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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

‘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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Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: A Hurricane Michael Base Camp

Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who is currently 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.

Last night was my first night ever in a First Responders Base Camp.  For the Red Cross and utility company first responders – a base camp was stood up at the Tallahassee Airport in response to Hurricane Michael.

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Next to one of its runways and in a large open field – you will find this camp.  It consists of many large white tents that include housing, a feeding area, and other support functions.  Between them you will find many trailers that include sinks, showers, and laundry.

This is probably the closest that I have come to camping since my childhood days.  The food was good, chatted with fellow team and local Red Crossers, slept well, and had a warm shower. But the thing that you marvel at the most – is what you find inside this base camp.

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Inside you will find the hearts of many, many volunteers.  They get up early, go through their daily ritual that we all have which is something like grabbing a bite to eat, assembling their gear, and being ready to go.  This camp is full of energy and is a beehive of activity.  It is truly something to marvel at.

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For those flying out of the Tallahassee Airport – those that don’t know will look at this base camp as a simple tent city.  But inside these tents you will find the hearts of volunteers from across the country.  Those that stop their lives for a few weeks – and have the support of their families and loved ones that they leave behind.

And the one thing that unites us – is our willingness to help put the lives of those so negatively impacted…back together.

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So, if you ever see or pass a tent city that is setup in response to a disaster – stop and think of who is inside it.  And say a prayer for those inside to be safe and to do their best – helping those that so desperately need their help.

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.

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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.