A Hand Up for Veterans at Milwaukee Stand Down Rally

By Justin Kern – American Red Cross

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Walter Donaldson joined 172 veterans Saturday at the Milwaukee Veterans Stand Down.

With icy rain and whipping winds outside of the Richards Street Armory in Milwaukee, Walter Donaldson was perfectly content to reminisce on warmer and brighter days, during the 1990s, when he lived in Florida.

Donaldson lived there during and after his service in the Army. He taught high school students and even volunteered for the American Red Cross after a tropical storm. The years since then haven’t always been easy or kind to Donaldson, he said, with a wizened smile and a follow up declaration that he’s doing better now, with a place to stay on the southwest side of Milwaukee and a chance to teach again. On this day, he attributed an upbeat attitude partly to thoughts of Florida during a Midwestern winter, and partly from the clothing, personal items and resources he received at the Milwaukee Veterans Stand Down.

“This helps. I’m grateful, all of this helps,” Donaldson said, pointing to clothing and Red Cross bags.

Donaldson joined more than 170 area veterans at the Stand Down rally at The Armory, a bi-annual event that focuses on homeless or at-risk veterans. At Saturday’s Stand Down, veterans had the opportunity to meet with dozens of organizations, including the Red Cross, veterans’ groups and food providers, health professionals and hair stylists, as well as various state and federal agencies. Service to the Armed Forces volunteers and staff from the Red Cross once again provided hygiene items and informational/communication resources for veterans.

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A veteran in prayer during Saturday’s event at The Richards Street Armory.

The event is billed as a “hand up, not a handout” for veterans. Between meals, check-ins and conversation, the rally included call-and-response shout outs to the five branches of the military, patriotic songs and a plea from organizer Stan Kogutkiewicz for vets in the crowd to use the resources in the room.

“Do not leave here until you get going on your problems,” echoed George Martin, one of the event emcees.

For Marvin Britton, that meant taking a stroll through the booths that packed The Armory. Britton’s gold Army ring caught the light as he talked and clutched onto a smooth wooden cane, as he shared straightforward stories of service, of addiction, of sweethearts long gone. Since his service in Vietnam, from 1974-78, life took him to San Diego and La Crosse, with time on and off in Milwaukee. These days, he’s staying in Union Grove at the Wisconsin Veterans Home, from where a group of veterans bused in for the rally.

“I’m fine, now … just trying to stay healthy. Got my backpack, going to the booths after I get some of [those] clothes” from the clothing donation line, he said.

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Veterans received information on ways they can connect with resources and family from the American Red Cross.

Ready to meet Britton, Donaldson and all the veterans were volunteers like Bob Nelson. Nelson joined the small team handing out American Red Cross bags with hygiene items and veterans resources information at the west end of the stout military hall. Nelson’s son is in the Marine Corps, connecting him to a lineage of men who have served in their family. For Bob Nelson – also on the Red Cross disaster action team – meeting and sharing with veterans at the Stand Down rally is a small gesture of gratitude.

“This is something I can do, I can be here,” Nelson said.

For more information on the Milwaukee Veterans Stand Down event, click here.

To get involved or find out more on the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces mission for veterans and military service members and their families, click here.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Heros Musicales / Red Cross Fundraiser / Central Wisconsin Photographer

*Blog reposted with permission from Studio 455 Photography.

On May 19th, I volunteered to photograph the 8th Annual Heros Musicales, an American Red Cross fundraiser founded and hosted by John and Vicki Jenks. Throughout the afternoon I had the privilege of hearing two different concerts. First, Greg Boerner, a singer / songwriter who played a blend of blues, folk, country, and rock and roll all in an awesome southern style. One of my favorites from his set was, “The Hong Kong Cafe.”

The last concert of the afternoon featured Liam Teague on steel pan and Robert Chappell on percussion. It was nothing short of magical. I was delighted that they started their set with one of my all time favorites, “Tico Tico.”

Throughout the course of the afternoon, concert goers had the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, learn about the Red Cross from people who have benefited from their services, share in hospitality, and visit with one another. It was a truly unique fundraiser and easy to see why it has grown to be so popular.  What could be better than an awesome concert for an important cause?

1:30 Concert - Greg Boerner Guitarist/singer/songwriter

1:30 Concert – Greg Boerner Guitarist/singer/songwriter

4:00 p.m. concert with Liam Teague and Robert Chappell

4:00 p.m. concert with Liam Teague and Robert Chappell

*We thank and recognize Jeremy and Kristin Albright from Studio 455 Photography for volunteering their time and talent to a great cause.

How UW-Oshkosh Red Cross Club is Impacting their Community

By: Alesha Huffman and Ali Sommerfeldt, UW-Oshkosh Red Cross Members

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Taking a quick break for a picture at the Project Play 60 event at Lambeau Field.

Through the past year, the UW-Oshkosh American Red Cross Club has continued to be actively involved in the community and fulfill the mission of the American Red Cross. To start the semester off, a few of our UWO Red Cross Club members participated in the Polar Plunge to help raise money for the Special Olympics. In March, we carpooled to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Volunteered at Project Play 60, the NFL movement for an active and healthy generation. Some of us passed out healthy snacks while others helped with face painting. No matter what we did, it was great to see all the children staying active and having a great time. Later that month, we visited King Veterans Home where we played bingo and interacted with the veterans.

Over the past year and a half, the UW Oshkosh American Red Cross Club has visited King Veterans Home in King, WI three times. On one of our visits, our club had the opportunity to assist with bowling at a bowling alley, which was located in the facility. That was a very memorable experience seeing the veterans destroy all of the volunteers on the scoreboard! Many of the veterans had a competitive spirit and we had an absolute blast alongside such wonderful people who have dedicated themselves to our country.

On our recent trip on Sunday, March 8th, our volunteers had the most powerful experience. We assisted the veterans to their seats and prepared them for an intense game of Bingo. As volunteers, we assisted with distributing prizes, visiting with the veterans, and talking with them. As soon as the veterans entered the room for Bingo, their faces lit up with smiles. A UWO American Red Cross Club member, Courtney Gussert stated: “It was a great time at King Veterans Home as many of the veterans along with the volunteers instantly had a smile on their faces when they entered the bingo room and saw us…” Ali Sommerfeldt had a similar reaction to her experience at King, “There were so many times when I could catch a resident’s eye while we were playing bingo and they would just beam over at me. It is the best feeling knowing that you can make a difference in someone’s day just by spending a few hours with them.” Volunteering at King was an exceptionally rewarding experience. Our club looks forward to volunteering with these amazing men and women veterans in the future.

UWO Red Cross members sold yummy snacks to raise funds for the Measles and Rubella Initiative.

UWO Red Cross members sold yummy snacks to raise funds for the Measles and Rubella Initiative.

Since March is Red Cross Month, we hosted a Measles and Rubella Initiative in our campus library. We sold homemade snacks that came with a ribbon pin for $1.00 and we raised just under $100. In April, we hosted and participated in, “Give What Fire Takes” and placed donation boxes throughout campus dorms. We collected new blankets, books, and toys for children who have been impacted by a fire. Later that month, a few students volunteered at a local fire station to collect and disassemble old car seats so that children have safe and up to date car seats. In three hours, they recycled a few hundred car seats! In May, a few of our members volunteered at Kidsfest at Menominee Park in Oshkosh to celebrate the opening of the park, which features a zoo. Kaitlyn Schmitt volunteered at March for Babies in Oshkosh where she helped set up and face paint for the little kids at the walk. Our final event of the semester was an American Red Cross Blood Drive set up by our Blood Services Chair, Brenna Schobert. We were able to successfully collect fifteen units of blood.

On May 5th, 2015, a few of our members attended the Student Leadership and Involvement Awards. We were nominated for Volunteer Organization of the Year and Volunteer Event of the Year. We also nominated Crystal Wrensch for Outstanding Emerging Leader and Ali Sommerfeldt, Courtney Gussert, and Brooke Trzebiatowski for Emerging Volunteer of the Year.

Kaitlyn Schmitt, the outgoing Service to Armed Forces Chair who has now stepped up to fulfill the role as president of our club, nominated King Veterans Home for Volunteer Event of the Year for the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Student Leadership and Involvement Awards. We are pleased to announce that our nomination won! The campus was very impressed with our dedication to serving our American heroes at King and our memorable experiences doing so.

