Quiz: Are you savvy about swim safety?

It’s that time of the year again – the sun is out, the water’s warm and kids and adults alike are ready to dive into swim season.

Before you head to the pool, beach or your favorite swimming hole, take our 5-question Swim Safety Quiz – it’s fast, fun and full of safety tips that could make a real difference in an emergency.

swim quiz

The Red Cross and its partners train two million people a year in swim safety, and we’re working to cut drowning rates in half by making sure families know how to stay safe in and around water.

You can help by taking our 5-question Swim Safety Quiz right now and sharing it with your friends and family.

Thanks for making water safety a priority this summer!

Your Friends of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region.

Giving Back… Gives Friendships

Jess Chairez and Marcus Heningburg met through the Red Cross. They drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) together, and have developed a friendship that both are grateful for.

For Jess, joining the Red Cross was a way to recover after the loss of his son Joe. Joe was 24, a newly graduated police officer, with a history of helping others. He collapsed while making an arrest. “Joe pushed kindness on everyone.” Exclaimed Chairez proudly. As a testament to his son Joe Chairez says “I am so thankful for the Red Cross and Donor network west, to keep the legacy of my son alive, and helping people in the process, that’s the biggest blessing.” Joe will forever live in servitude, so will his father Jess. “Red Cross gives me different platforms to work from, it keeps me active, they don’t realize that they are healing my heart,” said Jess.

Jess’ first assignment with the Red Cross, immediately after joining, was ten years ago during Hurricane Katrina. He spent 4 weeks in service to the victims of the largest and third strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in the US at the time. “To hand someone a meal, and give them a hug, let them speak to you is helping them from one step to the next,’ Jess remembers “I am so thankful, it is such a healing to my heart.” Ten years later, Jess continues to serve the Gold Country region in different capacities. It doesn’t matter to Jess how big or small the need is, “People need hugs, and someone to talk to. The more I help people, the better I feel inside of me. I’m trying to give back.”

For Marcus Heningburg… the Red Cross journey began in Mobile, Alabama many years ago. His family taught him early on, that if you can help, you should, and there is always some way you can help. Marcus stood in service to this country with the Air Force, and then with the penal service. By the adage that was instilled in him early on, he joined the Red Cross. Marcus also found was a new friend, another selfless individual, Jess Chairez.

Marcus is humble and likes getting involved in preparedness events as well as disasters. But there is never a dull moment in the Red Cross and he’s done so much. Working in telethons, installing smoke detectors, delivering mattresses to veterans, working as a parking lot attendant during the the California State Fair, and even participating in staff events at the headquarters like potlucks and staff meetings. “How can I help?” Red Cross answers that question for me and many of us,” smiles Marcus humbly. “Seeing someone with a smile on their face, and shaking their hands, is my reward. It’s easy.” Said Marcus “It’s so easy working with Jess, I do it as much as I can. He allows me to do as much as he does, He is always going. I try to keep up.” Meanwhile, Jess adds “You don’t have to force the guy, he wants to do it. You can see the compassion, it might be a parking lot one day, and delivering a mattress another. Marcus does it with a smile on his face and with open arms.”


Pairing up to drive the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), these two enter into a partnership, that adds to each individual in ways unimaginable. Red Cross allows them the  platform in which to reflect a little bit of themselves to those who need it. Sometimes it’s a neighbor, sometimes a stranger. It doesn’t matter which, be a mirror; with a smile. A hug, a meal or your time, as Jess and Marcus do. Red Cross can help you serve those in your community; show you an opportunity to give. It may also connect you, as it did Jess and Marcus, with your long lost best friend.

Stand with our service members

Memorial Day is one of the most important days of the year – and not just because it heralds the beginning of summer. This day brings us together for a reason we can all stand behind: honoring the men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country.

Our military heroes put their lives at risk every day to protect our freedom and safety, and every safe homecoming is a reason to give thanks. But for veterans and their families, the joy of homecoming is often followed by a difficult transition period as they adjust to changes, reestablish bonds and cope with reintegration into civilian life.

This Memorial Day, you can honor our veterans and service members by sponsoring Reconnection Workshops to help service members, veterans and their families reengage in civilian life.

  • $68 provides a Reconnection Workshop for 1 participant.
  • $136 provides a Reconnection Workshop for 2 participants.
  • $272 provides a Reconnection Workshop for 4 participants.
  • $680 provides a Reconnection Workshop for 10 participants.

Give now to make a meaningful difference.

