Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Spirit of Caring—the American Red Cross Partnership with AvalonBay Communities

Company Donates $1 Million Plus—CPR Classes for Employees; Blood Donation Drives; Life-Saving Equipment Purchases; Home Fire Campaign Volunteers

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

The American Red Cross prevents and eliminates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors, says its mission statement.

To have a spirit of caring, genuine kindness and concern for others, is a core value of AvalonBay Communities, an equity REIT, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, and in the business of developing, redeveloping, acquiring and managing apartment communities in leading metropolitan areas nationwide.

When the two organizations form a partnership, the end goal is clear—building strong communities—which is the theme of the AvalonBay Communities’ strategic philanthropy program that was launched in 2015 when company executives made the first contribution of $250,000 toward a four-year, $1 million commitment to support the American Red Cross.

“This partnership is a model for the American Red Cross,” says Denise Miller, American Red Cross Executive Director, Fairfax, Virginia, who serves as the national liaison to AvalonBay Communities. “I get asked by my colleagues, ‘Why does this partnership work?’ It’s the corporate culture of this company and the people who work for it. Also, for the American Red Cross, no money, no volunteers, means no mission. Why we can be there to help alleviate human suffering during disasters is because of the generosity of donations from partners like AvalonBay Communities. They have donated a lot money and employee volunteers for our mission, and we are grateful. We want to thank AvalonBay Communities for all they do for us and for allowing their employees to give back to the community.”

AvalonBay Communities provides its employees nationwide with Red Cross CPR training, purchases life-saving equipment from Red Cross, sponsors on-site blood donations, and allows its employees to volunteer on company time.

In 2016, employees from AvalonBay Communities donated 1,017 pints of blood; 232 were trained in Adult First Aid/CPR/AED; and more than $260,000 was donated to the Red Cross, not including the cost of training and equipment.

“Each pint of blood potentially saves 3 lives, which means the employees of AvalonBay Communities contributed to potentially saving 3,051 lives—that is amazing,” said Miller. “Also, being certified to save the lives of your employees, your residents, and your families is a valuable asset.”

Miller encouraged the employees to keep up the great work and to also consider becoming more involved in the American Red Cross’s nationwide Home Fire Campaign, where local partners and volunteers go to at-risk neighborhoods and install free smoke alarms, free batteries, and supply fire prevention information.

“We also work with military and veteran hospitals that need volunteers,” said Miller. “We provide comfort carts to the hospital. When our volunteers go to talk to the patients and families, they bring the comfort cart which is stocked with everything from puzzles and books to snacks.”

The Arlington location of AvalonBay communities is hosting a blood drive for its employees on March 1 and many are already signed up. The nationwide corporate goal this year is to donate 1100 pints of blood.

“AvalonBay has a long-standing value of a Spirit of Caring, and our partnership with the Red Cross makes this value visible,” said Tm Naughton, AvalonBay Communities Chairman and CEO. “We are proud to support the mission of the Red Cross.”

Mark Delisi, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, for AvalonBay Communities, said the partnership with the American Red Cross is built on mutual respect and passion for building strong communities.

“We are committed to creating a better way to live, for our residents, our employees, our shareholders, and our partners,” said Delisi. “Our commitment to Corporate Responsibility is an ongoing journey. We are thankful to the American Red Cross for being a perfect partner to help us achieve our goal, and to Denise Miller in particular, for being an exceptional liaison, always responsive, enthusiastically supporting our efforts to make a difference for our communities nationwide.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Winter Pet Care

Written by: Melanie Benson, volunteer

With this week’s chilly start and flurries seen throughout the DMV, there’s no arguing that winter is here. Whether the season fills you with childlike delight or causes you to grumble and count down the days until Spring, the cold and snow require us all to take precautions to stay safe and warm. While family members bundle up, it’s important not to forget our four-legged, furry friends.  

Dealing with the low temperatures, snow and ice are difficult on our pets. The Red Cross and the Humane Society offer the following advice to help ensure that every member of our family stays healthy during this difficult time of year:

  • If possible, bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water
  • If animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles
  • Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate a pet’s paws. Wipe their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth 
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach

The Red Cross also offers Pet First Aid classes for pet owners interested in learning more and taking further action to keep their pets safe in the winter. These classes teach pet owners the skills necessary to tend to unexpected emergencies until they can get their pet to a veterinarian. Search for a class in your area here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Red Cross Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe During Frosty Weather

Punxsutawney Phil Says Six More Weeks of Winter in 2017

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

Each year on February 2, Americans celebrate Groundhog Day, where the most notable groundhog, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, emerges from his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob to “predict” the length of winter. The tradition, dating back to the 19th century, says if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, spring will arrive early.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year – so, if custom is correct, we can expect winter to last for a while.

