Welcome Rich Seymour

rich-seymourWe’re proud to announce that Rich Seymour has joined the Wisconsin team as our Service to the Armed Forces Director! Just retiring from the Army after 30 years, Rich is excited to start a career where he will continue to care for service members, veterans and their families.

During his illustrious work with the Army, he completed multiple deployments and attained the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank in the Army. Throughout his career he became familiar with and utilized the Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces.

“I continuously used Red Cross as a tool to help the soldiers and families that I had under my leadership. I can give you hundreds of stories where Red Cross services contributed to the morale and welfare of the Armed Forces members.”

Originally from Baraboo, Wisconsin, he’s called many places “home” over the years -the Republic of Panama, South Korea, and various places stateside. Along for the ride have been his wife and two sons – and his dogs, too.

We could not be more excited to have Rich on the Red Cross team and back in his home state of Wisconsin!

If you’d like to get involved with the Red Cross, click here.

To look at Red Cross employment opportunities, click here.

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!

 

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

 

WELCOME RACHEL BENNETT

Rachel Bennett - HeadshotWe’re proud to announce Rachel Bennett has joined the Wisconsin team!  She brings not only a sparkly personality and lives by Audrey Hepburn’s credo of “You have one hand for helping yourself, and one hand for helping others.”

“I could not be happier to be working for this organization. What an honor it is to be supporting such an admirable and powerful mission.” she shared.

Prior to joining the American Red Cross team, Rachel was the Philanthropic Services Assistant for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. With the Foundation, she hit the ground running – functioning as the administrative support for Philanthropic Services. She also assisted in the planning and execution of Foundation events, and worked on top assignments with the Foundation’s Board, committee members and consultants.

Originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, she earned a Communications B.A. with a Public Relations emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. After interning for an art non-profit geared toward engaging disadvantaged youth in Atlanta, she knew she wanted her professional career to  be nonprofit based with a humanitarian focus.

In her role, she will be supporting Regional CEO, Patty Flowers, and Chief Communications Officer, Barbara Behling, and assisting with development efforts alongside Chief Development Officer, Nicole Gulatz.

If you’d like to get involved with the Red Cross, click here.

To look at Red Cross employment opportunities, click here.

Milwaukee Volunteer Tackles the Logistics of Disasters on Month-Long Deployment to Missouri!

By: Max Seigle

It’s a role you don’t always see in the headlines when it comes to American Red Cross disaster help. But if you ask volunteer, Phyllis Wiggins, she’ll tell you Logistics is vital to ensure clients get help.

“We get you the people, places and things you need to be successful on the operation,” Wiggins said in a recent interview with Red Cross Public Affairs.

Wiggins, of Milwaukee, spent a month helping with flood disaster relief in the St. Louis area. She left in late December and served as a Logistics Manager at the Red Cross headquarters in the city.

“If you need a 26-foot truck to load things around, Logistics gets that for you,” Wiggins said.

Requests also included more basic things, like food, bleach, gloves and comfort items for children staying at Red Cross shelters.

“We actually had to go out and make a run for coloring books and crayons,” she said.

PHYLLIS WIGGINS PICTURE(1)

Phyllis (middle) is an essential part of the Logistics team. With a motto of “Mission First”, she makes sure people are taken care of in times of need! L-R: John Trieb, Phyllis Wiggins and Megan Bessett

Wiggins said Logistics plays a big role in securing locations for shelters and assistance centers during disaster relief. She explained the Red Cross works with community partners to find places, like schools, churches and office buildings. The Red Cross also has its own technology team to equip those facilities. On her deployment to St. Louis, Wiggins said churches, especially, rose to the occasion to offer space. She was also amazed with additional support from corporate donors.

“I’ve been on some operations where people were just begging for help — just trying to dig up that big truck of stuff. Here, it was just never an issue,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins recalled one day where a fellow Wisconsin Red Cross volunteer, Megan Besset, was on the phone working to get meals for the mission. What came next was a major delivery, and all of it donated.

“All of the sudden we had food from Popeyes, White Castle, pizza, Italian…” she said.

Wiggins worked about eight to 11 hours a day on her deployment. She was even on the ground New Year’s Eve and Day.

“If you’re doing good as the year rolls over, then the year is going to be good for you,” Wiggins said.

It’s clearly “Mission First” for Wiggins. And serving behind the scenes in Logistics is a role she’s happy to take on with a humble nature.

“It’s more important that people get help, that they feel safe, that they feel taken care of,” Wiggins said.

“That is much more important than me getting a slap on the back or a Thank You.”

