Guest Post by Jeff Winton, President, Astellas USA Foundation
When Jeff Winton was a child, his rural farming community in upstate New York was struck by a series of disasters, including a fire that burnt down his house and a set of tornadoes that devastated his town. As Astellas USA Foundation president, Winton understands that disaster can strike when we least expect it, and that being prepared can ease the burden of those affected. He explains how Astellas USA Foundation is helping communities prepare, recover and flourish when the unexpected happens.
When I was a young boy, one Sunday afternoon I discovered that my home had caught fire and destroyed several rooms in the house. Fortunately, I was able to alert my parents in time before the entire house was destroyed. As I look back on that moment, I remember American Red Cross volunteers being there for my family and me, helping us sort through the wreckage and move forward from the loss.
Around the same time, another disaster struck my community. A set of tornadoes took out the small farming community I lived in, destroying dozens of homes and buildings and killing a massive number of livestock. Looking back, I’m again reminded of Red Cross volunteers on the scene, helping us recover.
These personal experiences with disaster have driven my passion to ensure that all communities, no matter how far removed, are prepared when disaster strikes. At Astellas USA Foundation, we believe that crisis prevention and recovery are at the forefront of building sustainable communities. It is essential to provide communities with proper resources and education, to help ease the burden of those most affected so they that may recover and flourish when the worst happens.
Growing up in a rural community, we were miles away from the nearest large city and amenities, including hospitals. That made it more difficult for emergency responders to reach my town quickly, so we often had to wait longer to receive help. With that perspective and experience, I believe our support of at-risk and far removed communities, both in Chicagoland and across the Americas, is especially crucial.
Continuing our seventh year of support of the Red Cross, in 2016, Astellas USA Foundation donated funds to purchase 23,000 smoke alarms, helping 9,200 families be more prepared for home fires. Special emphasis was placed on low-income, elderly, disabled and youth populations, who are more at risk for a fire, and more likely to be severely affected than the general population. We are ensuring these populations are educated and equipped to secure their homes.
In addition to fire safety efforts, Astellas USA Foundation supports the Red Cross to be on the scene when disaster strikes. This year, we’ve provided relief to victims of the floods in Louisiana and Texas, Canadian wildfires, and the earthquake in Ecuador. Due to our longstanding commitment to this partner, we were honored with the Wesbury Leadership award this summer from the American Red Cross of Chicago for our efforts to prepare and strengthen communities.
But relief comes in many forms. We also work with Americares, which provides medicine, supplies, education and training to more than 900 health facilities across the United States, helping 5 million low-income patients receive care they might forgo due to cost. We’re also building self-reliance in rural communities in El Salvador to help them build a more sustainable future after the food crisis that resulted from El Niño. By working with World Food Program USA, Astellas USA Foundation is helping new mothers and young children receive the nutrition they need to thrive and be healthy. To do this, we helped these mothers access SuperCereal+, a supplemental food to eradicate hunger and malnutrition during their children’s crucial developmental years.
We call this Living Smart – or, preparing our communities today for what could happen tomorrow. Astellas USA Foundation enlists the help of Astellas employee volunteers through the Living Smart Program. So far, employees have participated in blood drives (most recently collecting 48 pints of blood, which could help Red Cross save up to 144 lives) and provided the Red Cross with a first-of-its-kind energy efficient emergency response vehicle to reach people affected by disaster.
I’ve experienced first-hand how devastating and unexpected disasters can be. But I’ve also seen how help from organizations like the Red Cross can turn around a seemingly hopeless situation by providing resources and support to ease the burden of those most affected. Astellas USA Foundation looks forward to continuing its support of these organizations so that our communities can prepare, recover and flourish from disaster, facing the future with confidence.
This story was cross-posted with permission and is also available here.