Four Generations of a South Side Family Safer with Smoke Alarms

28420460352_0285211dc6_oCHICAGO, IL – In a four-story apartment building on the South Side, four generations and 10 members of the French family received a visit July 23 by the American Red Cross.

From the basement to the top floor, volunteers installed 15 smoke alarms in the building and planned an escape route for everyone inside in case of emergency.

Apartment complex owner Larry French heard the Red Cross and the Greater Auburn-IMG_0310Gresham Development Corporation was coming to his neighborhood and opened the door to have his entire building equipped with new, 10-year battery smoke alarms.

“Anything to protect my family,” said Larry, whose elderly parents, Howard and Queen, live below him on the first floor. “I look out for them all the time, you only got one parents; and we all have to help out one another.”

28494225916_a8d4c13e2e_oInside each residence, the Red Cross installed smoke alarms near the kitchen and sleeping areas. In the common stairwell, an old smoke alarm was chirping, so the installation team replaced that one too.

“You never know when a fire will happen, you could be in your pajamas and it’ll just happen,” Howard said.

Larry’s cousin, Crystal French, lives on the top floor with her young boys and felt better knowing her family was safer and knows what to do to help all members of her family on all floors during an emergency.

“It’s all about keeping constant contact, it’s important to ask family: Are you okay? Do you need anything? Since the Red Cross gave us this education, we now might be able to work out a good safety plan,” she said.

28425716871_ecb6af6faf_oIn addition to the 15 smoke alarms installed in the French family’s complex, the Red Cross, joined by community volunteers from the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, went door-to-door in the Auburn-Gresham community and installed more than 400 smoke alarms in a single day. More than 60 volunteers from both organizations also educated residents about fire safety and helped families create a personalized escape plan to exit their home during an emergency.

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home IMG_3018fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Working with fire departments and community groups across the country, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and teaching residents about fire prevention and preparedness. Locally, the Red Cross will install 6,600 smoke alarms in the coming months in communities across Northern Illinois.

See more photos of the Auburn-Gresham Smoke Alarm Rally here.

WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO People can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from a fire. They can become a Red Cross volunteer. They can also help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visitingredcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

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Story by: Tyler Bieschke, Public Affairs Volunteer & Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Photos by: Danny Diaz and Ira Meinhofer, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

 

Giving Back Runs in the Barton Family: Red Cross Founder’s Legacy Lives On

Clara Barton with Red Cross bear (2)(CHICAGO, IL)March is Red Cross Month when volunteers are celebrated for helping those in need right in their own community.  Park Ridge resident Dick Barton is a Red Cross volunteer and donor. He is also a descendant of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and his son honored this legacy by naming his third daughter, age two, after their famous ancestor.

“My son chose the name because of our special connection and because it’s an organization we believe in,” he said.

While it will be some time before baby Clara Barton can actively participate as a volunteer, her grandfather was drawn to take action by the organization’s commitment to caring.

“They’re among the first on the scene when people are in dire and desperate need,” he said. “They have the comforting word, food, blanket, hot chocolate, whatever it might be; they talk about caring for each other, and I like that about the mission.”

Volunteers make up more than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce, and the organization relies on these generous donations of time, blood and money, especially because it is not a government agency.  In turn, donated time helps the Red Cross invest an average of 91 cents of every dollar it spends towards humanitarian services and programs.

Dick Barton has already been giving back to his community in areas of health and the environment, and now he’s looking forward to joining the ranks of the Red Cross everyday heroes as a volunteer this month.

“People who are the boots on the ground, making things happen, making a difference inspire me and that’s what I want to move towards,” he said.

Red Cross Month is a  tradition started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 and all United States Presidents since have designated March to recognize how the Red Cross helps people across the country and around the world.

Clara-Barton_1Read the entire Presidential Proclamation. “Over a century and a half ago, as gunfire echoed through America’s skies and division flared between North and South, a trailblazing woman, Clara Barton, braved bullets and cannon fire to deliver much-needed care, comfort, and supplies to wounded soldiers of the Civil War. Undaunted by expectations of women at the time, Clara Barton persevered, as she had her whole life, and strived to aid those who sacrificed to save our Union. Determined that humanitarianism could thrive in peace as well as in conflict, she carried her resolve overseas upon the war’s end and was introduced to a relief organization in Europe that inspired her to come home to the United States and establish the American Red Cross.”

During Red Cross Month, anyone can become a community hero by becoming a volunteer; giving blood; making a financial donation; learning lifesaving skills from Red Cross classes, such as lifeguarding or CPR; creating an emergency preparedness plan; and testing your smoke alarm and reminding your neighbors to do the same.

Visit redcross.org for more information on how to provide support and care to those in need.

Story by American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Public Affairs Volunteer Marta Juaniza

Like Mother Like Daughter: Passing on Good Habits

24521463025_c034240d57_o(CHICAGO) – Robyn Deren of Oak Brook has been donating blood for nearly 20 years. As a donor at the ABC7 Great Chicago Blood Drive that took place Jan. 20 at Union Station and the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook, she had two special people at her side: daughters Abigail, 5 years, and Madison, 5 months.

“I wanted to introduce the 5-year-old so that she can see that it’s not scary and doesn’t hurt; it’s a few minutes and you’re done,” Deren said. “She sees me giving and hopefully she will do it when she’s old enough.”

Deren was one of hundreds from the Chicago area who ventured into the cold to participate in the blood drive. Winter is especially important as donations typically decrease during this time of year, creating a greater need. Despite this, the Jan. 20 drive collected a record amount of more than 620 units.

Someone is in need of a blood transfusion every 2 seconds in the U.S., and the Red Cross provides approximately 40% of the nation’s blood supply. An adult gives about one pint of blood during a donation and that amount alone has the potential to save up to three lives.

Blood is needed for patients with various medical conditions such as accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

“You can save a life with your donation,” Deren said. “We all need blood one day; it’s free, and your body will make it again.”

Every day, the Red Cross needs 14,000 blood donations to meet nationwide demand. Every donation is important, and the Red Cross is committed to maintaining a diverse blood supply. Eligible donors are encouraged to make an appointment to give blood by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by visiting redcrossblood.org.

Written by: Marta Juaniza, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

CBS Radio/Telethon Aids Disaster Relief

IMG_7301(CHICAGO, IL) – On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, CBS hosted the fourth annual CBS Chicago Cares Radio/Telethon to benefit disaster relief for the American Red Cross.

Volunteers answered the phones for 14 hours Nov. 24 to take donations atIMG_7277 the CBS Broadcast Center downtown. Even people walking by the studio, like Ania, donated cash and coins after school.

CBS Director of Community Affairs Shawnelle Richie said in 2012 the station wanted to do something to give back and decided to partner with the Red Cross. “So, we told them that we would want to raise money and showcase all the good that they do,” said Richie.

This year’s telethon focused on home fires – one of the biggest disaster-related threats to families. The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 fires every day in our community, helping families with food and shelter.

23203362651_bbda3d7a8a_oWhile volunteers collected donations on the phone, another group helped out at the Chicago Fire Department’s Engine Company 38 on 16th St. in North Lawndale. They gave out 500 free carbon monoxide detectors and signed up 130 residents for smoke alarm installations.

“These are life safety devices that really do work in emergency situations,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Cunningham.

The Red Cross recently launched a nationwide program called the Home Fire Campaign. This initiative aims to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent over the next23259237576_29bf01d7d7_o (1) several years by installing smoke alarms in homes located in high-risk communities. Families are also educated about fire safety and make a fire escape plan.

Claire Pywell, Regional Individual and Community Preparedness Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, said the campaign has “really just begun, but so far, nationally, we can document 27 lives saved by all the smoke alarm installs that we’ve done.”

The Home Fire Campaign requires volunteers to install the alarms in23178276552_cebd8910bc_o people’s homes and provide fire safety education on site. The carbon monoxide detectors were donated from First Alert, allowing volunteers to give them away free of charge at the fire station during the telethon.

