Through the Heart of a Red Crosser – Blue Sky Efforts – February 2020

The Regional Sheltering Team recently conducted five classes with External Partners in Shelter Training. 

Three local organizations – Benedictine University, Hoffman Estates Emergency Management and the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management – reached out to the Red Cross and requested Shelter Training for their people.

Five Red Cross Instructors over the last month – traveled out to their locations and instructed their people in both Shelter Fundamentals and Shelter Operations Simulation.  A total of 120 people were trained in these classes. 

Steve Wise and Lauren Zimmerman (RC Sheltering Instructors) – and Sarah Marcucci / Emergency Management Coordinator for the Village of Hoffman Estates

Such efforts help the Red Cross extend both our Partnerships and our reach in times of need.  If there ever was a local large-scale disaster – there easily could be the need to stand up numerous Shelters across the Greater Chicago and Northern IL Region.      

A big shout out goes to those Red Crossers who helped out with this instruction – Terri Cunningham, Lauren Zimmerman, Jackie Speciale, and Danny Portman.  Thru their efforts – we now have External Partners to call on for Sheltering Assistance.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, please go to to join us.

This picture was taken at the Shelter Training held at the Hoffman Estates Police Department last Saturday, February 1st. A total of 37 people attended this training.

Written By: Steve Wise, Disaster Volunteer

Couple Recovers After Destructive Home Fire

Couple Recovers After Destructive Home Fire

“We hit rock bottom,” said Nick Tedeschi. “And the Red Cross gave us a start.”

Nick and his wife, Shirley, were going about their daily routine on Feb 13, 2016, when their condo caught on fire. They were left with the clothes on their back. “You never expect, when you leave for the day, to come back and have lost everything,” said Nick. Their Valentine’s Day plans were derailed as they tried to recover.


Nick and Shirley lost everything in the home fire.

The Red Cross responded to the fire, caused by a next door neighbor’s cigarette, to help them get back on their feet during the immediate recovery after their loss.

Nick reflected on that time, “I was totally gutted out.”

He talked about the months following the fire as a very difficult time. He would wipe his tears away and keep it inside while he was at work, delivering supplies to customers throughout the loop. He didn’t want anyone to know.

Nick and Shirley showed resiliency, and even humor, during a difficult time. Nick said he watched his house burn down while eating a bowl of chili he had picked up on the way home. He laughed, looking back on it, because the chili was from a local chain called Firehouse Subs.

They moved into her daughter’s basement for a few months until they were able to purchase a new home. “We were blessed tremendously,” Nick reflects.


The house that Nick and Shirley purchased after a fire destroyed their previous home.

Now, he and his wife live in a house and, Nick says, they do things differently. They triple check everything before leaving the house, they put in new smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and they keep flammable things away from their house – they don’t even have a grill. “We have backyard BYOF parties: bring your own food,” said Nick.

In 2017, Nick plans to volunteer for the Red Cross to answer telephones at a Red Cross telethon. “You guys did so much. It gave us a starting point.”

Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Prevention Campaign.

By: Cat Rabenstine

“That Cup of Coffee Reconnected Me to Humanity”

Rick and Patty Colclasure rode out a devastating storm in Coal City, IL. Thanks to a cup of coffee, they know the power of small things bringing big hope.

(COAL CITY, IL) – Rick and Patty Colclasure were frantic when they couldn’t reach their daughter on her cell phone the night a tornado struck their neighborhood in Coal City on June 22nd.

“I just kept thinking ‘My kids! Where are my kids!’ ” Patty recalled. Emerging from their crawl space after the storm, they found their house blown half to pieces.

After walking 45 minutes in the dark and rain, the couple breathed a sigh of relief learning their daughter’s family was safe. But Rick knew he had to check on his other neighbors, too. He ran door to door asking if everyone was ok, even taking his 80-year old neighbor into to his own home.

They know what it means to help a neighbor in need. Less than two years ago, they volunteered at after a devastating tornado ripped through their sister town of Diamond, IL. “It feels so good to help other people, even though we are now on the other end of it,” said Patty.

“At first you’re just thinking about your own house, your life. But the more you look around, the more your awareness expands. It’s about your whole community.  They are your family.”

Just hours after the storm, Red Cross response vehicles circled neighborhood streets delivering hot coffee, snacks and water to residents whose lives had been turned upside down overnight.

“We’ve gone through a lot. But that cup of coffee reconnected me to humanity,” Rick said. “For a second we felt like we were back to normal. It made me cry.”

Story by Katie Wilkes, Marketing Manager, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Being Prepared 221 Miles Offshore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany types of emergencies can occur on an offshore oil rig, which is why Dan Workman’s employer requires him to be CPR and First Aid certified.

Dan works on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico located 221 miles offshore. For the past four years he has commuted from Palos Hills, Illinois to Texas to work three-week shifts on the rig. Dan has been re-certified several times now and says the training has definitely proved useful.

