Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of people in shelters. Thousands of relief workers responding. Too many lives lost. This disaster is a big one, for all of us, requiring many hands, heads, and hearts pulling together to help others in dire need. Shelter, food, and relief supplies are Red Cross priorities. And blood and platelet donations are needed from people in unaffected areas to make up for canceled drives. Check out the stories below. They’ll show you how the Red Cross is helping.
You Just Gotta Be Strong: a video from the American Red Cross features Terry, a shelter resident who was forced to evacuate his home in Tarboro, North Carolina, because of Hurricane Matthew
Haiti Needs Help from All of Us: an opinion piece from American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern published in Huffington Post addresses rumors, issues, and concerns about disaster relief responses in Haiti
Story and photo by Kaylee Beevers/American Red Cross Intern
On April 23, Phil Hansen, the senior executive for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, had the opportunity to participate in Home Fire Campaign activities in St. Cloud. His experience was mostly what he expected: teams made up of Red Cross volunteers and St. Cloud firefighters installed smoke alarms. But this was his first time actually doing installation outreach in homes. “I was really surprised by the number of homes that had inadequate smoke alarms or didn’t have any at all. It was great for us to come in and help make these installations for people who needed it most.” The reason why Phil made the trip to St. Cloud is because he truly believes in what these installations are doing: saving lives. As of April 2016, Red Cross installed smoke alarms have saved more than 90 lives across the country. For Phil, the best part about making home visits was meeting gracious people and seeing their faces shine with thankfulness after sharing with them a lifesaving gift. “For the future, we plan to see this program grow throughout the country due to the number of lives saved.” One challenge, he says, is the number of volunteers and partners currently participating. “We have great groups going out to serve their communities, but we need more.” And the top reason to get involved: “It’s a great reward knowing you’ve impacted and changed lives within your community.”
Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.
On May 6, the American Red Cross in Minnesota presented six awards that honored ten people for their heroic efforts helping others during great times of need. Below we share with you their inspiring stories.
Duluth teen Bryden Bronikowski was honored with the Youth Good Samaritan Hero Awardfor helping to save the life of his young cousin. “Panic is your worst enemy,” says Bryden. “Fearing anything can go wrong.” Watch Bryden’s story.
Nisswa Chamber of Commerce president Shawn Hansen received the Community Hero Award for being a vital part of daily coordination and communications during the windstorm disaster relief efforts in Nisswa in July 2015. “As human beings we have to focus on making the world better,” says Shawn. Watch Shawn’s story.
Mike Clark of Eagan received the Military Hero Award for supporting the needs of people in the armed forces. “It gives me an opportunity to connect with people that are just really down to earth,” says Mike. “And they’re really thankful for knowing there’s somebody out there who cares about them.” Watch Mike’s story.
Shoreview resident Jerry Nelson was honored with the Give Life Hero Award for his continuous blood donations and support of organ transplant families. “I’m not a hero for giving blood,” says Jerry. “Transplant patients and the people who get the blood are the heroes.” Watch Jerry’s story.
Willmar police officers Mike Jahnke, Joshua Helgeson, and Jeff Liebl were honored with the First Responder Hero Award for putting their lives on the line to resolve a potentially tragic situation. “He’s a human being,” says Josh. “It’s our job to help him, and that’s what we did.” Watch Mike, Josh, and Jeff’s story.
Montgomery residents Russ and Jenny Braith, and Lonsdale resident Greg Pint, were honored with the Good Samaritan Hero Award for putting their own lives at risk to save a man from a car going underwater. “I heard him hitting the buttons, the door locking, but no windows coming down,” says Russ. Watch Russ, Jenny and Greg’s story.
Click here to nominate someone for the 2017 Heroes Awards. Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.
What’s Trending has teamed up with the American Red Cross and your favorite social media celebs to help save lives.
By Christine Linnell, What’s Trending
Shira Lazar and Bart Baker can totally do it in two minutes. Destorm Power couldn’t do it back in high school, but by college he was doing it like a pro. GloZell? Under two minutes.
It’s not what it sounds like, but we’re glad we’ve got your attention.
The American Red Cross is reaching out to the online community and partnering with What’s Trending, iHeart Media, the Charity Network and the Reveal Project to launch #2Steps2Minutes, a campaign to promote home fire safety and help reduce deaths and injuries associated with home fires by 25%.
The two steps are simple: 1) practice your home fire drill until you can get out the door in less than two minutes, and 2) check your smoke alarms each month to see if the batteries need replacing.
