Red Cross staff member reflects on Hurricane Michael deployment

It has been a few months since Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm in early October.

The deadly storm was considered one of the top four strongest hurricanes to hit the United States and it left behind devastation across communities.

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People completely lost their homes and many were left living without power, food, running water and other basic necessities.

Soon after Hurricane Michael hit, American Red Cross disaster workers got to work to help people in shelters, kitchens, and many distributed relief items to those in need.

Isamar Montezuma, Senior Recruitment Specialist for the American Red Cross, was one of hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers deployed to help those impacted by the deadly storm.

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Montezuma was deployed to District 1, Panama City in Florida. She traveled to different shelters and kitchens in Washington County and Day County.

“It’s been very impactful to see damage created by Hurricane Michael, but I’ve been really impressed by volunteers and community members,” Montezuma said.

Throughout her deployment, Montezuma went to different shelters to identify and find volunteers locally. She also helped with background check screenings for volunteers willing to assist.

Montezuma also volunteered for three different kitchens while deployed in Florida.

According to Montezuma, everyone in District 1, Panama City was working hard to rebuild and empower their community.

Even though people completely lost their homes and everything in them, they were grateful for their safety.

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A photo inside a the staff shelter where Red Cross volunteers were staying at a school in Florida

“The fact that I’ve had someone tell me that even though they lost everything, at the end of the day they are thankful they have their family,” Montezuma said. “These families will go back home, but they’ve lost it and lost memories, but the most important thing is that they are together.”

American Red Cross volunteers respond to nearly 64,000 disasters every year. Deployment is something American Red Cross volunteers do to reach disaster-affected areas like Hurricane Michael.

This was Montezuma’s first deployment to respond to a disaster and it was an eye-opening experience.

“I wanted to be deployed,” Montezuma said. “It’s something that we do to assist during a disaster. I wanted to get that experience to learn from it and to be able to speak about it to other volunteers.”

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Isamar with a Chicago Red Cross volunteer, Shelley who also deployed to Hurricane Michael

Interested in being a disaster volunteer? Head over to the site to look at the different volunteer positions under Volunteer Management, Disaster Services, Public Affairs and more!

Written by Jasminne Hernandez, Communications & Marketing Volunteer for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

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‘Give Something That Means Something’ with American Red Cross on Giving Tuesday

During the holidays, bring comfort and hope to people in need

ILLINOIS – In a year when disasters upended the lives of thousands of people, the American Red Cross is asking everyone to Give Something that Means Something for families in need through its 2018 Holiday Giving Campaign.

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“Every day, home fires and other everyday crises turn people’s lives upside down,” said Celena Roldan, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Families are counting on your support to remember them during this special time of year. On Giving Tuesday, please consider making a financial donation or a blood donation, or volunteering your time.”

GIVING TUESDAY Beginning on Giving Tuesday—November 27—please #GiveWithMeaning here to support people in need with a symbolic gift, which you can make in honor of the special people in your life:

  • Help disaster victims. Your gift of $250 can deliver hot meals for 25 people who need nourishment after a disaster. A donation of $100 can provide a family of two with a full day’s worth of emergency shelter with meals, snacks, blankets, a cot and hygiene supplies. Help provide warmth with a gift of $50, which can provide blankets for 10 people.
  • Help our veterans. A donation of $125 can help veterans transition back to civilian life by connecting them and their families to critical services such as food, housing, counseling and rehabilitation.
  • Help internationally. Your gift of $100 can help provide lifesaving vaccinations for 100 children who face an increased risk of measles and rubella around the world.

 

In addition, you can also:

 

GIVING HOPE EVERY DAY Every 8 minutes, someone affected by disaster is helped by donations to the Red Cross. The generosity of Red Cross donors helps provide people with necessities like shelter, food, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance.

The need is constant—and this year was no different. In Chicago & Northern Illinois, the Red Cross helped 10,766 people affected by 1,430 local disasters including floods and home fires. Home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—account for the vast majority of our responses.

In addition to helping families recover from these events, we also help save lives by installing free smoke alarms and helping residents create escape plans through our Home Fire Campaign.

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 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 @ChicagoRedCross.

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.