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Outstanding Emerging Leader Award winner Crystal Wrensch (L) and Brenna Schobert (R) spread the word about the American Red Cross.

The UW-Oshkosh American Red Cross Club was happy to announce that its very own member, Crystal Wrensch, was the winner of the of the Outstanding Emerging Leader award at the Student Leadership and Involvement awards this year! Crystal is not only part the American Red Cross Club, but is also an active member of the Oshkosh Student Nursing Association and is a Student Alumni Ambassador. She is able to balance being a part of many clubs while carrying 17 credits and keeping a 3.0 GPA. She recently traveled to Costa Rica to volunteer at an orphanage, which has helped her develop into the outstanding leader that she has become. As part of her role as the Fundraising Chair on the executive board of the American Red Cross Club, Crystal was responsible for the entire organization of two large-scale events and executed them perfectly.

The first event Crystal organized was the Service to the Armed Forces Awareness Concert which took place this past November on the day after Veteran’s Day. Crystal formulated the idea, organized the location and decorations, as well as secured promotions and prizes, and of course hired our performer for the event, Rob Anthony. She called upon fellow club members to assist her with promoting the event and encouraged the collaboration of marketing ideas. Amazingly, Crystal was able to put together a spectacular event in only a month and she executed the task flawlessly.

Another event Crystal was in charge of this past March was a week-long fundraising initiative to raise money for Measles and Rubella vaccinations for children in developing countries through the American Red Cross. Crystal took charge of informing the volunteers about the initiative and got them excited about it as well as other students around campus. Under Crystal’s leadership, our club was able to raise enough money to provide vaccinations for almost 100 children! Her leadership skills brought on a global impact while staying right on the UW Oshkosh campus.

Crystal is a responsible, passionate, and goal-oriented individual who strives her best in all aspects of her life. She takes pride in her work and the UWO American Red Cross Club is proud to have her as an executive member. Her “just go for it” attitude has helped her excel in every aspect of her life and other club members look up to her as a leader. We are thankful for her leadership and dedication and we are eager to see what the future holds for her.

We are very proud of all of our club members and the amazing things that we have accomplished this semester. With a strong executive board next year and a list of ideas to make a positive impact on the lives of others, we are looking forward to what incredible achievements we can accomplish next year!

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Congrats to UWO Club Red members on their winning nomination for King Veterans Home for Volunteer Event of the Year for the University of Wisconsin!

In Memory: Volunteer and Friend – Dr. Mark Reinke

By Jody Weyers, Director of Volunteers:

Today, after work, I will be attending the visitation service for Dr. Mark Reinke, friend and volunteer. Mark passed away Christmas night surrounded by his family following a courageous fight with pancreatic cancer.

Mark’s courage, positive attitude and willingness to give back, is a lesson we can all learn from him and incorporate into our daily lives.

(section from his obituary)

Mark retired immediately from his medical practice upon learning of his diagnosis in December 2012. During his last year Mark embarked on a bucket list of adventures. The most rewarding adventure was being able to form closer relationships with a number of friends. He often shared with all of them, “it is not about the length of your life but about the depth of your life”. It was his strong-will to live, unwavering faith, love of our Heavenly Father, and prayers from family friends that carried him through these last 13 months of treatments and endless doctor visits.

In September, Mark called me and he wanted to volunteer. He had friends that drove for our transportation services program, and he wanted to be able to give back while he was in this fight. As a matter of fact, the last time he drove for us, was only a few weeks prior to his death. Physically you could see he didn’t feel good, but being able to help people, gave him the strength to keep fighting.

While Mark was going through this battle, he wrote about the ups and downs on a Caring Bridge site.

Here was his post on September 22, 2013

523f62620dad100702823f68Mark has a job…about time!

For those of you who are wondering what I do with ALL my spare time, I have finally ventured out of the house. Kathy has been after me for the past several weeks to find something to occupy my time. I am now an official Red Cross volunteer. Once a week, I spend about 4 or 5 hours driving people around town.

I get a Red Cross Chevy Impala with about a million miles on it, plug in the GPS and crisscross Green Bay several times. I usually put on at least 70 miles in a morning. This is a service provided by the Red Cross and enables people to go to their doctor’s appointment, go to work and do errands such as grocery shopping, etc. The majority of people I transport are disabled and I find this work to be extremely gratifying. The people are so appreciative, friendly and courteous. If I am 15 or 20 minutes early, more often than not, the clients will be sitting on their front step waiting for me. And boy, do they love to talk!

