Volunteer dedicates “Sound the Alarm” event to brothers lost in Back of the Yards fire

On April 27, 2019 nearly 100 volunteers gathered at Columbus Park in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood for an American Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” event.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford as well as Alderman Taliaferro and the CEO of the Red Cross, Celena Roldan, spoke to the volunteers and emphasized why what they were about to do was so important.

“Sound the Alarm” is the Red Cross’ life-saving campaign to install free smoke alarms in homes across the country and it takes many community partners, sponsors and enthusiastic volunteers to make it happen.

Denise Daichendt of Norwood Park was one of those volunteers. She has helped out with many other volunteer organizations, but this “Sound the Alarm” event was the first time she was volunteering with the Red Cross.

When she heard of the program through another volunteer, she immediately thought of the two young brothers lost to a terrible fire in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in January of this year: Abelardo and Pedro Sanchez. They were just 25 and 16 years old. Pedro had sat right next to Denise’s son in chemistry class at Lane Tech High School.

The Chicago Fire Department reports that a fire broke out at their home on W 53rd Street around 8:30AM during Chicago’s “polar vortex” week in January. School was not in session due to the cold weather and the young men became trapped in the home’s attic from the heavy fire. The department also reports that there were no smoke alarms in the attic area.

Denise decided to sign up as a volunteer and dedicated the event to Abelardo and Pedro; writing their names on the back of her volunteer shirt.

“Something in me was just bursting to dedicate this to them,” Denise said. “It didn’t feel right if I didn’t.”

Denise, a mother of 6, along with other local families and Lane Tech’s director of culture and climate also helped organize a balloon memorial for the brothers and helped the family with collecting donations and getting new furniture. She says hopefully they can move back into their home soon.

“It was devastating, I can’t imagine what their mother goes through,” Denise said.

Denise says she wanted to honor the brothers and hopes that by sharing the story, more people will learn about fire safety and make sure their homes are equipped with working smoke alarms. After being a volunteer firefighter in college, she says it’s not enough to teach children about fire safety at school- it has to get to adults as well.

The components of “Sound the Alarm” include installing new smoke alarms with 10-year batteries and also going over fire safety with members of the household. Volunteers also provide families with a home escape plan so families can create and practice their plan to escape from their home in the event of a fire.

During the April 27th event, Denise says she visited a home in the neighborhood that had just had a fire in the basement days earlier and her volunteer team was able to install multiple alarms in the home, thinking of Abelardo and Pedro with each one.

“You see the Red Cross at like, hurricanes and different disasters like tornadoes, but you don’t know all the aspects of what the Red Cross does so this was a great experience.”

The family and the community is deeply mourning the loss of these beloved family members. “They were lives lost too soon.”

For more infomration on how to get involved with “Sound the Alarm,” visit www.soundthealarm.org/chicago. To sign up for an appointment for a free smoke alarm at your home, visit www.getasmokealarm.org.

Written by Red Cross communications manager Holly Baker

Streator family on path to recovery after home fire

It was mid-December of 2018 around 4PM when a house caught fire in Streator, IL.

IMG_6974

Firefighers with the Streator Fire Department were arriving at the single-family home within minutes and shortly after them, two volunteers with the American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley were there.

The home was unlivable, and everything changed for that Streator family that night. Everyone was able to get out of the home, but all of their pet hamsters and fish were lost. The three children who lived there and their parents lost all their belongings from the fire or the heavy smell of smoke that had seeped into everything.

img_6980.jpg

Standing outside of their home, Red Cross volunteers wrapped each family member in a Red Cross blanket and gave everyone a comfort kit containing basic items like a toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. The volunteers made sure the family had a place to go for the next few days and connected them with resources that would become the bridge to their next home, as they could not return to the burnt out house.

The Streator family was able to find a new place to live and was able to get new clothes for the everyone with assistance from the Red Cross. “That really helped us out a lot,” the children’s mother said.

IMG_6981

She says although they had to start over completely, the Red Cross was there to help her family during those difficult days following the fire and now they are together in a new home in Streator.

Written by communications manager Holly Baker.

 

“I’ll never forget that night.” A home fire victim remembers the Red Cross helping in the chaos

It was a warm summer night on June 4, 2017 and Sandra Gary was still awake in her home on West 111th Street in the Morgan Park-Beverly neighborhood. Midnight had just passed, and that’s when Sandra noticed the smell of smoke permeating the air.

IMG_6907.PNG

“It was an odd smell, like maybe rubber or a tire burning,” Sandra said.

