Readiness, Service and a Fire Close to Home: Our First Year Together

By Mark Thomas, Wisconsin Region CEO & Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive, American Red Cross

It was December 2018 and, as always with the holidays, it was time for family updates. Checking in with siblings, relatives, loved ones, a roundup on new jobs, relationships, babies and other benchmarks.

From my sister, the update was initially grim: my nephew in Racine had suffered a home fire.

Mark Thomas headshot proThat’s the kind of news that puts so much into perspective. She said he and his girlfriend had gotten out safely. They lost many possessions, including gifts from the holidays. But, as my sister said, they had hope right after the fire, because that’s when they received comfort and help from volunteers at the American Red Cross.

My sister and nephew didn’t even know I had started a new career at the Red Cross. This was just weeks after I had joined. The story from my sister was an unfiltered acknowledgement that fires didn’t just happen to other people. And that hope and help came from the Red Cross for everyone in need, my family included.

Once I had the chance to share about my new role at the Red Cross, I knew from my family’s story that I had come to the right place.

I’m happy to report that my family is back in their place and on solid footing. As for me, I’m now at one year as Regional CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive with the Red Cross. On this anniversary and during a time of year when people are extra reflective, I wanted to revisit a few of the milestone moments from another outstanding year of service by your Red Cross in Wisconsin. I also wanted to share a big lesson I’ve learned and the vision I have for the time ahead.

But back to 2019. As the anecdote I shared at the start shows, our programs and mission became very real in my life right away. Here are a few, high-level bullets of the stand-out moments our Region has been involved with over the past 12 months:

January

  • Received the “Region of the Year” recognition for the fundraising success of my predecessors and present leaders on our fund development team
  • Brought together our Southeast Chapter Board for my first full meeting (special shout-out to board chair Becky Fitzgerald for your leadership and guidance)

February

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With our team at the Milwaukee Stand Down, held at the Armory. 

March

  • Met people displaced by a large-scale apartment fire in Bayside, including a dear friend and a local reporter brave enough to share her story
  • At a shelter from ice jam flooding in Fond du Lac, watched as strangers brought a turkey on their Harley for people who were displaced, and was impressed by all the volunteers who kept spirits high (my teenage daughter was wowed, too, and impressed me by putting on a Red Cross vest and pitching in)

April

  • Welcomed and enthused by our staff at our first, in-person meeting in Madison
  • Those feelings multiplied this same month on an introductory meeting with my national colleagues at the historic Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

May

June

July

  • Able to notch success in nearly every way for our fiscal year, which ended in June
  • Completed my first CPR training
  • Worked alongside local and national Red Cross teams at the LULAC Convention in downtown Milwaukee
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Meeting disaster volunteer Ryan Clancy before he headed to help during Hurricane Dorian. Also met a few members of the Milwaukee media, who helped share Ryan’s journey.

August

  • Talked with volunteers as they flew off to the large-scale response to Hurricane Dorian and other flooding and fires – what an impressive machine to help people in desperate need

September

October

  • Grateful to have Greg Novinska take a new role with our biomedical services team, my colleague in everything happening behind the scenes to merge the full power of the Red Cross for people in our state

November

  • Cold weather came early, and with it, the typical spike in home fires … thankfully, our volunteers around the state have once again answered the call for families displaced by this every-day disaster
  • Had important discussions around inclusion and diversity with our talented Wisconsin leadership team, such a vital part of plans to make our organization the best place it can be for everyone

December

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Kids in Milwaukee enjoying swim lessons, with the promise of many more to come thanks to the Centennial Campaign and Milwaukee Rec.

There has been so much from those events and more that have impressed, humbled and energized me about the work we do. From it all, two ideas stand out.

The first is readiness. That word – readiness – means so much more to me, now that I’ve seen us in action. Home fires, floods, staff meetings, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, blood collection, outreach to military families … even as these words are coming together, our teams in Osseo are wrapping up a reception center for people affected by a massive car pile-up. Just before I pulled together these thoughts, one of our long-time and wonderful volunteers, Marge, stopped in and reminded me of the value of openness and being ready to share her passion and ideas for our mission. The countless ways readiness is part of our service at the Red Cross keeps what we do exciting and important.

From that important lesson on readiness, I have a solid foundation on how we build for the days ahead. We have a very strong network across Wisconsin. I am committed to making sure our core service is focused on our customers – including people in need, our volunteers and our supporters – and that it remains inclusive to all. There have been incredible people who have sustained and led this organization for more than 100 years in our state. I will carry that legacy of service. And I aim to make sure every community we serve knows the Red Cross is here to help, the right way. With you, I know we can help our friends, family and neighbors in need for the next 100 years – and beyond.

Do you know a local hero? Red Cross searching for Wisconsin nominees

For Brittany, it happened at the gym. Gagandeep and Chetna were on vacation. Leroy was volunteering.

Brave Hearts posed umbrellas Brittany family

Brittany Sabin, center in red, gave life-saving CPR to a man who collapsed at her gym. Here, she poses with friends and family during the 2018 Brave Hearts awards in Menomonee Falls.

Acts of heroism are all around us, every day. The American Red Cross of Wisconsin celebrates those heroes at three events each year. We need your help to identify outstanding heroes in our community at these three Wisconsin events: Evening of Heroes in Wisconsin Dells, Heroes Breakfast in Eau Claire, and Brave Hearts in Milwaukee.

 

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 someone who should be recognized? Click the event titles below for nomination details, award categories and event information:

 

Leroy NW hero consoles fellow veteran screenshot

Leroy “Buzz” Thompson consoles a fellow veteran as part of his volunteer efforts, one of the reasons he was chosen for an award.

Evening of Heroes

Nominations due October 31st  

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.

NW Heroes Breakfast doctors speak

2018 honorees Chetna Mangat, at podium, and Gagandeep Singh used their backgrounds as doctors to save a life while on vacation. 

Brave Hearts

Nominations due December 31st

Eligible counties: Dodge, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth and Waukesha.

Questions? Please contact McKenna Olson at mckenna.olson@redcross.org

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.

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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: www.eddiepalmiericoncertforprmx.mivoz.com. 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: www.eddiepalmiericoncertforprmx.mivoz.com.

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: www.eddiepalmierimusic.com www.williamcepeda.com

Attorney Michael Reyes, event coordinator: 414-350-5522 michaelreyesmusic@gmail.com

Flood Relief Touted by Top State Leader

Surrounded by American Red Cross responders, corporate leaders and Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, Patty Flowers kicked-off a news conference to highlight flood relief efforts. She also issued a call to action for people to get involved by preparing for emergencies, donating their time as a blood donor, becoming a disaster responder in your own communities, of which the training is free, and by making a financial gift to support the ongoing relief efforts.

From left to right: Rebecca Fitzgerald (Johnson Controls Inc.), Patty Flowers (Red Cross Regional CEO), Laura Timm (Briggs & Stratton), Mary Lou Young (United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha), Governor Scott Walker, Jim Ladwig (SC Johnson), Tami Garrison (MillerCoors), Lisa Nelson (Walmart)

The Wisconsin region of the Red Cross responds to nearly 900 disasters annually and the recent 20-county flood counts as just one disaster. Overall, 90% of the Red Cross workforce is volunteer including the board of directors. Disaster teams have provided the following services during the flooding:

  • Opened and operated 10 shelters
  • Supported four Multi-agency Resource Centers
  • Distributed 9,360 relief items
  • Served more than 4,000 meals and snacks
  • Provided more than 250 health and mental health contacts.

In addition, the Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990 is open 24 hours a day for anyone who has been affected by the flood and may need additional emotional support.

Governor Walker shared that when he travels the state to disaster areas, he is always comforted knowing Red Cross responders are there.

All disaster assistance is free as it is a gift from the American people. All financial donations, large and small, make a tremendous impact as 91 cents of every dollar goes directly into programs and services. A $25 dollar donation provides a household with valuable clean-up supplies after a flood, while $200 covers the cost for a family of four to stay in a shelter, provide three meals, personal hygiene items and resources to begin recovery.

Business leaders joining in the news conference included Jim Ladwig, Director Global Community Affairs from SC Johnson who presented the Red Cross with a $100,000 check for disaster relief. Lisa Nelson from the Walmart Corporation also presented a $50,000 check — $25,000 of which will benefit the Wisconsin relief and $25,000 of which will support the Illinois response efforts. Four other Wisconsin companies made gifts of $10,000+ to help with the recent floods– Associated Bank, Logistics Health, Gold’n Plump and We Energies. With these donations, almost half the flooding expenses will be covered.

From left to right: Patty Flowers (Red Cross Regional CEO), Governor Scott Walker, Jim Ladwig (SC Johnson)

The Red Cross thanks its partners in the Annual Disaster Giving Program and Disaster Responder program who contribute $250,000 or more annually to ensure Red Cross has funds to support disaster relief: Johnson Controls, Kohl’s, Northwestern Mutual, Rayovac and SC Johnson.

The Red Cross is grateful to many corporate and community partners who donated goods, space and time to help reduce costs of the response.

With almost 900 disasters around the state each year, the fundraising needs are great so people can always count on the Red Cross during disasters.

You can help people affected by disasters like the recent floods and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Checks can be sent to the Milwaukee office at 2600 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Peta Murgatroyd and Maksim Chmerkovskiy to Participate in Dancing with Our Stars Finale

The 10th and final edition of the American Red Cross Dancing with Our Stars (aka DWOS) event, which will be a two-night extravaganza in late February, will feature appearances by professional ballroom dancers Peta Murgatroyd and Maksim Chmerkovskiy thanks to a sponsorship by Jack’s Maintenance. Billed as “ Dancing with Our Stars 2018: All – Star Edition , presented by the Schneider Foundation ”, local community members who participated in previous years are returning to once again be Star Dancers. Peta and Maks will serve as celebrity judges for the Saturday, February 24, 2018 ballroom dance show. They will also make an appearance at a Disco-themed Dance Party fundraiser the night before. Both events will be held in the Grand Ballroom of the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay. People in attendance will receive the chance to win personal experiences with Peta and Maks including the opportunity to dance with them.

While this is the first time Maks will be part of DWOS, it marks Peta’s third appearance as she previously participated in 2014 and 2015. Murgatroyd is well known for teaming with Green Bay Packers legend Donald Driver to win Season 14 of ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

People interested in purchasing tickets should send an email to: redcrossdwos@gmail.com.

The goal of this final DWOS campaign is to raise $600,000. In its nine-year history, DWOS has raised more than $2 million. These are the DWOS alumni lacing up their ballroom dancing shoes one more time:

  • Anna Allen
  • Chelsea Anderson
  • Billi Jo Baneck
  • Keith Cronin
  • Kati Donaho
  • Mary Gronnert
  • Tracy Lemsky
  • Emily Matesic
  • Zeb Metzler
  • Bill McGlin
  • Pam Niles
  • Lisa Pritzl
  • Adam Rockman
  • Stacy Stecker
  • Dan Terrio
  • Jody Weyers
  • Marty Williams
  • Kelly Wolff

Paul Kardish of Schneider is also joining the team, taking the place of Chris Lofgren who participated in DWOS 2014.

All funds raised support disaster prevention, preparation and relief, the life-saving training of first aid, CPR/AED classes, collection and testing of blood and blood products, support to military members serving around the globe and international programs.

More event details can be found on the following Red Cross platforms:

Donation page: https://www.crowdrise.com/redcrossallstars

Dancing with Our Stars blog: http://redcrossdwosblog.org

Facebook All-Star Page:  https://www.facebook.com/RedCrossAllStars/

Twitter: @redcrosswis

Use #RedCrossAllStars and #DWOS18 to join the conversation on social media!

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.

“The Volunteer You Would Need” Red Cross Volunteers are There When Disaster Strikes.

Written By: Dawn Miller, American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region

Photos provided by: Megann Hooyman

When the volunteer from the American Red Cross arrived it was like seeing an old friend and that was just what Megann Hooyman and her family of Appleton needed. The moments leading up to it were a blur of smoke and sirens.

Megann’s family, including her husband, Andy, 4-year old daughter, Zoey and the two-year old twins, Rylee and Callie, had arrived home from a holiday event with Santa. It was a festive Saturday morning so it took Megann a few moments to realize something was wrong.

When she opened her door all she saw was black and smoke. The glass from the oven was shattered on the floor and smoke was everywhere. She bent down to Charlie, their basset hound, but he was already gone. In the living room the smoke was so thick she could not see her hand in front of her.

She ran out the front door and yelled for someone to call 9-1-1. Smoke billowed out behind her. When she opened the door it allowed oxygen in to ignite the flames again.

Andy grabbed the fire extinguisher nearby and used it to keep flames down until firefighters arrived. “It was lucky that we had the fire extinguisher and that Andy knew how to use it,” says Megann.

Within moments Megann heard the sirens and the fire department was there. The fire fighters not only got the fire under control but assisted the family’s other dog, Zebby, who suffered bad burns and smoke inhalation. The ambulance assisted Andy who also was treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire damage was extensive and their possessions were destroyed.

Megann says the American Red Cross volunteer appeared out of nowhere. It’s like seeing a familiar face when you see the American Red Cross logo and that red vest. “It was nice to have that one reliable thing you know you can count on for information and support.”

Megann says the volunteer being there made her feel less alone. “I would have felt lost because I wouldn’t have known what to expect.”

He offered honest advice, time to process next steps and he made sure they were ok. He made sure they had housing and asked if they needed community resources like the food or clothing pantry. He gave them a $625 debit card for necessities like shampoo, conditioner and diapers. “It goes pretty fast when you have little ones,” says Megann.

Megann says she is thankful for such a supportive community. In the weeks following the fire, they stayed with family and were offered much support from friends and community who rallied to help keep the holiday season merry.

“You donate, you give back but you never think you are going to be on the receiving end,” says Megann. “But you need these services.”

Megann recently became the newest member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

“I hope I volunteer but I hope I don’t because it’s not a good situation,” says Megann. That’s why she’s not only being trained in disaster response but also wants to assist in fire safety and prevention education.

Megann is joining the team of compassionate and caring volunteers in red vests so she can be a friend when someone needs it the most. “You see it in school and on t.v. but you never think it will happen to you,” says Megann. “I don’t know any way to thank those who helped us except to give back and volunteer.”

If you want to be like Megann, please check out the volunteer opportunities at redcross.org/WI/volunteer.  Join us as we #Help1Family!

4th Annual Disaster Training Conference

Last week, the Wisconsin Region conducted our 4th  annual Disaster Training Conference. Though the conference was held on the shores of Green Lake, attendees paid little attention to beautiful autumn scenery outside. The 183  attendees, Red Cross volunteers and staff from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, enjoyed four days of learning, sharing and networking.

The broad range of classes provided opportunities for brand new volunteers and seasoned veterans. The newest volunteer had been with the Red Cross for only two days and several in attendance had more than 20-years of service. Classes were offered to provide instruction on delivering the Red Cross mission, supervision & leadership along with diversity & inclusion. Workshops built upon classroom instruction and provided hands-on opportunities to set-up a shelter, conduct damage assessment and manage a disaster relief operation.

On Wednesday night, Red Cross volunteers partnered with the Berlin Fire Department to make homes in Berlin safer. They visited homes and provided smoke alarms testing, free smoke alarm installation, home evacuation planning and fire safety tips. 25 homes were visited and 69 smoke alarms were installed.  Community outreach like this is happening around the state and more than 10,000 smoke alarms will installed this year alone!

By all reports, the Disaster Training Conference was a wonderful success! It was wonderful to see so many Red Crossers come together to learn and celebrate together. Plans for next year’s conference are already underway. We hope to see you there!