“Hey, Don’t Freak Out!”


For Denise Parker hitting ‘send’ to her husband Anthony Parker, who is stationed in Kodiak, Alaska and serving in the US Coast Guard, was a scary proposition. Upon opening his email, he knew the next words would not be good. Thankfully, seven days after the Northern Wisconsin floods, he can chuckle about it “that’s the best she could do?” he smiled a sheepish grin knowing his wife experienced a harrowing experience and her life may have been in danger. Through the support of the American Red Cross, Services to Armed Forces Emergency Communications program, he was by her side as the reality of several feet of water in their home set in.

On July 11th, more than a foot of rain fell with several inches of rain in just over an hour. The babbling streams turned into torrent rivers, washing away roads and scaring the landscape adjacent to majestic Lake Superior.

As the water rose above her ankles, Denise knew she and the pets were in trouble. She called 9-1-1. They traveled three separate routes but could not reach her; they retreated. She felt alone.  Via Facebook, her mother was able to reach a gentleman nearby with a ‘pick-up’ truck. She was rescued, with no time to spare, after she waded through chest deep water. In each hand, she carried a five-pound pet. The Great Dane wanted nothing to do with the water outside and refused to swim so he was left in the home. Her eyes filled with tears as she shared the thought of him drowning as the Marengo River now ran through her home.

Once safe, she sent an email to her husband serving on the USS Alex Haley. Fortunately, the ship was coming into dock.

She also reached out to her local American Red Cross, like she had done twice before to reach her husband serving abroad throughout the course of his career. In each instance, the Red Cross validated the emergency – a father’s illness and her surgery – for the commanders and in each instance; he was granted emergency leave to be with his family.

“Hey, don’t freak out. I’m o.k. that’s what is most important. The house is under water and the rabbits died.”  As he says, “Don’t freak-out is the best she could do? She also didn’t say the water was up-to the steering wheel in my 2010 F-150 truck.”  She retorts, “I could have died last night.” They can smile about it now.

For Red Cross responder, Marilyn Skrivseth, this case struck a similar cord as her first contact with the Red Cross when her brother was serving oversees and the Red Cross made an emergency connection.  At first, she worked with the Parkers on the phone to begin casework.

She also encouraged them to visit the Multi-Agency Resource Center for cleaning supplies, bottled water and to garner referrals for assistance. Upon arrival, they received bottled water, cleaning supplies, bleach and more material goods. What they also received was contacts for a “muck-out” team which helps families remove the water, sludge, drywall and personal items.  Any soft material will be destroyed.  Knowing he has a short emergency leave, the race is on to recover from this disaster. Thankfully, due to the Red Cross support, they are not alone.

By: Barbara Behling

Photos: Marilyn Janke


Wisconsin Floods — Red Cross Responds

Heavy rains caused flooding throughout Northern Wisconsin earlier this week. Since then, it’s been a flurry of flood relief activities with the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter leading the charge. Red Cross services have included providing clean up supplies, bottled water and connecting one-on-one with affected families who need shelter, health or other immediate disaster relief. An Incident Integrated Care & Condolence Team is also working with the families of the three fatalities.

Today, Red Cross workers are delivering clean-up kits (bucket, mop, broom, squeegee, gloves, bleach, brush, etc.) to the following locations:

  • Methodist Church, Hayward – 35 kits and Flood Recovery  Booklets
  • Minong, Town Hall, Washburn – 50 clean-up kits and Flood Recovery Booklets
  • County Health & Human Services, Ashland – 40 additional Clean-up kits, 60 cases of water, flathead shovels, garbage bags, gloves (Yesterday, 37 Clean-up kits, bleach, bottled water, perishable food and Flood Recovery Booklets.)

All locations listed above are coordinating distribution to the public.

As of Thursday evening, our Client Casework team met one-on-one with individuals/families affected by flooding and had opened 24 cases, with the majority being on the Bad River Reservation in Ashland County. Case work will continue through this weekend and by appointment should contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 800-236-8680.

The Red Cross encourages residents to stay safe by following safety tips:

  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Dry-out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building.
  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent/bleach and water.
  • Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.

We are greatly appreciative of Premium Waters and Kwik Trip who both donated pallets of water.