She looked out her bedroom window multiple times, and that’s when she saw the flames start to come up the side of her home. She says everyone who lived in the complex was able to get out safely, either from smelling the smoke or because of the neighbor who spotted the flames and made sure to wake people up and get them out.

“Just to see our house go up in flames…just devastating. Never thought I’d have to go through anything like this.”

The fire had started in unit A of the complex and made it all the way over to Sandra’s house, unit E, destroying much of the property in the process.

outside fire.JPG

Sandra says her home was covered in soot and the lingering smell of smoke made it difficult to breathe. She was able to salvage a few things from her home but lost most of her belongings, especially anything in the basement.

“Everything down there was destroyed,” she said. “It was terrible.”

A Red Cross van had pulled up and two volunteers began taking down information of the residents affected by the fire. Eight units were affected and nearly everyone had been displaced.

The neighbors say they bonded that night as they stood outside for hours together, watching flames pour through the roof of their homes until 3 or 4 AM. The Red Cross provided assistance in the form of gift cards to make sure everyone had a place to go that night and was able to get food and clothes.

Sandra went to stay at her son’s in Hyde Park. Within days, she receieved another call from a Red Cross volunteer asking if she needed any new medications since any medications that had been through a fire were no longer safe to take. Sandra hadn’t even thought about that, and hadn’t realized her medications were damaged. The Red Cross helped her expedite new prescriptions at no cost to her.

Sandra says she is so thankful to the Red Cross for “just showing up” and helping that night. The damage was so bad, it took over a year and a half for her home to be livable again. She recently moved back and has since made several donations to the organization as a way of paying it forward.

“For people to just come out like that and help you, and that’s when you really need that. My hat’s off to them,” she said. “If you do this then you must be good.”

Hear more from Sandra in this video.

Does your home need a smoke alarm? The Red Cross will come and install one for free if you sign up online for an appointment as part of our “Sound the Alarm” campaign. Make your appointment here for a free smoke alarm.

Interested in volunteering? Sign up to help do the installing here.

Written by Chicago & Northern Illinois Communications Manager Holly Baker

American Red Cross Responds to 25 Fires and Opens 1 Shelter in the Past Week

Disaster responders with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responded to 25 fires from Monday, October 15 to this morning across the 21-county region including fires in Naperville, Blue Island, Elmwood Park, Darien, Rockford, Machesney Park and 15 of the fires happening in Chicago.

The fires affected 134 people including 80 adults and 54 children.

The Red Cross provided resources to help address the immediate basic needs of those affected such as temporary housing, food, clothing, comfort kits with toiletry items, information about recovery services, and health and mental health services. Additional information about these incidents, if available, may be obtained from the local first responding agency/fire department.

Responding volunteers are members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon any time of the day or night.

Additionally, 18 Red Cross responders were on the scene in Waukegan as a senior living facility was evacuated on Friday evening. Just before 5PM on October 19, the Red Cross was notified by the city of Waukegan that around 250 people would be without a home that night as an expanding sinkhole made their apartment building temporarily unlivable for days and sheltering assistance would be needed.

waukegan.jpg

Red Cross trailer with supplies in Waukegan during sheltering response on October 19, 2018

A shelter was opened at Waukegan High School on Washington Street and the Red Cross provided food, health services, casework, mental health services, and cots for residents for the night and all day on Saturday. The Red Cross worked with the building management and local hotels to provide rooms for the residents and caseworkers will continue to follow up with the people affected by this evacuation.

Hurricane Florence: Hurricane Florence made landfall early on September 14 as a Category 1 storm just south of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Florence set tropical storm rainfall records in two states, surpassing 20 inches in South Carolina and 35 inches in North Carolina. Over the course of five days, Hurricane Florence dumped an estimated 10 trillion gallons of water across the Carolinas. More than 60 volunteers and staff were deployed for Hurricane Florence including CEO Celena Roldán and this response is on-going. Sunday night, more than 260 people stayed in 7 Red Cross shelters in North Carolina.

Hurricane Michael: On October 9, the Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois began deploying local volunteers and staff to Hurricane Michael. As of today, 19 people have been deployed for Hurricane Michael and are on the ground or are on the way to the affected area. Last night, more than 1,300 people stayed in as many as 15 Red Cross and community evacuation centers across Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP: After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

DONATE BLOOD: The Red Cross also has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. This fall, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence have forced the cancellation of about 200 blood drives, causing approximately 7,000 units of blood to go uncollected in the Southeast. The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day in Chicago and northern Illinois. The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information visit www.redcross.org/prepare.

