The Red Vest: A Sign of Hope

Written by: Andy Duchow, Red Cross Volunteer

Hope Koestner, Green Bay, was recently deployed to Richmond VA to serve as part of a Red Cross condolence team in response to Hurricane Irene.  Some of her duties included providing emotional support to families who have lost loved ones, and delivering financial assistance for memorial services.  Hope describes it best:

“The positive impact the American Red Cross Disaster Response Teams have on our clients during deployment is endless.  Providing shelter and a bed to someone who would otherwise sleep on the floor of their destroyed home or giving a meal to someone who hasn’t eaten in three days because their power is out and all of the food has spoiled are just the tip of the iceberg.  People affected by disasters look for the Emergency Response Vehicles, the volunteers in their red vests, and I have been told by clients that as soon as they see these things they are instantly relieved, knowing help has arrived and they will be OK.”

Her primary responsibilities lie with the Health Service Staff who try to anticipate and prepare for the immediate medical needs of disaster victims by providing basic first aid, medication, medical equipment, and even eyeglass replacement.  They interact with local community organizations to arrange for the medical needs of their clients, and to make arrangements with doctors and pharmacies to find replacements for necessary medicines and equipment.

They also work with families who have lost loved ones during the disaster.  They remain with the families through the end of the funeral service, providing help and support.

“While being part of a the Red Cross Disaster Response Team is both an honor and a privilege, it also comes with a lot of responsibility.”  Disaster volunteers are always ready to go where they are needed.  When disaster strikes they are on their way within 24 hours of receiving their call to action.

Often the teams work 8-12 hour shifts every day, going to neighborhood shelters, and even door to door, offering assistance in whatever way they can.

The Red Cross emergency response teams are a close group, united by their commitment to serve the needs of those in crisis.  “Although you may travel there alone, once you get there you are surrounded by other volunteers from all over the country and it’s like you have an instant family.”

Hope began volunteering with the American Red Cross in 1991 when her husband was deployed to Saudi Arabia.  He had worked in a military hospital, and his deployment left them shorthanded.  So Hope volunteered to help.

She spent 40 hours a week at the hospital for 8 months until the regular hospital staff returned.

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Hope began going on Red Cross deployments.

“At that time we were not in a position to help financially and I wanted to give something.  So I gave myself.”

Red Cross Volunteer Gets Ready for Her Ninth National Disaster Assignment

Hope with her team that she worked closely with in Alabama, one month ago.

The American Red Cross has dispatched disaster volunteer, Hope Koestner, LPN, of Green Bay, to Springfield, Massachusetts to assist with the tornadoes that struck the East Coast almost one week ago.

She will be assisting in the area of Health Services. Koestner will be using her skills as a licensed health care professional to assess people’s health affected by the tornadoes.

This will be Koestner’s ninth national disaster deployment. She assisted in 2005 for Hurricane Wilma, in 2008 she assisted for a tornado in Georgia, flooding and a tornado in Iowa. 2008 for Hurricane Gustav, 2009 Georgia floods and has only been back a couple of weeks from her deployment to Birmingham, Alabama to assist the people affected by tornadoes and storms.

Learn more about the destruction in Massachusetts by watching this short video.

Across the Country

The statistics below reflect total American Red Cross service deliveries since the beginning of major spring storm response on March 31st. This includes:

Tornadoes in Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Iowa, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts.

Flooding in Tennessee,Vermont, NewYork, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, Oklahoma.

Wildfires inTexas

To date, the Red Cross has:

How to Help: The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people affected by disasters like wildfires, floods and tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS, and people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross,P.O. Box 37243,Washington,DC20013.

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 www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

 

Red Cross Launches Relief Efforts for Oklahoma Tornado

Responses Ongoing in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama

From the plains of the Midwest to the deep south, the American Red Cross is providing a safe place to stay and relief supplies for thousands of people displaced by tornadoes and floods. Even as relief operations continue full force in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama, the Red Cross has opened shelters in Oklahoma after last night’s tornadoes.  

Barbara Behling, looking at the damage and personal belongings left on the curb in Memphis

“These storms have left thousands across the country without homes, without any belongings,” said Barbara Behling, Regional Community Development Office. “It is important that everyone remember those whose lives have been impacted by these disasters as I have seen first hand from my deployment to Nashville and Memphis this past week.”

