Warehouse Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Woods

One the critical parts of our mission is moving relief goods where they’re needed most. Mike Woods is currently a one-man team in Yuba City, getting supplies ready and shipped off to areas of the state where the Red Cross is helping people affected by wildfires.

If you’d like to volunteer to help Mike, or join the Red Cross in other capacities, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Disaster Mental Health Worker Spotlight: Brenda Benjamin

American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health workers like Brenda Benjamin provide valuable assistance to people who have been impacted by disasters like wildfires.

If you need mental or spiritual care assistance, or any other kind of assistance because you were affected by the wildfires, please call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Reflections on Volunteering with Amador County’s Interfaith Food Bank

the gang FB 2020The American Red Cross California Gold Country Region is helping to fill vacancies in the volunteer workforce at the Sacramento Food Bank and the Interfaith Food Bank in Amador County.

Both endeavors have added up to many hours of volunteering, many thousands of pounds of distributed food and a lot of pride in serving these communities.

Below is a note from Disaster Program Manager Debbie Calcote on what the experience has meant to her:

When the sheltering in place order was set, I was already working in the local Emergency Operations Center. My role was to help make sure that our food banks were able to maintain a supply of food for the communities.

Adel Welty and I worked with local churches to find all the places that had small food pantries, and we have maintained open communication with them throughout.

But working with other agencies to make sure food got out was way different than working the food bank.

When I was first reaching out to volunteers and friends to help there, I heard a lot of different excuses.

Here are some of the responses:

  • “It’s too far to drive.”
  • “Why would I want to stand all day and sort fruit and vegetables?”
  • “Can’t they (the food bank) just put stuff in a bag and hand it to them? Do we really have to bring it out to them?”
  • “ I really have to clean my house and go grocery shopping.”

These were just a few examples of what I heard. When my Operations Coordinator Carolyn Stinemates advised that there was a real need for more support there, I decided it was my duty to step in and help.

Well, I received an eye opening, and a heart filled with sadness, joy,  and much gratitude for having this opportunity to be there and to help our communities.

The first day, I was sorting good vegetables and fruit in the morning. Then the bank opened for people to come park in front.

We take their order and note the number of family members. We run that back inside to the warehouse where there are other people bagging and boxing just about everything (including some sweet treats, which everyone needs now and then).

Then someone brings the cart out to us to deliver to the car.

My first car was a piece of cake. It went smoothly. They said thank you and I told them to have a nice day.

My second car was an elderly woman in her late 80s to early 90s picking up for herself and a neighbor. I loaded a couple small boxes into her trunk and walked away waiting for them to bring out her shopping cart of groceries.

I just got back inside when I heard someone ask for some assistance. I walked to the door and there by her car was my little lady. She needed help closing her trunk.

When I asked why she wanted it closed her response was, “I can’t drive down the road with it open, dear.”

I smiled and told her the rest of the groceries would be out shortly. Her eyes got big and she said, “There is more?”

I smiled and said yes, there is more.

Shortly thereafter her cart came for me to load into her car. She stood there looking at me with bewildered eyes. “Who does all that belong to?” she asked.

When I told her it was hers and her neighbors, she started to cry. She was so grateful.

But best of all, she and her neighbor had been sharing the small amount of food they had left in their cupboards since neither of their families had come to bring them shopping in about six weeks due to Covid-19.

 Someone told them they could go to the food bank for groceries, but she told me they still had some canned food and powdered milk left and we didn’t want to take away from those who really needed it.

My heart swelled and we both had tears in our eyes. To watch as we loaded bag after bag into the trunk, the tears falling down her cheeks were priceless to me.

I was bringing joy, and much needed food to two wonderful ladies.

So to me, seeing the need, the gratitude, and overwhelming joy from receiving food was more than words could express.

Every person who has come when I have been there has so much appreciation. You cannot help but enjoy being there and be a part of a community that helps those less fortunate and  especially, our senior population.

The work is priceless. It will fill your heart and soul.

Working as a team with others and the staff at the food bank to accomplish this task is amazing. They are the best. I am grateful to help.

 I greatly appreciate everyone who will, has, and have been supporting this important mission.

Thank you all!

Gold Country’s Victoria Donoso Reflects on Puerto Rico Quake Deployment

By Nick Blasquez, Red Cross Volunteer

PR1Four months after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory continues to experience serious seismic activity – the latest a 4.2 magnitude quake on March 30.

This latest quake hit during a month-long curfew enforced to curb spread of the coronavirus.

The January earthquake left an estimated PR87,500 residents displaced. For American Red Cross Senior Engagement Specialist Victoria Donoso, the need for disaster assistance was too urgent to ignore.

It had been over 100 years since Puerto Ricans had experienced an earthquake of this magnitude. Houses made of cement to withstand hurricanes were defenseless against the tremors of a shaking earth.

“In this case, the biggest issue is the fear. People were fearful to go back into their homes, so they lost everything and just had to start again,” Victoria said.

PR7She deployed to San Juan after being requested for the job by name. Her role was three weeks as assistant director of workforce, only one of two trained for disaster assessment and emergency assistance.

