‘It’s all about perspective’

By Michelle Hogue, Volunteer

Bob Dunham and Patty Girdner evacuated from Yreka and got acquainted through their stay at the Red Cross shelter in Weed.  Neither had been in a situation of needing to shelter away from home previously, so they had no idea what to expect when they got there.

Bob and Patty both said they have been “blessed and amazed” by the care they have gotten from the Red Cross volunteers. 

Bob, who has lived in Siskiyou County for 44 years, was not in an area of town that was under a mandatory evacuation, but the unpredictability of the situation and his health concerns affected by the smoke brought him to the shelter.

While he was at the shelter, Bob’s dog, Scooter, was being cared for at the Rescue Ranch dog shelter. His growing up as a military dependent and going through earthquake drills when he was a kid in Japan and Hawaii taught him to be prepared always to “go on a moment’s notice.”

Patty was in a similar situation as Bob.  She said she would love to be a volunteer when she gets back on her feet, health-wise.  Patty said she is very grateful for the support she has received at the Red Cross shelter.

“I’ve never seen the over-abundance of giving like this. I want to volunteer and give back.” 

Both Patty and Bob repeatedly expressed how much they appreciated having the shelter available. Both could often be seen trying to help out in some way around the shelter.

Bob said, “I’m happy for what little I’ve been able to do around the shelter.”

“We’re all in the same boat.  Everybody has come together,” said Patty. “We are all helping each other.”

As Bob and Patty talk about their evacuation experiences, they remain hopeful and eager to get back to their homes. They both noted, “It’s all about perspective,” that “choosing to live in Siskiyou County means choosing to live with the possibility of wildfire.”

Bob said, “Everyone encounters disasters. Each area has its own kind of potential disaster. How you get through it is with the relief from the Red Cross and other organizations – the people showing up just to make donations was unbelievable.  To be hands on with the Red Cross…you guys are wonderful. 

“It’s the heart and empathy that makes people want to be Red Cross volunteers and do the amazing things you’re doing here.”

You can support Red Cross disaster relief efforts by making a financial donation at redcross.org/donate.

First-time Disaster Volunteer Awarded Red Cross Challenge Coin for Exemplary Service

Diedre Cazneaux took it upon herself to run the kitchen at the Red Cross shelter in Siskiyou County.

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

Deidra Cazneaux’s deployment with the California Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross to the McKinney Fire was her first, but it wasn’t obvious.

The McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County displaced some 2,000 residents in late July. That’s when Cazneaux looked straight into the face of the disaster and went right to work.

“I just walked into the shelter kitchen and took over,” she said.

In her days at the shelter, Cazneaux always did her job with a smile, chatting with each evacuee and even advocating for them to ensure partner agencies who provided meals were offering nutritious options.

Shelter manager Bill Hart described Cazneaux, saying, “Deidra is an incredibly positive force in the face of controlled chaos.”

In recognition of her work at the shelter and her positive attitude while on the job, Cazneaux was presented with a Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services challenge coin.

“It’s always been in my heart to serve people,” Cazeneaux said, adding: “It’s an avenue for me to be who God wants me to be.”

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to explore the many opportunities to serve as a Red Cross volunteer.

McKinney Fire Evacuee Pledges to Volunteer for the Red Cross After Her Shelter Experience

Harlene Schwander lost her home in the McKinney Fire and regularly expressed her gratitude for the help she’s received since she evacuated.

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

Harlene Schwander hadn’t driven in years. But she drove herself to the American Red Cross Shelter at the Weed Community Center when her home was destroyed in Siskiyou County’s McKinney Fire.

Schwander was not shy about expressing her appreciation for people who gave her clothing, comfort and care while she was at our shelter.

She told her life story and the circumstances of her evacuation to several news reporters who visited the Weed shelter.

Schwander said she’s planning to volunteer for the American Red Cross after this experience.

“I am amazed at how much you help people mentally and physically— you just buoy people!”

“I am overwhelmed by your kindness,” Schwander said, adding that is why she is planning to join the Red Cross team.

The Red Cross always needs volunteers! Join us by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

Red Cross Turns Compassion Into Action During McKinney Fire

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

The American Red Cross is busy 365 days a year, 24 hours a day turning compassion into action.

When Siskiyou County’s McKinney Fire broke out, the Red Cross was called upon to open an evacuation shelter in Yreka. Within just a few hours, the doors were open.

Once evacuation orders were issued in Yreka, the Red Cross relocated the shelter to the Weed Community Center.

Barbara Leper and her husband are guests at the Red Cross shelter in Weed.

Barbara Leper, 78, and her husband are at the shelter in Weed because they are once again under the threat of losing everything all over again. “Last year we had to run for our lives when our home in Happy Camp burned to the ground in just a few minutes,” Leper said.

The Lepers have lived in beautiful Siskiyou County for nearly 30 years. Regardless of the continuum of wildfires, they are planning to stay put in the Weed community. “We just love it here, it’s our home,” Leper said.

The Red Cross was there for the Lepers last year. Leper shared how the Red Cross helped them along with temporary housing and the essential items they needed.

“The Red Cross kept helping us along the way,” Leper said. “We received another $500 gift certificate in December for food and gas.”

Consider supporting Red Cross disaster relief efforts by visiting redcross.org/donate.

Stronger Together: Thanks for the great meals, Salvation Army

Strong relationships with community partners are pivotal in caring for those who need assistance during a disaster. Volunteers from the Salvation Army in Redding have been serving up great meals to dozens of McKinney Fire evacuees. Pictured are Joy Wegner (top left), Teri Lewis (top right), Dorinda Cox (bottom left), and Steven Brooks (bottom right).

Electra Fire: Up Next… Distribution of Emergency Supplies

Red Cross volunteers are getting ready to distribute emergency supplies to Electra Fire evacuees in Amador and Calaveras counties.

In the coming days, county officials will choose locations for those impacted by the fire to stop by and pick up items such as garbage bags, tarps, gloves and cleaning supplies.

The Red Cross is able to provide this service thanks to the generosity of donors. If you would like to support our disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org/donate.

From Receiving Help to Pondering Helping Others: Evacuees Reflect on Days at Electra Fire Shelter

Michelle Symington and Shelley Royce evacuated from their homes in Amador County to escape the Electra Fire burning in Amador and Calaveras counties.

They are staying with their beloved dogs and cat on at the Red Cross shelter located at the Italian Picnic Grounds in Sutter Creek. There, they are provided food, snacks, beverages, health services and a bevy of other support.

“This is the first time we’ve had to evacuate due to a disaster. It’s a tough time for us,” Michelle said. “I’m worried about my husband’s health condition, but he’s being cared for here.

“We’d much rather be home watching ‘Downton Abbey’ but, on the bright side, I’ve met so many people here who have been so kind and helpful. I like to help people so have decided to check into becoming a Red Cross volunteer”.

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org/donate and click on “Disaster Relief” in the dropdown menu.

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.

Introducing Gold Country’s New Senior Disaster Program Manager

By Michelle Hogue, Communications Volunteer

All the way from Ohio, welcome our new Senior Disaster Program Manager, Doug Fee!

Doug comes to us with a large family which includes his wife, six kids (three boys and three girls) and a grandson. This includes two sons currently serving in the United States military.

Before joining the California Gold Country Region, Doug served as Disaster Program Manager (DPM) for the Northern Ohio Region. Looking for the opportunity to expand his career, Doug could have moved into the Senior DPM position in Ohio, but he had come out to California to serve as the interim Senior DPM from August to October 2021 and discovered “this place has everything.”

He is currently based in Sacramento, serving the eight disaster territories of the California Gold Country Region.

Doug has had experience working in disasters of all kinds. He has participated in hurricane and wildfire responses, and nuclear power plant hazardous materials (HAZMAT) planning – with Ohio having multiple nuclear power plants. With that, he has been a part of detailed planning in many areas of disaster response.

When asked what his favorite job responsibility is, without hesitation Doug said, “Mobilizing volunteers” and “the workforce engagement function.” The ability to engage and support volunteers is both rewarding and enjoyable for him. He is passionate about training DPMs to better engage, support and keep volunteers.

We look forward to getting to know, working with, and learning from Doug!

Have a question for Doug? You can reach him at doug.fee@redcross.org.