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 

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

Ideas for the Next Century to Serve Chicago are Put “On the Table”

Around the table this afternoon, members of the American Red Cross shared stories of giving andphoto receiving. Many said inspiration comes through a personal connection. Volunteering or supporting a cause is also something that’s been passed on to us through many generations.

“My dad set a really good example for me,” said Jennifer Alt, new to the Red Cross resource development team this month. “He instilled in me the importance of giving back.”

Like Jennifer’s dad, Red Crossers around the table who have children are teaching their kids the value of volunteerism and giving back, whether it’s dividing up a dollar in four quarters to give to people who need it, or bringing them to places, such as Leader Dogs for the Blind, like Susan Westerfield did with her daughter. That spirit of giving is how Susan is setting a good example for the next generation and why she joined the Red Cross after many years in corporate sales.

“I’m awestruck by the work we do,” said Susan Westerfield. “You really can make a difference. I love talking about it.”

2015 is a special centennial year for charities in Chicago. Both the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago chapter of the American Red Cross were established 100 years ago in 1915. As a kickoff to The Chicago Community Trust’s Centennial, organizations across the region participated in an open dialogue about the future of our community where we put our ideas “on the table.”

Many of these conversations were shared on social media via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which helps bring our community a little closer in the digital age.  Downtown at the Willis Tower, the Red Cross held a blood drive to draw in donors for the constant need for blood. At our headquarters in the Illinois Medical District, the discussion was about supporting other agencies in our network, whether we’re running a race for a cure, or asking a friend for a few dollars to help send a kid to summer camp.

These are investments our team believes in. That’s because we know the Red Cross can’t do it alone – we need help from the entire philanthropic community.  We’ve been serving Chicago for 100 years, and we’re looking ahead to serve 100 more. Together, with our community partners, we can accomplish so much in the next century. For more information on the Chicago Red Cross centennial go to www.chicagoredcross100.com.

“It feels really good to give,” said Heidi Mucha, Chief Development Officer. “We all know that feeling and that’s why we’re part of the Red Cross. It’s in our power to help others have that same experience so they’ll be inspired to give back to our community.”

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

Apartment tenants grateful the Red Cross was there for them

photo“Are we homeless?”  Lisa asked as firefighters fought to save the apartment she shared with friends in Lombard, Illinois.   

The blaze started before 2 a.m. and quickly spread through the 12 units on the north half of the Willow Lake Apartments building, collapsing the roof. Most of the tenants had been sound asleep, but were jolted awake by fire alarms and confronted with smoke and confusion. In the hallways, sirens were blaring and neighbors called to each other, “Get out!” 

In the Greater Chicago Region, the Red Cross responds to three to four home fires every day, on-call 24/7 ready to help any of the 9.4 million people in 13 counties in Illinois and Northwest Indiana. Through the dedication of trained volunteers who care and the generosity of donors, the Red Cross is helping to ensure the needs of people affected by these disasters are met.

Lombard_Fire2The Garcia family escaped; the children leaving behind shoes and coats. In another part of the building, Sunitha bundled up her 3-month-old baby and fled with her husband. Everyone got out safely, but they all lost their home.

 All combined, 42 people, 16 of them children, were affected by the Willow Lakes Apartment fire in DuPage County.

 Red Cross disaster relief teams arrived to help. From the pre-dawn hours through late afternoon, volunteers met with tenants and provided assistance for shelter, food and clothing. Volunteers gave winter coats and shoes to the Garcia children and infant supplies and formula for Sunitha’s baby. Lisa and her roommates were assured they would have safe place to stay. All of the tenants were grateful the Red Cross was there for them.

   DuPage County OHSEM (@ProtectDuPage)
10/26/13, 11:41 AMThanks @ChicagoRedCross for helping our residents in unincorporated Lombard who were displaced by an overnight apartment fire.

 Written by Judy Gustafson & Patricia Kemp

“You Rescued My Family”

It was more than 40 years ago, but Mary still remembers waking up to the orange glow at the top of the stairs. Her home in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago was on fire. Suddenly Mary, her parents, and seven brothers and sisters were standing outside in the dark night.

We were homeless. Nothing was salvageable from the house. We had only our pajamas—what we wore to bed. Our clothes left in the home were either burned or saturated with smoke. Then, the Red Cross stepped in to help us. It was the Red Cross that put us on our feet after that devastating fire. You rescued my family.

I tell this story to anyone who will listen. It is my effort to pay back the Red Cross—hoping it will encourage others to contribute to the Red Cross. Their help is so much more than all the tangible stuff, it’s knowing someone is looking out for you and will lift you from the ashes and put an arm around you when you think things are hopeless.

Written by: Mary, Wheeling, Illinois

Glen Ellyn Couple Celebrates 35th Wedding Anniversary Volunteering with the Red Cross

GramasphotoLee and Peg Gramas spent their 35th anniversary on June 24, 2013 together—just not in the way they planned. Yet, on the day they celebrated their commitment to each other, they also showed their commitment to the American Red Cross and the people of Chicago.

That day, the Glen Ellyn couple, who are both volunteers for the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, received a call to respond to a multi-unit apartment fire in the Little Village neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. 

 What was supposed to be a quiet, romantic evening turned into a long night. They planned to cook fresh salmon and vegetables, but dinner had to wait when Peg received the call from the Red Cross. Together, they agreed to say yes, saying “I’ll go if you go.” They put their anniversary plans and dinner on the back burner and set out to the fire.

Lee and Peg have been volunteers with the Red Cross since 2010. They are involved in their community separately, but wanted to find something they could do together. Joining the Red Cross as disaster responders allowed them to do that. They’ve each been to dozens of fires with other volunteers but because of their different schedules, they rarely respond to disasters together. This made the call that night even more unique.

Peg and Lee did get their dinner after all. When they returned home that night, the couple got out all the food they put away and began again, eating their salmon well after midnight.

“It definitely wasn’t the quiet night we had planned,” Peg said with a laugh. “But we got our dinner eventually.”

Why not turn down the call and celebrate privately? Lee says it’s the caliber of people at the Red Cross who keep them coming back.

“We’ll be volunteering at fires until we can’t do it anymore.”

Written by Lauren Lindstrom

Services to the Armed Forces program: National Military Appreciation Month

Sergeant Jacinda with her grandmother: Red Cross helps military families connect during emergencies

Sergeant Jacinda with her grandmother: Red Cross helps military families connect during emergencies

From its early days, the American Red Cross has provided full support to the members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families. Jonathan Aguilera attests to these efforts whole-heartedly. Jonathan is the proud father of Jacinda Aguilera who is a Sergeant with the Army National Guard and who also served in Afghanistan before being stationed in El Paso, Texas after she suffered injuries. Recently Jacinda’s grandmother Ursula unexpectedly fell ill, her prognosis was grave and her doctors didn’t feel she had much time left.

After hearing about the Red Cross services from fellow soldiers in similar situations, Jacinda asked her father to reach out to the organization. Jonathan then contacted the Chicago chapter late one night and received a prompt response. He was extremely impressed by the efficiency with which the Red Cross handled the response. Within mere two hours of the call, the paperwork for Jacinda’s emergency leave was processed and sent off to her supervisors in El Paso, Texas. In addition, the Red Cross kept the worried father posted on every step of the process by doing follow-up calls and providing him regular updates. Shortly, Jacinda was on a flight home and could meet her grandmother before she passed away.

“We should be grateful to have such a source to connect us with our loved ones during family emergencies. We really appreciate the services you have provided to bring my daughter home in time to see her grandmother one last time,” said Jonathan.

Through its  Services to the Armed Forces program, the Red Cross supports our service members in the military by connecting them with their families during emergencies,  providing them resilience training to deal with the challenges of deployment, and linking their families with local community resources.  But the service most commonly used connects a deployed service member to their family in times of emergency.

These services have their roots in the beginning of the Vietnam War when 365 Chicago Red Cross volunteers were providing relief at 107 Red Cross stations.  During this time, the American Red Cross implemented a unique program called “Voices from Home” where individuals recorded messages for service men overseas. The programs were met with an astounding number of requests and helped establish the Red Cross as the major military aid institution in Chicago. Like the Aguilera family, Red Cross helps military personnel to communicate with their families far away.

The American Red Cross Emergency Communications Center is available to help 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to relay urgent messages containing accurate, factual, complete and verified descriptions of the emergency to service members stationed anywhere in the world, including on ships at sea and at embassies and remote locations. For more information visit: http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families/emergency-communication-services

Tonight when you go home and spend quality time with your family and friends, take a moment to pause  and remember our fellow Americans who are risking their lives and serving the nation, domestically and internationally, so you can enjoy these days of freedom. The American Red Cross salutes the Armed Forces of the United States of America and all members serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard as well as all veterans and their families during the National Military Appreciation Month this May.

Written by: Amisha Sud

National Volunteer Week—AmeriCorps member Brianna Niemi

 

Ameri Corps Member- National Volunteer Week

Brianna Niemi: Ameri Corps Member- National Volunteer Week

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”–Martin Luther King Jr.

The Red Cross is more than a humanitarian organization; it’s a humanitarian organization supported by YOU! And many of you who contribute their time and energies to help us meet our vision of preparing communities for unanticipated disasters, ensuring access to lifesaving blood, supporting all members of our armed services and so much more. Hence, we fully support any form of event which acknowledges and celebrates all volunteers, including the National Volunteer Week from April 21- April 27 this year.

This week celebrates ordinary people doing extraordinary things to improve communities across the world. Being an organization which carries out its services majorly through the work of selfless volunteers, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago could not be more excited about this recognition. To highlight the work our strong group of volunteers do, we interviewed Brianna Niemi, one of our devoted AmeriCorps. The AmeriCorps program helps the Red Cross achieve its mission by paying special attention to the neighborhoods and communities that need services the most, yet are least likely to be able to afford them.

Originally from Wisconsin with a Bachelors degree and certification in Social Work, Brianna always wanted to be part of a strong volunteer program like the PeaceCorps and decided to apply for the AmeriCorps program at the Chicago Red Cross. One of her favorite memories was from when she was deployed and was amazed to see the work done by volunteers who came from around the nation. But she was most moved by the family who she helped a day before Thanksgiving whose house was devastated by a terrible fire. That moment, Brianna realized the full impact of the fire felt by the family who were preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday before the fatal incident. But the family was very grateful and thankful of the help provided by the Red Cross and Brianna felt very proud of the work she is able to do along with the rest of the volunteers.

Brianna hopes to continue her passion to help people by enriching her experience with a Master degree in Social Work. To future volunteers, Brianna signs off by saying that the Red Cross is a remarkable organization to work for and contribute to. She is always amazed to see the enthusiasm of the Red Cross volunteers who are also sometimes retirees who come out and help distressed family whose homes have been destroyed. She also cites an example of a student volunteer who also has a full time job, but helps out the Red Cross by responding to fires in the middle of the night! These are the volunteers who carry forward the Red Cross services and touch the lives of countless people.

The Chicago Red Cross salutes these volunteers during the National Volunteer Week and beyond. We are grateful for all that they do. If you would like to make a difference in someone’s life by volunteering, then please visit http://rdcrss.org/14HNAC2 or email chicagovr@redcross.org or call (312) 729-6222.
–Written by Amisha Sud