I am a career parent, which is to say the last 20 years, of my 40 on earth, have been spent pouring the best parts of myself into 4 wonderful humans. As the first of the 4 developed her wings and left for college; I was realizing the magnitude of being transplanted from one thing to another. For half my life, I have given. Time. Care. Hugs. Compassion. Kindness. Patience. As one by one my children will surely fly the coop; Even surer, is my capacity to give.
As a public affairs volunteer, Red Cross allows me the opportunity to listen. In every story I tell, I find my own. In relating the details, I find the courage and heart each individual, or volunteer possess. I add it to my own ever growing heart.
Volunteering at Red Cross ,may be holding space for a stranger, or your neighbor, but it is also holding space for yourself. Red Cross needs volunteers to pour life into humanity. Volunteers, like me, need Red Cross to pour meaning into the words I write; or significance into the photos I capture. It builds a bridge over the gap the changes in my own life have created. It allows me to witness, first hand, the best parts of humanity. It also connects me to other people who share the same idea; that giving of yourself with time, resource or compassion fills spaces that expand on who we are. It allows me to give to something larger than myself, while developing new friendships and bonds.
Red Cross grants me a platform in which to reflect a little bit of myself onto those who need it. Sometimes it’s your neighbor, sometimes a stranger. Or even your own family. Be a mirror. With a smile. A hug. A meal. Your time. The Red Cross reminds me, much like parenting does, you get back far more than what you put in.
Author: Randi Benton, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer
Screeeech”! No, not the guy from Saved By The Bell, this is the sound of care packages being sealed and ready to ship to the troops after being filled with the countless items and supplies donated by the community in Northern California. Care packages? Donations? What’s the occasion, you ask? Well, of course that would be the third annual Operation Care Package – a joint effort between the American Red Cross Gold Country Region and KCRA/ KQCA to collect care package items, goods and supplies for our military, local and abroad.
“Care packages provide a touch of home and an opportunity to say “thank you” to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces for their service and sacrifice,” said Tobrin Hewitt, Services to the Armed Forces Manager for the American Red Cross Gold Country Region.
Operation Care Package was underway from dawn ‘til dusk on Friday, June 10, 2016, receiving in a cornucopia of donations from hygiene products to books and snacks.. But, prior to the start of the event, at precisely 4 A.M. volunteers swarmed the empty car lot in front of the Toyota dealership at the Roseville Automall, a little bit like a hoard of sleep-deprived zombies but nonetheless ready and willing to set up the tents and have everything arranged for the day ahead.
Armed with some coffee, Red Cross and partner volunteers were fast at work when the first donations began to pour in. One lane was blocked off for drivers to pull up and unload their donations, and believe me when I say it was busier than an In ‘N Out drive thru on a Saturday night! In between the colossal amount of cars driving by to drop of various items and supplies for donation, Sutter Health drove in with a truck load full of hundreds of items and even the local chapter of the Girl Scout who donated 5,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
This year’s Operation Care Package consisted of volunteers from the Red Cross, Blue Star Moms, Move America Forward, Retired Veterans, Current Servicemen and many more. Even a Cheer Squad from Oakmont High School took time out of their summer to help out with the event and cheer the drivers as they were driving by with their donations. Even more surprising, little kids were getting in on the action helping out their parents and excited to give back, or in this case sort out the items being received.
“Volunteers not only worked effortlessly to make this event a success, but they also made sure to look after one another,” said Robin DeCristofano from the Blue Star Moms. “Some of them were passing out icy cold strips to others to stay cool, handing out snacks, and ensuring everyone had a cold water bottle to stay hydrated. Overall, everyone was in jovial spirits.”
Throughout the course of the day, despite the mild heat and busy atmosphere, everyone was determined to make this day another proverbial win for the books. And I dare say it was! We were able to collect approximately 12,000 individual items which will help us put together more than 5500 care packages for military members deployed in Honduras serving in Joint Task Force-Bravo, Blue Star Moms, Marine Families, Yolo military families as well as Move America Forward and Corporal Palmer Foundation will receive items to send to service members.
As always, this event would not have been possible without the partnership and support from KCRA/KQCA, the Roseville Automall, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Sutter Health, and Safe Credit Union.
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
2-standard pillow cases
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.
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.”
Henry 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
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.
On 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, 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…”
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.
A conversation with Fito Ruano, Red Cross Volunteer
By Jesus Sanchez, Public Affairs Volunteer
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.
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.
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.”
Isn’t it great to curl up with a warm blanket on the couch and watch your favorite TV show? Or what about that feeling you get when you wrap your child in their special blanket? Blankets bring us warmth, comfort, and even a feeling of security for some of us. Case in point: Charlie Brown’s best friend, Linus and his oh-so-important security blanket. No matter who you are, young or old, big or small, I bet you appreciate the comfort of a warm blanket. I know I do. So, that’s why it was a great pleasure and honor for me to ride along with two of my Red Cross friends, Lilly Wyatt (Director, Regional Communications and Marketing) and Tobrin Hewitt (Regional Services to the Armed Forces Manager) to deliver nearly 150 blankets to the Veterans Home of California in Redding. The Home is a 155-bed, long-term care facility for California Veterans.
When we dropped off the blankets, we had the opportunity to say hello to a few of our veterans. They were happy and appreciative to receive our unexpected gifts. And, I like to think when our vets use the blankets they’ll be reminded that their service to our country is greatly appreciated, today and every day.
The First U.S. Community Credit Union provided the blankets. The credit union partnered with the American Red Cross to sponsor a blanket drive that resulted in generous donations from their employees and members. This is just one of many examples of the community showing their support for California veterans.
The American Red Cross has a comprehensive program to support our veterans called the Services to the Armed Forces program. Tobrin manages this program and he said, “Providing blankets for a little extra comfort to our vets in just one aspect of our program.” The Services to the Armed Forces program also provides so much more to military members and their families, such as:
Emergency communication services by connecting military members with their families back home when an emergency strikes.
Emergency financial assistance by partnering with military aid societies to help military members and their families get assistance 24/7.
Information and referral services for counseling, guidance, and other social services.
Deployment services such as training, information, and support before, during, and after deployments.