The best ways for you to help is by supporting our efforts with a financial gift or volunteering your time. We rely on volunteers to provide humanitarian relief during times of disaster and we’ll get you trained before the next disaster strikes.   To learn more, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

Throughout Wisconsin, we respond to nearly 900 disasters every year. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support 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. Click http://www.redcross.org/Wisconsin or call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.



It’s National Volunteer Week!

The American Red Cross Wisconsin Region is honoring all volunteers and the work you do in the community during National Volunteer Week, April 10-17.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Red Cross volunteers and am reminded that volunteerism and the human spirit are beautifully intertwined. I truly believe Red Cross volunteers are the brightest and most uplifting people in our communities. The best part of my job is getting to know you and seeing you in action.  Recently, I had the chance to talk with a new volunteer who was very excited to join our team. When I asked what motivated her to get out of her bed in the middle of the night to respond to the scene of a fire she said, “I am able to do it, so why wouldn’t I?”. Another volunteer will achieve a major milestone this August – volunteering with the Red Cross for 60 years! His favorite saying is, “part of our payment for being on this earth is to give back”. 

Last month, a Red Cross volunteer turned 100-years-old and celebrated by hosting a blood drive with a goal of collecting 100 pints (1 for each candle). She blew that away – 114 pints were donated in her honor. While Red Cross volunteers have diverse backgrounds and perspectives, you share many similarities. Red Cross volunteers share an incredible selfless spirit and an urge to do good for others.

I am honored to work alongside all of you and am inspired each day because of the compassion you show. Thank you for sharing your time and talents with the American Red Cross! 

Patty Flowers

Chief Executive Officer

American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region

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.


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.


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.

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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.

You’re Invited to the 9th Annual Heroes Musicales Extravaganza!

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Beautiful Waushara county isn’t just for antiquing, water activities, quaint restaurants and lovely family-run B & B’s and hotels, we’re the center of the musical world on Saturday, April 30th. Especially if you like world-class musicians, delicious hors d’oeuvres, refreshments and more than 200 silent auction treasures, please join us at the 9th Annual Heroes Musicales at the log home of American Red Cross volunteers Vicki & John Jenks just west of Wild Rose. Three Musicales (mini concerts) from Wisconsin’s Best Bluegrass Band,  a trio back by popular demand who are NPR ‘regulars’ plus a Carnegie Hall pianist and Chicago’s finest harpist will delight your senses. This volunteer driven event has the local support of businesses, organizations, churches and philanthropic citizens alike. Proceeds from the day support Disaster Relief & Education along with Services to Armed Forces!

Heroes Musicales line-up:

  • 11:00a.m. Features the down-home, authentic sound of Wisconsin’s Best Bluegrass Band, Art Stevenson & High Water.  Heard on bluegrass radio programs around the USA, they’ve received critical acclaim in Bluegrass Unlimited and Bluegrass Now industry publications.
  • 1:30p.m. Harmonious Wail is “back by popular demand!”  National Public Radio ‘regulars’ and the recipient of countless MAMA and Isthmus Readers Polls, the Wail features “smoldering vocals and an infectious blend of continental jazz, swing, and folk music.”
  • 4:00p.m. Carnegie Hall virtuoso pianist, Jodie DeSalvo and Chicago’s finest harpist, Faye Seeman.  Their “Made in America” show will include Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and so much more!

The Heroes Musicales were conceived by John & Vicki Jenks nine years ago as a way to marry their passion for music and the communities need for disaster relief and education programs. Since then, this event has grown with outstanding support from Waushara, Green Lake, Marquette and Waupaca County disaster volunteers along with this year’s sponsors:  Badger Mining Corporation, Farmers State Bank, 1st National Bank, Martz Insurance, Waupaca Foundry, Brakebush Brothers, Krause Foundation, Mt. Morris Holden WELCA. All Saints CCW, Anita & Lawrence Mielke Memorial Fund, John Gusmer, Jackie King, Rose Wendt, and Rick & Joni Parks.

Seats are limited and always sell-out! Reserve your seats now at just $35 per person/per musicale. To order, please email Vicki Jenks at vickipjenks@gmail.com or call 920-231-3590.



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

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

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.


Red Cross volunteers, Phyllis Wiggins and Megan Besset, on deployment in St. Louis, MO.

“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.

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 had 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 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 a 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 take care of,” Wiggins said.

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

Thank you Phyllis for proudly representing the American Red Cross in Missouri.

This month, 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 redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.


By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer


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.


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.


“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.