Busy Day Two At A Red Cross Shelter

By Cathryn Kennedy, Red Cross Volunteer, Twin Cities Area Chapter

Riley, 2, gets a snack with help from Red Cross volunteer Bonnie Reyers at the Bloomington shelter. Riley and his mother escaped the apartment fire early Tuesday morning. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

By 10 a.m. the list of tasks was getting long. Shelter Manager Ruth Talford needed to order pizzas for lunch, arrange transportation to off-site showers, and set up two family meeting rooms, including one for discussing financial assistance and another for providing stress relief and counseling. Later in the afternoon, Talford would need to help families get to where they could request government emergency assistance funds.

Meanwhile families in the shelter were busy, too.

Grandmother Eva Dale needed emergency medical care for care of her feet, but first she had to prepare granddaughter Kiara for kindergarten. That meant finding some school clothes and transportation to Kiara’s elementary school.

Red Cross volunteers sprung into action and within 15 minutes Kiara was decked out in a school outfit and winter coat, but she still needed shoes.  So did her sister, Kiana, as well as Grandmother Eva.  Shoes were in short supply so one volunteer was given names of two nearby neighbors who had offered to help.

School bus driver Tim Hamm stopped by the shelter to check on one of his students. Hamm offered to help and later dropped off diapers for younger children. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross
School bus driver Tim Hamm stopped by the shelter to check on one of his students. Hamm offered to help and later dropped off diapers for younger children. Photo credit: Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

The night of the fire Eva was caring for her granddaughters, while their mother was in Iowa. Eva woke up in the night smelling smoke and when she opened the window for ventilation, she saw flames leaping out of a neighbor’s apartment and a parent yelling for help. She awoke her granddaughters and dropped them out the window to waiting rescue workers before jumping out herself. With no time to get shoes, Eva suffered frostbite, and getting her to a doctor was added to the shelter manager’s list urgent things to do.

Meanwhile, Bloomington school bus driver Tim Hamm, who had Kiara on his route, stopped by to see if she was all right. Asking how he could help, he offered to purchase some diapers for a couple of younger children.

Two-year-old Riley and his mother were waiting for a cab to take him to day care, and other families were headed out to go buy new clothes with Red Cross vouchers.

Before noon nine pizzas arrived and after some nourishment everyone went back to work helping families get lives back in order after a fire disaster.

Red Cross Responds On Sub-Zero Minnesota Morning

By Red Cross Volunteers Dave Schoeneck and Grace Thompson

When fire struck an apartment building on a recent sub-zero morning in Minnesota, residents had little time to do more than escape. Some leaped from second- and third-story windows while others dropped their children into the arms of first responders.

Eleven apartments suffered extensive damage, displacing more than 30 people. Within minutes, Twin Cities Red Cross volunteers responded to assist them.

Red Cross Comfort Kit
A simple Red Cross Comfort Kit, which includes shampoo, soap, and other essential personal care items, helps people with immediate disaster relief. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“Some people fled the burning building in nothing more than shorts,” said Anne Florenzano, a Red Cross volunteer who arrived on the scene early Tuesday.

Heated buses provided initial refuge while residents wondered where they’d sleep that night. By 10:30 AM, the Red Cross had opened a shelter offering a safe and warm place for families to sleep and make plans for rebuilding lives torn apart by disaster.

Kiara Faalafula, a six year-old girl living with her grandmother, was dropped from the second story window because smoke filled the halls made escape by stairs impossible. A police officer caught the kindergartener and took her to a heated bus where she was given a blanket, and later a coat.

Melvin Saballos, 31, who also lived on the second floor, was woken by his father about 5:45 AM. The hall was so filled with smoke that the only exit was through a window.

Melvin, 31, escaped the burning building on a ladder and later sought refuge in a Red Cross shelter. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“The Red Cross has been very attentive to the needs of the people, making sure that nobody panics,” said Saballos. “The Red Cross has been incredibly helpful. We are warm and safe.”

Britney Godfrey and Roderick Diggins, along with their daughter, MaKayla, and Roderick’s sister, Ladietra Diggins and her son, Tre’von Diggans, lived in a third floor apartment.

MaKayla, 3, was dropped from a third-story apartment window and caught by a police officer. Here, she's getting clean socks and pants (that are way too big for her). Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

Britney woke up, smelled smoke, and tried to get everyone out, but the smoke-filled hallway was impassible. Godfrey realized that the window was the only way out. After dropping the children into the arms of first responders, the three adults then jumped to save their own lives. All are grateful for the Red Cross help they’ve received.

Since January 1, The Twin Cities Red Cross has responded to 80 fire disasters, providing comfort and other immediate disaster relief for more than 250 people. More than 75 Red Cross volunteers have assisted these families.

Residents affected by the Bloomington apartment fire or other recent disasters can call (612) 871-7676 for more information about the Red Cross and disaster relief services.

Not Stopping Anytime Soon

By Grace Thompson, American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter

For many, it’s hard to remember the hot days of the Minnesota State Fair this time of year, but for Muriel Olson the smell of corn dogs and the sounds of the “great Minnesota get together” are vivid as she reflects upon her last 50 years of service with the American Red Cross.

Muriel’s story began in 1956 when she was asked by her school’s nursing program director to volunteer for the American Red Cross booth at the state fair. “It was minimal work, washing people’s feet and dressing blisters.”

Muriel Olson has been a Red Cross volunteer for 50 years.

Little did she know, this agreement would begin a remarkable span of years sharing her time and talent with the American Red Cross, for which she was recognized this past year with a 50-year service pin.

“I didn’t really choose [volunteering for the American Red Cross], it kind of just happened and it never stopped. I don’t plan on it stopping anytime soon!”

As a recent volunteer with the American Red Cross (or as Muriel might call me, a “newbie”) I was both honored and excited by the chance to interview the Red Cross veteran. I naturally had all kinds of questions I wanted to ask her—such as how many disasters have you responded to (“too many to count”), why do you continue to volunteer (“because I love helping people”), and was there any experience that was particularly meaningful for you (“the embrace of a family member who suffered the loss of their home to a fire”).

She kindly replied to all of my questions and also offered three nuggets of wisdom I’m excited to pass along:

1.    “Be passionate about helping people”
To Muriel, this is the most important quality of a Red Cross Volunteer. The reason why the American Red Cross makes a difference is because its volunteers show compassion to every person, regardless of who they are or what his or her circumstances may be. “Even if it is a single-family fire, it’s a disaster to them. Sometimes they just need people to help them- whether it be filling out paperwork, or sitting with them.”

2.    “Be willing to adapt to changes”
Muriel enthusiastically expanded upon this, “if there is one thing I can tell you, volunteering with the American Red Cross will never be boring! There is always something new to learn or some challenges to overcome… you are responding to disasters, disasters by nature are never planned.” According to Muriel, the power of the American Red Cross is its ability to offer relief in the midst of uncertainly.

3.    “Be ready to work as a team, and to make life-long friends.”
Muriel attributes much of her achievement to the supportive Red Cross community. “I have been able to volunteer and remain positive throughout these last 50 years because of he wonderful friends I have made. The American Red Cross is filled with people of every skill and generation.” This diversity is seen in the classroom where Muriel teaches Disaster Medical Assistance to the “next generation” of Red Cross volunteers. For Muriel, the opportunity to see young volunteers dedicate their time and skills gives her hope for the future of the American Red Cross. “It is a volunteer run organization, without these newbies…[and] without this community, we wouldn’t have a Red Cross.”

In many ways, Muriel’s first actions as an American Red Cross volunteer are symbolic of her continued benevolence over these past 50 years. It’s because of people like Muriel that the American Red Cross, a volunteer-led organization, continues to make an inspiring impact on the world. The Red Cross is grateful for Muriel’s years of service and Muriel hopes her story encourages others to, in turn, “use their skills and talents to help people.”

Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

Practice Makes Prepared for Red Cross NAT Students

Our Nurse Assistant Training students are buzzing around the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter these days demonstrating their skills before clinical practice. There’s a ton-o-stuff they need to have down so that their future patients will be well cared for!Click here to learn more about our Nurse Assistant Training (NAT) program and the upcoming class schedule.

Red Cross Public Ally Number One!

By Adam Wolfe, American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter, Community Presentations Coordinator

So far my experience with the Red Cross has been amazing. More than one month ago, I joined the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter as the Community Presentations Coordinator. I will be here for a total of ten months through the AmeriCorps “Public Allies” program. The work I’m doing here has its challenges, but I am enjoying it and feel as if I’m making a positive impact on the community.

Winter weather safety presentation tools. Photo credit: Grace Thompson, American Red Cross

My job consists of giving various health and safety presentations in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. I addition, I manage a group of around 25 volunteer presenters and also promote our programs to local community organizations. We present on a wide range of topics, such as fire safety, basic first aid, winter weather safety, heart disease, and flu pandemic preparedness. After observing a few presentations and getting a feel for how things were done, I was able to become a presenter myself. I taught high school math for a year, so speaking in front of groups was nothing new for me, but talking to adults is slightly different than talking to pubescent teenagers. I got the hang of it without too much trouble though and the presentations have gone well.

Adam practicing his community presentation techniques. Photo credit: Grace Thomopson, American Red Cross

One presentation that stands out in my mind was a winter weather safety talk I gave at the Lao Center in St. Paul.  It was to a diverse group of adult English language students, many of whom were recent immigrants to the United States. Their teacher called me because many of the students were still wearing sandals even though the temperature had dropped into the teens! It was a challenging group to talk to.  The group was from all over the world and spoke many different languages.  Because their English was not so good, I created a new slide presentation with simple terms and many pictures. I enjoyed the challenge of communicating effectively with this group, and also saw that this was the type of group that could benefit the most from important Red Cross disaster and safety information. While I’m sure some of the tips were not completely understood, I generally felt that the class learned a lot and appreciated this outreach.

Fire Prevention Presentation Kit. Photo credit: Grace Thompson, American Red Cross

By far, the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been letting people know that the Red Cross provides these presentations. This has been very surprising to me. We provide information on relevant, important topics, and we have flexible hours that work around almost any schedule. In addition to all of this, the presentations are absolutely free! Initially, I thought we would have problems with overbooking and trying to fit everyone into our schedule, but unfortunately this has not been the case. Despite countless phone calls and emails to community organizations, the presentations schedule has been slow to fill up. This is an issue I will continue to struggle with and will hope that begins to change soon.

Now that I’m familiar with the work here and I’m beginning to get to know the rest of the Red Cross staff, I feel very optimistic about the coming months. My Red Cross coworkers and supervisors have been helpful and have made me feel at home. I’m confident the outreach I’m doing will begin to show results. I hope to have the much more desirable problem of having too many presentations to schedule, and not enough time to do them! The next nine months will be exciting.

If you or anyone you know is interested in scheduling a presentation in the Twin Cities metro area, please call (612) 871-7676 and ask for Adam Wolfe or email awolfe@redcrosstc.org.

 

Red Cross Hope

The Red Cross in the Twin Cities is among the first in the country to open Stores of Hope this holiday season. In the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area, we have two locations opening Friday, November 26: Eden Prairie Center and Ridgedale Center.

Caring Enough To Send A Card

The American Red Cross expects to receive and distribute more than one million holiday cards to military veterans and those serving in the armed forces.

Cari McCollor is one of our heroes!

Here in the Twin Cities we’re helping to make this happen with the assistance of Cari McCollor. A veteran who served in the U.S. Army and the National Guard, McCollor understands the importance of sending holiday wishes.

“It’s hard to remember family and friends when you’re sitting somewhere in a field far away from home,” says McCollor. “Getting a card lets the service member know that someone cares enough to write and send a card.”

McCollor expects to distribute holiday mail to approximately 20 sites, ranging from veterans homes and adult day centers to army reserve and national guard units, throughout the greater Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area.

Cards must be postmarked by December 10. Click here to learn more.

Flashlight, Food, and Water

Our first winter storm of the season is approaching. The grocery stores are bustling (good for our economy, yes?) and people are pulling out their sweaters and comforters, getting ready for a long weekend at home.

To help, the Red Cross has a winter storm safety check list.  

Upon review we noticed that the check list does not specifically mention some of our favorite winter preparedness items, such as footie pajamas, apple cider, dark and/or milk chocolate, and lightsaber.

Our emergency services director Jill, who grew up in the country, remembers having to stay inside for days during snow storms. She suggests having movies and popcorn on hand, but if you do not have power then a camping lantern and deck of “Old Maid” playing cards should help pass the time.

Otherwise, you can do like Jill’s dad did: move all furniture and stuff to the center of the basement and ride a bicycle around in circles.

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