“We Have Our Hands in the Community:” GAGDC Joins Red Cross for Smoke Alarm Rally in Auburn-Gresham

CHICAGO, IL – As part of a nationwide fire prevention campaign, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois teamed up with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) on Sat., July 23 to install smoke alarms and teach families about fire safety.

Linda Johnson is the program manager for the GAGDC and said, “it was a necessary partnership. We have our hands in the community and have established relationships in the community so it was easier to transition into the homes from a partnership level.”

28471828816_e75f5f1373_oTogether, 60 volunteers from both organizations installed more than 400 smoke alarms in the South Side neighborhood.

Christa Hunt lives in the neighborhood and volunteered through GAGDC. She said she was glad to be part of the smoke alarm rally, “there definitely are a lot of homes that need it in the neighborhood.”

As volunteers went door-to-door installing alarms, residents welcomed them into their homes. They called neighbors who also needed the alarms to tell them about the Red Cross.

“Usually people my age they get out just fine, but children and seniors, those are the biggest casualties and I would hate for something to happen when I could have prevented it,” Hunt said.

The American Red Cross is known for responding to emergencies, but will continue its effort to install alarms and prevent them before they occur.

“Because of the tremendous efforts of our volunteers working alongside our partners like the Greater Auburn-Gresham Community Development Corporation, hundreds of families are now safer and know how to escape their home in less than two minutes if a fire should occur,” said Harley Jones, Regional Disaster Officer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

28242657960_26df0d6f94_oState Senator Jacqueline Collins, Alderman David Moore of the 17th Ward, and Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr. of the 21st Ward also stopped by to thank volunteers from the GAGDC and Red Cross.

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.

28220493950_3dbe62bcc5_oWritten by: Eleanor Lyon, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

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

 

 

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

 

“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

Johnson Family is thankful for the Red Cross this holiday season

IMG_4986Shanquell Johnson was in the kitchen prepping a turkey dinner for her family on the eve of Thanksgiving.

“Then the whole house went black, and then flames came through the walls,” she said.

Shanquell, her brother, and her four children, 15-year-old Shavon, 12-year-old twins Jachi and Jacruri, and 10-year-old Jakyla left everything behind and ran outside. They moved into their home in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side the month before. A few weeks earlier, everything was on the upswing for the Johnson family. They were unpacked and settled and looking forward to the spending time together in their home during the holidays.

“We lost everything in the fire,” said Shanquell. “I’m still in a state of shock.”

Shanquell returned to her scorched and boarded up home on a cold December morning to salvage what few items were left scattered inside the ruins of her living room. Finding a new place for her children to live is the only item on her Christmas list now.

Like the Johnson family, so many people are in need this holiday season. But the Red Cross is there, responding to 3 to 4 home fires every day in the Chicago region to help families recover. Volunteers find shelter, food, clothing, replace medications and offer mental health services to talk people through the stress of coping with loss.

Shanquell and her children are staying with family and friends, but the night of the fire the Red Cross responded to help with her family’s immediate needs. Volunteers gave the Johnson family the means to purchase food and warm clothes like coats and socks and find a safe place to sleep.

“I’m thankful for that, otherwise we wouldn’t have had a place to go,” she said.

  Written by: Patricia Kemp

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

Team Firestopper Helps Families Feel Safe

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Tonya Howard is a foster mom who wants a safe home for children. That’s why she opened her door to the Chicago Red Cross Team Firestopper to check for potential fire hazards.

Tonya lives in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The area is one of the highest response zones for Red Cross disaster relief teams who respond to home fires there about once a week.

Tonya’s block hasn’t had any incidents, but she’s taking preventative measures. Red Cross volunteers armed her with a new fire extinguisher, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, electrical surge protectors and more. Together, they all walked through the living room, checked batteries in the detectors and headed to the kitchen.

“A lot of fires are sparked by grease over the stove,” said Team Firestopper director Yvette Alexander-Maxie, who advised Tonya to keep the fire extinguisher within arms length. “A lot of people make the mistake of putting it away in the pantry or closet and that wastes precious seconds of time digging for it as flames and smoke climb the wall.”

More than 50 Red Cross volunteers distributed free fire prevention kits in Tonya’s neighborhood whose residents scheduled home visits during a two-day Red Cross community preparedness event last spring.

The Team Firestopper program works to prevent home fires in neighborhoods with a higher number of residential fires as part of its efforts to create a disaster-resistant community. Red Cross relief teams responded to 70 incidents last year in the Roseland neighborhood. After those disasters, the Red Cross assisted more than 300 people, 130 of them children, with food, shelter, clothing, health and mental health services.

Elsewhere in the greater Chicago region, the Red Cross helps people when responding to three to four home fires every day. The Red Cross provides fire victims with immediate assistance and other special needs an affected family might have.

Tonya’s home passed inspection and she was grateful for the fire prevention tips and safety equipment received from the Red Cross.

These safety events are made possible due to Motorola Solutions and State Farm and additional support from UL, First Alert and ACE. For more information on the Red Cross Team Firestopper program visit www.redcross.org/chicago/tfs.

Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region

Red Cross Comforts Will County Family

Nine-year-old Briannea came home one morning with her older sisters, Alicea and Shyanne, and mother, Patricia, to find their house in Will County had burned from a fire and the windows were boarded. The family was devastated and didn’t know where to turn.

That’s when American Red Cross disaster relief volunteers arrived to help. They assisted Briannea’s family with shelter, food, clothing and emotional support at a time when they could see little hope.

Briannea smiled when the volunteers gave her a teddy bear. She was glad to have something to hold and comfort her as a reminder she’s not alone. Volunteers also offered stuffed animals to her teenage sisters who happily accepted them. There are times, the girls said, when you are never too old for a teddy bear.

To learn more about how the Red Cross helps families like Briannea’s visit redcross.org.

Red Cross volunteers assist a family in Will County after they experienced a home fire.

Red Cross volunteers assist a family in Will County after they experienced a home fire.

 

Written by Kelly Johnson

Helping Victims of Fire Find “A New Normal”

By Jackie Nelson

“Terrible,” Cai said in English as she looked through her sooty and soaked belongings to try to find her mother’s prescriptions.  It would be the only direct exchange of words she and I would share today.

With her elderly parents, Cai Chen and her husband, Chai Tse, live in the first floor unit of a two-unit home in the Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport.   Red Cross Disaster Responders Jim McGowan and Roxy Trudeau helped the family figure out their next 48 hours with the help of Cantonese translator Kalina Pon. Pon decided to volunteer her time when she heard of the fire while at her child’s school in Chinatown that morning. Together, the disaster team figured out with Cai and Chai where the family would sleep, ensured prescriptions for her parents were on hand and made plans to launder their wet clothes and shoes.  While the second story of the home was destroyed in a fire in the middle of the night, Cai and Chai were able to salvage some of their belongings from their water-logged unit.

The family fled their home in the middle of the night in the same clothes they were wearing.  They had been on the curb for hours in the cold rain and 40 degree weather when the Red Cross  arrived in the morning, shortly after hearing they were in need.  The sound of hammering echoed from the roof where the board-up company worked in the rain to secure the home. A member of the disaster response team attempted to make contact with the family the night of the fire, but couldn’t get in touch with the family until the next morning. Before the Red Cross arrived, Cai’s mother walked to work in the wet slippers she had been wearing when she ran from the burning home.  She was eager to arrive at work on time to make sure the family’s income wasn’t affected when they faced the reality of having to replace most of their belongings. 

Cai and Chai are also eager to get back to work.  To do so, though, they needed something to eat after an exhaustive night, warm and dry clothes, and information about community partners and agencies that, like the Red Cross, will help them find their “new normal.”  They will need a new residence, replacement furniture and assistance in navigating next steps with their landlord and his insurance.

With the assistance they received from the Red Cross, they will stay tonight in a hotel in nearby Chinatown, close to where they will go back to work tomorrow. 