Red Cross offers shelter from the fire

Kenosha resident, Katryane Jenkins, has spent four nights at an overnight shelter provided by the American Red Cross at Bradford High School.  Katryane, along with over 60 people at the 20-unit apartment building she was living in, was displaced after an apartment fire resulted in utilities being shut off until Monday morning.

Client-article

Katrayne Jenkins (center front) receives the help she needs at the Red Cross Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC).

Katryane, a full time student and mother to two young daughters, ages nine and two, is no stranger to the services that are provided from the Red Cross.  In the last five years, she has experienced two fires – each with a distressing impact on her life.

Four years ago, the duplex Katryane was living in caught fire. Unable to return to her home, she looked to the Red Cross to help her get back on her feet. The Red Cross provided her with a warm place to stay at a local hotel, money for food, resources to get clothes, as well as money to help with a security deposit on a new home. She says she’s thankful for that help.

Building

The 20-unit apartment building where Katrayne lived.

Having had this experience, Katryane felt more prepared to handle a similar situation years later. When she heard the smoke alarms in her building sound – her heart beating faster with every chirp of the alarm – she knew she needed to stay calm and move quickly. As the smell of smoke quickly filled the apartment, she already knew where to find the closest fire exits, and had practice getting out of the home quickly.

Katryane was also able to emotionally prepare herself – deal with the feelings of sadness and anger – because she knew what it felt like to lose her belongings.  While others may find it difficult to handle emotions, Katryane says that her experience has helped her have compassion for her fellow residents involved in the recent fire.  She also knows the importance of providing support to others.  “We’ve been there to lean on each other for support,” Katryane says.

marc - volunteers

Red Cross volunteers staff the MARC

During this time, Katryane is using other resources provided by the Red Cross, such as the meals and snacks, as well as comfort kits containing personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies, and other personal hygiene items. She finds it important to use the mental health services and talk to someone when she’s feeling down.  On Thursday, March 10, she visited the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) that was set up at the Kenosha Transit Center to learn about additional resources available to aid her recovery. At the MARC, representatives from government, non-profit, and faith-based organizations were on hand to offer assistance. These representatives, along with the Red Cross, worked with Katryane to find her and her family a permanent residence.

Today, Katryane is looking to maintain control of her life. While completing her Business Management Degree at Gateway Technical College, she is looking to the future and focusing on settling her family in a new home.

The Red Cross provided multiple families in Kenosha with a shoulder to lean on, and help to establish a plan of ‘what to do next.’ Financial assistance was provided for basic needs, such as food, clothing, infant supplies, shelter, transportation and more.  You can help the Red Cross help families after fires with a financial gift at  redcross.org/donate.

Volunteer of the Month – Melody Stevenson

roc_blog_img_Stevenson Melody

Melody joined the Red Cross in October of 2005. “I started volunteering because I had a house fire and as the firefighters were putting the fire out a white van pulled up and an angel appeared, Red Cross volunteer Tom Barnum. He helped me out so much during that devastating time. I especially remember his kindness when my Dad did not want to leave our house because of his dog; Tom went out of his way to call places for us to go that would accept dogs. The Red Cross brought us hope that day and after that I made it my mission to give back just like Tom,” explained Melody.

Red Cross staff and volunteers alike express gratitude for her constant support with Disaster Services, Dispatch and Casework. Most often Melody volunteers as a lead Red Cross Dispatcher. “She is one of the best examples of a volunteer partner for staff that I can think of in disaster services,” wrote Travis Waack. Volunteering about 30 hours per week, Melody receives calls of fires and other natural disasters adversely affecting or displacing members of communities statewide. She is responsible for obtaining all initial information and identifying volunteers to respond to disaster sites to provide Red Cross assistance. Fellow Dispatcher Scott Adler shared, “Melody is always ready to cover shifts at a moment’s notice. She proactively monitors the hotline schedule and ensures that the hotline is constantly staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”  Melody’s devotion is known throughout the Red Cross and especially by the Wisconsin Disaster Services Dispatch team.  Year round she makes herself available to take on additional volunteer work demonstrating her vast loyalty to her fellow volunteers, her volunteer service and the Red Cross as a whole. Sally Reamer fellow dispatcher shared, “Melody truly cares about each and every one of us! She is proud of our dispatch team and it shows in her every action. Her positive attitude and guidance is what keeps this team motivated.”

Melody encourages everyone she can to volunteer with the Red Cross, “It is never wrong to help others and give someone hope. The feeling I get when helping others can’t be beat and it is really the best feeling in the world. This is a wonderful organization that gives so much too so many people.”

Every day, the American Red Cross depends on local heroes to deliver help and hope during an emergency. Thank you, Melody, for being an Everyday Hero by sharing your talents and time with the American Red Cross!

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.