“The Volunteer You Would Need” Red Cross Volunteers are There When Disaster Strikes.

Written By: Dawn Miller, American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region

Photos provided by: Megann Hooyman

When the volunteer from the American Red Cross arrived it was like seeing an old friend and that was just what Megann Hooyman and her family of Appleton needed. The moments leading up to it were a blur of smoke and sirens.

Megann’s family, including her husband, Andy, 4-year old daughter, Zoey and the two-year old twins, Rylee and Callie, had arrived home from a holiday event with Santa. It was a festive Saturday morning so it took Megann a few moments to realize something was wrong.

When she opened her door all she saw was black and smoke. The glass from the oven was shattered on the floor and smoke was everywhere. She bent down to Charlie, their basset hound, but he was already gone. In the living room the smoke was so thick she could not see her hand in front of her.

She ran out the front door and yelled for someone to call 9-1-1. Smoke billowed out behind her. When she opened the door it allowed oxygen in to ignite the flames again.

Andy grabbed the fire extinguisher nearby and used it to keep flames down until firefighters arrived. “It was lucky that we had the fire extinguisher and that Andy knew how to use it,” says Megann.

Within moments Megann heard the sirens and the fire department was there. The fire fighters not only got the fire under control but assisted the family’s other dog, Zebby, who suffered bad burns and smoke inhalation. The ambulance assisted Andy who also was treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire damage was extensive and their possessions were destroyed.

Megann says the American Red Cross volunteer appeared out of nowhere. It’s like seeing a familiar face when you see the American Red Cross logo and that red vest. “It was nice to have that one reliable thing you know you can count on for information and support.”

Megann says the volunteer being there made her feel less alone. “I would have felt lost because I wouldn’t have known what to expect.”

He offered honest advice, time to process next steps and he made sure they were ok. He made sure they had housing and asked if they needed community resources like the food or clothing pantry. He gave them a $625 debit card for necessities like shampoo, conditioner and diapers. “It goes pretty fast when you have little ones,” says Megann.

Megann says she is thankful for such a supportive community. In the weeks following the fire, they stayed with family and were offered much support from friends and community who rallied to help keep the holiday season merry.

“You donate, you give back but you never think you are going to be on the receiving end,” says Megann. “But you need these services.”

Megann recently became the newest member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

“I hope I volunteer but I hope I don’t because it’s not a good situation,” says Megann. That’s why she’s not only being trained in disaster response but also wants to assist in fire safety and prevention education.

Megann is joining the team of compassionate and caring volunteers in red vests so she can be a friend when someone needs it the most. “You see it in school and on t.v. but you never think it will happen to you,” says Megann. “I don’t know any way to thank those who helped us except to give back and volunteer.”

If you want to be like Megann, please check out the volunteer opportunities at redcross.org/WI/volunteer.  Join us as we #Help1Family!

Meet Kendall – Our New Disaster Cycle Services Intern

We have a new Disaster Cycle Services Intern Kendall Stauber at our Oshkosh office. Kendall is a student at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and plans to graduate by next spring. She majors in Human Services Leadership with a minor in Communication Studies.

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Kendall enjoys traveling, concerts, jet skiing and spending time with her family and friends.

We have a new Disaster Cycle Services Intern Kendall Stauber at our Oshkosh office. Kendall is a student at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and plans to graduate by next spring. She majors in Human Services Leadership with a minor in Communication Studies.

“I love to volunteer and help where I can. I have volunteered for several Hands on Oshkosh events where I was put with groups of people on campus and sent into the community to help certain organizations. I have also volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh and I was an intern this past spring semester at the Oshkosh Seniors Center.  These volunteer opportunities have led me to work with diverse age groups and help with a variety of projects that were rewarding to see the impact that I can do to help.”

Although this is Kendall’s first time interning with the Red Cross, she has been aware of their mission and services for a while. When she was younger, she obtained her babysitting certification through the Red Cross. Now that Kendall is an intern with the Red Cross, she’s excited to assist in carrying out the mission, stating:

“The American Red Cross is an interest to me because I wish to help, inform, and be there for people and communities after a disaster has struck or to inform people with possible resources before a disaster occurs. I am really excited to see what I can learn and give during this summer internship.”

Post college Kendall plans to continue her education with a focus on social work . She then hopes to pursue a career in counseling, specifically helping those affected by disasters and trauma.

The Red Cross is grateful to have Kendall as an intern, and to be a part of her educational experience. To start volunteering like Kendall, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s National Volunteer Week!

The American Red Cross Wisconsin Region is honoring all volunteers and the work you do in the community during National Volunteer Week, April 10-17.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Red Cross volunteers and am reminded that volunteerism and the human spirit are beautifully intertwined. I truly believe Red Cross volunteers are the brightest and most uplifting people in our communities. The best part of my job is getting to know you and seeing you in action.  Recently, I had the chance to talk with a new volunteer who was very excited to join our team. When I asked what motivated her to get out of her bed in the middle of the night to respond to the scene of a fire she said, “I am able to do it, so why wouldn’t I?”. Another volunteer will achieve a major milestone this August – volunteering with the Red Cross for 60 years! His favorite saying is, “part of our payment for being on this earth is to give back”. 

Last month, a Red Cross volunteer turned 100-years-old and celebrated by hosting a blood drive with a goal of collecting 100 pints (1 for each candle). She blew that away – 114 pints were donated in her honor. While Red Cross volunteers have diverse backgrounds and perspectives, you share many similarities. Red Cross volunteers share an incredible selfless spirit and an urge to do good for others.

I am honored to work alongside all of you and am inspired each day because of the compassion you show. Thank you for sharing your time and talents with the American Red Cross! 

Patty Flowers

Chief Executive Officer

American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region

Red Cross offers shelter from the fire

Kenosha resident, Katryane Jenkins, has spent four nights at an overnight shelter provided by the American Red Cross at Bradford High School.  Katryane, along with over 60 people at the 20-unit apartment building she was living in, was displaced after an apartment fire resulted in utilities being shut off until Monday morning.

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Katrayne Jenkins (center front) receives the help she needs at the Red Cross Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC).

Katryane, a full time student and mother to two young daughters, ages nine and two, is no stranger to the services that are provided from the Red Cross.  In the last five years, she has experienced two fires – each with a distressing impact on her life.

Four years ago, the duplex Katryane was living in caught fire. Unable to return to her home, she looked to the Red Cross to help her get back on her feet. The Red Cross provided her with a warm place to stay at a local hotel, money for food, resources to get clothes, as well as money to help with a security deposit on a new home. She says she’s thankful for that help.

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The 20-unit apartment building where Katrayne lived.

Having had this experience, Katryane felt more prepared to handle a similar situation years later. When she heard the smoke alarms in her building sound – her heart beating faster with every chirp of the alarm – she knew she needed to stay calm and move quickly. As the smell of smoke quickly filled the apartment, she already knew where to find the closest fire exits, and had practice getting out of the home quickly.

Katryane was also able to emotionally prepare herself – deal with the feelings of sadness and anger – because she knew what it felt like to lose her belongings.  While others may find it difficult to handle emotions, Katryane says that her experience has helped her have compassion for her fellow residents involved in the recent fire.  She also knows the importance of providing support to others.  “We’ve been there to lean on each other for support,” Katryane says.

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Red Cross volunteers staff the MARC

During this time, Katryane is using other resources provided by the Red Cross, such as the meals and snacks, as well as comfort kits containing personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies, and other personal hygiene items. She finds it important to use the mental health services and talk to someone when she’s feeling down.  On Thursday, March 10, she visited the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) that was set up at the Kenosha Transit Center to learn about additional resources available to aid her recovery. At the MARC, representatives from government, non-profit, and faith-based organizations were on hand to offer assistance. These representatives, along with the Red Cross, worked with Katryane to find her and her family a permanent residence.

Today, Katryane is looking to maintain control of her life. While completing her Business Management Degree at Gateway Technical College, she is looking to the future and focusing on settling her family in a new home.

The Red Cross provided multiple families in Kenosha with a shoulder to lean on, and help to establish a plan of ‘what to do next.’ Financial assistance was provided for basic needs, such as food, clothing, infant supplies, shelter, transportation and more.  You can help the Red Cross help families after fires with a financial gift at  redcross.org/donate.

ON THE GROUND AND IN THE SHELTER: RHINELANDER VOLUNTEER SHARES TEXAS TORNADO STORIES

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

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Carol on left with Marie (in ERV) who is from Nebraska and Jim (right) from Michigan.

Carol Miller started the New Year more than 1,000 miles away from home. She wasn’t on vacation or with her family. On January 1st, she arrived in Texas to help tornado victims for her 13th national deployment with the American Red Cross.

“I didn’t even think of it as a holiday. I just rolled up my sleeves and went to work. I just focused on what had to be done first,” Miller said in a recent interview with the Red Cross Public Affairs.

Miller, from Rhinelander, served as a Health Services Supervisor in communities near Dallas, following the deadly Texas tornadoes at the end of December. She was one of more than 580 Red Cross volunteers working in disaster zones across the state. Overall, the assisted close to 900 individuals and families in need.

“Insulation everywhere, piles of debris, all of their belongings, their lifetime… everything is stacked at the curb ready to be taken away,” Miller said.

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In part of her role, Miller saw first-hand the devastating aftermath of the tornadoes. In the city of Glenn Heights, she visited hard-hit neighborhoods with a Red Cross team offering a variety of assistance. Miller focused on securing immediate medical needs for residents.

“I helped replace a lot of prescriptions, wheel-chairs, walkers, eye glasses, helping people find sources for hearing aid replacement,” Miller said.

Miller also recalled helping a family find a new hospital bed for their mother and nebulizers for people with asthma. She talked about being an advocate for clients with their pharmacy and insurance company, and also helped with clinic referrals.

In the city of Garland, Miller spent time at Red Cross shelter. While serving there, she met a mother and her four kids, ages 2 to 13. Their father was in the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained in the tornado.

“The mom would get very tearful as she thought about her home and her concern about her husband and what they’re going to do next,” Miller said.

Miller worked with the family to get diabetic supplies for the mother and asthma medications for her five-year-old son. Other volunteers in the shelter helped with temporary housing assistance. Miller said the mother was grateful.

“My greatest reward is getting a hug from people like that,” she said.

During her deployment, Miller also heard stories from residents about the day the tornadoes hit. They described a pea-green sky and still surroundings, then the disaster.

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“This was more like five freight trains or a couple of jet engines,” she said residents told her.

The family she met at the Garland shelter said they took cover in a bathtub with the father holding a mattress on top of them. Afterwards, it took crews a half hour to 45 minutes to get them out of their home. She said the father had injuries that required surgery while everyone had cuts and bruises.

Miller spent more than a week in Texas. She’s now surpassed the dozen mark with 13 national deployments with the Red Cross. These are experiences she has grown to treasure.

“Just the thanks you get from the clients and just being able to help my fellow brothers and sister in their time of need. It’s very rewarding personally, it’s a way to give back because we’ve been very blessed,” she said.

Thank you Carol for proudly representing the Red Cross in Texas. Your desire to help others in their greatest times of need is inspiring.

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 www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

 

Volunteer of the Month – Dennis Erickson

Congratulations Dennis Erickson, the January 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

Starting the New Year conjures images of ‘what’s next’ personally and professionally for many people, from New Year’s resolutions to volunteerism. When January Volunteer of the Month Dennis Erickson looks at his reflection in the mirror, he’s reminded of the “new life” he’s been given thanks to a kidney and pancreas transplant.  Since undergoing the 2002 surgeries, he hasn’t forgotten those who donated life to allow him to live.

Dennis recalls, “When I was on medical leave, I made a list of non-profits and causes I would be passionate about and the American Red Cross was on the list.” Dennis has now been a dedicated Red Cross volunteer for over a decade. He is also an EMT and supports various military programs including Honor Flights, blood donations and organ donor networks.  In addition, he co-founded, TWI – Transplant Wisconsin Inc. and actively promotes http://www.YesIWillWisconsin.com so more lives can be saved through organ donation.

As a Red Cross casework supervisor, Dennis has assisted fire clients throughout Wisconsin, traveled to the Kentucky floods and flew twice to Texas for both tornados and floods this year alone.  “Every week he commits to three shifts, and has taken on new roles due to his commitment to learning, training and managing both people and processes. He is reliable, compassionate, dedicated and literally a true life-saver!” shares Marytha Blanchard, Disaster Program Officer.

His life-saving skills most recently helped him save a 60-year old woman on the side of the road. As a Juneau County volunteer EMT, he arrived on-the-scene and was checking her blood pressure when she began collapsing to the floor. Dennis began to administer CPR while his partner attached the AED pads.  Shocks were administered as she had officially ‘flat-lined’. They worked in tandem, following their training until the transport vehicle arrived. “She will live to see another Christmas,” he reports.  Dennis not only has these valuable skills himself, but recently completed his Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor Training. Hence, he will be teaching the newest life savers through Red Cross courses.

Thank you, Dennis for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community; we thank you for giving back to others in so many remarkable ways!

This month, consider starting the New Year by helping give someone a chance to share more joy, laughter and time with family and friends. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Blood transfusions are a very common medical procedure. A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States alone. Although 38 percent of people in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, only 3 percent actually do. Be the change in someone’s life by donating today. For more information visit http://www.redcrossblood.org

Right now, 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 www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

Western Wildfires Do Affect Us

Red Cross workers witness the devastating affect of wildfires

Red Cross workers witness the devastating affect of wildfires

The United States as a whole is in the midst of one of the worst, and most expensive, wildfire seasons on record. To-date this year, more than 8.5 million acres have burned. In addition to the wildfires currently devastating California, Red Cross disaster workers are assisting with relief efforts for an additional 26 large-scale active wildfires that are currently burning across Idaho, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

So far this wildfire season, Red Cross teams across multiple states have operated 52 shelters that saw over 2,400 overnight stays, served nearly 41,000 meals and snacks and distributed nearly 5,000 relief supplies to assist those impacted by raging wildfires. The Red Cross is also working with partners to provide care for evacuated pets and animals.

When disasters hit, the impact is felt far and wide – property is damaged, people are displaced, and lives are upended. But one of the greatest impacts of a disaster is often unseen: the effect on people’s emotional health and mental well-being. Trained Red Cross caseworkers are providing much needed mental health services for individuals and families impacted by these disasters, helping people deal with the intensity of the disaster and connect with additional resources within their community. And as fires continue to burn, Red Cross disaster workers are also looking ahead to coordinate recovery efforts for both individuals and families impacted and displaced by these devastating fires. The Red Cross will continue to work within communities to provide the needed resources to help people respond and recover from wildfires – even after the smoke clears.

Disaster Preparedness

People in the path wildfires, hurricanes and other severe weather should download the Red Cross Emergency App for real time access to weather alerts, preparedness information, safety tips and shelter locations. The Emergency App provides expert advice on what to do during floods, tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters. The app also provides lifesaving information on emergency first aid for various situations such as what to do for heart attacks, heat-related emergencies and includes water safety tips. Pre-loaded content ensures that guidance from Red Cross experts is available anytime, anywhere – even without mobile connectivity. The Emergency App is available for free in app stores for smartphones and tablets and can also be found by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Wildfire Tips

With no end in sight to critical fire weather in the affected states, the Red Cross has safety steps people should follow if they live in an area where a wildfire is possible:

  • If a wildfire threatens, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room or spot so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.

Click here for additional safety information, including what do to before, during and after a wildfire.

  • To support wildfires and residential fires alike, please consider making a financial contribution at redcross.org/donate
  • To become a disaster responder like Gene Wallis and Vicki Gurriell, you can start your volunteer application at redcross.org/volunteer