Red Cross Regional CEO Deploying to California for Wildfire Relief Efforts

CHICAGO, IL (Nov. 15, 2018) — American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois CEO Celena Roldán is deploying to California tomorrow to support people affected by the devastating wildfires. Celena will be deploying as part of a Latino Outreach team helping Hispanic neighborhoods deeply affected by this disaster and will be the sixth person from the Chicago & Northern Illinois region to deploy to the California wildfires.

Celena is leaving tomorrow, Friday November 16, 2018 from O’Hare Airport and will be available for interviews in English and Spanish from 8:45AM-9:15AM in the United Airlines terminal.

Celena will be deployed over Thanksgiving again after being deployed to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria almost exactly one year ago.

Celena recently returned from North Carolina where she had been deployed for Hurricane Florence. She was also deployed for Hurricane Harvey and for the Louisiana Floods of 2017. Celena holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Administration from National Louis University, as well as Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

WILDFIRE FAST FACTS

  • Wednesday night, more than 840 people stayed in 10 Red Cross and community shelters across California.
  • People are relying on Red Cross reunification services, including use of the Safe and Well website. There are just over 6,700 Safe and Well registrations for the wildfires, as many as 72,000 searches, and more than 1,400 matches through Safe and Well.
  • More than 780 Red Cross disaster workers are helping to support people affected by the wildfires in California.
  • Working with partners, the Red Cross has served more than 40,200 meals and snacks.
  • Volunteer mental health, health services and spiritual care professionals have provided more than 9,500 contacts to provide support and care to evacuees.
  • We’ve distributed more than 14,400 relief items for people forced from their homes2018 CA wildfires.jpg

HOW TO HELP Disaster relief involves complex responses and the Red Cross needs the public’s support to help the people affected. Those who would like to help the Red Cross support people affected by disasters like flooding, wildfires and countless other crises can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting CAWILDFIRES to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties in Northern Illinois including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at redcross.org/il/chicago or visit us on Twitter at @ChicagoRedCross.

 

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Red Cross Offers Cooking Safety Tips for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and millions of people will soon take to the road and kitchen to share the holiday with loved ones. Because Thanksgiving is a peak time for congested travel and home cooking fires, the American Red Cross asks everyone to follow the steps below to help stay safe this holiday.

COOKING SAFETY

Each year, Thanksgiving is one of the leading days for home cooking fires. You can help protect yourself and your family from home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your escape plan with free resources from the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign (redcross.org/homefires).

  1. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year if your smoke alarm requires it.
  2. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  3. While cooking, don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle.
  4. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended—stay in the kitchen. If you 
leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Unattended cooking is the 
leading cause of cooking fires.
  5. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  6. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  7. Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from 
the stove.
  8. Keep anything that can catch fire—pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic 
bags, food packaging, towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in 
the kitchen that generates heat.
  9. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  10. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to make sure all stoves, ovens, 
and small appliances are turned off.

HIGHWAY SAFETY

Each year, millions of people drive to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends making it one of the busiest times for road traffic. If you’re planning to travel by car, follow these safety tips:

  1. Make sure your car is in good condition for a road trip.
  2. Pack an emergency preparedness kit, supplies and a first aid kit in the trunk.
  3. Share travel plans with a family member or friend.
  4. Check the weather before departing and along your route. Plan for travel around any storms that 
may be coming.
  5. Be well rested and alert.
  6. Buckle up, slow down and don’t drive impaired.
  7. Follow the rules of the road and use caution in work zones.
  8. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  9. Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get 
some rest. 
If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

THE FLU AND YOUR TRAVEL PLANS

If public transportation is part of your travel plans, remember it’s flu season. From luggage to seats, everything that you touch is likely touched by someone else. Follow these tips to help avoid the spread of germs.

  1. Handle your own belongings.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  3. Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or 
wipe down surfaces, such as armrests.
  4. Bring your own pillows and blankets. They can act as a shield against the seat itself.
  5. Avoid touching your face or eyes. If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your 
sleeve.

Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: The Other Volunteers

Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who recently deployed to Florida for Hurricane Michael. He had only recently returned home after deploying to North Carolina for Hurricane Florence. Steve is now sharing some of his experiences.

Hurricane Michael was a storm that many of us will remember…possibly for our lifetimes.  For this writer – never in my life have I seen so much damage – that will most certainly take many years if not generations to recover from.

But aside from the damage that my eyes witnessed – I will remember the many people that came to help those in need – and who shared their hearts with those so needing.

It was common to meet people that drove hours just to lend a hand.  They had no connection to those impacted – but just wanted to be there for them and to help them in any way that they could.

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It was common to meet people who had full-time jobs not related to disaster relief – that either took vacation or a personal leave from their workplace – so that they could use their skills in any way that was needed.  It was common to see people with their own individual challenges – who put them aside and used their skills to identify ways that made those impacted feel comfortable and able in their shelter home.

So many people in the Florida panhandle were so negatively impacted by this storm.  Whether it be the loss of their home, their workplace, or other personal possessions – they now must find ways to recover from.  And by their side were and will be the hearts of first responders and volunteers – that stopped their lives and answered their call.

For what I will remember the most from Michael – are the hearts that came and were shared with those so needing.

If you’d like to help the people affected by disasters, you can make a donation at www.redcross.org.

Local Red Cross Volunteers Help Out at Jesse Brown Food Pantry Every Week

Every week through the VA Voluntary Services Program, Red Cross volunteers help distribute food to veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry. This is their way of saying thank you to the men and women who answered to their country’s call.

IMG_1059Kelsey Smith and Adisa Suljic from the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois with Don Jackson from the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry.

Unlike most pantries, which provide fixed food selections, the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry is a self-select pantry where recipients have a variety of food to choose from. By choosing their own food, veterans are receiving food that they need, enjoy, and will use. This also enables veterans to meet their personal dietary needs.

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On Tuesday, October 30, a total of 150 veterans were served fresh produce, meat, dairy, bread, and canned goods. Volunteers assisted as personal shoppers for the veterans by bagging items that veterans chose. While browsing the available food options, a veteran exclaimed, “Wow, this is better than going to a supermarket!”

The Red Cross is all about neighbors helping neighbors, and at the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry, it’s all about helping veterans. In five years, the pantry has helped over 15,000 veterans and their families; and every Tuesday, Red Cross volunteers are there to meet, greet, and support veterans.

If you know of any veterans that need help with food supplement, please let them know of this service. The pantry is located on the second floor of the Damen Pavilion in the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and it’s open every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To learn more about the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces programs, visit www.redcross.org/saf.

Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications and Marketing Intern

Red Cross Offers 10 Tips to Help Keep Trick or Treaters Safe this Halloween

 

Superstorm Sandy 2012

Be sure to stay safe this Halloween
by using the 10 Red Cross tips below!

In just one day, little witches, ghosts, pirates and super heroes will take to the streets for trick or treat fun, and the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois has tips to help everyone stay safe while enjoying Halloween.

Here are the top ways for parents to keep the kids safe while getting ready for Trick or Treat.

  • Make sure trick-or-treaters can see and be seen.
    • Use face makeup instead of masks. Masks can make it hard to see.
    • Give kids a flashlight to light their way.
    • Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
    • Have everyone wear light-colored clothing.
  • Use flame-resistant costumes.
  • Plan the trick-or-treat route in advance – make sure adults know where their children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door in neighborhoods.
  • It’s not only vampires and monsters people have to look out for. Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.
  • Walk, don’t run.
  • Only visit homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
  • Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.
  • Don’t cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Don’t cross between parked cars.
  • Use extra caution if driving. The youngsters are excited and may forget to look both ways before crossing.
  • Make sure a grown-up checks the goodies before eating.
    • Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards.
    • Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

And finally, for those planning to welcome trick-or-treaters to their homes, follow these safety steps:

  • Light the area well so young visitors can see.
  • Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps. Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.

Download the free Red Cross First Aid Appfor instant access to expert advice in case your ghost, goblin or super hero has a mishap. Use the Emergency Appfor weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

Meet Sue Brenner: 17 Years of Making an Impact at The Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois

The Red Cross of Chicago and Greater Northern Illinois is fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers who have been working with us for years. One of those volunteers, who has worked with the Red Cross of Chicago for about 17 years, is Sue Brenner.

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Sue volunteering to answer phones at the CBS Telethon in 2016

 

After getting her masters in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy, Sue and her husband moved to Chicago where she worked as a preschool teacher and as a director of a preschool for many years. “When I was ready to leave that job, I knew I wanted to do something hands on, and the Red Cross seemed like it would give me that opportunity,” Sue said.

Sue started out as a Disaster Action Team volunteer, which meant being on-call to respond to fires and help the people affected. Eventually, Sue and several other team members decided that they needed more volunteers to respond to fires. Together, they helped develop a program to build up the volunteer corps, which Sue now describes as a “robust volunteer corps put together over the years.”

After 10 years of working 2-3 days a week in Volunteer Leadership, Sue decided to scale back a bit. She now works once a week on casework for victims of fires. “I call clients who have had a fire and I ask how they are doing, if they were able to move back in, if they have insurance, or any other disaster related needs.” Through working with partners, Sue is able to provide victims with resources to help them get back on their feet. This can be anywhere from a week to a multi-week process depending on the case.

One aspect that Sue emphasized as crucial for recovering more quickly from a fire, is by having insurance. “I am a big fan and cheerleader of insurance and rental insurance! It is really important and not expensive, and people get back on their feet so much quicker.”

Some of the biggest obstacles for Sue’s clients can often be finding new housing. “Once they find something we can give them referrals to partner agencies who might be able to give them furniture. But a lot of times just getting a client placed in a new home can be quite challenging.”

In addition to casework, Sue is involved in many other areas of the Red Cross: “I teach a Disaster Supervision class for people working in Disaster who are going to become supervisors. I’ve also participated in the Home Fire Campaign to put smoke alarms in people’s homes- which is always a really worthwhile thing to be doing.”

Out of all of Sue’s involvement in her 17 years of working with the Red Cross, she did not hesitate when asked what stands out to her the most: “I think the building up of the volunteer base is the thing that I would be the most proud of. And I didn’t do that by myself- it took a lot of work from a lot of people. But of all the things we’ve done that would be one I am the most proud of.”

Thank you, Sue for all of your hard work over these past 17 years!

Interested in volunteering with the Red Cross and helping with events like these? Visit www.redcross.org/volunteer to find a volunteer opportunity for you!

Written by Sophie Kendrick, Communications and Marketing Intern

From 1970 to 2018, Red Cross Volunteer Shares Her Story

When a disaster strikes, Red Cross volunteers work around the clock to provide food, comfort, and shelter for disaster victims. Dorothy Dodendorf, a disaster workforce volunteer, is one of the many volunteers who assists in disaster relief behind the scenes. In her staff relations position, she helps guide and support Red Cross volunteers with any hurdles they encounter.

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Dorothy on deployment for Hurricane Florence

Dorothy recalls being associated with the Red Cross as early as junior high. She took First Aid, babysitting, and home nursing courses that the Red Cross offered at the time. She was also part of the Red Cross youth club in high school, but her life-long commitment started years later after graduating from college and getting married.

dorothy dodendorf

In 2016, Dorothy was recognized for her service with the Clara Barton Award, the highest award a volunteer can receive.

 

Since Dorothy couldn’t donate blood while she was pregnant, she did the next best thing she could by becoming a blood service ambassador for the Red Cross.  Since then Dorothy has volunteered in various positions including but not limited to: disaster instructor, pillowcase project trainer, and disaster workforce engagement specialist.

Dorothy’s very first deployment was to Florida in 1992 to help with relief efforts for Hurricane Andrew. One of her more recent deployments include a three-week deployment to North Carolina for Hurricane Florence relief efforts. When asked how many times she’s been deployed, Dorothy stated, “I have no idea, I lost count years ago, but definitely well over 30.”

“When I sit on the plane, and look out the window and see the disaster from above, I realize how much more still needs to be done,” said Dorothy about the most challenging aspect of deployment for her, leaving.  She describes this moment as bittersweet because she knows she helped as much as she could while there, but realizes how much more work is still required.

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When asked if Dorothy would consider being deployed again, she responded saying, “Definitely, I’ve been doing this for 48 years, and I’m shooting for 50!”

Written by Adisa Suljic, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois