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

My 35W Bridge Collapse Story – August 1, 2007

David Dahl looks out from a bench where his mother, Kimmy, talks with Red Cross volunteers. Kimmy was driving a school bus with 20 children in it on the I-35W bridge, including David, when it collapsed in 2007. Everyone in the bus survived and no children were injured. Minnesota Red Cross volunteers responded to the I-35W bridge collapse, providing emotional support during the tragedy. Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

Story by Kathryn Schmidt, Red Cross Volunteer

I was out running errands when I heard of the bridge collapse on the car radio. It had to have been only minutes after it happened. I pulled over and called in to the Red Cross chapter to see if I was needed and was told, “Yes. Come right away.”

I arrived fairly quickly, but I think I was the last vehicle to drive right to the chapter, then the roads were closed off. The Red Cross chapter, being just a couple blocks away from the bridge was already set up as the staging area for all emergency responders, so the parking lot and surrounding roads were filled with police and fire vehicles, including a large mobile office which became their command center.

I went directly into the chapter to a meeting that was just starting, which assigned volunteers to various duties. I was assigned to open a Family Assistance Center, which was to be located in the nearby hotel on Washington Ave, a Holiday Inn at the time. Because of this assignment, I didn’t see more of what took place at the chapter that evening.

A Family Assistance Center is a place of comfort, a place to wait for information, a place to worry until your questions are answered. We had snacks and beverages available, which can help with stress. But mostly we had counselors: both the Red Cross stress team made up of Minnesota licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, etc. who are specially trained to work with folks stressed by the shock and uncertainty of disasters, and whether their loved ones are okay. Also we had a team of faith-based counselors such as pastors, priests, rabbis, chaplains, for those who find comfort in faith-based support.

My thoughts of this event continue to include: appreciation for the preparedness and actions of first responders and the opportunity to help through the American Red Cross; encouragement for the survivors who continue to struggle with physical and emotional after effects of such a traumatic experience; and hope that our infrastructure is being updated and maintained so this doesn’t happen again.

As family members arrived at the scene looking for loved ones, they were escorted to the hotel to share their story and concerns with a counselor and wait for information. Mostly these were people who knew their loved ones crossed the bridge about that time, generally their usual commute. Or if someone didn’t come home when expected, their family was worried thinking they had been on the bridge.

One by one news arrived that a loved one was safe. Often it was by chance, they stayed at work late, stopped for a beer with a friend, took a different route either hearing the news or by chance. Some who were on the bridge were rescued safely, some taken in ambulances to hospitals, some bodies recovered. People were escorted out of the Family Assistance Center by their counselor, some greatly relieved, some in tears or grief. Over the course of the evening our clients became fewer until there was just one woman left. The divers finally located her husband, at the bottom of the river, a large piece of the bridge on top of him.

It still affects me to think of what she and others went through that night. It was not possible to save every life, but our emergency responders found every single person. The Red Cross continued to support families and first responders for many weeks after the bridge collapse.

A fun summer run that raises awareness about the constant need for blood


Danielle Anselment received 40 units of blood that helped save her life.

One year ago Danielle Anselment started to hemorrhage while giving birth to her fifth child. It was remarkable, doctors said, that she pulled through. Donated blood on the shelves made the difference. To save her life, doctors gave Danielle 40 pints of blood and platelets. Without it she might not be here to take care for her family. Her husband Shaun would likely be a single parent with five young children. She’s living proof, she says, that blood makes a world of difference.

Danielle, who’s a sergeant with the Eagan Police Department, has joined forces with the American Red Cross and the 2016 Run for Blood, an annual event that raises awareness for the constant need for blood. This 5K run and walk, and community blood drive will be held on July 23 at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. The Run for Blood is fun summer event that supports American Red Cross North Central Blood Services, which provides lifesaving blood products to 108 hospitals in Minnesota, western Wisconsin, eastern South Dakota and northwest Iowa.

