Carolee White: DAT (and many other things) Volunteer Extraordinaire

By Debbie Calcote, Disaster Program Manager

Volunteer Carolee White has taken 75% of all the Disaster Action Team calls we have had in the Amador/Calaveras/Tuolumne territory, either in person or virtual.

She has had some very difficult calls that required extensive research and calling of different agencies to validate a call and damage to help a client. I can recall a few calls that it took her almost three days of continuous work to be able to validate the call and to verify residency since all the client’s belongings were destroyed in the fire.

She has handled so many unique calls and issues with intake and has worked through them to make sure the client or clients were provided services that they needed.

Carolee is always caring and compassionate to the clients and her co-workers. We are so fortunate to have her on our team, and many clients have expressed how grateful they were for all that she did for them.

Did you know that Carolee had wanted to play with abstract painting for over 30 years, and when she finally realized that she could actually sell her artwork, Carolee decided that that would be a nice way to work part-time? She’s now been painting for just over one year and has been having a blast creating beautiful and colorful artwork.

Want to join us? Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Northern California Volunteer Shahadat Hossain Khan Balances Graduate School and Volunteering

Shahadat Hossain Khan is currently attending school to obtain his Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

He and his family are also business owners in Chico.

With his busy schedule as a student, business owner and father, Khan still finds the time to be a volunteer for the Red Cross.

We would like to welcome him as the newest Disaster Action Team Service Associate in the Lower Northern California Territory.

We would also like to express our thanks and appreciation for his service as a volunteer.

Thank you!

High-Priority Volunteer Needs

The Red Cross is always looking for new volunteers!

Take a look at some of the high-priority positions here in the California Gold Country Region. Sign up to volunteer at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Blood Services – Donor Ambassador (Tuolumne County)

Blood Donor Ambassadors welcome donors to blood drives and provide friendly support before and after they give. This can include helping donors to register, answering their questions, and assisting them at the refreshments table. Hear firsthand why others have volunteered in this role. Training is free, but the support you provide is priceless. Make a difference by joining the American Red Cross to collect lifesaving blood to those in need.

Disaster Cycle Services

Disaster Action Team – Every day, people are forced from their homes due to fires, storms, or other disasters. Our Disaster Action Team volunteers respond day and night to meet the immediate needs of their neighbors. Our help may include financial assistance for food, clothing, and lodging; emotional support; or replacing prescription medications and other critical items. Learn more about this role. Training is free, but the hope you provide is priceless.

Recovery Caseworkers – Dedicated teams of American Red Cross volunteers continue to step up to address the deep and diverse needs of our communities. Recovery Caseworkers provide follow-up and recovery planning services, including referrals, for individuals and households affected by local and regional events – primarily home fires.

Disaster Responders – Feeding & Sheltering – Every year, thousands of families are affected by wildfires in Northern California. Volunteering for the American Red Cross gives you a way to directly impact these families by providing meals, shelter, and hope. Register to volunteer today so you can complete training before it’s needed. Your volunteer support is critical. Let’s help. We can’t do it without you.

Disaster Health Services – Disaster Health Services teams address the unmet disaster-related health needs of impacted individuals, families, and communities. They provide hands on care within a RN-led model, assistance with replacement of medication, durable medical equipment, glasses, dentures and other medical supplies, and support individuals with disabilities and functional and access needs. Current unencumbered license required for RN, APRN, DO, EMT, LVN/LPN, NP, Paramedic, MD, and PA.

Service to the Armed Forces

Resiliency Facilitators – The Red Cross continues its work with the military plus community helping families strengthen their resilience to stressors they encounter during their loved one’s deployment. We believe ensuring that family members are prepared and trained to cope with stresses and challenges that may arise without the support of their spouse or loved one helps our deployed service members focus on their mission. A current and unencumbered license with master’s level or above mental health degree is required.

Volunteer Services – Screener Many Red Cross volunteers serve in support roles working behind the scenes. Screening Team members seek to understand what brought prospective volunteers to the Red Cross, their areas of interest and what position they would find most meaningful. This is a great opportunity to develop administrative and interviewing skills. Learn more about this role.

Red Cross Month 2022: Reflections on a DAT call Eight Years Later

By Heath Wakelee, Volunteer

I’ll never forget the little guy looking up at me and with almost tears in his eyes, looking first to his father for approval and then back at me (after his father had nodded OK) to accept the Mickey Mouse doll that I had offered.

The little guy looked back at me, now with tears in his eyes and mouthed, “Thank you.” 

I almost lost it. Even today, that memory impacts me every time I think about that family and their kids.

It was a dark, cold and windy night in January. The single-family home was at the top of the property and it was still burning when our Disaster Action Team arrived.

The family (mother, father and two small children) were huddled on the wet grass in front of their home. A neighbor sat nearby with some paintings and photographs that he was trying to dry off and salvage after they were removed from the home.

That event took place over eight years ago. I hope those kids remain warm and safe.  I still think about them and wonder how they are doing. I think that I always will.

There was not much for us to do until the family started thinking about their recovery. The two kids were about three and five years old. Because of their age, they were not really able to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Their home was being destroyed.  The only thing that they really understood was that their toys were “gone.”

