A New Year’s resolution to volunteer leads to a remarkable year of Red Cross action

By Nicole Sandler, American Red Cross

When Lynn Marquardt, of Sturgeon Bay, applied to be an American Red Cross volunteer one year ago in January, she never expected that her New Year’s resolution would send her to two of the most devastating natural disasters of 2018.

Newly retired from her career as a family nurse practitioner, Marquardt was ready to join her husband, Dennis, as a Red Cross volunteer. After signing up and finding an area she found interesting – disaster response – she went through online and in-person trainings.

marquardts in panama city

Lynn Marquardt, right, and her husband Dennis, both of Sturgeon Bay, serve meals to two people staying at a shelter in Panama City, Fla. in October.

Then, in spring 2018, her first volunteer response: a trailer fire in the middle of the night, in the nearby town of Brussels. She arrived to find a large family, pets included, huddled in a vehicle after fleeing their burning trailer. Seeing the state they were in – barefoot, scared and in shock, but fortunately unharmed – the reality of the ordeal suddenly hit her.

“I realized what it meant to have to leave behind everything in order to escape – your identification, medications, meaningful personal belongings,” Marquardt said.

But the horror of the situation was replaced by the reward she felt in responding to the family’s immediate needs.

It was a privilege for her to explain to the family that the Red Cross would provide them with shelter and help them get funds for certain basic things.

“To see the relief on their faces meant so much,” she said. “I knew this was the start of their healing process.”


Click here to find your place as a volunteer with the American Red Cross this year.


For both Marquardt and her husband, this affirmed their decision to become Red Cross volunteers. A few months later, they had the opportunity to put their compassion and talents toward a disaster with national attention.

Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the residents of North Carolina when the Marquardts received the call in September. They arrived a few days after the storm hit and were assigned to a shelter in the town of Sanford, housing over 300 residents, many with medical needs such as hemodialysis. Once there, Marquardt was tasked with feeding, all from a single-burner stove in the shelter’s small kitchen.

She realized the first thing she needed to do was build trust in those she would be helping. The simple act of offering snacks and drinks to the residents made a difference.

“When they saw what we could offer, it changed the nature of our relationship,” she said. Marquardt also discovered the generosity of the local community as many restaurants donated food.

Over time the shelter’s residents opened up and shared their stories, which for Marquardt “was a beautiful experience, and a real lesson in humanity.” Despite the hard work, long days, and sharing a single shower with hundreds of others, she came away with a true understanding of the importance of cooperation.

img_20181030_115016

Sand replacement roads and snapped pine trees were typical sights for Lynn Marquardt during her deployment for Hurricane Michael. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers from across the U.S. descended on the area to help those in need.

Only weeks later the call came to travel to Florida and help with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The Marquardts flew into Tallahassee, received their orders, and then drove to Panama City.  This was essentially “ground zero” of the storm and one of the hardest hit cities.

“I remember driving in and seeing the destruction. There were still electrical wires dangling and trees blocking the roads,” recalled Marquardt. “We were in the midst of a disaster that was still going on.”

They were directed to a shelter set up in a school, one of the few schools not destroyed by the hurricane, housing hundreds of people. Assigned again to feeding, Marquardt worked alongside volunteers to provide the residents three meals each day. And again, most memorable for Marquardt was the outpouring of support the shelter received from local community members.

With her first year of volunteering now in the books, will 2019 be as busy for Marquardt? There’s no way to predict, but she does have one particular goal: should a disaster strike that involves the need for an emergency response vehicle (ERV), she’d like to put her recent driver training to the test and get behind the wheel.

newyearnewyouShe also plans to complete training to become a Red Cross supervisor/manager. The supervisors she worked under in her first year of volunteering recommended that she and her husband both pursue this training given the leadership skills they demonstrated.

Looking back on an action-packed year of volunteering, Marquardt remarked that “the mission of the Red Cross – to alleviate human suffering – is what drives and inspires me.” The Red Cross is fortunate that Marquardt made the decision to channel this drive into a new year’s resolution that ultimately helped hundreds of people.

It’s not too late for you to consider making a similar resolution at the start of 2019. Take the first step by filling out the volunteer form here.

 

 

 

 

 

Door County Community Shares their Time & Talents to Raise Funds for Sandy Relief

On Friday evening January 18 the Third Avenue Playhouse in downtown Sturgeon Bay hosted a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy relief. This concert was put together by musician Jeanne Kuhn’s and friends.

In-between acts Red Cross volunteers from Door County and had been deployed to New York and New Jersey shared their experiences with the audience. Everyone that performed, ran the lights and sound system donated their time for this fund raiser. $1,000 was raised for Sandy disaster relief efforts.

Door County Photos: Hurricane Sandy Benefit Concert by Len Villano &emdash; 20130118_Sandy Benefit_0006
Rudy Senarighi a American Red Cross voleenteer who traveled to the east coast to help the storm victims. Rudy talked about finding candy bars at a gas station and buying them for the kids left homeless by the storm. Hurricane Sandy Relief Benefit Concert at the Third Avenue Playhouse, Friday, January 18, 2013 in Sturgeon Bay, Door County, WI. Photo by Len Villano. Small Forest ( Jeanne Kuhns, Patrick Palmer, Marybeth Mattson), Seth and Mark Raddatz, Lynn Gudmundsen, David Hatch, Nick Hoover , Jess Holland, Jay Whitney, and James Valq

To view additional photos from the concert click HERE.

Door County men help those hardest hit by hurricane

Written by Samantha Hernandez Door County Advocate

Volunteer Ron Maloney of Sturgeon Bay is currently stationed on Long Island at an American Red Cross distribution center. / Submitted

Two American Red Cross volunteers from Sturgeon Bay have answered the call of duty and are now on the East Coast helping those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.

What some have dubbed a “superstorm” decimated several eastern states after it touched down last week, leaving people homeless or displaced and without power, food and water. The category 1 storm caused schools, businesses and mass transit to shut down.

Red Cross volunteers Rudy Senarighi and Ron Maloney were deployed to New Jersey and Long Island respectively.

Senarighi, who spent more than 25 years as a guidance counselor with the Green Bay School District and later the Sturgeon Bay School District, is working as a mental health supervisor. He arrived on Oct. 31 in Philadelphia and drove to Somerset, N.J. From there he was sent to Tinton Falls, N.J.

He is with a team of five other mental health workers and nurses. Since reaching New Jersey his team and others have made 17,000 support contacts. Part of Senarighi‘s job is to make contact with those who might need mental health services and put them in touch with agencies that will be able to assist them in the coming weeks.

The nurses and counselors offer “health services and emotional support contact,” Senarighi said.

He said the volunteers are really only able to give “Band-Aid” care.

“The hardest part is leaving and not seeing what happens to them,” Senarighi said. “Because you really want them to make it.”

There are 5,300 people from all over the country volunteering in the hardest-hit areas, he said.

Right now people are most concerned with an impending storm that was due to hit today.

“The big issue right now there is a nor’easter predicted for Wednesday, and it’s supposed to be a big one,” Senarighi said.

The last thing people need is to deal with is cold and rainy conditions on top of everything else, he said.

As his team travels from shelter to shelter, they’ve seen the destruction left by the storm.

“You know the beaches are wiped clean, the downtown areas are deserted, the sand from the beaches is piled thick and high,” he said.

Power companies with crews from all over the country and road crews are working around the clock to get people back on track.

“Boy, it’s a mess,” he said. “Lots and lots of water damage, as you’d imagine,” he said. People have had to throw out furniture and mattresses that were ruined by the flooding.

While schools have been closed in New Jersey, Senarighi has seen many of the local high school students volunteering at the Red Cross center, manning the phones and helping with other tasks. Schools are slated to open today or Monday.

Senarighi is slated to return home Nov. 16.

For Maloney, who left Sturgeon Bay on Saturday for the East Coast, his pitching in and helping has gone a little slower, since the city of New York is still turning its city-run shelters over to the Red Cross. With all the volunteers coming in, people are still being given their assignments.

Maloney is currently stationed, for a minimum of three weeks, at a Red Cross bulk distribution center on Long Island. He and other volunteers are staying in a Marine barracks. His job is to help get trucks loaded and drive the supplies to the designated shelters.

Monday was Maloney’s first full day on the job. He distributed supplies to a shelter being run out of a Church of the Nazarene. The shelter is not affiliated with the Red Cross, but the volunteer organization does supply to shelters in need of supplies.

He said going from shelter to shelter can take anywhere from a half-hour to two hours.

Maloney and Senarighi were astounded at how long the lines are for gas stations.

A few miles west of the coast, there are still lots of power outages, meaning traffic lights were not working. Also, many gas stations had either run out of gasoline or didn’t have the power to pump the gas, Maloney said.

Senarighi saw gas lines that went on for seven miles.

Both men are touched by the strength of the human spirit that they see around them.

“You know its amazing how upbeat everybody is,” Maloney said. “In the shelter everybody is really willing to help each other … you don’t see a lot of people who are really down.”

“It still amazes me, this is like my ninth deployment for a national disaster, and I continue to see people helping people,” Senarighi said.

Door County Students Give Gift that Warms Hearts and those Served by American Red Cross

Nikki Pease's fifth-grade class present Diane Knutson, far left, a disaster volunteer for the Lakeland Chapter of the American Red Cross, with blankets that they made as part of Sunrise Serves the Community service project.

 Sturgeon Bay: Students have warm gift for homeless children

Written by Samantha Hernandez, Door County Advocate

The student service learning group at Sunrise Elementary School ended the academic year on a warm and fuzzy note with the donation of 27 fleece blankets and 15 fleece pillows to HELP of Door County and the local Red Cross.

The Sunrise Serves the Community student group works with guidance counselor Belinda Richard during the school year learning about leadership and working on service projects that benefit the community.

The student consensus early on was that they wanted to learn about homelessness, Richard said. The group contacted local organizations to learn all they could about subject.

Christine Salmon, then from the United Way of Door County; Joanne Ator, the county’s Economic Support supervisor; Judy Gregory from the Lakeland Chapter of the American Red Cross; and HELP of Door County youth advocate Jessica Holland all came to talk with the students.

From there, students brainstormed about how they could use what they learned to help others and what they would miss most if they lost their homes, Richard said.

The students decided that kids their age would want something to snuggle or something comfy.

“We decided we should make blankets for homeless children in our area,” student Allison Bridenhagen said. Allison was a fifth-grader at the time.

To raise money for the material, Sunrise Serves the Community hosted an after-school fun event to raise money for the fleece and the school’s Destination ImagiNation team, Richard said.

Walmart donated $50, several staff members donated fabric and Elementary Principal Ann Smejkal also chipped in more than $25 for the project.

The service group also created a short DVD presentation of what they learned from their research and what they would like each third-, fourth- and fifth-grade class in the school to do to help them meet their goal of 12 blankets.

Each class was asked to make one blanket. The group’s goal was exceeded when one class made an additional 10 blankets that they requested be sent to the tornado ravaged Joplin, Mo.

Seeing the entire school get involved with the project “was amazing,” Allison said.

The students also held a bake sale for Japan earthquake relief and raised about $300 that they donated to the Red Cross.

To see the digital story that Sunrise Serves the Community created as part of its service learning project check out the digital story at http://youtu.be/4j2uFmk_xJ4

Red Cross Volunteer Gets Ready for Her Seventh National Disaster Assignment

(L-R) Jan Traversa and Diane Knutson, at the 2009 Red River Valley Floods in Fargo, ND

The American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter has dispatched disaster volunteer, Diane Knutson, of Sturgeon Bay, to Little Rock, Arkansas to assist with the April tornadoes that devastated so much of the south almost one week ago.

This will be Knutson’s seventh national disaster deployment. She has assisted for Hurricane Wilma, Wildfires in California, Tornadoes in Arkansas and Lakewood, WI, in 2008 helped with the floods in East Central and Southern WI and in 2009 assisted with the Red River Valley Floods.

For this assignment she will be deployed as a supervisor for damage assessment.

Across the Country

Tornadoes, floods and severe weather have uprooted lives across the country. The April 27 storm system tore across the south, causing widespread destruction in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas andVirginia. In Alabama alone, early estimates indicate that 7,000 to 10,000 homes may have been damaged or destroyed. The Red Cross is operating 16 shelters within that state.

Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern visited tornado ravaged Alabama and Mississippi over the weekend and pledged that the Red Cross will do whatever is possible to ease the suffering of those affected.

Red Cross volunteer Corliss Booker, age 16, hands out food to Yayla Sanders, age 11.

Since March 31, more than 3,700 Red Cross workers have assisted with relief and recovery efforts in 16 states. The Red Cross has served more than 513,000 meals and snacks, and opened more than 120 shelters providing more than 8,300 overnight stays.

“This is my first hot meal thanks to the Red Cross, they’ve really been a big help,” said Jason Price, who was  affected by the tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “You all don’t know how much we appreciate a hot meal.”

 The Red Cross will remain in these affected communities, partnering with other agencies and community resources to ensure residents have the help they need to get their lives back on track. The Red Cross will also continue providing health services and emotional support for those who face the daunting task of rebuilding. Since March 31, the Red Cross has provided more than 6,200 health and mental health contacts.

“I give to the American Red Cross every year and it has come full circle,” said Sue Allen as she stood in front of her damaged home inAlabama.

The severe spring weather is not over yet and heavy thunderstorms are expected throughout the MississippiandOhioRiver basins, bringing the potential for flooding to the region.

How to Help: The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people affected by disasters like wildfires, floods and tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS, and people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross,P.O. Box 37243,Washington,DC20013.

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.

On the Road for RC: Spotlight on John Kacmarynski

John cooking brats for the Volunteer Driver Cookout last year.

Three years ago John Kacmarynski, Sturgeon Bay, decided to give his time at least one day a week to the American Red Cross- Lakeland Chapter as a transportation driver. Since John has started driving in Oct. 2007, he has put in 681 hours of driving, 358 of them in 2009.

“When I retired I wanted to do something here in the community,” says John. “The community has been good to us and I wanted to give something back.”Before retiring John was the Vice President of Sales at Marine Travel Lift where he established a good dealer organization across the world.

John will tell you among the best things about driving are the “fine lovely people.” John enjoys the clients he meets but he also appreciates his fellow drivers. He has known or worked with many of the other drivers in Door County for years. “Some of them are driving because I talked them into it,” John says with a chuckle. “It wasn’t too hard to talk them into it though.”

“It’s a good thing to do. There are many people that if it wasn’t for the Red Cross and the facilities we have for handling wheelchairs, people couldn’t get to where they wanted to go,” says John. “There are some people if they had to take a more expensive way they would have to cut back in places they don’t have the where-with-all to cut back from.”

 John normally drives on Tuesdays. He is flexible with his hours and will be there to fill in or trade shifts if needed. Last year he logged even more hours than usual because he picked up another shift when another driver became ill.

Even though there are wonderful people to meet driving for the Red Cross there can also be some bumps on the road. John has been on the side of the road with a broken down van full of people. He has also been lost on country roads before the sun came up. But it all turns out ok and being a driver sometimes means enjoying where the road takes you.

John met his wife, Mary Jeanne, because of an unexpected drive. He was at a friend’s birthday party when they were running out of ice cream. “I volunteered to go get some and so did my future wife.” 4 children and 7 grandchildren later, John is proud of their 47 years. “”We’ve had a good, healthy life and relationship with the kids and had a lot of fun together.”

 John and Mary Jeanne are originally flatlanders from Iowa but they have been in Sturgeon Bay for 29 years and have made it home. The best things about the area are “the variety of things to do and the friendly people.”

 The couple loves snowmobiling. John is also a wonderful craftsman who enjoys working with hard wood. His long list of projects usually includes furniture for the kids. John’s never bored but he also finds time to be there for the Red Cross and the people it serves.

 “It gives you a good feeling in your heart to be able to help people,” says John. In our community there are many big hearts driving the Red Cross but there is always need for more. If you want to find out where the road can take you as a Red Cross volunteer call Jody Weyers at 920-227-4287.

American Red Cross Assists a Family Affected by Early Morning Home Fire in Sturgeon Bay

The American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter responded to a home fire in Sturgeon Bay around 1:30am on Thursday, December 10. The fire displaced one family of two adults and two children.

Two American Red Cross Disaster workers assisted the family based upon their immediate emergency need with hotel, monetary assistance for clothing and food. We also provided the family with comfort kits (which include soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, comb, facial tissue, deodorant, razors, shaving cream and lotion) and homemade quilts.

Red Cross volunteers also assisted 30 emergency personnel responding to the fire with water and Gatorade.  

Red Cross disaster assistance is free and is made possible by community donations. You can help individuals of this disaster and others by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter’s local disaster relief fund. For information call the Lakeland Chapter at 920-468-8535 or visit www.arclakeland.org.

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.