Showing how much has to be done

Photo credit: John Decker/American Red Cross

The photo above, sent from one of our Red Cross volunteers, captures a tiny fraction of the sandbags being used to fight back water rising in the Rainy River watershed (and others) across northern Minnesota since last Friday. These sandbags are filled by community volunteers: families, students, neighbors and out-of-towners. They get thirsty, they get hungry and they get blisters. So, we’re there supporting them with hydration and snacks as well as basic health services – we’re helping the helpers! We’ve been working primarily in International Falls (Koochiching County) and doing deliveries to Lake Kabetogama and surrounding areas (Northern St. Louis County).

FAST FACTS

By end of day today, we’ll have provided since last Friday:

💧 Bottled water: 3,288

✔️ Powerade/Gatorade/BodyArmor: 1,370

🍿 Snacks: 1,942

🍊 Fruit: 392

🚚 Remote distribution of Salvation Army meals: 60 meals

🤕 First aid services at sandbagging location: 96

Many thanks to the great groups below, and to all of our amazing partners, for supporting the flood response – Boise Paper/PCA, Walmart in Virginia, MN, United Way of Northeastern Minnesota, Coca Cola Bottling of International Falls, International Falls Hockey Arena, and Cub Foods Duluth. You’re the best! 🤩

May is Military Appreciation Month

As part of our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) activities, we’re proud to celebrate national Military Appreciation Month with service members, veterans and their families.

The American Red Cross has a long history of serving the U.S. military going back to the Civil War. Our founder, Clara Barton, also known as, “the angel of the battlefield,” participated in 16 separate battles during the war.

This proud service to our Armed Forces continues today in our region:

✔️ In April 2022, the Minnesota and Dakotas Region assisted with 56 emergency communications requests. The Red Cross is federally chartered to handle all emergency communications to our active-duty forces.

✔️ In April, we participated in deployment events where 54 military members and their families received much needed resiliency training. The Red Cross provides much needed resiliency training to deploying units and their families.

✔️ We also follow up with family members of deployed service members. In April, for example, 240 critical community service cases were completed.

🤗 These services happen only with the outstanding efforts of our SAF volunteers. We’d like to share our profound thanks to them for their generosity of time, kindness and expertise. You’re the best!

📷 This May, Red Cross youth volunteers delivered messages of gratitude and Girl Scout cookies at Veterans Affairs clinics in Hibbing, MN and Superior, WI and to VA homes in Silver Bay and Fergus Falls. Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross

“We need more Annas in the world”

Many Red Crossers are committed to changing the world – one community, one person at a time. That is exactly what Anna Sieben’s mission was.

Sadly, Anna passed away unexpectedly on September 3, 2021, following complications from severe pneumonia.

Anna Sieben
1990 – 2021

To honor Anna’s legacy of making a difference, and her passion for the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross, her friends and family have organized a blood drive in her memory on May 20, 2022, at Crossroads Church in Hastings, Minn. where Anna attended.

Throughout her life Anna had unwavering passion for helping others. “She was 110% about helping other people regardless of whether she knew you well or if you were a stranger,” said her best friend, Alea Gaughn, who’s helping to organize the blood drive in memory of Anna. “Anyone who knew Anna knew that she had three passions in life: her son Afton, living a healthy lifestyle and helping others.”

Anna and son Afton

Before Anna became a Red Cross employee, she worked at a nursing home. “Anna showed so much passion for the residents there – it was her calling to help others,” says Alea.

In 2019, Anna joined the Red Cross in the biomedical services scheduling department. Her spirit of giving and passion for helping others was quickly evident by her enthusiasm to host blood drives at several of her church’s campuses and volunteer at an annual Christmas Eve blood drive sponsored by the Red Cross.

“Anna was a shining light,” said Dee Carlson, manager of the scheduling department and Anna’s supervisor. “It was amazing to witness how she carried the mission of the Red Cross through everything she did. She made an impact on me, and our entire team, that will change us forever. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her – I miss her sweet smiles, her silly moments and her infectious laugh.”

Anna touched many at the Red Cross. Co-workers across departments enjoyed working with her.

“Anna was a beautiful person,” said Nicole Perlstein, donor recruitment account manager. “To me, she was a one in million type of gal! Anna deeply loved the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, and I appreciated her passion to help in the community as a blood program leader.” 

Cathy Stapel, a donor recruitment account manager, recalls that Anna always had a glow about her and a smile on her face.

Selflessly, Anna volunteered at Red Cross blood drives including the annual St. James Thanksgiving Day blood drive. She brought homemade cookies to share with blood donors when they finished their donations (pre-Covid). Her son Afton volunteered too, handing out pumpkin pies. “I could tell she adored Afton and I remember thinking how nice it was that she gave up her holiday to help and got him involved in giving back,” said Cathy.  

Anna and Red Crossers Amber Swing and Cathy Stapel at the annual St. James Thanksgiving Day blood drive

Anna, an avid blood donor herself, encouraged her friends and family to donate blood regularly, and many continue as an ongoing tribute to her. “Anna impacted so many lives in such a positive way – she taught us how important it was to give back,” said Alea. “Anna would be so proud to have us donate blood in her name. My wish is for everyone to gather to roll up a sleeve one more time for Anna!”

Anna was a dedicated blood donor and encouraged others to donate

All appointments have been filled for the May 20 blood drive being held in memory of Anna. Those who want to donate in Anna’s honor are welcome to make an appointment to donate at other blood drive locations by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Story by Sue Thesenga /American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Alea Gaughn

Local Disaster Relief Rolling Snapshot – 2022

When the worst happens, we’re there. After disasters, mostly home fires in our region, Red Cross volunteers work with fire departments and other response partners to connect with families and support needs like emergency lodging, financial assistance and emotional support.

January

🔥 Our winter home fire season continued to disrupt lives during this difficult time. In January across the Minnesota & Dakotas Region, our disaster relief volunteers responded to 118 incidents, helping 567 people. Thank you to our volunteers for their enormous efforts to help others with immediate assistance as they rebuild their lives after devastating home fires.

February

🔥 Across our three-state region during February, we responded to 94 home fires and helped 290 people affected by these fires. Help us change these statistics. Learn what to do before, during and after a fire! Visit redcross.org/mndaks for fire prevention and safety tips! #endhomefires

March

🔥 During March, our Disaster Action Team was as busy as ever helping people affected by the devastation and trauma that a home fire brings. Across our region, comprised of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, our relief workers (+90% volunteers) responded to 78 home fires and helped 304 adults and children. Some families were displaced for a short period of time while others needed to find new housing. Many thanks to all for being there for people when they needed you the most.

April

During April, responding to help people affected by flooding, freezing weather, home fires and even a tornado in Taopi, MN, filled the hands of our disaster services volunteers. Our trained volunteers supported 60+ disasters and helped 225+ people. Their efforts included working with local partners to support shelters in northwest Minnesota and western North Dakota. Thank you to everyone, especially our volunteers, for stepping up to help people when they needed you the most.

You Can Help

DONATE – Thanks to donations, our services are free and available for all those in need. Visit here to support our lifesaving work.

VOLUNTEER – The need is constant to help families affected by home fires and other disasters. Click here to become a volunteer.

“The Essential Meaning of Resolve”

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has several meanings for the verb ‘to resolve’. We’re most interested in number two.

This time of year, many people reflect back and look ahead, taking stock, so-to-speak, of gains, losses, regrets, successes and failures during the past year, and then planning ahead for change: how they want to be or what they want to do (or not do) going forward.

They ‘resolve’ to do things differently. They, like the second definition of the verb in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, decide “to make a definite and serious decision to do something”. With that in mind, resolutions appear to be earnest undertakings requiring at times deep effort and commitment, resiliency to work through or overcome obstacles on the way to fulfillment and, perhaps most of all, offer profound feelings of purpose once accomplished.

We encourage these undertakings even during times of great challenge like, for example, a global pandemic. As you prepare your list of resolutions for 2022, we ask that you consider taking up one or more of those listed below and making your choices a habit in the new year and the years ahead. We promise to be there with you all the way – sleeves up, hearts open, all in.

Volunteers make up 90 percent of our Red Cross workforce. New dedicated and trained volunteers are always needed to maintain response capacity for providing disaster relief, delivering lifesaving blood, supporting military families during crisis, and other critical roles. In-person and virtual opportunities are available in multiple lines of humanitarian services. We’ll train you and together we’ll do the rest. Become a Red Cross volunteer.

Blood donations are needed every day to help patients. This could be a patient who needs around 100 units following a car accident or a patient in cancer treatment or sickle cell crisis who needs transfusions to continue treatment or ease debilitating pain. Platelets are also essential, especially for people in chemo treatment. We provide nearly 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply. This essential service relies on regular donors. Become a Red Cross blood and/or platelet donor.

Money, as they say, doesn’t grow on trees. (Thankfully, because we much prefer leaves on trees.) Every dollar counts when it comes to providing relief following tornadoes, hurricanes, other natural disasters and home fires. We’re proud that an average of 90 cents of every dollar we spend is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need. We see first-hand the gratitude from those who welcome help when they need it most. Become a Red Cross supporter.

For inspiration, we turn to Suzanne Sudmeier, one of our disaster health services volunteers. Reflecting upon Clara Barton, our American Red Cross founder who was born 200 years ago, Suzanne she feels honored to continue Clara’s legacy of easing the suffering of others.

I am always in awe of people who have the foresight, courage and energy to be trailblazers for the sake of humanity. Certainly, Clara Barton is one of those people. I can only imagine the personal sacrifice she took upon herself to be true to her principles and vision.
I live such a comfortable life – even when deployed we cannot compare any of our discomforts to those she must have faced. I honestly do not know if I could ever do what she did – but I am privileged to be a follower.

– Suzanne Sudmeier, Red Cross disaster health services volunteer and registered nurse based in central Minnesota

“Without the blood I needed, I may not have survived.”

Crediting blood with saving his life, Bryan Joas advocates for blood donations.

Shauna and Bryan Joas at the March 5, 2021, Joas Strong 5th anniversary blood drive held at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minn.

While riding his bicycle home from work in 2016, Bryan Joas was involved in a hit-and-run accident. He suffered life-threatening injuries including a broken back, hips and ribs, and damaged lungs, liver, kidney, and intestines. He needed 12 surgeries during his 88-day hospital stay and received nearly 50 transfusions of blood products that helped save his life.

“Without the blood I needed, I may not have survived,” says Bryan. “I’m grateful to blood donors for ensuring there was blood on the shelves when my life was on the line.”

Five years later, Bryan spends little time thinking about the accident or that the vehicle driver has never been found. He chooses to focus on his health, family and replenishing the blood supply that was used to save his life. Bryan and his wife, Shauna, are both advocates for blood donations. “It’s important to me to help pay it forward. I’m living proof that blood helps save lives, and I urge anyone who is able to donate,” says Bryan.

To make an appointment to give blood dowload the Red Cross Blood Donor App or visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS  (1-800-733-2767).

For patients in the emergency room, fighting cancer or facing a life-threatening illness, help can’t wait. Blood donations are essential. Healthy donors are needed now to ensure that patients have lifesaving blood products available for emergency and everyday medical treatments. 

Blood donation safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.  

April is National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month – the perfect time to give blood, platelets or plasma. There’s no substitute for volunteer donors: Blood cannot be manufactured. In thanks, come to give by 4/30 to be entered for a chance to win a $1,000 e-gift card. Give: rcblood.org/Gift

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga, American Red Cross, Minnesota and Dakotas Region

Self-care tips to keep you happy and healthy this winter

By Vanessa Racine, Canadian Red Cross social media coordinator

Colder temperatures. Less light. Rain, snow. It can sometimes be difficult to stay cheery during the winter in a country like Canada! Some Canadians enjoy the season because it gives them a good excuse – if not forces them – to do something that we tend to neglect: to take time out for ourselves, and ourselves alone.

Refocusing on yourself is extremely important and should regularly be made a priority. It lets you reflect, build your self-esteem, and feel good about yourself. Since we’re at home most of the time, winter is the perfect season to learn how to take time for yourself, live a calmer life, make room for your passions – and discover new ones.

Here are self-care tips to help you stay healthy this winter:

1. Read – one of the best ways to escape and spark your imagination.
2. Do a hands-on activity – knit, paint, sew or tackle a DIY project. Building or creating something with your own two hands can give you a real sense of pride.
3. Take a bubble bath – for even deeper relaxation, pair it with a good book and/or music.
4. Turn your phone all the way off – at least for one day a week.
5. Get involved with an organization that works for a cause that’s important to you — why not with the Red Cross?
6. Get active – whether you opt for something calming or energizing, regular exercise improves your physical and mental well-being.
7. Whip up a homemade hot chocolate – or another little sweet treat for your taste buds.
8. Light candles – the warm glow and fragrance make for the perfect calming atmosphere.
9. Play board games – dig out that old Monopoly set or deck of cards and have a blast rediscovering old classics!
10. Do a face and hair mask once a week – or go all out with an at-home spa day.
11. Sort through your stuff – clean out your closets! Throwing away, selling, or donating items does wonders and helps you feel more at home, since your space is less cluttered.
12. Cook up a homemade meal – from the cuisine of your choice, prepared with love from start to finish.
13. Learn a language – even if it’s just the basics of a language you’ve always dreamed of learning. It’s good to challenge yourself in a healthy way, and best of all, it’s useful.
14. Make a list – of fashion, travel, positive thoughts… it doesn’t matter what the list is about, just as long as it motivates and inspires you.
15. Put on some music and dance.

I hope that you’ll draw inspiration from these self-care tips and take care of yourself on the daily. And don’t forget, stress is a part of modern life and is a normal reaction to change. To limit the harmful effects of stress on your mental or physical health, it’s important to learn to live a healthy lifestyle, and if needed, to not hesitate to ask loved ones or health professionals for help. Doing so will make you more likely to stay zen!

For more well-being resources, click here and here. By the way, a near identical version of this post originally appeared on the Canadian Red Cross blog, which means this post is published here with permission from the Canadian Red Cross. Thank you!

Practicing Water Safety Amidst COVID-19

Post by Kieran White, Red Cross Volunteer

With the summer season upon us, many Minnesotans and Dakotans are headed outside to be on the lake and in the pool enjoying time with family and friends. As everyone prepares to get out of their houses and spend time in the water, we must all be reminded of the importance of practicing water safety. Now is a great time to take a few minutes to review safe water practices and the multitude of resources available to you through the Red Cross. With the continued impacts of COVID-19, public pools, lakes, and recreation centers may not be able to offer swimming lessons and lifeguarding in the same ways they have before. Continue reading to see the resources available to ensure you and your family can stay safe during these uncertain times.

Water Safety and COVID-19

Before heading to public beaches and pools this year, make sure you review the following guidelines to ensure your family and community members stay safe amidst the continued dangers of COVID-19.

  1. Continue to practice social distancing of at least 6 feet between yourself and others when at the beach and pool.
  2. Wear cloth face coverings whenever you are out of the water and around others. Do not place face masks on children under age 2.
  3. Keep an eye on your children at all times to decrease emergencies and the need for lifeguard contact with guests.
  4. If a swim area seems too crowded to be able to safely socially distance, find somewhere else to go.
  5. Check with your local pool or beach to see what guidelines they are putting in place to limit capacity and ensure safe practices for guests and employees.

Ensuring Water Safety in Every Environment

The Red Cross water safety page contains information on topics including drowning prevention, the need for water competency, and educational resources for families with children.

Drowning Prevention

This summer, with physical distancing necessary, many families will be spending more time at their home pools, lake cabins, and boats away from lifeguards and public places. It is imperative, now more than ever, to ensure you are prepared for drowning emergencies and take necessary precautions. The Red Cross recommends following the Circle of Drowning Prevention and ensuring layers of protection are in place.

  1. Provide close and constant contact with children you are supervising near the water.
  2. Fence pools and spas with adequate barriers, including four-sided fencing.
  3. Learn swimming and water safety survival skills.
  4. Children, inexperienced swimmers, and all boaters should wear U.S. Coast Guard- approved life jackets.
  5. Always swim in a lifeguarded area.

Water Competency

Make sure you and your family members are water competent before partaking in any water activities. The Red Cross recommends these five basic water safety skills to ensure you can save your life in the water:

  1. Step or jump into the water over your head.
  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
  3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit without stopping.
  5. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

If you or any members of your family struggle with completing these tasks, continue reading to learn about the educational materials available to improve upon these skills.

Educational Materials for Families with Small Children

This summer, many communities will keep their local pools and aquatic facilities closed amongst the continued dangers of COVID-19. Without access to swimming lessons and lifeguards, families must find other resources to ensure their children are safe in the water. The Red Cross has developed an interactive program called WHALE Tales where Longfellow the Whale can help your children learn to be safe in the water. This program has multiple interactive videos and activities to teach the basics of water safety. WHALE Tales also comes with a discussion guide for Parents and Caregivers to help facilitate a discussion on water safety with your child.

