May Volunteer Spotlight: Jeremy Oswald

Jeremy OswaldCongratulations to Jeremy Oswald on being named one of the May 2015 Volunteers of the Month!

Jeremy joined the American Red Cross in 2007. Jeremy explained, “It was a couple of years after the attacks of 2001 and I wanted to do something that served our country, thinking I would go to hurricane sites. It turns out the help I give is much closer to home, right in my community.”

Jeremy volunteers with the Disaster Action Team in Bayfield and Ashland counties. With very few responders in these areas, Jeremy is always willing to travel and meet with families after a devastating event, typically taking the lead covering calls. Just recently, he assisted six families in Ashland after their apartment was destroyed by a fire.

Jeremy shared his favorite part about volunteering is knowing that what he does helps individuals and families who may not receive support in any other way by being there to get them started on a path to recovery. Jeremy encourages everyone to join as a volunteer of the American Red Cross.

“It is really easy to volunteer and do something that makes a gigantic difference in someone’s life. You may be scared to do it, to take that step into the unknown, but think about the people that may have just lost their home, they have no clothes, its ten degrees below zero, and you hand them a bag with a toothbrush, soap, a towel, and take them somewhere they can finally get warm and feel safe.”

Thank you, Jeremy, for sharing your talents and time with the American Red Cross!

Kerrie Forester Volunteer Award goes to the Extraordinary Territory 3 Disaster Team

June 24, 2014 the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin hosted our spring Celebration of Support event.  We had 260 staff, volunteers, blood donors and community members attend this annual event. Every year we honor a few volunteers who have gone above and behind. Here are their stories.  

Congrats to our entire Territory Three Disaster Team award with the Kerrie Forester Emergency Services Award.

Congrats to our entire Territory Three Disaster Team award with the Kerrie Forester Emergency Services Award.

The Kerrie Forester Volunteer Award each year goes to a Disaster Services volunteer who has shared their time and talents above and beyond the high expectations of Disaster Response team members. This award is named after Kerrie Forester who symbolized all this and more, and left us way too soon.

This year we could not pick one single person, because an entire team stepped up when faced with multiple adverse conditions and challenges.

First, our weather – It may be warm and sunny now, but I am sure you remember multiple sub-zero days, wind and snow. No matter what the weather was like, the team was there because they knew help was needed.

Second, thirteen year Disaster Program Manager, Judy Gregory, left on Christmas break and due to a serious medical issue was unable to return to work until April 14th. 

The Red Cross story states we are an agency run by volunteers and this is a prime example of volunteers being leaders.

“It was amazing to see how the volunteers stepped up to the plate, coordinated amongst themselves, and filled in every gap to meet the challenge in Judy’s absence. Whether a large apartment fire, a single family response, or administrative tasks, they exemplified what it means to be a volunteerled organization.”  Said Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services

These wonderful volunteers went out of their way and pulled together to continue providing exceptional care to people directly affected by a Disaster.

Congratulations and thank you to our ENTIRE Territory 3 Disaster Team.

Get in the Holiday Mood at the Songs of the Season

Life of a Disaster Volunteer!

Guest Blogger: Carmen Bierstaker, Disaster Team Volunteer

Carmen collecting donations for the Firefighters' Bucket Brigade 5.27.10

After watching all of the Red Cross Volunteers assisting those affected by Hurricane Katrina, I felt a need to do something here in Green Bay.  I met with Jody and realized that the Red Cross a had alot of opportunities for me to volunteer – but I was soon to find out that those that helped with the hurricane were part of a Disaster Action Team (DAT) – and this team would soon be my new family.  I have met alot of great people and new friends that make up the DAT team including our fearless Judy Gregory.  Ms. Judy as I like to call her.

During the past 3 1/2 years I have taken several classes to help prepare me to assist families that have been displaced due to fires, flooding and wind/tornado damage.  I have gone on several fire calls for personal residents, large and small apartment buildings, and have helped with mock disasters for the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant and Austin Straubel Airport. 

 I work full-time, but am still able to volunteer my time as a lead on one of the evening teams.  Every 8 weeks, my team member Perry Robinson and I are on call for an entire week  Monday thru Thurdsay 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. and Friday 6:00 p.m. until Monday 6:00 a.m. (24 hour on-call during the weekend).  The 8 week rotation allows us to know which week to slightly adjust our personal lives.  

On Monday of my scheduled week, I make 2 calls – one to Perry to let make sure he’s available and to tell him I hope not to talk to him all week (we all know if we have to call our team member that means someone is in need of assistance)  and the next call goes to Red Cross dispatch to give them my phone number.

I don’t sit home while I’m on-call I just make sure that pen and paper is nearby and that I’m within 20 minutes of the Red Cross garage.  When we get the call from dispatch, we are given: name, address, size of family, and a fire department contact name and phone number.  My first call goes out to Perry to have him meet me at the garage, the next call goes out to Judy.  Our black bags are in the suburban with all needed paperwork, set the GPS (if needed) and off to the call we go.  We have never met a client that wasn’t happy to see us and all are thankful for the help.  All clients are given a comfort quilt (hand made and donated to us), comfort kits (which include:shampoo, conditioner, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and shaving cream), monetary assistance to purchase clothing, food and storage bins, and if needed we can put them in a hotel for up to 3 days.  

Our main goal is to comfort the family and help them in their immediate time of need, get them through the first couple of days, until they can get a handle on what to do and where to go to next.

