Red Cross Volunteer Spotlight

Michael McCall Highlight

michael mccall

1-Can you briefly describe your volunteer role as a Disaster Dispatch with Red Cross, and the primary responsibilities of that role?

I act as a communication link; my primary goal is to connect individuals impacted by fires, floods, and natural disasters with Red Cross First Responders. I gather pertinent details regarding each client’s unique situation, and then relay this information to the appropriate local Red Cross team members.

Unfortunately, there is disconnect with the public regarding our mission, and the specific services that we provide so I often receive calls that are out of our purview. That being said, my second responsibility is to act as a human services referral system. I recommend emergency shelters, food banks and utility assistance programs when needed. We endeavor to help all callers, no matter what their reason for calling.

2-How long have you been a disaster dispatcher?

I’ve been a volunteer for the Red Cross since August of 2012. I’m currently volunteering approximately 15-20 hours per week.

3-What made you volunteer for the Red Cross?

I’ve volunteered practically my entire life. First as a Special Olympics Basketball Coach and then as Firefighter. I believe it’s important to give back to your community. I prefer getting my hands dirty versus writing a check, it’s all about sweat equity in my opinion. I was originally attracted to Red Cross because I liked the idea of deployment during an emergency crisis. However, my volunteer path took me in a different direction. During an introductory tour of the building during orientation, I was exposed to our emergency communications department. I was impressed right away and thought that this is something that I good be good at. Its five years later and I haven’t looked back. I love what I do and making a difference in the lives of our clients and the community.

4-What are things you have learned since volunteering for the Red Cross which you didn’t know before?

I always held the ARC in high regard, but since volunteering, what blows me away every day is the passion and commitment of my fellow team members.

5-What is your favorite part of volunteering?

Helping people is the best part of volunteering. Being able to tell someone, don’t worry, we’re going to get you and your family the help you need is an amazing feeling.

6-What is your least favorite part of volunteering?

If you asked me a year ago, I would have told you our technology, specifically our hardware and software. However, in the last 12 months, we’ve gone through several upgrades starting with a new software program, RC View, to new computers. Though there is still room for improvement, we’ve come a long way just in just one year.

7-How would you encourage someone considering a volunteer position to get information on the position?

I often suggest potential volunteers request informational interviews with a current volunteer or manager. I also urge new volunteers to be patient. The Red Cross takes pride in ensuring all new volunteers are vetted and properly screened. The application process takes time. This is done to guarantee the safety of our clients. First start with the on-line application process is very easy to navigate.

8-Can you describe a particular dispatch situation which influenced you most and why?

I signed up to work Christmas Eve last year and I kept receiving calls from parents that didn’t have any money to buy their children gifts. Not wanting to turn them away empty handed, I searched on-line for any local toy drive giveaways. Unfortunately, in many cases I was coming up empty. The last call of the day, was no different, the mother told me that she was desperate to find a way to buy her little girl something to open the next day and it was at this point I realized that I had a $50 Visa Gift Card that I received for my birthday from my sister just a week before was in my wallet. I told the caller that if she could make to the office that she could have the gift card. 30 minutes later the mother and daughter were at our front door. The mother was so thankful and appreciative. The smile on their faces was the best gift I could ever have received.

 

Written by: Lisa Tomarelli

Written by Randy Hulshizer

Several weeks ago, my wife and I signed up to renew our American Red Cross Adult and Pediatric First Aid, CPR, and AED certifications. It was the first time we tried the blended learning format, which includes an online, simulation-based learning experience and an in-person skills session. Since we had always taken the full classroom course previously, we weren’t sure we’d like the online session, but I have to say we really enjoyed it!