Whale Tales can be found online here and on the Red Cross Swim app available for download for Apple and Android.

Additional Red Cross Resources

Home Pool and Hot Tub Safety

Swimming Safely in Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

Life Jacket Safety Guidelines

COVID 19 and Aquatics

Toolkit for Lifeguard Training and Operations

Ethan Hiew – Overcoming fear to help others with COVID-19

On April 28 at the Red Cross in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ethan Hiew stepped up in big way – he overcame his fear of needles and donated convalescent plasma that will help COVID-19 patients recover.

“I’m not fond of needles and I definitely was a bit scared. But this is very relaxing and I’m just chilling out listening to some music. I’m happy I’m able to share my good health.”

Ethan, 17, is a Boy Scout and a St. Thomas Academy junior who’s aspiring to have a career in the film industry. He tested positive for COVID-19 after the illness was spread by a family member who had traveled to Europe for business.

He started having headaches. He thought the headaches were from adjusting to a new pair of glasses. But they persisted, and then he tested positive for COVID-19.

Ethan did not have severe symptoms or require hospitalization, and once he fully recovered after self-quarantine, his family talked together on how they could help others during these uncertain times. They decided to fill out the donor eligibility form on the Red Cross website to see if Ethan qualified to donate convalescent plasma for critically ill COVID-19 patients. A few days later, they heard back that Ethan was a candidate to donate.

“Ethan has never donated blood before. He was a little nervous because he almost fainted a couple of years ago during a blood draw at a doctor’s office,” said his mom who provided morale support for her son from a social distance.

“As a scout and student, giving back to local communities is very important to Ethan,” said his mom. “Our Christian faith calls for us to love and serve others – we are blessed and so proud of him that he wanted to help in such a meaningful way!”

Ethan agreed and said he would do anything to help others who had this illness. “I’m in this situation for a reason – and it must be to help!” he said.

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross

Drake Hotel Fire Relief Update

Starting December 25, 2019, the American Red Cross worked 24/7 to help people devastated by the Francis Drake Hotel apartment fire that broke out at around 3 a.m. on Christmas Day. The Drake was a three-story building with 133 units and approximately 266 residents, as well as others in the community. Residents will never return.

96 percent of the Red Cross responders for the Drake Hotel fire were volunteers who supported shelter, food, health and mental health as well as housing and recovery planning. Photo: Lara Leimbach/American Red Cross

Our relief efforts began as volunteers provided support and addressed the immediate needs of people who were evacuated to city buses. After coordination with the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and other partners, a disaster shelter was opened that night at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

On December 27, Hennepin County moved 30 families to an extended-stay hotel. More than 60 people continued to stay at the disaster shelter. Resources, such as clothing, storage bins, and other supplies, were made available to prepare for a longer-term disaster shelter at First Covenant Church on December 28.

Red Cross volunteers from 20 states supported the fire relief response for former residents of the Francis Drake Hotel apartments. Photo: Lara Leimbach/American Red Cross

As of January 31, 2020, the Red Cross recorded:

  • 1,929 overnight shelter stays provided with partners
  • 11,759 meals and snacks. served with the Salvation Army and other partners
  • 2,752 health, mental health and disability contacts
  • 276 clients served by Red Cross caseworkers
  • 346 comfort kits and more than 13,900 donated relief items distributed
  • 357 Red Cross disaster responders from 20 states, 96% volunteers

On January 3 and 4, we brought together more than 40 local organizations and public agencies for a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) where social workers and community resources helped Drake residents work on recovery plans.

This work continued every day at the disaster shelter at First Covenant Church until the shelter closed on January 22. The second and final community donated-goods distribution was held two days later at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Red Cross volunteer Renee helped former Drake Hotel residents at the Red Cross disaster shelter hosted for several nights at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Photo: Lara Leimbach/American Red Cross

We are grateful to everyone across the community and region who stepped up, wrapped their arms around those affected by the Drake Fire, and did everything they could to provide the resources necessary to help them restore normalcy to their lives.

“This is why we do the training the rest of the year,” says Audrey, a Red Cross volunteer while supporting a donated goods distribution. “Working directly with the clients is truly very rewarding.”

Audrey, a Red Cross volunteer who supported Drake Hotel fire relief efforts. Photo: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

For more information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here. To make a financial donation that supports our mission, click here.

Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

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