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.

Roseville Family Credits American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign After Safely Evacuating Blaze

By Peg Taylor, Red Cross Volunteer

Paula Metz and her family know firsthand the value of the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

Their Roseville, Calif. home caught fire in August, 2021.

When the fire happened, the family of five, including one person who uses a walker, had to evacuate. They were able to respond quickly and evacuate safely due to the knowledge and evacuation planning provided them by the Red Cross.

“The fire happened so quickly. Having the Red Cross training was helpful. I felt a sense of readiness,” said Metz.

“Before, I wouldn’t have thought about my cars, full of gasoline, as being accelerants. One of the first things we did when we got out was to get our cars out of the driveway and away from the house. I’m now more aware of these things.”

“A month prior to the fire, the Red Cross did a telephone interview to educate us on fire preparedness, how to prepare an evacuation plan, how to use fire extinguishers, how to make sure our smoke alarms were working,” said Metz. “They also sent a package of information for me to read.”

Home fires are the most frequent and deadliest disaster in the United States. Every 24 seconds, a fire department in the U.S. responds to a fire somewhere in the nation, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average seven people die each day from these fires and 36 people are injured.

When a home fire happens, those inside often have less than two minutes to get out safely.

To reduce the high number of home fire fatalities and injuries, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign in 2014. The program educates people about home fire safety, helps them create customized evacuation plans, and provides installation of free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for home fires.

So far, more than 1,200 lives have been saved in the U.S. as a direct result of the Home Fire Campaign. Seven of those, including the Metz family, live in the California Gold Country Region of the Red Cross.

Paula and her family are thankful they took the time to participate virtually in the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. “I hope others check out Red Cross’ fire preparedness information,” she said.

For more information on the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign, to donate to the Red Cross, or to join thousands of volunteers across the country who come to the aid of people impacted by home fires, visit redcross.org.

Local Cancer Survivor Encourages Blood Donations as Shortage Continues Nationwide

By Rita Blomster, Communications Volunteer

As the American Red Cross reports its lowest blood supply in a decade, one cancer survivor’s story illustrates the critical importance of blood donations.   

Brittany DeNorscio was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017.  Last month, she told ABC10 in Sacramento that she was thankful for the many anonymous donors who saved her life as she went through chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and countless blood transfusions. 

Now in remission, DeNorscio wants others to become blood donors.   

“You could be, you know, walking down the street and pass somebody you don’t even know that you saved their life just by donating blood,” she told ABC10.  

Dr. Sarah Barnhard, UC Davis Health Center’s Director of Transfusion Medicine, agrees.   

“There is no other medical therapy that can replace giving blood transfusions to patients,” she told ABC10. “There are a whole host of patients that need blood transfusions in order to survive. They would include everyone from the oncology wards to patients who deliver babies and then have bleeding afterward.  

“Even tiny babies in the intensive care unit oftentimes need to have blood transfusions in order to save their life.” 

The Red Cross must collect about 12,500 blood donations and nearly 3,000 platelet donations every day for hospital patients. All from volunteer donors.

January is Blood Donor Month. To donate blood, simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients.  

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.  

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App. 

May’s High Priority Volunteer Positions

The California Gold Country Region needs to fill the following volunteer positions as soon as possible. If you know someone who may be a great fit for one of these opportunities, contact CA Gold Country Volunteer Services at goldcountry.vol@redcross.org.

‘What Can We Do to Help?’: Century 21 Support of Red Cross Endures Through Many Disasters

In February, 2017, Doug Love found himself at the Silver Dollar Fairground in Chico. Nearly 200,000 Oroville residents in the path of the Oroville Dam spillway had just been ordered to evacuate.

“That strange event sent a town full of people into Chico and I was just trying to figure out what we can do to help, so I just parked on a side street and walked into the shelter,” said Love, an agent with Century 21 Select Real Estate in Chico.

“I walked in and asked someone in a red vest staffing a card table with information. I didn’t know this shelter was facilitated by the Red Cross at the time. I said, ‘Hey, I’m here from Century 21, what do you guys need?’”

Love was directed to Amanda Ree, then-Executive Director of the the Northeast California Chapter. Ree is now the Executive Director of California Wildlife Recovery.

“I went up to Amanda and just said, ‘Hey, I’ve got an office with a bunch of people and we live in this town. Is there anything we can do?’” 

Love recalled Ree having at yellow, lined piece of notebook paper and said that she was trying to secure things on her list: baby formula, food, toiletries, blankets, etc.

“Amanda was just this wonderful person in charge of everything and she took that minute with me,” Love said.

He went back to the Century 21 Select Chico office and quickly mobilized the team, sending group texts, emails and posting notes on the door. Century 21 staff immediately began donating money and items on the list.

Later that same day, Love returned to the Silver Dollar Fairground, this time with the Century 21 team and trucks full of needed items. 

Thanks to their incredible support, Century 21 Select Chico was recognized at the American Red Cross Centennial event that year. “That awards night was really inspiring because we saw the awards given to the real heroes – the people who jump into the middle of a wreck or fire and save individuals,” said Love.

“The stories that were shared were incredibly touching and inspirational. We just witnessed what the Red Cross is really all about. It’s the on the ground volunteers giving their time and talents to just help others.”

That is where the partnership between Century 21 and the Red Cross began.

In 2018, the Camp Fire came as close as Love’s back fence. Sixty percent of the houses in his neighborhood were destroyed. Unfortunately, the Century 21 Select office in Paradise perished as well, along with the homes of all the agents. 

Amidst their personal crises, the team again asked, “Hey, what can we do to help?”

The Century 21 Select Real Estate Group came together to donate funds and goods to support relief efforts in their community.

“Realtors are really a group of people who really are in it for their communities. Whenever we as an office just say hey, this happened and there is a need, our agents are there writing checks, bringing items, asking what we can do,” said Love.

When the Berry Creek Fire hit this year, Love reached out to the Red Cross to see how the Century 21 Select Real Estate Group could help. Century 21 Select partnered with the Red Cross by creating a microsite to raise funds. Their marketing team leveraged their extensive email distribution lists and social media channels to promote fundraising efforts. Along with committing to company donation, Century 21 Select will match the first $10,000 donated by Nov. 2, 2020. 

“Disaster after disaster, we’ve all become accustomed to being prepared for the next disaster. We’re just there to do whatever we can,” Love said.

“The fact of the matter is it just started from one person to another, no corporate solicitation or marketing campaign, just one person to another in the middle of a crazy disaster.”

“That’s the way I think of the Red Cross. It’s just one person to another. I am just so impressed with who the Red Cross is and what they do.”

Home Fire Campaign Celebrates 715 Lives Saved; How You Can Help!

The American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is celebrating a milestone this week with the 715th life saved as a result of free smoke alarms being installed in homes around the country.

In all, we’ve installed more than 2 million smoke alarms nationwide since 2014 in hopes of reducing home fire deaths and serious injury by 25%.

This year in the Gold Country Region, our goal is to install 4,000 free smoke alarms — 1,100 of them on April 25 as part of our national Sound the Alarm event!

When a fire starts in the home, you have less than two minutes to escape safe. Smoke alarms can make all the difference. But we can’t do it alone! Sign up to join a team of installers by going to soundthealarm.org.

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

Congratulations, CNA grads!

7-5-18 grad pic 6

Congratulations to our latest Certified Nursing Assistant graduates. These 13 students graduated on August 14 and all earned a place on our honor roll in the top 95-100%!

Well done!

If you are interested in enrolling in CNA training, visit this link.

 

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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