Friday, September 22, 2017

Pet Safety & Pet First Aid

Written by: Morgan Terry, volunteer



Although Summer is over, residents can still expect the heat to linger around a little longer. That’s why it’s important to be aware of how to keep pets safe as seasons and temperatures change. One way everyone can do this is by taking the new online Red Cross training class for Cat and Dog First Aid. This class gives owners the ability to identify and respond to a variety of pet emergencies until professional assistance is available. Owners will learn how to revive a cat or dog that is not breathing, tend to wounds, check vital signs and maintain health before, during and after emergency situations.

The Red Cross also encourages owners to keep in mind a few helpful tips:

  • Never leaves pets in a car on a hot day, not even for just a moment. Even temperatures of only 70 degrees can be dangerous for pets inside a car for only a few minutes.
  • Keep an eye on pets around large bodies of water and pools, just like you would a child.
  • Know the less obvious signs of illness, such as lack of energy, weakness, agitation or excessive sleeping.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash, especially near busy streets and crowded areas.
My friend Andy of Silver Spring, MD keeps his dogs Scrappy and Celeste safe by making sure they have plenty of water when playing outside and keeping an eye on them in potentially dangerous environments, such as a lake or a rocky area.

Get Started!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts: Peter’s Story as a Volunteer Deployed to Texas

Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer



At 6 pm on Saturday, August 26, 2017, Peter Benjamin received an urgent request from the Red Cross Disaster Relief Response Team to deploy the following morning to Texas to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. At 9 am the next morning, Peter and a fellow volunteer drove an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) from Washington, DC to Houston, TX, a journey that would take four days. Peter’s initial plan was to drive to Houston via Dallas in order to avoid the hurricane. Approaching Texas, he received instructions to go via Baton Rouge, LA. However, weather maps showed this was not advisable due to the path of the hurricane, so Peter went back to his initial plan. When he and his co-driver arrived in Dallas, he called the Red Cross disaster response headquarters in Houston to ask the best route to get there. The response was “By boat!” Roads to the east and north of Houston were closed, so the only option was to go west of the center of the hurricane. After driving to Austin and then going east, Peter and his co-driver had covered two-thirds of Texas by the time they reached Houston.

Peter then spent nine days serving the community of Katy, part of greater Houston. Each morning, the ERV was loaded up with meals prepared by the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief mobile kitchen. He and at least one other person then went to locations where the hurricane had done substantial damage and people were returning to their homes. Sounding the horn of the ERV and speaking through the loudspeaker “American Red Cross, free hot food” he encouraged locals to come outside. From the ERV, Peter and his team served hot food, snacks and water. Much-needed support was also given by simply talking with people, letting them know that the Red Cross was there for them, that they will get through this and facilitating connections with local resources. After the lunch meals were served, Peter drove the ERV back to the mobile kitchen to load up meals for dinner and went back into the community. Because he was able to provide assistance to people at their time of great need, the impact of his volunteer work was incredibly rewarding. The photo shows handmade thank you cards that Peter received from two children whose family he helped during his service.

In Peter’s role as Volunteer Disaster Action Team Lead, he also assists people in Montgomery Country and the Washington DC region who are displaced from their homes by fires, floods or other disasters. He provides advice, support and immediate financial assistance to people in their time of need.

Peter has been involved with the Red Cross for 12 years and travels to as many as three major disasters annually. He has worked in public service throughout his career, from mission planning and crew training for the Apollo lunar missions, to an executive role in the Federal Transit Administration, to Chairman of the Board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Peter is now serving his sixth two-year term as Mayor of Garrett Park, MD.

Peter finds great satisfaction from his volunteer work and knows the difference he makes to people’s lives. Whether responding to a local or national disaster, the people he helps typically have a common response, “It is so wonderful that you have been here to help, I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

What Happened to Harvey Duke?

Written by: Rebecca Callahan, volunteer


On August 29, 2017, the Fantastic Four Shelter Team began its mission to open a shelter in Dequincy, LA near Lake Charles. Mayor Lawrence Henagan and local business owner Chad Kellogg allowed the American Red Cross to use a recreation center donated by the city. My co-lead Irene Gray and I began to plan the layout and assess the needs of the shelter, while Shelter Associates Robert Brown and Allen Harper brought Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) and helped prepare to assist people affected by Hurricane Harvey.

After cots and blankets were ready to go, we began the hurry up and wait process that responders experience during incidents at one point or another. About an hour later, we were a surprised by a two month old labrador retriever named Duke Salazar who ‘checked-in’ to our shelter and proceeded to make himself the center of attention.  Duke loved the affection, so after the owner formally introduced Duke, he was left with us and proceeded to follow me around. As the team began to hunker down for the night and Irene and Allen went in for the first sleeping shift, Robert and I decided to keep watch in case some late night folks came into the shelter. At around midnight, Robert suggested we take a nap. No sooner had I dozed off than there was a wet nose on my sleeping bag wanting more attention. So for the rest of the night we hung out and slept in the back of the ERV.




Soon we learned that Duke had a case of worms. I will spare you the circumstances, but we decided to nickname him (what else!) “Harvey.” No other local residents required shelter that night, so the only registered client for the shelter was Harvey-Duke Salazar at the address next door.

As the waters began rising in Lake Charles, the Operations Management team deemed that the shelter was no longer viable due to the likely flooding of the recreation center. As a result, we began breaking down all the cots and packing the ERV to restore the shelter to the condition we received it in. Hopefully the Mayor and community will loan it to us again if a future disaster occurs. All the while, we were followed by Harvey and his cute looks while we packed up. When we completed the breakdown and everything was ready to go, I prepared to take Harvey-Duke back over to the Salazar family when my teammates Robert and Allen handed me a container of canine deworming medicine. I haven’t the foggiest idea how they managed to locate it, but it was a great way to help Harvey-Duke get better over the upcoming days. I was uncertain about how the family would handle the puppy considering all of the damage around them, but they were extremely grateful for the medicine. Afterwards the team drove our ERV to open a larger shelter at Burton Coliseum, in Lake Charles, LA.

No matter what our role within the organization, Red Cross employees work toward a common goal: supporting our mission. We strive to follow key values—known as the “Five Cs”—that guide our actions, every day.
  1. Compassionate: We are dedicated to improving the lives of those we serve and to treating each other with care and respect.
  2. Credible: We act with integrity, are transparent guardians of the public trust and honor our promises. 
  3. Committed: We hold ourselves accountable for defining and meeting clear objectives, delivering on our mission and carefully stewarding our donor funds.
  4. Collaborative: We work together as One Red Cross family, in partnership with other organizations, and always embrace diversity and inclusiveness.
  5. Creative: We seek new ideas, are open to change and always look for better ways to serve those in need.
I must admit that it is sometimes difficult to incorporate all the values. For example, I was trying to balance my compassionate and creative sides while wanting to rescue Harvey-Duke and simultaneously committing to the Salazar family and maintaining my professional credibility. Fortunately for me, I had a collaborative and committed team to help ensure that all of the Five Cs stay in balance.

Shortly after my return from the Red Cross disaster response and back to my everyday job, I received a call from someone in Dequincy, LA. I answered the phone thinking it was the Mayor with some follow-up information, but instead it was Mrs. Salazar! She had not been home during our time at the shelter and wanted to thank the Red Cross and our team for taking the time to get the medication for Harvey-Duke. She said, “Dear God! Where on earth did you get the medicine? I just asked my kids, ‘Please tell me you thanked them!’ Harvey-Duke is playful and is feeling much better. He is playing in the backyard with my son Joe and with my four grand-babies and he is feeling much better. He makes them so happy and we can’t thank you enough!”

For all those who are responding to Harvey, Irma and any other incident that the Red Cross is simultaneously helping with around the world, always remember that the impact you have is of value. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn the outcome for Harvey-Duke and the Salazar family. It is a rare gift to learn that after the flooding, that the kids, grand-kids and dog are okay. Now, if I can only convince my own dog Gizmo not to be so jealous about me snuggling with another dog.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Lazarus Davis


Integrating Red Cross Volunteer Work into Professional Development: Lazarus’s Story as a Volunteer Screener


Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer


For much of his adult life, Lazarus Davis has always volunteered to help his local community. From the Boy Scouts to the DC Reserve Police Force, he has found a way to use volunteer work to learn new professional skills.

Since February 2017, Lazarus has been working as a Volunteer Screener in the National Capital Region. Screeners donate about 8 hours a week during a 6-month, renewable commitment period. This position involves reviewing applications and resumes, performing interviews and background checks, and matching skills with positions 
available. As a result of his work, Lazarus received training in specific software applications, enhanced his communication skills and broadened his knowledge in human resources.

Lazarus is motivated by his continuous desire to understand and address community needs. After 15 years as a Reserve Police Officer, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and retired from the police force 5 years later. During those two decades, Lazarus sought to understand the day-to-day activities of police officers to help facilitate community-oriented policing.

Lazarus is currently enrolled in the Emergency Management Program at Frederick Community College. The program teaches participants how to forecast threats, understand crises, and launch response and recovery efforts for communities. As part of the program, Lazarus is completing an internship, which he chose to complete with the Disaster Relief team at the Red Cross. Once he completes the Emergency Management Program, he hopes to work for FEMA or locally in Prince George’s County.

Lazarus says, “The American Red Cross offers many different opportunities. I appreciate how much I have learned from my Red Cross experiences while continuing to give back to the community.”

Are you ready to make a difference like Lazarus? 

Learn about Volunteer opportunities in the National Capital Region.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Charlie Brown


Helping Families Reconnect After Deployment: Charlie’s Story as a Red Cross Reconnections Workshop Facilitator and Instructor


Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer


Charlie Brown (center in picture), a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, is part of the Reconnections Workshop team of volunteers with the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region. Walmart sponsored the development and initial operation of the Workshops, which aid in the successful reintegration of service members to civilian life after deployment. The five adult Workshops are: “Communicating Clearly’, “Exploring Stress and Trauma, “Identifying Depression, “Relating to Children” and “Working Through Anger”. The two children/teen Workshops are: “Roger That! Communication Counts” and “Operation 10-4: Confident Coping.” These workshops run 90-120 minutes for adults and approximately 60-90 minutes for children and teens.

Charlie has 22 years of experience in the military as a Transportation Officer for the United States Air Force. This post included providing transportation and logistics support to the Red Cross during worldwide disaster relief efforts. So when Charlie retired from the military, she felt it was a natural move to volunteer with the Red Cross. She was initially interested in disaster relief efforts, but when the Service to the Armed Forces contacted her she realized this would become her passion. With degrees in psychology, education and extensive expertise in counseling, the Red Cross Reconnections program was a perfect fit.

Charlie’s Workshops focus on providing communication and coping skills to children of service members transitioning back into civilian life. The children learn how to reconnect with their parent and adjust to new family dynamics. In some cases, children need to learn how to cope when their parent returns from deployment with a life-changing injury, paralysis or an amputated limb. Other children face the overwhelming grief of learning their parent has sacrificed his or her life during active duty.

The Workshops are crucial as they provide a unique, supportive and confidential environment. Being around other children dealing with similar challenges helps participants normalize their own experiences and find their voice.

Charlie describes how children are taught visualization skills to help them create a “safe space,” a place of mindfulness that helps them ground negative emotions. Another exercise gives children a “pause button” that helps them control their emotions and realize that words can be powerful and damaging. These exercises are so effective that Charlie is often approached by parents who ask, “How do I get a pause button?”

Charlie gets the most satisfaction from knowing she is helping these children develop skills to make them more resilient. Her vast experience in the mental health field enables her to keep the focus on the Workshops as community skill-building environments, avoiding a therapy-based or institutionalized feel. In her capacity as a Facilitator, Charlie also trains new Instructors how to run Workshops.

The Red Cross Reconnections Workshops are free thanks to the support of the Department of Defense. The Red Cross is also partnering with the USO to reach out to the military and their family members with a program called Warrior Reset. Anyone impacted by a military deployment is eligible, including all branches of the Armed Forces, which includes Reserve, National Guard, active duty service members, veterans and their families.


Learn more about Red Cross Reconnection workshops.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

4 Tips for Back-to-School Safety

Written by: Morgan Terry, volunteer


As the Summer comes to a close, the American Red Cross encourages everyone to help students stay safe and be prepared as they return to school this fall. Parents and family members can take action by discussing safety procedures and develop plans, such as: 

  1. For children in elementary and middle school who walk, have a designated route to get home and practice walking it a few times. Try to find routes with as little traffic if possible, and encourage your student to walk with friends or in a group. 
  2. For students walking to school in poor weather such as rain or snow, make sure to dress them properly. Slippery or icy conditions can cause injury, especially for small children. Consider other ways to get your child to school if the weather is extremely poor. 
  3. For students leaving for college, pack an emergency kit, just like you would have at home, for students to keep in their dorm. The kit should include items to use in the event of a power outage, poor weather, a fire or other emergency. 
  4. If your student has an illness or medical condition, be sure to send them to school with everything they might need in the event of an emergency. It is also a good idea to consider having your student keep a first aid kit in their backpack. 
For more information on how to keep students safe, read these Red Cross Resources for Schools.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Jerry McGraw

Interviewed by Denise Miller, Executive Director of Fairfax County, on their drive to provide disaster following Hurricane Harvey.


Name: Jerry McGraw
Hometown: Oceana, WV; moved to Northern VA in 1965
Volunteer Since: June 2014
Volunteer Role: Logistics Supervisor
Profession: Computer Programmer (Retired)




What inspired you to volunteer for the American Red Cross? Why is it important to volunteer?
When Jerry was 12 years old, he was with his family out for a drive when they came upon a disaster scene on a highway. Many cars were pulled over alongside the road, as was a Red Cross emergency vehicle. A boy had fallen into a creek at flood level, and the Red Cross was there to help. Jerry's father jumped into the water to help rescue the boy. This memory stuck with Jerry his whole life and left him with a very fond impression of the Red Cross. 

Jerry now volunteers to help people, but he also finds it personally gratifying. As tears fill up in Jerry’s eyes, he shares the story of a memorial service he attended as a Red Cross volunteer, supporting the grieving community of Silver Spring, MD following the explosion last summer. The majority of the service was spoken in Spanish, and an elderly woman approached him to ensure that he knew that the Red Cross was thanked numerous times throughout the service, in case he did not speak Spanish. 


I asked Jerry about his tears and wanted him to describe his emotions. 

"It comes from a place of sadness - knowing people lost their lives in the Silver Spring fire, but also a sense of pride knowing that I contributed to support the recovery efforts after this terrible tragedy," he says.

What are your special skills that you use to support the Red Cross?
- Driving

- Supervisory skills
- Quick to learn
- Project management
- Organized
- Attention to detail

What is it like volunteering?  

"Very rewarding," Jerry says.

Jerry has had many Red Cross moments that fill him up with pride. 

"In logistics, usually you are behind the scenes, but it’s "on-site" that gives me the best experiences," he says. 

He described his volunteer time at last year’s Marine Corps Marathon. 

"Side by side with first responders, watching wounded veterans begin the race and cheers and patriotism from the crowd, was a great memory. Being a part of a team, not only with the Red Cross, but all the different organizations we partner with that each play an important role was eye opening and fulfilling."

What are you most proud of regarding your volunteer work?
"Getting to know the other great volunteers and life-long relationships that have formed. This is very different than the business world, everyone is so friendly and willing to do anything. We are all here for the same reason - to help people," Jerry says.

Message from Denise:

Throughout this entire interview, Jerry held back his tears as he talked about the work of the Red Cross and the people we help, but most importantly, the people we do it with. I am honored to be side-by-side with this wonderful man and volunteer as we drive across country to carry out the mission of the Red Cross to provide relief after Hurricane Harvey. I can only imagine the things we will see, the people we will help and the teams we will work with that will give us the memories of a lifetime - stories that both of us will not be able to tell without shedding a tear.