Local Red Cross Volunteers Head to Florida Ahead of Isaac

By WBAY, By Bao Vang –  click HERE for video of story.
As Tropical Storm Isaac barrels toward Florida, the Red Cross is getting ready to open dozens of shelters across the Sunshine State.

Friday morning, trained disaster workers Betsy LeClair and Joel O’Connell from Two Rivers left from Austin Straubel Airport in Brown County to head to Tampa. They were checked in before the sun rose.

“My partner and I are flying to Tampa to prepare for the impending Hurricane that may or may not hit Florida,” O’Connell said.

They’re among 600 Red Cross volunteers across the country who have taken emergency response training classes to prepare to provide disaster relief.

“When Katrina hit, it was an eye opener for everybody,” said O’Connell. “It’s better to be well-prepared and not have to use your facilities than it is to try and scrape things together at the height of the storms.”

O’Connell and LeClair believe in Tampa they’ll be working to provide shelter and food to people evacuated from their homes.

“We’re quite a ways from the eye of the storm. We’ll be in an outlying area, because the people who are in danger will have been moved to the shelters,” O’Connell said.

Strangers helping strangers during disasters is what the Red Cross is all about, says volunteer director Jody Weyers.

“Volunteers for the American Red Cross are the heart of the organization. We are a volunteer-led organization. Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to provide the programs or services that we do in the community,” Weyers said.

Two other volunteers from Fond du Lac also headed down to Florida to provide relief during the storm.

The Red Cross says it has 22 emergency response vehicles already in Florida and 28 more are headed to the state in preparation for the storm. They have dozens more on stand-by.

Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti Friday. It’s expected to hit Cuba by the weekend and become a hurricane by Monday as it makes landfall.

We are on What’s Happening Waupaca August Episode

Do you live in the Waupaca area? Check your cable access TV station Win-TV this month. Look for Jody Weyers, Volunteer Director and Nick Cluppert, Disaster Services, talking about the Red Cross, volunteer needs and what it is like to be a disaster volunteer.

Or you can Watch now!  Red Cross is the second segment.

Thank you Win-TV for sharing our message on the need for disaster volunteers and our support in the community.

UW-Green Bay alumni carry the message of life-changing experience

Congratulations to Regional Volunteer and Communications Director, Jody Weyers, for making the UW-Green Bay “Changing your Life; Changing your World” alumni display. Check out her picture this year in the halls of Mary Ann Cofrin.

Sometimes it’s the UW-Green Bay alumni who can speak most powerfully to the UW-Green Bay experience. That is the thought behind the new alumni display in Mary Ann Cofrin Hall. Admissions personnel wanted to liven up their campus tours while leaving a strong impression of the UW-Green Bay experience with potential students and their parents. The lead panel says it all: “A UW-Green Bay education is a life-changing experience, and our 29,000 alumni carry that life change well beyond the boundaries of our campus…meet just a few of the UW-Green Bay alumni who are changing the world…” Not meant to be a “Hall of Fame” or an all-inclusive list, instead alumni for this display were selected because of their impressive stories spanning academic disciplines and career choices.

Local Red Cross Volunteers Poised to Help

Olga Halaburda Channel Five News  — CLICK HERE for video of story.

“It’s stressful. It’s exhausting. But at the same time, it’s very fulfilling. I’m glad to be going,” said Pam Kanikula, a Disaster Mental Health Volunteer with the Red Cross.

Red Cross volunteer Pam Kanikula is packed and ready to help disaster victims on the East Coast. She’ll fly into New York City Tuesday.

“They don’t know exactly in New York what the extent of the damage is going to be,” Kanikula said.

She’s helped Hurricane victims once before. Working in evacuation shelters, Kanikula provided disaster mental health services in Louisiana after Ike and Rita hit.

“There were anywhere from 20 to 150 people staying in the shelters. Small children, disabled people, older people, families,” said Kanikula.

This weekend, as Irene showed her strength, more than 27,000 people slept in Red Cross shelters along the East Coast. As soon as conditions allow, volunteers like Kanikula may be going into neighborhoods to provide disaster counseling and to distribute food. The Red Cross has a call out for financial donations to help provide for those affected. It’s also calling out for donations of blood.

Irene has canceled 50 blood drives along the east Coast. That amounts to a loss of about 1,500 pints of blood.

“We need to keep a constant ready supply to support surgeries, accidents and things like that are continuing to go on across the country so if we’re losing people donating at blood drives in the entire East Coast we need people throughout the rest of the country to step up,” said Jody Weyers, Regional Director of Volunteers and Communication with the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin.

Kanikula has stepped up to offer her talents to help others.

“These people are hurting so much and to be able to in some way provide them with comfort, help them to deal and heal it’s very satisfying to be able to do that,” Kanikula said.

Blood Drives are set up throughout the area. Check your local Red Cross Chapter for details. To make a quick $10 donation, text the word REDCROSS to 90999.

Olga Halaburda Channel Five News HD Peshtigo.

Local volunteers continue work in South

There are 23 volunteers from NE WI Region

Volunteers from Northeast Wisconsin are still hard at work assisting tornado victims in the south.

Click on the photo to see the video of this story

That severe weather killed hundreds of people and split up families.

But thanks to local Wisconsin Red Cross workers, they are helping to bring people together to get on with their lives.

Slowly yet surely, residents of Tuscaloosa, Alabama are picking up the shattered pieces.

More than a week after a devastating tornado as many as 25 people were still unaccounted for.

“Going through Tuscaloosa, the hardest hit area, it looks like a bomb went off in parts of the city and there’s nothing left,” said Nick Cluppert, NE Wisconsin Region Red Cross Emergency Management Services Manager assisting in the South.

Cluppert, from Oshkosh, says there have also been signs of hope. He says the American Red Cross has helped to re-connect more than a thousand people with relatives and friends.

The effort is through the Red Cross, safe and well program.

“We actually had to do a home visit to try to locate somebody and we were able to find them,” Cluppert explained. “The family member that had called looking for this individual wasn’t sure if they were in effected area or not, but they couldn’t get a hold of them, so we were able to locate them and report back they were okay.”

Cluppert is among 23 Red Cross volunteers from Northeast Wisconsin currently assisting in the relief efforts down south.

But as the flooding worsens in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, officials say they’ve had to switch gears for volunteers still looking to help.

“On Friday as well as Saturday, we sent 3 individuals down, all 3 went to Tennessee and a husband and wife couple, they actually drove down our Emergency Response vehicle,” explained Red Cross Lakeland Chapter Communications Director, Jody Weyers.

And the severe spring weather has taken a toll on resources.

Last year, the American Red Cross responded to nearly 30 large disasters between March and June.

However, in the past 39 days, the Red Cross has launched 20 separate relief operations nationwide and those include help from local volunteers.

“You kind of get one under control and then something else happens,” Weyers said. “You send individuals out, but disasters don’t stop in your own community.”

And as the need grows, Weyers expects the volunteers to be gone two to three weeks at a time.

Presentation: Sullivan After School Program

Wednesday, March 30, Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director for the American Red Cross spoke to a few students in the Sullivan Greater Green Bay YMCA After- School Program. Weyers talked to them about the services of the Red Cross, showed them photo’s of volunteers in action and talk to them on how they can be prepared. Each student received a few band-aids and a hand out to start their own “kit-in-a-can”.

Alumni Rising: Weyers calls Red Cross volunteers to action

Jody Weyers stands by the well-worn adage, “Volunteering is good for the soul.”

She should know. As volunteer and communications director for the American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter, Weyers calls on more than 450 registered volunteers who commit their time, talent and treasure to aid people they’ve likely never met, during circumstances most often beyond their control.

“Every day I am amazed at the dedication of our volunteers, their commitment and caring nature for what they do and how they support the organization,” said Weyers.

For her own service to the community, Weyers, a 1996 UW-Green Bay graduate (communication and history) will be recognized with the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award at Alumni Awards Night, Saturday, April 30. The event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Weidner Center for Performing Arts at UW-Green Bay.

When international disasters occur, such as the recent earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the role of local Red Cross chapters is to lead communication efforts on behalf of American relief efforts. Weyers said that Japan has its own strong Red Cross chapter responding to the tragedy but is asking for financial help from around the world to support the large relief operation.

But when disaster hits in the local community, local, trained volunteers are ready to respond quickly with flexibility to the situation.

“There is no convenient time for a disaster,” she says. “As the communications director for the chapter, I am technically always on call. Fire, flood, tornado, whatever the disaster, the information needs to get out immediately. That may involve working long hours, weekends and changing personal plans because of a disaster situation.”

Weyers thrives in an organization that is not about giving a “hand out” but about giving a “hand up.”

“No one is exempt from the possibility of a disaster happening to them,” she explains. “I am comforted knowing that there is an agency out there to support people if something of this nature does occur to them. I am also proud of the fact that we are a volunteer-led organization.

“In September of 2008, I went on my first National Red Cross deployment to Houston, Texas, to support the relief efforts following the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I find it so incredible that it is volunteers who are running and sometimes in charge of these large disaster recovery operations. I was amazed at how organized and structured the operation was in the midst of the chaos a disaster brings to a community.”

The job doesn’t come without its challenges.

“Money is always a challenge,” Weyers says. “As a nonprofit organization, we have also felt the hit of the economy in regards to donations. I have to be very conscious of working within our budget and get creative sometimes to make our dollars stretch as far as possible.”

A native of Black Creek, Wis., Weyers said she grew up in a family that always seemed to be doing something to help someone else out. She credits her parents and grandparents for modeling a hard work ethic and caring nature — skills that suit Weyers in her Red Cross role.

“I have discovered that volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, and is good for the soul,” she says. “Our oldest volunteer at the Red Cross just turned 95, and she always says, ‘I can sit home and worry about every little ache and pain or I can come in to volunteer and it seems like all those aches and pains go away, because I am around people I enjoy.’

“That’s the thing. It’s never too late to start volunteering,” Weyers says. “It’s about finding that passion, and connecting with an organization that you can channel that energy through. It is a magical thing when I see that connection in a volunteer working for the Red Cross.”