Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Stefanie Kline


Devoted to Helping Others for Life

Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer

Volunteer: Stefanie Kline, Fairfax, VA


Profession: House Management Assistant/Usher Supervisor for George Mason University Center for the Arts and a Project Assistant for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative

Length of Volunteer Service: 2 years and going strong

Q: What inspired you to volunteer for the American Red Cross? Why is it important to volunteer?

A: LIFE! When I can contribute in some way to someone else, I feel elated. I cannot think of anything better—that makes me happier—than knowing I have been a force for good, and a comfort for someone in need. My own experience with injury and trauma has made my priorities clear: wanting to lead a good life, help people, and perhaps inspire others to do the same.

I once lived in a remote part of Virginia, and on the way to work one day, I was involved in a severe car accident, to the extent that I was unconscious and have no memory of what happened. According to police investigation, it is thought I swerved to avoid hitting something, lost control of the car, and smashed into a tree; embedding the car into it. Three strangers saved me: a local gym teacher and two neighbors. The gym teacher with his CPR training led the other two in how to keep me breathing until medical professionals arrived, and the fire department cut the top off my car. These heroes stayed with me through the extraction from the car and were responsible for saving my life. Much later, one of the officers told me he never had the chance to meet a survivor from an accident like mine, because people don’t usually survive. I am alive because someone knew what to do, got involved, and stayed by me.

I am getting better at accepting my own physical limitations. I have a titanium rod in my leg, some plates in my face, and deal with varying degrees of pain in my back and hip daily, making disaster responses tough, but I keep going. I feel I am well-equipped to assist people coping with traumatic incidents partially because of my own experience, and I can empathize and support others recovering from disasters.

Q: What are your special skills that you use to support The Red Cross?

A: Community service has been a part of my life since I was little; I was a Girl Scout for twelve years. As a young girl, my Rabbi shared with me the Jewish value that the reward for living a good life is knowing you lived a good life. This has resonated with me since my accident, and I make every effort to live a life that feels rewarding in and of itself, in addition to introducing others to this concept.

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology and a Master’s Degree specializing in forensic anthropology (identifying human skeletal remains by establishing biological profiles). I want to take part in helping people recover from traumatic experiences, and to work to prevent large-scale atrocities like war crimes and genocide. I got really interested in studying disaster response in college after learning about the impact, loss of life, and devastation of Hurricane Katrina. When I moved back to the East Coast from California, after graduate school, I wanted to find ways to be more involved and help my local community. My mother had worked in Blood Research and Development for the American Red Cross for 36 years, and had recently retired. She was interested in seeing another side of the Red Cross, so we decided to focus on volunteering for disaster services and signed up on the same day!

Q: What is it like volunteering with your mom?

A: We excel in different areas of the disaster response team, which is mutually beneficial. Initially, she was not as eager to get up in the middle of the night to respond to a disaster; while I thrived on it. There was only one house fire that we both responded to, and it was awkward at first because we were the only two there, and I was the lead based on experience and authority to issue financial assistance. However, our common goal was to help those in need, and were were able to use our training and be successful in supporting the victims. Now my mom focuses more on sheltering and mass care, while I am responsible for other components of response and relief.

Q: What do you do as a volunteer? Can you describe what you do?

A: I started off as a Disaster Action Team responder, and I did some community outreach work where I was needed. I also volunteered to be on GO-teams for big events. The GO-teams are the volunteers you see roving around during occasions such as the Marine Corps Marathon or the recent inauguration of the President, and they are there to ensure public safety. I also volunteer to assist with presentations on building preparedness skills in communities, as well as staffing for larger operations. I am a government liaison when the Red Cross needs to help staff a local Emergency Operation Center, and I am the disaster workforce engagement administrative assistant for Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria.

Q: What are some memorable experiences you have about volunteering for ARC? How have you made a difference?

A: One of my strongest memories is from my very first Disaster Action Team call: a hotel fire in Alexandria, Virginia. Part of the hotel collapsed. Fortunately, no one was injured but, in addition to the numerous families who were staying at the hotel, there was a group of about 100 high school ROTC students from New York. The ROTC group ran up and down the hall making sure other hotel patrons got out. They did not all have time to change their clothes or put on shoes. I was part of the initial two-person response team that arrived around 5:00 a.m., and ended up assisting with client casework and providing mass care. We went to the store to make sure the kids had food and clothes, including toiletries and shoes. We also made sure they were fully equipped with water and snacks for their long bus ride back.  That was my "Welcome to the Red Cross" moment. It was a 15-hour response and inspired me to do so much more.

Q: What are you most proud of regarding your volunteer work for ARC?

A: I don’t think of it as being “proud,” but grateful for the amazing people I have met. I am proud to know so many committed volunteers who just want to help others in need. I think probably one of my most powerful contributions I have made to my team is bringing positive energy to meetings and classes. I have been told my enthusiasm can be contagious, and there is nothing I love more than smiling. I am glad I have worked with so many different groups within the Red Cross. I have gained really valuable experiences from each one.

Q: Is there anything I forgot to ask you that you would like to add?

A: Doris Crawford, another Red Cross volunteer, continually motivates me to keep on volunteering. She is our lead disaster responder. She trains responders left and right and goes on just about every single call. Doris is the most inspiring person I have ever met – she is committed to volunteering in any situation, no matter how inconvenient or what time it is. Her commitment and devotion have encouraged me to push myself to do more with the American Red Cross.

Check out more videos of Stefanie Kline on YouTube here and here

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Rebecca Callahan

Why I’ll Never Regret Volunteering

Written by: Rebecca Callahan, Volunteer
National Volunteer Week is April 23 through April 29. This week provides us with a special opportunity to recognize volunteers and to promote volunteerism with the Red Cross. The American Red Cross honors its hundreds of thousands of volunteers who help the organization assist people in need. 
I have been an American Red Cross volunteer since the early 2000s. Why? Well, to be honest, I was looking for a mission to care about. Between contracts as a graphic designer and content writer; I was going slightly stir crazy, and it was a slow period in New York at the time. So I briefly thought through areas that I wanted to support, and randomly chose American Red Cross.  
I walked in the door of the Greater New York Chapter, which was at 150 Amsterdam Avenue. I went directly to HR/Volunteer Resources where I met Curt. He looked at my resume, asked me to sit down and called the disaster health and mental health director who invited me to come on board to assist them in reconfiguring and updating their roster and keep better track of their people. 

About two months after I took on that role, the lead, Lauren came by my cubicle and stated, “You know media, right?”  I was deep in writing, so I answered flippantly, “Yes, like you know medicine, and there are so many different kinds of both!” That brought about the response, “Well, either way, you’re coming with me now, let’s go!” So into her vehicle I went and off we drove to Far Rockaway, New York.  

Upon arrival, there were ambulances, multiple FDNY teams and media everywhere. Lauren said; “I don’t handle media, I handle medicine. Our media team was unavailable, so you go handle media.” Trying to wrap my head around the type of handling expected of me, I looked around and saw the FDNY Incident Commander with a white hat and a shirt and tie. I walked over to him to ask for the current status of events and before I could say anything, he handed me a small container of Vicks Vapor Rub, saying; “Here, you need this!” I tried to figure out what was going on for a minute, and then I began to smell it. I have not come up with adequate words to explain what it smelled like. I took the menthol rub and put it around my nose and gradually began to think clearly again. Looking back at the commander, he reported that eight bodies were already discovered and there were several people still unaccounted for at that point. Then he stepped aside and directed me to the cameras and the satellite vans nearby and said, “You’re on.” 

I repeated the talking points nearly 200 times in the course of the following eight hours on the scene and as new data arrived, I continuously updated the journalists who had come from print, cable and broadcast media, providing updated numbers of fatalities, injuries and where families and those affected were being cared for nearby. Time began to blur a bit as the repetition became more and more automated after a time. My husband called around 5:30 wondering what had become of me and I told him I would be a while and that he could go to NY1 to learn why if he wanted.  

