and she should return home to put her affairs in order.

Cancer.

Instead, she began volunteering at the Red Cross blood center in Manteca. Having received transfusions herself, Loretta has had firsthand experience with blood donations and knows how important donating blood is for the community. In addition to her canteen work and volunteering at local mobile blood drives, Loretta offered to coordinate volunteers for the Manteca center.

“I love communicating with the other volunteers and donors,” said Loretta. I have made some new friends and love visiting my old friends too.”

Another project near to Loretta’s heart is helping Manteca youth. For the past 10 years, Loretta has been an integral part of the FUN (Friday Unity Night) Club. Determined to help keep kids off the streets and away from drugs, community leaders created a safe haven every Friday where kids would go to play games, hear live music and participate in presentations from the police and fire departments.

Loretta continues to serve, despite her ongoing fight against cancer. In April 2018, Loretta had radiation treatments because the tumors had grown. “I don’t give up,” she said. “I am dedicated to working with the community and all the people in it.”

Paws-itively the purr-fect partners

Furry Friends + Red Cross raise the ruff!

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

When disaster strikes, a furry friend can afford tremendous comfort to a family, and most pet owners do consider their pets to be part of their family. Keeping them together, therefore, necessitates being able to keep owners and pets as close as possible.

For Camp Fire survivors, there was room to shelter their pets immediately across from the men’s and women’s dorms in the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. While known for sheltering people, the American Red Cross turns to partner agencies to assist with pets.

Operating the temporary shelter and keeping the pets healthy is the responsibility of Furry Friends Pet Relief from Antioch.  Founded by Erin Piña of Oakley, California, Furry Friends began helping in mid-December and took over operation of the shelter on Christmas Eve.

A visiting veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Knobel, has been stopping in and helping set protocols to assure each animal is healthy and up to date on their shots.

Presently, the shelter is still housing over 30 pets, including dogs, cats, and birds. Assisting is shelter manager, Morgan Macy, of Yuba City, who has been here since the shelter first opened. “Thankfully, I can now say that all our dogs are happy and healthy again, and back in general population,” explains Macy.

The shelter is set up in a large A-frame building with dozens of cages of varying sizes. Birds and cats to the left and most dogs to the right. The exceptions are three pups and their mom, just to the left of the reception table.

Stealing the show are the three, fluffy, Alaskan Malamute pups, born on Halloween, shown here with (L-R) Morgan Macy, Grady Grammar and Demetra Poulos.

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If you are a cat person, then you are going to love Dinky, held here by Piña. She’s super friendly, and a crowd favorite.

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The shelter’s hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day and owners are encouraged to spend time with their pets whenever feasible. “If it were me,” says Macy, “I’d be spending as much time as possible with mine. They are suffering just like their owners, and they need to work together as the family members they are.”

If owners can’t walk their dogs daily, one of up to 20 volunteers takes care of walking each animal, three times each day.  Large fenced enclosures enable the dogs to play catch or run freely for exercise.

One owner, Dustin Lee, (R) enjoys playing around with his Pitbull, Hitch. “I got him about a month ago from the local humane society, and we love to horse around together,” says Lee. They enjoy having space outside where Hitch can run free in the enclosure.

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Presently seven AmeriCorps volunteers from San Jose are also assisting Piña and Macy with feeding, watering, walking and cleaning cages. Here every day, the volunteers work from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Shelter residents, as well as Red Cross workers, have been extremely complimentary about the pet shelter, and Furry Friends hopes to work with Red Cross again on future disaster responses that include pet-sheltering operations.

Teamwork After the Hurricane: All for the Animals

By Stacey Shell

Derek was sitting on the back of his truck on the main street in Marianna, Florida earlier this week. He and his mother, Charlotte, are from Pensacola and were affected by Hurricane Ivan several years ago. They were caught unprepared.

 

37753Derek vowed then that he would never again be caught unprepared and would be ready to help if a hurricane ever came to Florida again. He has a soft spot in his heart for animals and knew that was an area of need that he could help with.

 

Derek and Charlotte collected more than 250 pounds of fruit and pet food from his car club, church and community members. For the past two weeks they have driven down to Tallahassee to give it away to anyone in need.

The mother and son have been driving around the back roads of affected areas where there is still no water, no power and, in some cases, clearing of the roads has not begun.

They came upon one house that had been evacuated but still on the property were foru dogs and five puppies that were left behind. Derek dropped three bags of dog food to which all of the dogs came running because they were starving.

Once I heard this story I could not leave without making sure the dogs were rescued.  We drove to the local animal control office where I met a gentleman named Ken. He was not an animal control worker, but happened to work next door.

None of the animal control people were there. I told him the story and asked him if he had any suggestions on how I can get someone out to the house to save the dogs. He got on the phone and called Karen who was a friend of his. I gave her the information and she promised that she would get someone out there.

As we were driving away, Ken drove up in his car getting our attention to let us know that the house was in a different county. I asked him if he had any contacts in that county so I could get help. He and Karen told me they would coordinate with the other county’s animal control department and they promised that the dogs would be taken care of.

Because of this mother and son team from Pensacola who were down here just to help, this Red Cross volunteer who believes no animal should be left behind, two local individuals willing to help, and the coordination of two county animal control groups, these dogs will not be forgotten and the puppies will have a chance to live a full life.

If you would like to contribute to the American Red Cross Hurricane Michael disaster response, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Stacey Shell is a Gold Country Region volunteer. She is on her first-ever deployment to to assist those affected by Hurricane Michael.

“All is Not Lost”: A Carr Fire Survivor Shares Her Story

Los Angeles-based Red Cross volunteer Carmela Burke recently completed her deployment to the Carr Fire in Redding where she assisted the public affairs team. While there, she got the chance to interview Terry Zeller, a resident whose home burned in the fire.

But thanks to the help from firefighters and the support of friends and neighbors, Zeller said, “All is not lost.”

Read her story here.

Gold Country Volunteer Says Kilauea Volcano Disaster was Like No Other

By Denise Nordell

Disaster Volunteer and Case Work Supervisor Jan Campbell has been deployed to more than 15 disasters since joining the Red Cross with her husband, Mike, in 2010. But Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano presented a unique set of challenges to Campbell and her fellow volunteers.

Campbell, shown on the far right in the above photo, was deployed on May 25, one of handful of Gold Country volunteers sent to relieve the first wave of volunteers who arrived soon after the volcano erupted on May 3. At that time, the Red Cross was operating shelters at the Keeau Senior Center (later moved to the Armory), Sure Foundation Church, and—the largest, sheltering more than 200 people—at Pahoa Community Center. Jan and her fellow volunteers were housed at the University of Hawaii dormitories during their stay; Campbell returned home on June 9.

Campbell, who has worked disasters all over the U.S., from the Rim Fire (2013) to Superstorm Sandy (2012-13) and Hurricane Matthew (2016), observed several things that set the Kilauea Volcano apart. For one, “With a fire or flood, the rain eventually stops, or the fire is contained, and you wait until the water or flames subside so people can go back in and reclaim and rebuild their homes.” But with a disaster like Kilauea, where the volcano is still destroying land and homes the situation is still very much in flux the “land” in many cases is gone, and only lava beds remain. Campbell’s task as Case Work Supervisor was to work with clients to plan their next steps toward recovery.

Campbell, who understands that relief missions can be complicated, especially when they involve multiple agencies, felt that the partnership between The Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, county agencies and other organizations worked well. This depended on clearly defined roles for each organization. “There are always bumps in the road, of course,” said Campbell. “But everything fell into place within a short time. When we all work together and focus on our mission — relieving suffering — small differences fall away.” Campbell commented that the supervisory structure for this event was one of the best and most efficient she has experienced.

Another difference that presented some challenges was becoming accustomed to the Hawaiian lifestyle. For example, a “house” might mean something different to an Islander: it might have one fixed wall and screens or fencing. How do you go about replacing that? Many Hawaiians also prefer to live “off the grid,” said Campbell. “They are more laid back and feel less urgency about their day-to-day lives.” This meant that Campbell and her fellow relief workers needed to listen carefully to understand what each client’s idea of recovery meant to him or her. “People are amazingly resilient,” said Campbell.  “But this will be a long haul and that resiliency can understandably wear thin.” Nevertheless, Campbell found her clients to be patient, understanding, and grateful for the assistance they received.

When not deployed, Campbell’s “Steady State” job is working as Territorial Disaster Workforce Engagement Lead. In this role, she helps disaster responders find the assignment that they will enjoy within the Disaster Workforce, guiding them in seeking training classes to give them skills and knowledge through Red Cross classes.

Regardless of the unique challenges Kilauea presents, “Our mission is always the same,” said Campbell. “We are there to relieve human suffering and help [clients] recover and move on.”

 

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Why I Work with the Red Cross

“I volunteer for the American Red Cross because I get the chance to help people who lost everything in a disaster, big or small.  I get to see people in both good times and bad.  But it can be a lot of fun also.  I get to take part in things that I would not normally do.  This gives the people the opportunity to see us also.  I am referring to all of the events we take part in.  I remember last year (after the wildfires) that we took part in two parades.  The people who were watching on both sides of the streets were applauding as we went passed.  This is a good feeling to know that we are appreciated for all that we have been doing.  We get to meet different people that we would not normally meet also.  We will always be there for people whenever they need us.  And we are continuously learning how to help them better.  I could carry on more but I am going to stop for now.”

— Robert Albonico