AmeriCorps Volunteers Answer the Call in Houston

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Story and Photo by Chris Genin, American Red Cross volunteer

From left to right: Jeremy Holm, Alex Unger, Juliana Stahle, Scott Sobocinski, Joshua Haisch, Emma Harvey

Unless you’ve resided or worked in an American Red Cross shelter, it’s difficult to get a sense of what goes on to ensure the comfort and safety of people who have come to the shelter for help. Volunteers work around the clock to maintain a positive environment and guarantee people’s needs are met. This is a huge job and the Red Cross often works with partner agencies in the shelter so that things run smoothly.

Alex Unger, an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Core (NCCC) team leader, is one such volunteer who represents a partner agency and is working side-by-side with Red Cross volunteers to efficiently run one of the remaining Red Cross shelters at Houston’s Greenspoint Mall.

AmeriCorps is a team-based national community service program run by the federal government and Alex and his team operate under the NCCC. Teams are usually comprised of eight to 12 people who travel around the country building homes, responding to disasters, working with kids and performing energy and environmental conservation work. They operate under 10-month commitments and typically focus on one region unless a disaster strikes. The AmeriCorps campus in Baltimore sent 12 teams to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Prior to deploying to Houston, Alex’s team was in Idaho aiding relief efforts during the Hanover Wildfire.

Alex’s team of 11 AmeriCorps members helped spearhead the shelter set up and had the big task of unloading and organizing 16 trucks packed full of resident’s’ personal belongs. Most Greenspoint Mall residents moved there from another shelter and a system had to be implemented to make sure personal belongings went with them. Alex’s team sorted totes and boxes and created a system for where their belongings went.

Nearly 500 people descended on the shelter, some traveling with 10 massive boxes and others bringing one small tote, Alex’s team organized these things in an orderly manner, while at the same time remaining readily available to help in other areas. No matter the quantity of what came with a resident, Alex handled all belongings with care, keeping in mind that what they were unloading could be all the material things that remained for some people.

Thirteen AmeriCorps team members are still supporting Red Cross shelter operations. These volunteers help manage laundry service, sorting and distributing donated items, serving meals, unloading deliveries and maintaining general cleanliness. All of this is done in support of the 400 residents who call this shelter home nearly seven weeks after Hurricane Harvey.

Alex, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, joined AmeriCorps because he wanted to experience this unique way of life and to develop his leadership ability. He and his team are going to continue their work in Houston until they graduate their service year on November 15.

A lot of the people are really appreciative of the work that we’re doing here,” Alex said. “Whether it’s serving meals or passing out clothes, a lot of people basically have nothing. It’s humbling to be a part of it all, to sit with someone and hear their story. It’s great to see people getting back on their feet.”

Words of Hope & Support from our Volunteers!

Written By: Deanna Culver, Red Cross Volunteer, 09/12/2017

I am a Red Cross Volunteer
Volunteering is what we do
Today, tomorrow, and the next day too
Helping people on their recovery begins with steps
Together we’ll work on cleaning up the confusion and mess
Eager to assist and ready at a moment’s notice
Helping people and meeting new friends is an added bonus
Volunteering is given from within our hearts
Today, and tomorrow right from the start
Resources and guidance a soft loving gesture in a time of need
To help get people back on their feet
Disasters happen day and night
Red Cross volunteers lead the way with a shining light
Eyes of care watching over you
Smiles to brighten your hearts that turned heavily blue
Rather on the phone or in a shelter
We’re here to help you fill alittle better
Listening, sharing, and caring to help guide you
Nothing is to tough for us to help you through
For helping people far from home and near
I am a Red Cross Volunteer

Red Cross continues to provide support in Southeast Wisconsin

The American Red Cross continues to provide assistance to Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth County residents after being hit with severe flooding.  Red Cross, with partnering agencies, opened three Multi-Agency Resource Centers where residents were assisted with immediate disaster recovery needs.

To date, the Red Cross has:

  • served 480 clients
  • provided 493 meals
  • distribution 1,689 clean-up kits
  • served 1,748 snacks
  • provided clients with 4,315 bulk items, such as bleach, gloves, and garbage bags

The Red Cross work continues in the Kenosha, Racine and Walworth communities and throughout Western Wisconsin.

If you affected by the storms and have questions or immediate needs, please call 414-345-8678.

How you can help

The Red Cross and the communities it serves rely on local volunteers to provide humanitarian relief during times of disaster. You can become a Red Cross volunteer in your community when disaster strikes. To learn more, visit redcross.org/wisconsin.

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation’s blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; 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 humanitarian mission. The Wisconsin Region serves 5.8 million people across Wisconsin and Houston County Minnesota.  For more information, please visit redcross.org, follow our statewide blog at redcrosswisnews.org and follow us on Twitter @redcrosswis

The Wisconsin Region of the American Red Cross responds to nearly 900 disasters a 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to the American Red Cross Wisconsin Region, 2600 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233

 

“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!

Hurricane Matthew – WI Responds

Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of people in shelters. Thousands of relief workers responding. Too many lives lost. This disaster is a big one, for all of us, requiring many hands, heads, and hearts pulling together to help others in dire need. Shelter, food, and relief supplies are American Red Cross priorities.

Blood and platelet donations are needed from people in unaffected areas to make up for canceled drives. Check out the stories below. They’ll show you how the Red Cross is helping.

You Just Gotta Be Strong: a video from the American Red Cross features Terry, a shelter resident who was forced to evacuate his home in Tarboro, North Carolina, because of Hurricane Matthew

Haiti Needs Help from All of Usan opinion piece from American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern published in Huffington Post addresses rumors, issues, and concerns about disaster relief responses in Haiti. False information shared on the internet hurts people who need our help the most

Suffering Continues After Hurricane Matthew: a news release from the American Red Cross with details about how the Red Cross is responding to the disaster in the U.S. and in Haiti

From Wisconsin, there are more than 80 Red Cross relief workers deployed to help in the affected areas. More will likely be on their way in the days to come.

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Lori and Kevin Peterson and Gerry and Jim Gilmore drove their Emergency Response Vehicles from Wisconsin and are serving thousands of meals, water and distributing cleaning supplies to residents in the hardest hit areas.  

Please support this relief effort. Click here to donate money to Red Cross disaster relief. Click here to make a blood or platelet donation appointment.

Thank you!

Team Effort Creates Results!

Floods and winds created the need for 90 disaster responders to fulfill the emotional, health and disaster needs people come to expect from the American Red Cross after heavy rained caused wide-spread flooding damage across eight Northern Wisconsin counties with the sacred tribal lands of the Bad River Reservation being the epicenter of destruction.

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The Red Cross provided the following:

  • Opened an overnight shelter
  • Spearheaded a Multi-Agency Resource Center, a one-stop location for disaster help
  • Staffed two Emergency Operation Centers
  • Integrated Care Team outreach after four fatalities
  • 105 Health and Emotional Health contacts
  • 690 Clean-up Kits distributed (bucket, mop, broom, squeegee, gloves, cleaners, etc.)
  • 2,862 Meals and Snacks served
  • 2,982 Distributed shovels, bleach, gloves, pet carriers and more
  • Truckloads of bottled water was provided
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Volunteers haul up cleaning supplies kit into the van

“You could see on the people’s faces signs of hope because the Red Cross was there. I was so honored by the work our team was doing,” said Kyle Kriegl, Northwest Wisconsin Chapter Executive.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how we impact people’s lives and make a difference. One of the families we helped had a military spouse deployed in Alaska. Our team was able to connect her with our Services to the Armed Forces caseworker who was able to work with his command and have him come home for emergency leave to help cleanup and recover from this disaster. That is what the Red Cross is all about to me — helping people,”shared Kriegl.

Join us for free training so you too can be part of the disaster response team!

If you would like to support our efforts with a financial gift, please do at redcross.org/donate.

Learn more about flood safety.

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The Disaster Team assisted the NW Wisconsin flood.

 

 

 

 

“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