It’s common sense stuff, but it could be the difference between life or death. On average, 7 people die every day and 36 are injured from a home fire. Having a working fire alarm alone can reduce your chances of death or injury by 50%
Here to remind you to stay prepared are some of your favorite social media stars and friends of What’s Trending. Directed by the Brothers Riedell, this PSA features Glozell Green, Frankie Grande, Bart Baker, Shira Lazar, Brodie Smith, Brittany Furlan, Destorm Power, Twan Kuyper, comedy duo Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin, Teni Panosian, Amanda Cerny, 80fitz, Trisha Hershberger and Nick Riedell.
And there’s a lot more to come – throughout the campaign, celebrities and influencers will be supporting the Red Cross through your favorite social media platforms, special merch, exclusive auction items and one-of-a-kind experiences, all benefitting the non-profit.
It culminates with the fourth annual What’s Trending Tube-A-Thon fundraising event, taking place in April at the iHeart Theater in Burbank. Stay tuned for updates – you won’t want to miss it!
Across the United States, the American Red Cross has people who volunteer their time as dispatchers during Red Cross disaster responses. These volunteers help fulfill the Red Cross mission to reduce human suffering during emergencies. Red Cross dispatchers coordinate response teams that provide basic comfort and care to families after home fires and other disasters. These dispatchers serve their communities with care. This volunteer role is one of the most worthwhile ways to get active in the Red Cross. Below are brief portraits of five volunteers who serve as disaster response dispatchers for the Minnesota Red Cross region.
Mike and Deb Hofmann, St. Cloud
Based in central Minnesota, Mike and Deb Hofmann proudly serve together as Red Cross volunteer dispatchers. The couple met in high school and they currently living in Cold Spring. Mike has served the American Red Cross for 40 years through multiple volunteer positions and Deb has been with the organization as a dispatcher for 10 months. Some of the most rewarding parts of the job for the couple is knowing you can help people during their time of need and offer services. Deb says, “When they’re looking for a way to go, we give them a direction.” Their advice? If you want to get involved, connect with your local Red Cross chapter.
Diane Dunder, Duluth
After retiring as a health and physical education teacher, Diane Dunder decided to take on the volunteer role as a Red Cross disaster relief dispatcher. Dunder says she was graced with “the best instructors who knew what they were doing and were very well informed about the job.” Some of the role’s challenges in her area, she says, are not having enough field responders as well as other dispatchers. “We all have other things going on in our lives and yet more help would be appreciated.” One of Dunder’s greatest rewards while serving as a dispatcher was helping an elderly woman after a house fire. The victim had health issues and Dunder spent several days following up and working with healthcare and mental healthcare professionals to make sure that the woman was safe. “Being a dispatcher is a great way to volunteer and keeps you educated,” says Dunder.
Joe Reinemann, Mankato
Stationed in the southwest Red Cross chapter in Mankato, Joe Reinemann has been a volunteering dispatcher for more than a year. Reinemann usually works as a dispatcher during night shifts that start from 4:30 to midnight or from midnight to 8 am. Reinemann, who helped create the most recent dispatcher training materials, says “we’re upgrading our dispatcher manual. It’s extremely hands-on. It’s also one-on-one.” Reinemann felt nervous when he received his first dispatch call for Red Cross disaster response. He wanted to make sure that everything went well, but he says “the help and training are so great that sometimes you don’t even need any assistance from other dispatchers.” Reinemann’s advice to future volunteers is to “DO IT! It may be imitating to sign up, but it’s not complicated at all.”
Jan Reyers, Mpls-St.Paul Metro
Jan Reyers has served as a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than 35 years. Most currently, he’s disaster response dispatcher based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Originally from White Bear Lake, Jan is proud to serve with the Red Cross alongside his wife Bonnie, who is also a dispatcher. “It’s always nice to have your wife as a dispatcher to help coach you along.” Being a dispatcher has taught Jan how to prioritize what he’s doing and to get it done correctly. Jan says the skills you need in order to become a dispatcher are communication, organization of information and people, and demonstration of empathy. Having served as a disaster responder in the field helps. “Get involved, sign up and be available to serve,” is Reyers’ advice to all anyone who wants to participate with Red Cross disaster relief teams.
The need for Red Cross volunteer dispatchers is great. Last year the Red Cross supported more than 2,500 people affected by local disasters, which were mostly home fires. It’s a great way to serve and to meet new people. The current Red Cross dispatchers need to you step up and to get involved! More importantly, your neighbors, friends, family and thousands of others across this region need you. You never know when hard times will strike and you could lend a hand to someone who needs it the most. You could be the person who gives someone hope during a time of despair and a way to look toward a brighter tomorrow. To learn more, click here.
Robin Chattopadhyay can trace his Red Cross connection to early childhood when, like many of you, he had Red Cross swimming lessons. But there was an additional connection. Red Cross tracing services helped his family confirm that his uncle and his family were safe and well following the Union Carbide factory gas leak disaster in Bhopal, India, in 1984. The gas leak killed thousands and injured tens of thousands more.
Today, Robin is on special paid leave from his employer Wells Fargo. The leave allows Robin to dedicate ten weeks towards developing the national Pillowcase Project across Minnesota. The Pillowcase Project aims to increase disaster preparedness among kids in third through fifth grades. First up, he says, will be presenting the project to his own kids at an elementary school in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. “I think that it will be great to present in front of my
kids’ classmates.” The overall goal during his special assignment is to increase awareness of the project among teachers and parents, and to encourage others to become presenters. “First I’m starting with the home crowd,” says Robin, whose easy-going manner will likely inspire kids to tell parents about their Pillowcase Project experience.
After this stint, Robin will continue his Red Cross volunteer service both in emergency preparedness, and in disaster response as a Disaster Action Team member. If you’re interested in learning more, becoming a presenter or having a presentation at your school or organization, feel welcome to contact Robin via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
American Red Cross volunteer Bob Pearce recently returned from deployment to Saipan where he worked directly with more than 400 people affected by Typhoon Soudelor. New to the Red Cross, the typhoon relief operation in Saipan was Bob’s first large-scale response. He’s already responding to his second, serving as a virtual volunteer from his home base in Minnesota for the Red Cross response to the wildfires in California. Below, Bob shares with us his Saipan experience.
Information about Typhoon Soudelor and its damage may be interesting, but it doesn’t tell the real or whole story. Many of the Red Cross volunteers used the term resilient to describe the islanders. Others said they were patient. For me, the people of Saipan are remarkable.
Saipan is a 12 by 5.5 mile island in the south Pacific. Guam, Tinian, Rota and Saipan form the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, a United States Territory. With a small garment manufacturing industry in continuing decline, the 53,883 residents of Saipan have relied on tourism to help their economy. So, when Typhoon Soudelor slammed into the island in the late night and early morning hours of August 2 and 3, 2015, damage was felt in more than one way.
Winds from the Category III Typhoon broke the NWS anemometer on Saipan at 91mph. Whatever their speed, the winds were sufficient to snap off over 300 power poles on the island, far exceeding the 80-some spares stored for an emergency. Rain and wind-driven sea water also damaged generating plants, further hampering infrastructure recovery. Without power, processing and delivery of fresh and waste water were still further casualties of the storm.
Cleanup of splintered and downed trees from roads began immediately. Hotels and a few businesses, including gas stations, fired up emergency generators and began providing needed services during daylight hours.
The U.S. Navy moved three ships from Guam to Saipan to provide fresh water for the island. People drove cautiously through intersections formerly controlled by traffic signals. And neighbors helped neighbors dig out from the remains of their homes. The same winds and water that knocked out electrical power and stopped road traffic, had also destroyed or seriously damaged well over 500 homes, and many hundreds of other residences were also damaged to some extent.
In the first hours after the typhoon, the Northern Mariana Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross mobilized ten core volunteers plus a trained group of 14 other local volunteers. Together with chapter staff, this initial response force began providing immediate assistance to many of the more than 2000 people who called for help. Gradually, the chapter response was supplemented by volunteers from “the mainland,” which is the islanders’ term for the continental U.S. Minnesota provided four of those volunteers, who served in Disaster Health Services (DHS), Disaster Services Technology (DST), and client casework.
Local residents began lining up at the chapter office early each morning, well before the generator was started, DST had reset all systems, and the doors were opened. With daily preparations and briefings completed, health services and client casework volunteers began seeing local residents by 9:00 each morning, and continued well into the evening until there were no more lines. Estimates of the number of clients seen ranged from 200 to 500 daily, seven days a week, for the first couple of weeks. Direct Assistance to Saipan Households (DASH), ranged from cans of food, bottles of water, and bags of rice, to financial assistance cards for people to use for disaster-related needs.
Saipan definitely has a slower lifestyle than many of us are accustomed to, yet there’s more to the calm and peace that the residents exhibit. Each client greeted us with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Every interview was the start of a new day. One after another, they thanked the Red Cross volunteers for being there. Most of the islanders have little compared to what many of us have. On the other hand, they have so much. They are happy, generous and content. Saipan is unique and its people exceptional in the face of disaster.
To learn more about how to become a Red Cross volunteer, click here. For more about the Red Cross disaster relief response in Saipan, click here.
Photos provided courtesy of Bob Pearce.
Disaster response training is serious business for a wide range of players. Government, military, hospitals, schools, and non-profit organizations, such as the American Red Cross, are among them. On August 24 and 25 in Duluth, Minnesota, the Red Cross and several partners got deep-in-the-weeds serious for Vigilant Guard 2015, a full-scale disaster response 4 years in the making.
According to the Minnesota National Guard, “Vigilant Guard is a United States Northern Command and National Guard Bureau sponsored exercise program. The program provides an opportunity for the State of Minnesota to improve emergency coordination, response and recovery management with federal, regional, local, civilian and military partners. The citizens of Minnesota depend on state and federal agencies to work together to prevent, protect, respond and recover from disasters. Together, we provide the capabilities to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred. Vigilant Guard is a rare training opportunity that greatly supports everyone–both participants and the citizens we serve.”
The mock disasters for Vigilant Guard were straight line winds causing severe damage to Hermantown, Proctor and the Duluth Hillside; a railway chemical spill; and a ship destroying the Blatnik Bridge spanning the bay between Duluth and Superior. The Red Cross role in the exercise was to establish a shelter at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC), which is a designated Red Cross shelter location for a real, large-scale disaster response.
On Monday at the Red Cross chapter office in Duluth, 35 public health nurses from 7 Counties, one Native American tribe, the Medical Reserve Corps and the Minnesota Department of Health took training on how to provide nursing services in a disaster shelter. At the same time, more than 35 Red Cross volunteers and others from partner organizations conducted a training on how to stand-up a disaster shelter. The training ranged from setting up cots and doing registration to ensuring client safety and securing shelter resources. Red Cross volunteers from across Minnesota were represented.
That evening, Red Cross volunteers had the mock shelter up and running. Their effort added to individual expertise as well as response capacity state-wide. At the end of the day, more than 25 participants stayed at the shelter as if they were people displaced by disaster. They needed their sleep, as the next day they would operate the shelter for community members who were invited to come to the shelter as evacuees and register as if they would be staying there, which was an important part of the exercise. One FOX21 story put it this way:
It will offer an opportunity for Red Cross volunteers, new and old, to test their skills when disaster strikes. “Tomorrow is the day to make mistakes. I always tell people the key word is disaster…We take care of people in the time of disaster small or big,” said Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Tony Guerra.
On Tuesday, day two, starting at 7:00 a.m., the Salvation Army began serving breakfast, just as they might during a disaster response in the area. Then, at 8:30 a.m., community members began arriving to register for staying at the shelter. More than 130 community members gave their time to test the newly trained shelter staff! Some went through the registration line multiple times to simulate an even larger group of evacuees. As an important part of the training, community members with functional needs were invited to participate and we were grateful for their participation. People with hearing and sight impairment, as well as those with service animals, put the participants in a great position to use their training. A Duluth News Tribune story put it this way:
Other volunteers provided different training opportunities. Jack Bender, who is hearing impaired and communicated through an interpreter, said his participation in the event allowed workers to learn how to help deaf people. “I have to say that they did a really good job handling our communication needs,” Bender said. “There were a few Red Cross workers that knew some basic sign language and finger-spelling, and they were able to help start triaging … until the interpreter arrived.”
We’re also grateful for three new University of Wisconsin-Superior international students who came to the shelter as well and gave the volunteers a chance to use language translation materials the Red Cross uses in shelters.
As a part of the military component of Vigilant Guard 2015, a group of distinguished visitors toured Camp Ripley in Little Falls and the convention center in Duluth where full-scale exercise was taking place. As part of that visit, Phil Hansen, CEO of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, as well as Regional Board Chair Lori McDougal and Vice Chair Joan Thompson, were able to visit the mock shelter exercise in Duluth. They met many of the volunteers who set up the shelter and several of the Red Cross nurses who trained during the exercise. Phil, Lori and Joan were impressed with the commitment of the volunteers as well as the close working relationship between the Red Cross and our military partners.
For all of the hard work, the Minnesota National Guard surprised the Red Cross volunteers and staff with a special public service award. Phil Hansen accepted the award on behalf of the Red Cross relief workers participating in the exercise. About the two-day exercise Phil said, “Vigilant Guard was a terrific opportunity to work as a team with our volunteers and key partners to test our readiness before a disaster strikes. Many thanks to all who organized this exceptional exercise.”
To learn more about getting involved with the Red Cross, click here. To access Red Cross disaster and safety tools and resources, click here. For everyday, handy preparedness, download a free Red Cross mobile app.