Run for Blood 2015, Minneapolis, MN
Run for Blood 2015, Minneapolis, MN

Whether you are a blood recipient or blood donor, or you know someone who has needed blood, you can find a fit for participating in this fun summer event. You can form a team, join a team, donate blood, or cheer on runner and walkers. The Run for Blood is family-friendly, and new this year is a Pint-Size Corner featuring kid dashes, games, and face painting.

Register online at redcross.org/mn. Blood donors can also sign-up to give blood using sponsor code “Run for Blood” in the free Red Cross Blood App. Same day registrations for the run/walk and to donate blood are also welcome. Each participant will receive a free tech T-shirt and swag bag with items and coupons from local businesses.

The 2016 Run for Blood will raise awareness about the constant need for blood.
The 2016 Run for Blood will raise awareness about the constant need for blood.

Thank you to Run for Blood presenting sponsor Smiths Medical. Special thanks to our water sponsor Culligan and T-shirt sponsor Western National Insurance. And many thanks to the volunteers who help make this event a fun and safe event to everyone!

If I can give blood, so can you.

Story by Vivi Engen, American Red Cross Intern, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Spoiler: I survive the blood donation. This is a picture of me and my Red Cross bandage after I finished giving blood.
Spoiler alert: I survive the blood donation. This is a picture of me and my Red Cross bandage after I finished giving blood.

This is the story about my first time giving blood. I will not spare you the bloody details, because if I did, I would have nothing to write about.

Remember that five-year-old who went in to get her flu shot and needed five nurses (all wearing ear plugs to mute the screaming) to hold her down? Well, that was me. Over time, I have learned to brave getting shots but never fully outgrew the anxiety that comes at the sight of blood and needles. I studiously avoided offering my arm for 20 years, even though I’ve witnessed firsthand how important donating blood can be. I had to swallow hard to overcome that fear, and the good news is, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Monday, July 13, 2:15 p.m. rolled around much too quickly. A week after I had booked my appointment through the Blood Donor App, I found myself in the Red Cross blood donation center on the third floor at 1201 West River Parkway in Minneapolis. It was the ideal day to give blood. Outside was a blazing 89-degrees topped by an 83% humidity index, so even without giving blood, I felt sweaty and faint just from walking outside.

As I sat in the waiting room (which was comfortably air-conditioned), I sipped on my fifth Nalgene of the day. I realized that I had to use the restroom, again, and decided that I might have taken the recommendation to show up hydrated a little too seriously. My mom, who had agreed to give blood with me, was uncharacteristically late. (She later claimed that she took a wrong turn, but I know that she delayed her arrival because she was just as nervous as I was.)

The poster that trumped my fear of needles.

With time to spare, I scanned the waiting room until my eye caught a poster that asked, “Why do you give?” My mind initially jumped to ‘because my boss suggested it would be a good idea’, but then I realized I had many reasons to give blood—reasons that trumped my fear of needles.

Blood donations help millions of patients in need. In fact, in the past few years, blood donations have helped some of the most important people in my life. My dad, handy man that he is, cut his foot open with a chainsaw a few years ago and he needed blood. This past ski season one of my best friends crashed into a tree and she needed blood. Even more recently, my grandfather died of leukemia. And while he was alive, he received blood transfusions that made him feel much better.

Finally, my mom arrived and both of us were invited back. After a short health history exam and another trip to the bathroom, the nurses began prepping me. But one thing was missing, my partner in crime (a.k.a. mom). A few minutes later, she came in to deliver some tragic news. She would not be able to donate blood today because she had traveled to the Dominican Republic earlier this spring. (The Red Cross has a list of eligibility requirements that blood donors must clear before they can donate, one of those criteria include not having traveled to the Dominican Republic in the past year. For a list of the Red Cross blood donation eligibility criteria click here.)