If you are interested in volunteering with your local Red Cross Disaster Action Team, click here.

You can also support the Red Cross by making a financial contribution or supporting our BASH virtual auction and event later this month.

“We’re just here to inspire hope”: American Red Cross Spiritual Care Volunteers help heal invisible wounds

By Jennifer Sparks, American Red Cross

Bill Hart has the kind of voice that makes you feel like everything is going to be OK. This is ideal for a man in his position—Spiritual Care Lead for the American Red Cross Gold Country Region as we provide comfort and care to people displaced by the wildfires in northern California.

Bill Hart, Disaster Spiritual Care Lead

He has filled the Disaster Spiritual Care (DSC) role for the Gold Country Region of the Red Cross since September 2016. “Spiritual care is one part of a three-legged stool, along with mental health and health services. Together we form individual disaster care. We try to look at the mind, body and soul and provide care to all of those areas.”

Bill has been very active responding to the fires and earthquakes that happen across California, notably spending 89 days working on the Camp Fire response and currently providing support to disaster relief operations in northern areas of the state. “Wildfire response has become kind of a specialty,” he said. “In a wildfire, when everything is burnt down to ashes, recovery can feel insurmountable. We want them to start telling their story and moving towards hope.”

Bill’s path into the Red Cross is a windy one. After a couple of personal losses involving a family member in hospice, Bill recognized that primary care givers do not often get much support as they are losing loved ones. Finding a group that provides exactly that kind of care led Bill to become a hospital chaplain, and from there a chaplain that serves the armed forces. A Methodist minister, he met a Red Cross spiritual care volunteer through a mutual pastor friend who asked if he might be interested in volunteering as a Red Cross spiritual care provider.

A local to northern California, Bill lives in a small town in the Sierra Mountains about halfway between Sacramento and Reno. He has been ready to evacuate himself in years past, especially when the Bear River canyon was on fire within a few miles of his home. “It got pretty exciting for a while. They managed to keep it contained to the canyon, but we were all loaded up and watching it carefully,” he recalled.

Spiritual Care

The American Red Cross Spiritual Care team is trained to recognize the signs that someone may need assistance. They will look for someone who might be hoarding snacks at the shelters, or who is turning their cot area into their home. Agitation, pacing, isolation, anger, crying are also key indicators they watch for. “To do this job, you have to be ready for people to swear and yell at you and blame you for all their problems,  and let them know we’re still there for them. But it’s really about getting to know the client. At the beginning of the operation we’re looking for the obvious signs. But then we get to know people and see how their moods may change. And people will come find us.”

Building relationships underpinned by trust is key to making a positive impact on people who have evacuated their homes.  “Spiritual Care is in the shelters all day, every day. We don’t wait for people to come to us. We’re out in the shelters and spend mealtimes with people, or recreation time, and we’re constantly circulating around the grounds and other areas where people might be gathering, like the laundromat. And we start to get to know people, so they recognize us and we start building trust.”

A key time to be present with people is when they make the first trip back to their home after a wildfire. Bill says that people often stay in a shelter because they can’t go back home because there’s nothing left. “They often have a little spark of hope that somehow their house was spared, and that spark doesn’t go out until they’re standing in the middle of the ashes of their house.” 

One case that really stands out to Bill is that of a ninety-two-year-old man standing in the middle of his driveway, surrounded by the remains of his home after a catastrophic wildfire. He had moved into that house four years previously with his wife who then passed away from cancer. Having outlived his spouse and children and then losing his home to a wildfire, he worried that there would be nothing on earth left to prove he had ever existed.

With fires burning regularly across the state, Bill has seen some of the same faces in Red Cross shelters after different evacuations. “I encountered numerous individuals who have repeatedly evacuated the last couple of years, and several that have just about finished with rebuilding. Some know they’ve lost their new homes. I’ve remembered some, some remember me, all remember the Red Cross was there when they needed us. One man I met in Redding the other day was pretty sure he’d lost his home again but stopped by [the shelter] to try to make a cash donation to help others*.”

COVID Precautions

As important as physical comfort often is in spiritual care, COVID-19 precautions have made it nearly impossible to provide a shoulder to lean on, a hug, or a hand to hold. “People will reach towards us to be hugged, and it’s very difficult to say no because we’ve worked to get them to open up. We don’t want to maintain social distancing. We want to be there to hold your hand and be a shoulder. But we just have to keep everyone safe.” Bill explained that for a while the spiritual care team tried to work over the phone, but it was just not as effective as face to face. The connection between volunteer and evacuee is much more robust when they are in-person.

Most importantly for Bill is that people affected by disasters don’t let the word ‘spiritual’ keep them from seeking care. “We’re not the religious group that people might think of. We’re there for everybody. If it’s not something that we can help with, we find someone who can. We’re just there to inspire hope.”

*We are incredibly grateful to members of the public whose generosity and impulse to help lead them to attempt making cash donations. To ensure financial transparency and responsible use of the donor dollar, we cannot accept cash donations and ask that all donations be made online at redcross.org/donate or by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

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.