Local Military Family Receives Red Cross Resources

Local Military Family Receives Red Cross Resources

Flora Martinez, 55, received a surprise call from the local Red Cross after her son deployed with the U.S. Army. During the call, Michelle McSweeney, Manager of Service to the Armed Forces Programs, had a conversation with Flora in Spanish about the support that the Red Cross offers to military families.

“I didn’t know about any of these programs and I was very happy to hear about them,” said Flora, who recalled another time, years ago when she lived in Mexico, when the Red Cross helped her. Her mother was sick and a Red Cross ambulance helped their family at no charge. Flora even volunteered for the Red Cross as a teenager when she lived in Mexico.

Flora immigrated to the U.S. thirty years ago. Her son, Cristian, is 23 years old and currently stationed in Bahrain, a small island between Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He has been in the army for two years, having decided to pursue a U.S. military career at the age of 21 to do something remarkable for him, his family and his country.

The Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service. The call Flora received was assurance that help is always available to her. One of the most common things military families need, is assistance in reaching their service member in the case of an emergency at home, such as an unexpected illness of a family member or the passing of a loved one.

The Red Cross is available 24/7 to ensure these urgent messages are sent as quickly as possible to the service member, no matter where in the world they are stationed. At times, the Red Cross may also assist in helping the service member get back home on emergency leave to spend time with their family when they need it most.

Cristian is currently able to communicate with his family from Bahrain through text messages, FaceTime calls, and handwritten letters. He always reminds his family how much he misses them and how good he feels being in the military because he is doing something important.

Thanks to Cristian’s hard work, he’s able to help his sister go through medical school at Loyola.

Flora fondly remembers her most recent birthday, when someone knocked on the front door and she opened it to find Cristian proudly standing there in his army uniform.

“I immediately started crying. It was a very emotional moment for both of us,” said Flora. “It was the best birthday present I could ever imagine.”

He had come home for three weeks and they spent both Flora’s birthday and Thanksgiving together as a family.

Years after she volunteered for the Red Cross in Mexico, Flora is now planning to volunteer for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, starting by helping to install smoke alarms in her neighborhood in Waukegan.

To learn more about how Red Cross helps military families, please visit our website at redcross.org/emergencycommunication.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dominic Poggi

Volunteer Spotlight: Dominic Poggi

Ninety percent of the work of the American Red Cross is done by a massive group of dedicated volunteers from all backgrounds and career paths. Dominic Poggi (pronounced Poe-ghee) is one of those trusted volunteers.

Dominic credits his father for inspiring him to work in disaster response. His father did disaster planning for school districts.

“I chose to volunteer for Red Cross because I like seeing the immediate impact of the work,” Dominic said.

Dominic ARCGC

It all began when Dominic signed up to install smoke alarms, and then joined the Disaster Action Team. When tornadoes recently hit Ottawa and Naplate, IL, Dominic was there to provide casework support. In addition to all those roles, he is currently completing his training to be a dispatcher as well.

Within these roles, Dominic has faced difficult situations and conversations especially after Hurricane Matthew.

“The woman was distraught and giving up on her recovery. She wasn’t motivated. I talked her through it and got her to agree to speak with disaster mental health. I got her to take a step forward, and I was really proud of that,” Dominic said.

He acknowledges that asking for help is hard for many people, but being able to provide immediate assistance in that critical time is huge!

“I like giving people the confidence to take the path forward and take steps to help themselves, with some assistance along the way,” Dominic said. “It’s great to know that nobody falls through the cracks and that we’re not settling for waiting for them to reach out to us.”

Dominic MARC.jpgDominic says volunteering with the Red Cross at the Rauner Center also makes for a fun workplace environment. He recalls one afternoon when he and an intern were heading out for lunch and caught a wonderful aroma of good food. They turned around and “sniffed out” lunch being served right in the building and helped themselves!

Dominic is a driven, dedicated and loyal volunteer for the American Red Cross. And, in May 2017, Dominic joined the team as a staff member! He is excited to make a career out of his passion in fulfilling the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Photo Jul 21, 6 19 54 PM.JPGOutside of his generous volunteer time with the Red Cross, you may find Dominic spending time with friends or family. Or, he may be playing hockey, but not on ice, a floor, or concrete. Dominic plays hockey under water! Yes, underwater hockey is a real thing, and it makes for a great workout too.

