“There are so many ways to help”: Erin Martin jumps into disaster volunteer roles

by Antonia Towns, Red Cross volunteer

When a tornado blew through the town of Chili, Erin Martin swirled into action.

A firefighter and longtime Wisconsin resident, Erin helped to coordinate a community clean-up effort for the town, about 20 minutes west of Marshfield. A few years later and after the birth of a child, Erin remained inspired by the disaster response experience, and signed up as a volunteer with the Red Cross.


“There’s a huge need for it in Clark County. It’s been good,” said Erin, one of the volunteers we’re highlighting during National Volunteer Appreciation Week.

With 22 years of experience working for the fire department, 19 of those years as a firefighter, Erin brings a unique set of skills that are beneficial to her volunteer position on the Disaster Action Team (D.A.T.) with the Red Cross. Along with her skills and experience, Erin carries plenty of compassion.

“I’ve seen people after a house fire and they just have a sense of hopelessness with no clue of how to rebuild. I can point them in the right direction and understand what they went through,” she said.

She recalled a time when she responded to a house fire where the family had been split up.

“After I gave them their card and told them what to do next, the wife started crying. We gave them some direction,” Erin said, adding, “You’re one of the first people that tells the victims that they’re going to be OK.”

Brian Cockerham, Red Cross North Central Chapter disaster program manager, called Erin an “invaluable volunteer” for her steadfast presence in Clark County.

“Erin is a not only an amazing Red Cross volunteer but is a great community member and a real asset to people around her,” Cockerham said.

Although firefighters often partner with Red Cross staff and volunteers, Erin said she didn’t know the extent of Red Cross offerings and programs until she joined D.A.T. For instance, training to provide emotional support to people who have suffered from a residential fire let her know that “there are so many ways to help.”

And with her holistic emergency background – for which she was awarded a Hometown Hero honor from the North Central Chapter of the Red Cross – comes a well-rounded view of the impact during emergencies.

“I’ve seen people during the events, and with the Red Cross, now I see them after, in recovery,” she said. “I’ve seen the full circle now.”

For more information on the ways you can help your community and our state, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

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Hurricane Matthew – WI Responds

Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of people in shelters. Thousands of relief workers responding. Too many lives lost. This disaster is a big one, for all of us, requiring many hands, heads, and hearts pulling together to help others in dire need. Shelter, food, and relief supplies are American Red Cross priorities.

Blood and platelet donations are needed from people in unaffected areas to make up for canceled drives. Check out the stories below. They’ll show you how the Red Cross is helping.

You Just Gotta Be Strong: a video from the American Red Cross features Terry, a shelter resident who was forced to evacuate his home in Tarboro, North Carolina, because of Hurricane Matthew

Haiti Needs Help from All of Usan opinion piece from American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern published in Huffington Post addresses rumors, issues, and concerns about disaster relief responses in Haiti. False information shared on the internet hurts people who need our help the most

Suffering Continues After Hurricane Matthew: a news release from the American Red Cross with details about how the Red Cross is responding to the disaster in the U.S. and in Haiti

From Wisconsin, there are more than 80 Red Cross relief workers deployed to help in the affected areas. More will likely be on their way in the days to come.

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Lori and Kevin Peterson and Gerry and Jim Gilmore drove their Emergency Response Vehicles from Wisconsin and are serving thousands of meals, water and distributing cleaning supplies to residents in the hardest hit areas.  

Please support this relief effort. Click here to donate money to Red Cross disaster relief. Click here to make a blood or platelet donation appointment.

Thank you!

Dear Wisconsin,

August has been a tremendously busy month for disaster responses! On the news, we’ve seen the devastation in Louisiana, California, Indiana, Ohio and now several parts of the country are bracing for hurricanes and tropical storms. In Wisconsin, we experienced a significant number of disaster responses. Though these disasters did not capture national media attention hundreds of people experienced the worst day of their lives. In a moment, lives were turned upside down, homes were destroyed, pets died and cherished belongings are gone forever. Some lost loved ones including a family that lost their 2-year-old son in a home fire. Through all this, the American Red Cross was there. Wisconsin volunteers and staff responded at all hours of the day and night providing assistance, guidance and hope. They were there to listen and to help people begin to recover and heal.

In August, the Wisconsin Region…

  • Responded to 81 local disaster events including two Level II Disaster Relief Operations
  • Opened 198 cases helping 463 people
  • Opened and ran a shelter for 6 days and provided 106 overnight stays to people with no other place to spend the night
  • Coordinated 2 Multi Agency Resource Centers providing a one stop recovery shop for clients to meet with numerous agencies and receive support
  • Opened a Reception Center which provided people with casework, health services and crisis counseling
  • Responded to 4 requests to provide hydration and food to first responders

And remember, all of this came on the heels of a Level III flooding response in July!

In addition to helping at home, 77 Wisconsinites accepted assignments in Louisiana, California and now Hawaii. They set aside their lives to travel to communities torn apart by disasters, worked long hours, slept in gyms and more. They worked in shelters, served hot meals, delivered supplies, counseled survivors and did behind the scenes work to raise money, provide logistics support, managed staff and provided operational leadership.

All of you have a role in making sure the Red Cross mission is delivered in Wisconsin and beyond. Whether you respond to disasters, recruit, train and mentor volunteers, raise funds, tell the story, ensure vehicles, supplies and buildings are available or work with partners, please know that you make a difference. So many have benefited and will continue to benefit from Red Cross services and you help make it happen! Thank you!

Warmest regards,

Marytha Blanchard,

WI Disaster Officer

#proudredcrosser

 

March is Red Cross Month, A Time to Recognize Everyday Heroes

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The American Red Cross is recognizing the country’s everyday heroes during Red Cross Month. For the American Red Cross individuals who roll-up their sleeves to donate blood, take classes so they are prepared to save a life in a health crisis, local disaster responders who help families affected by natural and man-made disasters and financial contributors are all Heroes as they allow us to support our local communities each and every day. 

March has been recognized as Red Cross Month for more than 70 years. All of our presidents, including President Barack Obama, have designated March as Red Cross Month to recognize how the American Red Cross helps people across the country and around the world.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters big and small in this country every year. It provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families at home and around the world; collects and distributes about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and trains millions of people in first aid, water safety and other life-saving skills.

Throughout Wisconsin, our trained responders supported 935 local emergencies, assisted 4,433 military families and trained 99,588 people in lifesaving skills, plus 4,500 local blood drives support 44 Wisconsin hospitals.

The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.