CARE for Paws Initiative: Helping pet owners in times of disaster

Story by Red Cross volunteer Ann Voigt

Tucked just outside of Green Bay, WI, in the quiet countryside, sits Country Care Animal Complex. Inside the walls of the complex, in addition to their everyday animal care, the staff serves another important purpose.  The CARE for Paws (Countrycare Animal Rescue Efforts) initiative is part of the Countrycare Animal Complex and partners with the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of The American Red Cross, using their resources to help animals in need during disastrous times.

PAWS Kit Photo 1

When I spoke with Joanne Clark, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Countrycare, to learn more about the CARE for Paws and the kits they make for animals in need, I could tell from just the phone conversation that this was an initiative which was very close to their organization’s heart. The kits are serve a dual purpose – to help victims who are pet owners with initial needs [for their pet(s)] after a disaster strikes and they then serve as carriers for the pets.  Included in the kits are collars, leashes, food, blankets, bowls, kitty litter, toys, and care information.

PAWS Kit Photo 2

The most important part of the kits, however, is the love that each volunteer puts into them. The organization holds bi-yearly gatherings to fill the hundreds of kits and has been doing so for about five years.  It is an effort put forth simply for the love of the animals and the need to ensure the safety and well-being of pets whose owners have fallen on hard times due to tragedy.


PAWS Kit Photo 3

The organization’s quest to help pets doesn’t stop with the aftermath of an event – they also provide needs in anticipation of unforeseen events. With a requested donation of $15.00, their Emergency Evacuation Bags include a pet blanket, collapsible food/water bowl, slip leash, waterproof envelope for medical records, booklet of preparedness tips, window sticker to alert first responders that pets are in the home as well as a pet first aid bag with instructional card. These items are all contained in a drawstring bag for easy access.

For more information on this heroic animal organization, please visit their website or Facebook page.

Story by Red Cross volunteer Ann Voigt


A reflection and personal story to support her native Puerto Rico by Wisconsin volunteer, Julianna Kimpton who packed her backpack and flew to her island after Hurricane Maria.

September 20, 2017. All media say that my island is dark. My Boriken will never be the same. My search for the voice of my people began.

October 21, 2017. At approximately 1:38 pm local time an American Airlines airplane landed in San Juan with me as a passenger, at that moment is when I really understood what silence means. There were no cheers or songs, only teary eyes because we have witnessed from the sky the destruction Maria caused. Then it hit me, this was just the beginning.

Kimpton Photo - Home Destruction 2

As a volunteer for the American Red Cross, I was assigned to Reunification. (Helping those affected to communicate with loved ones, it is the search and rescue unit of the Red Cross) What I never imagined was that it would be me who would meet a new reality, a new story and reunite with the Boricua that has been asleep inside me since I left the island in December 2001.

I’ve spent the last 21 days with my family, we do not carry the same last name or DNA but we share the “plantain stain” on the forehead. We carry the warrior air of our Taino Indians, carry the flag and raised fists shouting “I shall not quit.”

My island will never be the same. It will take generations before our Yunque recovers, take years before the streets are once again free of debris, months until every household has water and electricity, but what you can already feel and hear in the air is Faith.

Kimpton Photo - Carrying Supplies I have met with thousands of people in these three weeks. Every day, I go out to distribute water and supplies to groups of 300 to 600 people. I visit the elderly in their homes and take items to people with disabilities. I embraced, I prayed, laughed and cried with more people than I can count. I held the hand of elderly people in beds of which they will never rise again. I’ve met families who had lost contact and I’ve heard people talk about what Maria “stole”. But from everything I’ve have seen and heard, something that everyone has in common, regardless of age or situation, destruction or pain is Hope.

This hurricane took ceilings, houses and unfortunately took lives. But for those who are still here the hurricane could not steal their fighting spirit – that Boricua heat. The same spirit that leads us to feed the neighbors when in our own home we have barely enough to eat. That spirit of family, I traveled to places where there was nothing and still people came out of their homes with “a cold coke” or “a glass of water with ice cubes.” (Trust me, here the ice is more valuable than gold) and always the “I owe” with promises of “pateles” and rice with pigeon peas cooked on the fire.