Personally, it has been very rewarding each and everytime I have been able to help a family.  I tell anyone who will listen what we do and I am not too proud to ask for their donations by sewing quilts, saving shampoos and soaps from hotel stays, or giving monetary donations.  I am proud to say that I am a volunteer on the Lakeland Chaper American Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

So What Does Investing in the Positive Mean to Red Cross Emergency Services?

As part of the Heroes Fundraising Campaign, local heroes are partnering together for the Firefighter’s Bucket Brigade for the Red Cross on Thursday, May 27 to ask neighbors to invest in the positive. To Red Cross Emergency Services, investing in the positive means helping neighbors help neighbors. Donations to the Red Cross support Emergency Services programs that play a vital role locally.

“The money raised from this event will be utilized to have funds available to support the immediate needs of families impacted by local disasters,” says Steve Maricque, Executive Director. “We are able to provide families shelter, clothing and food. The funds raised make that help possible.”

Between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 Lakeland Chapter Emergency Services responded to 67 incidents helping 193 families with a total of 448 individuals. They have also provided mass care for 455 emergency workers.

The Lakeland Chapter serves an eight county area: Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Marinette, Menominee (WI), Oconto, Shawano and Menominee (MI). There are over 450,000 people living within this jurisdiction that covers 5,746 square miles.

To serve the area, a dedicated team of Red Cross volunteers is trained to assist individuals who have been affected by disaster. “They need to be prepared that the disaster can happen at anytime and be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” says Jess Delaurelle, Disaster Volunteer from Green Bay.

“The disaster team is important because they are one of the first contacts that are made with a family to meet their immediate needs of food, clothing and lodging,” says Jess.

When needed, the  Red Cross also feeds emergency workers, handles inquiries from concerned family members outside the disaster area, provides blood and blood products to hospitals treating disaster victims, and helps those affected by disaster to access other available resources.

Val Szymanski, Disaster Volunteer from Little Suamico, can relate to some of the emotions felt by individuals who have experienced disaster; having personally been through two fires.

“You can give them food, shelter, and clothing but you’re not replacing what they lost,” says Val. Working on the disaster team is not always easy because you are helping people at their worst moment. It’s hard but it’s important to walk away knowing you made a difference.

Fire Chief Randy Wichalz has been with the Pulaski Fire Department for 35 years so he has memories of working with the Red Cross that go way back. The membership of the Pulaski Fire Department was happy to oblige when it was called upon to help with the fundraiser. “Whenever we’ve had a major fire we call them.”

“Its nice to have an organization like that to depend on,” says Fire Chief Randy Wichalz. “It’s easy for us to call the Red Cross for help but it was time to give something back.”

Investing in the positive means helping heroes in our community. Jess says she admires the dedication of Red Cross employees and volunteers. “No matter what is needed, someone is always there to help without concern of what they are getting in return.”

American Red Cross Responds to Area Tornado and Severe Weather Threats in Northeast Wisconsin

Oshkosh, WI – At approximately 7:10pm Tuesday, May 4 a Tornado Warning was issued for Winnebago County in East Central WI. The American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin Region went into action by doing a call down of Winnebago County Disaster Team Volunteers to be on alert and a shelter team was put on standby.

Calls where made to surrounding Red Cross personnel in Neenah/Menasha, Fond Du Lac and Green Bay in case additional assistance was needed.

According to the Winnebago County Office of Emergency Management approximately 15 properties in the towns of Clayton, Winchester and Wolf River have been damaged. One home in the Town of Clayton has sustained damage to its roof.

Red Cross was informed of three homes that were damaged in the Village of Larsen area on Grand View Street and Meyer Lane.  A team of four volunteers responded to the area to assess the damage and make contact with the three families.  At this time none of the families needed assistance from Red Cross. Additional contact will be made by volunteers to see if their needs have changed in the last 24-48 hours.

The American Red Cross will continue to work with Emergency Management to get more information on the damage and have volunteers make contact with the families affected to see if assistance is needed with their immediate emergency needs. 

If you need help due to storm/tornado damage throughout Northeast WI, please call your local Red Cross Chapter for assistance. Disaster teams are ready to assist you with your immediate emergency needs.

About the American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin Region: 

The Northeast Wisconsin American Red Cross is a regional grouping of six chapters serving 19 counties with a mission to prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters throughout the East Central Wisconsin, Fond du Lac County, Lakeland, Manitowoc/Calumet, Neenah-Menasha and Outagamie Chapters. To learn more about Red Cross programs, volunteer opportunities, and how you can help, contact the Northeast region at 920-231-3590 or visit


About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at


American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter Responds to 8-unit Apartment fire in Pulaski

Firefighters rolling up their hose, after they extinguished the fire.

The American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter responded to an 8-unit apartment fire on Karcz Dr., in Pulaski on Sunday, April 25 around 6:00pm.  The fire displaced seven adults and four children.

Eight American Red Cross Disaster workers assisted the families with their immediate emergency needs. Assistance provided includes: One adult, lodging and monetary assistance for food and clothing. Three adults and four children with monetary assistance for food and clothing. These three families are staying with relatives. One adult did not need our services, and at the time of the fire, the American Red Cross was trying to get in contact with the other two adults to see if they needed assistance.

Disaster Volunteers, Tom and Cathy writing out the paperwork to help the clients.

Disaster volunteers also provided the families with home-made quilts, and comfort kits (which include soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, comb, facial tissue, deodorant, razors, shaving cream and lotion).

Red Cross disaster assistance is free and is made possible by community donations. You can help individuals of this disaster and others by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter’s local disaster relief fund. For information call the Lakeland Chapter at 920-468-8535 or visit