Healthy and able blood donors are called to keep blood on the shelves for patients in need

Thousands of blood drives canceled, resulting in tens of thousands of uncollected blood donations during Coronavirus Pandemic

The American Red Cross is working to continue delivering our mission, including the collection of lifesaving blood, but we have had a staggering number of scheduled Red Cross blood drives canceled as more workplaces, college campuses and other venues send people home and encourage social distancing. Disruptions to blood donations can lead to shortages and cause delays in essential medical care.

As of March 26, about 9,000 blood drives, representing more than 300,000 fewer blood donations, have been canceled in the U.S. due to COVID-19 concerns. In our Minnesota and Dakotas blood services region, cancellations include 311 blood drives, resulting in more than 10,360 uncollected donations. As the number of COVID-19 cases grow in our region, we expect that number to increase unfortunately.

Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, are urged to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App,

As concerns about the coronavirus pandemic rise, please know:

•             Donating blood is a safe process and people should not be concerned about giving or receiving blood during this challenging time.

•             More healthy donors are needed to give now to prevent a blood shortage.

•             Keep scheduled blood drives, which will allow donors the opportunity to give blood. 

As an emergency preparedness organization, the Red Cross has also taken additional steps to ensure the safety of staff and donors at each Red Cross blood drive.

•             The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation – and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at RedCrossBlood.org. 

•             We are now pre-screening all individuals by checking their temperature before they enter any Red Cross blood drive or donation center, including our own staff and volunteers. 

•             At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow thorough safety protocols including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. 

•             Additional spacing has been implemented within each blood drive set up to incorporate social distancing measures between donation beds and stations within the blood drive.

•             The average blood drives are only 20-30 people and are not large gatherings. 

These mitigation measures will help to keep blood recipients, staff and donors safe.

Thank you for being lifesavers for patients in need in Minnesota and across the country!

7 Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

Every year on average 8% of people in the U.S. get the flu – don’t let it be you!

  1. Get vaccinated. Everyone 6 months of age an older should get a flu vaccine every season, especially people at high risk.
  2. Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, keep your distance from others.
  3. Stay home when you are sick. Stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick to prevent spreading your illness to others.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent those around you from getting sick.
  5. Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
  7. Practice other good health habits. Clean frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

BONUS! Flu vaccination does not prevent blood donation. Yeah!

Download our new Flu (Influenza) Checklist that’s available in eight languages. Stay informed about public health recommendations related to flu and other health threats by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit redcross.org.

Step aside Baby Yoda: Red Cross gets soldier home in time for Baby Cory love

By Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Late on January 25, Sergeant Cory Hicks was preparing for the next day of training in Virginia when he answered a call from his fiancé, Sergeant Shanyn France in Minnesota.

“They hold each other up,” says Janelle France about the relationship of her daughter Sergeant Shanyn France and Sergeant Cory Hicks. (Family photo)

She had just taken a shower but could not get dry. “Just dry off, I told her. I can’t, she said, water is running down my leg. I got a call back later that said her water broke and that she was going into labor.”  This was one month before their baby was due.

Cory remembered his training packet and a Red Cross brochure tucked inside. The ‘Hero Care Network’ brochure explained the steps for requesting emergency communications assistance. Cory reached out to his course instructor who said maybe the Red Cross could help.

Once the test results confirmed Shanyn’s water had definitely broke, her mom Janelle France made the call to Red Cross that would get Cory home. She provided all the information needed to give him the best chance of getting home. “We were also texting Cory to try to not have him panic,” she says.

Cory rarely panics these days. He has served 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves with the 353rd Transportation Company based in Buffalo, Minnesota. When he was 19 years old, he deployed to northern Iraq where he supported fuel missions. “If you get me behind the wheel of a trailer, I’m phenomenal at it,” he says. The premature birth of his first child was another matter. “It was nerve racking because Shanyn was dilating a centimeter every hour.”

Sergeant Shanyn France, Cory Junior, and Sergeant Cory Hicks together as a family for the first time. (Family photo)

At around 4 a.m. on January 26, a verified Red Cross message arrived and requested his return. He’d have to drop leadership training for now. It was, his instructor said, Cory’s decision. That day, he got the last seat on the last flight going to Minnesota. Word of the crisis made its way to the Delta pilots, who asked everyone to stay seated while Cory exited. “The whole plane erupted, and I got to run off the plane. It was pretty cool. That could have been the difference between me making the birth because I had just an hour to spare until baby Cory was born.”

