Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross Response to Hurricane Harvey and Irma

Chicago & Northern Illinois Red Cross Response to Hurricane Harvey and Irma

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left tens of thousands of people in emergency shelters after being forced out of their own homes. As people begin their recovery from Hurricane Harvey, those affected by Hurricane Irma are just starting that process. The American Red Cross is providing food, shelter and comfort to those who were affected by the devastating storm and the Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is playing an important role in that by deploying local volunteers to support the relief efforts.

Steve Wise, Red Cross volunteer in Houston, Texas says, “You see a lot of sad faces of people coming in [to the shelter]. They’ve lost everything. People had to rush out of their house right away. We’ve done everything we can to make this a home for them.

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Volunteer Jim Connelly is on his 24th deployment as a Red Cross volunteer. It’s people like Jim, who leave their homes and families for extended period of time, who make the Red Cross response possible.

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Susanne Peters, Red Cross volunteer in Dallas says, “I like helping people … this is their darkest hour … we’re a beacon to them. We’re a safe place to go, a place to lay your head and take in what’s happening. We are here to take care of them.

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They know they have help coming. They know they’re not on their own and they know they’ll get better,” said Mike Landt, a former Americorps volunteer who deployed to Orlando to provide mass care.

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This response will continue for months to come as people establish long-term recovery plans with the help of Red Cross caseworkers, most of whom are volunteers themselves.

Are you interested in volunteering for the Red Cross? Visit RedCross.org to apply! 

You can help the Red Cross support people affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma by visiting redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

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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.

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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

Illinois Residents Look Ahead After Torrential Rainfall and Subsequent Flooding

Illinois Residents Look Ahead After Torrential Rainfall and Subsequent Flooding

July 12 was the beginning of what would turn into one of Northern Illinois’ worst flooding disasters. With rainfall levels exceeding those seen in the 2013 floods, residents living along the rivers and lakes in Illinois were hit the hardest. The counties most affected by flooding and power outages included Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry. The storms also impacted DuPage, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties. infographic_blog_8.1.2017

The American Red Cross was on the scene from the start, opening four shelters that day in Round Lake Beach, North Chicago, Grayslake, and Chicago. Three more shelters were opened since then and mobile feeding units were dispatched to provide assistance. These shelters offered a safe place to stay and a hot meal for hundreds of residents who had been forced out by the flood waters.

The Red Cross also collaborated with other organizations to open three Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) located in Round Lake Beach, McHenry County and Stephenson County.  These resource centers allowed those affected by flooding to have a one-stop-shop for assistance. Each MARC provided meals, clean-up supplies specific to flooding, counseling and support services and housing resources from 20+ partner agencies.

Anita Harris, whose apartment complex flooded, sought refuge in the Red Cross shelter located in North Chicago.

“The Red Cross has been so helpful. I don’t have any family in the area, and there was no one to help me. I felt so alone, but here’s this agency and somebody loves you, somebody cares. Their red and white colors will stay with me for a long time,” said Harris. 

Other residents, like Marquita McGee, also found comfort from the Red Cross: “It’s a blessing. It’s a true blessing because without them I couldn’t provide any meals for my kids because I can’t cook at home, I can’t bathe them. They don’t have their freedom; everyone is out of their comfort zone you know what I’m saying? So it’s just such a blessing to have them- to have Red Cross to be there.”

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As the floodwaters recede those affected still have a long road ahead. The Red Cross understands that the aftermath of a disaster is a stressful time. Call the Red Cross Flood Hotline at 847-220-7495 for assistance. Click here to explore some ways to help in your recovery.

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As always, the Red Cross would like to thank its wonderful volunteers for their continued dedication to serving others. American Red Cross volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. If you are inspired to action, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Steve Wise

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Steve Wise

Steve Wise spent his career helping others and keeping people safe in the rail industry.  After 37 years at TTX, he retired in 2016, when he began his volunteering journey with the American Red Cross.  He brings his passion for safety and wealth of experience to several roles within the Illinois Valley Region and beyond.

“Being a Red Cross volunteer and having the opportunity to help people, often on the worst day of their life, has been such a blessing.”

“Being a Red Cross volunteer and having the opportunity to help people, often on the worst day of their life, has been such a blessing,” said Wise. There are several synergies between his past and present.  At TTX, there was no better feeling than keeping people safe and making sure they went home each night injury free. With the Red Cross, he is able to bring comfort to people in their time of need.  The work is not just rewarding, it is heartwarming, and a way for Steve to payback for the many blessings in his life.

Wise covers a broad range of roles from DAT (Disaster Action Team) Captain and Lead Responder to Case Work Supervisor and External Relations, mostly as part of the Romeoville Red Cross office.   He works extensively with Jeremiah LaPlante and credits him with being an extraordinary teacher. Jeremiah is a great example of the many wonderful people Steve has met along the way.

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Steve enjoys operating as part of the DCS team, working with those in need.  “With the Red Cross you learn disasters can strike anyone, at anytime, often when they least expect it,” he said.  Steve finds his work with DCS incredibly gratifying.  He also enjoys serving in multiple roles and works with new volunteers to help them get up to speed on disaster response efforts. Steve also works with external relations helping people, organizations and municipalities prepare and respond to emergencies.  And in his spare time, he does some recruiting too.

One particular experience that really stands out for Steve took place last year during the Louisiana floods. He was working as a virtual case representative, helping people who were displaced. A call came in from a woman who was having technical trouble.  While working through the verification process it was clear that the address on file did not match.  Steve asked if there was another address it could be listed under. The woman’s response was something akin to,”you mean my home that was destroyed?” The starkness of that response really hit home.

Recently, Steve spent much of his time helping those impacted by flash flooding closer to home. He was one of many volunteers that dropped everything to do what he could to assist afflicted residents. The Red Cross’s continuing response covers everything from lodging, food and emotional support and currently includes multiple shelter locations. Volunteers have distributed over 1,000 clean up kits and continue to support people across the flooded areas.

It’s moments like those when you realize how desperately the Red Cross is needed and can see the direct impacts it has on the lives of others. Ninety percent of the Red Cross workforce made up of volunteers. Thankfully there are many people like Steve that are there to help, just when they need it the most.

Steve has been blessed in many ways which drives his passion for giving back. He loves spending time with his family.  He lives in New Lennox with his wife Bridget, who he credits as an inspiration and is incredibly supportive of his efforts. They have three wonderful sons, Brad, Mark and Chris, all living out of state, two in California and one in Minnesota, so they do a fair amount of traveling.  Steve imagined he would write and teach in his retirement.  In many ways, his work with the Red Cross fulfills his desire to teach and he has already written three e-books and plans to do more.

His advice to prospective volunteers?  “Open your heart. There are so many in need waiting for your help and so many ways to serve with the Red Cross”. You too can make a difference.

Join Steve and the 4,000 plus volunteers serving northeastern Illinois.

 

Red Cross Monitoring Airports and Ports of Entry

Red Cross Monitoring Airports and Ports of Entry

Executive Order on Immigration and Impact on Travelers

On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order on immigration indefinitely barring refugees from entering the United States, suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocking citizens of seven countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. As a consequence of the order, some travelers to the United States were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad.

American Red Cross Response

The American Red Cross is monitoring conditions at airports and ports of entry in collaboration with local emergency management officials in order to assess the need for food and canteen services for stranded travelers and detainees affected by the executive order. Health, mental health, and spiritual care services are also at-the-ready.

“Our fundamental principles guide us to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found,” said Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “We are working with local officials to continue to monitor the situation. First and foremost, we are a humanitarian services organization, dedicated to the inclusion of and aid to all people.”

The Red Cross is also prepared to utilize the Reconnecting Family Links (RFL) program for detainees, stranded travelers and families that have been separated internationally.

Fundamental Principles

The American Red Cross is governed by a set of fundamental principles. These principles are reviewed in preparation for a potential response in order to ensure that it is guided by important tenants.

Humanity

The Red Cross, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavors—in its international and national capacity—to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.

Impartiality

It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.

Neutrality

In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Red Cross may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

Independence

The Red Cross is independent. The national societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with Red Cross principles.

Voluntary Service

The Red Cross is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.

Unity

There can be only one Red Cross society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.

Universality

The Red Cross is a worldwide institution in which all societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other.

By: Cat Rabenstine, Regional Marketing Programs Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Chicago Winters Bring Home Fires

Chicago Winters Bring Home Fires

Every year, Chicago winters bring frigid temperatures and an increase in home fires. The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responds to 3-4 home fires daily. So far in December, that response has already reached 71 home fires.

On average, 7 people die every day from a home fire, 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day, and over $7 billion in property damage occurs every year.

Photos by Carlo Heathcote.

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Can your family escape in just 2 minutes? You can keep your family safe with 2 simple steps.

Step 1. Practice your 2-minute drill. Make sure your family can safely escape a home fire in under 2 minutes. Use our worksheets to plan and prepare your 2-minute drill today.

Step 2. Test your smoke alarms monthly. Make sure you and your family are alerted as soon as a fire is detected. If the smoke alarm isn’t working, change the batteries.

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You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to safety tips for winter weather and power outages. The app also contains weather alerts, life-saving information and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for mobile devices. The app can be found in the app store for someone’s mobile device by searching for “American Red Cross” or by going to redcross.org/apps.

 

Local Volunteer Deploys to Tennessee Wildfires

Local Volunteer Deploys to Tennessee Wildfires

The massive wildfire that affected hundreds of homes and businesses in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, sprung out of control very quickly last week, forcing many residents to seek safety in shelters. The Red Cross is there to help as residents cope with the devastating situation. The Chicago & Northern Illinois region is supporting Tennessee by deploying local volunteers, like Joe Dillett to aid disaster relief efforts.

“It’s our duty to help people, and the Red Cross is an ideal way to do that,” said Joe. “Everyone needs help at some point in their life, and I’ve been blessed with good health. You’re helping people to get some normalcy back in their life.”

Joe Dillett Red Cross photo.jpgJoe, who is 73, has deployed to 12 national disaster relief operations across the country during his six years as a volunteer. This is his third deployment this year (thank you, Joe!), which included assignments during the floods in Louisiana and wildfires in California, where he drove emergency response vehicles and delivered supplies to families in affected neighborhoods. In Tennessee, Joe will manage shelter operations.

Joe is a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to home fires any time of the day or night. Joe and other volunteers cover 10 counties in Northwest Illinois. He was also part of a large volunteer corps that helped during the local response to tornadoes in Fairdale and Rochelle in April 2015.

Assisting people affected by the wildfires is the latest relief response in what has been a very busy year for the Red Cross, which responded to 15 large disasters across the country this year, 50 percent more than in 2015. More than 24,000 Red Cross disaster volunteers from all over the country provided the following this year:

  • More than 200,000 overnight stays in more than 600 shelters
  • Served more than 3.6 million meals and snacks with the help of partners
  • Distributed more than 1.8 million relief items to people affected by these disasters

RESOURCES:

More information on the Red Cross response to the Tennessee Wildfire.

Volunteer for the Red Cross.

Download the Red Cross Emergency App.