Colorado Floods – One Year Later!

By Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

It is hard to believe one year ago today, I was boarding a plane for Denver, CO to help tell the story of so many that were impacted by the devastating floods. Here’s a look back at the many faces who touched my life and the stories I wrote about during my deployment experience.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

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Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Deployment – Day 1 

Colorado Floods – Telling our Story: Part 1

 

Click HERE to the American Red Cross one year update report.

Colorado Floods – Telling our Story: Part 1

By Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

How do I even start to share about this amazing journey I have been on for the past week? I will start from the beginning. I landed in Denver, Colorado, Sunday, Sept 15 around 12:30 pm.  I pick up my rental car and called Hector Emanuel, the photographer, I would be paired with for the next week, to see where he was at.

Ran into many detours on my way to Greely, Colorado.

Ran into many detours on my way to Greely, Colorado.

He, and his assistant Liz Preovolos, were at a Red Cross shelter in Greely, Colorado. I looked at my gps, and it was about an hour drive. Upon my arrival in Denver, it was a very gray, rainy and cold day. I headed off to Greely, and as I got closer, it was harder and harder to get there. I stop at a local gas station 10 miles from Greely, and ask how to get there.  With roads washed out, and/or flooded, it was almost impossible. The store clerk, providing me some alternative routes, and thanked me for my work. I had on my Red Cross hat and sweatshirt, and I am once again reminded of the power of the Red Cross symbol. The clerk, comes out from behind the counter, and asks “Can I give you a hug?” Of course, I say yes.

I finally make it to the City of Greely Recreation Center, after many detours. I go inside and there is a flurry of activity. I meet up with Hector and Liz, who arrived the day before, and have spent most of the day at the shelter. They give me a tour of the facility, I talked with some of the volunteers, and clients, and then we head back to our home base in Loveland, Colorado for the night.

This would be the start of our routine for the week. Hector, would go to his room to look at his pictures from the day, and pick the best 25-30 photos to send to American Red Cross National Headquarters. The three of us would meet in the hotel lounge, and we would go over photo release forms, identify the people in each picture, and write the caption for each photo to share their story.

Why are we doing this you ask? These photos and stories paint a picture of how the American Red Cross is assisting the people of Colorado. We are bringing a face to the American people, so when people donate, they know who and how they are helping. We are telling our story!

Monday, September 16 –

The three of us meet down in the hotel lounge for breakfast and we make our game plan for the day. We focus on the Red Cross shelters that are set up to house the many people displaced. Sunday night there was 1,000 people that stayed in 24 different shelters across Colorado.

First Stop, Thompson School District Building, in Loveland, Colorado.  We met a family who had not one, not two, but three disasters displace them from their homes, over the past six months. The Oft family moved from Sallisaw, Oklahoma, after two tornadoes ripped through their town and damaged their home. They moved to Drake, CO to be closer to family. They barely had enough time to evacuate as the flood waters started  rise over the roads. Charlsey Oft said, “When you have kids, you can’t think of the bad stuff, you have to carry on and we are thankful for the goodness of others.”

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross Shelter at Thompson School, Loveland, CO. Red Cross Health Services worker Pam Robinson, RN, of Masonville, Colorado, hugs Adalynn Oft, 4, of Drake, Colorado, as her sister, Zoee, 1, looks on and her mother Charlsey, share their story.  Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross Shelter at Thompson School District Building, Loveland, CO. Red Cross Health Services worker Pam Robinson, RN, of Masonville, Colorado, hugs Adalynn Oft, 4, of Drake, Colorado, as her sister, Zoee, 1, looks on and her mother Charlsey, shares their story. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

The second shelter we visited was Niwot High School, in Niwot, Colorado. The people at this shelter were airlifted to safety because of the roads being washed out and they were not able to get out by vehicle.  This is were we met Donna Hitz, 81 from Lyons, Colorado.  She had such a good spirit and attitude.  I was cracking up laughing because she was telling me about how handsome the pilots were in their uniform, and she would do it all over again for a ride with them.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

The third shelter we went to was the YMCA of Boulder Valley, in Boulder, Colorado.  There was a lot of activity at this shelter, because business did not shut down for the YMCA, so you had their customers coming to workout, among all the people displaced. This is were we met Esther Peter, who had such a beautiful soul and strength about her. She and her five sisters, brother and mom, evacuated to the Boulder shelter, after water started running into their apartment building. They were able to grab a few items, important documents and that was it. Originally from South Sudan, they moved to Kenya. After enduring a lifetime of hardships in a country engaged in armed conflict, she came to the United States to build a better life with her family. Esther had to leave her two young daughters with family in Kenya, with hopes to reunite in Boulder as soon as possible.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Our final shelter of the day we visited was Mead High School, in Longmont, Colorado. Hector and Liz were here the day before, and talked with many families, and we wanted to go back to see how some of them were doing. At this point in the disaster operation, some of these families have been in a shelter for 4-5 days and wanted to go home, but some didn’t have a home to go back to. To create some normalcy for the children, some of the volunteers took the children outside on the football field to play with balls, run around, and just be kids! It was great to hear their laughter, and for one small moment, they were able to forget about everything going on around them.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Mead High School, Mead, CO. Red Cross Shelter Manager, Ruth “Max” Bourke, of Ault, Colorado, plays catch with JoAnn Hammond, 5, of Del Camino, Colorado. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Mead High School, Longmont, Colorado. Red Cross Shelter Manager, Ruth “Max” Bourke, of Ault, Colorado, plays catch with JoAnn Hammond, 5, of Del Camino, Colorado. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 17

Red Cross Northern Operations Headquarters at The Ranch-Larimer County Fairgrounds, Loveland, Colorado.

Red Cross Northern Operations Headquarters at The Ranch-Larimer County Fairgrounds, Loveland, Colorado.

We checked in at the Northern Operation Headquarters, at the Larimer County Fairgrounds, in Loveland, Colorado.  We talked with Mike Cooper, who was in charge of the Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) and the workers who drove the vehicles and where they went each day.  We teamed up with ERV Drivers, Dennis and Dustin, both from Kansas. Their job was to “search and serve” in some of the hard hit areas in Northern Colorado.

We followed behind the ERV in our vehicle, as they went up and down roads and stopping occasionally to see if people needed help. We came across this road closure in Evans, Colorado and discovered, five or six guys trying to clean up their property from the floods. They were blocked in because one way the road was still flooded, and the other end of their road was barricaded.  Dustin and Dennis stopped the ERV, and we provided these families, with cleanup kits (including bleach, gloves, mop, broom, and bucket), hygiene kits(including basic toiletry items), tarps, shovels, and garbage bags. The flood waters rushed into their home, and like so many others, it came in so fast, they barely had time to evacuate. We also let them know that they could get a hot meal, shower, and other needed items at the City of Greely Recreation Center. It felt great to be able to help these people, and provide resources to them, because they felt like they were all alone blocked in on their road.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. 49th St. in Evans, Colorado. American Red Cross emergency response drivers, Dennis Pierce from Louisburg, Kansas and Dustin Dunkin, of Garnett, Kansas handing out supplies to Robert Lujan and Brian Mestas of Evans, Colorado. Bernie Lujan of Evans, Colorado taking a box of supplies including masks, garbage bags, and paper towels to assist with flood relief cleanup to his home. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. 49th St. in Evans, Colorado. American Red Cross emergency response drivers, Dennis Pierce from Louisburg, Kansas and Dustin Dunkin, of Garnett, Kansas handing out supplies to Robert Lujan and Brian Mestas of Evans, Colorado. Bernie Lujan of Evans, Colorado taking a box of supplies including masks, garbage bags, and paper towels to assist with flood relief cleanup to his home. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

In the afternoon, we split from Dennis and Dustin and we headed to a shelter at Timberline Church in Fort Collins This shelter was another place evacuees went to who were rescued off Storm Mountain in Drake, Colorado. While we were there, a bus pulled up, and Jason and Jennifer Morgan, walked off with their three dogs and one cat.  The only road up and down the mountain was washed away, so they had to be evacuated from the mountain by helicopter. They waited as long as they could because they had to leave their nine horses behind.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Timberline Church, Fort Collins, Colorado. Red Cross workers, Jody Weyers, of Green Bay, Wisconsin petting “Ella Beagle” and Larry Fortmuller, of Santa Ana, California holding “Bailey” while their owner, Jennifer Morgan, of Drake Colorado, fills out paper work after being airlifted from Storm Mountain by helicopter. .Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Timberline Church, Fort Collins, Colorado. Red Cross workers, Jody Weyers, of Green Bay, Wisconsin petting “Ella Beagle” and Larry Fortmuller, of Santa Ana, California holding “Bailey” while their owner, Jennifer Morgan, of Drake Colorado, fills out paper work after being airlifted from Storm Mountain by helicopter. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

The people who were rescued by helicopter, were loaded in busses, delivered to this shelter, and if they had family to stay with, they could pick them up here. If they had no place to go, they would register and stay in the shelter. Everyone who came off the bus, Red Cross had them register with our Safe & Well site, so loved ones searching for them would know they are ok. As of Sunday, September 22, 1,588  people had registered themselves safe and well on our site.

