Milwaukee Volunteer Tackles the Logistics of Disasters on Month-Long Deployment to Missouri

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

It’s a role you don’t always see in the headlines when it comes to American Red Cross disaster help. But if you ask volunteer, Phyllis Wiggins, she’ll tell you Logistics is vital to ensure clients get help.

PHYLLIS WIGGINS PICTURE

Red Cross volunteers, Phyllis Wiggins and Megan Besset, on deployment in St. Louis, MO.

“We get you the people, places and things you need to be successful on the operation,” Wiggins said in a recent interview with Red Cross Public Affairs.

Wiggins, of Milwaukee, spent a month helping with flood disaster relief in the St. Louis area. She left in late December and served as a Logistics Manager at the Red Cross headquarters in the city.

“If you need a 26-foot truck to load things around, Logistics gets that for you,” Wiggins said.

Requests also included more basic things, like food, bleach, gloves and comfort items for children staying at Red Cross shelters.

“We actually had to go out and make a run for coloring books and crayons,” she said.

Wiggins said Logistics plays a big role in securing locations for shelters and assistance centers during disaster relief. She explained the Red Cross works with community partners to find places, like schools, churches and office buildings. The Red Cross also had its own technology team to equip those facilities. On her deployment to St. Louis, Wiggins said churches, especially, rose to the occasion to offer space. She was also amazed with additional support from corporate donors.

“I’ve been on some operations where people were just begging for help – just trying to dig up that big truck stuff. Here, it was just never an issue,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins recalled one day where a fellow Wisconsin Red Cross volunteer, Megan Besset, was on the phone working to get meals for the mission. What came next was a major delivery, and all of it donated.

“All of a sudden we had food from Popeyes, White Castle, pizza, Italian…” she said.

Wiggins worked about eight to 11 hours a day on her deployment. She was even on the ground New Year’s Eve and Day.

“If you’re doing good as the year rolls over, then the year is going to be good for you,” Wiggins said.

It’s clearly “Mission First” for Wiggins. And serving behind the scenes in Logistics is a role she’s happy to take on with a humble nature.

“It’s more important that people get help, that they feel safe, that they feel take care of,” Wiggins said.

“That is much more important than getting a slap on the back or a Thank You.”

Thank you Phyllis for proudly representing the American Red Cross in Missouri.

This month, the American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed. To learn more, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

No April Fool’s Day Joke

We are proud of our American Red Cross responders! Here’s just a brief one-day recap:

  • For a large apartment building fire on S. Cesar E Chavez Drive in Milwaukee, we opened a shelter for residents displaced by fire. Many of whom, had to jump to a neighboring buildings before being rescued by fire fighters. We are now working one-on-one with them to address emergency needs and longer term living solutions as the building is, now, rubble.
  • An apartment building fire in Taylor (Jackson County) has taken the life of an elderly gentleman. We are assisting survivors with lodging, food, clothing and emotional support during this difficult time.
  • We also responded to fires in Sheboygan County and to a family of six in Cudahy (Milwaukee County) after fire destroyed their homes too.
  • Altogether 32 people have been assisted with their immediate disaster-caused needs.
  • National Deployments! Three of our trained responders, Brenda Haney of Deforest and Cheryl and Doug Mason of Chippewa Falls, are deploying to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 “It is days like today that leave me in awe at the dedication of wonderful volunteers and staff who give so much of their time and energy to help people in need. They respond day and night, rain or shine, to bring help and hope to so many. If you run into a disaster volunteer or staff member in the next few days please thank them for what they do.” Marytha Blanchard, WI Disaster Officer

Doug and Cheryl Mason are Oklahoma bound!

Doug and Cheryl Mason are Oklahoma bound!