Volunteers install free smoke alarms for National Fire Prevention Week

Volunteers install free smoke alarms for National Fire Prevention Week

Today, a group of Red Cross workers gathered at the Greater Chicago Chapter headquarters and reviewed the steps to properly install smoke alarms. They suited up in warm jackets and Red Cross reflective vests before heading to the nearby Little Village neighborhood, where local homeowners would be expecting them.

LV oct 12.jpg

Red Cross workers are ready to install free smoke alarms in local homes on October 12, 2018

 

As part of National Fire Prevention Week, these volunteers installed free smoke alarms in Chicago area homes and are encouraging people to practice their family’s fire drill at home. Having a working smoke alarm in your home can cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Fires are the nation’s most frequent and deadliest disaster.

Many residents had appointments with the Red Cross to have the alarms installed. Additionally, volunteers knock on doors to see if other families would like to have a free smoke alarm installed for them.

Resized_20181012_160644_4402

 

One of the volunteers helping today is Myesha Terrell, a new volunteer to the Red Cross. She was inspired to join the Red Cross after a friend had a home fire a few years ago.

“I thought, ‘why keep waiting?’ If I can help I should help. We’re helping people in need,” Myesha said.

Resized952018101295160143955738

New volunteer Myesha installing a smoke alarm

On average, seven people die every day from home fires, which take more lives each year than all other natural disasters combined in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association.

That’s why the Red Cross is working with community partners to install free smoke alarms, help families create home fire escape plans, and provide public fire prevention and safety resources through its Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide effort to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries. Since the campaign began in October 2014, it’s reached more than 1.6 million people and is credited with saving 472 lives nationwide.

Antonio Velez has been volunteering with the Red Cross for nearly 3 years going to fire responses, helping with smoke alarm installations and he is a part of the Red Cross Spiritual Care Team. Antonio retired after working for the CTA for 29 years and wanted to stay involved in his community.

“It’s important for every neighborhood,” he said. “We’re trying to save lives.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Experts say that today’s home fires burn faster than ever, leaving people with only as little as two minutes to escape a burning residence. But many mistakenly believe they have more time, according to a Red Cross survey last year. During Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross urges everyone to take these lifesaving steps:

  • Develop a fire escape plan with everyone in your household and practice it at least twice a year. Need help with your plan? Use these free Home Fire Campaign resources.
  • Install smoke alarms in your home, on every level and outside each sleeping area. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year if required.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one.
  • Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room.
  • Establish a family meeting spot outside.

1.6 MILLION PEOPLE SERVED—AND GROWING

Through the Home Fire Campaign, Red Cross volunteers and community partners continue to mount a nationwide effort across the country to save lives and curb fire-related injuries. Over the past four years, Red Cross volunteers and more than 4,500 partners have gone door-to-door in high-risk neighborhoods to deliver free preparedness resources through the campaign’s Sound the Alarm canvassing events. So far, we have:

  • Reached more than 1.6 million people through home visits in nearly 14,000 cities and towns
  • Installed 1.4 million free smoke alarms
  • Replaced more than 67,550 smoke alarm batteries
  • Helped families make more than 514,200 fire escape plans
  • Reached almost 1.2 million children through youth preparedness programs

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

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 Thanksgiving cooking safety tips

With winter holidays coming up, millions of people will gather for Thanksgiving to enjoy time with loved ones and a delicious holiday dinner. However, cooking fires tend to be the primary causes of home fires and home fire injuries. These fires are often caused by leaving cooking food unattended or unintentionally turning on or not turning off the equipment.In order to keep your family and home safe,The American Red Cross has provided some safety steps that everyone can follow.

First and foremost, it is very important to install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Be sure to replace all batteries at least once a year if you smoke alarm requires it. Other safety steps include:

  • Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
  • 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.
  • If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  • Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • 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.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.

Another helpful step is to download the Red Cross First Aid app which provides expert advice for common mishaps or emergencies including cuts, burns and what to do if someone is choking. Download the app for free in your app store or test GETFIRST to 90999.

 

cooking-tip-stayinthekitchen

Written by: Laila Orazova & Kelly McCasland, American Red Cross Communications Interns

Volunteer Spotlight: Greg Dely

Volunteer Spotlight: Greg Dely

Greg Dely always felt helping people was the right thing to do. In 1972, he served the Village of Stickney as a Reserve Police Officer and later became a firefighter. His responsibilities soon grew and he became Deputy Fire Inspector for the City of Hickory Hills. Greg then served as the Safety Director of Brookfield Zoo for almost a decade where he started the first ever safety program. He also spent time working in safety for Argonne National Laboratories. Greg maintained his EMT license for 18 years and has worn many hats during that time.

greg dely

It was while holding his most recent position with the Department of Veteran Affairs at Jessie Brown Hospital in 2014  when Greg discovered the American Red Cross. Greg walked from his office at Jessie Brown Hospital the few blocks to 2200 West Harrison where he signed up to volunteer in Disaster Action Services, or DAT. Greg soon realized that working for DAT was the obvious choice for him.