To be continued…..

Reflection: Conference on Volunteering and Service – Day One

By: Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

More than 5,000 volunteer leaders gathered at our Nation’s Capitol June 19-22 for the largest gathering of its kind – The Points of Light’s Annual Conference on Volunteering and Service. Service DAy 1

When you go to a conference of this size people always ask, “What did you learn?” I find it is not so much about what I learned, but it is more about being inspired, rejuvenated and hopeful for change to come.

DAY ONE:  

Talk about inspiration – My first session that I attended was called; Mobilizing Youth for Change presented by the Youth Advisory Council of GenerationOn. This group of 14 teenagers from across the US blew me away with their poise, confidence and forward thinking. These kids, and yes, I mean kids, are changing the world. Take a moment to read their bios and be inspired too.

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Next up was the opening plenary, titled “The Spirit of Service.” The plenary is to get you jazzed up and excited for what is to come over the next few days. I love finding out who the guest speakers will be because they are always people of influence, power and great statue. Once again, this year did not disappoint. We opened with the Mayor of the District of Columbia, The Honorable Vincent C. Gray, and closed with one of my favorite motivational speakers (who I had the chance of meeting and talking with when he was in Green Bay for the Green Bay Chamber Annual Meeting last fall) J.R. Martinez, U.S. Army Veteran, Author and Actor.

Vincent Gray jr martinez

My first day closed with a networking event just for Red Cross volunteer managers from across the US. There were about 50 other volunteer managers there as well as Jim Star, VP, Volunteer Management and Kim Gube, Volunteer Relationships Manager for National Headquarters.

Getting that time to “talk shop” with my fellow Red Cross volunteer managers and bend the ear of the people at the top is invaluable. The volunteer management department has been turned on its head this past year with the launch of Volunteer Connection. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great tool, and one incredible step for the American Red Cross in being OneRedCross, but with change comes lots of questions.  Volunteer Connection was definitely the big topic of discussion over our beverages and appetizers.

Looking back now, on that first day, it was perfect! A day filled with inspiration from all angles: youth empowerment, empowerment from the top and empowerment from within my own organization and peers.

Stay tuned for day two…… Jody

ps. To view additional day one pictures from the conference click HERE.

June 19, 2013 – Part 1: National Conference of Volunteering and Service

By Jody Weyers, Director of Volunteers, Northeast Wisconsin Chapter

It is 7:21 and I am sitting on the plane from Milwaukee heading to Baltimore for the National Conference on Volunteering & Service. This will be my third year attending this conference. I have been to New York City, Chicago and now Washington D.C.

This conference is made up of the “who’s who” in the volunteer management field and I am excited to be among such amazing people.

When I signed up for the conference, there was literally hundreds of sessions to chose from. As I was choosing my sessions I tried to think “what are my goals and objectives?”

Going into this year, I focused my sessions on three areas:

1. Social Engagement – a field that is ever changing. I look forward to learning some best practices to utilize in communicating with our volunteers, engaging our community and sharing our story.

2. Youth Development – Youth engagement is a focus of the National Red Cross and an area, that we can do a better job at. We want to engage our youth so that they become life long members of the American Red Cross through their volunteer work, as a blood donor and/or financial donor.

3. Personal Development – I am a life long learner and I feel there are always areas that I can continue to work on to better myself.

I will have some down time in between sessions so I hope to get a chance to visit some of the new monuments in D.C., get a tour of the National Red Cross Building and just enjoy being in a new city for a few days!

Look for my reflection tonight after my first day of sessions!!

Signing off……. Jody

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American Red Cross Featured on CW 14 Focus

Click HERE for video of program.

Sunday, May 19 on CW 14 Focus host Robert Hornacek was joined by two guests from the American Red Cross.

Bob Mayer, health and safety logistics coordinator, and Jody Weyers, regional director of volunteers and communications, both from the American Red Cross, appeared on the program.

Mayer and Weyers spoke about the mission and work or the American Red Cross, including the group’s disaster relief services, blood donations program and community education programs.

They also spoke about the need for volunteers and about the many different types of work volunteers can do with the Red Cross.

CW 14 Focus is a weekly, half-hour interview program that focuses on the issues important to people in northeast Wisconsin. Each week, Robert Hornacek will sit down with a different guest and go beyond the sound bites. The program will highlight the people making a difference in the community and give viewers an opportunity to get in depth perspective. CW 14 airs Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

Shouldn’t Every Week Be National Volunteer Week?

