Friday, May 17, 2019

Happy Armed Forces Day! 🎖️

By Carly Flumer, Volunteer

The Red Cross salutes our men and women of the Armed Forces today and every day, and especially on May 18th – Armed Forces Day. Many nations around the world observe some kind of Armed Forces Day to honor their military forces. It is celebrated in the United States as a day to appreciate all active duty service members. 


Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. This year, it is celebrated on Saturday, May 18. Thanks to President Harry S. Truman, it’s a day to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. President Truman led the effort to establish a holiday in order for citizens to unite and to honor our military heroes for their patriotic service in support of the United States. It also happens to coincide with this month being recognized as Military Appreciation Month.

The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program dates back to the establishment of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton in May 1881. Not only did the “Angel of the Battlefield” risk her life tending to soldiers wounded in the Civil War, she bolstered their morale by writing letters for them to send to their families. Today’s American Red Cross workers proudly carry on this tradition through the SAF program, which serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families.

Since 9/11/2001, the Red Cross has provided services to more than 1 million soldiers and their families through deployments and emergencies, including critical cases on military bases throughout the world.

The SAF program in the National Capital Region supports military personnel, veterans, and families on 14 separate military installations in the Washington, DC region, at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, and throughout the community. Key installations supported include: Quantico MCB, Walter Reed NMMC, Fort Belvoir, JB Andrews, JB Myer-Henderson Hall, JB Anacostia-Bolling, and the Pentagon.


As the largest Red Cross volunteer area in the National Capital Region, there is a team of nearly 1,000 active volunteers supporting the SAF mission throughout the region. Volunteers range from civilian to active duty, from administrative up to PhD and MD who practice to the full extent of their credentials and support activities across the region to include greeting every wounded, ill and injured service member who arrives via MEDEVAC.

Here are some of the services we provide:

DEPLOYMENT:

  • The Red Cross understands how hard it is for families to let go of a loved one for an extended period of time, whether it be for the first time or the 10th time. 
  • We provide a course called “Coping with Deployments: Psychological First Aid for Military Families” that provides information for parents, siblings, spouses, and children on how to respond to psychological and emotional challenges faced while going through deployment. A family can take this class either in person or online. 
  • Call your local Red Cross to find out more information on registering or visit: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/deployment-services.html  



POST-DEPLOYMENT

  • While returning home can be a very exciting time for both the soldier and their family, it can also be stressful as they learn to reconnect with one another, as roles and responsibilities may have been shifted and emotions are still very raw. 
  • The Red Cross offers free, small-group Reconnection Workshops for all family members, including teens and young children, that focus on identifying stress, trauma, and depression, as well as coping mechanisms as family members looking to reconnect. 
  • To sign up for a workshop, visit https://www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/deployment-services/register-reconnection-workshops.html


FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

  • The Red Cross offers financial assistance around the clock, 24 hours day, 365 days a year to active duty service members and members of an activated National Guard or reserve unit (as well as their immediate family members), and to military retirees and/or their spouses.
  • Assistance can include funds for burial services and emergency travel, shelter, and food
  • Call the Red Cross Hero Center at 1.877.272.7337 or submit a request online at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/financial-assistance.html 


HERO CARE NETWORK

  • Through the Hero Care Network, you can submit emergency communications requests online or via mobile device 24/7
  • When a military family experiences a crisis, the Red Cross is there to help. More than 110,000 military families reach out to the American Red Cross for emergency assistance each year. That’s approximately 300 military families per day. That’s why the American Red Cross launched our new online, self-service tool called the Hero Care Network. 
  • This FREE tool gives military families more flexibility and expanded access to help during times of crisis by allowing them to quickly communicate emergency messages 24/7 via computer, tablet, or even by smartphone.
  • Visit www.redcross.org/HeroCareNetwork for more information or to submit a request.

For more information on our Service to the Armed Forces program, click here!

And thank you to all the men and women who serve, and have served, our country! 🎖️



Monday, May 13, 2019

Sounding the Alarm with the Red Cross | May 4, 2019 - Washington, D.C.

By Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

American Red Cross volunteers
Eric Phillips and Myrna Arnold
(Photo by Clarice Nassif Ransom)
The American Red Cross held a Sound the Alarm event in Washington, D.C. on May 4, 2019, where 180 volunteers went door-to-door to install fire alarms and to provide fire safety education to residents in Northeast DC. The American Red Cross’ goal this Spring is to install 100,000 free fire alarms in homes in 30 communities nationwide.

“We are here to save lives,” said Linda Mathes, CEO for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region. “Too many people die from home fires. The American Red Cross responds to 62,000 disasters a year and the majority are home fires. Smoke alarms help save lives. Go out and save some lives today.”

Volunteers from all ages and walks of life heard Mathes' call to duty and came together to lend a helping hand - from high school clubs of the American Red Cross to corporate volunteers, and everyone in between.
American Red Cross Volunteer
Robert Park installs a smoke alarm
at the event.
(Photo by Myrna Arnold)

“I think it is inspiring to see people from all ages and paths of life come together,” said Robert Park, an American Red Cross volunteer who installed seven of the over 200 smoke alarms at DC’s event.

“There is a sense of reward that our investment in the community helps to save lives.”

For Irene Steward, an American Red Cross volunteer who has responded to home fires, installing smoke alarms is an important action to take to help prevent a home fire tragedy.

“It’s one home you may not have to return to in the future,” said Steward, who notes that donating time to help others in need is a priority. “I can’t make a huge donation, but I can give my time to help others.”

“I want to help the community,” said Raymond Yang, an American Red Cross volunteer who is excited about installing fire alarms and has helped at other large events such as the Marine Corps Marathon. “I became an American citizen in 2008, and this is my way to say thank you to America.”

Left to Right: American Red Cross volunteers
Irene Steward and Raymond Yang
(Photo by Clarice Nassif Ransom)
Melinda Watters, an American Red Cross volunteer, was the ultimate ambassador of smoke alarm installations, as she was able to ease homeowners’ concerns, ensure a smooth smoke installation process, and disseminate fire safety information all at the same time.

“It is awesome to help people, and that is what I love to do,” said Watters.

Frankie Catalfumo, an American Red Cross volunteer and team captain of the DC Sound the Alarm event, also regularly volunteers by responding to home fire disasters and helps displaced individuals find temporary housing, food, and clothing when disaster strikes.


Left to right: Curtis Hills and American Red Cross volunteer Melinda Watters discuss
smoke alarm installation and fire prevention information.
Hills says he is thankful to the American Red Cross
for installing a fire alarm in his house. (Photo by Clarice Nassif Ransom)
“There is room for preparedness in people’s lives, from planning a meeting location if you have to leave the house during an emergency to a smoke alarm,” said Catalfumo. “Volunteering with the American Red Cross truly allows you to connect in a positive way, from preventing home fires and responding to them.”

Concluded Denise Miller, Executive Director, Fairfax County, American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, “Fire alarms save people’s lives, and we are grateful to all of our volunteers who make this possible. We couldn’t do it without you.”

Left to Right: American Red Cross volunteers Barbara Ross,
Frankie Catalfumo, and Melinda Watters
(Photo by Clarice Nassif Ransom)
Here are some tips to keep yourself safe!
Did you know?
  • Seven people die every day from a home fire, most impacting children and the elderly
  • 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day
  • More than $7 billion dollars in property damage occurs every year from home fires
Home Fire Safety Checklist 
  • Keep an eye on what you “fry.” Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or using an open flame.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Keep matches and lighters are locked away.
  • At least twice a year, practice your fire escape plan with all family members. After each fire drill, mark down your escape plan.
  • Furniture, curtains, dish towels and anything that could catch fire are at least three feet from any type of heat source.
  • Large and small appliances are plugged directly into wall outlets.
  • Change your smoke alarm batteries every year unless it has a long-life battery.
  • Replace smoke alarms every ten years.
  • Test your smoke alarms each month. 