On the front lines of the natural disaster, a unique challenge she faced was navigating the waters where Red Cross services met Puerto Rican governance. Sheltering and feeding was being done by the local government, providing services to only 2,000 residents who secured a place within the shelters.

PR6“People that were being counted were only those staying in government shelters, but the reality is there were encampments everywhere with sometimes hundreds of people who had never had anybody come out there to help them, yet.”

The primary role of the American Red Cross during this disaster was supporting the local government shelter efforts, but the undocumented encampments is where help was needed most.

PR5“Working with government agencies, they would notify us, ‘Hey, there’s an encampment of 80 people here. We need to get services to them,’” said Victoria.

She and her team of local volunteers traveled in vans to provide individual disaster care to those most in need. Water for those trapped under debris and so much bug spray to battle swarms of tropical biting insects. She would assess the encampments, reporting back on the condition of those present, especially those disabled and unable to seek shelter without assistance.

PR4Victoria had visited San Juan back in 1995, checking out the most populous, tourist-friendly areas of the city. This time around was different, experiencing the remote and devastated places few Americans will ever see, she was out in the jungle assisting people living in tents among piles of rubble.

Her personal takeaway? The resilience of the Puerto Rican people: always polite, generous, happy, and warm. “Very loving and very welcoming, I think this speaks a lot to the way they are going to handle the recovery process and the way they are going to persevere.”

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.

Looking for a Volunteer Opportunity That Could Save Lives in Sac/Yolo Counties?

Looking for a #volunteer opportunity in #Sacramento and #Yolo counties that will save lives?

The national Sound the Alarm event in the Gold Country Region is April 25! Our goal for 2020 is 4,000 alarm installations – 1,100 of those on April 25 alone!

As part of the Home Fire Campaign, Sound the Alarm is our largest community event!

To reach our goal, the region’s Preparedness Department is looking for a volunteer lead to oversee April 25 installations in Sacramento and Yolo counties.

This position is responsible for supporting and engaging the members assigned to the preparedness team, which includes ensuring assigned volunteers are provided with outstanding support and management.

Ability to build and lead a team using a collaborative leadership style and demonstrating traits of honesty, forward looking, competence, intelligence, and compassion. Capacity to envision the team’s impact in their area and inspire them into action. Ability to communicate how the team fits into the larger Disaster Cycle Services structure and how their actions can positively influence and support the DCS program as a whole.

#endhomefires

Additional Qualifications:

1) Ability to relate effectively with diverse groups and individuals
2) Excellent interpersonal, verbal, and written communication skills
3) Demonstrated ability to read, understand, and review program guidelines and tools

Interested in learning more? Contact Community Preparedness Program Manager Kim Christensen at
916-281-4315 or kim.christensen@redcross.org.

About the Home Fire Campaign:

Every day, seven people die in home fires, most victims in homes that lack smoke alarms. The American Red Cross wants to improve the odds and save lives – that’s why we launched our Home Fire Campaign in 2014.

Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the campaign. In just six years, our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms and preparing more than 2 million people against home fires.

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

Meet Stockton Blood Services Ambassador Dennis Saxton

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Life-long Stockton resident Dennis Saxton began serving blood donors 17 years ago. During his very first volunteering shift, three people passed out! “I almost didn’t come back,” said Dennis, “but I’m glad that I did. Since then, I have met a lot of people I like to call friends.” Dennis thoroughly enjoys spending time with his friends, so much so that, he schedules three regular shifts per week and will come in on a moment’s notice to fill in when needed.  

Dennis enjoys the front desk, signing donors in and answering their questions. Dennis moonlights as a trainer and has helped numerous new volunteers learn the subtleties of reception work. With his easy sense of humor, Dennis shines in the Canteen. “I like to meet people and I like to talk,” he ways. But Dennis also understands the serious side of the Canteen.  “You have to pay attention to what’s going on around you. We are here to serve the donors.”

Gold Country Partners with Intel in Folsom for Missing Maps Project

Imagine if your town had suffered catastrophic damage in a storm but emergency responders and aid workers couldn’t get there to help because your community wasn’t on any maps.

While this may seen strange to Westerners, it’s a real problem in other parts of the world.

To help get relief into people’s hands, the American Red Cross and partner organizations have joined with the Missing Maps project. Using OpenStreetMap, volunteers have put millions of people from high-risk countries on the map since 2014.

This makes a lifesaving difference for disaster workers combating deadly health crises like the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake ravaged parts of Nepal in 2015, volunteers worldwide sprang into action to map affected communities and roads to support relief efforts on the ground.

But much work still lies ahead to put more families in the world’s most vulnerable communities on the map—before disaster strikes.

On Thursday, November 1, Red Cross volunteers from the Gold Country Region will join with our partners at Intel in Folsom for a a Mapathon session. Our volunteers will be among about 50 people working together on the day’s mapping challenges.

You can help too! All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Volunteer at home, attend a mapathon or host one with family and friends.

  • Visit Missing Maps » to learn how to get started or to find a mapathon event.

If you are intersted in volunteering with the American Red Cross or to make a donation, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.