Helping people affected by Hurricane Hanna

Carol Holm of the American Red Cross surveys flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna, in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Fulfilling our humanitarian mission to alleviate human suffering continues in response to disasters in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, 17 volunteers from across our three-state region are helping people affected by Hurricane Hanna in Texas. These deployments include volunteers like Carol Holm (pictured above and below) who are on-the-ground in Texas while others are responding remotely from home.

In response to Hurricane Hanna, more than 200 Red Cross disaster workers are beginning detailed damage assessment work across Texas, in addition to supporting additional response efforts. Feeding missions are underway in the hardest hit counties where the power has been out and food is unavailable. So far, more than 5,900 meals and snacks have been served with partners. Over 470 overnight shelter and hotel stays have been provided with partners. More than 400 contacts have been made to support any physical, mental health, disability and spiritual needs.

Red Cross volunteers Carol Holm, right, and Marc Lazerow, left, show the Cantu family to their cots at a Red Cross shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Hanna in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Family units are grouped closer together while other cots are spaced further apart for social distance from others to help protect against COVID-19. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Throughout the 2020 hurricane season, dedicated Red Cross relief workers, mostly volunteers, will continue to prepare for and respond to each round of storms providing comfort and care as affected communities assess damage and attempt to return to daily life, amidst the continued struggle against the Coronavirus Outbreak.

We’ve undertaken a suite of risk mitigation activities for our disaster workforce, including prioritizing non-congregate lodging for our responders, mandating the use of face coverings for everyone working at a Red Cross work site, pre-arrival COVID-19 testing when required by the receiving state, departure testing for all deployed workers, and maximizing virtual work.

You can help people affected by disasters like storms and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief or by becoming a Disaster Relief Volunteer. You can donate or start your volunteer journey at redcross.org/mndaks.

Ethan Hiew – Overcoming fear to help others with COVID-19

On April 28 at the Red Cross in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ethan Hiew stepped up in big way – he overcame his fear of needles and donated convalescent plasma that will help COVID-19 patients recover.

“I’m not fond of needles and I definitely was a bit scared. But this is very relaxing and I’m just chilling out listening to some music. I’m happy I’m able to share my good health.”

Ethan, 17, is a Boy Scout and a St. Thomas Academy junior who’s aspiring to have a career in the film industry. He tested positive for COVID-19 after the illness was spread by a family member who had traveled to Europe for business.

He started having headaches. He thought the headaches were from adjusting to a new pair of glasses. But they persisted, and then he tested positive for COVID-19.

Ethan did not have severe symptoms or require hospitalization, and once he fully recovered after self-quarantine, his family talked together on how they could help others during these uncertain times. They decided to fill out the donor eligibility form on the Red Cross website to see if Ethan qualified to donate convalescent plasma for critically ill COVID-19 patients. A few days later, they heard back that Ethan was a candidate to donate.

“Ethan has never donated blood before. He was a little nervous because he almost fainted a couple of years ago during a blood draw at a doctor’s office,” said his mom who provided morale support for her son from a social distance.

“As a scout and student, giving back to local communities is very important to Ethan,” said his mom. “Our Christian faith calls for us to love and serve others – we are blessed and so proud of him that he wanted to help in such a meaningful way!”

Ethan agreed and said he would do anything to help others who had this illness. “I’m in this situation for a reason – and it must be to help!” he said.

Story and photo by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross

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

“Thank you for your service and sacrifice.”

A Holidays for Heroes message from a UMD student-athlete.

Our Holidays for Heroes program is an effort to collect handwritten messages on holiday cards to thank and recognize service members and veterans for their service and sacrifice.

This year, the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota teamed up with University of Minnesota Duluth student hockey teams to sign cards that will bring holiday joy to the men and women who keep, and have kept, us safe.

UMD Women’s Hockey captain Jalyn Elmes  signs Holidays for Heroes cards.

“It’s a really good way to reach out and show our appreciation to people that we may never get the chance to tell in person. It took less than an hour of our time,” says Jalyn Elmes, captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Women’s Hockey team.  Elmes has participated in Holidays for Heroes in the 2018 and 2019 holiday seasons.

Director of the local Red Cross, Dan Williams, has helped facilitate Holidays for Heroes for a number of years. Dan says his favorite part about this proactive effort is reminding service members and veterans that they’re cared about. “We’re not waiting for service members to raise their hand and say ‘I wish the community would show me how much they appreciate us.’”

UMD Men’s Hockey team thanks military veterans.

During the past four years, UMD student-athlete teams have signed around 4,000 cards. Football, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s hockey have joined these efforts. The signed cards will be distributed to local military service units and veterans clinics and homes.

Other upcoming activities include blood drives and humanitarian law training through our Red Cross Youth outreach. And getting involved Holidays for Heroes s as easy as bringing holiday cards to your local Red Cross chapter. We’ll do the rest!

Story by Caroline Nelson and photos by Dan Williams, American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military families and veterans.

 

Our Annual Blood Drive at the Minnesota State Fair

Every day a Red Cross blood donation bus will be at the “Great Minnesota Get-Together”

Our blood drive at the Minnesota State Fair comes as we continue to experience a blood emergency. Blood products are being distributed to hospitals as fast as donations are coming in to help patients in need of lifesaving treatments.

Help by donating during our daily blood drive at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Find us Aug. 22 – Sept. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. just outside the Agriculture Horticulture Building, west of the Space Tower (see map below).

Click here to schedule your donation appointment on your day at the fair.

See you at the fair!

Supporting Service Members: What is a Stand Down?

Starting this August and continuing through fall, the Minnesota Red Cross will be among many organizations providing services for military veterans at Stand Down events. Below, we explain.

Minneapolis Stand Down for veterans, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

What is a Stand Down?

In times of war, exhausted combat units, requiring time to rest and recover, were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.

Today, Stand Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets. Homeless veterans are brought together in a single location and are provided access to the community resources needed to begin addressing their individual problems and rebuilding their lives. A Stand Down also affords the same respite and renewal to all veterans in an atmosphere conducive to change and recovery.

December 1970. Firebase Tomahawk, Vietnam. Grunts just in from the field open Red Cross ditty bags on Christmas morning. “This lonely outpost is  located in northern South Vietnam about 30 miles northwest of DaNang.” Photo by American Red Cross

What happens at a Stand Down?

Hundreds of homeless and at-risk veterans are provided with a broad range of necessities including food, clothing, medical, legal and mental health assistance, job counseling and referral, and most importantly, companionship and camaraderie. It is a time for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and address this crisis that affects each and every town, city and state in this country. The hand up, not a handout philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through the work of hundreds of volunteers and organizations throughout the nation.

Who organizes and delivers theses services?

Hundreds of caring volunteers and professionals give of their time and expertise to address the unique needs of homeless veterans. Most Minnesota Stand Downs are organized by Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V), a non-profit focused on ending veteran homelessness in our state.

What does the Red Cross do at Stand Downs?

The Minnesota Red Cross, led by the Service to the Armed Forces team, comprised mostly of volunteers, has a booth at every Stand Down. We provide comfort kits containing items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, and other personal hygiene items. Many of these kits are generously donated to us by supportive members of our community. We might also provide other support items, such as socks, emergency blankets, and first aid kits. We also help to connect veterans to other resources the Red Cross and our community partner’s provide.

At Stand Down events, the Red Cross provides comfort kits containing items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, and other personal hygiene items. Minneapolis Stand Down, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.

Where are the Minnesota Stand Downs held?

This year’s upcoming Minnesota Stand Downs are taking place at the following locations:

  • Minneapolis: Target Field, Aug. 16
  • International Falls: Backus Community Center,  Aug. 22
  • Duluth: Bayfront Festival Park, Aug. 23
  • Bemidji: National Guard Armory, Sept. 25
  • Grand Rapids: IRA Civic Center, Sept. 26
  • St. Cloud: River’s Edge Convention Center, Oct. 18
  • Mankato: Civic Center, Oct. 26

Want to Learn More?

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer supporting service members, feel free to contact Alex Smith at alexis.smith3@redcross.org — author of this post. Thanks Alex!

Click here to learn more about our history providing relief to the wounded during times of war. And watch the video below.

Our 2019 Heroes Awards Recipients

Congratulations to our 2019 Heroes Awards recipients. They’ve made the world a better place and we’re thankful for that. Check out their stories. 

Good Samaritan Hero

Melissa Goble  and Kimberly Hartung did not know each another when they encountered a man in cardiac arrest along the path of 10K race in Nisswa in April 2018, but they both stepped up and put their training as nurses into action. Click here to watch Melissa’s and Kimberly’s story. Our 2019 Good Samaritan Hero Award is presented by CenterPoint Energy.

First Responder Hero

Paul VanVoorhis and Steve Kritzeck found an injured man in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and traveled about a mile with him to get to safety. They provided him with crucial lifesaving first aid until emergency help arrived. To watch Paul’s and Steve’s story click here. Our 2019 First Responder Hero Award is presented by Abbott.

Give Life Hero

Kirk Albright has donated platelets every other week for nearly thirty years. He doesn’t do it for recognition or for awards, but simply because he knows there is a great need. To watch Kirk’s story click here. Our 2019 Give Life Hero Award is presented by Deluxe Corporation.

Community Hero

Cassandra Holmes is a vital part of the Little Earth United Tribes and East Philips neighborhoods in Minneapolis, serving in many roles that illustrate her commitment to the Native-American communities. Click here to watch Cassandra’s story. Our 2019 Community Hero Award is presented by Eide Bailly LLP.

Youth Hero

Thirteen-year-old Ella and fourteen-year-old Collin Hintze-Belland were watching their six-year-old sister at their home in Stillwater in August 2018 when a fast-moving fire swept through their house. Watch Ella’s and Collin’s story here. Our 2019 Youth Hero Award is presented by Medica Foundation.

Military Hero

Dan Couture, 20-year veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard. Couture puts his military experience to work everyday fighting tirelessly to reduce veteran homelessness in St. Louis County, Minnesota. Click here to watch Dan’s story. Our 2019 Military Hero Award is presented by APi Group, Inc.

The 2019 Heroes Awards were given at our 2019 Heroes Breakfast, which was presented by Land O’Lakes, Inc., and held at Radisson Blu, Mall of America, on May 3. Many thanks to Slumberland Furniture for sponsoring and producing this year’s Heroes videos.  Click here for the complete playlist. Thank you to Marathon for supporting our Heroes VIP Reception. All photos are by Lara Leimbach for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. 

Volunteer spotlight: Blood Donor Ambassador Flora Holmberg

From serving meals to disaster victims to briefing soldiers before deployments, Red Cross volunteers contribute throughout our communities in many ways. Flora Holmberg serves in another important role: Blood Donor Ambassador at blood drives and fixed donation centers.

Flora Holmberg

What do you do as a Red Cross volunteer?
I work as a Donor Ambassador in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Stillwater areas. I greet people who are coming to donate, thank them for coming in, and register them for their donation appointment.

What’s your favorite part or memory of volunteering?
I enjoy meeting and visiting with all the great people who come in to donate.

Would you recommend volunteering with the Red Cross to others?
Yes!  Very much so!! It’s a great organization to volunteer for – it gives you such a great feeling to know that you are a part of something that helps so many people.

How does it feel to help save a life? Watch this video:

We’re always looking for volunteers to help their neighbors in need after disasters like home fires. To volunteer or for more information, click here. Or join us during upcoming 30-minute “Call to Serve” conferences calls:

  • Tuesday, April 23, 12-12:30 pm
  • Thursday, April 25, 4-4:30 pm
  • Wednesday, May 1, 12-12:30 pm
  • Sunday, May 5, 2-2:30 pm

RSVP to MNRecruit@redcross.org.

National Red Cross award goes to Minnesota nurse

Barb Billmeier (center) received the Ann Magnussen Award at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2019. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

Congratulations! to Barb Billmeier for receiving the 2019 Ann Magnussen Award, the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross.

Barb served as the Regional Nurse Lead in Minnesota until her recent retirement from this volunteer position. She also led the Minnesota Health Professionals Network as we strove to optimize volunteer engagement and increase capacity. Barb also serves as a volunteer disaster health services (DHS) responder helping people who need disaster assistance.

Award nominees were evaluated on four criteria: (1) provides service to others; (2) teaches and involves others; (3) exhibits compassion, professionalism, and a humanitarian spirit; and (4) demonstrates outstanding contributions to strengthening Red Cross programs and services.

Previous recipients from the American Red Cross Minnesota Region include Janice Springer in 2014.  Click here to learn more about Ann Magnussen – a graduate from the University of Minnesota.  Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

Wishing Marian the happiest of birthdays

Earlier this year Marian Krinke turned 104 !

To mark this occasion, American Red Cross
President and CEO Gail McGovern sent Marian a letter expressing
gratitude and best wishes for reaching this milestone.We’d like to share our appreciation as well.
And say Happy Birthday Marian!  You’re a remarkable woman.
Thank you for your service to the American Red Cross !