Mora fire invites reflection

Once a week Angela Carlson heads to the American Red Cross Central Minnesota Chapter where she supports local disaster action team volunteers. On Thursday, December 8, Carlson received a phone call from a volunteer who said someone might have died that day from fire in the chapter’s local response area.

A Red Cross volunteer told me that her pastor had called and reported a death in an apartment building fire in Mora. The first thing I did was contact the Sheriff’s office to verify that the Red Cross had been asked to respond. When I had confirmed that they wanted us there, I called the volunteer back to dispatch her and a second volunteer responder to the scene. After starting incident paperwork, I called Judy and Dick Pike, long-time Red Cross disaster relief workers. I told Judy that I wasn’t sure why I was calling, and that I just needed some support to process the dispatch. I reviewed my next steps with Judy who was very helpful.

"I have empathy for the individuals involved and understand that it’s difficult to be in any position during a disaster," says Angela Carlson, the client services caseworker who handled the Red Cross disaster dispatch for the tragic fire in Mora, Minnesota. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The Mora fire was the first dispatch involving multiple chapters and multiple deaths that I have been involved in since I started with the Red Cross in October. While I was at the local chapter I felt much support from staff both in St. Cloud and in Minneapolis. Being in St Cloud rather than Minneapolis that day made a huge difference in the disaster response dispatch, giving it a local and community-based feel. People there checked in with me and made sure I was doing all right. In the end, a couple people said that they really looked forward to meeting me at the next Disaster Action Team meeting. I felt the same.

I was exhausted at the end of the day. The Mora fire response left me feeling reflective of the mission and vision of the Red Cross and of the services we provide. While I can’t fully appreciate the devastation families feel after a disaster because I don’t respond on-scene, I have empathy for the individuals involved and understand that it’s difficult to be in any position during a disaster. It’s meaningful to know that our clients are being served with such compassion.

This is a response that I will carry with me, especially after learning details about the people who died. There was a phone call that I took from a volunteer who was helping family members who did not yet know that a loved one had died. There was also a surviving teenager. That has been the hardest for me to process. I’ve been thinking about her a lot and when I do my heart just breaks. But each time that happens my heart mends itself stronger and that, in turn, helps me support our Red Cross volunteers more effectively so that they can continue serving our communities in great ways.

Angela Carlson, is a client services coordinator for the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. She is based in Minneapolis at the Twin Cities Area Chapter.

Stuffing Comfort

Wells Fargo employees, including Emily Wilke (center), stuffing Red Cross comfort kits. Photo credit: Carrie Monroe O'Keefe/American Red Cross

Little things do matter. Take a Red Cross comfort kit. It consists of shampoo, toothbrush, washcloth, and other toiletry essentials. These are small things that add up to big comfort after disaster.

Recently, Minneapolis-based Wells Fargo employees helped make more than 300 comfort kits that Red Cross volunteers will give to families affected by home fires, flooding, and other disasters.

Helping out like this is a darn cool thing to do for your community. Thank you, Wells Fargo, for stuffing a bit of comfort for when people need it the most.

Others can help too by shopping the 2011 Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog.

Generosity Abounds in Minnesota

Red Cross responder Carrie Carlson-Guest helped promote Give to the Max Day at a giveMN.org event.

We’re not surprised by your generosity even though others around the country might be. Minnesotans have long been givers–of time, wisdom, and money. This was no exception during the 2011 Give to the Max Day.

The American Red Cross in Minnesota ranked 35 out of nearly 4000 and made the Top 100 leader board. YOU donated more than $35,000 to support our mission to provide humanitarian relief during disaster and to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

And so we extend our appreciation most heartily during this season of giving thanks. We can also say without a doubt that the beneficiaries of your generosity are incredibly grateful as well.

If you missed Give to the Max Day, you can still share with others. Check out our 2011 Holiday Giving Catalog.

“Gray Lady” Uniform Preserves Red Cross History

"If you keep busy and volunteer, you stay alive a little longer," says Terry Dugger, 80, who served as a Red Cross volunteer from 1968 to 1970. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Among the treasures Terry Dugger has kept through the decades is a uniform that she wore as a Red Cross volunteer at the military hospital on Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska.

“We saw the fellas coming in from motorcycle accidents. I went to different rooms and passed out shaving equipment, playing cards, and other things like that. There wasn’t anybody else on the base to do it,” she says.

Dugger’s Red Cross uniform is different from those the Gray Lady Service volunteers used during World Wars I and II. This has blue and white pin stripes. Worn for only two years and in excellent condition, the uniform is now a gift from Dugger as a means to share and preserve Red Cross history.

A "Gray Lady" volunteer uniform circa 1960s preserves Red Cross history. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Dugger, who was an air force wife for twenty years, did volunteer work when her six children were in school, serving in the Red Cross from 1968-70. Now 80 years old, Dugger still shares valuable time doing a variety of volunteer activities.

“I couldn’t wait until I got old and now I’m too old, but rather than sit home I want to get out and help people.”

Being a volunteer has given—and continues to provide—Dugger with a greater sense of purpose. Currently, she’s a volunteer at the Armed Forces Service Center at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

In the late 1960s, Terry Dugger served as a Red Cross volunteer at the military hospital on Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Dugger attended Saint Mark’s elementary school, located a couple blocks from her residence for thirty years. Growing up, both of her parents worked so she often tended to the “roomers” they had to help pay bills. Dugger says that the experience taught her to be independent, a characteristic she cherishes so much that she would never consider getting herself a boyfriend.

“Are you kidding!?! I had a good husband. I can do what I want. I can eat ice cream for breakfast. I’ve got a lot of things to do,” she says.

Dugger also has no use, she says, for a computer or a cell phone. Instead, she looks forward to getting letters from the postal service everyday.

She advises everyone, including her 40 or so grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, to stay busy throughout life.

“If you keep busy and volunteer, you stay alive a little longer.”

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross, Northern Minnesota Region

Local volunteer earns top honors

Tom Meyer (center) received a 2011 Harriman Award at American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Please join us in congratulating Tom Meyer for being a 2011 recipient of the American Red Cross Harriman Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service. Meyer, the Volunteer Board Director with the North Central Blood Services Region and a board member of the Twin Cities Area Chapter, received the Harriman Award for Biomedical Partnership.

The Harriman Awards for Distinguished Volunteer Service are presented to American Red Cross volunteers in direct service, administration or management, with the exception of volunteers currently serving on the Board of Governors. The top honor that the American Red Cross issues, the Harriman Award recognizes extraordinary American Red Cross service that extends to people and places beyond the local community and is awarded on the basis of extraordinary accomplishments rather than length of service.

Congratulations Tom! Thank you for your outstanding service!

 

Remembering Denny Smith

Denny Smith before before the cancer. Photo courtesy of the Denny Smith family.

It is with a great sadness that that we say goodbye to Red Cross disaster action team member and dispatch volunteer Denny Smith, who passed away in late September.  For the past 14 months Denny had been fighting a courageous battle with brain cancer, a fight that he did not give up easily.

After his retirement from law enforcement, Denny started volunteering on the Red Cross Emergency Medical Services Team with his wife, Karen, and in 2009, became one of our most active disaster responders.  With his cheerful spirit, wonderful sense of humor, and passion to serve, Denny promptly became a valuable teammate and friend to many of us.

Denny remained active during the early stages of his brain cancer, often sending email updates, and attending meetings to stay connected with the group.

Denny is dearly missed and our hearts go out to his grieving loved ones.

Out processed and headed home

Our Red Cross chapter mobile feeding on the road in Pennsylvania after the flooding. Photo credit: Rick Campion/American Red Cross

(from Rick and Karen Campion, Red Cross Emergency Services Volunteers based in Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Today is day 16 of our Red Cross deployment to the Pennsylvania flood response and we’re on our way home to Minneapolis.  This morning we cleared the final mobile feeding truck inspection and out-processing without a hitch.

This Red Cross national disaster response was well organized with a full complement of volunteers covering nearly 12,000 sq. miles of flood ravaged territory. Rick and I had a mobile feeding route in some of the hardest hit areas right along the banks of the Susquehanna River. We went from house to house to deliver meals.  Many of the recipients said we were the first disaster relief people they had seen.
It was difficult to not get teary eyed when they expressed their sincere
appreciation.

We have traveled nearly 4000 miles since we left home on 9/11 and today was
a quiet ride allowing us time to reflect on our Pennsylvania experience.  It’s easy to
be grateful for your blessings when you see the huge loss of so many.

We plan to be home this week and will see many of you soon.

Take care,
Karen and Rick

A field report from Pennsylvania following the flood

Greetings,

One destroyed house along the route where Red Cross volunteers are providing meals and snacks following the Pennsylvania flooding. Photo credit: Rick Campion/American Red Cross

It’s now day 11 in our Pennsylvania flood deployment with the Red Cross and we’ve settled into a regular mobile feeding route in the mobile feeding truck (ERV).  We travel about 2 hours to get to our first scheduled stop and then serve between 100-150 meals.  Our route follows the river and some of the homes that were very close to the river bank (see pic).  We recognize our “regulars” and it’s fun to give and get hugs from people who really appreciate the help that the Red Cross provides.  Ah, this our reward.

When people see “Minneapolis, MN” on the side of our truck, they’re always surprised and grateful at how far we’ve traveled to serve them.

The Red Cross disaster relief effort in Pennsylvania has served more than 221,000 meals/snacks and it is now down to 4 open shelters.  We can see that people are slowly getting back on their feet.  Many of the original shelters were opened in schools and it causes some logistical problems with the school’s now regularly scheduled activities.  So after 3 weeks, those affected by the floods are encouraged to find alternate housing arrangements.

We expect to be released from the operation next week and look forward to coming home.

Take care and God bless,
Rick and Karen

Home from Irene

Red Cross volunteer Dave Schoeneck displays his newly earned Red Cross pin from New Hampshire following Hurricane Irene. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Some of our Northern Minnesota Region volunteers are returning home after weeks-long deployments to states all along the east coast. Dave Schoeneck, one of our local volunteer stars, was in New Hampshire where he served on the government relations team. He returns happy to have deployed to help those affected by Hurricane Irene. Among the many take-aways for Dave: making new Red Cross friends, using and refining his response skills and knowledge, and earning a New Hampshire Red Cross pin. Go-Dave-Go!

The Red Cross response to Irene continues with more than 5,000 people relying on Red Cross shelters for a safe place to stay. To support this and other disaster relief efforts, you can make a donation via redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also click here and learn more about becoming a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer.

Red, not orange

Jeff Skoog is a Red Cross volunteer disaster relief work based in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteers are amazing for about one billion-gazillion reasons. Take Jeff Skoog, who serves as a volunteer disaster relief worker during both local and national responses.

When Jeff could be out reeling in a sturgeon or walleye on this incredibly lovely summer day in Minnesota, he is instead here at work sprucing up the chapter’s mobile feeding truck.

“The red should be red,” he says.

Simple how-to instructions:

1. Find shiny up stuff

2. Get wet soft cloth

3. Wipe on shiny up stuff

4. Get dry soft cloth

5. Wipe off shiny up stuff