 

“Volunteering for the Red Cross was the natural next step after retiring, especially DAT,” Greg said. “I used to run in and out of burning buildings.” Through volunteering with DAT, Greg still has the opportunity to safely help people outside while providing comfort to clients of the Red Cross.

 

Being the one to give assistance when needed comes as second nature to this gentle man. Greg has served with the Chicago DAT Team since January of 2014, and he says he actually prefers the light traffic during the 12am to 4am shift. It’s something other members of his DAT team are very grateful for.

 

Greg fondly remembers his days as a trainee and one of his first responses at an apartment fire in Forest Park.

“There were 50-60 senior citizens standing on the streets. It was cold outside. I called dispatch and told them to send the troops!” Greg said. Soon, Greg was given a promotion to Lead DAT Responder and has been the weeknight go-to responder for more than three years.

 

Outside of volunteering, Greg spends time crafting miniature military dioramas. These scenes are recreations of historic events, which is an avid interest of Greg’s. Not many people know that for almost 25 years, Greg has participated in the reenactment of the Civil War battles. Originally marching in the infantry, Greg picked up reading music and learned to play the Fife at the age of 58. Greg played the flute-like instrument at the front of formation and marching across the Wheatfield of Gettysburg. He remembers playing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the battle’s 145th anniversary. Being a part of that anniversary as well as the 150th were very special, memorable moments for him.

 

Greg says if he were to give advice to people considering a volunteer position with the Red Cross, he says “Do it. Just do it. Self-gratification comes from helping people. There are people out there that are hurting. It’s awful. (Volunteering is) paying back your community.”

 

We wish Greg the best of luck in his retirement.

 

Written by Ira Meinhofer, Disaster Program Specialist and Public Affairs Volunteer

Couple Recovers After Destructive Home Fire

Couple Recovers After Destructive Home Fire

“We hit rock bottom,” said Nick Tedeschi. “And the Red Cross gave us a start.”

Nick and his wife, Shirley, were going about their daily routine on Feb 13, 2016, when their condo caught on fire. They were left with the clothes on their back. “You never expect, when you leave for the day, to come back and have lost everything,” said Nick. Their Valentine’s Day plans were derailed as they tried to recover.

fire_damage.jpg

Nick and Shirley lost everything in the home fire.

The Red Cross responded to the fire, caused by a next door neighbor’s cigarette, to help them get back on their feet during the immediate recovery after their loss.

Nick reflected on that time, “I was totally gutted out.”

He talked about the months following the fire as a very difficult time. He would wipe his tears away and keep it inside while he was at work, delivering supplies to customers throughout the loop. He didn’t want anyone to know.

Nick and Shirley showed resiliency, and even humor, during a difficult time. Nick said he watched his house burn down while eating a bowl of chili he had picked up on the way home. He laughed, looking back on it, because the chili was from a local chain called Firehouse Subs.

They moved into her daughter’s basement for a few months until they were able to purchase a new home. “We were blessed tremendously,” Nick reflects.

newhome.jpg

The house that Nick and Shirley purchased after a fire destroyed their previous home.

Now, he and his wife live in a house and, Nick says, they do things differently. They triple check everything before leaving the house, they put in new smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and they keep flammable things away from their house – they don’t even have a grill. “We have backyard BYOF parties: bring your own food,” said Nick.

In 2017, Nick plans to volunteer for the Red Cross to answer telephones at a Red Cross telethon. “You guys did so much. It gave us a starting point.”

Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Prevention Campaign.

By: Cat Rabenstine

American Red Cross Reflects on Beloved Volunteer

American Red Cross Reflects on Beloved Volunteer

One of our long-time friends and volunteers, Robert Wahlgren, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Upon receiving the news, the Red Cross family spent time reflecting on our wonderful shared memories of Bob. We were trained by him, we watched him respond to disasters with kindness and care, and we learned from his determination.

Bob was always modest about his accomplishments, positive in his outlook, and made everyone feel welcome in his presence,” says Peg Gramas, who volunteered with Bob as part of the Disaster Action Team (the volunteers that respond to home fires, for example).

bob-and-family

Bob and his family volunteering together.

