More Red Cross volunteers head south

23 Northeast Wisconsinites currently deployed

Click on the photo to see video of this story.

Flooding of the lower Mississippi River is getting worse, though much of Memphis was spared Tuesday.

Water flooded low-lying areas and submerged some homes.

Officials are cautiously optimistic that levees will hold, preventing widespread damage.

However volunteers, including some from Northeast Wisconsin, are pouring in to assist.

The American Red Cross says it now has 23 people from our area in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

They’re helping with a previous disaster and the current one.

“People losing loved ones or neighbors that they’ve know for ages,” volunteer Joyce Keyes said. “You know they really get to you and you feel a lot of empathy for their loss.”

Keyes is stationed in North Central Alabama, one of the areas hit hardest by tornados in late April.

“The houses are just totally leveled the trees are stripped and broken,” she explained.

Luckily the area she’s in is not dealing with flooding.

As a mental health professional, her focus is on helping disaster victims deal with their emotional wounds.

Steven Maricque, Executive Director of the the Red Cross’s Lakeland Chapter, says people like Keyes are in demand right now.

Two more mental health workers from the area will leave for the South next week.

But, Maricque says all eyes are on Mississippi.

“It’s a fluid situation that develops day to day based on how that water is moving,” he said. “Do we get additional rainfall that might require more people?”

Maricque says the chapter’s emergency response vehicle is in Memphis with volunteers.

But the situation is taxing resources.

“We support and provide relief for over 75,000 disasters a year in this country, but the neighborhood fires the family fires those don’t stop,” Maricque said.

The Red Cross is hoping donations won’t either.

Agency efforts in the Alabama and Mississippi tornados are expected to cost $30 million, and the total is rising with the river in Tennessee.



Three weeks of flood response. What a great team we have!

Guest Blog Post: Steve Hansen, Regional Chapter Executive – Northeast WI Region

At the Red Cross, our “elevator speech” goes something like this.  The American Red Cross empowers ordinary people to perform extraordinary acts in emergency situations. We train. We mobilize. We connect donors and volunteers to those in urgent need of a helping hand. Whether it is a hurricane or a heart attack; a call for blood or a call for help, the American Red Cross is there.

The past few weeks of severe storms and floods have absolutely confirmed in my mind that our focused effort to share local resources throughout Northeast Wisconsin is working because your American Red Cross was there each and every time we were called for help! And boy, we were called often! You see, this was just the second significant test of our shared resource system since regionalization took hold under our “One Red Cross” transformation nearly three years ago. The first test came during the summer floods of 2008 and I must say our performance improved immensely.  

Of course having a good plan is one thing, but having a good plan is worthless without great people to make it happen.   Here, in Northeast Wisconsin and around the State, we have an unbelievable team of dedicated, compassionate, and competent staff and volunteers committed to serving our communities at the highest level possible!

The Howard family is staying at our shelter at Glenn Hills Middle School. You can read their entire story at

One of many heartwarming examples of Red Cross compassion includes the Howard family who arrived cold and wet at the Milwaukee Glenn Hills Middle School shelter, with only one thing on their minds—staying together. Their wish was fulfilled, as they found cots, warm blankets and caring volunteers.  “It’s been so nice, that we’ve been able to stay together. This was the best place for us,” Mrs. Howard says with a smile. “Reality is setting in. We lost so much, like our baby pictures in the basement. We’ll never get those back. But the most important thing was that we were able to stay together.”

Together, we truly can transform a life in crisis into a life of hope. Thank you volunteers and staff for such a terrific team effort!

Below is a chronological summary of the past three weeks demonstrating how effective we can be by leveraging, utilizing and deploying limited resources across the Region and State.

July 14 – Across the 22-county Northeast Wisconsin Region of the American Red Cross, multiple volunteer disaster action teams were activated or placed on stand-by through a coordinated regional call-down system led by Travis Waack our regional disaster manager in Manitowoc.

Working with our partners in many County Emergency Management offices, we were able to secure the Oshkosh Convention Center as a stand-by emergency overnight shelter and provide Red Cross presence within County Emergency Operations Centers including Nick Cluppert our disaster manager based in Oshkosh who was in the Winnebago County EOC the first night of the big storms.

Pat Schaeve, employee of US Bank, "Ready When the Time Comes" volunteer doing damage assesment door-to-door in Neenah, WI.

July 15 – U.S.Bank, our “Ready When the Time Comes” regional partnership was activated. The program consists of trained bank employees who are released from normal work-day activities to support local disaster relief efforts. Lindsay Geffers, the US Bank facilitator received the call early in the morning and leaped into action. They provided several volunteers that attended a morning briefing, received maps, clean-up kits and were then dispatched along with a more experienced Red Cross disaster workers to comb affected neighborhoods. Lindsay stated, “I never realized how important it was to let the community know they have support and assistance if they need it. It’s amazing to see how people can persevere through disasters – especially those that have flooded before.”

July 17 – Utilizing our regional media database Red Cross communicators Jody Weyers and Barbara Behling were able to stay in constant contact with multiple media outlets providing response updates and useful flood safety information for the public.

July 20 – Judy Gregory our disaster manager based in Green Bay received a call from the Shawno County Emergency Manager requesting Red Cross assistance due to a severe storm and possible tornado impacting the Village of Wittenberg and surrounding area with damage being reported to buildings and homes.  Within a couple of hours 15 volunteers were deployed to Wittenberg including an operations manager, an emergency response vehicle with 2 drivers, 4 health services workers, 1 Shelter manager, 1 Damage assessment supervisor, 6 shelter/mass care workers including a shelter trailer equipped to serve 50 people. This crew was supported by 6 volunteers deployed from our Waupaca office.

July 22 – The disaster volunteer team from Fond du Lac led by Joyce Keyes was placed on stand-by to travel to the Red Cross in Madison to pick up Clean Up Kits to replenish our depleted supply within the region. Ultimately, the team was not deployed as our friends in Madison and Eau Claire stepped up and pulled approximately 350 kits from their shelves and delivered them to Oshkosh and Appleton. John Kost, our disaster manager in Appleton was able to immediately deliver 40 badly needed kits to Black Creek.

July 24 – The Scenic Shores Chapter was called by Calumet County Emergency Management to respond to the Village of Stockbridge. At approximately 4:00 AM, the Village received 4 inches of rain in a very short period of time. The heavy rainfall caused a swiftly moving flash floods to flow through the Village and into Lake Winnebago. Several homes had several inches of water in the primary living space on the first floor. The ECW Chapter delivered Clean Up Kits to Stockbridge and the Scenic Shores Chapter distributed them. The Scenic Shores Chapter also conducted a complete Disaster Assessment, served meals, and distributed bottled water.