At 11:33 p.m. (I remember the time from looking at my phone), I began to look around and the vans were packed and leaving, the media floodlights were gone and the FDNY began the overhaul process to ensure that the fire was completely out. Lauren worked her way back to me at about that point and let me know that everyone was being cared for at this point and the temporary shelter had been staffed and was in full operations at that point, saying, “You did a really good job!”  

I honestly felt like I had snapped back to consciousness and looked at her for a second trying to remember what was going on. I then said, “Excuse me, I’ll be right back”; and proceeded to get sick. When I came back over to her, Lauren asked me if I had ever considered working in public affairs or media relations. I looked at her thinking she was crazy and said, “You did just see me get sick, right?” She replied, “Yes, but I also noticed that you were completely composed until the cameras went away. That is a talent that very few have. You may want to consider doing more in that area."   

Nearly 15 years later now, I have repeated that cycle on over 200 incidents. There have been many successful missions with rescued people and animals. There have also been many with multiple fatalities where I become the spokesperson walking the narrow line as first the protector for the family members, children and others who are not ready to be exposed to the world during the worst day of their lives, and second, the public information provider to the remainder of the community. I deployed to larger incidents during multiple hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav, Isaac and Sandy), Nor’easters in Boston and in New Jersey, crashes - from large ones with Sully Sullenberger, to smaller but far more fatal ones with NY Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle - and a bus crash on Interstate 95 in the Bronx that killed 13 people.  

I won’t try to sell you on volunteering for the adrenaline rush or for the adventure, although yes, those are still two plusses


that are still ones I experience. Instead, I want to encourage you and all of my colleagues who, like me, still continue to volunteer on top of a full-time job and family; professional and personal commitments that will always be a factor. Rather, I want you to know why I keep doing it. 

Every time I almost quit and run for the hills saying I don’t have enough to keep giving to this, I end up in a situation where someone’s life is directly affected and they are less damaged and ultimately able to get better. From a two-year-old alive and well after a massive fire, to a recovering addict being treated like a human being long enough to begin to believe he actually is one, to a fireman who rescues a small kitten who is all wet with his whiskers singed but still quite alive, to helping an elderly woman get back into her apartment to get her dentures after the building has a full evacuation, who comes back with the Fireman beaming with a big smile. 

Every one of these literally stocks up my volunteer patience bucket long enough to jump back in and do it again. My husband has been extraordinarily supportive and patient and even stepped up to participate and volunteer as well. He deployed and co-instructs various Red Cross courses with me. He and my dog have even stepped up to assist in some of the more fun aspects of the job. As he supported me, he began to feel the urge to help others as well, so he became EMT certified and has been a first responder on multiple occasions in New York and now here in the DC area for both law enforcement and rescue teams, also while working a full-time job. There are bad days too where no matter what you do it is not enough, and everyone is burning at both ends, but still, Mark Twain probably put it best, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” For me, it is getting closer to 20 years, and as far as the disasters and the people I was able to help, there are no regrets. So frankly, that is why I keep volunteering.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Red Cross Story: Steve Peth

Service is in His Nature: From Army DUSTOFF Pilot to Decorated Veteran to Private Sector to Volunteer

Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer


Name: Steve Peth, LTC, U.S. Army, Ret.
Resides: Nokesville, VA
Career: 26 Years, U.S. Army, retired; BDM International; 10 years Raytheon Corporation, retired
Years of Volunteer Service: 11 and continuing at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Facility

Steve helping a
military veteran with
physical therapy
Steve Peth is a dedicated American Red Cross volunteer and group leader serving the staff and patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Walter Reed) in Bethesda, Maryland. His calm-at-the-helm, friendly, and humble demeanor makes Peth the affable leader people love to be around and follow. At Walter Reed, the largest military medical facility in the nation, Peth coordinates 65-75 American Red Cross volunteers who help support care to the ill, wounded, and injured service men, women, and their families in the Department of Rehabilitation. The American Red Cross is the sole organization allowed to provide volunteers onsite at the prestigious medical facility. After undergoing a military clearance process, potential volunteers are then interviewed by Peth and matched with an available position in the Department of Rehabilitation.

“Number one, this is a military base,” said Peth. “Number two, it is a hospital setting. And number three, this is where we treat the President of the United States, members of Congress, and other dignitaries. So, security has to be a high priority.”

Service to others is a lifelong pursuit for Peth and is embedded in his nature.

“My inspiration to volunteer for the American Red Cross goes back to my first assignment in the Army, where I was assigned as an Army medical evacuation pilot (known as DUSTOFF) for 11 months in 1968/69 during the Vietnam War,” said Peth, now 71. “Evacuating people from the battlefield remains the most rewarding part of my career, and I was 22-years-old at the time. The helicopter I flew donned the famous red cross with white background to signify that, under the Geneva Convention rules, we were not supposed to be a target of combat.”

DUSTOFF crew members are among the most highly decorated soldiers in American history. During the Vietnam War, they pioneered the concept of dedicated and rapid medical evacuation during combat using unarmed helicopters designated with the red cross to distinguish them from other aerial vehicles. Many Vietnam battles raged at night, and DUSTOFF crews had to find landing amid potentially deadly combat with little visibility in mountainous or jungle terrain and during variable weather situations to rescue the wounded. They would then provide medical care enroot to a dedicated medical facility which proved to be the difference between life and death for the wounded. DUSTOFF crews were responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives during the Vietnam War, and are the model for modern-day rescue efforts in war torn areas.

“During one of my rescue missions, I finally got shot myself and evacuated from Vietnam to the United States to heal up,” said Peth, who went back to Vietnam for a second tour of duty. “Years later, when I retired, first from the Army after 26 years of service, followed by a 12-year-career in the private sector, it occurred to me that I might be a fairly decent volunteer at Walter Reed having been wounded myself during combat. I could offer empathy to young service people that others may not because of my personal experience being injured in combat, and I wanted to do something to give back to the military community with my newly found spare time. I saw on television what they were doing to help amputees through physical therapy, and I knew that this is what I wanted to do. So, I joined the American Red Cross and began serving in 2006 at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center and then transitioned to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.”

Steve as
DUSTOFF Pilot
in Vietnam War, 1968
When Peth is not shepherding volunteers, conducting intake interviews, and placing volunteers in different roles, he serves as a general volunteer at the facility’s Military Advanced Training Center’s physical and occupational therapy sections doing what he can to help staff and spend time with patients. From changing sheets, pillows, and towels, to moving patients back into their rooms, or helping patients with their exercises, Peth is making a difference to everyone whose life he touches.

“The patients and the staff are our customers, and we are there to serve them,” said Peth. “The staff is very appreciative of anything we can do to help them out. We have volunteers from all different backgrounds from retired doctors and lawyers to college and high school students and everyone in between.”

Peth acknowledges that he gets a lot of inspiration from volunteering, especially when people show their appreciation.

“All the clinic chiefs, doctors, nurses, therapists, and patients appreciate what we do,” said Peth. “When someone appreciates my contribution, that makes me want to do more.”

Walter Reed serves a lot of young people with terrible injuries, from amputees to those who suffer from brain and neurological disorders, and motivating people to do the things they used to enjoy before their injuries is a goal for therapists and where volunteers can help.

“For example, we have three Red Cross volunteers that are hobbyists with small remote control aircraft,” said Peth. “Once a week as part of their occupational therapy, they teach and assist patients to build models and fly the aircraft. This is extremely encouraging for the patients. We also use what is called assistive technology. We have a volunteer up in New Jersey who develops game controllers and he has created a design so that people with missing thumbs can use a game controller. He designs it and sends it to us electronically, and we produce it for our patients using a 3-D printer onsite. The patient’s love it.”

