Donors Help Need for Blood During Winter

24428872811_8f841dd317_o(CHICAGO, IL) – Matthew Sharp makes an effort to give blood every three months. The Glenn Ellyn resident has Type O negative blood – only 9 percent of people in the United States have his blood type. O negative donors like Sharp are universal donors as their blood can be given to people of all blood types.

“It’s an hour out of my day and saves a couple lives,” he said.

Sharp and hundreds of Chicago area residents of all blood types rolled up a sleeve at the 23891944734_b98ae3757e_oABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive  Jan. 20. Braving cold temperatures, donors gave blood at Union Station’s Great Hall and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook. A combined 621 units were collected between both locations in the largest single-day blood drive in the greater Chicago region.

This event comes at a crucial time since blood donations tend to decline in the winter months. Inclement weather and seasonal illnesses can keep eligible donors from giving, creating a greater need for donations during the winter.

As one pint can save up to three lives, many gave blood to help those in need, while others wanted to be an example to family members.

“I started donating in college…my daughter knew I was coming today,” said Takyrica Kokoszka of Oak Park.

24152356339_2472a67c1a_oGov. Bruce Rauner also stopped by Union Station to thank blood donors, Red Cross volunteers and biomedical staff, and even donated a pint of blood.

Phlebotomist Robin Langenfeld came from the Peoria biomedical team to assure proper tracking of blood by placing bar code labels on donor bags. From there blood is processed, tested and stored by the Red Cross until it is ready to be shipped to hospitals.

The annual blood drive event was launched in 2015 during the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross in Chicago. The Red Cross and ABC 7 partnered this year with Amtrak, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Fresenius Kabi, iHeartMedia Chicago, Clear Channel Outdoor, Univision and Potbelly Sandwiches.

Each day, the Red Cross needs 14,000 blood donations to meet the needs of patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. To help ensure patients have the blood products they need this winter, eligible donors can make an appointment using the Blood Donor App, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by visiting www.redcrossblood.org.

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Story by Nick Lagen, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Public Affairs Volunteer

 Photos by Bill Biederman, Danny Diaz, and Gerry Holmes, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Public Affairs Volunteers

For more photos of the ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/albums/72157663623651856/with/23891944734/

 

Placing Humanity back on the Map

Placing Humanity back on the Map

Over the course of just a few hours on a Friday afternoon, 20 volunteers in Chicago helped map the future of emergency response efforts across the world without having to step foot on an airplane.

In an age where we heavily rely on GPS, digital technology and Googling for instant results, it’s a shock to many thCloseUp mapat much of the world does not officially live on a map. This makes it especially difficult for first responders to navigate (literal) uncharted areas when they need to deliver help quickly.

In the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois’ fifth “Mapathon,” on December 11th, a handful of public volunteers alongside employees from Discover worked together to map out a town in Kenya, where traffic accidents are one of the most common and deadly disasters. Without reliable maps, it makes it very hard for organizations like the Kenya Red Cross  to accurately track where most accidents happen and how to create plans to prevent them in the future.

“It’s actually pretty relaxing! And it’s way more satisfying spending time doing this instead of playing Candy Crush,” Discover employee Keenan said while plotting a new road on the grid.

The concept is simple: the American Red Cross together with the British Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team formed Missing Maps—a project to put more than 20 million people onto a free and editable map of the world.

Anyone with internet access can help trace sections of a community using satellite imagery as a guide on a digital map. Zero technical training, course requirements or traveling is required. Mapping experts then double-check volunteer work to make sure it’s accurate, and the maps become usable.

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It’s also a convenient solution to one of the most frequent questions people ask the Red Cross after an international disaster happens: “How can I help from where I am?”

American Red Cross volunteers continue to map communities in response to several disasters like the Nepal and Haiti earthquakes and the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in West Africa.

A few volunteers even said they’d continue the Mapathon at home.

“I’ll definitely be telling my friends about this,” Keenan added. “I get now how important maps are in the world.”

Story and photos by Katie Wilkes, Regional Marketing Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

To participate in the Missing Maps project, or to organize a Mapathon of your own, contact Jim McGowan or Ryan Bank at jim.mcgowan@redcross.org. 

CBS Radio/Telethon Aids Disaster Relief

IMG_7301(CHICAGO, IL) – On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, CBS hosted the fourth annual CBS Chicago Cares Radio/Telethon to benefit disaster relief for the American Red Cross.

Volunteers answered the phones for 14 hours Nov. 24 to take donations atIMG_7277 the CBS Broadcast Center downtown. Even people walking by the studio, like Ania, donated cash and coins after school.

CBS Director of Community Affairs Shawnelle Richie said in 2012 the station wanted to do something to give back and decided to partner with the Red Cross. “So, we told them that we would want to raise money and showcase all the good that they do,” said Richie.

This year’s telethon focused on home fires – one of the biggest disaster-related threats to families. The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 fires every day in our community, helping families with food and shelter.

23203362651_bbda3d7a8a_oWhile volunteers collected donations on the phone, another group helped out at the Chicago Fire Department’s Engine Company 38 on 16th St. in North Lawndale. They gave out 500 free carbon monoxide detectors and signed up 130 residents for smoke alarm installations.

“These are life safety devices that really do work in emergency situations,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Cunningham.

The Red Cross recently launched a nationwide program called the Home Fire Campaign. This initiative aims to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent over the next23259237576_29bf01d7d7_o (1) several years by installing smoke alarms in homes located in high-risk communities. Families are also educated about fire safety and make a fire escape plan.

Claire Pywell, Regional Individual and Community Preparedness Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, said the campaign has “really just begun, but so far, nationally, we can document 27 lives saved by all the smoke alarm installs that we’ve done.”

The Home Fire Campaign requires volunteers to install the alarms in23178276552_cebd8910bc_o people’s homes and provide fire safety education on site. The carbon monoxide detectors were donated from First Alert, allowing volunteers to give them away free of charge at the fire station during the telethon.

In addition to the smoke detectors, Cunningham said it is important for people to plan a meeting place outside the home and actually practice exit drills in their home, “I actually make my own family practice it.”

The CBS telethon raised more than $1 million for the Red Cross. Corporate donors included Aon, Ace Hardware, Astellas USA Foundation, CDW, McDonald’s and Motorola Solutions Foundation.

If you’d like to help people affected by disasters, big or small, call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to redcross.org

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Story by Eleanor Lyon, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

 Photos by Bill Biederman and Danny Diaz, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Volunteer Karen Nelson: Answering the Red Cross Call for 15 Years

For Red Cross volunteers the call to serve can come at any time: volunteer Karen Nelson has been answering that call for an impressive 15 years. Karen has been deployed 14 times, most recently to North Carolina to assist with Red Cross flood relief efforts.ResizedImage_1443736193689

However, outside of her service to the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Karen has led a full life. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 56 years. Karen and her husband have five amazing children and seven adorable grandchildren. When she is not volunteering for the Red Cross she loves to go boating and snowmobile. One of her favorite hobbies is spending time with her grandchildren. Karen has been a lifelong resident of Rock Falls, Illinois. She is an invaluable asset to the community and to the American Red Cross.  We thank you for being on our team Karen!

If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, visit redcross.org.

Story by Lisa LaSala, Executive Director, American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois

For Team Red Cross Runners: the Choice Goes Beyond the Finish Line

(Chicago, IL) – When a Chicago Marathon runner signs up to run with Team Red Cross, they pledge not only their determination and skill, but also the promise of raising $1,500 to support the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross.

Runner John Alegnani from Louisville, Kentucky is no stranger to this promise: this is his third Chicago Marathon running for 21915091680_a1e2472aa7_zTeam Red Cross. “When people decide to run (the Chicago Marathon), they often have a personal connection to the team they choose. I chose the Red Cross because they help so many people in need across the globe, that’s what keeps me coming back.”

131 runners crossed the finish line this year for Team Red Cross: the biggest number yet since the team was formed in 2007. Combined, over $200,000 was raised by our runners to benefit American Red Cross programs and services throughout Chicago and Northern Illinois: such as veteran assistance, reconnecting families, and home fire preparedness.

For first time C22077008226_e82d5d442d_zhicago Marathon runners Tim Hotchartani of New York City and Paola Buitrago of Colombia, South America, the choice to run with Team Red Cross was personal.

Tim, a healthcare investment banker was the  first Team Red Cross runner to cross the finish line  at 2:55.30. “I wanted to match the professional with the personal,” for his first Chicago Marathon, he said.

Paola has followed the work of the Red Cross since moving to the Chicagoland area a year and a half ago, “Many of my friends in Colombia are volunteers with the International Federation of the Red Cross . When I moved to Chicago, many of my friends here are volunteers with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. So it was amazing to pick an organiza21482284723_281fef22f7_ztion to run with that everyone I know is already familiar with.”

An official charity partner with the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the Red Cross is proud to bring together runners of all ages and abilities since 2007 in support of the  its mission. If you or someone you know is interested in running the Chicago Marathon in 2016 with Team Red Cross, visit RedCross.org/chicagomarathon for details and sign up information.

For more photos of Team Red Cross at the Chicago Marathon:

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/albums/72157659284238510/with/21916361809/

Story by Alexandra Sobczak, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by Danny Diaz, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Volunteer  

Red Cross Goes Door-To-Door to Install 400 Smoke Alarms on Chicago’s South Side

Roseland Rally Knock on Door 9.19.15(CHICAGO, IL) – Christine White opened her door to American Red Cross volunteers on Chicago’s South Side on a Saturday morning to install smoke alarms in her Roseland home.

“I’ve never needed your services (for disasters), thank God. Hopefully, I never will,” she said as volunteers installed smoke alarms and made a safety plan for her family.

21370799950_04fcf9492d_oA few blocks south on 108th Street, Shavett Lovemore told volunteers, “We haven’t experienced anything personal, but you still hear the stories.”

The Roseland community on Chicago’s South Side has one of the highest numbers of fire fatalities in Northern Illinois. That’s why armed with ladders and drills volunteers went door-to-door to install more than 400 smoke alarms in a single-day on Sept. 19 to help families be safe. 21547221372_49e3d9e1d1_o

The effort is part of the nationwide Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Working alongside fire departments and community groups, the Red Cross and its partners will install 5,500 smoke alarms in Northern Illinois communities, like Roseland, over the next several months.

For senior citizens and people with physical disabilities, having the Red Cross install a smoke alarm in their home is crucial in those hard to reach places.

CPSXhRiWcAAhyQ6“That’s something I can’t do. Thank you,” said Roseland resident Ed Bishop, when Red Cross volunteer Goeffrey Fishwick installed the device on the ceiling where smoke would rise to set it off if a fire would spark.

It’s also smart to install smoke alarms in bedrooms and hallways to sleeping areas. For Glenda Johnson, a stroke survivor, who needs a wheelchair to move, the Red Cross installed two smoke alarms in her home. “It’s good that you’re coming around,” she said.

For every smoke alarm installed in Roseland, volunteers like Cam Anton, also mapped out how families can safely exit their home in less than two minutes during a fire.

RoselandVolunteerInstallAlarm 9.19.15At Erma Washington’s home, where Cam’s team installed two smoke alarms, he walked her though her home pointing out possible exit areas through windows, and the front and side doors.

“So right there you’ve got three escape routes, and that really gives you a good game plan should an event actually occur. Hopefully not, but if it does, you’ve got a good game plan,” said Cam.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day, providing food, shelter, clothing and emotional support.21371469408_06f47f601d_o

Home fires tend to increase in the fall and winter, which is why Regional Disaster Officer Harley Jones said the Red Cross is making a big push now to be prepared for the colder months ahead.

“Home fires are tragic and devastating to those who experience them,” said Jones. “Our aim is to arm as many families as possible with these safety measures to help prevent another tragedy.”

TWO MINUTES TO ESCAPE  It is estimated that you may have only two minutes to get out after a fire starts in your home. As part of the campaign, the Red Cross is also asking every household in America to join us in taking two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home. Every family should develop a fire escape plan, and practice it.

21369962598_25d54af9c8_oGET INVOLVED People can visit redcross.org to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones and homes from fire or contact their local Red Cross to find out about smoke alarm installation events in their community. They can also help by volunteering their time or making a donation today to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters big and small. We respond to nearly 70,000 other disasters every year, from home fires to hurricanes and more. Learn more about how Disaster Relief donations have helped people affected by previous disasters including home fires.

 

Roseland Rally Group Shot 9.19.15

American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteers Tyler Bieschke, Eleanor Lyon and Alex Sobczak contributed to this story

 Photos by American Red Cross Volunteers Danny Diaz and Bill Biederman

 For more photos of the Roseland Smoke Alarm Installation Event:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/albums/72157658419790759

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World’s Largest Pillowcase Project Teaches Chicago Children Preparedness Skills

20824159040_bc91d13214_o(CHICAGO, IL) – When Hurricane Katrina made landfall 10 years ago, no one was prepared for the immense destruction and devastation it would inflict upon the Gulf Coast.

Many children were traumatized by their memories of the storm’s fury so the American Red Cross developed a program using something as simple as a pillowcase to help children feel safer and more prepared for a disaster.

21012145605_53a1db1594_oOn the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29, 2015, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois participated in the World’s Largest Pillowcase of youth preparedness activities taking place across the county. In Chicago, kids gathered at the Robert Morris University where they learned how to prepare for a disaster and received art supplies to personalize their own pillowcase.

Eight-year-old Beatrice decorated her pillowcase with pictures of her family and favorite household items.

“I liked coming today because I learned a lot of important things,” Beatrice said. “Now I know not to put my hand on a door knob if there’s a fire because I might get burned. I need to open the door slowly so I can be safe.”

The Pillowcase Project was inspired by university students in New Orleans who evacuated the storm by carrying their personal items in pillowcase. Soon after, the Pillowcase Project became a youth preparedness class offered around the country by 20391260033_1191f8e0d6_othe Red Cross and sponsored by Disney.

In the last ten years, the Pillowcase Project has helped thousands of children learn to cope during emergencies from hurricanes to home fires. For more information on the Pillowcase Project:  RedCross.org.

For more photos of the World’s Largest Pillowcase event in Chicago visit our Flickr page. 

Story by Alexandra Sobczak, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by Danny Diaz, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Volunteer  

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