In addition to the smoke detectors, Cunningham said it is important for people to plan a meeting place outside the home and actually practice exit drills in their home, “I actually make my own family practice it.”

The CBS telethon raised more than $1 million for the Red Cross. Corporate donors included Aon, Ace Hardware, Astellas USA Foundation, CDW, McDonald’s and Motorola Solutions Foundation.

If you’d like to help people affected by disasters, big or small, call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to redcross.org

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Story by Eleanor Lyon, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

 Photos by Bill Biederman and Danny Diaz, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Volunteer Karen Nelson: Answering the Red Cross Call for 15 Years

For Red Cross volunteers the call to serve can come at any time: volunteer Karen Nelson has been answering that call for an impressive 15 years. Karen has been deployed 14 times, most recently to North Carolina to assist with Red Cross flood relief efforts.ResizedImage_1443736193689

However, outside of her service to the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Karen has led a full life. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 56 years. Karen and her husband have five amazing children and seven adorable grandchildren. When she is not volunteering for the Red Cross she loves to go boating and snowmobile. One of her favorite hobbies is spending time with her grandchildren. Karen has been a lifelong resident of Rock Falls, Illinois. She is an invaluable asset to the community and to the American Red Cross.  We thank you for being on our team Karen!

If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, visit redcross.org.

Story by Lisa LaSala, Executive Director, American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois

Chicago Red Cross Centennial: A Look Back on a Century of Service

Chicago Flood 1947 - Copy(CHICAGO, IL) – Rewind the past 100 years when the local Red Cross was established in Chicago to today’s reach of serving 9.5 million people in 21 counties in Northern Illinois. You’ll see how the Red Cross has touched so many lives, for so many years in our community since 1915.

We’re halfway into our Centennial year, and there’s still much more to celebrate. Join us in this historic occasion:

  1. Share your Red Cross story on chicagoredcross100.com. #ChicagoRedCross100
  2. Take a Class
  3. Volunteer
  4. Give Blood
  5. Donate
  6. Download our free Emergency App so you have lifesaving information in the palm of your hand.

A Look Back at the Past and Next Generation

Here’s a window through the decades of some classic moments of our past thanks to the Chicago Tribune archives, to what we’ve been doing in the community leading into this milestone year, according to Fran Edwardson, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

From health and safety classes, to supporting local military members, their families and veterans, to lifesaving blood collection, and reconnecting families torn apart by international conflict, the Red Cross has helped make our community safer and more prepared for the next 100 years.

Yet, the Red Cross historically is best known as part of the world’s largest humanitarian network that helps people in times of emergency through our army of volunteers, giving people food, shelter and comfort when they need it most.

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Disaster Relief & Preparedness: “The Red Cross Was the One Constant Through This Entire Disaster”

Eastland Disaster 1915Our first local response was on July 24, 1915, just six weeks after the chapter was established, when the Eastland Steamship capsized in the Chicago River, taking 844 lives. The Red Cross was there to comfort families after this historic tragedy – a legacy of compassion that still carries on today.

From the 3 to 4 home fires volunteers respond to every day in our community, to floods in 1947, the tornadoes that hit Plainfield in 1990, and the most recent storms that struck Coal City and Sublette this year in June, and all the devastation before and in between.

The Red Cross is here to help after disasters of any size, ready to comfort those who lived through the experience like Jackie Jordan’s family in Fairdale in April who said the Red Cross was the “one constant” through the entire tornado disaster.

On the preparedness front, we’re installing thousands of smoke alarms in homes through our Home Fire Program to reduce the number of injuries and deaths, and we’re teaching kids how to prepare for emergencies through The Pillowcase Project, sponsored by Disney, through partnerships with local schools and community partners like the Chicago Police Department.

International Services: “I Am Alive”

A Chicago Trifecta – As a tribute to the work we carry out daily here at home in Chicago and around the world, we celebrated our 18840506432_58ebce64c0_oAnniversary Week in June during World Refugee Day in Daley Plaza. The celebration was extra sweet as we served up 500 slices of birthday cake, generously donated by another Chicago staple Portillo’s topped off with a same-day win of the Stanley Cup by hometown hockey team Chicago Blawkhawks.

Through our Restoring Family Links program, the Red Cross advocates for peopleOnesphore Ndaribitse from countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Afghanistan who are seeking to reconnect or keep in touch with their loved ones. Through this free and invaluable service, our caseworkers facilitated the exchange of thousands of messages between families separated by disaster and conflict.

Hearing the words “I am alive” from Onesphore on the Northside of Chicago to his family in Rwanda can mean the difference between peace of mind and despair for  loved ones a half a world away. 

Lifesaving Blood: “We Helped Save Six Lives Today”

To kick off our Centennial year, we held a 100th Anniversary Blood Drive at Union Station in January where 430 units of blood were collected. It was the largest single-day blood drive in our 16369445192_d87bd7bed2_oregion. If one pint of blood can save up to three lives, Chicago residents Mary Market, 69, and Mellisa Griesl, 24, who met in line to give blood, together helped save six through their blood donation.

We also recently opened our new biomed facility in our headquarters in the Illinois Medical District which is in close proximity to many area hospitals for local patients. The Red Cross supplies 40 percent of the nation’s blood, and thanks to our new technology and facility here, we can help distribute lifesaving blood to trauma victims, cancer patients, and children with sickle cell disease.

Health & Safety Training: “Never Be Afraid to Help Somebody.”

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Another way the Red Cross helps save lives is by teaching people the skills to perform CPR & First Aid, babysitting training, and water safety.

We train more than 88,000 local people these lifesaving skills each year – dating back to before 1953, when the Chicago Tribune, documented an aquatics training session in Glencoe, IL to help people with polio how to swim.

Over the next decades, the Red Cross has been the go-to source for information, skills and build confidence among those to act in an emergency, at home, in school and in the workplace.

ComEd employee Carlos Guevara put those skills to the test when he saved a life at his community’s church.  “Never be afraid to help somebody,” Carlos said. “Learn the basics of CPR and where you can apply it. You never know when, where and why you might need it.”

Supporting America’s Military Families: “They Were There for Us and We Need to Be There for Them”

Clara-Barton_1The true spirit of the Red Cross began on the front lines with founder Clara Barton, the Angel of the Battlefield, tending to wounded soldiers more than a century ago, and that legacy of serving our military continues today in Chicago.

From a Red Cross canteen in 1919 with soldiers in Grant Park photographed by the Chicago Tribune, to local volunteer Laura Landoe who serves in our “No Veteran Dies Alone” hospice program at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois, the Red Cross cares for our veterans and service members.

Laura Landoe is a modern-day Clara Barton. She’s one of our on-call volunteers who provide comfort and care to veterans on their final journey. The compassion she gives to each of those dying veterans is extraordinary – at times she reads to them, sometimes she prays with them, and still other times she sings hymns for them.  She sits quietly holding their hand as they pass. “They were there for us and we need to be there for them,” said Laura.

“Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All In:” Volunteers are the Heart of the Red Cross

Volunteers, like Laura Landoe, are the heart of the Red Cross. Very much ingrained with the City of Chicago from the start, some of the first local volunteers—our founding Board Members from 1915—reads like a list of street names, historical landmarks and successful companies that are still much aVolunteer Walt Disney 1919 part of the Chicago landscape today: Cyrus H. McCormick, Mrs. Potter Palmer, A.A. Sprague II, Mayor William Hale Thompson, Charles H. Wacker, and William Wrigley, Jr. to name a few.

Our current board members are also proud to carry on this legacy.

We’ve had a few other famous Chicago natives rise through the ranks in our volunteer corps, such as Walt Disney and Ernest Hemingway.

From local volunteers like Nancy Brooks-Edison, who joined the Red Cross more than 50 years ago to newcomer Lazenia Adams, who responded to more than 100 home fires during her first year of service – we couldn’t accomplish all that we do without their care and compassion.