Multiple tornadoes in Oklahoma destroyed homes and businesses, left thousands without power, and forced road closures due to overturned vehicles and structure damage.  Red Cross workers are providing a safe place to stay, food to eat, toiletries and clean-up items.

On this rainy morning, American Red Cross volunteers Hope Koestner, LPN and Joe Ulrich are delivering medical assistance and mental health services to residents of Nashville. As they walk through this particular neighborhood which was damaged extensively by flood waters, they realize quickly that they need a translator as few residents speak English. Luckily, one of the first doors they knock on is the home of Nancy and Ernesto Gomez and their ten year old son Daniel. Daniel is bi-lingual and is able to help his family by translating their needs. Nancy then offers to have Daniel go around the neighborhood with Hope and Joe as they assist others.

Meanwhile, people down south are still tossing furniture and appliances into the street, ripping up flooring and tearing out walls as they work on their homes after last week’s flooding and tornadoes.  Red Cross teams from 37 different states have shelters open, are providing meals, and distributing various clean-up items and basic necessities such as toiletries. 

Local Volunteer from Green Bay, Hope Koestner, LPN, left on Saturday to assist the people of Nashville and will be gone up to three weeks.

If someone would like to help, there are three ways that people can make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund: Visit redcross.org to donate online, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

Help people affected by disasters like the recent floods and tornadoes by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for disasters and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting redcross.org.

American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter Volunteer Nurse Heading to Tennessee

Red Cross volunteer Hope Koestner plays with Jalynn Sheppard in a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, LA. - Hurricane Gustav, 9.08

American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter Volunteer, Hope Koestner will be leaving tomorrow morning for Nashville to help people impacted by the flooding in Tennessee.  Hope will be assigned to Disaster Health Services and will be assisting with shelter operations and with local public health officials.

Hope has experience in working large disasters including previous assignments in 2009 for flooding in Georgia and 2008 for Hurricane Gustav, flooding in Iowa and tornados in Georgia.

She is leaving Green Bay on Delta Flight #382 and would be available at terminal for interview at approximately 8:15am.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood supply; 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 www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter Sends Local Volunteer to help with Devastating Floods In Georgia

Red Cross volunteer Hope Koestner speaks with Alfred Hyams at a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Red Cross volunteer Hope Koestner speaks with Alfred Hyams at a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Green Bay, WI –The American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter has dispatched Disaster Volunteer, Hope Koestner, LPN of Green Bay, WI to Atlanta, GA to assist with the 2009 Georgia Floods.

Your browser may not support display of this image. Koestner will be flying out Wednesday, September 30 at 7:00am to Atlanta, GA. She will be assisting in the area of Health Services. Koestner will be using her skills as a licensed health care professional to assess  people’s health affected by the floods. If someone needs additional medical assistance that the shelter can not provide then they would be taken to a medical facility to get the care they need.

This is Koestner’s sixth national relief operation. She assisted in 2005 for Hurricane Wilma, in 2008 she assisted for a tornado in Georgia, flooding and a tornado in Iowa and her last assignment was for Hurricane Gustav.

Overview:
On September 21st, the State of Georgia was hit by severe weather systems which lead to flooding in many of the counties located in Metro Atlanta as well as several counties in the northern part of the state. The severe flooding had an immediate impact and resulted in numerous power outages, road closures, uninhabitable homes and school district closings. In addition, nine fatalities have been linked to the flooding since September 21st.

American Red Cross Response Efforts:

More than 600 Red Cross volunteers are providing stability and hope for families in this time of chaos.  Through mobile outreach into flood-affected areas, Red Cross caseworkers are connecting one-on-one with people in need and providing financial assistance for food, clothing, shelter, and health-related concerns.  Red Cross Emergency Vehicles are providing mobile feeding and distributing clean-up supplies in flood-ravaged neighborhoods.

As of September 28, the Red Cross has sheltered nearly 500 people (1,643 overnight stays), served 12,715 meals and 11,495 snacks, and distributed 2,045 clean-up and comfort kits. Volunteers are also helping with emergency medical needs and providing emotional support and counseling to those traumatized by the events surrounding them.  The Red Cross is working with its local partners to connect those in need with the available community resources.

Preliminary damage assessment reports indicate that 1,939 homes (459 destroyed; 517 with major damage) have been affected by flooding in 20 counties.

Help people affected by disasters like the current floods by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.