Bob was integral to the work at the Red Cross in his role as the County Volunteer Lead for our team in DuPage and Kane counties. He was also a highly active volunteer leader in our Disaster Action Team, mass care, and casework programs.

Betsy Johnson, who has worked in Disaster Services at various locations for 22 years, shadowed Bob on her first home fire response. She says there couldn’t have been a better way to begin.

Despite the chaos of the fire, Bob presented the face of Red Cross with a countenance of confidence and care.  Each family felt respected and listened to and helped,” recalls Betsy. “I remember Bob asking each family, ‘What do you need right now?’ He waited for each person to tell him what was most important at the moment, a technique that takes patience and gentle guidance, but gives each person the respect and dignity they need to start their own recovery.”

Bob with governor.png

Bob meets Governor Bruce Rauner while volunteering at a telethon.

Howard Goldstein, another long-time Red Cross volunteer and friend of Bob’s says, “If not for Bob’s stories about his Red Cross experiences I don’t think I would have gotten involved in the first place.”

Bob was also the co-founder of Bridge Communities, a visionary non-profit providing housing and mentoring to homeless families.

“His knowledge of the housing market and his concern for the long term welfare of not only Red Cross clients, but everyone in need, was helpful in putting together a Long Term Recovery program,” says Howard.

rco_blog_img_bobandgeoff

Bob and Geoff volunteering together.

Geoff Fishwick met Bob while responding to his first home fire. “I was in a hurry to interview my first client. Bob told me to be patient and take a seat,” remembers Geoff.

“Every 15 minutes I would say, ‘lets go see if we can talk to the client.’ After two hours of this, Bob took me aside and said, ‘You have to show more patience. You have to remember the trauma our clients go through. This man just lost his wife and his son, and his daughter is in the burn unit at Loyola. You need to show more compassion.’ Until that time I saw the Red Cross more as a job then a compassionate mission.”

Geoff recalls taking the next few hours to think about what Bob had said and reflecting on how his words of advice could make him a better person. “He changed my life,” says Geoff.

It is with a heavy heart that we reflect on all of the times he responded to a fire in the middle of the night, guided a family who lost everything through their long-term recovery, managed a shelter, worked the phones at a telethon, handed out food during a canteen response, and so much more.

“I’m so glad I learned from Bob first, and that our paths continued to cross over the next couple of years,” says Betsy. “Just three weeks ago we were discussing how Bob could lend a hand with onboarding new volunteers. I feel sad for the new volunteers who weren’t as lucky as I.”

Bob will be greatly missed by his Red Cross family.

To read more about Bob, please click here. A memorial celebration will be held on Saturday, November 12 at 4:30pm at MacAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage.

Lazenia Adams Honored as American Red Cross 2016 Disaster Services Hero

IL-Disaster-Services-Award(CHICAGO, IL) – Lazenia Adams of Richton Park saw a news report on television one morning about American Red Cross volunteers helping a family after a home fire.

“A feeling hit me that this could have been my family,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Do I have the time to do this?’ And I said yes.”

An accountant by day, Lazenia did the math and found some time each week to volunteer on the overnight shift from midnight to 6 a.m. Two years later and after having responded to more than 300 home fires as a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, one response hit home. The house her parents owned on the South Side of Chicago where her brother lived on the second floor above renters caught fire. Luckily, no one was home when the fire started.

“Even though I didn’t live there, it felt like it was my home because I spent a lot of time there with my family,” she said. “It was overwhelming because now I really understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of all the people I’ve helped after a fire.”

Lazenia not only responds to fires, she works to prevent them. She became involved with the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year initiative to dramatically reduce the number of home fire-related injuries and deaths by installing smoke alarms in homes and teaching families how to develop an emergency escape route. Lazenia has led volunteer teams to install more than 3,000 smoke alarms in neighborhoods south of Chicago near her family’s home.

Two months after installing smoke alarms in the home of an elderly man in Phoenix, a community of 2,000 located about 20 miles south of Chicago, Lazenia was called to a local hospital to help a resident who had been taken there after a fire. Lazenia said the gentleman recognized and hugged her, telling her a smoke alarm she installed in his home a few months earlier went off and he was able to get out.

“I was in tears,” she said. “He told me I’m the one who saved his life. It’s all about helping people in our community. You really can make a difference.”

The Disaster Services Award is presented by W. W. Grainger, Inc., to an individual(s) who exhibited heroic efforts in any or all areas of disaster services including preparedness, response to a natural disaster or emergency situation, or providing relief to victims through financial or voluntary assistance.

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.

 Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois