Blood Drives and Biking Motivate Volunteer

Two things really Kathy Schubert bikerget volunteer Kathy Schubert moving – riding bikes and giving blood.

“I need a destination on my bike, so I’ll ride to a Red Cross blood drive,” Kathy said.

The avid cyclist has been a Red Cross blood drive volunteer coordinator since 2001, organizing one of her first events for the organization days after 9/11 when there was an urgent need for blood.

Kathy continues to bike to blood drives around Chicago and the DePaul University campus, recruiting donors and helping collect more than 5,000 pints over the years.

“I volunteer because people out there need my help,” she said.

Story and photo by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Blood Donor Rolls Up His Sleeve for the 63rd Time

photoAmerican Red Cross volunteer Gerry Holmes believes donating blood is something significant he can do to help save lives.

Gerry first donated blood on his college campus when he was 18 years old. He had a good feeling knowing his blood helped someone in need back then, and still does today.

Since his college days, Gerry continues to roll up his sleeve three times a year at blood drives in the Greater Chicago Region. He has given blood 63 times over his lifetime, earning a 7 gallon pin in July 2014.

Congrats Gerry and thanksyou for helping save lives!

Story and photo by Catalina Alzate, American Red Cross Volunteer

“I’m Thankful the Red Cross Could Do Something For Us”

IMAG3211For 35-year-old Towanda Price, Thursday morning started out as just another day at work at a local restaurant.  But just minutes into her shift, she got a phone call that her Southside Chicago apartment was on fire.

Towanda’s son Terrance was at home sleeping at the time of the fire that started in the apartment above them. The 16-year-old inhaled some smoke, but got out safely.

Everything the family owned was completely soaked in water and ruined.  With almost nothing in the refrigerator, and a home that was inhabitable, Towanda was grateful the Red Cross quickly arrived on the scene.

“I’m thankful the Red Cross could do something for us,” she said. “I’m not sure what we could have done without their help.”

Both mom and son were tearful that they lost their home, but said help from the Red Cross, and words of encouragement from the dedicated volunteers, will help them get back on their feet.

Story and photo by Bob McCaffrey, American Red Cross Volunteer

Being Prepared 221 Miles Offshore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany types of emergencies can occur on an offshore oil rig, which is why Dan Workman’s employer requires him to be CPR and First Aid certified.

Dan works on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico located 221 miles offshore. For the past four years he has commuted from Palos Hills, Illinois to Texas to work three-week shifts on the rig. Dan has been re-certified several times now and says the training has definitely proved useful.

“When my co-workers get minor cuts and can’t help themselves, I bandage them up,” he said.

Dan has also witnessed more severe injuries. During one of his shifts, a fallen crane crushed a coworker’s pelvis and injured his leg. There’s a medic onboard to respond to emergency situations, but ensuring every worker is trained and prepared is vital. Dan has also been involved with the Red Cross blood services for many years by donating blood while in school and deployed in the military.

As a regular blood donor and knowing how to perform First Aid, Dan is prepared to save lives.

Story and photo by Kamryn McPike

Summit Tackles Topics of Recovery in Disaster Planning

Summit(1)If you consider the three phases of a disaster—prepare, respond, recover—the latter is probably the most challenging. That’s because after the storm has passed, the fires have been put out, and the roads are clear, there’s still so much work to do.

Recovery is a long-term process.  It can take months, even years.

The American Red Cross held it’s 5th Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit Aug. 21 in downtown Chicago where more than 200 leaders representing 85 business, government and community organizations gathered at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago , Gleacher Center so they can be prepared to partner and mobilize when disaster strikes.

The Summit focused on the recovery part in the disaster cycle, bringing together specialists who led recovery tactics in areas of infrastructure, economic development, transit, housing and human services.

Mike Foley, Chief Executive Officer North America Commercial and Regional Chairman of North America at Zurich, opened the Summit and emphasized resiliency in disaster preparedness, and the importance of multi-stakeholder coordination in disaster planning and recovery.