The room where patients are sit to complete their donation at the Minneapolis Blood Donation Center.
The room where patients sit to complete their donation at the Red Cross blood donation center in Minneapolis.

So I embarked on my blood donation solo. The nurse laid me down on my back in the middle of an open room that offered a great view of downtown Minneapolis. She explained that first-time donors must lie down as a safety precaution. I glanced around the room and noticed that everyone else was sitting up. Perfect, I was instantly labeled as the newbie.

I get chatty when I’m nervous, and the nurse happily obliged, making small talk while she prepared my arm. At one point I asked how many donors they usually receive at this location. She guessed that an average of 15 people a day show up. There were at least 15, if not more, donors in the room at this moment. Word must have spread that I made an appointment and people came to witness the tears and screaming.

Me in the midst of my donation! All smiles, no pain.
Me in the midst of my donation! All smiles, no pain.

Then came the moment I’d been dreading. The nurse told me not to look and slid the needle into my inner-left-elbow-crevasse (I don’t know how else to explain that spot on my arm). She did not stab or jab or pinch, she slid it into my arm. The needle entering was effortless, like it was meant to be there. OK that was an exaggeration, but it was manageable.

12 minutes and 43 seconds later I was done, and to my surprise feeling good! I looked at the pint of blood that had just come out of my body. The nurse saw me eyeing the bag and told me that my donation could help save up to three lives. Three lives? I asked if I had heard her correctly. She nodded and I sat, recovering from what probably counts as the most heroic, if somewhat anti-climactic, 15 minutes of my life.

The snack table was not this full after I donated.
The snack bowl was wayyyyyyy less full after I left the blood donation center.

After the nurses were convinced that I still knew my name and could stand on my own, they told me to slowly make my way to the snack table. I had been obedient for the last hour, but I admit, this time I broke the rules and hurried over to the food. First I enjoyed an M&M cookie, then I grabbed granola bar. Resisting a third snack might have been the most painful thing I did all day.

As I sat indulging myself, I scanned the donation room. There were business people on their way home from work, seniors reading newspapers, even a few students like me. Everyone was sitting up, which meant that they were all experienced donors coming back to save more lives. I knew that I too would be back, next time sitting up like the veterans surrounding me, to participate in one small deed that can make a world of difference.

So trust me: If I can give blood, so can you. And you’ll get a cookie.

Help prevent a seasonal blood supply shortage: A seasonal blood donation decline is common during the summer. Currently, the Red Cross has an urgent need for type AB blood to help replenish the plasma supply. Blood donors with types O negative, B negative and A negative and platelet donors are also especially needed to maintain sufficient supplies. For information about blood donation, or to schedule an appointment, download the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Thanks following West Broadway Fire response

Red Cross volunteers Jennifer Pluhar and Mark Steffer responding on location to the W. Broadway Fire in North Minneapolis on April 15, 2015. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteers Jennifer Pluhar and Mark Steffer responding on location to the W. Broadway Fire in North Minneapolis on April 15, 2015. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

On Wednesday, April 22, we wrapped up our Red Cross sheltering operation following the devastating fire at West Broadway and Emerson in Minneapolis on April 15. On any evening during the week that that the shelter was open there were between three to six residents in who did not have their own resources to find safe shelter elsewhere. In addition to providing shelter, the Red Cross worked all affected by the fire to assess and meet immediate disaster relief needs and to start them on a path to long-term recovery. This important disaster response work happened both on location moments after the fire or later at the shelter or the temporary resource center established with community partners.  To date, the Red Cross has helped 27 people who were displaced by this fire.

W. Broadway Fire victim Cliff Garrett shares his story with Red Cross volunteers in North Minneapolis on April 15, 2015. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
West. Broadway Fire victim Cliff Garrett shares his escape story with Red Cross volunteers in North Minneapolis on April 15, 2015. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

We are grateful to have organization partners in the West Broadway and North Minneapolis community that have resources for these residents.  We’re also thankful for the outstanding response from local businesses that helped us provide food to shelter residents. Working together, our community provided a strong safety net that many fire victims need to rebuild their lives. And most important to say is this: the Red Cross cannot do any of this relief work without the volunteers who shared their time and expertise during this response effort. Red Cross volunteers are the ones step into the gap left by disasters big and small, holding a hand, giving a hug, and doing the deep dive that helps get people going again after disaster strikes. Once again, our Red Cross volunteers were dedicated to helping others in our community during a time of great need and suffering.

To become a volunteer, click here. To give a financial donation, click here.

Red Cross Trains Roosevelt High’s First, First Responder Teens

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Roosevelt High School student Kalia Vang, 17, is one of 11 youth who successfully complete the school’s first American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response (EMR) course. She received her course certificate from the Red Cross on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Roosevelt High School student Kalia Vang, 17, is one of 11 youth who completed the school’s first American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response (EMR) course. She received her course certificate from the Red Cross on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Preparing people to respond to emergencies is one thing the American Red Cross does –and does well. Now, eleven Roosevelt High School teens are ready to help save lives after successfully completing Red Cross Emergency Medical Response (EMR) training.

The students received their course certificates during a ceremony at the high school on October 28. Minneapolis VIPs on-hand included Mayor Betsy Hodges, Fire Chief John Fruetel and Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson.

All partner representatives are very thankful for the Red Cross and its work to help the Minneapolis fire department engage with local youth, prepare teens for fire fighting and healthcare careers after graduation, and add diversity to the fire department so that it better represents the community it serves. “Without the Red Cross we would not have gone as far as we have,” says Fire Chief John Fruetel.

Also present to celebrate with the students and city officials was Red Cross instructor Steven Brown who taught the EMR course to the students. “When Steve was hired on as the instructor, I was confident that the students would be able to build a solid foundation of knowledge with Steve as their instructor,” says Kari Anderson Slade, Health Careers Program Coordinator at Roosevelt High School.

Minneapolis, Minn., Mayor Betsy Hodges thanks American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response (EMR) Instructor Steven Brown for successful EMR training of the first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) youth group at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Minneapolis, Minn., Mayor Betsy Hodges thanks American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response (EMR) Instructor Steven Brown for successful EMR training of the first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) youth group at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

As the instructor for this part of their first responder training, Brown had the honor of giving the teens their course certificates. “Steve has been extremely thoughtful about his role as a teacher of EMR this fall, but has also gone beyond this to recognize the importance of EMR, in the scope of the EMT program students are taking,” says Anderson Slade.

From here, the teens move on to the second half their training with Hennepin Technical College, which will prepare them to become certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).

That is, of course, if they pass the test. If their current dedication and enthusiasm serves as an indicator of success, then they’ll likely get all As.

Click here to learn more about American Red Cross healthcare and public safety training and certification programs.

Advance community outreach helps after disaster

Red Cross and African immigrant community field trip,  Minneapolis, MN, December 5, 2013. Photo credit: Jenn Vander Woude/American Red Cross.
Red Cross and African immigrant community field trip, Minneapolis, MN, December 5, 2013.

The tragic explosion and fire on January 1 in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis was a reminder for us that working ahead of disaster to reach out to diverse communities remains a top priority for the Red Cross. Most recently, on December 5, 2013, nine Red Cross volunteers and staff, representing multiple aspects of disaster prevention, relief, and recovery, met with five African immigrant community leaders to discuss the ways in which we could work together in a culturally sensitive manner. Together, we toured the Cedar Cultural Center, the Brian Coyle Center and areas around a Cedar-Riverside apartment building. Each step of the way there were conversations about the ways they could partner together on different projects including sheltering, cultural training, and preparedness. We know that connections made during this community walk-about, as well as previous community outreach activities, has helped lessen the stress of a tragic event and enabled the Red Cross and its community partners, both organizations and individuals, to provide emergency aid to people during a time of great need.