What is never the wrong size, never requires assembly, never goes out of style and always means something? A gift from the American Red Cross. Our 2013 Holiday Campaign is in full swing and shoppers can go through the online Red Cross gift catalog and purchase a variety of symbolic gifts in the name of people on their gift list and give a gift that means something to those in need.
The holiday gift catalog includes items such as:
Hot meals, a warm blanket or a full day of shelter for a victim of disaster
A comfort kit for an injured service member containing things such as a robe, shower shoes, toiletries and a music gift card
Vaccinations to help people, especially children, around the world avoid contracting what can be a deadly disease
Gifts that give help the Red Cross in many ways, such as sending trained volunteers, like Karen and Rick Campion from Minnesota, to help people affected by disasters. Most recently, and pictured below, they responded to the Illinois disaster relief operation following the tornadoes that hit November 17, 2013.
The purchase of each symbolic gift item is a tax-deductible contribution that supports the mission of the Red Cross. The catalog gifts are contributions toward a Red Cross program area, not a donation to a specific project or item. Those who participate will receive free gifts such as a Red Cross Water Bottle for a donation of $100 or more or a Family First Aid Kit for a donation of $200 or more.
Other ways you can give something that means something include:
We are there when people need help – assisting someone during a disaster, sending emergency communications to members of the Armed Forces, providing blood to a hospital patient, training people in life-saving skills, or helping people in need around the world. Support the American Red Cross 2013 Holiday Campaign and remember all those who look to the Red Cross for help – give something that means something.
In 1944, Marian Krinke gave up a budding career as a business home economist to serve her country during the Second World War. Her choice took her far from her small-town roots in Lamberton, Minnesota.
“I was a bit of a patriot and wanted to serve the Red Cross because it was an honest and dependable organization where my skills would be used to help soldiers. My family was surprised at first, then concerned about the danger I might face. But I was raised to be independent.”
In September that year, Krinke, four other Red Cross workers, and hundreds of military staff of the 162nd General Hospital Unit sailed to England aboard a refitted luxury liner that was anything but luxurious with two meals a day and rationed water.
The unit set up a hospital at Nocton Hall in Lincolnshire, England where Krinke served as an American Red Cross Staff Aide between 1944 and 1946. Her job was to provide social work services and to organize recreational activities that would help rehabilitate soldiers who were patients at the hospital.
“They were all so young, so very young, just in their early twenties. My Red Cross teammates and I would work to connect with the soldiers who were recovering by learning things about their lives, later asking about it. The soldiers enjoyed playing Chinese checkers and other games. They sang, chatted, and made handicrafts such as leather billfolds and hooked rugs. It was hard work with few materials, but rewarding.”
Krinke shared one room with the four other Red Cross aides at Nocton Hall. She traveled a bit in her free time and was even invited to tea by Queen Elizabeth. She laughs as she remembers learning to properly curtsy and shake hands. That invitation is still framed at her home along with her Red Cross dog tags and certificates. But her eyes well up with tears as she remembers one particular soldier.
“There was a young man in the psychiatric ward who had seen such terrible, terrible things that he couldn’t speak, and he just sat comatose for hours in a corner, staring into space. One night one of my team mates and I were walking through the darkening wards when we saw him just sitting quietly as usual. Eleanor suggested we try one more time to reach him. We walked up to him and I put my hand on his shoulder. Soldier, is there anything I can get for you? I asked. He slowly looked up at me and said distinctly, I would like a fresh egg.”
“We were shocked. We told him to just wait. We pedaled our bicycles like mad into the village and found eggs. We made scrambled eggs and toast for him. With that simple request the door reopened and he began to speak once more.”
Krinke returned to the United States in February 1946 and tried to take up life where it left off. Just as for the soldiers she served, it wasn’t easy. “I enjoyed having bananas, fresh milk, and eggs, things which were almost unavailable where I had served. People didn’t often ask questions about what I’d done. I had to get on with life quickly.”
Today at 98, Krinke is an active volunteer in her retirement community. As she shares her life story, Krinke strokes the bright red liner of her Red Cross coat, a cherished memento covered with patches given to her by the patients for whom she cared, patches representing the many military units they served.
“During my time with the Red Cross, I learned lessons that have been very important to me. It was there I learned care and compassion, to be a better listener and to work as a team player. I learned to enjoy people of many cultures people, and the value of give and take.”
Krinke will share her stories on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, at 1:30 PM, at the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region headquarters in Minneapolis. Her talk is open to the public. Her coat and other historic mementos will be on view.
Marian Krinke has joined the American Red Cross Legacy Society after naming the humanitarian organization as a beneficiary of her estate. Story and photos by Judy Hanne-Gonzalez/American Red Cross. Click here to learn more about American Red Cross history.