Sometimes I think I’m their social contact for the day. I get the lowdown on their doctors, the Packers and their neighbors. They are a hoot! Anyway, this is a great experience for me and I would highly encourage everyone to consider volunteering in your community. It’s a win-win for everyone. I feel so much better about helping others and the 4 hours are a minuscule part of my week. I know we’re all busy, some more than others. Believe me, I was there. If you get a chance, at least consider giving back to your charity or community. You won’t be sorry and the rewards to yourself and others outweigh any inconvenience.

Our thought and prayers go out to Mark’s family and friends and we thank you for sharing him with us for his last few months.

The New Year is upon us, and if you are looking to make a change, or a “resolution” think about volunteering. I know someone who will have a big smile on their face from above if you do!

June 19, 2013 – Part 1: National Conference of Volunteering and Service

By Jody Weyers, Director of Volunteers, Northeast Wisconsin Chapter

It is 7:21 and I am sitting on the plane from Milwaukee heading to Baltimore for the National Conference on Volunteering & Service. This will be my third year attending this conference. I have been to New York City, Chicago and now Washington D.C.

This conference is made up of the “who’s who” in the volunteer management field and I am excited to be among such amazing people.

When I signed up for the conference, there was literally hundreds of sessions to chose from. As I was choosing my sessions I tried to think “what are my goals and objectives?”

Going into this year, I focused my sessions on three areas:

1. Social Engagement – a field that is ever changing. I look forward to learning some best practices to utilize in communicating with our volunteers, engaging our community and sharing our story.

2. Youth Development – Youth engagement is a focus of the National Red Cross and an area, that we can do a better job at. We want to engage our youth so that they become life long members of the American Red Cross through their volunteer work, as a blood donor and/or financial donor.

3. Personal Development – I am a life long learner and I feel there are always areas that I can continue to work on to better myself.

I will have some down time in between sessions so I hope to get a chance to visit some of the new monuments in D.C., get a tour of the National Red Cross Building and just enjoy being in a new city for a few days!

Look for my reflection tonight after my first day of sessions!!

Signing off……. Jody

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Your Top Three Disaster Related Questions Answered

question-markIn times of disaster people have many questions on what is the best way to help.  Here are the answers to the top three questions we are receiving regarding the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

If you have additional questions, please let us know by calling 920-468-8535.  

Q: How can I volunteer and help the tornado victims?

A: We appreciate the offers to volunteer, but right now we have enough trained disaster workers in Oklahoma to help. Please consider, contacting your local Red Cross chapter to get trained so that you might be able to help in the future. Please visit www.redcross.org/support/volunteer/disaster-volunteer for more information.

Q: Why won’t the Red Cross take small quantities of donated goods?

A:  After a disaster, financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most. The Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of donations like household items, clothing or food that may or may not be useful to victims. It takes time and money to sort, process, transport and then distribute donated items—whereas financial donations can be accessed quickly and put to use right away. Plus, financial donations allow us to be flexible in the help that we provide and ensure we can provide what people need most. As an added benefit, financial donations allow the Red Cross and disaster victims to purchase items locally, stimulating the economy of the disaster-affected area.

Even a small financial donation can go further than you might think. For instance, $2 can provide a snack to a child who just lost his or her home, and $10 can provide a hot meal to that same child. You can help people affected by disasters by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Q: Does the Red Cross need blood donations?

A: The Red Cross stands ready to help meet the blood needs of patients in and around Oklahoma City if needed. There is currently enough blood on the shelves to meet patient demands. However, those with type O negative blood are encouraged to give blood when they are able. The role of Red Cross Blood Services in this response is as a secondary supplier of blood products to area hospitals.

All eligible blood donors can schedule an appointment to give in the days and weeks ahead by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting redcrossblood.org. With many people scheduling appointments to give blood, redcrossblood.org may run slower and wait times on 1-800-RED CROSS may be longer than usual. No Red Cross facilities were affected by the storms, but some blood drives may be canceled as recovery and clean-up begins. To find out if a blood drive has been canceled or to reschedule an appointment to give blood or platelets, call 1-800-RED CROSS.