WEYERS_03By: Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

Today starts National Volunteer Week! It seems like it always sneaks up on me and then I scramble to think….oh my gosh…. What am I going to do to recognize our volunteers??? This year, I am not stressing about it because it should not be about recognizing our volunteers during this week – we should be recognizing and thanking our volunteers all year long!!

Recognition comes in many different forms, and volunteers value recognition in different ways.  A verbal thank you, a hand written note, a little token of appreciation, a birthday/anniversary card, a formal recognition event.  All of these ideas are great ways to say thank you. What do you perceive as gratitude of thanks? There is no right or wrong answer, which is why volunteer recognition must be a mixed bag of showing gratitude.

Here is a list of some of my  top 10 ways to show appreciation and recognition all year long to our volunteer work force:

1. Always say Thank YOU!

2. Have a smile on your face when working with volunteers. Volunteers are coming into your organization to help others. They don’t want to hear you complain about your co-workers, other volunteers or problems in your life.

3. Create a comfortable working environment or create their own space to call home.

4. Send a birthday card. Go one step further and have it signed by all your staff and other volunteers they may work with.

5. Recognize anniversary dates.

6. If you see an article about that volunteer (or donor) cut it out and send it to them with a note of congratulations.

7. If you know about a loss of a family member, illness, or if they are just going through a hard time – send them a note of encouragement, a single flower, cup of coffee….. just a simple thing to let them know you are thinking of them during this time.

8. Comment on a volunteers Facebook page with “Great job today” or “Thank you for volunteering”. This also shows their friends and family the good work they are doing within your organization.

9. Show interest and get feedback. Ask volunteers “Are there ways we can improve things, how can we improve your volunteer work, etc?

10. Provide a name badge or some type of logo apparel.

Beside the last one, none of these tips cost much to an organization. The thing is this cannot just be the culture of the Volunteer Department.  To be extremely effective, this should be the culture of your entire organization.

On this week and EVERY WEEK I want to say thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who give of their time, energy, blood and support to the American Red Cross. We could not do it without you!

Northeast Wisconsin Marks Red Cross Month in March by Recognizing Volunteers

Chapter seeks more volunteers as it launches easy-to-use online Volunteer Connection system

Washington, D.C. – March 13, 2013 – With March designated as Red Cross Month, Northeast Wisconsin Chapter is recognizing and honoring Red Cross supporters and volunteers as the everyday heroes vital to the organization.

The Red Cross also is encouraging people across the area to join the Red Cross by volunteering, making a financial contribution or donating blood.

“Volunteers are essential to the Red Cross and to our ability to be there in times of disaster and help in other ways in our community,” said Jody Weyers, Volunteers Director. “The Red Cross is always seeking volunteers with a diverse range of backgrounds, ages, talents and skills, and our goal is for the Red Cross to be the premier place for volunteers to work.”

The Northeast Wisconsin Chapter is especially interested in volunteers in the areas of Transportation Drivers in the Green Bay Metro area & Oshkosh, Disaster volunteers in the Waupaca and Tri-County area and Senior Friends in Winnebago County. People interested in volunteering should contact the local Red Cross chapter at 920-227-4287 or visit www.redcross.org/newisconsin

The Red Cross is launching a new online volunteer system across the country that is easy to use and better allows new volunteers to match their skills and interests to needs across the organization.

“Our new Volunteer Connection system will be a great benefit for the Red Cross, a great tool for our volunteers and a great asset to our service in communities,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. “We believe Volunteer Connection will improve our response to community needs and deliver services of the Red Cross mission by better engaging one of our greatest assets — the talents, time and dedication of our volunteers.”

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Volunteer Connection, which is being used in chapters and other parts of the Red Cross across the United States, was created and deployed thanks to a $3 million grant from W.W. Grainger, Inc.

“Grainger is proud to partner with the American Red Cross in its efforts around Volunteer Connection,” said Jim Ryan, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Grainger.  “We both are committed to helping communities impacted by disaster, and this innovative new system further enables the Red Cross to deliver on its mission of providing essential humanitarian services to those in need.”

Grainger’s support for the volunteer management system is another example of its deep partnership and commitment to strengthen the Red Cross. In addition to its financial support for disaster relief, Grainger also is the national founding sponsor of the Ready When the Time Comes program, which recruits and trains the employees of local businesses and organizations as disaster responders. The program has trained more than 14,000 volunteers since 2001.

“It’s a natural fit for Grainger to be involved in emergency preparedness and we are dedicated to help build a stronger network of support within the business community,” said Ryan.