Chile Third Year Anniversary Earthquake Recovery 2013

February 19, 2013. Iloca, Chile. Marcelo Gonzalez, a Chilean Red Cross volunteer, demonstrates CPR to a Community-based First Aid & Health workshop in Iloca, Chile. Photo by Brian Cruickshank/American Red Cross

The online session took about two and a half hours, and it was fun–like playing a game–even we were learning important things about serious situations. The simulation put us in “real world” situations and gave us the opportunity to apply our knowledge to various, potentially life threatening emergencies, such as choking, cardiac arrest, external bleeding, and shock.The flexibility of being able to complete the simulations at our own convenience was very nice, considering that it has often been difficult for us to find six hours or so to complete the full classroom course. Once we completed the online portion, we printed out our completion certificates and made our way to the skills session.

Our instructor for the skills session was personable and knowledgable, and he was a great teacher. He presented each skill, gave us an opportunity to practice, then evaluated each of us to be sure we could perform the skills in real world situations if the need ever arose. The session took only about an hour and half. It flew by as we practiced our critical life saving skills and had a great time doing it!

With that said, the blended learning experience might not work for everyone. For example, for someone who has never taken a first aid/CPR course before, the full classroom experience would likely be beneficial, since it gives the student more time to practice and ask questions. In addition, for those who are not comfortable learning online or through simulations, the classroom option is probably the best choice. But for those who have been trained before and simply need a skills refresher, the blended course is a great option!

Whichever course you think is right for you, don’t delay getting trained! Of course, we all hope we never have to perform CPR or use an AED, but if the situation does arise, and you’ve been properly trained, you just might be the one to save a life!

You can find convenient American Red Cross adult and pediatric first aid, CPR, and AED courses (classroom and blended options) in your area by navigating to http://www.redcross.org/ux/take-a-class.

Volunteer Spotlight

By: Elizabeth McLaren

Agnes Han, a senior at Downingtown East High School, knows a thing or two about initiative. With aspirations to become a physician, Han wondered what she could do about the lack of high school clubs available to her that focused on health and wellness.

So she created her own, founding Downingtown East’s Red Cross Club during her junior year to explore her passions and “to get myself and others more involved in helping others medically.”Agnes Han 1

Her vision produced results. “We started with about five people, but over the course of year, it grew to around 25 people,” Han says. “Officers do most of the work. Our teacher advisor, Mrs. Resnek, helps us when we need it and lets us know when we can hold meetings. Other than that, the students pretty much run the show.”

Han currently serves as club president, and is part of a five-member team of officers including fellow students Jordan Guistwhite as vice president, Megan Osterstag as treasurer, Ian Goodstein as secretary and Kate Dippolito as head of fundraising.

The next order of club business for Han was volunteer training for Red Cross Blood Services with the Tri-County Chapter. She became a Blood Donor Ambassador. “A lot of it was fairly straightforward and things I could learn on the job. I met once or twice with Blood Services to review safety protocols and such,” she says.

Han started doing registration at blood drives after she completed training. “The first thing donors see is us – registration – and it’s my job to get them all signed in and ready to go with a smile on their face,” she adds.

Her first blood drive was also her most memorable. “It was the WMMR blood drive that Preston and Steve hosted. I remember feeling at ease and not at all awkward because all of the other volunteers were so friendly. The one volunteer who I got a chance to talk to a little bit, loved mascots and chased around the man in the Blood Drop costume, wanting to take a picture. She was hilarious,” Han recalls.

With college applications on her agenda these days, Han recognizes that both the Red Cross Club and her volunteer role have helped prepare her for the future. “The Red Cross has shown me the joy in helping others through medicine and I’m glad I joined because I was able to learn a lot about the process of giving blood and the mechanics behind the different types of blood,” she says.

The idea of the club continuing after she graduates is something Han loves. For now, Han said that she and the Red Cross Club members are busy setting up a fundraiser for hurricane relief. They are also hoping to host a blood drive in the spring.

Han has a bit of Red Cross volunteer inspiration of her own, too. She adds, “Get involved early and become an active volunteer! Help out with whatever you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”

Although we are enjoying an unusual warm fall, winter is indeed coming. Days will be noticeably shorter and the weather will get colder. As we naturally associate these facts together, it just makes sense that we prepare for them simultaneously. Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday, November 5, which means that we should turn our clocks back an hour. It is also the perfect time to test the batteries in our smoke alarms.

Yes, smoke alarms! You know? Those round, white things on your home ceiling. If you have just moved into your first home, or you are perpetually distracted – like me – you might not even notice them. Well, I have news for you: those small devices SAVE LIVES, and they do need a change of batteries from time to time.

How do I know this? Funny that you ask. Let’s go back four years. My husband, my 7-month-old and I just moved to the US from overseas. We were thrilled with our new house, the area and our jobs. Everything was super exciting… and exhausting! Add a baby to an international move, sprinkle in a 12-hour time difference and you get a zombie-looking, extremely tired family. You get the idea.

After another chaotic day of unpacking, I was in bed, peacefully sleeping when… Beep! Beep! Beep! An annoying, perfectly timed beep sounded from somewhere in our house. My husband and I got up, almost sleepwalking, bumping into boxes and unfamiliar doors while looking for the source of the sound.

We checked everything, every single appliance, toy, clock and electronic device that you can think of. We unplugged, turned off and restarted each of them. But the beeping sound was relentless. We gave up, we were just too tired to keep looking, so we did the only thing left to do, we got out airplane earplugs, climbed back to bed, and slept despite the noise.  Lucky me, my baby is a heavy sleeper and she didn’t even flinch during our nighttime adventure. Bless her heart!

The next morning, when we took out the earplugs, the beeping not only continued but it got even worse! What was happening? Was our house damaged? Were we losing our minds? Not knowing what else to do, we walked across the street and we asked our neighbor if he could come over to take a look. To my surprise, as soon as he walked in the door, he grabbed a stool and reach out to the smoke alarm. “It needs new batteries”. He went into his house and came back with batteries to replace them for us.  He was amazed and horrified at the same time that we were able to ignore the beeping and keep sleeping.

As mortified as I was, I learned my lesson. I did my research and got in the habit of checking the smokes alarms during Daylight Saving Time weekend. So take a piece of advice from me, if you want to avoid something much worse than public embarrassment, don’t sleep on it! Check your smoke alarms, protect your family.

-Written by Mar Torres

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Listen up ghouls and goblins – it’s easy to get swept into the spooky spectacle of Halloween. The clever costumes, the thrill of collecting tasty treats and attending parties can sometimes make us forget about safety basics. Here are a few refreshers to keep the festivities fun.

  • Map out your neighborhood route ahead of time with trick-or-treaters.
  • Stick to sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Bring a flashlight to guide your way and be seen.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street and watch for drivers.
  • Visit houses with porch lights on and skip houses that are dark.
  • Accept treats from strangers outside only, and don’t accept an invite to enter an unknown house.
  • Face paint allows for better visibility than masks, especially in the dark.
  • Keep capes, gowns, tails, wigs, hats and sleeves away from open flames.
  • Use glow sticks or battery-operated candles in jack-o-lanterns and luminaries.

Funny Jack O Lantern

-Written by Elizabeth McLaren

For millennia, philosophers have debated the question: “what is a person?” Are insects people? How about fish or birds? Robots or computers? Some people say yes, others say no. But one thing’s for sure: if you’re a pet person, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your pet is a person. After all she or he has a distinct personality, right? And only a person can have a personality. Case closed.

Maybe my argument isn’t very philosophical, but it works for me, and probably for most pet owners. Pets sure seem to experience emotions and feelings very much like we do. And just like us, they tend to spend more time outside during the summer months. So as pet owners, it’s our responsibility to make sure they stay healthy, happy, and cool all summer long!

Here are some tips to heat your pets beat the heat:

  • Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, cool water throughout the day. This is probably the single-most important thing you can to help your pet avoid dehydration and heat-exhaustion.
  • Provide plenty of shade for your pets. For example, if you have a sunny yard, make sure there are some trees your pet can rest beneath.
  • NEVER leave your pet in your car unattended. Even with the windows “cracked,” temperatures in your car can quickly rise to dangerous levels and put your pet in danger of heat exhaustion or stroke.
  • Be prepared in case your pet succumbs to heat stroke. Consult “How To Treat Heat Strokes In Pets” published on the American Red Cross website for information.

No Pets in Cars

In addition to beating the heat, be sure your pets are wearing collars and ID tags so they can be easily identified and returned to you if they get lost. Also be sure they are protected against heart-worm, fleas, and ticks by giving your pets medication recommended by your veterinarian.

To be even more prepared to assist your pet in the event of a summer health or safety emergency, consider downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid App for your smartphone or tablet. It is available free from the Apple iTunes App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.

So, if you ever wonder if your pet is a person, just look at that little face. Of course, your pet is a person! And just like other people, pets don’t always make the right decisions about how to stay healthy and safe during the hot summer months. But as your pet’s best friend, you can help.

-Written by Randy Hulshizer

Want to help save lives during a road trip with friends? Offer some assistance to others on a rainy afternoon while on a beach house getaway? Or even pitch in while visiting out-of-state family members? Now is your chance. Donating blood from anywhere in the country is possible thanks to the American Red Cross.

This summer, the Red Cross is facing a significant blood donation shortage, reporting 61,000 fewer donations than needed across all blood types. The demand for blood is far outpacing recent collection amounts because of a huge drop-off in new donors, a group mostly made up of high school and college students who are on summer break until classes resume in the fall. For regular Red Cross blood donors, vacation plans may prevent them from donating.

Blood Emergency Give Now

“We have a huge unmet need,” said Alana Mauger, External Communications Manager for the Northeastern Pennsylvania and Penn-New Jersey Blood Services Region. While the number of donation appointments has increased since the call for donors began after Independence Day, Mauger said a big factor still effecting the nation’s blood supply is donors who haven’t followed through and arrived at their scheduled appointments. “You may take a vacation, but the need for blood doesn’t.”

New and returning donors who want to get involved can call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), visit redcrossblood.org or use the free Blood Donor App to learn more about blood donation eligibility and to sign up to give blood. The Blood Donor App allows donors, especially those who may be on vacation, to participate from anywhere in the U.S. by texting “BLOODAPP” to 90999. The Blood App enables donors to search zip codes for nearby donation centers, schedule appointments and complete a RapidPass online health history questionnaire to speed up the donation process. The Blood App even lets donors track where their own blood donation has gone, whether on a local or national level.

Mauger said one of the most common misconceptions about blood donation is the length of time it takes to donate from sign-in to recovery. It’s important for donors to know what blood donation options are available, and just how much time is involved for each type of donation, which include:

Whole Blood
Blood is donated and then manufactured into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
Amount: Approximately a pint of blood
Appointment Length: About 1 hour from sign-in to recovery; 8-10 minutes for blood to be drawn and collected
Where to Donate: All Red Cross Blood Donation Centers and Blood Drives
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 56 days

Power Red Donation
Red blood cells are the most transfused blood component and often in short supply. With a Power Red donation, red blood cells are collected while plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.
Amount: Approximately 2 units of red blood cells
Appointment Length: About 1.5 hours from sign-in to recovery, with 20-30 minutes for blood to be drawn and collected
Where to Donate: Most Red Cross Blood Donation Centers and some Blood Drives
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 112 days

Platelet Apheresis
The Red Cross collects platelets along with some plasma by using an apheresis machine. Red and white blood cells are returned to the donor. Platelets and are important for cancer treatment, organ transplants, surgical procedures and blood loss.
Amount: One full transfusable unit
Appointment Length: About 2.5 to 3 hours from sign-in to recovery
Where to Donate: Select Red Cross Blood Donation Centers
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 7 days, up to 24 times a year

Plasma Apheresis
The Red Cross collects plasma by an apheresis machine simultaneously with a platelet donation. Plasma is important for trauma or emergency situations, patients with bleeding disorders or difficulty fighting infections because of immune diseases.
Amount: One full transfusable unit
Appointment Length: About 1 hour, 15 minutes from sign-in to recovery
Where to Donate: Select Red Cross Blood Donation Centers
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 28 days, up to 13 times a year

 

By Elizabeth McLaren