Working with the amputees is also quite an awe-stirring experience for Peth.

Steve helping a fellow volunteer
change bedding in the
Physical Therapy Clinic
“I have worked with 5 amputees who have lost all four limbs,” said Peth. “One in particular, the first person to lose all four limbs and survive, had a tremendous motivation to keep going and that inspired me. I would see him once a week. He liked cars; I liked cars. One day, I saw him on ‘60 Minutes.’ He was talking about getting an arm transplant. I had never heard of such a treatment. I started asking him all sorts of questions such as where is he going to get it done and how long did he think he was going to be on a waiting list to get arms? He said, ‘I don’t know, Steve, but your arms look pretty good.’ Boy, did we laugh. To have such a sense of humor with everything he faced sparked me to keep going.”

On Jan. 9, Peth experienced a significant heart attack in the middle of the night. Most people with the type of blockage he had do not survive. Because he lives in a fairly rural area, Peth knew he had to get to the hospital as soon as possible and couldn’t wait for an ambulance to pick him up at home. He asked his wife to drive him and very quickly they decided to stop at the nearest fire station on the way to the hospital. They called 911 to warn the fire department that Peth was on his way and that he was suffering from severe chest pain. Little did Peth know, there were several fire stations along the way to the hospital, so the dispatcher alerted all fire stations in the area of the situation because they were unclear where Peth would end up. Peth stopped at the Prince William County Fire & Rescue Station 6 on Dumfries Road near Manassas, Virginia, and while they did not have an onsite ambulance, they had the equipment to start to save his life, like setting up an IV and giving him nitroglycerine. Peth knew from his medical background as a DUSTOFF pilot, that the fire station staff was doing all the right things to save his life. When they were finished administering onsite medical help, an ambulance from a nearby fire station was waiting and off they went to the hospital, where he continued to successfully be treated. After Peth was released from the hospital, he wanted to personally thank the people who saved his life with their quick response and teamwork. So, on Jan. 29, just 20 days after his heart attack, Peth and his wife attended a dinner at the fire house where all those who helped save his life from both fire stations were present. He was able to thank them in person for saving his life.

“Those of you serving as civilian first responders should not take your service and jobs for granted,” said Peth. “I told them they should be proud of what they do. They save lives, and nothing is more precious than that.”  

Peth wants to continue his legacy of serving, so he went back to volunteering at Walter Reed as soon as he could after the heart attack—within a few weeks after his heart attack.

“I am most proud of making a contribution that is appreciated and enhances the lives of the military, their families, and veterans as well as helping to earn a sterling reputation for the American Red Cross at Walter Reed,” said Peth. “Also, I am a Vietnam veteran. Vietnam veterans were not necessarily appreciated by the public as returning veterans are today.  Regardless of the way Vietnam Veterans were treated, I am passing along a legacy of treating everyone, especially veterans, with honor, dignity and respect, the way Vietnam veterans should have been treated then and will continue to be treated by me now.”

Peth’s 26-year military career includes enlisted, warrant and commissioned service. During that time, he also commanded a variety of aviation and field artillery units. As an Army helicopter pilot, he accumulated 3600 hours flight time with nearly half in combat during his two tours of duty in Vietnam. Peth’s decorations include: the Silver Star, two awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal for Valor, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

GEN. Creighton Abrams,
Commander of MACV,
pins the Silver Star
on Steve, prior to
being evacuated
to the U.S., 1969
Peth retired from the Raytheon Company on August 1, 2004, as Vice President of Air and Missile Defense Programs, U.S. Business Development. He was responsible for a team of business development professionals providing air and missile defense expertise for Raytheon and interface with customers in the Department of Defense. In 2006, Mr. Peth was awarded the Missile Defense Agency Technology Pioneer Award for his work on the missile defense “Family of X-Band Radars” that are being deployed today as part of a comprehensive missile defense system for the United States Homeland, deployed troops and friends and allies. Peth joined the Raytheon Company in 1994 where he served initially as an Army Business Development Manager, and later, Director in the Raytheon Company Washington Operations. In September 1999, he established the Air and Missile Defense Directorate in Raytheon’s Corporate Business Development offices in Rosslyn, VA.  Prior to joining Raytheon, he served as a Principal Staff Member for Strategic Systems Development in BDM International. 

 “As you get older, you would like to do something that is appreciated within society and not necessarily getting a paycheck to do it,” said Peth. “Being a Red Cross volunteer fits the bill.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Severe Spring Weather Tips

By: Takara Clark, Volunteer

Spring is here, and with it comes warm weather, allergies, and bugs – but there is also severe weather that hunkers down on our area during this time. The only way to avoid disaster is to be ready for it. The Red Cross has a host of ways you can be prepared for the season.

For starters, you can download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of severe weather and other disasters, as well as locations of shelters. The App also includes emergency first aid information and a Family Safe feature which allows people to instantly see if loved ones are okay. The free Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

Next, see how prepared you are for emergencies. Use this checklist as a guide to help you make that determination.

In the event your area is threatened with floods, thunderstorms, or tornadoes, follow these helpful tips:

THUNDERSTORM
1. Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail.
2. If you are inside, unplug appliances and avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
3. Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches.
4. If you are caught outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.
5. Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home.

FLOODING
1. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
2. Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Underpasses, dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc. can become filled with water.
3. Stay away from floodwaters, they may be contaminated.
4. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
5. Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
7. Use this checklist to help you prepare for severe flooding.

TORNADOES
1. Know your community’s warning system.
3. Pick a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
4. If you are in a high-rise building and don’t have enough time to go to the lowest floor, pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
5. Find a local emergency shelter and know the best routes to get there if you need to.
6. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt.


Monday, April 10, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Prabhleen Batra, President of the Paint Branch High School Red Cross Club


Written by: Melanie Benson, volunteer

“Seva,” Prabhleen Batra tells me, “means selfless service.”  Prabhleen has practiced Seva, a foundational principle of Sikhism that encourages service without any personal benefit or reward, throughout her life.  She has a long history of volunteerism through community activities with her temple and serving at a local soup kitchen with her mother.  Adhering to this personal passion, it made sense that three years ago as a freshman at Paint Branch High School, MD, Prabhleen immersed herself fully in the school’s Red Cross club.

Today, amid a full schedule of other activities (Model UN, SGA, and honor societies), Prabhleen, now a junior, serves as club president.  What many may not know, however, is that Prabhleen is far more than the club’s leader - she is the reason that the club still exists.  During her sophomore year, Paint Branch’s Red Cross club struggled.  The club lacked direction and faced a bigger challenge when its faculty sponsor stepped down.  Recognizing the value of the club’s work, Prabhleen took action to preserve the Red Cross club.  She found a new sponsor, Ms. Weiss, a Spanish teacher, and rallied to convince her friends to join in club activities.

Today, Prabhleen’s leadership is supported by a vice president, community lead and secretary.  The revamped Red Cross club has 20 regular members who meet twice each month.  The club’s members work together to recommend activities of interest, such as repeated favorites including bake sales, preparing and sharing kit drives and making cards for heroes.  Currently, Paint Branch’s club is working on two larger community events, a blood drive, to be hosted around the beginning of summer, and a Fire Safety Canvassing Day in collaboration with the nearby Burtonsville Fire Department.

Reflecting on the progress the once struggling club has made, Prabhleen points to Ms. Karine Sewell’s visit to the school’s club as an inflection point and an activity that profoundly motivated club members. Ms. Sewell, the Red Cross Executive Director for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, visited the Red Cross members at Paint Branch to share stories of other school clubs and to offer activity ideas and support.  Ms. Sewell’s visit inspired the Paint Branch club with the impact of other clubs in the community and motivated them to add their own positive mark on their neighborhood.