“Grounded in flood resiliency research, Zurich is collaborating with the insurance industry, business, academia, NGO’s and government organizations to develop strategies to drive resilience at the community level,” Foley said. “We believe Zurich and the insurance industry can add value to this discussion and work with the Red Cross to help communities understand and protect themselves from disaster risks, and in recovery.”

Here’s what other industry experts had to say.

Craig Hindman

Retired Executive Vice President, ITW

2014 Summit Co-Chair, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region Board of Directors

summit2Craig Hindman said this disaster preparedness summit helped foster the important networking of emergency professionals across a wide cross section of public and private industries.  Presentations of the old tried-and-true emergency response processes that are taken for granted were challenged with an open mind for a fresh approach.  The wide variety of speakers provided rare glimpses of their recovery efforts during actual disasters with hard lessons learned for all of us to take heed.  In the end, when disaster strikes, nobody is going to save us, we need to learn how to save ourselves.


Lane J. Roberts

Retired Chief of Police, City of Joplin, MO

summit3Police Chief Lane Roberts stressed the key to effective disaster preparedness boils down to three main concepts:  1) Stay in your own lane – this means emergency responders should only do what they are trained to do, and not overstep their bounds.  2) Reduce redundancy – this will help avoid wasting precious resources.  3) Get the government out of the way – government agencies are good at developing processes, but they should then get out of the way and let private businesses take over to get things done quickly.  Chief Roberts said non-profit organizations such as The American Red Cross are innovators and will do whatever it takes to immediately help those in need after disaster hits.


Tavares Williams

Community Emergency Response Manager, Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management


Tavares Williams wants residents to know that as members of the community, they have to be an integral part of the disaster planning process.  Residents have an inherent interest in disaster preparedness because they are: 1) direct customers of the services provided by emergency response agencies, 2) constituents of governmental and non-profit agencies, and 3) direct stakeholders in the success of the plan. Williams said residents should also ask: what about me?  Am I, my neighbors, and my family all included in the disaster planning process?  If not, then they all should get involved.


Jimmy Thompson

IEMA Region IV, Regional Disaster Coordinator

JimmyThompsonJimmy Thompson stressed we must collaborate and promote public and private sector partnerships in order to help in the long term recovery process no matter what the size of the disaster – big or small.  We need to emphasize to our partners that the recovery is not over when the disaster is over, because the infrastructure rebuilding will need attention for several years to come.


Earl Zuelke

FEMA Region V, Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator

15043986101_bbe4ffbc71_o (1)Earl Zuelke said when it comes to disaster preparedness, ask yourself – what can you do to lessen the impact of a disaster to your business, your community, and your own family.  First – think life safety.  Then – help the community recover economically, since Humpty Dumpty has to be put back together again.  The information on preparing for a disaster is available – you just have to act on it with a plan.  Unfortunately, the Midwest has one of the lowest percentage rates of the population who have taken the necessary steps to prepare for a disaster – this is primarily because this area of the country doesn’t have many major emergencies.  But we must get over the mindset that it won’t happen to us here, because disaster could strike when we are least prepared.


Harley Jones

Regional Chief Operations Officer, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region

summit 1Harley Jones (second from left) said disaster preparedness involves bringing the right people together including from government agencies, private companies, and non-profit organizations, and then making sure they are always thinking what they need to do in order to properly care for their employees, customers, and businesses. So if a disaster happens in their communities, these emergency responders will be better able to respond to victims in desperate need of assistance. It’s all about being ready to respond before a disaster happens, especially when you least expect it.


Story and Photos by Bob McCaffrey, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

More photos of the 2014 Disaster Preparedness Summit:




The Pillowcase Project: Kids sleep well knowing they’re prepared

Ten-year-old twins Isabella and Daniella have a lot in common, but they have different ideas about what to take in an emergency.