Welcome Alex Lombard – Volunteer Specialist, American Red Cross Southeast Wisconsin

College Headshot - Alex LombardThe Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross is proud to announce the addition of Alex Lombard to the Volunteer Services Department. In his role as a Volunteer Specialist he will be primarily focused on the recruitment, onboarding, and placement process for volunteers throughout the Southeast portion of the state.  Alex comes to the Red Cross after successfully working in another segment of the non-profit world. He is passionate about community service and has hands on experience recognizing the untapped skills individuals from all walks of life, then placing them in positions to flourish.

Originally from Boston, MA., Alex is the son of David and Barbara Lombard. Early on in high school Alex discovered his passion for volunteerism; working as an after school tutor, in transport services at a local hospital, and participating in multiple service trips. Alex found his way to Wisconsin first to attend Marquette University, where he earned a B.A. degree in Social Welfare and Justice. Alex explains, “in college I got started right away with volunteering through various channels at the university. When it came time to choose a major, it just seemed to make the most sense for me to study something that applied to how I was already spending my free time.”

Prior to the American Red Cross, Alex was working as an Employment Consultant with Creative Employment Opportunities, Inc. (CEO), a non-profit in Milwaukee focused on providing employment support to individuals with disabilities in the community. In his role, Alex worked directly with job seekers to develop systems and accommodations for success in the workplace. Likewise, Alex formed many strong relationships with local businesses, consulting them on best practice hiring methods to promote diversity and inclusivity.

“Volunteering not only taught me so much over the years but shaped my entire career goal. It is extremely exciting to me that as a volunteer specialist with the Red Cross I can put others in touch with the same rewarding experiences.”

 

Service Leaders Conference Military Letter Writing Campaign Leader - Alex

Volunteer Spotlight: Phyllis Wiggins from the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter

phyllisCongratulations to Phyllis Wiggins of Milwaukee on being named one of the March 2015 Volunteers of the Month by the American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region.

Phyllis joined the Red Cross in March of 2013, and her motivation to volunteer came from an incredibly unique experience. Phyllis explains, “When I was in the military, I was accused of a heinous crime. Of course, I didn’t do it but I was imprisoned. Since I did not have a lawyer, nobody in my family could find me. My family contacted the American Red Cross and Red Cross found me!  They provided my family with the contacts and advice they needed to help me get out of prison. I could not wait to get out of the military and volunteer with the organization that helped my family, when I could not.”

Volunteering about 30 hours per week, Phyllis works as a Chapter Logistics Lead. Within logistics, she is involved in six different activities – transportation, warehousing, supply, facilities, life safety & asset protection, and procurement.  As a leader, she is responsible for building capacity, training, and mentoring volunteers. Phyllis has also deployed on several national operations.

Phyllis recently led the new Logistics team through a massive undertaking…cleaning up the Milwaukee office’s basement! Through this project Phyllis engaged a team of more than 10 volunteers. The new space is being used to house the logistics team. Phyllis’s nominators, Kyle Roeder and Nicole Gulatz of Disaster Services and Fund Development described her as “determined, positive, persistent, organized, and willing to improvise and do whatever needs to be done to get the job done!”

“I love the fact that the American Red Cross will help anyone in need. We do not discriminate against anyone and gladly provide valuable services to people when they most need it. It is very fulfilling, to me, to help for no reason other than someone needs help.”

Phyllis encourages everyone to consider volunteering their time with the Red Cross, “If you love to help others while others help you; If you love to give for the sake of giving with no expectations other than to help others; If you love giving your all to a cause you truly respect and are passionate about; If you can imagine yourself going to places where everyone needs your help and you can give it; If you love to be the best you can be and give the best you can give, volunteer for the Red Cross!”

Thank you, Phyllis, for sharing your talents and time with the American Red Cross!

Right now, the American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, teaching life-saving first aid and CPR, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed.

To learn more, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

Fire!!! Could this happen to you?

Please watch this news story courtesy of Fox 6 in Milwaukee and then take the actions steps!

Click on link below:

 http://fox6now.com/2015/01/15/five-year-old-boy-receiving-treatment-at-the-hospital-after-two-alarm-blaze-at-duplex-in-milwaukee/

People can take several steps to protect themselves and their loved ones and increase their chances of surviving a fire.

  • Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day.
    • Include two ways to get out of every room and consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.
    • Pick a place outside for everyone to meet and make sure everyone knows where it is.
    • Practice that home fire drill until everyone in the household can do it in less than two minutes.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test them every month and replace the batteries at least once a year.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out.

10710893_10152718411990071_1668250310886687572_nMore than forty percent (42 percent) of Americans feel confident they can escape their burning home in two minutes. Most parents (69 percent) believe their children would know what to do or how to escape with little help.

  • The problem with these assumptions is that less than half of parents (48 percent)   with children ages 3-17 have talked to their families about fire safety.
  • Only a third (30 percent) of families with children have identified a safe place to meet outside the home.
  • Less than one in five families with children (18 percent) have actually practiced home fire drills.

Seven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire. Just in the past month, three lives have been lost in Wisconsin alone. For more information, please visit redcross.org/firesafety

Red Cross Continues Large Sandy Relief Operation

Residents should listen to local authorities as widespread power outages and
storm damages make travel dangerous

The American Red Cross is continuing a major relief operation throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast to shelter and assist people affected by Superstorm Sandy. Millions awoke this morning to power outages, fallen trees, scattered debris, and flooded neighborhoods and the Red Cross is working hard to get help where it is needed.

Nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in more than 250 Red Cross shelters across 16 states including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Indiana, and Michigan. These numbers could increase as the storm moves into cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy wind, rain and snow.

“Our first priority is to get people the help they need – providing families and individuals with a safe place to stay and food to eat,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the Red Cross. “While it is too early to know the full extent of Sandy’s damage, we expect to be working with a variety of partners to help people for the next several weeks.”

The Red Cross has mobilized 1,700 disaster workers from all over the country who have served more than 25,000 meals and snacks so far. We have also activated167 response vehicles and shipped in more than 230,000 ready-to-eat meals. This is a huge disaster, bigger than any one organization can handle and the Red Cross is working closely with multiple partners including a variety of civic groups, advocacy organizations, professional organizations and houses of worship to share their expertise and volunteers.

SAFETY AFTER THE STORM In areas hit by this storm, the Red Cross urges people to check on their neighbors, make sure everyone is okay, and take care of each other until help arrives. Everyone should follow the direction of their local officials during this disaster – evacuate if told to do so, stay in a safe place and off the roads until the storm is over, and do not return home until officials say it is okay.

To find a Red Cross shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check local media outlets. People can let their loved ones know how they are by using the “I’m Safe” button on the Red Cross Hurricane App which can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. People can also register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website to let loved ones know they are okay. To register, visit http://www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

With more than 7 million people without power as of Tuesday morning, residents should take precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones. For those without power, surround food with ice in a cooler or refrigerator to keep food cold for a longer period of time and keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use flashlights, not candles. Residents should also turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics that were on when the power went out to avoid damaging them when the power is restored. Finally, eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car as traffic lights will be out and roads congested.

FINANCIAL AND BLOOD DONATIONS NEEDED “The Red Cross response to Sandy is very large and will be very costly, affecting a massive area spanning much of the eastern half of the country. We need the public’s help now,” said Shimanski.   

Financial donations help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy. To donate, people can visit http://www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Approximately 300 Red Cross blood drives have already been cancelled due to the storm, and more are expected. The Red Cross is urging immediate blood and platelet donations in areas unaffected by this storm and asks that people in the affected areas consider donating blood once the storm passes through and it’s safe to do so.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet height and weight requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height), and who are generally in good health may be eligible to donate blood. To schedule an appointment, please go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

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.

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Additional Stories of the Red Cross at Work

Red Cross Helping Flood Victims: The Red Cross is providing food, shelter, and clean up kits to Milwaukee residents.

CLICK HERE  to view video: