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.

vol10-stevewise

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.

vol9-connelly

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.

vol7-susanne

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.

vol5-mikelandt

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.

Advertisements

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

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.”

35398910934_a38305b6df_o

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.

36079377826_3194a68618_o

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 

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive
Monserrat Figueroa spent her 10th birthday up close with a southwestern hawk while her mother rolled up a sleeve to help save lives. She and her siblings gathered around Saguaro the hawk with wide eyes to learn more facts about the bird. As her mother exited the blood donation room, Monserrat detailed the experience. The 3rd Annual Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive gave the chance to donate life-saving blood while also enjoying a day at the zoo with family. 
 

35503184044_bf34042c07_o Monserrat and Red Cross Volunteers pose with Saguaro the hawk.

“Are you proud of your mom for helping people today?” I asked Monserrat. She nodded her head excitedly. Her mother, Rocio Figueroa, was one of over 200 people who donated blood at the event on August 2nd. 
 
Many of the donors had given blood before. A couple donated together for the second time, a young girl donated for the third time, and an elderly man shared that he had donated to the Red Cross over 15 times before. When asked about his reason for donating, he answered that it was because he felt like he should. Without a direct connection to someone in need of blood, he had the empathy and the drive take action.
 

36338052695_3c759f4677_o Woman donates blood for the third time.

Thank you to all of the donors who found their reason to donate to blood at the Brookfield Zoo.
Join the American Red Cross at a blood drive near you to help save lives.
By: Lucia Varlotta, American Red Cross Communications Intern

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 Volunteers at the 2017 Warrior Games

Red Cross Volunteers at the 2017 Warrior Games

The annual Department of Defense Warrior Games is an event dedicated to enhancing the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors through the world of adaptive sports. This year’s Warrior Games ran from June 30th to July 8th and had about 265 service members and veteran participants. The games are sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee and are comprised of participants from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), as well as the United Kingdom Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force. This year’s games were hosted in Chicago and featured events ranging from archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball.

rco_blog_imgwg2

The volunteers at the Warrior Games numbered about a thousand. Red Cross volunteers came from all throughout the Chicago area to offer their time. Lia Morris, a disaster volunteer who has been with the Red Cross for two years, was one of them. Working in small teams, the Red Cross volunteers were divided by location and event. Lia worked as a venue coordinator and helped to check-in volunteers and direct them to their assigned areas. “Everyone was great to work with and worked hard. Even during times when we had to shift people around, people were flexible and willing to take on other responsibilities” said Morris.

Thank you to all of the Red Cross volunteers who gave their time at this awesome event!

The Red Cross offers many services to active service members, veterans, and their families. See how we can help here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Lee Powell

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Lee Powell

If you have not introduced yourself to Sara Powell yet, you can easily give her a friendly hello, as she currently volunteers every Tuesday at the Rauner Center. Sara embraces getting to know other volunteers and seeing them at Red Cross events.

Having worked previously as a fundraiser for a variety of non-profits pertaining to higher education and cultural programs in Chicago, Sara was looking for an organization to be a part of after she retired. Sara finds that volunteering with the Red Cross completely satisfies her needs to give back to the community.

“It gives me great pleasure that I can do these things and do them well for the Red Cross,” Powell said.

Having only volunteered with the Red Cross since last October, Sara has already made a huge impact. She currently assists with fundraising efforts by assisting with the production of our special events including the CBS Telethon, the Red Cross Classic and the Heroes Breakfast. Sara recognizes the importance of the Red Cross’s fundraising, asserting, “all of this takes money, so it’s important to raise funds.”

Her favorite event that she assisted with, so far, was the Heroes Breakfast. All before the event, Sara was tasked with ensuring that each application fit under the appropriate category they were nominated in. Sara neatly cleaned up the language of each submission and attached a synopsis for the judges to read with every application.

“What was really cool was reading the applications that came in, and a few of my personal favorites actually were picked,” Powell said.

She notes one story of a hero driving along the expressway, pulling over and rescuing passengers from a limo before it combusted. Expanding upon the stories evinced a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the work she put in to honoring their actions.

“…They were just everyday people like me and you,” she’ll comment in awe.

But as Sara continues to volunteer at the Red Cross, she finds herself noting all of the opportunities and training that Red Cross provides online, and knows she will continue to seek out new volunteer opportunities outside of her current fundraising efforts. Because of the training and information that the Red Cross provided her, Sara is confident in whatever volunteer effort she pursues.

“I love how the Red Cross treats the volunteers. When there’s a disaster there’s a system in place, they have the right tools.”

By: Tyler Bieschke, Communications Volunteer at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois