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.

steve swett

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.

ARC Chicago Home Fire Responders

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.

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.

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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.

Postcards From Louisiana: “Keep People in Your Prayers”

IMG_20160815_091537529_HDRHi Friends & Family-

Fran and I were traveling home from a RV Rally in Elkader, Iowa on Aug. 21 and got a call from the American Red Cross asking us to drive an emergency response vehicle to Louisiana to help with the floods.

We left the next day.

Nearly 10 hours later, we drove 600 miles to Blytheville, Ark. After a few hours rest, we drove another 420 miles and arrived in Baton Rouge. We stayed overnight in a Red Cross shelter.

DSCF4960We got to work the next morning. Our day begins about 7:30 a.m. We deliver food, water and supplies to families. The weather here is very hot and muggy and the smell of wet trash is overpowering at times.

Of all our previous deployments, this is the first time for us in a disaster that is still on going. We see the massive effort made to help people.

Fran and I take hot meals and water to people. We’re working with the Southern Baptist, who partner with the Red Cross during these big disasters. They bring in trailers with stoves and ovens to cook meat, vegetables and pasta. In a single day, meals are prepared for thousands of people a small kitchen.

Be sure to keep the people of Louisiana in your prayers as they have lost so much and it will be a long and difficult recovery.

Our Best,

Frank and Fran

Frank & Fran Cornwell are American Red Cross volunteers from Fulton, Illinois deployed to Louisiana to aid relief efforts.

 

 

 

How Safe Are We? Disaster Preparedness Summit Targets Cyber & Workplace Security

CHICAGO, IL – Technology touches every aspect of our lives from social interaction to managing personal finances. The cyber world makes life easier to manage, but it also exposes us to threats that can cross the wire. At the same time, we’re also seeing the workplace as a new target of attacks increasing at an alarming rate.

So how safe are we?29108317925_378f4bbd43_o

That’s what participants at this year’s annual American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit investigated Aug. 18 through engaging workshops and discussions.

The event, held at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center, provided a forum for shared learning and experiences among local leaders representing more than 100 business, government and community organizations. This year’s summit focused on cyber and workplace security to improve the resiliency of the Greater Chicago region in responding to disasters, in whatever forms they take.

29031066061_ab1514a56d_oWeeks before we are about to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Patrick G. Ryan, Founder, Chairman & CEO of the Ryan Specialty Group, spoke about his personal and corporate experiences leading the Aon Corporation during the disaster.

Moderating the day-long discussions were Celena Roldán, Chief Executive Officer and of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, and board member and chair of this year’s summit, Brenda Battle, Vice President, Care Delivery Innovation, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“We have great collaboration among our corporate and government partners, in addition to all the agencies that have a hand in helping to make our community safer and more resilient to any type of hazard,” said Battle.

28489667643_6f66812842_oDiscussions covered cyber and workplace security issues affecting both public and private sectors. Speakers emphasized organizational self-awareness of the human, physical, and network components of a cyber system. In particular, the ability to identify the data susceptible to attack, potential adversaries, and individual and organizational points of vulnerability is key in the maintenance of cyber security.

Experts also discussed effective response tactics in the event of a workplace security breach and the importance of preparing a carefully prescribed plan. Speakers addressed the significance of issues beyond IT: human resources, legal, privacy, public relations, and most importantly, communication. These were among the critical considerations mentioned in successfully responding to cyber security breaches.

29031147181_8832a58d86_oSpeakers and other topics included:

  • The Hacker/IT Professional (Sharyn Menne, Brandon Fason, James McJunkin)
  • Cyber Security: Protecting the Public/Private Sector, Defending Against an Attack and Closing Trap Doors (Ricardo Lafosse, Kirk Lonbom, Bryan Salvatore, Robyn Ziegler)
  • Cyber Risk: Who Owns It? (Marcus Christian, Jim Hartley, Paul Hinds)
  • Cyber Extortion (Kirk Havens, Thomas F. Minton, Richard Spatafore, Judy Quinton)
  • The Intersection Between Privacy & Security (Gino Betts, James K. Joseph)
  • The Intersection Between Privacy & Security (Paul Steinberg, Alicia Tate-Nadeau)
  • The Fallacy of Workplace Security (Brian Baker, Thomas Henkey, Paul Huerta, John Kiser)
  • The Financial and Legal Impact of Workplace Violence (Keith D. Blakemore, Ann Bresingham, Thomas Byrne)
  • The New Face(s) of Workplace Violence (Thomas R. Mockaitis, Ph.D., Jenna Rowe, John Walsh).

“While nature can wreak havoc on a community, the same is true with cyber breaches and workplace violence. As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, much of our work at the Red Cross on local level is to help build more resilient communities in Northern Illinois, such as through the dialogue and partnerships we form at this conference,” said Roldán.

Next year’s summit will cover topics of public health and bio-terrorism.

The event was possible thanks to the generous support of Presenting Sponsors: Aon, CSX, Motorola Solutions, and Zurich of North America; Readiness Sponsor: Grainger; and Community Sponsors: Illinois Medical District, JLL, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; with additional support from Discover and the United Way.

Go here to view more photos of the 2016 American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit.

29108254835_c77f7128d7_oStory by: Jessica Hayashi, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

 Photos by: Christopher Doing, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois