By Kathy Huston

May is National Barbecue Month, and as you compile your patio playlist (“Summertime,” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince is always a must), make sure you’re putting grilling safety on the front burner. Here are a few tips.

  • Think about where you grill—that is, well away from your house or other structures. While this advice may seem obvious, some never got that memo: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that an average of 10,200 home fires are started by grills each year, causing millions in property damage. Even more alarming: 19,000 people a year seek ER treatment because of injuries involving grills, including 9,300 thermal burns.
  • If you grill with gas, regularly check the hose and connections for cracks and leaks. (Use the “soapy bubble test”: Brush on a soap-and-water solution, turn on the gas, and look for the telltale bubbles.) This is especially important after a grill has been in storage.
  • Never leave the grill unsupervised, and keep kids and pets at a safe distance. The NFPA reports that between 2012 and 2016, children under age 5 accounted for about a third of contact burns requiring emergency room treatment.
  • After every grilling session, turn the tank off, let everything cool down, and then clean the grates of fat and food remnants for next time. The NFPA notes that one out of every five grill fires are caused by starting up a dirty grill.
  • If you’re using a charcoal, never squirt additional lighter fluid onto coals that are already burning. Dispose of spent coals properly and safely in a metal container.
  • Invest in a meat thermometer. According to kitchn.com, the correct internal temperature for cooked chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

With safety on your side, have a fun and flavorful Barbecue Month and beyond!

Sidebar: BBQ by the Numbers

  • Seven in 10 U.S. adults own a grill or smoker
  • Gas is the most popular grill type (64%), followed by charcoal (44%) and electric (9%).
  • Memorial Day and July 4 remain top grilling days.

Source: State of the Barbecue Industry Survey

By: Sophie Kluthe

It was high fives all around on Tuesday as a group of about 75 first grade students from New Foundations Charter School visited the Red Cross House in Philadelphia bearing gifts. 

The Red Cross House is a disaster recovery center that provides housing and ongoing support to help local and regional victims of home fires and other unforeseen disasters. Some of the residents arrive with little more than the clothes they were wearing when they were forced out of their home.

That’s why the students’ donations of hygiene kits, blankets, and cloth dolls brought smiles to the faces of the families who graciously accepted them. The New Foundations students also presented hand-made cards bursting with bright colors and well-wishes.

As part of the visit, the students got to meet the Red Cross mascot, Fred Cross, take a tour of the Red Cross House and learn about all the things the organization does to support the community. Before heading back to school, each student was given a disaster preparedness activity book to take home. Hopefully each student will pass along a meaningful lesson about planning and preparedness to their families. The partnership is extra special because this trip has become an annual tradition for first graders at this school.

Thank you New Foundations Charter School for your generous donations and for giving us the opportunity to show you the Red Cross House!

By: Sam Antenucci

The enticing aroma of gourmet food and the sounds of laughter and live music swirled about the Tork Club at Lincoln Financial Field as I wandered through a sea of red ballgowns and black tuxedos. Even though this year marked my third Red Ball, I’m always amazed at what the gala has to offer.

Like previous Red Balls, this one had food purveyors from around the city offering a tantalizing variety of culinary specialties from their restaurants. Games were set up at various locations, and live bands played from early in the evening till the midnight hour. But there was something different at this year’s event, a reminder of why everyone was there. Set up in the center of the venue was a display that drew everyone’s attention: A living room scarred by a home fire.

A display for guests to visualize a living room impacted by fire.

In the fun and excitement of Red Ball, it’s easy to overlook what the event is all about. The Red Cross organizes this annual gala as a massive fundraiser to support the Red Cross House. While most people are familiar with Red Cross blood services, it’s only after an emergency—such as a home fire or an extreme weather event—that others learn of the Red Cross’s many other humanitarian services. Unique to Philadelphia, the Red Cross House is the only one in the country that provides a safe haven for people who have lost their homes in a fire. 

Guy Triano, Regional CEO for the Red Cross Eastern PA

Later in the evening, Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross CEO Guy Triano hopped up on the blackened living room platform to speak to the crowd about how much the Red Cross House has impacted the Philadelphia community. This short-term recovery center can provide private rooms, three meals a day, and a caseworker to help family members get back on their feet. 

Without the Red Cross House, many home fire victims would be left homeless and sleeping in shelters for months at a time. Instead, residents at the Red Cross House stay an average of 21 days at the center, and with the support and resources available, families can go back to normal living within the three weeks they spend at the center. 

While the night was an amazing opportunity to share food, memories, and lots of dances with folks from all over the metro area, the Red Cross couldn’t keep the Red Cross House going if it weren’t for all the wonderful people, businesses, and restaurants that donated to the gala’s cause, And although Red Ball has ended, you can still uphold the Red Cross House’s mission by supporting your local chapter—and planning to attend next year’s gala!

National Volunteer week is April 7th – April 13th, which means a lot to us at the American Red Cross because volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce! Our volunteers are the true muscle behind the Red Cross. With endless compassion and dedication, Red Cross volunteers give us the valuable gift of their time as they help us achieve our mission day in and day out. That is why we wanted to highlight two volunteers from our Eastern Pennsylvania Region every day this Monday through Friday. 

This post wraps up five days of volunteer spotlights from our Eastern Pennsylvania Region. Tri-County Chapter – Disaster Program Specialist, Matthew Breidenstein explains why he nominated Janice Thomas, Mass Care Coordinator and Volunteer Lead for the Eastern PA Regional Training Conference, for this volunteer spotlight:  

Janice Thomas

 “In the last year, Janice Thomas has quickly risen as a leader in Eastern PA. Building on her DAT experience, Janice was offered and accepted the role Mass Care Coordinator for the Tri-County Chapter. In this role, Janice has contributed significantly to the increased readiness of the Tri-County chapter and the EPA region. Starting in her home county of Chester, Janice took on the huge task of updating all shelter facility surveys and agreements. During this project, she regularly met with Chester County Emergency Managers in order to develop a list of shelters and made appointments with school districts across the county. Further, she trained the volunteer workforce so that they could accurately complete the surveys. She completed the project in record time! Now, she is expanding her efforts and leading the charge to complete surveys in Berks and Schuylkill counties.  Further, she has ensured that shelter trailers and supplies are updated, organized, and inventoried. She has helped to lead shelter drills in Chester county so that our responders are prepared when the next disaster strikes. 

This past fall, Janice deployed twice, including to the Carolinas to support sheltering post-Hurricane Florence and during the flooding in the northern part of our region. During both deployments, Janice displayed her grit and determination, ensuring that the Red Cross could support service delivery to affected clients.  

Janice’s work ethic is noticed and appreciated throughout the region. Recently, Janice was offered and accepted the role as Volunteer Lead for the EPA Regional Training Conference. In a few short weeks, she has helped secure a location for the conference, a place for volunteers to stay, and has pulled together a committee to help run social events.  

In Janice’s short tenure with the Red Cross, she has stepped up, rolled up her sleeves up, and worked until the job was done. We are truly lucky to have her as part of the Tri-County team.” 

Thank you, Janice! 

National Volunteer week is April 7th – April 13th, which means a lot to us at the American Red Cross because volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce! Our volunteers are the true muscle behind the Red Cross. With endless compassion and dedication, Red Cross volunteers give us the valuable gift of their time as they help us achieve our mission day in and day out. That is why we wanted to highlight two volunteers from our Eastern Pennsylvania Region every day this Monday through Friday. 

We would like to take this time to honor Donor Ambassador Shirley Warner, who proves that the desire to volunteer has nothing to do with the number of candles on your birthday cake. Warner was nominated by Penn-Jersey Blood Region Volunteer Manager Ernie Anziano, who had this to say about her: 

“Shirley Warner started her volunteer career with the American Red Cross on December 7th, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, at the age of 17.  Shirley began helping the Red Cross financially by dressing “mummies” in military & Red Cross uniforms for display in shopping store windows and standing on the street in uniform with posters and Red Cross donation boxes.  Shirley did this from 1941 to 1945, then married in 1946 and had children.   

Shirley resumed volunteering for the American Red Cross in 1956 specifically for Blood Services in Glen Falls, NY after raising her family. In 1959,  Shirley and her family then moved to Columbia, SC where Shirley continued to volunteer for Blood Services there until 1966. At this time she moved back to our area where she continued volunteering for Blood Services to 1970, when she moved back to Columbia, SC where she resumed volunteering for Blood Services there until 1993.  Shirley then moved back to our area to Exton where she continued volunteering for Blood Services to the present time.

Shirley, who will be 95 in June, continues to be extremely active with the American Red Cross, even scheduling for a drive as I was interviewing her by phone for this article!  Many sites, including AGI, ACG, & XL Insurance, specially request Shirley’s both warm & dynamic presence at their drives.” 

Thank you, Shirley! 

By: Nadine Banks

I knew nothing about first aid for animals when I discovered my cat, Jill, overheated and disoriented in an attic crawl space, unable to stand upright. It was early July—the hottest time of the year—and in typical cat-curious fashion, she had pried open two doors to sneak up in there. I rushed her to a veterinary hospital, where she spent most of a week…and ended up becoming the most expensive thing I own. 

Nadine’s cat, Jill

You want your pets to be happy and healthy, and you probably don’t have a veterinary degree. That’s where the Red Cross can help: It offers an online Pet First Aid course at redcross.org/catdogfirstaid. Follow step-by-step instructions on such topics as checking vital signs, basic CPR, handling breathing emergencies, and wound and preventive care. The course takes about a half hour, but if Paw McCatney walks across your keyboard or Sir Barksalot knocks the laptop off your lap, you can simply restart the course whenever and wherever you want to. 

Hopefully you won’t need immediate answers, but if you do, there’s an app for that. Download the free Red Cross app Pet First Aid in one of three ways: Text GETPET to 90999, go to redcross.org/apps, or search ‘American Red Cross’ in app stores. Select dog or cat, your concern or issue—such as allergic reactions, burns, seizures or smoke inhalation—and get advice on the spot. Learn what supplies to keep on hand in case of emergencies, and store your pet’s and veterinarian’s information. You can even find pet-friendly hotels. 

Jill likely would have still ended up in the hospital, but had I known about using cool towels and spray to deal with heat exhaustion, I could have made both of us more comfortable and less stressed until she got there. Preparedness is key. That’s what the Red Cross is all about.

National Volunteer week is April 7th – April 13th, which means a lot to us at the American Red Cross because volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce! Our volunteers are the true muscle behind the Red Cross. With endless compassion and dedication, Red Cross volunteers give us the valuable gift of their time as they help us achieve our mission day in and day out. That is why we wanted to highlight two volunteers from our Eastern Pennsylvania Region every day this Monday through Friday. 

Some volunteers prove that there are no such thing as strict confines when it comes to the number of ways you can use your skills to help the Red Cross. Our Volunteer Services Team nominated Robert Pollock, who has demonstrated that there are always new ways to serve. He kindly answered these questions to explain what volunteering means to him. 

Robert Pollock

How long have you been volunteering with the Red Cross and what do you do?  

13 years of service. I have previously served on a DAT team and also dispatched on the Bridge. Currently I work in the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program of International Services and I also am part of the Fiscal Review Team. 

Why is your work important to your community?  

My RFL work helps families separated by conflict and natural disaster to reconnect often after many years. 

Was there a significant moment that reinforced to you why your work is so important?  

Reconnecting a Vietnamese man here with his siblings in Vietnam separated since the war. 

How would you describe how your work as a volunteer makes you feel personally?  

When success is achieved, I am very gratified. 

What’s your favorite part about volunteering for the Red Cross?  

 My favorite part is a sense of serving others in need. 

Thank you, Robert, for making a difference!