To keep your animals safe from frosty weather, the Red Cross has practical tips to help you know what to do, including a Pet First Aid App with valuable information that can be downloaded on many mobile devices.

Tips to Keep Pets Safe When Frosty Weather Strikes

Pets enrich our lives, are seen as family members, and depend on us for food, safety, shelter, and general well-being. Winter’s cold temperatures, gusty winds, and wet sleet, snow and rain can be devastating to your animals. Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate your pet’s paws, cause extreme pain, and be life-threatening if ingested. Here is how you can help your animals stay safe.

  • Bring animals inside during cold winter weather, if possible
  • Move livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water
  • If animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by a snow drift, ice or other obstacles 
  • Keep a dry towel near the door and wipe off your pet immediately after you come in from the cold. Pay particular attention to your pet’s paws and in between their toes so you can dry and wipe off chemical residue
  • Do not shave your pet down to the skin in winter as their coat provides warmth
  • Petroleum jelly and booties can help protect your pet’s paws
  • Ensure your indoor animals have been fed and have enough water for hydration
  • Provide a warm space for your animal to sleep away from drafty windows and doors, and if possible, off of the floor
  • Download the Pet First Aid App and get critical information at your fingertips

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Bill Evans

Devoted to Saving Lives Through Fire Safety

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

Name: Bill Evans
Length of Red Cross Volunteer Service: 2 years and counting
Profession: Director of Claims, Insurance Associates

Resides: City of Fairfax, Virginia

What inspired you to be a volunteer and would you recommend it to others? I feel that we all have a responsibility to serve our community when we can. When my role as a volunteer firefighter changed from operational to administrative, it freed up time so that I could get involved with the American Red Cross, an organization that I have always respected. I would recommend that folks who are considering volunteering find a cause that they have passion for and focus on those causes. That way, you will stay energized and be more effective in the long run. The American Red Cross has such a variety of services and volunteer needs, there is something for everyone’s passion.

What do you do as a volunteer? I became a Red Cross volunteer nearly two years ago and have assisted during Winter Storm Jonas in 2016, as a Go-Team member during the Pope’s visit, and have really enjoyed helping at multiple Home Fire Campaign events. Besides volunteering for the Red Cross, I am still active with the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department (FVFD), Food for Others, and other charitable events pursued with my rugby club. In four of our Home Fire Campaign events, we actually partnered with my fellow FVFD members and City of Fairfax crews.

What do you do for a career and how has volunteering complimented your professional life? I am Director of Claims for Insurance Associates, a local independent insurance agency which has a niche, the construction industry. Each day at work, I assist with unfortunate accident claims and the safety efforts to prevent them, so my volunteer life is an extension of my work life to some extent. Our company has a strong and supportive volunteer culture, so it is nice to work with others who enjoy community service. 

Why is the Home Fire Campaign important? Home fire safety is often neglected, but the Home Fire Campaign, where volunteers go to at-risk communities and install detectors and provide fire safety information, brings it to the forefront in the communities we visit. All home fires cannot be prevented, but our efforts can certainly improve the odds of surviving fires. It is important because it actually saves lives. Having a working smoke detector in your home cuts your risk of dying in a home fire in half! Besides installing free smoke alarms, we also discuss fire safety and emergency escape plans with the residents we meet. This education is particularly important when there are children, elderly or handicapped people in the household. If children are in the home, we include them in our education discussion along with the adults.

I have been a member of the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department for 10 years and during fire school training we learned that during the stress and chaos of a home fire, there are needless deaths because occupants become panic stricken and disoriented and can end up getting trapped. For instance, it is not uncommon for young children to hide in a closet or under a bed during a fire instead of exiting the home as quickly as possible. Nearly one third of all fire deaths are among the elderly. So the education aspect of the home fire safety campaign is just as important as the installations we perform. An escape plan includes more than just getting out safely but also designating a rally point where all family members go, such as by the mail box or big oak tree so that everyone can be accounted for. Too often family members are injured or killed after rushing back into a burning home to desperately save a missing child when in fact the child was safe at a neighbor’s home or in the back yard. Our educational discussions help families make a plan together. Plus, when residents see the American Red Cross serving in their communities, it will hopefully generate more volunteer and donor support as well.

What are some of your favorite memories of how you helped others with your volunteer work?Three come to mind. We met a wheelchair-bound gentleman who also was a smoker. Both smokers and the handicapped are at increased risk of being injured in a home fire, so it was satisfying to install smoke alarms with 10 year batteries for him, knowing that he will be safer. We also met a single mother of four children who ran a catering business out of her home. Thus, her kitchen was often a place where people were busy cooking meals. Her children’s rooms were in a basement with only one means of escape up a set of stairs by the kitchen. There were no working alarms, but we were able to install alarms in the basement and the two upper floors, thus greatly increasing the fire safety for that family. We met a Chinese man who spoke zero English and did not understand what we were offering to do. Tina, a member of my team, was able to use Google Translate to effectively communicate and soon we had installed three new alarms in his house and educated him on home fire safety.    

What can a volunteer for the Home Fire Campaign expect on the day of the event? They will be given training as needed before going into the neighborhood. Each team of three or four will include an installer, educator and documenter. This gives every personality type a job that fits their skill set. Each team will be assigned certain streets to cover, with Red Cross support members always nearby to provide guidance, supplies or water. As Red Cross volunteers, you may be partnering with a fire department and or other safety teams. The Home Fire Campaign is a great way to serve our communities. The residents we assist are so appreciative and the knowledge that our work will save lives makes for a very positive experience to all involved.

Learn more about the Home Fire Campaign. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: David Luke

Dave started volunteering more than 9 years ago. 
When David Luke first started volunteering at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in 2013, he was not sure where he wanted to give his time. He tried a couple different departments and clinics before realizing where he wanted to be was at the heart of it all – the Red Cross office. Since then, he has become an integral part of the office staff.

But, Dave did not get his Red Cross start at Fort Belvoir. About nine years ago, Dave and his wife began volunteering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where they manned the comfort cart on the weekends before the hospital closed in 2011.

Prior to his volunteering career, Dave served 20 years in the Air Force and another 20 years in education with the Prince William County school district.

With his wealth of knowledge and amazing attitude, we are happy to award David Luke as the January 2017 volunteer of the month.

Thank you Dave for all that you do to support our military families!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Honor National Heart Month

Let The American Red Cross Teach You How to Save a Life

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

Hundreds of thousands of people die each year in the U.S. due to a sudden heart attack. Heart disease, including coronary, hypertension, and stroke, remains the number one cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

February is National Heart Month, and a good time to learn a new skill that can help save a life. The American Red Cross is a perfect resource. Knowing how to perform CPR and being able to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) during a cardiac emergency are just a few of the many ways you can make a difference.

“Someone who knows how to respond to an emergency is an asset to every household, workplace, and community,” said Richard N. Bradley, MD, Chair of the Red Cross Scientific Council’s Resuscitation Sub-Council, in a 2016 news release.

What do we do?

  • Teach CPR Red Cross provides expert and affordable CPR training and certification courses for mandated job requirements or personal use.
  • Resource for AED’s Red Cross trains you on how to use an AED and partners with manufacturers to help you receive the devices you need for your workplace, schools, and facilities.
  • Host online and classroom courses Red Cross instructs participants on how to identify and respond to cardiac, breathing, and first aid emergencies, including helping someone who is choking, controlling bleeding, and treating heat-and-cold related emergencies.
  • Offer the Red Cross First Aid Mobile Application Red Cross enables you to have instant access to information on handling first aid emergencies.
There are also tips for lowering heart disease risk, which include:
  • Watch your weight
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
  • Get active and eat healthy

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Red Cross Home Fire Campaign Helps Save Lives. And You Can Too

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

Home fires. They cause injuries, death, destruction of property, disruption of lives, and make up the majority of the 66,000 annual responses to disasters nationwide by the American Red Cross.

The Home Fire Campaign, launched by the American Red Cross in 2014, is a multi-year nationwide effort to reduce home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent – and it is working. Throughout the year, groups of volunteers install smoke alarms and deliver fire safety information in neighborhoods that are at high-risk for fires with our local partners. Since the start of the campaign, the American Red Cross and its partners have helped save at least 131 lives and installed more than 619,000 smoke alarms in 8,400 cities and towns nationwide, according to a January 11th news release.

“Locally, we responded to about 500 home fires and disasters in 2016,” said Linda Mathes, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, in that same news release. “These home fires are devastating for the people involved and are also responsible for a number of deaths and injuries. That is why our Home Fire Campaign is so important. We want to help save lives by installing smoke alarms in homes that don’t have them and educating people about home fire safety.”

The most effective ways to protect yourself and your home from fires are:
  • Identify and remove fire hazards
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, test them monthly, and replace batteries annually
  • Practice a fire escape drill twice a year and ensure all members of the household are included
  • Download and print a list of fire prevention and safety tips

What else can you do?

Get involved by volunteering for an upcoming Home Fire Campaign – there is always room for volunteers and no experience necessary.

You can also consider making a donation by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.

The Home Fire Campaign is made possible by corporate sponsors who contribute financially and by donating smoke detectors as well as the hundreds of the American Red Cross’ local partner organizations, fire departments, and volunteers.