Red Cross Responders Stepping Up After Manitowoc Fire

We can’t say THANK YOU enough to our dedicated volunteers!

Stories and photos by: Andrea Wandrey, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

“Look at that smile, isn’t that priceless”, says Taira Grubb, as she is watching one of her shelter residents unfold his new pair of pants. He is one of more than 80 elderly residents that lost everything in a Manitowoc apartment fire—from clothes to medication and furniture, photos and memories. American Red Cross responders from all over Wisconsin raised their hands quickly to help open up and run a shelter at the Wilson Junior High School, to provide basic needs like food, clothing and a place to sleep.

(l-r) Taira Grubb Bobbi Holiday and Jane Lazarevic

Taira Grubb has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than ten years. She is one of five disaster action team members in Washington County and traveled with fellow volunteers Bobbi Holiday and Jane Lazarevic to Manitowoc to help. Her favorite part of shelter-work is learning about the clients. “I really enjoy talking to them”, she says. Just like Taira, Jane appreciates the personal interactions: “I like making them laugh and helping them think positively”. Jane is a long-time Red Cross volunteer, and recalls that initially she was not sure how her professional background in technology could be helpful to the Red Cross. However, she quickly found out that there is always a way:

“Whatever you can do, you can give something”, says Jane.

In previous deployments she worked in many different positions, from setting up computers, to logistics, staffing and general shelter work. Likewise, her fellow Washington-County volunteer Bobbi has held different positions at the Red Cross. She was previously an office manager and is in disaster-work now, experienced in assisting clients in traumatic situations like the Manitowoc fire.

Terry Wesenberg, a licensed clinical social worker and licensed counselor and Red Cross Volunteer.

A variety of skills were needed at the Manitowoc shelter and highly-trained workers are indispensable. Terry Wesenberg joined the shelter as a licensed clinical social worker and licensed counselor. He is one of the Red Cross’s most experienced mental health professionals. For many years he was in the army, offering his help to soldiers. After his retirement from the Armed Forces he worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for six years in disaster work. Being a Red Cross Volunteer for more than 30-years, he has helped more people than he could count. “I headed out to help after six Hurricanes”, he recalls. He travelled to the Gulf Coast to assist after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, and was in New York for Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012. When asked about his most memorable experience in all these years, he recalls his conversation with a 90-year-old woman after Superstorm Sandy. “When storm hit, she carried six white banker-boxes from her basement into her living room, to protect them from the flood”, he recalled. The boxes contained pictures, stories, and poems from her deceased granddaughter. With the water forcing its way into the house, the boxes got wet and all memories destroyed. Yet the woman refused to throw them out. “This is all I have left” Terry recalls her saying.

His extensive experience helps Terry support the Manitowoc fire victims, who also lost all of their belongings in the fire. Although his work can be tough, Terry very much enjoys volunteering, specifically because of the fellow volunteers he meets. “If you go out you will meet the best people. You want to know them all”, he says.

 

Get to know: Brianna Schad, Summer Intern

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By: Brianna Schad, American Red Cross Intern

My name is Brianna Schad, and I am blessed to be spending my third summer interning with the American Red Cross in Manitowoc. I just completed my fourth year of college and second full year at Concordia University in Mequon, WI.  I am working towards my Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy, with a projected graduation date in December of 2015.  I hope to work with the geriatric population in a skilled nursing facility in the future!

I was born and raised in Manitowoc, WI.  I come from a relatively small family, with one younger brother (age 20).  Brandon just completed his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he is studying Computer Science.  In our free time, my family and I love to go fishing, biking, and boating.  And of course, we always enjoy cheering on the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers!

Prior to my first internship opportunity, I had no idea how involved the Red Cross was in our community!  I quickly familiarized myself with their many facets once I began. On a daily basis, the Red Cross is helping those most in need and changing lives.  I’m looking forward to another summer of learning and growing as a person through this internship!  I’m excited for all of the opportunities and challenges that may arise.

Stories from our Volunteers: Tornado Deployment in Little Rock Arkansas

By Kathy Schuh-Ries, Disaster Volunteer 

Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services, working with Kathy Schuh-Ries in filling out her deployment paperwork.

Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services, working with Kathy Schuh-Ries in filling out her deployment paperwork.

On May 2nd, I was deployed by the Red Cross to assist as a Mental Health volunteer in Little Rock Arkansas. An F4 tornado had touched down the Sunday before leaving 16 people deceased, with mass destruction to the towns of Mayflower and Velonia.  The tornado was ¾ of a mile wide and left behind slabs with piles of debris where homes and neighborhoods once stood.

After signing in at Red Cross Headquarters in Little Rock and receiving my assignment, I joined other workers in setting up an outreach center in Beryl Baptist Church in Conway Arkansas. I was part of a team of three. Two of my co-workers followed a Red Cross ERV (emergency response vehicle) delivering food to disaster areas and talking to people in the neighborhoods while I met people who walked in at the church. I listened to their account of the events that happened to each one personally. In assessing the needs through these conversations I was able to refer for resources to assist in recovery.

At Beryl Baptist, the Red Cross staffed a shelter that assisted families and individuals during the first week. When the shelter was no longer needed, the church assisted in food distribution. Volunteers from the church assisted in this distribution of canned goods, water and other items that where donated. Clothing was distributed in a church down the road.

Some of the destruction in the Arkansas area, but the American Flag still stands.

Some of the destruction in the Arkansas area, but the American Flag still stands.

I was able to meet individuals and families and refer them for other services at the MARC (Mass Assistance Recovery Center) a place in town where twelve different agencies were equipped to assist people who needed medical services, eye glasses, food, clothing, tree and debris removal etc. The center was located four miles away from the church.

I was touched by the many volunteers who responded to this horrific disaster. While there were too many to remember, I want to note a few. The Southern Baptist, who cooked thousands of meals which then were delivered by the Red Cross throughout the town and on Saturday, the day we arrived, bus loads of volunteers (1,500), came to assist in debris removal and clean up.

To read more about Kathy’s deployment, here is a link to the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter who did a story about her deployment.  

THANK YOU Kathy from your friends at the Red Cross for being there to answer the call!!

Leon Wollersheim is Honored with the Behind-the-Scenes Award!

Leon Wollersheim

Sherry Rezba and Leon Wollersheim

Leon Wollersheim has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for eight years. He is one of those people you can always depend on. For several years he regularly came in once a week to help with data entry. Having him help in the office was such a pleasure because we could always count on hearing a funny joke when he arrived.  He came in with a smile on his face and a positive “sure, I can do that for you” attitude. In addition to helping in the office he has continuously been a disaster action team member taking 24/7 calls throughout the years, responding to calls in Calumet and neighboring counties when called upon. He recently joined the Calumet/Manitowoc/Sheboygan Community Council becoming even more involved in the mission of the Red Cross. As a council member, he supports the Red Cross’s community outreach through various local and regional events and projects. He is a dedicated volunteer with a great sense of humor, a kind personality and he is a pleasure to be around.

Congratulations, Leon Wollersheim on your Behind-the-Scenes Award!

Youth in Action!

Thank you to the the Domination All Star Cheerleading Tumble and Dance group from Two Rivers that helped distribute 500 Fire Prevention Door Hangers on Saturday, April 21st as part of the Manitowoc County United Way Day of Caring. 

Fire destroys Manitowoc bar, families displaced

Happened at Glenn’s Bar & Grill on Monday evening

MANITOWOC – A Manitowoc bar has been destroyed in a fire.

It started around 10:30 Monday night at Glenn’s Bar & Grill on South 14th Street.

Officials say the building included living spaces upstairs with 12 rooms. 11 people lived in those rooms and all of them have been accounted for. Officials say some of the tenants had to be rescued from a balcony.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army are helping displaced residents.

The Red Cross is helping seven families right now. They are trying to contact people who haven’t been helped yet. Victims are getting lodging at a local hotel, food, and all the essentials.

The bar was open at the time, but everyone was able to get out safely.

Officials believe the fire started in one of the tenant’s rooms and it doesn’t appear suspicious.

There were some power outages related to the fire, but all power has since been restored.

Five fire departments responded to the scene.