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

Fireworks! We told you so.

The Fourth of July is one of the most celebrated days in the United States, with people showing their patriotism by lighting fireworks and enjoying quality time with their loved ones. Unfortunately for Erica Lopez and her family, one week before the national holiday, fireworks lit up her house instead of the sky.

On June 28, a group of kids started the firecracker in a backyard near Erica’s home. The firecracker landed on the roof of Erica’s building and quickly spread fire to the rooms below. Her eldest son was in the shower when he smelled smoke and ran out to tell his little brother and cousins. Not having their mother, Erica, at home, the children ran downstairs to alert their aunt who later recalled that “they could have run, but they saved my life!”

When the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team arrived on scene, the firefighters were still present. The children were now huddled at a distance from their home with their family. Their anxiety was alleviated when the volunteers gave them stuffed animals and comforting smiles.

As the Red Cross volunteers prepared to provide emergency assistance, Erica was unsure whether or not to take the offered help. But those that were present assured her that the Red Cross was there to help. Her boyfriend also mentioned “They help people all around the world!” We explained to her that we operate solely on generous donations given by the public and that we were there to help her. As the Disaster Response team prepared to provide shoes to them because of the broken glass scattered over the entire place, Erica couldn’t believe that we were assisting them so much.

Erica was extremely grateful to receive American Red Cross comfort kits, aid for food, clothing and shelter. As the Emergency Response vehicle pulled out of the neighborhood, Erica held her children close as she prepared to move in with her father and start afresh.

Written By- Amisha Sud

Red Cross Month – Join Us

Today marks the beginning of Red Cross Month. This is a time of awareness, volunteerism, and generosity. Red Cross Month is a reminder that we couldn’t carry out our mission without the support of our volunteers, followers, and staff.

One disaster that goes under the radar for many Chicagoans is fires. People usually think of hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes. Home fires may seem to have minimal impact but the people that are affected in a year by fires can equal or surpass those of a hurricane or earthquake.

Last night alone, Disaster Services for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago provided shelter, food, and comfort care to over 50 individuals affected by an apartment fire. On the weekend they responded to six fires where a total of 30 adults and 20 children received assistance. In the past 3 days the Red Cross of Greater Chicago has assisted over 100 individuals.

Robert, one of the people impacted by last nights fire, stated that after seeing thick white smoke making its way through the halls of his apartment complex he knew it was time to leave everything behind and evacuate. Like people affected by a large scale hurricane or tornado individuals affected by a home fire in a matter of minutes loose everything that they hold dear.

Robert is one of many that are displaced daily by home fires. Disasters happen all around us on a daily basis. This month you can help by raising awareness, volunteering or donating to the Red Cross.

Written by: Erica Serna

Mapping Out the Fires

How many fires does the Red Cross respond to in America each year? Google knows pretty much everything, so it’s no surprise that we can now check for the answer there. The folks at our national office have compiled a Google Map with this info. Check it out here.

I was chatting with a friend in Boston the other day who didn’t believe me when I said our chapter goes out to fires almost every day here in the Chicago area. Yep, it’s true. And during this season of fire safety, it’s a good time to brush up on yours.

What do you do to keep your house fire safe? Do you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen? Do you check your smoke detectors regularly? Do you smoke cigarettes in bed while using hairspray? Just kidding. Really, how do you stay fire safe?

-Kristin Claes is a writer with the Greater Chicago Chapter. She checks her smoke alarms AND never uses hairspray around an open flame, but she does enjoy using hairspray. Safely.

Fires this past weekend

This past weekend was a busy one for the Red Cross and their Disaster Action Team (DAT) here in Chicago. There were a total of 53 individuals, including adults and children affected by home fires in the Cook County area. Since they just lost their homes, we made sure they had a place to stay and food to eat. On a normal day, the Chicago Red Cross responds to three or four home fires. The Red Cross is always looking for new people to help them respond to fires. Visit the Chicago Red Cross website to find out how you can be there to lend a hand to families whose lives have been forever changed because of a fire in their home.