Shanyn was scared. “I was excited, but I was scared that he was not going to make it in time because airports are always tough to get through.” She hung on while Cory raced to the hospital in Coon Rapids. “He didn’t have time to change out of his uniform. I don’t even think I gave him a hug because I was so miserable.” She then asked for an epidural after 23 hours in labor.

Being there for the birth of his child was only part of Cory’s urgency. The other part was “just being able to comfort Shanyn while she was in a lot of pain,” he says.

Baby Cory arrived one month early. “It’s pretty amazing,” says his dad Sergeant Cory Hicks who arrived with only an hour to spare before Cory Jr.’s birth. (Family photo)

“They hold each other up. And there’s nothing these two won’t do for that little boy,” says Janelle, who has worked every reserves drill weekend at unit headquarters since her daughter joined in 2016. “Without the Red Cross he would not have made it home.”

Baby Cory, also known as “CJ” for Cory Junior, is doing well at home after spending six days in a neonatal intensive care unit. Cory was there throughout each. He’s grateful for what the Red Cross does for service members. “Over the 12 years of my military experience I’ve heard about Red Cross, saw it work for others. I was skeptical until I had to use it. Someday I hope to give back.”

Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military and veteran families.

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

Volunteers needed to support casework for service members

Crucial role helps active duty military and their families

The American Red Cross alleviates human suffering in several different capacities, but people may not know that the Red Cross is the only authorized organization to verify and relay emergency messages to activated service members through our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Hero Care Network.

Photo by Roy Cox/American Red Cross

“When the Red Cross is alerted of a family emergency, we verify the information and contact the service member’s command within a matter of hours so they can get home as soon as possible,” says Alex Smith, who directs our SAF program in Minnesota.

Impact Fact  Each year the American Red Cross provides more than 422,000 services to service members, veterans and their families. 

The Red Cross in Minnesota is seeking 5 volunteers to do SAF casework so that our military members can be alerted when there is a family emergency. SAF caseworkers have three main responsibilities, which can be done remotely or at the office (volunteers can choose). The time commitment is about 3 hours per week. 

1. Briefing families and verifying contact card information. This step is an effort to get to know the family after military enrollment so that if the family reaches out with a family emergency in the future, it won’t be their first time speaking with us. This is also an opportunity to explain what the family should do in case of an emergency that necessitates contacting their service member.  

2. Family follow-up. This is what Red Cross does after facilitating contact when an emergency has occurred. We ask how they are doing and if there is anything else they need.  

3. Referral services. Caseworkers can provide referral and information to organizations that provide assistance resources for emergency needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, and referrals to counseling services.

Minnesota Red Cross volunteers supported WWI relief efforts. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

For more than 100 years, the Red Cross in Minnesota has provided comfort and support to members of the U.S. military and we continue to serve, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“We have a huge need,” says Sean Lundy, a Red Cross volunteer recruitment specialist in Minnesota. “Volunteers are more than 90 percent of our workforce. They have a crucial role in supporting our service members at home and abroad. “

Impact Fact  Last year Minnesota Red Cross volunteers supported 2,099 emergency communications and critical community cases.

Ideal candidates are supporters of the military with a desire to give back. Start your journey by creating a Red Cross volunteer ID here. For any questions about the role, send an email to our Volunteer Services team at mnrecruit@redcross.org.

Post by Caroline Nelson for the American Red Cross

12 Reasons to Donate at 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive

It nearly goes without saying that the reason to donate blood during the 12 Hours Giving Blood Drive on December 19 is that your donation could help save up to three lives this winter. But since this is the festive season, we’ve added some sparkles to our list of reasons for you to donate the gift of life at this holiday drive.

1. Free gift wrapping!  Bring gifts that still need to be wrapped and we’ll wrap them for you.

2. Hourly prize drawings!  Prizes include but are not limited to a television, gift cards, and small appliances.

3. Free food and refreshments!  Scrumptious food, cookies, and drinks will be provided.

4. Convenient location! Finish up last minute holiday shopping at the nearby the outlet mall.

5. Help save lives! Our goal is 500 units of blood for patients in need.  Each unit could save up to three lives.

6. Photo opportunities!  Festive photos with Santa or Buddy the Blood Drop. Post on social media with hashtag #MNRedCross.

7. Easy sign-up!  Book your appointment online at RedCrossBlood.org or on the Blood Donor App. Sponsor code: 12 Hours

8. Share Your Story Tree! Share a story about donating or receiving blood products to hang on our Giving Tree.

9. Live Music! Instrumental and vocal groups will perform throughout the day.

10. Family tradition!  Donors return to this annual event year after year with their families to help save lives together.

11. Face art! Get a festive-themed face painting (hours: 2 to 7 p.m.).

12. New Year’s resolution! Kick-off the New Year now by becoming a regular blood donor or a Red Cross volunteer supporting blood donation.

Join us in Oakdale on Dec. 19.  Schedule your appointment here.

Happy Holidays!

Red Cross helps find a sister and best friend

After years of not knowing, a Minnesota couple from Cuba learn their beloved family member is alive and well

In one way, it took hardly any time at all to find Felipe’s sister in Cuba. Just months, in fact, once the Red Cross search formally started. In another way, it lasted years: Felipe lost contact with his sister Carmela in 1992 when he and his wife moved to Minnesota. Around that time, they exchanged their last letter with Carmela.

There was no phone number to call. More letters were sent. They received no replies. Maybe she was sick. Or worse. They assumed something bad had happened. This struck Nila the hardest. “I love her too much,” she says. For her, Carmela was more than her husband’s sister: Carmela was her sister, her family, her best friend.

Felipe and Nila left Havana in 1966 and moved to the United States where they joined her mother. Photo: Susan Bourgerie/American Red Cross

JoAnn, a long-time family friend in Minnesota, alerted Felipe to the possibility of working through the Red Cross to find Carmela. JoAnn knew that every day for years Felipe wondered about his sister. Papi and Mami are “like my parents,” she says.

JoAnn reached out through email to the Red Cross to learn more about family tracing. Once Felipe agreed to search, local volunteers moved the process forward, informing JoAnn, who updated Felipe. When she knew it worked – meaning, when she knew Carmela was found and, most importantly, alive – JoAnn went to Felipe and Nila at once with the great news.

Married 60 years, Felipe and Nila have 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. For five years in Cuba, they went on dates always with a chaperone.

The first phone call was short. Felipe’s sister used a friend’s phone to reach him. Nila was on the call too.  They shared short phrases. Hardly said anything in word count. And yet the meaning of Nila’s basic words — my sister, I miss you, I love you – say everything. “Are you well?” Felipe asked Carmela. They’ve had several more calls and exchanged more email messages with JoAnn receiving and translating them.

Red Cross volunteer Kalay helped reconnect Felipe and Nila with their sister in Cuba. Photo: Susan Bourgerie/American Red Cross

“I appreciate the Red Cross,” says Felipe, who was excited and happy to learn that his sister was alive and well. His sister Carmela was excited, too. Her blood pressure went up, he says. They’ll have more calls, emails and letters. They’ll not lose contact again.

Story by Lynette Nyman / American Red Cross. To learn more about family reconnecting services, click here.

Holiday safety in Minne-snow-ta

In Minnesota, the holiday season requires us to be extra cautious. While holiday cooking and decorations increase risks of fire and injury, the winter weather conditions create additional hazards on the roads. For example, every year across the country there are on average more than 150,000* crashes due to icy roads. With the spirit of safety first, we offer below some helpful tips for a fabulous and fun holiday season.

Roads

1. Keep a windshield scraper and emergency kit including food and warm clothing in your vehicle.

2. Test your car battery. As temperature drops, battery power drops as well.

3. Allow extra time to drive to your destination. Not only will there be more traffic than usual, but it is safest to drive more slowly on snowy roads.

4. Practice braking on icy roads in an empty parking lot.

5. Check tire pressure and tread life. Consider installing winter tires.

Homes

1. Check all smoke alarms to verify that there is a working smoke alarm on each level of the home. Review your home fire escape plan.

2. Turn off decorative lights and blow out candles before leaving the house or going to sleep.

3. Remain in the kitchen while something is cooking.

4. Wash hands and cook food to safe minimum standards to avoid food poisoning.

5. Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from hot ovens and stove tops.

For immediate access to weather updates and information on treating common first aid emergencies, download the American Red Cross Emergency App for free.

*Source: NHTSA and Federal Highway Administration

“Thank you for your service and sacrifice.”

A Holidays for Heroes message from a UMD student-athlete.

Our Holidays for Heroes program is an effort to collect handwritten messages on holiday cards to thank and recognize service members and veterans for their service and sacrifice.

This year, the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota teamed up with University of Minnesota Duluth student hockey teams to sign cards that will bring holiday joy to the men and women who keep, and have kept, us safe.

UMD Women’s Hockey captain Jalyn Elmes  signs Holidays for Heroes cards.

“It’s a really good way to reach out and show our appreciation to people that we may never get the chance to tell in person. It took less than an hour of our time,” says Jalyn Elmes, captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Women’s Hockey team.  Elmes has participated in Holidays for Heroes in the 2018 and 2019 holiday seasons.

Director of the local Red Cross, Dan Williams, has helped facilitate Holidays for Heroes for a number of years. Dan says his favorite part about this proactive effort is reminding service members and veterans that they’re cared about. “We’re not waiting for service members to raise their hand and say ‘I wish the community would show me how much they appreciate us.’”

UMD Men’s Hockey team thanks military veterans.

During the past four years, UMD student-athlete teams have signed around 4,000 cards. Football, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s hockey have joined these efforts. The signed cards will be distributed to local military service units and veterans clinics and homes.

Other upcoming activities include blood drives and humanitarian law training through our Red Cross Youth outreach. And getting involved Holidays for Heroes s as easy as bringing holiday cards to your local Red Cross chapter. We’ll do the rest!

Story by Caroline Nelson and photos by Dan Williams, American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military families and veterans.

 

Red Cross volunteer spotlight: Marilee of Marshall, Minnesota

When you see hope start to grow, that’s the most rewarding thing.

Marilee Thomas volunteers in many capacities with the Red Cross, including as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member providing comfort and essentials for people after local disasters such as home fires or floods.

“Going on a DAT call, you never know what you’re going into,” says Marilee. “Typically, you’re meeting someone during what they’re probably going to remember as one of the worst times in their life.”

We were interested to hear more about her experience especially, as she says, “I can talk all day about the Red Cross because that’s what I love.”

Marilee Thomas, on the left, pictured with volunteer Amanda Schafer.

Have you deployed to national disasters? 

I went to Houston for flooding. I went to Kentucky for another flood; it was a very violent flash flood—that was different. I went to North Carolina. I was in Wilmington. I did a virtual deployment for South Dakota and I did casework review for them.  

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Red Cross? 

Doing casework is probably my most favorite thing, I always come back to casework. Starting out just listening to them, letting them tell their story, then making the connection of referrals or what we can do to help them so that they start on their path to recovery. And it’s very rewarding to see them—sometimes they’re upset, sometimes they’re still kind of in shock, trying to process things. But then, when you see hope start to grow, that’s the most rewarding thing.  

What memories of responses stand out to you?

In Houston, I’ll always remember this man that [said] “I’m sorry if this is too much information, but I don’t even have a pair of dry underwear.” Just the story of how he had taken in his niece—her father had recently passed away from cancer and her mom was going through foreclosure. So, he gave her a stable place to live—or so he thought. Then the flood came, and they eventually sat on their kitchen counter tops. He was nearly crying when he said she looked at him and asked if ‘we’re going to die’ and he didn’t know what to say to her.  

In Texas, we had gone into a restaurant to eat supper and as we left, all the people stood up and they applauded—we got a standing ovation! It was just nice to know that we were appreciated that much. We don’t ask for the recognition, but we were pleased that they were that happy about us being there to help. No matter what you do with the Red Cross, you’re going to make a difference in someone’s life.

We’re always looking for more volunteers to help their neighbors in need after disasters like home fires. Tuesdays this November (5, 12, 19 and 26) from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., the Red Cross is hosting informational calls to learn more about volunteering. Please email mnrecruit@redcross.org for call-in details or to set up a time that works for you.

Interview by Caroline Nelson/American Red Cross Minnesota Region