ON THE GROUND AND IN THE SHELTER: RHINELANDER VOLUNTEER SHARES TEXAS TORNADO STORIES

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

FullSizeRender

Carol on left with Marie (in ERV) who is from Nebraska and Jim (right) from Michigan.

Carol Miller started the New Year more than 1,000 miles away from home. She wasn’t on vacation or with her family. On January 1st, she arrived in Texas to help tornado victims for her 13th national deployment with the American Red Cross.

“I didn’t even think of it as a holiday. I just rolled up my sleeves and went to work. I just focused on what had to be done first,” Miller said in a recent interview with the Red Cross Public Affairs.

Miller, from Rhinelander, served as a Health Services Supervisor in communities near Dallas, following the deadly Texas tornadoes at the end of December. She was one of more than 580 Red Cross volunteers working in disaster zones across the state. Overall, the assisted close to 900 individuals and families in need.

“Insulation everywhere, piles of debris, all of their belongings, their lifetime… everything is stacked at the curb ready to be taken away,” Miller said.

IMG950036

In part of her role, Miller saw first-hand the devastating aftermath of the tornadoes. In the city of Glenn Heights, she visited hard-hit neighborhoods with a Red Cross team offering a variety of assistance. Miller focused on securing immediate medical needs for residents.

“I helped replace a lot of prescriptions, wheel-chairs, walkers, eye glasses, helping people find sources for hearing aid replacement,” Miller said.

Miller also recalled helping a family find a new hospital bed for their mother and nebulizers for people with asthma. She talked about being an advocate for clients with their pharmacy and insurance company, and also helped with clinic referrals.

In the city of Garland, Miller spent time at Red Cross shelter. While serving there, she met a mother and her four kids, ages 2 to 13. Their father was in the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained in the tornado.

“The mom would get very tearful as she thought about her home and her concern about her husband and what they’re going to do next,” Miller said.

Miller worked with the family to get diabetic supplies for the mother and asthma medications for her five-year-old son. Other volunteers in the shelter helped with temporary housing assistance. Miller said the mother was grateful.

“My greatest reward is getting a hug from people like that,” she said.

During her deployment, Miller also heard stories from residents about the day the tornadoes hit. They described a pea-green sky and still surroundings, then the disaster.

IMG950044

“This was more like five freight trains or a couple of jet engines,” she said residents told her.

The family she met at the Garland shelter said they took cover in a bathtub with the father holding a mattress on top of them. Afterwards, it took crews a half hour to 45 minutes to get them out of their home. She said the father had injuries that required surgery while everyone had cuts and bruises.

Miller spent more than a week in Texas. She’s now surpassed the dozen mark with 13 national deployments with the Red Cross. These are experiences she has grown to treasure.

“Just the thanks you get from the clients and just being able to help my fellow brothers and sister in their time of need. It’s very rewarding personally, it’s a way to give back because we’ve been very blessed,” she said.

Thank you Carol for proudly representing the Red Cross in Texas. Your desire to help others in their greatest times of need is inspiring.

The American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed. To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

 

Local Red Cross Responder Shares Missouri Stories

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

New Year’s Eve in an American Red Cross shelter, a few 30-hour shifts and helping a woman on oxygen cope with a mandatory evacuation. Those were just a few of the powerful experiences for Becky Tiles during a two-week disaster deployment to   Missouri.

missouri blogTiles, of Oshkosh, spent most of her time in Manchester, Missouri near St. Louis. She served as a shelter supervisor at the Manchester United Methodist Church. The church turned into an emergency shelter for area residents, who were forced to evacuate their homes while authorities monitored nearby levies.

In late December, rising river levels in Missouri triggered hundreds of evacuations and severe flooding. As of this week, the Red Cross had opened 12 shelters across the state with nearly 600 overnight stays. Shelter volunteers have also served more than 31,000 meals and snacks.

“You talk with them but you also do a lot of mental health, a lot of encouraging them and helping them to look ahead,” Tiles said in a recent interview with Red Cross Public Affairs.

Tiles said her shelter operated around the missouri blog 1clock, with volunteers doing 12-hour shifts. There were some days, however, where she had to pull 30-hour days to make sure there were always two people on staff.

“Someone has to be there and I would never leave the shelter or the scene without adequate coverage,” Tiles said. “It just wouldn’t be the right thing for the shelter manager to do, when it has to be done, it has to be done. I feel pretty strongly about that.”

The shelter offered clients a safe place to sleep, eat and clean up, and also get updates on when they could return home. Tiles spent New Year’s Eve with residents and brought decorations, lemonade and cookies to celebrate.

“It really brought us together,” she said. “It was really a heart-warming moment because people weren’t at home and they were missing out on their own activities. I think we all had tears in our eyes after we sat around drinking our lemonade.”

Tiles also recalled helping a middle-aged woman with an oxygen tank, who showed up to the shelter with her cat. She said the cat was able to stay in a Humane Society trailer outside and Tiles gave the owner a stuffed animal to sleep with in place of her pet. “She just adored that,” Tiles said. She also remembers some tough moments with that woman.

“Just talking with her and crying with her and saying this is where you need to be, this is the safest place you need to be and taking care of her. Her medical needs were important,” Tiles said.

Red Cross shelters offer nurses on staff to help clients with immediate medical needs. Their expertise is just one part of a comprehensive package of emergency services offered by the Red Cross. From her experience in Missouri, Tiles said the clients appreciate the assistance.missouri blog 2

“They repeat over and over again, I don’t know what I would do without you having been here. They really meant it,” Tiles said.

This national deployment to Missouri was the first one for Tiles. She says she’d do it again and would be open to new roles, like case work.

January is National Blood Donor Month

Photographer: John Meinke, Red Cross Volunteer

Photographer: John Meinke, Red Cross Volunteer

Make a resolution you can keep in 2016! Become a regular blood or platelet donor with the American Red Cross. January is National Blood Donor Month, which makes it the perfect time to schedule your first appointment of the new year.

National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. Severe winter weather may result in canceled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, can cause donors to be temporarily unable to give.

The Red Cross needs blood and platelet donors of all types to maintain a sufficient supply. Eligible donors with types O, B negative and A negative blood are encouraged to donate double red cells where available. During a double red cell donation, two units of red blood cells are collected while most of the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.

Make your commitment to help save lives in the new year by using the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule your appointment.

Volunteer of the Month – Dennis Erickson

Congratulations Dennis Erickson, the January 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

Starting the New Year conjures images of ‘what’s next’ personally and professionally for many people, from New Year’s resolutions to volunteerism. When January Volunteer of the Month Dennis Erickson looks at his reflection in the mirror, he’s reminded of the “new life” he’s been given thanks to a kidney and pancreas transplant.  Since undergoing the 2002 surgeries, he hasn’t forgotten those who donated life to allow him to live.

Dennis recalls, “When I was on medical leave, I made a list of non-profits and causes I would be passionate about and the American Red Cross was on the list.” Dennis has now been a dedicated Red Cross volunteer for over a decade. He is also an EMT and supports various military programs including Honor Flights, blood donations and organ donor networks.  In addition, he co-founded, TWI – Transplant Wisconsin Inc. and actively promotes http://www.YesIWillWisconsin.com so more lives can be saved through organ donation.

As a Red Cross casework supervisor, Dennis has assisted fire clients throughout Wisconsin, traveled to the Kentucky floods and flew twice to Texas for both tornados and floods this year alone.  “Every week he commits to three shifts, and has taken on new roles due to his commitment to learning, training and managing both people and processes. He is reliable, compassionate, dedicated and literally a true life-saver!” shares Marytha Blanchard, Disaster Program Officer.

His life-saving skills most recently helped him save a 60-year old woman on the side of the road. As a Juneau County volunteer EMT, he arrived on-the-scene and was checking her blood pressure when she began collapsing to the floor. Dennis began to administer CPR while his partner attached the AED pads.  Shocks were administered as she had officially ‘flat-lined’. They worked in tandem, following their training until the transport vehicle arrived. “She will live to see another Christmas,” he reports.  Dennis not only has these valuable skills himself, but recently completed his Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor Training. Hence, he will be teaching the newest life savers through Red Cross courses.

Thank you, Dennis for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community; we thank you for giving back to others in so many remarkable ways!

This month, consider starting the New Year by helping give someone a chance to share more joy, laughter and time with family and friends. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Blood transfusions are a very common medical procedure. A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States alone. Although 38 percent of people in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, only 3 percent actually do. Be the change in someone’s life by donating today. For more information visit http://www.redcrossblood.org

Right now, the American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed. To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.