Prabhleen urges other schools in the area to get involved with the Red Cross.  She recognizes that alternatives for community service exist through various honor societies, but highlights that the Red Cross has unique activities that make club diversity valuable.

Next year, Prabhleen will enter her last year at Paint Branch.  While she excitedly explores what will come next, she has already begun to take steps to ensure that the Red Cross club will continue to flourish for other students to enjoy.  Working as a mentor with current freshmen, Prabhleen is certain that the club will continue to do good even after her graduation.  She offers this wisdom to the underclassmen, "If each person does their part and gives a little back to the community, the lives of those less fortunate will be transformed.”

Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring Weather Tips


Written by: Melanie Benson, volunteer

In the National Capital Region, the beginning of spring draws us outdoors to enjoy cherry blossoms and warm days alongside DC’s monuments, parks and trails.  However, not all spring days are sunny and carefree.  Spring can be a time for devastating weather. It is the peak time of year for tornadoes, flooding, thunderstorms and other severe weather.

The Red Cross offers a variety of resources to educate and prepare our community against natural and manmade disasters.  By taking action now, our families can be better prepared when an emergency arises.

Be informed.  In order to be prepared, we must be educated on which emergencies are likely where we live.  Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how you will get information.  Know actions that you can take to protect yourself and others around you during these events.  Consider taking a First Aid or CPR class.

Get a Kit.  Assemble basic supplies such as water, first aid, food, medications and flashlights. Keep supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.

Make a plan.  Meet with your family or household members to discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.  Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team.  During planning, choose two meeting points, alternate methods of communication and an outside of the area emergency contact.  Get your printer friendly Red Cross contact cards here.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Pearl Parker

By: Melanie Benson, volunteer


Volunteer: Pearl Parker - Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Length of Volunteer Service: ~ 1 Year
Resides: Gaithersburg, Maryland


Pearl Parker was introduced to me as a Red Cross volunteer through Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the largest public service-oriented sorority for African American women in the country.  Pearl has been a member of Delta Sigma Theta for 30 years, but it wasn’t until 2015 when her sorority partnered with the Red Cross to help support the Home Fire Campaign in our local Gaithersburg community that she became a Red Cross volunteer. 


We have never met, but just from our time together over the phone, I can tell that Pearl is one of those individuals that everyone wishes they had as a friend.  She is effervescent and her positive energy and obvious kindness serve her well for the role as part of the Disaster Action Team in Montgomery County.  Pearl shares that she was bitten by the “preparedness bug” years ago as a Cubmaster for her son’s Cub Scout pack.  After taking a Montgomery County Emergency Response Team course in 2011, she became interested in learning how to educate members of her neighborhood and workplace in emergency preparedness.  As part of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, Pearl is a presenter for the Pillowcase Project in local schools, and participates in smoke detector installation campaigns to further the Red Cross mission of fire safety, awareness, and prevention.


Recently, Pearl’s engagement with the Disaster Action Team deepened when she responded to her first home fire call.  As one of a three-member team who answered the call to action that night, she describes it as a humbling experience.  Arriving at the scene of the house fire, the Red Cross workers cared for the affected family by providing warm blankets, assistance with immediate needs, and recovery guidance. Reflecting on witnessing and participating in the relief effort, Pearl remains in awe of the impact the Red Cross team was able to make by being there, and providing a temporary haven for the days ahead. “It was a short drive for me,” she tells me, “but life changing for others.”


Pearl's home fire response call further motivated her to stay involved with the Red Cross.  She knows that the next time the phone rings, she will do what she can to respond.  When asked if she has advice or inspiration to share with volunteers and potential volunteers she replies, “Helping others prepare or overcome a tragic event gives me a true sense of purpose.  In a world where it seems that we have little control, volunteering with the Red Cross helps me feel that I do." Pearl also shares a quote from Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, a fellow Delta Sigma Theta Sorority member, “Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.” I couldn’t agree more.