The Red Cross is proud to offer Reconnection Workshops to service members, veterans and their families, including children and teens, to help ease the transition home and build communication and coping skills. It’s only because of the support of people like you that we are able to keep these workshops 100 percent free to those impacted by military deployment.

Sponsor a Reconnection Workshop today to help keep this life-changing program going strong for our service members.

Your gift will help returning service members get the support they need to live full, connected lives. You’ll also be helping to send the powerful message that we stand with our military families not only during deployment, but also during the days and months following their return home.

Thank you for everything you do for our military heroes, this Memorial Day and every day.

A Trip to IKEA, But Not to Shop: IKEA Donates 100 Comfort Kits

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
  • 1-bath towel
  • 2-standard pillow cases
  • 2-pillows
  • 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.

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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.”

 

Gold Country Volunteer Making an Impact Across the Country

Henjeremiah 6ry 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

jeremiah 3
Jeremiah Norrell, a volunteer from Sacramento assisting Henry in Louisiana

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.

—Carl Manning/American Red Cross

 

CPR In High School Legislation Passes First Committee

Sacramento, CA, (Wednesday, April 6, 2016) – Today, the Assembly Education Committee approved Assembly Bill 1719, authored by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D – Chino) on a 6-0 vote. The measure stands to create a generation of lifesavers by ensuring high school students learn CPR before they graduate high school.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States yet too few people know how to perform CPR,” says Gary Strong, CEO of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. “Our lawmakers have a bill before them that could create a generation of lifesavers by requiring hands-on CPR training before high school graduation. We support AB 1719 as it will better prepare our students; therefore, build prepared communities.”

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Nearly 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, and sadly, only 10 percent survive. In addition, a recent study by the National Institutes of Health shows CPR to be effective in children and adolescents who suffer from non-traumatic cardiac arrest due to drowning, electrocution, or choking. Despite these statistics, 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac or drowning emergency because they do not know how to perform CPR.  Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

pictures of the 4 new commissioners
Assembly member Freddie Rodriguez (District 52)

“CPR is one of the most important life skills a person can have,” said Rodriguez. “By teaching CPR in high school, we are sending students into the world with essential, life-saving skills.”

Under AB 1719, school districts would be required to teach hands-only CPR in any required high school course, such as P.E. or Health. The bill is co-sponsored by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association who have led the effort to pass similar legislation in 27 other states.

“The American Heart Association’s goal is to teach lifesaving CPR skills to as many teens and young adults as possible in California to help keep our communities safer, year after year,” said Dr. Franklin Pratt, medical director of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “Having a new generation of lifesavers will deliver an increased amount of safety and security to all of our communities.”

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Assemblymember Rodriguez is Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Local Emergency Preparedness, and Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management.  He represents the 52nd Assembly District which includes the cities of Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona and portions of unincorporated Fontana

The BASH 2016 – A Night to Remember

By Amy Magallanes, Public Affairs Volunteer

IMG_3865The first annual BASH benefit – A salute to service, took place on Saturday April 2nd, 2016.  Inspired by the TV series MASH, the McClellan conference center whisked the guests away to another era.  Military Jeep escorts to and from the building, dog tag souvenirs, and the Peter Petty Orchestra set the scene for an evening dedicated to celebrate and honor the military and the important work of the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program in the Gold Country Region.

The Red Cross SAF program has served more than one- million military families since 9/11,  helping them prepare for, cope with, and respond to the trials of military service.

Close to 300 guests came together to honor three local Korean War veterans. LTC Robert Burns, Richard Austin, and John Murphree Lowery; as well as Susan Savage, who received the Spirit of Tiffany award for her philanthropic work in the Sacramento region.

IMG_7214Events like these have a hand in getting the word out to those who can help. LTC Robert Burns stood in service to our country during three wars, he enjoyed the evening with his wife Beverly, “many Korean War veterans have been forgotten,” said Robert Burns.  His work with the Elks lodge, in conjunction with the Red Cross, spreads awareness to our community, as well as to those veterans unaware of the resources these organizations provide.

“We hope to create an event that is accessible to everyone in our community, in a fun, loose, and open environment,” explained Gary Strong, CEO of the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. This expands the neighborhood of people dedicated to honoring the men and women who have, and continue to protect our country.

