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.

We’d like to share our deepest gratitude with our volunteers for their abiding devotion to helping people rebuild their lives after devastating home fires.

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 115+ home fires, helping 560+ people.

February

🔥 Across our three-state region during February, we responded to 90+ 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 nearly 80 home fires and helped 300+ 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.

May

🔥 Our trained disaster responders (90% volunteers) responded to 70+ home fires and helped 260+ people.

June

🔥 Home fire relief doesn’t take a summer break. Our trained disaster responders (90% volunteers) helped around 100 people affected by nearly 430 home fires.

July

🔥 Home fires continue this summer throughout our three-state region. Our trained disaster responders (90% volunteers) helped more than 260 people affected by nearly 70 home fires. More trained volunteers are needed to serve on local “Disaster Action Teams” who help people affected by disasters. Apply here.

August

Most of us have not lost a home to fire in the middle of the night. Those who have know the uncertainty that such a disaster can bring. In August, our disaster responders helped more than 300 people affected more than 70 disasters, nearly all home fires, in our three-state region. More than 90 percent of our responders are volunteers. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting people during terrible times in their lives.

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.

Partnership in pictures: Women in manufacturing

On July 23, 2019, at the Women in Manufacturing conference in Cloquet, women made hygiene kits that American Red Cross volunteers will distribute to people in need of humanitarian aid. Photo by Jamie Lund with Pine Journal and published with permission.

USG Corporation hosted more than 50 women during the conference, which was held July 23 and 24. Part of the program included a day of service activity, which focused on supporting the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

To support service day, USG donated the kit supplies, including pillowcases, that turned into 250 comfort and hygiene kits. The kits will help at-risk military veterans and families affected by disasters, mostly home fires in northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

The service day event showed great leadership, teamwork and camaraderie. Special thanks go to local Red Cross volunteers Kyra, Penny, Mattie, Diane and Sophia, as well as Northern Minnesota Red Cross executive director Dan Williams.

For more about the conference, read this Pine Journal article by Jamie Lund. Click here to help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, and other relief during disasters. To learn more about Red Cross support for military families and veterans, click here.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are provided by Dan Williams with the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Thanks Dan!

2016 Year In Disasters — Helping People Near and Far

In November, Red Cross volunteer Mimi Bielinski met with Milton Vallejos after a multi-unit apartment fire in Burnsville, Minnesota.
In November, Red Cross volunteer Mimi Bielinski met with Milton Vallejos after a multi-unit apartment fire in Burnsville, Minnesota.

2016 was a busy year for Red Cross disaster services in Minnesota. Our relief workers did a great job making sure people near and far received Red Cross support during times of need and helping them rebuild their lives after disaster.

For example, in November, Red Cross volunteer Mimi Bielinski met with Milton Vallejos following a multi-unit apartment fire in Burnsville, a city just south of Minneapolis. Mimi worked with Milton to assess and support his family’s immediate disaster relief needs and to direct him to additional resources for long-term recovery. With Red Cross help said Milton, “All of our problems went away. We had a place to stay, money for food and clothes.” The Red Cross assisted more than 80 people affected by the fire. After four years into serving as a Red Cross volunteer Mimi said, “I feel good when people are being helped. And, I can tell when they’re being helped just by my interactions with them.”

During 2016, the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross:

  • Responded to 470 disasters in the Minnesota Region, which includes part of western Wisconsin
  • Helped 1,011 families affected by local disasters, mostly single family home fires
  • Installed 3,720 smoke alarms in residences, making them safer from and more prepared for home fires as part of our Home Fire Campaign
  • Reached 5,245 youth with emergency preparedness education through The Pillowcase Project

In addition to helping at home, more than 150 Red Cross disaster relief workers from Minnesota responded (some not once, but multiple times) to national Red Cross relief efforts across the country, including flooding in Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana; water crisis in Flint, Michigan; wildfires in California; and hurricane relief across multiple states along the eastern seaboard. Their service provided shelter, food, and medical and emotional support to thousands of people experiencing some of their darkest moments.

Thank you to everyone for the great work done this past year, providing assistance to neighbors near and far.

Story and photo by Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross. Click here to learn more about the Red Cross in Minnesota.  

Red Cross spiritual care is for disasters of all sizes

Story by Jason Bengtson, Regional Recovery Manager for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

_DSC2957Since 1997, American Red Cross volunteers in spiritual care have responded to large disasters across the country, providing what is for some people a basic need for disaster relief. Now, the Red Cross will offer spiritual care during disasters small, medium and large. This program expansion comes following a national Red Cross leadership decision to make spiritual care a part of basic comfort and care in local communities across the country.

A major component of the Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care Program is collaboration with our Integrated Care and Condolence Teams (ICCT). These teams coordinate services to families whose loved ones are injured, missing, or deceased because of disaster. Immediate relief and long-term recovery planning, health services, mental health support, and spiritual care is offered together as a way to decrease intrusion into people’s lives while increasing care, comfort and support, during a time of great need.

Our region is fortunate to have Greg Bodin leading the local spiritual care team. Greg is a Red Cross volunteer who helps lead the national spiritual care program. He’s also head of pastoral care for North Memorial Health Care. He has deep experience providing spiritual care after emergencies.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Red Cross to expand the basic services it provides to people affected by disasters in Minnesota,” says Greg. “The Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care program represents excellent community care across faith traditions.”

_DSC2929Spiritual care volunteers respect the Fundamental Principles of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The principles ensure that services are provided with neutrality and impartiality in a way that supports the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering. The volunteers provide consistent and reliable services in all regions and to all persons regardless of faith traditions. They are trained to spiritual care during a house fire, the most common disaster the Red Cross responds to, as well as major natural disasters and mass casualty events.

Recruitment and training for this new opportunity will take place during the coming months. To be eligible for a spiritual care volunteer position an individual must be a professional chaplain or an endorsed faith-based provider. Active leaders of local faith-based organizations are encouraged to become Red Cross spiritual care responders.

For additional information about this opportunity, please email Jason at jason.bengtson@redcross.org. Image credits: Lynette Nyman

Volunteer Spotlight: Melinda Wittmer

MelindaMeet Melinda Wittmer, a Disaster Services volunteer for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota.

Melinda has been a Disaster Services volunteer since 2011, and is part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT). She also has recently taken on a new role with Volunteer Services – she’ll be interviewing prospective volunteers to introduce them to the volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross and help them find a good fit.

As a child, Melinda was introduced to the Red Cross as part of her home-school curriculum, in which her mother made the Red Cross a recurring theme. What Melinda took away from that was that the Red Cross “is a solid entity that is always there to help.”

Fast forward to Melinda’s adult life when she was working at a group home and became very close to an individual who turned into one of her favorite clients. His health declined and he was put on life support, and then eventually taken off. At that moment Melinda decided she wanted to do something good and help people. She went to the Red Cross office in Duluth, Minnesota, to ask a few questions, and was immediately “roped in.” Within minutes she was filling out an application, and the rest is history!

Melinda went on her first home fire call with one of the chapter’s most experienced volunteers.  Since then Melinda has responded to over 30 home fires.  Melinda says that the most satisfying part of being a disaster volunteer is “helping people who have experienced a devastating loss and seeing how grateful clients always are for the services of the American Red Cross.”

A few months ago Melinda went through the difficult experience of responding to an incident that involved a fatality. Additionally, it turned out that she was familiar with the person who died. Despite the difficulty involved in this response, Melinda took away the feeling that she was there for the family to help them with the “begin-again phase” of their lives.

The Red Cross has made Melinda more confident, and through her interactions and meeting other volunteers she has become interested in pursuing a career in Emergency Management.

Melinda certainly embodies the mission and fundamental principles of both the American Red Cross and Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement around the globe.  She’s always ready, willing and able to assist and a great comfort to those who have suffered a loss because of home fires and other disasters.

Story and photo by Nancy Rogers, Volunteer Services Coordinator for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota.

To learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here.

%d bloggers like this: