In First Aid, Jeanne Charnon is a Top Volunteer

by Antonia Towns, Red Cross volunteer

Upon retiring from her job as a travel agent, Jeanne Charnon started to move up the ranks as a volunteer for the Red Cross.

In nearly a decade of “sharing my time,” Jeanne said she’s learned a great deal about herself and the organization. Her openness to lead and learn is one of the many reasons we’ve chosen Jeanne as one of our spotlight volunteers during Volunteer Appreciation Week.

Jeanne Charnon Photo“Knowing how many great people are involved … it’s a whole team effort and one person could not do it by themselves,” Jeanne (pictured above) said during a recent interview. “It’s very worthwhile, regardless of what area you’re in.”

In 2009, Jeanne, of Greendale, tagged along with a friend who was already volunteering with the Red Cross. Jeanne started out at the front desk, warmly handling reception and bureaucratic duties for about a year. Then, she joined the First Aid Support Team, also known as F.A.S.T.

Jeanne is now the co-facilitator of F.A.S.T. and has been essential in the success of the program. She is responsible for arranging contracts with clients and setting up the calendar for staffing events, which she says can mostly be done from home.

F.A.S.T. deploys volunteers who are certified in First Aid and CPR to community events like Summerfest and the Special Olympics, providing basic First Aid.

“Working with the Special Olympics, seeing how they interact and their joy, they’re a primary reason why I do this,” she said.

Amid staffing changes in 2014, Jeanne was part of a small group of volunteers who stepped forward to voice their concerns about the program ending. The group created a proposal and were granted one year to see how they would do, they are now into their fourth year. By 2015 the program was totally volunteer based and has been led by volunteers since. This year F.A.S.T. is expected to be present at around 35 events and has about 52 volunteers.

“We manage to staff them all. I hope we can keep the program going,” she said. “I enjoy the people that we work with.”

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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.

http://countrycareac.com/

https://www.facebook.com/careforpawscac/

https://www.facebook.com/CountrycareAnimalComplex/

Story by Red Cross volunteer Ann Voigt

WI Red Cross Nurse Volunteer Assists Houston Residents after Hurricane Harvey

It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, TX. There is still so much to do with cleaning up and taking care of those in need. Carol Miller, a Red Cross volunteer and nurse from Rhinelander, WI arrived in Houston the day after the disaster and has been assisting at the Brown Convention Center, one of the many shelters set up. She shares her story:

(Left to right): RNs Darryl Lemick (CA) and Darla Soles (MD) talk to a resident at one of the dormitory DHS desks.

As a team of 28 Red Cross volunteers, they rode in the back of a city dump truck to get to the shelter because of the high waters. Although it was not an easy transport, they arrived safely to prep for the receiving of 5,000 disaster survivors. By Sunday evening on August 27th, there were a total of 4,900 people staying there. A shortage of cots and beds began that same night as well. The total increased greatly over night to more than 10,000 people. Carol expressed her gratitude towards the local volunteers because they pitched in their assistance to the team when some Red Cross volunteers were not able to get into the city.

Carol’s office views over Dormitory D in the shelter.

By Wednesday this week, things started to turn around for the better. Prior, Carol and her team worked diligently on a minimum of 12-hour shifts but have dropped down to 8-hour. They also received additional good news: they were getting handicap accessible showers! It’s definitely the little things that count. Also, the number of people staying at the shelter dropped to roughly 1,600 that same day but she mentioned that the current population “includes many people with the highest level of needs- those with access and functional needs, mental health issues, healthcare needs and those with limited ability to self-determine the next steps to recovery.”

She added, “Community partners have set up areas to provide eye refraction and glasses, dialysis, prescription meds, acute dental care, immunizations, lab work, behavioral health, and social services and housing referrals.”

(Left to right): Carol in Staff Wellness Office with RNs Jada Mai (CA) and Jill Boesch (AZ)

Another dorm area is set for shelter residents that have pets where they have access to medical services and food supplies from local veterinarians and pet supply retailers.

Carol ends with asking for a prayer for the people affected by Hurricane Harvey. We cannot thank her and the rest of the volunteers enough for their support, courage and love for the community.

You can still help! To donate to the Red Cross and learn how your donations are helping those impacted by disaster relief, please visit http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Harvey-Donations-Hard-at-Work-Red-Cross-Efforts-Ongoing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin’s Longest Tornado Leaves a Path of Disaster

Early evening on May 16, 2017, a deadly tornado cycle took aim on Barron and Rusk counties in northern Wisconsin. The EF-3 twister with winds of at least 140 miles per hour ran for 83 miles which makes it Wisconsin’s longest tornado since modern documentation began in 1950. The storm damaged 231 homes and four commercial buildings.

The storms epicenter was the Prairie Lakes Estates mobile home in Chetek and the Jennie-O turkey farm were tossed, turned, stripped and shattered to pieces. Leaving 40 homes destroyed, one person dead and 35 injured. Across county lines, in Rusk County, Conrath was hit the second hardest from the same tornado.

The American Red Cross quickly set up two reception centers at Mosaic Telecom in Cameron, the Ladysmith Sheriff’s Department first and then the Holy Trinity Church in downtown Conrath. Red Cross Disaster Responders from all over Wisconsin rushed in to support the shelter conduct damage assessment, work one-on-one with clients including by providing financial support, replacing medications and equipment to providing an emotional support to those left temporarily homeless.

For the Rutledge family, the trauma of the storm was multi-faceted. The family huddled in their mobile home before it broke apart and thrown across the earth. One member of the family was transported to Regis Hospital with life-threatening injuries. While looking at the remains of their home, they heard noises. Garnering the attention of first responders, they lifted twisted metal, shattered wood and through insulation carefully, quickly – yet carefully – through the remains. When their bunny “Racer” was in the arms of the family, they knew not all was lost.

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Three generations of the Rutledge family, Mary, Deeann & Cynthia embrace Racer, the rabbit after he was rescued from the mobile home which collapsed upon him in the Chetek tornado. (Barbara Behling, American Red Cross)

See American Red Cross Wisconsin Chapters Flickr site for more photos.

Our largest Multi-agency Resource Center, often called a “one-stop shop” for residents, was spearheaded by the Red Cross. For two days, Mosaic Telecom hosted 26 agencies.  These agencies provided assistance ranging from; rent assistance, security deposits, furniture, household supplies, food, clothing and much more. Each attendee started with the Red Cross caseworkers to help people create personal recovery plans, navigate paperwork, and locate assistance for their specific disaster-caused needs.

Non-profit, government and community organizations included:

  • American Red Cross
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore
  • Barron County DSI
  • Red Cedar Church
  • Rural Development – USDA
  • Salvation Army
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • United Way 211
  • WestCap
  • WI Judicare
  • Workforce Resources
  • Public Health
  • Benjamin’s House – Emergency Shelter
  • Citizens Connected
  • Johnson Insurance
  • Mosaic Telecom
  • Ruby’s Closet
  • USDA Rural Development
  • Wisconsin Works
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Barron County Veterans Service

The Red Cross has also trucked in rakes, gloves, masks, googles, bug spray and plastic bags to help in the clean-up process.

For Polk County resident, Sue Ames-Lillie, this was the first MARC she has been to, even though she has responded to hundreds of residential fires. She recalls one mother and child in particular. “The mother was battling stage-4 cancer and yet she still had the strength to carry her son upon arrival. After striking a conversation, I learned he had lost his favorite toy.” Sue ushered them in for lunch, then offered clothing along with other items provided by multiple resources. “Permission was granted to take him to a special area where toys and stuffed animals were waiting for children. His frown turned to a smile and this is how I will forever remember this day” Sue shares with gleaming eyes.

Local and regional trained disaster responders were on-scene immediately and knowing an out pouring of community support would swell, the Red Cross activated 26 ‘event based volunteers’ who worked alongside 64 registered Red Cross workers (90 total) to provide:

  • 2, 117 meals & snacks served
  • 1,721 personal hygiene kits and cleanup items distributed
  • 213 individuals met with and assisted
  • 302 health services visits
  • 78 mental health services visits

 

Moving forward the Red Cross is a partner in the Barron County long-term recovery process to ensure community resiliency is achieved. Our community education team will also be available to area schools and groups to share emergency preparedness information such as The Pillowcase Project for grade school kids.

Overall, the Barron County Sherriff’s Department estimates about $10 million in damages. The Rusk County Sheriff said their area sustained heavy damage to public and private properties, including homes and rural farms.

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!

 

How You Can Prepare & Prevent Home Fires

It’s National Fire Safety Week (October 9th-October 15th)!

Timing is precious when escaping home fires. You may have as little as 2 minutes to escape. Are you and your family prepared in case of a home fire or know how to prevent them?

An essential step is to install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year. You can request for a smoke alarm from the Red Cross at www.getasmokealarm.org. Be sure to know 2 ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

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Red Cross Volunteers, Cindy Warner, Tom Davis, Peggy Leapley RN with evacuee Martin Freerks

A family of 2 share their Red Cross story about the fire that occurred in their California home.

He worries. She reassures.

As they prepared to leave the American Red Cross shelter at the First Baptist Church in Lake Isabella (CA) when evacuation orders were lifted for the Alta Sierra area, Martin Freerks agreed to one more step.

Through a donation from the local Home Depot, the Kern County regional office of the American Red Cross supplied his mom, Marcela, with box fans and air purifiers to ease any respiratory issues upon returning to her hilltop home.  In addition, Red Cross shelter volunteers Tom Davis (WI) and Cindy Warner (PA) installed five smoke alarms on 8/27/16 replacing the old ones throughout the two-story house.

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Volunteers installing smoke alarms on the second floor.

During the visit with Martin in late August, area residents still had to show proof of residence, and fire engines were still posted around the property monitoring backfires nearby.

It was during his school summer break when Martin caught a glimpse of the glow from the Cedar Fire.  He and his mother started packing everything they could in his medium-sized car. “I started moving what was flammable away from the house like the chairs.”  He pointed at the “dozer” lines and the melted metal next to the Kern-River-Valley-bleached bones.  The house was spared as were trees, rosemary and lemongrass on the property.

During their stay at the Red Cross shelter in Lake Isabella, Martin and his mom found a place that was air-conditioned, where they could sleep, shower, have three meals, snacks, and access information via the Internet and wide-screen television.  The shelter team included a nurse who would monitor any health issues manifested by the evacuees.

Hopefully, as mother and son gather their belongings and get their lives back to normal, the smoke alarms will be another safety step. When Martin returns to start Graduate School in a few months, he will be reassured—and she will be less worried—about the danger of home fires.

Be Prepared for a Home Fire – Communication is key!

  • Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
  • Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

 

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Evacuee Martin Freerks shows workers, Tom Davis and Cindy Warner, the dozer tracks along the perimeter of his property.

For more tips, visit www.redcross.org/firesafety. If you’d like to donate and help those recover from home fires, click here.

Greenfield’s Life-Saver Receives National Award

At only 11 years-old, Abram Suminski of Greenfield, Wisconsin, is a official recipient of the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit for selfless and humane action in saving a life. This is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains life by using skills and knowledge learned in the American Red Cross Preparedness, Health and Safety Services courses.

When Abram Suminski was learning first aid basics in an American Red Cross Babysitter’s training course, I doubt he knew how quickly he’d be putting them to use in a real-life situation. Good thing he was prepared though when his younger brother, Logan, was in need. Shortly after, the brothers were playing in their grandmother’s basement when Logan started to choke on a piece a candy. Abram saw his brother turning purple and jumped into action to perform abdominal thrusts. His quick actions dislodged the piece of candy from Logan’s throat, saving his life!

Abram’s instructor from the Babysitter’s training course heard of his life-saving story, and she, along with the Greenfield Rec. Department (where the training took place), nominated Abram for the Red Cross Certificate of Merit, which is signed by the President Barack Obama, who is the Honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross!

abram-suminski

Abram Suminski holding his award with the help of his younger brother, Logan.

On Tuesday night at the Greenfield Common Council Meeting, Abram received the Red Cross Certificate of Merit. The Mayor of Greenfield, Michael J. Neitzke, and local Red Cross CEO, Patty Flowers, had the honor of presenting the award to Abram. In attendance, were some very special guests including Abram’s family, the vice principle of his school, his Red Cross instructor and the Greenfield Fire Department.

If you’re thinking about signing up for a Red Cross training course, don’t hesitate – be prepared! Information about the Red Cross Babysitting course, First Aid, CPR/AED and other training courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

To see live action watch the Fox 6 news clip!