Join us to help save lives and end home fires in your community!

Upcoming Sound the Alarm Signature Events in the National Capital Region:

Left to Right: American Red Cross volunteers
Robert Park and Eric Phillips
install a smoke alarm at the event
 (Photo by Myrna Arnold)
Sign up here to join us today: soundthealarm.org/dc

And for more information on how to get prepared, visit redcross.org/prepare.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

First Aid for your Fur-ever Friends

April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, and the American Red Cross wants to ensure your skills are up to their full pet-tential.

In times when you cannot get to a veterinarian, you may need to give your pet emergency medical care. Here are some steps you can take to guarantee no cat-tastrophes!

Gatsby aka Gatz/Mouse - 4 years old - Loves a good costume… and stealing food.
 Pet First Aid Online Course

The Red Cross offers a free, 35-minute online course for you to learn the basics on caring for your pet in times of crisis. Some benefits are:

  • Learn how to check your pet’s vital signs accurately.
  • Acquire preventative care skills for your pet.
  • Gain the knowledge to recognize and provide first aid for the most severe emergencies your pet may experience.
  • Have access to desktop and tablet compatibility providing flexibility to access how, when, and where you want to take the course.
  • Obtain Red Cross digital certification provided upon completion.

Cody Hercules - 6 years old – Likes living the good life and playing fetch with his sister, Liza

Pet First Aid App

The Red Cross has an award-winning Pet First Aid app you can download to stay abundantly prepared to keep your pet pals safe and happy. The app is the perfect on-the-go reference guide for pet owners, with systematic instructions, videos, and images for more than 25 common first aid and emergencies. Now you can feel at ease knowing you have fast and effective safety tips whenever you need them!
Bruno - 10 years old – Happiest when napping in the sun 

Pet Safety Preventative Measures


  • Make sure all household plants are varieties that are pet-safe.
  • Consider latching cupboards shut that contain harmful chemicals.
  • Ensure trashcans are properly concealed – pets can ingest bones and other harmful trash items that can cause choking. 
  • Keep toilet seats down, especially if using an automatic cleaning system. 
  • Make sure all window screens/guards are properly secure to prevent falls from high living spaces. 

Fiona – 3 years old – Will eat anything and everything.

Space and Routine

Dogs and cats alike are creatures of habit and crave routine. If you set up a proper routine for your pet, this will result in overall good behavior and general happiness. Here are some things to make your furry friend the best they can be:

  • Food – Give your pet quality food at the same time every day. Not only will they know when food is coming so they will not bother you in the meantime, but this will also keep their metabolism balanced and strong. 
  • Quality Time – Whether this is a daily walk, snuggle, or play time in the yard, your pet will find comfort in knowing they have a set period to spend with you. This is also exceptionally important during a move or new living situation. 
  • Jobs – Pets like having a job to do to feel connected to their owner. Small tasks like getting the newspaper, chasing a toy, or trying to get a feather at the end of a string all put your pet at ease and feel like they are contributing. 


Monday, April 29, 2019

How the American Red Cross Saved My Life

By Ian Seth Levine, Volunteer

On May 5th of 2017, I stopped drinking and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; which was ironic, because it also happened to be Cinco de Mayo, a holiday Mexico hardly celebrates--and Americans commemorate by getting drunk.

For most people, drinking is safe, fun, and even healthy. For myself, drinking exacerbates a feeling so indescribable, yet pervasive, there wasn't a word for it until six years ago, "monachopsis".

According to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, monachopsis is "the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach—lumbering, clumsy, easily distracted, huddled in the company of other misfits, unable to recognize the ambient roar of your intended habitat, in which you’d be fluidly, brilliantly, effortlessly at home."

