Volunteer Spotlight: Velma Clark

The American Red Cross is known around the world for its charitable work. It is not uncommon to regularly hear about the organization’s assistance in alleviating suffering associated with disasters, providing lifesaving blood, offering health and safety courses, and assisting America’s military families. The story often untold, however, is that of the person selflessly giving their time to better the Red Cross’ mission.

In June of 2015, the St. Louis Area Chapter received one of its most impactful volunteers. Known around the office as one of the sweetest and often described as a “super volunteer,” VelmCardsa Clark answered the call to help when she discovered that the Service to Armed Forces department needed help with a project providing holiday cards to heroes.

“Holidays for Heroes,” as the project is now called, is the Red Cross’ effort to provide holiday cards to active service members serving away from home. Velma, along with her team of fellow Service to Armed Forces volunteers, collects cards from schools, churches, veteran associations, and communities not only in the Missouri and Illinois region, but from across the nation. Velma noted that people from across the US catch wind of their efforts and feel the need to help the cause. This past winter, the St. Louis team was able to collect and distribute over 64,000 holiday cards to service members stationed away from their families. The project gave much joy to the members of our service that were unable to spend the season with their loved ones.

Now that the holiday season has passed, Velma and her team are spearheading another project—The Women Warriors Baby Shower. The American Red Cross and VA Medical Center are teaming up to throw a baby shower for expectant and new mothers (with infants up to six months). In celebration of the St. Louis Chapter’s 100th year, Velma and her team are anticipating celebrating motherhood for 100 women. Members of the US Armed Forces with E-7 or below, spouses of our military, and women veterans receiving care through the VA are encouraged to register for the event.

To many, Velma’s commitment to serving the Red Cross seems heroic, but to her it’s second nature. She loves to work with people, and especially enjoys being in an environment such as the Red Cross “The people here don’t just talk the talk,” she said, “they truly walk the walk.” Here at the Red Cross, Velma knows that everyone genuinely cares about the lives they are impacting—and that makes all the effort priceless.

 

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in The Women Warriors Baby Shower, register by calling 314-516-2702 or emailing Velma Clark at velma.clark@redcross.org

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How to Give Back This Holiday Season

During the holidays at a local veteran’s hospital, the father of an injured soldier read Red Cross holiday cards to his son. With a smile on his face, Spc. Blake DeLooach said it made him feel whole knowing people care about him. The injured soldier spent the holidays in the hospital and thankfully, was able to have his father with him. The cards he received from the Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign made the difficult season much brighter for DeLooach and his family.Capture

For most of us, the holidays are a time for joyous family reunions and celebration. However, for military families, it can be hard to celebrate when loved ones are so far from home. During this holiday season, many service members can’t spend it will loved ones; they are will be overseas and others may be in local veteran hospitals.

As part of the American Red Cross service to armed forces, the St. Louis chapter is once again encouraging the local community to send holiday wishes to active military, their families and veterans in homes and hospitals. The Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign and Holiday Toy Drive are two great ways to show support and bring comfort to military members this holiday season.

This Holiday Mail campaign gives organizations, companies, schools and individuals an opportunity to honor our servicemen and women by sending cards. Homemade and signed cards can be sent to the Red Cross and events can be orchestrated where cards are made and signed.

Delooach’s father said the American Red Cross provides so much help military and until something like this happens, you just don’t know all that they do. He said, “They are a magnificent help to all of the soldiers and their families.” Something as simple as a holiday card brings more meaning to military members and veterans than most people know.

In addition to the H23594626221_532234f75c_ooliday Mail campaign, the St. Louis chapter will once again be partnering with the St. Louis Cardinals and KMOV for the annual Holiday Toy Drive to benefit local military families. This year’s drive will take place on November 30 from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ballpark Village parking lot, at the corner of 8th and Clark in Downtown St. Louis. Volunteers from each organization will collect new, unwrapped toys for kids under 12 and gift cards for kids over 13.

Our military families deserve our thanks and support every day,” said Cindy Erickson, Regional American Red Cross CEO. “We are happy to have this opportunity to show our appreciation for the daily sacrifices they make.”

Part of the Red Cross mission is to ensure that all members of our armed services and their families find support and comfort whenever needed. In order to achieve this mission, many local chapters throughout the nation will be working hard this year to provide comfort to military men, women, and families during the holiday season. There is no better time to show support for our troops and let them know they are cared for and appreciated.

 

Red Cross Communications Intern

Communications Intern

Hannah Goldstein

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Is Your Organization Prepared?

Unfortunately when disasters strike, up to 40 percent of businesses never recover. It is vital to each organization’s survival to be prepared for emergencies. On September 22, the American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri will hold its second Preparedness Academy of the year. The Academy is for large and small businesses, schools, government agencies, universities, healthcare, faith-based, and nonprofit organizations to better prepare for emergencies.

This American Red Cross summit teaches participants how to reduce risks and build a culture of preparedness before disasters strike. Regional experts Academyprovide their expertise on various topics, such as evacuation planning, business resiliency, active shooters, geological hazards, and transportation accidents. Over 200 representatives of local organizations attended the March Preparedness Academy, many of whom will return in September. The March topics included workplace and school violence response, cyber security and how to respond to the media following an emergency.

Rajan Taylor who attended the March event said he will definitely be back this September to learn  more about how to protect his employees and business when disaster strikes. He said the event gave great information he can bring back to his staff and build better emergency programs.

Mayor Monica Huddleston of Greendale, MO attended a previous Red Cross Preparedness Academy.

“My reason for coming today (was) to enable my City of Greendale to better implement the written plan that we have.” She said the plan they have is great, but she wanted to be prepared to implement the plan if necessary. She noted that she had learned great information, which will allow her to accomplish this.

Mike Altepeter from the Washington University in St. Louis said he attended the event to learn how to best25490501610_2d9169cb8f_z serve the students, faculty, and staff in the case of an emergency. He says Washington University chose this event in particular because they know that the American Red Cross provides quality information and resources.

John Butler of KMOX said, “Today I attended the Red Cross disaster seminar. It
was incredible, it was the first one, the room was packed, and the information was outstanding.”

It is so important to keep our community safe and prepared, which is why the Red Cross works hard to provide organizations with the most important and up to date information and safety resources. The Preparedness Academy is an eight hour event that includes a wide range of presentations and speakers, exhibits, as well as two meals and snacks for those attending. There is more detailed information about this event on the American Red Cross website, along with the registration form. Let’s keep our community safe and prepared!

 

Red Cross Communications Intern

Communications Intern

Hannah Goldstein

 

Why I Donate Blood

I started to donate blood only a few years ago, after my sister received a lifesaving blood transfusion. She had been hospitalized for many days and needed a transfusion when her red blood cell count became dangerously low. I would have done anything to thank the person whose blood we received, but I decided an even better way to show my appreciation would be to start donating myself.

People who donate blood are heroes who have the potential to save more than one life with each donated pint.  Though it seems one pint of blood goes a long way, and it can, there are cases where people need multiple pints of blood at a time. A victim of a car accident sometimes needs as many as 100 pints of blood and there are also many people with autoimmune diseases who require frequent blood transfusions. Sometimes during chemotherapy a cancer patient will need blood every day.

Even with the numerous blood drives that occur nationwide, there is still not enough blood for all of the people who need it. Blood is something that cannot be manufactured; it is only available because of generous donors.  Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood and if everyone donated blood who could, we could save thousands of more lives than we already are.

Blood is also one of the easiest things to donate. The process of donating takes about an hour, but the actual donation only takes around ten minutes. You can stop by after work, attend a weekend blood drive, or schedule a quick appointment whenever it is convenient for you. The Red Cross wants the process to go as smooth as possible which is why they always provide snacks and beverages to their donors.  The American Red Cross website also has great tips for a successful donation and provides wonderful information on the blood donation process in general. If you are not sure whether you are eligible to donate blood, be sure to check their website to view the eligibility requirements.

By donating blood, you will become someone’s hero. While there is not enough blood on a national level, the city of St. Louis itself needs more blood donors. Those who can donate have the amazing opportunity to save a life of someone in their community. For me, this is more than an opportunity, but rather an obligation. I always feel great after donating, knowing I am helping someone who is in vital need of blood. Donating blood is simple, yet so important, and I wish I had had someone to explain this importance to me years ago so I could have started donating sooner.

Red Cross Communications Intern

Communications Intern Hannah Goldstein

 

“The Hugs and Appreciation Make It All Worth It”

Red Cross volunteer, Courtney, began to choked up as she told the story of one of her most unforgettable house fires. An older adult women was living alone and her daughter and neighbors believed she had been at home all day.  The woman was not answering her phone and the firefighters had searched the house multiple times in an attempt to find her. When the entire house went up in flames, the firefighters and Red Cross volunteers could do nothing more than wait.

Courtney expressed the enormous sense of relief she felt when the woman showed up to the house from her afternoon outing.  Unfortunately, Courtney has seen a handful of casualties during her 15 years and she was extremely thankful that this would not be another one.  Most people are devastated to see their belongings and homes burned to any degree, and understandably so. But this woman was different in that she showed minimal concern for the material objects inside her home and was merely thankful for the support of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT).

Courtney has been with the Red Cross for 15 years. After retiring from her full time job, she decided that she wanted to give back to the community and volunteer for an organization she truly believed in. She found that place here with the American Red Cross and represents millions of other volunteers who have also become passionate and dedicated to their volunteer work with this organization. While numerous volunteer positions are available with the Red Cross, Courtney decided to volunteer with the Disaster Action Team. She is among the first to respond to local house fires and has given countless hours of her time to helping victims of disasters.

Courtney has seeFullSizeRender (3)n it all over the years as she shared stories with me of some of her most memorable house fires. Though these stories are all so different, a constant I noticed is the high regard Courtney holds for firefighters. Courtney told me about an evening fire at an apartment complex where firefighters carried about 20 people down the ladders on their backs in the pouring rain. She also remembered a house fire where the fire department knew the family was safe, but went in when the family expressed concern for their cat who was trapped inside. The cat, who was found hiding in the basement, was carried out of the burning building with an oxygen mask around its mouth. These courageous firefighters are truly everyday heroes who risk their lives to save the lives of others.

Being a DAT volunteer can be challenges, but at the end of the day, Courtney says the hugs and appreciation the team receives make it all worth it.  While she always hopes there are no house fires, Courtney is prepared to lead the team to where ever their assistance is needed.

 

Published by Hannah Goldstein

Communications Intern

Red Cross Communications Intern

 

A Fourth of July to Remember

Every year on the Fourth of July, this country celebrates our independence from Britain. What better way to spend this holiday than with the veterans who sacrificed so much to maintain that freedom. Across the nation, the American Red Cross volunteers serve in 153 VA hospitals where men and women who fought for our country receive care. The Red Cross recognizes these veterans as the American heroes they are.

Here in St. Louis I joined other volunteers to make sure our veterans were able to celebrate a joyous Independence Day. For the past seven years, the St. Louis Red Cross has hosted bingo and lunch for veterans at the Jefferson Barrack’s VA Hospital. Volunteers passed out t-shirts, assisted residents to and from the event space, and made sure they had as much of the delicious Sugarfire Smokehouse BBQ as they desired. With the wonderful food, live music, and competitive bingo games, the day went extremely well. I was thankful for the many volunteers who wanted to make sure these veterans had a Fourth of July to remember.

As the veterans left the event, they had chocolate bars, Red Cross shirts and huge smiles on their faces. Those smiles along with the gratitude they expressed made the event completely worth it. I was so proud to represent the Red Cross and all that the organization stands for.

Red Cross Communications Intern

Published by: Hannah Goldstein

Communications Intern

 

 

 

 

MARC Helps Flood Victims

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When the late December floods hit rural Missouri, a veteran of two foreign wars (Korea and Vietnam) lost his home and all his possessions. In frigid temperatures, this nearly blind American hero slept in his car for over a week, until he visited a Red Cross organized Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC). The Red Cross set up seven MARCs after the holiday floods so those affected could receive support and service from dozens of relief organizations at one location. At the Jefferson County MARC, the Red Cross registered the veteran at a local hotel, provided money for meals and helped him begin his recovery plan. He was just one of thousands the Red Cross assisted after the late December floods. By the middle of February, the Red Cross had provided 707 overnight shelter stays; served nearly 57,000 meals and snacks and distributed 27,919 relief items including shovels, rakes, gloves and tarps for those affected. What would have happened to this veteran had the Red Cross not responded. Please support our lifesaving work – donate online at Redcross.org.