Isabella is packing a flashlight and batteries. Her sister is taking a toothbrush and toothpaste. All are good supplies if their family has to leave their house in a hurry, and both girls discovered a pillowcase is the perfect carrying case for all of it.

The twins and more than 50 of their fellow campers at Evanston’s Y.O.U. (Youth Organizations Umbrella) summer camp at Washington Elementary School this summer learned how to create an emergency kit using a pillowcase they decorated and personalized with colored markers. The American Red Cross program educates kids about natural hazards and coping skills using hands-on learning activities that blend art and science.

It’s called The Pillowcase Project. Y.O.U. Executive Director Seth Green said families of children who complete the program can sleep well knowing their household is more prepared.

“When children are in a safe, comfortable place they trust, they absorb ideas and thoughts to help them grow, learn and be empowered to persevere if confronted in moments of risk,” said Green. “The highlight is watching them connect that learning experience with the images and messages they draw on their pillowcase.”

Nine-year-old Margaret drew pictures of soap, a water bottle and a t-shirt on her pillowcase – necessities she wants underlined with words “I’m safe.” If her family ever has to leave her house at a moment’s notice, she’ll be ready.

“I learned a lot about what to do in emergencies that I didn’t know before,” she said. “When I go home I’m going to put this pillowcase right beside my bed.”

The Pillowcase Project was inspired by a story of college students in New Orleans carrying their belongings in pillowcases during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In the Greater Chicago area, the Red Cross will teach more than 5,000 kids in grades 3 to 5 these preparedness skills through youth development programs including Y.O.U, the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, and more throughout the region.

The Pillowcase Project emphasizes the importance of families developing an emergency communications plan, a fire evacuation plan and emergency contact cards. Children also learn about the science of natural disasters, the difference between storm warnings and watches, and dangerous weather patterns including thunderstorms, lightening and tornadoes.

At the end of the lesson, kids have fun using markers to color and personalize their pillowcase, which can easily carry emergency supplies during a disaster. The program is sponsored by Disney.

“Red Cross instructors take a scientific-based approach with hands-on activities, while at the same time, show children how to take a simple object—a pillowcase—and use it in an emergency if they have to evacuate their home,” said Fran Edwardson, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region. “Working with youth organizations, the Red Cross is helping children build confidence and learn coping skills in the event of an emergency.”

 Written by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Kamryn McPike, American Red Cross volunteer contributed to this story

Photos by Gerry Holmes, American Red Cross volunteer

For more photos of The Pillowcase Project:

From Albania to Chicago: Why Senada Greca Chose Team Red Cross

Senada after finishing The 2013 New York Marathon.

Senada after finishing The 2013 New York Marathon.

Although this is Senada Greca’s first time running for Team Red Cross, she has a long history with the organization.

Senada is originally from Albania where she lived during the Kosovo War in 1998-1999. She experienced firsthand the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross when thousands of Kosovan refugees came to her country.

Senada, who was in high school at the time, remembers volunteering at the Red Cross refugee shelters after school. She would visit with the refugees, many of whom were hospitalized, and helped provide food and clothing. Her family and some of her neighbors even welcomed refugees to stay with them in their homes. She and her family moved back to the United States in 1999 where she has remained since.

Senada is a serious marathoner and has competed in two other marathons in New York and New Hampshire. This is her first time running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the first time visiting the city. Her training involves waking up at 5 a.m. and running 5-6 days a week to accomplish her goal of a 3:30 time or less in order to qualify for the Boston marathon.

But another important goal for Senada is raising money for an organization that has made such an impact in her life. “The Red Cross has influence in so many parts of the world. You can be assured that no matter how small the country or political influence, they will make an impact,” she said.

Senada has witnessed aspects of the Red Cross mission that many of us only hear about and her experiences have substantiated that this is a mission worth running for. Join Senada in running for Team Red Cross by registering here:

Written by Kamryn McPike


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