Red Cross Volunteers Answer the Call to Help Flood Victims

By Caitlin Hurleyollie

With floodwaters still rising in some parts of Missouri and the Greater St. Louisa-area, dedicated American Red Cross volunteers working around the clock to care for those forced from their homes.

Wednesday night at the Red Cross shelter at Hope Lutheran Church in Granite City, Illinois, Tom Ollie and Dawne Miller dished up dinner to the more than half-a-dozen people who sought refuge from the rising floodwaters. Both volunteers have been partnered together for three days, working tirelessly from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. when the next team of volunteers arrived to oversee the shelter and provide a safe place for those displaced by the flooding. Ollie and Miller both say the long hours are worth it.

“I love it,” Miller, a Red Cross volunteer for more than three years, said. “It’s giving without expecting anything back.”

“Getting people fed, safe, and secure is important,” said Ollie. But for Ollie, who began his Red Cross service in March, volunteering is about fulfilling a promise. “I promised my mom I’d do one year of service to the Red Cross… She volunteered [with the Red Cross] for 50 years.”

Staffing shelters during disasters is just one way Red Cross volunteers serve their community. In all, volunteers carry out 90% of the Red Cross’ humanitarian work, including disaster relief, blood donations, and aiding the armed services. If you would like to see the volunteer opportunities available in the St. Louis area, go to redcross.org/volunteer.

Red Cross Responds to Historic Flooding by Offering Safe Shelter

By Caitlin Hurleygranitecity2

For the second time in two years, floodwaters forced Tamara Luna and her family to leave their home in Granite City, Illinois, and turn to the American Red Cross for shelter.

“Our home is raised, but the water has reached the electrical box,” Luna said. “They shut off our electricity for safety.” That same situation unfolded in 2015 and early 2016, when rising floodwaters threatened her home.

When we spoke with her Wednesday night, Luna and her family were preparing to spend their third night in the Red Cross shelter at Hope Lutheran Church in Granite City. They had just finished eating dinner together around a table and chatting.

While Red Cross volunteers staff the shelter and provide cots and comfort kits, it takes a community to help those who need it in a time of disaster and uncertainty. The Lunas’ dinner was donated by Ravenelli’s and Hope Lutheran Church opened its doors to provide shelter space. It is home to one of the ten shelters managed by the American Red Cross in Missouri and the Greater St. Louis area during the May floods.

“[The American Red Cross does] great things. The least we could do is put our two cents in to help those who need it,” said Phil Lamm, the president of the Hope Lutheran Congregation. “You have to love them as you love yourself.”

Lamm said he and Pastor Alan Beuster agreed to help out and move church activities out of the parish hall to provide a warm, dry space for those in the community who needed it. “Every little bit helps,” Lamm said.

“Their generosity was in the spirit of brotherhood,” said Tom Ollie, an American Red Cross shelter volunteer.

As the Luna family wait for the rain to stop and the floodwaters to recede, they said, “We are very thankful for the Red Cross. Without them, we wouldn’t know what to do.”

If you, or someone you know, needs to find a shelter, visit redcross.org/emo, check the Red Cross Emergency App, or call 1 (800) 768-8048.

As floodwaters begin to recede in some areas, only return to if it is deemed safe by officials. For other safety tips for returning residents, click here.

Perryville Family Survives Tornado; Home and Daycare Destroyed

Meyer Damage - External with Cars
Last Tuesday night, Kelsey Meyer bathed her four young sons, saw to it they brushed their teeth and got them ready for bed. As the young boys — ages 4, 6 and twins, 8 —  delayed bedtime, a screaming tornado warning hit Mrs. Meyer’s phone. The young family quickly took shelter in their basement. Minutes later, an EF4 tornado tore through Perry County Missouri, killing a young man and injured 12 others. Huddled in the basement under a blanket, the family survived as shattered windows, debris and dirt showered them. Mrs. Meyer lost her Perryville home and her nearby childcare business.

Four days later Mrs. Meyer said she wanted the public to know about her experience. The young mother didn’t talk about all she had lost or what she and her family had been through. She didn’t talk about the terror the she felt as the tornado roared above them. The young mother had a preparedness message: “We should have had an emergency kit in the basement.”

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“When the tornado passed, glass was everywhere and it was dark. We didn’t have power … We didn’t have shoes; we didn’t have a flashlight; we didn’t have clothes … and outside, glass everywhere and down powerlines … “

“I have an emergency kit in the basement of my preschool; if I had treated my family the way I treated my business …” and her voice trailed off.

Mrs. Meyer wants everyone to create an emergency kit. “You just don’t think it will happen to your family. We learned the hard way.”

The American Red Cross wants all families prepare for emergencies. Build your emergency kit and download the Red Cross Emergency App, which gives instant access to customizable weather alerts, safety tips and preparedness information in the palm of your hand.

Meyer Damage - External TreesMeyer Damage - External with TreesMeyer Damage - Inside Daycare

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

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

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