“When my co-workers get minor cuts and can’t help themselves, I bandage them up,” he said.

Dan has also witnessed more severe injuries. During one of his shifts, a fallen crane crushed a coworker’s pelvis and injured his leg. There’s a medic onboard to respond to emergency situations, but ensuring every worker is trained and prepared is vital. Dan has also been involved with the Red Cross blood services for many years by donating blood while in school and deployed in the military.

As a regular blood donor and knowing how to perform First Aid, Dan is prepared to save lives.

Story and photo by Kamryn McPike

Giving the Perfect Gift Just Became Easy

ARC2013_ProductPage_290x290disv6 (1)Christmas morning is about waking up to spending time with loved ones. It’s about feasting and spreading holiday cheer. Most importantly, it’s about giving.

You can give a gift that with meaning for someone in need. All it takes is just a few clicks of a computer mouse button online at the American Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog.

So, what makes the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog so special?

Your gift can give shelter to the woman and her children who lost their home to a fire. It provides phone cards and Military comfort kits to a wounded service member to call home to loved ones. There are many people in need and your gift can make all the difference.

For only $50, you can provide infant care supplies like diapers or formula for a baby affected by a home fire. You can help 50 young children live healthier lives through vaccinations.  You can give hot meals that provide comfort and strength when disaster strikes. And, as the Chicago region grows colder this winter, you can wrap people in warm blankets through your gift.

Give something that means something this Christmas. Visit the catalog at

Written by: Diana Brokop

Frequent and first-time blood donors share a desire to help

Paul KruegerPaul Kreuger has donated blood 10 times. This time, the American Red Cross gave him a golden pin for donating a gallon of blood over the years.

Paul says he is glad he can help someone in need. “If I can and am eligible, then I should donate,” he said at a Chicago blood drive. “What’s stopping you?”

The Red Cross is grateful for long-time donors like Paul, and for first-time donors like Christina Theodorou, who overcame herChristina Theodorou fear of needles because she wanted to help save lives. As a medical student, Christina understands the need for blood through her research in thalassemia, a disorder that requires patients to undergo regular blood transfusions. Blood donations help these patients and many more. A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States and more than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day.

Christina and Paul are not alone. They are joined by other donors who want to help save lives. Kristin Cleary, a frequent blood donor, realized her O positive blood is the second most needed blood type. Her time in the military reserves encouraged her to roll up her sleeve to donate to the Red Cross.

The donation process is simple. Start to finish, the process takes about an hour. The donation itself lasts about 8 to 10 minutes, but the gratification remains long after that.

Blood donors are extraordinary for stopping to take time out of their day to contribute to the urgent need for blood. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Join the cause by looking up a local blood drive near you.

—Written by: Amisha Sud

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

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

You Would Be Surprised What You Can Do Out in the World

Every morning, Ray Carter starts his day with a bowl of oatmeal—but don’t forget the raisins, bananas, and blackberries on top. With a life as exciting as Ray’s, it’s no surprise that he needs to start every day with a hearty breakfast. After retiring from a lifelong career of working for the government (including fraud investigation in Chicago), Ray has been a volunteer at the Red Cross of Greater Chicago for five years.

I met Ray when I responded to my first fire as an intern at the Red Cross. Ray happened to be on call that day, and I met him by the big van bearing the Red Cross logo. Rather than hopping into the van on our respective sides, Ray opened the passenger side door and extended his elbow, chivalrously helping me up the big step and into the van.

As we drove to the fire on Chicago’s South Side, Ray spoke easily about his life working for the government, playing golf in his free time, and visiting Chicago schools. When I asked further about the school visits, he told me about talking to football and basketball players. If the students just get their diploma, or “that piece of paper” as Ray casually called it, there is a whole different life waiting for them. “You would be surprised what you can do out in the world” he tells them, hoping to impart his lifetime of knowledge onto the younger generation.

Ray Carter assessing the damage from a house fire in Chicago

Ray Carter assesses the damage from a house fire in Chicago

I had become so enthralled by his stories that I almost forgot about the fire. We rolled up to the scene and saw that the fire department had come and gone, leaving the house soaking, charred, and abandoned. Ray found the homeowner in the garage behind the house and asked her to lead us through her home so he could assess the damage. I nervously trudged behind him, kicking glass shards from the broken windows out of my path, while Ray strode through several inches of water, soot, and glass with his high-powered flashlight. I worried about the safety of the infrastructure, as one part of the ceiling had fallen in and hung loosely above our heads. Yet Ray radiated the confidence of a veteran fire responder, and I knew that he would not lead us somewhere unsafe.

Ray’s hearty laugh, kind nature, and tall stature emit safety and comfort. As we assessed how the Red Cross could assist the homeowners, he consoled the woman with a pat on the shoulder and a “hang in there.” We finally pulled away from the scene in the big van, having provided the family with food, clothing, and shelter. I sat in the passenger seat once again, overwhelmed by how grateful the family was for our contributions. Ray, however, drove with one hand on the steering wheel and a content expression on his face, as if to say, “All in a day’s work.”

Ray is just one of the many volunteers who help make a difference in peoples’ lives every day. To learn more about how you can volunteer, visit

By Michaela Zook

Red Cross supports World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day event was celebrated on June 20 worldwide but few probably realized this and went about the usual daily activities of work, school or chores. But one day can hold a different meaning for refugees who are forced to flee their homes overnight because of war, natural disaster, violence and other humanitarian emergencies. World Refugee Day celebrates and honors the courage and determination of these men, women and children as they are displaced from their homes to seek safety and shelter.

The American Red Cross joined several other humanitarian and refugee resettlement agencies to bring a day of fun and play for refugees who have seen unimaginable conditions of living. The American Red Cross supported the event by playing a significant role in providing health and safety resources to all refugees in attendance. They joined their resources with other agencies present to support this occasion, marked with a soccer tournament, music and food, juggling classes and soccer skills training for children and women’s potting.

Red Cross Health Services volunteer Nancy Brooks-Edison was on hand to provide first aid and other health support to players in the tournament. The rest of the Chicago Red Cross team handed out emergency preparedness kits to all refugee families. The team came prepared to guide them about keeping their families safe in emergencies through pictographic flyers written in seven languages— Arabic, Burmese, French,  Spanish, Kinyarwanda (a dialect spoken in Rwanda), Somali and English— and graphically conveyed messages to several refugees with varied language needs.


Volunteers help at the Red Cross table for World Refugee Day.

In addition to its role as the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross supports  refugees all over the world in another very significant way. Through its ‘Restoring Family Links’ program, American Red Cross helps put separated refugee families in touch with each other in cases where they are separated by war or natural disaster. Red Cross caseworkers around the U.S. help families locate missing relatives, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations in nearly every country around the world.  Annually the American Red Cross assists more than 5,000 families trying to reconnect with their loved ones in the U.S. and around the world.

The Red Cross provides these services and Red Cross Messages (RCMs), written personal communications sent between family members separated by conflict or disaster.

The other agencies present at the event were RefugeeOne, World Relief, Heartland Alliance, ICIRR, Pan African Association, the Bhutanese Community Association of Illinois, Exodus World Service, Catholic Charities and more. It was remarkable to see different cultures coming together and sharing their stories.


Red Cross Volunteer Amisha Sud and Amal Alsandok attend the World Refugee Day event in Chicago on June 20.

One beautiful story came from Amal Alsandok. When she arrived in the United States from Jordan two years ago with her husband and daughter, Amal was firm on supporting her family on her own. With the help of Uruk Human Services, an agency empowering women from the Middle East, Amal was able to turn her 15-year passion for painting into a small yet flourishing business of handicrafts, candles and paintings.

Her story is no different that young Kemso Cuota’s who is about to graduate from high school. She is extremely enthusiastic about starting college next year. Kemso came from Ethopia with her brother and mother last May and wants to pursue the field of science with dreams of becoming a doctor.

This event was one of the many ways that the Red Cross supports this cause and provides resources. After attending the event for several years, The American Red Cross looks forward to support this determined group of people next year as well.

-Written by Amisha Sud

From Red Cross to Golden Arches

Ray Kroc and Fred Turner looking at blueprints of future McDonald's restaurant

Ray Kroc and Fred Turner looking at blueprints of future McDonald’s restaurant

“If I had a brick for every time I repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them.”

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc never crossed the Atlantic with his franchise’s value statement like the aforementioned quote suggests. However, he almost had to cross the Atlantic as a Red Cross volunteer in 1917.

After dropping out of high school at age 15, Chicago native Ray Kroc lied about his age in order to join the American Red Cross as a World War I ambulance driver. Kroc was sent to Connecticut for training and served in the same regiment as another famous Red Cross alum and Chicago native—Walt Disney.

When World War I ended, Kroc had few prospects for the future. As a high school dropout looking for work, he sold milkshake makers, whereby he fortuitously encountered Dick and Mac McDonald’s restaurant in 1954. Kroc became the McDonald brothers’ franchising agent and eventually bought the franchise from them. Kroc went on to build the most successful fast food operation in the world.

Kroc never lost his passion for helping others that he channeled as a young boy when working for the Red Cross. In 1984, the Ronald McDonald House was established in memory of Kroc’s strong advocacy for children. Reflecting on the Ronald McDonald charity’s vision for helping children, one cannot help but think of the Red Cross, which aspires to “Turn compassion into action so that all people affected by disaster across the country and around the world receive care, shelter and hope.”

To find out how you can help make this vision a reality like Ray Kroc did, visit

Written by Michaela Zook