When Letting Go Saves A Life

By Barbara Behling, Wisconsin Red Cross Chief Communications Officer

Baby Adrianna and Mom

Three day weekends for many include family, fellowship, food and fun. For the Garcia family, Labor Day turned into a day of panic, horror and help from the American Red Cross.

In the early morning hours, Felipe Garcia was woken by the faint sound of the hallway smoke alarms, and he smelled smoke. He rose from his bed, went to hallway door, opened it and immediately shut-it. “It was filled with black-smoke so thick I didn’t want to take my family out there,” he stated. He turned, yelled for his two teenage boys to wake-up, and for his wife to get herself and 5-month old Arianna up.

Even though they lived on the second floor of the Middleton, Wisconsin apartment building, he knew they would have to escape out the window. “We did what we had to do. So I lowered the first boy out the window as far as I could reach and then let him go. He hit the ground hard. We repeated this for the second teenager. When I turned to my wife for the baby, we knew it was imminent I would have to drop her too. With the boys on the ground, they caught her softly,” he recalls.

Standing outside their burning building, they watched as the fire department fought to save the building, and assessed their injuries. One of the boys’ ankle, and the others’ wrist, was throbbing and the baby wouldn’t stop coughing, so all went to the Emergency Room for immediate help. X-rays for the boys proved nothing was broken.

Upon returning to the apartment complex, the Garcia family was met by American Red Cross disaster responders. Even with English being their second language, it did not take long to translate the fear and pain in each of their stories. Our bi-lingual responder assured them the Red Cross would be there for them as they asked, “What do we do next?”

The fire investigation was going to take all day, and depending on power and water, residents were likely not be able to return for up to a week, or longer, due to the damage. With the weekend temperatures reaching 92 degrees, and humidity nearing the same level, it was miserable for anyone to be outside for long periods of time. Therefore, the Red Cross opened a shelter in the nearby Middleton High School. This air conditioned building had bathrooms, cool air and places to gather. Not only that, but the residents were greeted with coffee, juice, water and hot breakfasts, plus some donuts too! From the time they arrived, the sense of relief was evident on their faces.

As people started to relax, the Red Cross’ mental health and health services responders went table-to-table to casually strike up conversations, check on everyone’s emotional state, and to ensure no injuries were overlooked.  To a casual observer, the shelter almost looked like a regular family reunion: people were chatting, kids were playing and food and beverages were provided throughout the day. Best of all, little Arianna was smiling, giggling and acting like a 5-month old. As this was happening, the Red Cross team back at the fire site was working with the apartment management and fire and local officials to determine what emergency housing needs would be needed.

As for the Garcia family, they were able to fill clothesbaskets with clothing, medications, a few toys and items they would need. Family and friends stepped in to offer shelter while their apartment underwent cleaning and repairs. In addition, the Red Cross provided financial assistance for food and miscellaneous needs. The Red Cross also provided personal hygiene items and helped them navigate the recovery process.

The support of the American Red Cross is only possible due to the dedicated staff and volunteers, community partners and donors alike. For more information on how you can help, please visit redcross.org.


Stepping into a Client’s Shoes

By Viv Chappell, Red Cross Grants Specialist

MKE Simulation_3 Photo Layout On September 23, 2015, I stepped into the shoes of an American Red Cross disaster client. Fortunately for me, it was part of an emergency training drill, rather than a real event. I took part as an actor in a simulated aviation crisis—the General Mitchell International Airport 2015 Full Scale Exercise. Every three years, the airport and community partners put the Airport Emergency Plan into action, simulating a response to help prepare for the real thing.

In this scenario, a commercial airline—Dairy Air—experienced an emergency when a plane with 120 souls aboard landed short of the airport runway. The impact resulted in several small fires, major damage to aircraft, mass casualties and much scattered debris. In an aviation disaster response such as this, numerous stakeholders are involved, from the airline, to first responders, to the Red Cross. During this exercise, the Red Cross mobilized Health Services and Disaster Mental Health responders to assist with triage, as well as Government Liaisons, Public Affairs, Staffing personnel, and Family Assistant Specialists (FAS).

MKE Simulation_Actor AssignmentFAS volunteers work with specific families affected by an aviation disaster. They assist in the flow of information to and from families and friends of the people on the flight. FAS workers also provide support by listening to the concerns of the crash victim’s loved ones, obtaining or contacting resources, as well as providing logistical support for their needs.

My assignment was that of distraught and angry friend of Mary Jo Noyse, a passenger on the plane that went down. The other loved ones and I were guided to the Family and Friends Center, and each assigned a Red Cross Family Assistant Specialist. My assigned volunteer, Taira Grubb, sat down with me and assured me that she would do everything she could to help me get through the situation. She listened to my fears and angry demands with a soothing calmness. She confirmed that my friend Mary Jo was on the flight manifest, and took down identifying information about her. She helped me contact my friend’s family to notify them of the crash. She brought me water and a snack as we awaited news. As we talked, I thought of a real friend of mine, and imagined what it would feel like if she had really been in a plane crash. When I welled up with emotion, Taira comforted me and patted me on the back, a tear in her eye brought on by sincere compassion.

MKE Simulation_Disaster Vols w VestsI looked around the room filled with Red Crossers in their familiar disaster relief vests, providing comfort to a dozen more people. I hope we never have to activate this response for a real situation. But if we do, I know from first-hand experience that the Red Cross will be there to provide care and support to people in their darkest hour.

To find out more about the Red Cross disaster relief, please visit the Wisconsin Red Cross Disaster Services page.

An Experience of a Lifetime – Tiffany Circle Summit 2015

Story and Photos by Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer, WI Tiffany Circle, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter (BMH) Member

The Tiffany Circle was formed in 2006 to unite and engage a group of generous and highly-involved women to continue to ensure that the Red Cross has the ability to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to life's emergencies.

The Tiffany Circle was formed in 2006 to unite and engage a group of generous and highly-involved women to continue to ensure that the Red Cross has the ability to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to life’s emergencies. Visit the Tiffany Circle page to find out more information.

I don’t believe I have ever experienced such a delightful, passionate and generous gathering of women in my life! The American Red Cross Tiffany Circle Summit 2015, held recently in Washington, D.C., was all that, and more.

From the moment I checked in and gathered with some of the Circle Members in the Tai Pan Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I knew this was a very special group. Each person with whom I came in contact was genuinely interested in getting to know me, and helping me understand our Mission – whether that be Time, Talent or Treasure.

Washington DC offered an amazing setting for our events within the Summit. There were incredible speakers – who were both intelligent and entertaining – and, learning sessions, which were informative and focused. I found myself drawn into components within the Red Cross mission. I look forward to learning more about them, and getting more deeply involved.

I cannot think of a better way to ‘give back’ than through an organization of women who deeply care, are incredibly kind and generous, and passionate about their cause. I left the Summit thinking, “I have made friends from across the globe with whom I share so much in common!”

My only concern? The next Red Cross Tiffany Circle Summit is not until 2017!

For more information, Visit the Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle page.

Wisconsin Tiffany Circle members. Back row: Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer, Patty Flowers; Front row: Sara Horein, Aymee Balison, LA Walker, Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara

Wisconsin Tiffany Circle members. Back row: Marti Spittell Ziegelbauer, Patty Flowers; Front row: Sara Horein, Aymee Balison, LA Walker, Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara

he Tiffany Circle mission is to advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure by engaging women locally, nationally and internationally.

The Tiffany Circle works to advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent and treasure by engaging women locally, nationally and internationally.

Sheboygan Fire Prevention Campaign

sheboygan6Seven times per day, someone dies from a home fire in the United States. The Red American Cross is helping people take simple but effective steps to drive that number down. On September 17, 2015, the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter installed nearly 70 smoke alarms in Sheboygan homes as part of its Home Fire Preparedness Program.
The Red Cross event was held in conjunction with the United Way of Sheboygan County’s Day of Caring, which brought hundreds of volunteers together to participate in service projects throughout the community. Employees from Kohler and Sargento joined Red Cross volunteers and staff to spread the message about the importance of fire safety and to provide life-saving resources to Sheboygan families.
The volunteers canvassed the Gateway and King neighborhoods in teams of three, offering checks of smoke alarms, and sheboygan3free replacement alarms and batteries when needed. Volunteers also discussed fire safety information and escape plans with households, and offered disaster preparedness activity books featuring Disney characters for Sheboygan’s littlest residents. “Over 75% of the homes our team entered needed our services—either new smoke alarms or batteries,” said Viv Chappell, a Red Crosser that participated in the installation event. “Having working smoke alarms doubles a person’s chance of surviving a fire. It’s gratifying to know that our actions may help prevent a tragedy.”
The goal of the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Program is to reduce the number of fire-related injuries and deaths in the United States by 25% by 2019. As part of this initiative, the Red Cross and its partners plan to install 2,500 smoke alarms throughout the Wisconsin this year!

To learn more about fire safety please visit redcross.org/firesafety

Will you join us in life-saving community programs? Please contact us at     volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org

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Volunteer of the Month – Sally Reamer

Pic2 for RC
Congratulations, to Sally Reamer for being selected as the October 2015 Volunteer of the Month by the American Red Cross.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Sally serves in many roles within the Disaster Services Department. She is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Leader, a Dispatcher and a Preparedness Project- Pillowcase Presenter. “The more I saw the Red Cross and all the good service the organization was providing, the more involved I wanted to get! I really like the fact that volunteering gives me so many new opportunities and allows me to meet so many interesting people.” For Sally, being a Red Cross volunteer, is near and dear to her heart, it gives her great purpose and an unceasing desire in serve her community.

Sally joined the Red Cross in September of 2012, Sally stated, “For years and years, I would see the Red Cross on the news at disasters helping and I knew I wanted to be a part of that someday.  So, the first thing I did when I retired was to sign up to volunteer.”  She demonstrates a great commitment to the Red Cross mission through assisting people during some of the most difficult events in their lives. Sally feels strongly about recognizing her fellow Red Cross members, stating that, “we would not be able to help so many people if, we didn’t work with such a great volunteer group.” Sally’s devotion is evident by the more than thirty hours she volunteers each week. As a Disaster Dispatcher on a 24 hour hotline she is an integral part of the Red Cross disaster response effort, taking calls from 911 and dispatching Red Cross volunteers to respond to disasters. Fellow Red Cross DAT member and dispatcher, Melody says, “Sally is caring, understanding and always there when needed, often taking dispatch shifts that are not covered.” Others who work with her explain that Sally does her job and much more, with great accuracy and attention. According to Sally, who started dispatching over two years ago, “It is a great way to stay involved, and I have learned so much more about what the Red Cross does by being a dispatcher.  Plus, I can do that right from my house!”

October is National Fire Prevention Month and as a Pillowcase Project Presenter, Sally helps children prepare for home fires and other possible disasters. “This is a wonderful project, because it allows children to learn how to prepare for a possible disaster in a way that doesn’t scare them,” Sally says. The Pillowcase Project is a free interactive preparedness program designed for youth ages 8 to 11 and offered by Red Cross to youth in schools, after-school programs, and at other sites and events. The program aims to increase awareness and understanding of natural hazards, teach safety and emotional coping skills, as well as the importance of personal preparedness. Through instructor-led presentations, students learn the best ways to stay safe, how to handle stressful situations, and what tools they can use at home to prepare for emergencies. For more information about The Pillowcase Project, visit the Pillowcase Project webpage at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/school/preparedness-education/the-pillowcase-project .

Sally encourages everyone to join the Red Cross. According to Sally, “The Red Cross, unlike many other volunteer organizations, has so many DIFFERENT ways to give back to the community.  It’s like one stop shopping for volunteering.”

We, thank you, Sally for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community!

To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.