19119823286_64587bee30_oThey represent more than 90 percent of our workforce. Think if 90 percent of the people in your workplace showed up for work and didn’t get paid? That’s what our volunteers do every day when they’re called to comfort a family after a home fire in the middle of the night, or hold a dying veterans hand.

Its hard work, but our volunteers do it because they care about our community.

Thank you for celebrating this milestone with us. The Red Cross has been part of our community for 100 years, and with all the support of our volunteers, funding partners, and the community we can continue to serve for 100 more.

READY 100 CENTENNIAL SPONSORS  Centennial sponsors of the Red Cross in 2015 include: Chicago Community Trust, Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute, Schneider Electric, Ace Hardware, Allstate, Discover, Fresenius Kabi, Grainger, Gerald A. & Karen A. Kolschowsky, Kirkland & Ellis, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Navistar, PwC, USG, Aon, Baxter, BMO Harris Bank, Constellation Brands, C. Reed Parker, Deloitte, Fortune Brands, JLL, Nicor Gas, Oil-Dri, and UL.

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Story By: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Blood Drive Birthday Party – “It’s the Best Gift to Give Back”

photo 4Rather than toasting champagne on her 50th birthday, Beth Dustman raised a cupcake to raise her blood sugar level with friends at the American Red Cross.

“We wanted to do something meaningful on our birthdays,” said Beth, joined by Winnetka friends Beverly Petersen, Midge Hano and Kim Falk, who all rolled up a sleeve with Beth to give blood. Kim arranged for the birthday party at a blood drive by the Red Cross in Chicago where her husband, Scott Falk, serves on the organization’s Board of Directors.

“It’s the best gift to give back,” said Beth, surrounded by her friends, and a nod to her father who had leukemia and needed blood.  She holds a sign she wrote that reads, “In celebration of life and friendship.”

Like Beth, the Red Cross is also celebrating a milestone birthday this year marking 100 years of service to Chicago. You can give the gift of blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Every 2 seconds someone needs blood and 1 pint can save up to 3 lives.

Story and photo by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Blood Drives and Biking Motivate Volunteer

Two things really Kathy Schubert bikerget volunteer Kathy Schubert moving – riding bikes and giving blood.

“I need a destination on my bike, so I’ll ride to a Red Cross blood drive,” Kathy said.

The avid cyclist has been a Red Cross blood drive volunteer coordinator since 2001, organizing one of her first events for the organization days after 9/11 when there was an urgent need for blood.

Kathy continues to bike to blood drives around Chicago and the DePaul University campus, recruiting donors and helping collect more than 5,000 pints over the years.

“I volunteer because people out there need my help,” she said.

Story and photo by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Blood Donor Rolls Up His Sleeve for the 63rd Time

photoAmerican Red Cross volunteer Gerry Holmes believes donating blood is something significant he can do to help save lives.

Gerry first donated blood on his college campus when he was 18 years old. He had a good feeling knowing his blood helped someone in need back then, and still does today.

Since his college days, Gerry continues to roll up his sleeve three times a year at blood drives in the Greater Chicago Region. He has given blood 63 times over his lifetime, earning a 7 gallon pin in July 2014.

Congrats Gerry and thanksyou for helping save lives!

Story and photo by Catalina Alzate, American Red Cross Volunteer

“I’m Thankful the Red Cross Could Do Something For Us”

IMAG3211For 35-year-old Towanda Price, Thursday morning started out as just another day at work at a local restaurant.  But just minutes into her shift, she got a phone call that her Southside Chicago apartment was on fire.

Towanda’s son Terrance was at home sleeping at the time of the fire that started in the apartment above them. The 16-year-old inhaled some smoke, but got out safely.

Everything the family owned was completely soaked in water and ruined.  With almost nothing in the refrigerator, and a home that was uninhabitable, Towanda was grateful the Red Cross quickly arrived on the scene.

“I’m thankful the Red Cross could do something for us,” she said. “I’m not sure what we could have done without their help.”

Both mom and son were tearful that they lost their home, but said help from the Red Cross, and words of encouragement from the dedicated volunteers, will help them get back on their feet.

Story and photo by Bob McCaffrey, American Red Cross Volunteer