While the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows doesn't necessarily connect monachopsis to alcoholism, it's precisely how I feel.

One of the ways I fight that feeling is by volunteering with the American Red Cross. Initially, it was a distraction from the three-ring circus between my ears. But after serving almost a year as a volunteer writer, I discovered additional, almost hidden, benefits.


For example, while conducting research for my article, "How Soccer Star Cristiano Ronaldo Donated Enough Blood to Fill a Car's Gas Tank", I started taking better care of my body before donating blood. (Over seven gallons so far!) So, as a result of donating my healthy 'body', I gained an even healthier body.

Another example- while conducting research for my article, "Why You're Better Than 32% of Most People", I learned new techniques in content marketing. So, as a result of donating my skills, I gained new skills.

One more- while conducting research for my articles, "My Red Cross Story: Janice Chance" and "My Red Cross Story: Ken Jones", I became quite busy, yet felt I had more time for leisure than when I wasn't volunteering. (If you've ever donated a small amount of money yet somehow felt wealthier, then you know what I mean). So, as a result of donating my time, I gained more time.

It's easy for me to get lost inside the hedge maze that is my mind, focused solely on myself. Volunteering allows me to buzzsaw through the foliage. I feel as if I'm a part of something bigger. And indeed, I am. I work alongside over a half million other volunteers. So, instead of feeling out of place, I feel at home. If you’re interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross as well, click here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

National Volunteer Month: Join Us!

By Cathy Simpson, Volunteer

April is National Volunteer Month, a month dedicated to honoring all of the volunteers in our communities as well as encouraging volunteerism throughout the month.

Have you thought about being an American Red Cross volunteer? Volunteers are the heart of the Red Cross. Volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. That’s 15 volunteers for every one employee. The Red Cross is always in need of new volunteers, and we are ready to match your skills, experience and schedule with our needs.

To begin your journey to become a Red Cross volunteer, take a look at the American Red Cross history and mission statement found on the Red Cross website. With the mission in mind, click on the Volunteer heading to view videos and access a list and descriptions of the many ways the Red Cross needs your help.

Some of the major areas where help is needed include: biomedical/blood services, communications/public affairs, corporate finance, corporate management and oversight, disaster cycle services, human resources, international services, office administration, preparedness and health & safety services, military and veteran communities services and volunteer services.

Needs in all of these areas result in such volunteer opportunities as helping at a blood drive; providing on ground disaster assistance; offering military and veteran assistance; transporting blood, supplies and food; writing communications; helping assemble packets and kits; participating in fundraising; teaching CPR, first aid or babysitting; and becoming a special events or special projects coordinator.

Location is another important consideration. Volunteers can work on-site in places such as, at National Headquarters, in regional offices, on disaster sites, in hospitals or from home.
Once you have an idea of your area of interest and determine if you want an in-person or from home environment, log on to the Red Cross volunteer website where you’ll find positions that fit your talents and your schedule. To apply and find more information, visit the Volunteer Connection site here and click the red 'Get Started' button. This will begin the process to join the Red Cross volunteer team.

The process to become a Red Cross volunteer is completed once you have submitted your online application, activated your account, read and agreed to the Red Cross policies, initiated your background check and completed a phone interview with a Red Cross intake volunteer.

Being a Red Cross volunteer gives you the opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills while you are making a difference. The American Red Cross values your time and skills. We look forward to your joining our team.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

My Red Cross Story: Marco Johnson

By Rose Ellen O'Connor, Volunteer

For the first time in 50 years, Marco Johnson wasn’t home for Christmas. Marco, a Red Cross volunteer, responded to the urgent call for volunteers in December 2019 to staff shelters in Chico, California, where one of the largest wildfire disasters struck residents of Northern California. The Red Cross Shelter at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds was already open for over a month when Marco arrived for his two-week mission, and the volunteers he replaced were worn-out. The California Camp Fire Disaster Response Operation (DRO) was a level 7 event, which describes the degree of conditions and recovery needed. This is the highest level of any disaster - equating to about 10 to 20 million dollars of financial support needed.
 
But Marco says he didn’t feel like he missed Christmas. His family decorated the house with lights and put up an 11-foot Christmas tree before his deployment to California. Marco’s family and friends provided encouragement and waited until he got home to celebrate the holidays. Once deployed, he kept in-touch between shifts.

“It’s really what Christmas is supposed to be about,” Marco says.

In Chico, Marco supervised and trained volunteers, overseeing the care of about 100 men and working with victims one-on-one. Marco brought a lot of expertise to the assignment. Along with over 10 years of experience with the Red Cross, Marco had worked for 40 years as a manager for the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. By the time he left Chico, he knew most of the victims’ names and stories. He barely slept for two weeks, he says, rising at 5 a.m. for his shift and staying a bit longer for shift turnover.

It was always cold and damp in Chico and everyone, including Marco, was coughing. He felt as if he were in a hospital ward, and when he got home, it took him many days to recuperate. It had been raining for several weeks before he got to Chico, and it didn’t let up when he arrived.

“It rained and rained and rained,” Marco says. “I heard that the sun came out for one hour after I left but then it started raining again. “When you went out to do anything, you walked out in the rain. Whether you went out to wash your hands or go to another building, to eat or go to the port-o-potty, you went out in the rain.”

The shelter was on a 43-acre fairgrounds. A sense of “not knowing what is next” or "how long will things take" permeated the shelter. The fires had been so hot they had twisted and melted steel cars and released toxins into the ground. Many houses were incinerated, and the properties were declared contaminated. Authorities let fire victims return to their homes one weekend to visit the devastation, but the rest of the time they were banned from the condemned properties. At first, no one could even walk the streets near their homes because the trees had burned at the roots and, especially with all the rain, were in danger of falling.

Marco encouraged those affected to meet with caseworkers from the Red Cross, FEMA, State, County, and veterans’ groups, and to continue to follow-up. Most were eager to qualify for relief, but still felt sadness at the thought of not returning home, and instead, being in a strange new location. Marco said they might one day return home if the properties were inspected and the toxins removed. This gave hope to some.


Marco looked for health issues and signs of depression and encouraged other volunteers to do so. Sometimes it’s as simple as noticing that someone is ignoring their hygiene.

“You’ve got to take care of yourself now,” Marco recalls telling one man. “You go shower. I’ll help you take some clothes to the free laundry.”

That would, of course, entail traipsing out in the rain again. Marco encouraged the men to avail themselves and introduce some holiday cheer to the shelter, like free haircuts, listening to carolers that came to visit, and enjoying special meals.

On December 24, Marco offered red suspenders to a trim, elderly man who had been walking around the shelter in a very oversized pair of jeans, holding them up with one hand. The man put the suspenders under his pillow. Marco says he would never have offered this man new pants because that would have been demeaning. New pants were available, but the client did not want any. As shelter supervisor, Marco kept the Red Cross team informed about shelter client’s status and habits, and even explained about the red suspenders. So, Marco completed the deployment, thinking the client did not use the red suspenders. The supervisor who took over after Marco left texted him a few days later to say that the man was wearing the suspenders. This seemed to be because the supervisor continued to follow up and care for the client and helped him to put on the red suspenders.

Asked if he found his work at the shelter depressing, he says no. He found it rewarding, he says.
“This was my reasonable definition of Christmas,” he says. “You feel like you’re making a difference. “You’re having some impact.”

Superiors at the Red Cross shelter rated Marco’s performance as excellent in every category, noting that “he worked with a challenging clientele in a complex shelter and did so with compassion and empathy.” Reviewers also noted that “most impressively”, Marco developed the staff to replace him. “Thanks to Marco, the men’s dorm is in good hands, but he will be greatly missed,” the reviewers wrote.

Over ten years ago, Marco spoke and trained at a leadership meeting in Washington, DC and afterward, a doctor from the Red Cross suggested he consider volunteering. Marco thought it would be a good fit, given his background in health management, and so he signed up.

Marco started out volunteering at home fires and other disasters throughout the National Capital Region. Soon, he became a leader of a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT). His most poignant memory of the three years he spent volunteering there is handing a teddy bear to a distraught small child after their home burned.

He does not always deploy to local fires, but serves at shelter set-up for the victims and helps with logistics, disaster services technology, and staff services. He also trains volunteers and staff in how to run and work in a shelter and how to respond to fires, other emergencies and community preparedness education events. In all, he volunteers 30-40 hours a month for several Red Cross causes.

He’s also a community volunteer leader, working with other organizers to attract new volunteers, retain and engage those onboard, and enhance Red Cross’s presence in the community. He also teaches emergency preparedness classes and trains volunteers to work on the Pillow Case Project. In this program, children are taught about the dangers of fires and natural disasters. It was put together by the Red Cross and Disney, and children get pillowcases decorated with Disney characters and imprinted with a list of items they might want to bring in the event they need to evacuate their homes. In addition, he helps support the Home Fire Campaign. As part of this program, working with the fire department, Red Cross volunteers install free smoke alarms in homes of neighborhoods where there is a high degree of probability that those homes do not have working smoke alarms.

Another big interest for Marco is technology. He provides support for computers and other electronic equipment at disaster sites and events and trains users. This is done for the National Capital Region, including setting up and troubleshooting the region’s computers, radios, cell phones and other equipment. He helps at the Red Cross warehouse and has driven Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV), which carry food, water and medical supplies, to events as diverse as the Marine Corps Marathon, the presidential inaugurations, “Roaring Thunder”, and the 4th of July.

When asked how he relaxes, Marco chuckles, repeats the question and follows that with a long pause, as if he’d never considered it before. He mentions long walks, gardening and landscaping and then says he truly relaxes when he’s brushing up on Red Cross procedures or helping disabled veterans.

“I relax by reading Red Cross materials to keep up and be ready and prepared,” he says. “And I build wheelchair ramps. When I’m not Red-Crossing, I’m doing other volunteer work. That seems relaxing to me.”




Monday, March 25, 2019

Red Cross Giving Day - You Can Help One Family

By Cathy Simpson, Volunteer



In 2018, Red Cross volunteers helped millions of people reeling from a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large disasters across the country. Nearly every eight minutes, we met a family who lost everything to a disaster—the roof over their heads, their clothes, their most cherished possessions. But you can help during those first devastating hours. Join us by giving on March 27 for American Red Cross Giving Day.

You can schedule your donation now: redcross.org/givingday and #help1family. 

On Giving Day, we ask for everyone’s support to reach our goal of helping 25,000 families. By making a financial donation on March 27 at redcross.org/givingday, you’ll unite with thousands of people to help families during the first devastating hours of a disaster. Your gift can provide hope and urgent relief for families who need it most.

Ever wonder what it takes to support one family after a disaster?

  • $88.50 can provide a family of three in urgent need with a day’s worth of food, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus blankets and other essentials in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • $60 can provide six people with a nourishing meal that includes a main course, snacks and a drink to those impacted by disasters. 
  • $30 can ensure that children and families stay warm and can get a good night’s sleep with six comforting blankets.

Did you know that on average, each year, the American Red Cross responds to more than 62,000 disasters across the country to provide hope and comfort to people in need. We also collect more than 4.7 million units of blood and more than 900,000 platelet donations from nearly 2.7 million volunteer donors to meet the needs of patients at hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. To support this lifesaving work of the American Red Cross, we need your help.

We are asking you to join our team. By uniting together, we can make an impact.


Be one of the first to make a Giving Day gift now at redcross.org/givingday.