Story and photo from Jenn Hamrick, a preparedness coordinator for the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. Several community partner groups are taking donations for the Cedar-Riverside fire survivors. Click here for information about how to help. 

Red Cross Hosts Downtown Council Meeting

councilcropThe Twin Cities Area Chapter was honored to host the April 9 meeting of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. More than 50 local business leaders joined us for lunch and learned more about preparing their families and organizations for disasters, including health and safety training, Ready Rating and AEDs (automatic external defibrillators). Participants also heard from Shane Zahn, with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District & Minneapolis Police Department, about personal safety workshops, the SafeZone initiative and more. Even B. Safe Bear got in on the fun with Council President & CEO Mark Stenglein (pictured right with B. Safe Bear, center, and our Northern MN Red Cross Region CEO Phil Hansen, far right). Special thanks to all those who helped make the event a success!

Story and photo by Carrie Carlson-Guest/American Red Cross

Red Cross Pugsley?

The other day while riding along the Minneapolis Grand Rounds bike path, we stumbled across Blaine Mogren. He loves bikes. He looooooooves bikes. Among the bikes in his collection is this fine (pictured left) Surly Pugsley. He has six of them. This particular one he calls Fire Engine Pugsley. We can see why. For starters, its BRIGHT RED. It also has loud horns,  flashing lights, and a fire-fighter rubber duck. And crosses, white ones (like on the Swiss flag). After a minute of chit-chat with Blaine this thought emerges: let’s make a Red Cross Pugsley!

After all, the Pugsley is (via Wikipedia) revolutionary: In 2005, Surly began selling the Pugsley, the first mass-produced mountain bike with extremely large volume tires, up to 4 inches wide, for deep snow and sand riding. The front and rear wheels share a common hub size and can be interchanged, allowing for additional gearing combinations. Noted bicycle technical authority Sheldon Brown said, “Pugsley is, in its way, as revolutionary as the original mountain bikes were in the early 1980s.” Bicycling Magazine wrote, “It’s not ideal for everyday use, but it can handle a wide variety of demands and conditions well.” Let’s repeat that last bit: a “wide variety of demands and conditions.” Sooooooooo, that could include disaster response in your hometown (or ours where it snows for months except last winter).

Tell us, what do you think? What would your Red Cross Pugsley look like? Would it be red with white? Or white with red? Would you have side bags for water and snacks that you would distribute to people affected by disasters or those responding to them? …..

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross


Three Cheers for Paul!

So, the other day, this young man named Paul van Vliet stops by Red Cross offices in Minneapolis and drops off comfort kits for kids. How cool is that? He (Paul) comes up with his own project idea (making comfort kits for kids) and provides them (the kits) to us (Red Cross) so that our disaster relief workers can give the kits to kids affected by disasters (like fires, floods, & tornadoes).

Now, let’s give some credit to us (Red Cross) because we came up with the original comfort kits for adults and children idea, but we rely on motivated and generous peeps like Paul to make this kits and help reduce the suffering of people who escape burning buildings or high waters. Paul’s dad John was on hand for the comfort kits for kids drop off. He took a fine photo of his son Paul (top & bottom) and then sent us a nice note (excerpt below left).

“It was great to meet you at the Twin Cities’ Red Cross office today. Thanks for your interest in my son, Paul’s, Eagle Scout project. It was a wonderful surprise and honor to meet Phil Hansen, an Eagle Scout himself. I know Paul was very impressed and honored by Mr. Hanson’s enthusiastic reaction to his project. And I am sure Paul will remember this day for the rest of his life. Most important, he and I are gratified to know these comfort kits will benefit the littlest and most vulnerable victims of disasters.”

Well, John, we think your son is the bee’s knees. We could not do what we do without him and others like him. We wish Paul many happy days during his next adventure (college) and hope that he will make his way around the world and back to us some time in the future.

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