Monday, November 13, 2017

How The Red Cross Assists Service Members, Veterans And Military Families

Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer

Did you know... 

The American Red Cross has served more than one million military families since 9/11/01. From the first day of enlistment, service members, veterans and military families can access the following services:

Information Referral

This is a confidential service that provides connections to local, state and national resources. These resources include emergency requests for food, clothing and shelter, referrals to financial, legal and mental health counseling services, and respite care for caregivers. Information referral services operate via a network of Red Cross chapters in nationwide communities and military installations. The American Red Cross Emergency Communications Center is available to help 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 1-877-272-7337 (toll-free) or contact your local Red Cross.

Deployment Services

Coping with Deployment is a free course that was specifically designed for the spouses, parents, older children, siblings and significant others of service members, as well as military members who may take the course alongside their family. This course offers guidelines for increasing resiliency and information about how to give psychological first aid to others in stressful times. Reconnection Workshops help service members who have recently returned from active duty to reintegrate successfully into the new family dynamic, and help children build emotional and coping skills. 

Veteran Services

In addition to the resource described in “Information Referral,” the Red Cross provides veterans with additional help, including assistance with preparation of benefit claims and information on veterans cemeteries and burial benefits. Within the Veterans Administration (VA) and military hospitals, Red Cross volunteers provide assistance in the areas of rehabilitation, recreation, administration and personal services.

To access these or other services to the armed forces, call 1-877-272-7337 (toll-free) or contact your local Red Cross.

Download the free Hero Care App to access vital emergency and non-emergency resources for military members, veterans and military families by texting "GETHEROCARE" to 90999.

Learn More about Services for Veterans.

Learn More About Information Referral.

Learn More About Deployment Services.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My 35 Year Blood Donor Story: Miguel Mitchell

Interviewed by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer

Miguel Mitchell, a PhD organic chemist and Rockville, MD, resident talks to the Red Cross about his experience as a long-term blood donor. (Note: no part of this story constitutes medical advice.)

What motivates you to donate blood to the Red Cross?

“I have been a blood donor since 1982. My mother is a nurse and it was always a family expectation to help people. Donating blood is a great way to help people.”

How often do you donate blood?

“As often as I can. The donation periods are every 8 weeks for whole blood.”

Have there been any times when you have not been able to donate blood?

“Yes, it has happened on four occasions. I realized that my body was not hydrated enough each time. Being a chemist who understands physiology, I was able to develop a method that works for my own body. Now, on the day that I donate, I make sure to drink enough water and electrolytes and ensure that I have eaten. This is an important process as it is incredibly disappointing not to be able to donate and to have to wait until the next donation cycle.”

Can you briefly describe the process at the donation center?

“As I am already a registered donor, I have a brief assessment each time I donate. This involves answering questions on a screen about recent travel, diseases, and general physical health. Then, I have a mini-physical where someone checks my blood pressure, body temperature, pulse and does a test to determine hemoglobin levels in a small blood sample. Then I donate a pint of blood. The people working at the Rockville donation center are very professional and friendly.”

What message would you give to someone who is considering becoming a blood donor?

“I feel there is an assumption that blood donation is only really needed at times of natural disasters. That is not true; there is a constant need for blood. For example, car accidents happen on a daily basis or blood is needed for people undergoing surgery. Members of my own family have needed blood donations, so I am very sensitive to its importance.”

Do you have any suggestions regarding the Red Cross blood donation process?

“Yes. They used to give a certificate per gallon of blood donated, but they no longer do that. I would love to see it return as it is inspirational to look up your own achievement over time and it encourages you to continue. When life is stressful, any type of inspiration is helpful and donating blood is a constant source of inspiration to me.”

Learn More About Donating Blood to the Red Cross.

Red Crosser delivers in Puerto Rico: “I wasn’t gonna let her down”

“I was in Patron, Morovis, Puerto Rico and this little old lady comes up to me and starts patting me on the chest and talking in Spanish,” remembers John Hendricks, a Red Cross volunteer from Detroit, Michigan serving in Puerto Rico for the Hurricane Maria relief effort. His voice is raspy from camping out in the mountains with his Red Cross team delivering water filters to the most remote communities, house by house. “I said to her, ‘I’m a gringo, I don’t speak Spanish,’ but I got one of my teammates to translate for me.” John’s eyes get misty. His translator said, “She is patting your chest because she saw you in the mountains and she loves your heart.”

John was touched by Rosa Maldonado Ortiz’s gesture and, with translation assistance, learned more about her situation. At 87 years old, she lost part of her house during the hurricane. Three of her grandchildren live upstairs in her home. Like most homes on the highlands of Puerto Rico, there is no running water and families collect water from mountain springs. Mrs. Ortiz happily accepted a high-volume Sawyer water filter, one of 13,000 (and counting!) units Red Cross volunteers have placed into the hands of the most isolated Puerto Ricans. The training she received on its use will help her keep her family safe from bacteria, viruses and toxins. However, she desperately needed tarps to keep out the seasonal downpours, she told John. He promised to return.
When John went to the closest Red Cross warehouse, all the tarps had been distributed and the next shipment had not yet arrived. “I wasn’t gonna let her down, so I went to Home Depot and bought her tarps,” John says in his matter-of-fact, Middle America style. “When I took her the tarps, she told me she needed a cat.” Mrs. Ortiz was worried about the increasing number of rats, mice and the diseases they might transmit to her grandchildren.
As it so happens, an abandoned kitten was rescued on a relief distribution in Juana Diaz during a thunderstorm. “We couldn’t leave the kitten there in a downpour, so we took it to a veterinarian,” said Leo Taraborrelli. “The vet estimated it was born about the time that Hurricane Irma came through.” When John told Leo about Mrs. Ortiz, he gladly offered up the rescued kitten to the cause. After all, as Red Cross volunteers, they have been working 15-hour days and are mostly away from their shelter. This way, the kitten would be in a home with children to love him.

Later that night, John and Leo made a special trip back to Patron, Morovis to Mrs. Ortiz’s home with the cat. “I’m so happy, thank you!” said Mrs. Ortiz. Red Cross responders, like John and Leo, continue their emergency relief efforts in Puerto Rico with a strong sense of urgency due to sustained damage to critical infrastructure like water and electricity. Red Cross teams continue distributing water filters in rural areas as a longer-term solution to the lack of access to clean water.

Click here for more Hurricane Maria Relief Information.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Support Our Troops Beyond Veterans Day

Written by: Rebecca Callahan, volunteer

The international Red Cross and Red Crescent network is the largest humanitarian network in the world, with a presence and activities in almost every country. Yet one aspect of the American Red Cross that generally goes unnoticed is the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), which is odd considering that Red Cross organizations began to care for the sick and wounded in times of war. First, in Solferino, Italy, a conflict between Austria and the Franco-Sardinian alliance in 1859 led to the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Then the American Civil War inspired Clara Barton to establish the American Red Cross in 1881. And after the impact of WWI, the foundation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Since September 11, 2001, the American Red Cross SAF team has served more than 1 million military families and continues to provide critical services on military bases and hospitals around the world. When emergencies strike a soldier or military family, SAF Service to the Armed Forces volunteers provide global emergency communication services, mental health support and many other opportunities to help our soldiers. For active duty military members, new Hero Care Network helps loved ones reach soldiers during an emergency. For patients and families being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other military bases can access the Red Cross to help them identify their needs and connect them to the most appropriate resources through Information and Referral Services. Finally at the end of every year, volunteers distribute holiday cards to patients through the Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

It’s incredible to consider all of the ways the Red Cross has maintained our commitment to the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. So this Veterans Day, please consider volunteering your time or donating to support the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The End of Daylight Savings Time is The Time to TURN Your Clocks Back and TEST Your Smoke Alarms

Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer

Could your family escape a home fire in less than 2 minutes?

Even if you have multiple smoke alarms and a well-rehearsed fire preparedness plan, you and your family may still only have less than 2 minutes to escape a home fire. Smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by almost 50%. Therefore, the Red Cross recommends that when you TURN your clock back this weekend, you also TEST your smoke alarms.

Seven people die in home fires every day, mostly in homes that do not have working smoke alarms. Sadly, the elderly and children disproportionately lose their lives in these tragic disasters. The Home Fire Campaign, started in 2014, aims to reduce home fires by 25% by 2020. The Sound The Alarm campaign has installed one million free smoke alarms and provided fire prevention education to over 400,000 households.

Help the Red Cross achieve their goal and keep your family safe by implementing these smoke alarm guidelines.

Smoke alarms should be:

  • located outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home;
  • interconnected so that if one alarm sounds, all the alarms in your home sound;
  • tested once a month using the test feature on the alarm;
  • equipped with new batteries when daylight savings time starts and ends;
  • installed in areas where your pets will also hear them;
  • activated all the time and never temporarily disabled during cooking etc.;
  • used as a reminder to check that your carbon monoxide alarms are also working; and
  • replaced every ten years.
Learn about Sound The Alarm.

Donate to Sound The Alarm.

Learn about fire prevention.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Helping Service Members Through Loving Paws and a Wagging Tail

Therapy Dog Nikita and Volunteer Ken’s Story

Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, volunteer

Ken Vierra, who also has been an American Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED Basic/Professional Rescuers Instructor Trainer for many years, is the proud owner and handler of Nikita, a Keeshond therapy dog. Nikita was born on June 11, 2013, in Charlottesville, VA. When she was nine months old, Nikita started her training at the Sit Means Sit Dog Training Center. After two in-home training sessions, Nikita passed the Canine Good Citizen Certification on June 7, 2014. Following the certification, Nikita attended group classes where she was called “a mini superstar” and deemed ready and able to pass the therapy dog training and exam. A few months later, Nikita graduated as a GoTeam Therapy Dog/Advanced Canine Good Citizen. For over the past three years, Nikita has been a member of the Caring Angels Therapy Dog Organization and in June 2017 Nikita became an Arch Angel, which is an Elite Caring Angel therapy dog.

Since 2016, Nikita has participated in the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Pet Visitation American Red Cross program. In this program, handlers such as Ken regularly bring their therapy dogs into the clinic during the daytime as well as participate in Outreach Events for deploying troops. At the Community Hospital, hospitalized service members interact with the therapy dogs, petting them and receiving affection. This facilitates a unique human-canine bond that can help break down barriers in a way that clinical therapists are sometimes unable to do.

Whereas service dogs are trained to assist an individual with certain tasks, therapy dogs are chosen based on their personalities, such as their ability to always be happy and to show affection. Their handlers dedicate a lot of time and resources to first obtain and then maintain the certified therapy dog status. The dogs are regularly reassessed to ensure that they continue to demonstrate appropriate, positive behaviors.

Ken describes that once he puts the American Red Cross work vest on Nikita, she knows she is in her working role. Whether they spend a few hours at a military outreach event, a full day in a Wounded Warriors clinic or attend group classes, Nikita wears her work vest as a badge of pride. From her Red Cross work and participation in numerous events for other organizations, she has been petted by thousands of children and adults and has been described as a “living teddy bear.” While Nikita gives her loving attention to her adoring crowd, Ken takes the opportunity to educate people about the different services that the American Red Cross provides.

Learn More About Red Cross Therapy Dogs

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Susan Saslow

Susan Saslow has volunteered several times a month as a Blood Donor Ambassador in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia since 2007. Susan is the one to call on in a pinch for a drive in her area, and is very flexible and reliable! In January 2017, Susan took on the additional responsibility of training other Blood Donor Ambassadors in her area.

A retired Oncology Nurse, Susan has lived in Oak Hill, VA since 1988 with her husband. She has one daughter and three cats. Susan enjoys spending time with her extended family, many of whom live in the DC area, and watching college and professional sports. She also enjoys quilting and exercises every day!

When she was working, Susan volunteered with the American Cancer Society on the Professional Education Committee, where she spoke at nursing conferences and presented continuing education programs regarding oncology.

After multiple spinal surgeries, Susan realized she would not be able to return to work and decided to start volunteering with the American Red Cross.

“The reason I thought of the Red Cross was because of their stellar reputation and my experience with oncology patients and families needing blood products,” she says.

Please join us in congratulating Susan Saslow – Greater Chesapeake & Potomac Blood Services Region's Volunteer of the Month for November 2017!