IMG_6845Guests went to great lengths to pay tribute to the MASH inspired theme. Jeffery and Eleanor Snively took this very seriously, researching costumes to procure an accurate “Hawkeye” character. He and his two sons, who serve in the Army, are passionate about spreading the word, “people are forgetting,” said Jeffery Snively, BASH attendee. Jeffery and Eleanor’s attendance tonight is indeed an example that he and his family are breathing life into the SAF program. With the table set for one on the stage, in memory of those who didn’t return home from battle, the guests reflected on how important the work of revering those who endured the greatest sacrifices are to this great nation.

In compliment to the lovely evening, David Sobon led the auction, where attendee Dennis Smith bid and won, ‘Sutter’s Gold’, a painting by artist Greg Kondos. His father was stationed at McClellan, his mother worked on base as well. He was led to bid, as if completing a circle, started by the contributions his parents made. His enormous smile indicated his wish to honor them, and all those who serve, has been granted.

IMG_7068Much like the TV show in which was revived at the event, the stories of those who lived to tell the tale of the Korean War, remind us that we can all be called to honor those who valiantly pledge to protect our country. Volunteer. Donate. Spread the word. The SAF and the American Red Cross provide a platform, which allow us to appreciate, in whichever way we can, the men, women, and families, of our military, so no one is ever forgotten.

Check out all the fun we had at The BASH 2016 on our Flickr page.

 

 Fito & The Red Cross:  A Lifelong Adventure

A conversation with Fito Ruano, Red Cross Volunteer

By Jesus Sanchez, Public Affairs Volunteer

First aid responce
Fito joined the Red Cross more than 40 years ago in his native       El Salvador.

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.

Search and rescue training
Fito Search and Rescue training with         Cruz Roja Salvadoreña

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.

Red Cross Identification

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.”

 

Six Month Update on Recovery for the Butte Wildfire

As you know, our friends and neighbors in Amador and Calaveras counties endured a relentless series of devastating wildfires this past summer. Today, our work continues, where Red Cross staff and volunteers continue to collaborate to ensure residents have the extra assistance they need to rebuild, not just as individuals but as a whole community, too.

Click HERE to read a six-month Stewardship Report that provides a first-hand look at your generously donated dollars at work, detailing our continued support and recovery efforts in the community.

Thank you for your support and commitment to help those affected by these wildfires. Your generosity makes the hope of recovery possible at a time when people need it the most.

Sincerely,
Gary Strong, CEO American Red Cross Gold Country Region

Below is a video that resumes our work over the last six months.

Donor Spotlight – McDonald’s Mother Lode Bringing out the pies to help families of the Butte Fire.

 

It has been a little over five months since the Butte Fire ravaged through the hills and neighborhoods of Calaveras and Amador counties. While those communities continue their recovery process, community members and businesses like McDonalds in the Mother Lode are still gathering the donations they received from their customers.

When the fire erupted that September 9 last year, Dennis Graspointner, McDonald’s owner/operator of the store in the Mother Lode called his local Red Cross to offer support.

He gathered his team of employees and his supervisor Ron Richards to come up with a unique fundraiser to assist those affected by the wildfire.

ButteFire_McDonalds
Mc Donald’s Mother Lode Team – Owner/operator Dennis Graspointer is in the middle and supervisor Ron Richards is to the far right. 

They thought…  “What is America’s favorite thing?” The All American Apple Pie, of course! Therefore, they kicked off a campaign where all proceeds from the purchase of pies would benefit the fire victims of the California Wildfires.

As soon as the campaign began, it was a hit in the community.

“Customers came by just for the pies, to help their friends and neighbors who had been evacuated,” says Dennis Graspointer.

Five months later, Liza Cruz, one of our major gift officers went by the store to say hello and to find out how the drive was going. “When I arrived the employees were so happy to have Red Cross there,” smiles Liza. “I was honored to be with such compassionate people.”

The pie sales raised more than $6000 dollars!

“McDonald’s is proud to be able to help, we benefited from the generosity of the customers, and they bought large quantities of pies, so thank you!” exclaimed Dennis.

The American Red Cross was able to help residents in Amador and Calaveras affected by the Butte Fire. Thanks to your generous support, we were able to:

  • Open 5 shelters providing over 1,750 overnight stays;
  • Serve more than 33, 000 meals and snacks;
  • Hand out 23,500 relief items, like comfort kits and clean up kits containing shovels, gloves and more;
  • And open 430 cases to provide one-on-one support to residents.

But, that’s not all; we continue to be in Calaveras and Amador counties to offer assistance to those affected by the fire with the recovery team “Calaveras Recovers.”