Dominic has a background in sales and a marketing degree from Northern Illinois University. He started the Toastmasters Club in Evanston four years ago. And, he recently completed Seth Godin’s altMBA program.

But, sales wasn’t enough for him, “Money is good, but it’s not everything,” he said.
Thank you for all you do, Dominic. The American Red Cross is proud to have you.

Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute Honored with American Red Cross 2017 Heritage Award

Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute Honored with American Red Cross 2017 Heritage Award

In recognition of more than a century of support to the American Red Cross and the greater Chicago community, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is proud to honor The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute with the Heritage Award.

The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded in 1911 with a mission to pursue the investigation of the causes of disease and the prevention and relief of human suffering in Chicago. A few years after The Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was founded, the Red Cross established a Chicago chapter. The son of Otho, A.A. Sprague II, was the first chairman of the board of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago when it was chartered in 1915. Organized just six weeks before the infamous Eastland Disaster, when a passenger ship rolled over onto its side while tied to a dock in the Chicago River, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago was able to respond immediately.

The Institute’s early research programs investigated cancer, the effects of chemotherapy on tuberculosis, industrial diseases and the metabolism of carbohydrates affecting diabetes. The Institute funded and created a biomedical research program, which was considered bold at the time. This early research resulted in many important findings,
including the cause of scarlet fever.

“The early 1900s reflected a time when so many institutions were being created,” said James Alexander, executive director of the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute. “This great family was at the center of a lot of that. The earliest work of the Institute reflected an innovative mindset.”

In 1995, the Institute created the Chicago Asthma Initiative, funding a diverse group of researchers, providers, community and patient initiatives to highlight the growing health problem, collect data, apply innovative solutions and share outcomes.

In 2002, the Institute re-focused its grant-making energies on obesity prevention. It created The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), which has become a globally recognized model. Longitudinal research shows obesity rates in pre-kindergarteners have been reduced by two percent due to CLOCC’s efforts. Initiatives in
Oral Health, Public Health and Behavioral Health continue the Institute’s model of fostering collaborations.

The Institute continues to fund the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, specifically the Patient Connection program, a central hotline that expedites the ability of family and friends to connect with each other after a disaster.

“More than a century has passed since the Sprague family helped charter the Chicago chapter of the Red Cross. Our founding members set the stage for years of important work to come,” said Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Both the Red Cross and the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute work
to prevent and alleviate human suffering. It is a joy to honor their connection to the founding of our local Red Cross and to celebrate their impact on the city of Chicago.”

The Heritage Award is given to an individual or organization whose leadership and actions greatly enhanced the welfare of our community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Mr. Mark Buciak Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Blood Services Hero

Mr. Mark Buciak Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Blood Services Hero

In 1996, Mark Buciak was devastated when his father died right before the holidays. “He was my biggest supporter. I knew I could let this be the lowest point in my life.” But Mark didn’t do that.

During his life, Mark’s father had instilled in him the importance of giving back, helping those in need and sharing one’s gifts. “My father was a regular blood donor because he knew blood was the gift of life.”

As an elite distance runner, Mark ran regularly to clear his head. On December 31, during his last run of the year, Mark decided to start the New Year right and do something to keep his father’s spirit alive. Soon after, Mark established the John Buciak Memorial Blood Drive to honor his father’s memory.

The blood drive is held annually at Old St. Pat’s Church and has become one of the largest in Chicago, collecting more than 1,500 units of blood since its inception 20 years ago. Each year, Mark and his family make the blood drive a celebration of life. Mark’s seven-year-old daughters dress as blood drops, participants enjoy raffles, therapy dogs are there to calm nerves and masseuses even provide pre-donation relaxation.

As an elite runner who has completed more than 60 marathons, Mark understands the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In 2004, after more than 30 years of distance running, Mark was told he had a congenital heart defect. Two years later, doctors told him he needed heart surgery to save his life. As he headed to surgery, Mark reflected on the, now very personal, value of the blood he had been collecting.

After surgery, Mark began the slow climb back to health. Having run 26 consecutive Boston Marathons, Mark was determined not to let his heart surgery deter him from his 27th. Despite doctors’ recommendations, 11 weeks post-surgery, Mark flew to Boston. He finished the marathon as they were shutting down the course. “It was not my personal fastest, but it was my personal best,” he said.

In 2013, Mark and his wife Barrie were running the Boston marathon when two homemade bombs killed three people and injured more than 260. Barrie had just crossed the finish line and Mark had a quarter of a mile to go when the race was stopped. Mark said being in the thick of that tragedy reaffirmed his commitment to the gift
of life.

“It was more than a marathon, it was a race of good versus evil,” he said. “And how could good win the race?” Upon arriving back home, Mark and Barrie both donated blood. “Technology can keep people alive and cure many diseases, but it cannot manufacture blood. There is only one source and that is you.”

The Blood Services Award is presented to an individual(s) or organization that is involved in activity that creates awareness of the importance of blood donation, helps to ensure a sufficient and safe blood supply is available to patients, and/or serves as an advocate for the blood community

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Dr. Michael Millis Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Global Citizenship Hero

Dr. Michael Millis Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Global Citizenship Hero

Dr. Michael Millis, a transplant surgeon and the director of the University of Chicago Liver Transplant Program, has performed more than 1,000 liver transplants. In addition to this incredible work as a transplant surgeon, Michael has also successfully transformed the contentious approach to organ donation in China.

During trips to China in the late 1990s, he learned that executed prisoners were the primary source of donor organs. In a practice called “transplant tourism,” individuals from around the world could fly to China for transplant surgery and essentially order any organ they needed. In some cases, judges even pronounced death sentences to
prisoners and scheduled executions to meet the needs of local hospitals. Michael grew even more troubled when he began treating patients in Chicago—both Chinese and American nationals—who had suffered complications after transplants in China.

Michael took immediate action and became an expert on the organ donation process in China. He took multiple trips to China and established relationships with local doctors as well as the Vice Minister of Health, Jiefu Huang. In late 2006, the vice minister of health publicly acknowledged the use of prisoner organs being used for donations. For
Michael, this indicated that there was an opportunity for change.

Working together, Jiefu and Michael secured a grant from the China Medical Board to investigate alternative approaches. By 2006, Michael had become the main consultant to help design the new system. At that point, 95% of organ donations in China were from executed prisoners and transplant tourism was widespread, with few regulations
governing transplant quality. Major changes were afoot.

In 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Health began requiring stricter standards for any hospital that offered transplants, cutting the total number of such facilities from 600 to fewer than 200. A central registry of donors was set up, along with educational initiatives to encourage volunteer donation. To stamp out transplant tourism, the government
declared that Chinese citizens receive priority as organ recipients and regulations were put into place requiring prisoners or prisoners’ families to sign consent agreements to donate organs. Penalties were put into place for involvement in illegal activities.

Largely led by Michael’s and Jiefu Huang’s efforts, an official ban prohibiting the use of executed prisoner organs for transplants was put into place in January 2015. Now, a volunteer donor program is in place that is supported by the government, enacted by hospitals, and lauded by locals and international agencies as well.

Michael says his Chinese counterparts have started complaining about the same things his American colleagues do: their unpredictable schedules, the calls to operate in the middle of the night, being overworked one day and bored the next. “These are all issues you deal with when you’re a surgeon who depends on volunteer donations,” he said.
“That shows me they’re on the right track.”

The Global Citizenship Award is presented to an individual(s) who volunteered or worked to meet the needs of the world’s potentially vulnerable populations by building safer, more resilient communities and providing needed relief.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Captain Eve Gushes, Sergeant Charles Artz, Sergeant Nichelle Fraction, Officer Michael Cleary, Officer Myrian Bugarin & Officer Janice Wilson Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Law Enforcement Heroes

On November 6, 2016, a two-year-old girl and an 11-month-old baby sat frightened atop a filthy mattress in an insect infested apartment without running water or heat. Alone and abandoned, they clung to their seven-year-old sister’s arms, shivering in the darkness.

Responding to a Children Left Alone call in Englewood, Chicago Police Sergeant Charles Artz and Officer Michael Cleary came upon the disturbing scene. It was unclear just how long the children had been abandoned. The officers acted quickly to care for the terrified children, taking the three to safety and soon thereafter arresting their father for child abuse. The officers remained at the girls’ sides even after they received care at a
nearby hospital.

The oldest, Destiny, had never been to school and was unable to spell her own name. However, she managed to tell the officers her grandmother’s name, Delores, which helped the officers track her down. Without hesitation, Delores agreed to take immediate custody of all three of her grandchildren, whom she had not seen in years.

Later, when the responding officers learned that Delores had sacrificed her bed for the children and was sleeping on the floor, they knew the family needed more support. They rallied other Chicago police officers and started bringing the children food, clothing, diapers and other essentials. Yet, it was clear that Delores still needed more help, although she never asked the officers for anything.

The officers joined together to further aid the girls and Delores. Together, and out of their own pockets, the 7th District officers helped put Destiny into a quality school, driving her there on their own time each morning. They threw birthday parties for the girls, bought them groceries, and helped Delores find a new apartment.

On one special occasion, they surprised Destiny with a trip to Brookfield Zoo Lights, where she met Santa for the first time. Then on Thanksgiving, the officers surprised Delores when they delivered a full meal. “I knew our angels were going to come today!” Delores exclaimed when they dropped off the food.

Myrian and Janice are now like favorite aunts to the girls, regularly stopping by the house to play and spend time with them.

“The way my officers came together like that … I’ve never seen anything like it in the 28 years I’ve worked for the Chicago Police Department,” Eve said. “Sometimes this job erodes our empathy. And sometimes we have to do something to restore our faith in humanity.”

The Law Enforcement Award is presented to a professional police officer(s) or related law enforcement official(s) who exhibited heroism either in response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

Mr. Ray Carter Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Disaster Services Hero

Mr. Ray Carter Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Disaster Services Hero

Eighty-two-year-old Ray Carter could enjoy his retirement in a traditional, relaxing way. Instead, the Vietnam veteran has been a dedicated American Red Cross disaster response volunteer for almost ten years.

Prior to volunteering, Ray retired from his career working in city and county government, including 14 years as a fraud investigator. He always enjoyed doing community service, at one point serving as a Cubmaster to be a guiding force for the next generation. Upon his retirement, he had a desire to stay active.

Every day, Red Cross volunteers respond to four to five devastating home fires in Chicago and Northern Illinois. Red Cross responders like Ray are there on, what is likely the worst day of someone’s life, to help them cope. Volunteers guide people along the path to recovery, working with families to help them meet their immediate needs after a disaster, including temporary housing, food, clothing, bedding, replacement medications
and more.

“I worked hard, but had been fortunate. I had a good job and was able to take care of my family. When I volunteered for the Red Cross, I did it to help people who were not as fortunate,” Ray said. “Once I started volunteering, I was committed. The reality of the immense poverty and those needing help out there is staggering. The need is very real and I am just doing my small part.”

Ray has responded to more than 500 home fires, a rare milestone that few volunteers reach. Regardless of his age, he continues to inspire and mentor fellow volunteers and staff members. Several days a week he serves as a Red Cross disaster responder and he motivates all who interact with him.

According to Senior Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Adam Runkle, “It is always a comfort to know when Ray is assigned to a response because of his immeasurable capacity for patience and compassion while counseling those dealing with tragedy and loss.”

Ray is also involved in other aspects of disaster response at the American Red Cross. In 2016, he deployed to help relief efforts in North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew. He also traveled to Texas to assist after major floods devastated the state. Locally, Ray helped lead disaster assessment efforts last August in South Holland, Illinois when major flooding impacted 400 local families, visiting dozens of homes, documenting damage, and helping comfort families while providing recovery resources.

Looking much younger than his 82 years, Ray says he runs on a treadmill four days a week, eats right and takes care of himself. “As long as I am physically able, I will continue to volunteer,” Ray says. “I used to say it would be 10 years, but I’m about to pass that milestone.”

The Disaster Services Award is presented to an individual(s) who has exhibited heroic efforts in any or all of the areas of disaster services, including preparedness, response or recovery during a natural disaster or emergency situation, or has made an ongoing commitment to a community that experienced a disaster in response to an
identified need.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.