Kimpton Photo - Home Destruction 2

My people, our island will never be the same, but the #puertoricoselevanta is law. People are ready to rebuild, they are ready to put Maria as part of the story in a social studies book with the word “Survivor” next to it. Boriken is being renovated. Children are flying kites today, the projects are full with cleaning crews consisting of people who live there. Crime has decreased and people are on the street helping others.

I write this at 4:12 am local time. In less than two hours, I will leave wearing my red vest and go to work. I have written this with the music of the Coqui orchestra as inspiration. Hoping to give at least a small window to the Boricua dream.

Please do not be discouraged. Yes, it’s true the hurricane has destroyed thousands of homes, uprooted trees and claimed lives. It has given back what we had forgotten for a time — Puerto Ricans are one. We are family. We fight amongst ourselves but if a stranger comes to bother one of us we defend our own “uñas y dientes”. It has given us humility. It reminded us what our parents told us a chancletazo limpio, “be kind, be a good person  and certainly no me abochornes”.

I leave you to sleep for a little while, but not before thanking you for your support. I hope my message proves what my heart screams, we are one. We are family and my people please know Puerto Rico is getting “make over” when we finish will be “de show”.

Kimpton Photo - Day Off God bless you.

Julianna Kimpton

Local Hero Nominations Needed!

Image for Blog

The American Red Cross of Wisconsin is accepting nominations for 2018 Hero Award recipients.  Each year, the American Red Cross recognizes everyday heroes in our community at three events in Wisconsin: Evening of Heroes in Wisconsin Dells, Heroes Breakfast in Altoona, and Brave Hearts in Milwaukee.

Our three events recognize individuals who have done extraordinary deeds in the community!  Whether they’re stepping up during a medical emergency to provide assistance or helping others through a lifetime of volunteerism, heroes reflect what is best about our community.

Do you know of anyone that should be recognized?  If so, please nominate them for one of our three hero events across the state! Details and categories vary by event.  For more information about our events, please click the links below:

  • Evening of Heroes –
    • Nominations due December 1st
    • Eligible counties: Adams, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Florence, Forest, Grant, Green, Iowa, Iron, Jefferson, Juneau, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Marinette, Menominee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Portage, Price, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Shawano, Taylor, Vernon, Vilas and Wood counties in Wisconsin and Houston County, Minnesota.
  • Heroes Breakfast –
    • Nominations due December 31st
    • Eligible counties: Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Pierce, Pepin, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Trempealeau, and Washburn.

If you have any questions, please contact McKenna Olson at

A Different Kind of Disaster

By Sid Boersma, Clinical Social Worker & Mental Health Leader for Southwest WI Chapter


I had the honor and privilege of serving as a Disaster Mental Health Responder in Las Vegas for ten days after the October 1st mass shooting. There was a heavy emphasis on Red Cross Mental Health and Health Care in this deployment given the nature of the event. I assisted with two blood drives, attended the Vice President Pence visit when Las Vegans from many Churches and Synagogues walked to City Hall from the four corners of the city to come together in healing. I helped at two other healing events and attended a memorial for the slain Las Vegas hero and policeman, Charlie.

vegas1 My work also included working one-on-one with victims and their families at the Family Assistance Center and via an Integrated Coordinated Condolences Team, which includes Spiritual Care, Health Services, Caseworker and Mental Health support for individuals and families. I have been deployed a number of times to floods and hurricanes. This one was different. Difficult. I was struck with the intensity and the great needs of those who lost loved ones and friends and those who were physically and very emotionally injured. One gal who lost her best friend in the shooting and was scarred by shrapnel herself will never be forgotten. She’ll never forget the trauma but we helped her move forward. Showing up was the best thing we can do. To listen, to help people heal.

 My heart continues to be a bit broken with the many grieving folks I met with. This deployment has required me to take time to reflect and relax and heal as caregiver stress was clearly a reality for me. My advice is that we care for self and others during and following all of our work as Red Cross volunteers. Take time for yourself and get help from others too. We need to provide so much tender loving care to others in these events that it may take the wind out of ourselves. I am breathing a little more deeply these days and appreciating life a bit more. It certainly is precious, isn’t it?


The American Red Cross offers free 24/7 counseling and support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.

Historic Fundraising Concert to Benefit Disaster Victims

UMOS, Dist. 12 Alderman José G. Pérez and El Conquistador

Newspaper to Co host: HISTORIC FUNDRAISING CONCERT TO BENEFIT DISASTER VICTIMS featuring Multiple Grammy Winner and Living Legend Eddie Palmieri & his Latin Jazz Ensemble in a unique once-in-a-lifetime concert performance with local salsa musicians and a special appearance by Afro-Puerto Rican Jazz Virtuoso Dr. William Cepeda direct from Loiza, Puerto Rico. 

International and Locally known Puerto Rican Artists unite and donate their services to raise funds to aid victims of Hurricane Maria and Mexico Earthquakes

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (October 13, 2017) – UMOS, together with 12th District Alderman Jose G. Perez, and Publisher Victor Huyke will welcome Grammy Winner, Music Icon and Living Legend Eddie Palmieri & his Latin Jazz Ensemble in a special benefit performance to raise funds for victims of the natural disasters in Puerto Rico and Mexico on Saturday, October 28, 2017 10:00pm at the Potowatomi Hotel & Casino- Woodland Dreams Ballroom, 1721 W. Canal Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233. ALL ticket proceeds will be donated to charity thanks to the generosity of Mr. Palmieri, his sidemen, and all of the participating artists and volunteers.


The recent catastrophic natural disasters in Central America and the Caribbean have directly impacted friends and families of many residents of Milwaukee County and Southeastern Wisconsin. An important humanitarian effort to aid victims has emerged from high profile musicians who are donating their time, talent and artistry to provide a dynamic entertainment experience while generating much needed monetary funds. The City of Milwaukee was honored to be the recipient of legendary musician Eddie Palmieri’s offer to donate 100% of his services on a precious Saturday evening time slot together with local and regional musicians in order to send aid directly to victims. Mr. Palmieri, winner of 10 Grammy Awards, an NEA Jazz Master Award-America’s highest honor for lifetime achievement in Jazz, is currently on a national tour entitled: “EP @ 80” celebrating his 80th birthday with innovative new music and a selection of classic hits most of which have become anthems throughout the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia. A volunteer committee of artists, elected officials, educators, and community activists quickly mobilized to produce and market the event. All three event co-hosts have a distinguished record of providing outstanding leadership and support to underserved communities. UMOS, a leading nonprofit community based advocacy agency has generously offered to support this humanitarian fundraiser and concert which follows its acclaimed annual Hispanic Awards Banquet scheduled to take place earlier that evening in an adjacent ballroom. The Palmieri Concert will take place promptly at 10 p.m. in the Woodland Dreams Ballroom of the Potowatomi Hotel & Casino, 1721 W. Canal Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended. Advance tickets available online at: Donations will also be taken at the door and a select number of Special Discount Coupons will be available on a first come- first served basis to all patrons who attend the UMOS Hispanic Awards Banquet. A VIP package is available with premium seating and perks which include a private meeting with the artists, and signed poster or CD. All proceeds will go to the American Red Cross whose representatives will be on-hand to meet and share information about their relief efforts. It is anticipated that one or two actual Red Cross volunteers who are serving currently in Puerto Rico will be on hand to describe first hand accounts of relief efforts on the island.

Ticketing // Admission: Seating capacity is limited. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended. Minimum advance donation is $40.00. Special VIP package $150.00 includes premium reserved seating, private meet and greet with artists and complimentary signed CD or Poster while supplies last. ONLINE TICKET PURCHASE AT:

The event organizers and artists have set a minimum goal of $25,000.00 for disaster relief. All proceeds donated to: The American Red Cross. Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation. Artist websites:

Attorney Michael Reyes, event coordinator: 414-350-5522

AmeriCorps Volunteers Answer the Call in Houston


Story and Photo by Chris Genin, American Red Cross volunteer

From left to right: Jeremy Holm, Alex Unger, Juliana Stahle, Scott Sobocinski, Joshua Haisch, Emma Harvey

Unless you’ve resided or worked in an American Red Cross shelter, it’s difficult to get a sense of what goes on to ensure the comfort and safety of people who have come to the shelter for help. Volunteers work around the clock to maintain a positive environment and guarantee people’s needs are met. This is a huge job and the Red Cross often works with partner agencies in the shelter so that things run smoothly.

Alex Unger, an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Core (NCCC) team leader, is one such volunteer who represents a partner agency and is working side-by-side with Red Cross volunteers to efficiently run one of the remaining Red Cross shelters at Houston’s Greenspoint Mall.

AmeriCorps is a team-based national community service program run by the federal government and Alex and his team operate under the NCCC. Teams are usually comprised of eight to 12 people who travel around the country building homes, responding to disasters, working with kids and performing energy and environmental conservation work. They operate under 10-month commitments and typically focus on one region unless a disaster strikes. The AmeriCorps campus in Baltimore sent 12 teams to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Prior to deploying to Houston, Alex’s team was in Idaho aiding relief efforts during the Hanover Wildfire.

Alex’s team of 11 AmeriCorps members helped spearhead the shelter set up and had the big task of unloading and organizing 16 trucks packed full of resident’s’ personal belongs. Most Greenspoint Mall residents moved there from another shelter and a system had to be implemented to make sure personal belongings went with them. Alex’s team sorted totes and boxes and created a system for where their belongings went.

Nearly 500 people descended on the shelter, some traveling with 10 massive boxes and others bringing one small tote, Alex’s team organized these things in an orderly manner, while at the same time remaining readily available to help in other areas. No matter the quantity of what came with a resident, Alex handled all belongings with care, keeping in mind that what they were unloading could be all the material things that remained for some people.

Thirteen AmeriCorps team members are still supporting Red Cross shelter operations. These volunteers help manage laundry service, sorting and distributing donated items, serving meals, unloading deliveries and maintaining general cleanliness. All of this is done in support of the 400 residents who call this shelter home nearly seven weeks after Hurricane Harvey.

Alex, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, joined AmeriCorps because he wanted to experience this unique way of life and to develop his leadership ability. He and his team are going to continue their work in Houston until they graduate their service year on November 15.

A lot of the people are really appreciative of the work that we’re doing here,” Alex said. “Whether it’s serving meals or passing out clothes, a lot of people basically have nothing. It’s humbling to be a part of it all, to sit with someone and hear their story. It’s great to see people getting back on their feet.”

It’s Experiences Like These That Make a Difference

By Patty Flowers, Wisconsin Region American Red Cross CEO

As I was winding up my 3+ week deployment in Houston, I felt a little bittersweet because I was leaving some ‘family’ behind.  It’s amazing how you become so close to people from all over the country when you work beside them for 12-14 hour days.  Servant hearts comes to mind because that is what I was surrounded by and had been for more than 3 weeks.  You don’t have to ask ‘what is the right thing to do’ because it’s already being asked by each person.  It was an amazing team down in that great state and I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

Houston dog visit 2 (2).jpgOne of the days some special visitors came to visit us at headquarters!  What an uplifting 15 minutes for so many tired people! Animals can make you smile and calm your brain so quickly.  I am so grateful for the group that came in with their special critters.  So much happiness and it was needed.  There was not a face without a smile!Houston Dog 2 visit (2)



So much had been done at the end of my deployment that some groups had closed up shop, including Disaster Assessment.  Their group accomplished what they had to do using drones to help with the flooded areas and it was amazingly efficient.  However, there’s still so much that needs to be done.  Over 3,000 people were still in shelters and these people are truly the ones who needed us the most.  They may have had family they could go to but they couldn’t get there because they couldn’t afford a bus ticket or gas for their car.

***Warning, tissues may be needed****

I met a incredible woman, Maria, in one of our larger shelters and she was waiting for the Individual Assistance program to come back online.  Maria told me that she had a miscarriage just a few days before the hurricane hit and one of the things she was desperate to do is buy some flowers and put them on her baby’s grave.  When she heard the good news that our assistance was coming back online, she started to cry and thanked me for all we were doing for them.  As I received one of the biggest hugs I’d ever gotten down in Houston, all I could think of is how incredibly cool it was that we were giving our donors’ gifts to someone like Maria.  Fulfilling a wish like this and allowing her to grieve and recover is what we were there for.  Please remind every donor that their donations are bringing smiles to people who have every reason not to smile during times like what Maria went through.

Another shelter resident I met, was James.  He had relatives in the Detroit area but he can’t afford to get there.  He told me he didn’t need any help with housing if he could only just get to Detroit.  I watched the smile on his face build into the biggest grin ever when he found out that we had bought him a plane ticket to get him up to his relatives.  I’ve quite honestly never seen anyone so excited.  Again, this is why we were there.

Below is a photo of Steve Hansen (Chapter Executive in Northeast Wisconsin), Michelle Goodwill (Bilingual Donor Recruitment Supervisor in Northeast Wisconsin), and myself at headquarters down in Houston.  Steve served as an EOL (Elected Officials Liaison) where he did really good work keeping communication channels open and making sure small mud puddles didn’t turn into quicksand for the Red Cross.  One day when his work was finished for the day, he very happily said yes to helping us set up a shelter in 96 degree heat with 96% humidity.  Steve worked tirelessly ALL day long with not one complaint.  He is amazing.  Michelle was on her first deployment working with the Latina Engagement Team and she has been able to take her skills in putting together blood drives to help her team with event planning in the community creating efficiencies and the ability to cover more people in need of our outreach.  AWESOME One Red Cross in action!!!

Houston One Red Cross (2)

Shout outs to other disaster workers & volunteers that were deployed down to headquarters doing great things and working LONG hours but I hardly saw, are Nick Cluppert (Disaster Program Manager for Northeast Wisconsin), Marytha Blanchard, our Division Disaster guru Megan Chamberlain, Wendy Savage (Executive Director for North Central Wisconsin), Charise Smith who rocked her first deployment handling in-kind donations, and Laurie Nehring from Blood Communications.  Last but certainly not least, Dave Gutierrez, our Division Disaster Executive who was the Job Director down in Texas. He is an amazing guy with the ability to handle such a complex operation and never get flustered.  I enjoyed getting to know Dave and my admiration for him grows each and every day.  Megan and Marytha were the leads for our amazing individual assistance program and literally lived at HQ for several days straight.  While they had a few bumps in the road, I am in awe of what they, along with the National team, put together.

Lastly, a few tidbits for you about Houston:  Traffic is a nightmare, gridlocked at most hours of the day.  Instead of bars on every corner, there are donut shops. Kolaches are a specialty, with different (usually some type of meat) fillings in each one.  I tried an egg and bacon one for breakfast and it was quite good!  There are even kolaches shohouston-kolaches-2.jpgps here and that’s all they sell…very popular.  And it is hot.  OMG, I have never been so hot at the end of September!!!  I couldn’t wait to get back and enjoy Fall.  90+ degrees does not equate to Fall in my view!

While I’ve been privileged to be able to deploy down to Texas, I am so very happy to be home. I want to thank each and every one who made a difference during this tough time, including those who stayed behind to keep Wisconsin going.  Our team rocks!