The Red Cross will continue to try to reach the resident in the upstairs unit to provide assistance, and we are now a step closer to finding him with additional information his neighbors were able to provide.  Also, a new disaster assistance note hangs on his door handle – this one translated into Cantonese by Kalina in hopes that he reaches out to the Red Cross for help.

We may not hear from him in a community so willing to help one another and rise above hardship.

In my four years with the Red Cross, I have grown used to seeing the things that are so personal to families like children’s favorite toys, small flags from the United States and other homeland countries, and school photos reduced to debris that sadly must be grieved and disposed of.  I am saddened by it, but accept is as part of the reality of unforgiving disasters.

What I haven’t grown used to yet is wondering what happens after we leave and when other agencies and communities step in to help.  I find comfort in knowing Cai, Chai and her parents will be OK for the next 48 hours, at least.  I appreciate that she looked at me and said to me “terrible” in English to be sure I understood.  Cai knew that it matters to us, too, to connect with the people we meet during disasters – that this connection is why we volunteer and walk through water-filled basements trying not to step on nails jutting up from collapsed ceilings and walls.

Roxy, Jim, Karina and I dispersed after our response and will likely never all work the same disaster again, given the hundreds of volunteers who respond in Chicago alone.  I probably will never meet the upstairs neighbor.  If anyone from the Red Cross meets him, it will be a different volunteer – whoever is on-call when he reaches out based on the information we left him. 

We will continue to wonder about his next 48 hours and hope that someone is there with him.  Time and time again within the Red Cross and throughout communities, people continue to show up, so it is likely he will find relief somehow.  Now that we have done what we can, I can only hope.

To find out how you can become a volunteer, donor, or learn how to reduce the risk of a fire in your home, visit www.redcross.org.

Team Firestopper Prepares Your Community From a Fire Disaster

Team Firestopper Home Visits 3.29.13 016
Imagine the place you call home, the place you share with your family, the place you grew up, gone. Fires can be one of the most devastating things to happen to a family. It can destroy homes, possessions, memories, and lives. In a matter of minutes, everything that a home holds dear can be burnt away. As you scroll through the pages of this blog you will read the stories of the people whose lives have been altered by destructive fires. The trauma of losing your home is immeasurable; something experienced by too many in the city of Chicago.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago responds to 1,200 disasters each year, the majority of which are residential fires. The Chicago Red Cross relief team helps assist victims of home fires every day. You cannot rewind back to the moments before a fire, but you can take steps in preventing it. There are simple ways in which you and your family can protect your home from fires and Team Firestopper can help.

Team Firestopper is a volunteer fire safety program that provides fire education and hand-on activities. Each year the program reaches over 10,000 households. This year, on March 29th and 30th, Team Firestopper of Greater Chicago visited 40 homes in the Roseland neighborhood on the south side of the city to distribute free fire prevention kits that included smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and surge protectors. Over the two days, 50 volunteers educated homeowners about fire safety and preparedness.

The team works to prevent home fires in neighborhoods with a high number of residential fires. “Unfortunately, Roseland has a significant number of home fires each year,” said Red Cross community programs director Yvette Alexander-Maxie. Last year, the Red Cross relief team responded to 70 incidents in Roseland, making it one of the highest response zones in Chicago.

The two- day home visits in Roseland helped families become better educated and ready for residential fire hazards. During one of the visits, the team went to the home of Tonya Howard, who was already well equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. “I’m a foster parent, so it’s mandatory,” she said. “We have to do an evaluation, and then we have to have a plan, too.” Team Firestopper successfully aided families in the Roseland community to help stop fires before they happen.

Team Firestopper is working hard to prepare Chicago communities so fewer families have to lose their homes to fires. Do not let your family and home be at risk, stay informed and always be prepared. For more information about fire safety and tips visit redcross.org. Team Firestopper needs volunteers to help teach preparedness techniques and canvass neighborhoods with fire prevention information. For volunteer information visit http://www.redcross.org or call (312) 729-6265.

Written by: Alyssa Barford