By: Sophie Kluthe

Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. It’s something we at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross witnessed first-hand this week, and we didn’t have to look very far to see it. 

Right across the street from our chapter office in Philadelphia, some tenacious students at the Albert M. Greenfield School were raising money — collecting change — with the hopes of creating change in the world around them.  

Students and teachers at the Albert M. Greenfield School pose for a photo with Regional Red Cross CEO, Guy Triano (far right).

John Neary, an 8th grade literacy teacher at the school told us what the fundraiser was about. “Earlier this school year, our school ran a charitable campaign called ‘World of Change.’  The campaign was organized and led by a group of middle school students in an after-school club called Student Voice.  Our belief is that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the world,” Neary said.  

He said each classroom was given six empty mason jars, with each jar representing an area of need: Hunger, Housing, Health, Literacy, Recreation, and Employment. Over the course of two weeks, students collected coins and donated them to the jars. The school nominated the American Red Cross as one of the organizations to possibly benefit from the money in the Health jar.  

“We put together a ballot, and our community voted on which organization would receive the money collected for each category. I am happy to say that the Red Cross was an overwhelming favorite!” Neary said. 

The Red Cross is the proud recipient of precisely $996.28! What we are equally as proud of, was the time and dedication the students at Albert M. Greenfield School put into collecting all the coins for the jars. It proves that no matter a person’s age, or the amount they have to give, every little bit counts!

By: Sophie Kluthe

Guests enjoying Red Ball 2018! Photo by: Daniel Moyer Photography

The Why:

On average, 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in services and programs. This is only possible through the generosity of donors like you.  When you give to the Red Cross, your donations support:

  1. Disaster Relief
  2. Home Fires
  3. Training and Certification
  4. Help to Military Families
  5. Health Care and Blood Drives
  6. International Efforts

Every year the Red Cross in Eastern PA conducts a number of signature events throughout region that would not be possible without the generous support of our community and sponsors. We welcome you to come out in support of these events as money raised goes back into the many services we provide to the local community.

The What, Where and When:

March 17, 2019 Pocono Telethon: Annual fundraising telethon and talent show www.redcross.org/poconotelethon 

March 30, 3019 Red Ball: Gala featuring dancing, auction and tastings from 30 premiere Philadelphia area restaurants www.redcross.org/RedBallPhilly 

April 12, 2019 Lehigh Valley Cabaret & Cuisine Annual fundraising dinner/dance- 90s theme: To the 90s and beyond www.redcross.org/Cabaret

April 16, 2019 Northeastern Pennsylvania Heroes Breakfast Awards ceremony hosted by the NEPA Chapter www.redcross.org/NEPA

May 9, 2019 Berks County Heroes Breakfast Breakfast and awards ceremony www.redcross.org/BerksCountyHeroes

May 14, 2019 Red Cross Cup Golf Tournament A golf tournament, lunch, reception & dinner, contests, silent auction, and raffle www.redcross.org/RedCrossCup

May 19, 2019 Run for the Red Pocono Marathon Annual Marathon and 5K hosted by Pocono Chapterwww.redcross.org/PoconoMarathon

June 21, 2019 Bucks Heroes Breakfast and awards ceremony www.redcross.org/buckscountyheroes

By: Sophie Kluthe

My Experience 

I recently donated blood for the first time. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of my travel history. I’ll admit, I was nervous at first because of a childhood fear of needles, but the staff at the donation center made my experience nearly painless. Especially compared to what the person who will receive my blood is going through.  

Feeling great after giving blood at the Blood Donation Center at 700 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.
Feeling great after giving blood at the Blood Donation Center at 700 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.

When I used to think about who was receiving these blood donations, I imagined car crash victims and other trauma patients. While these people do depend on life-saving blood, there are many others who rely on it as well. While I was rolling that foam ball around in my hand, I wondered if my blood might go to help a child battling leukemia, or a person who regularly needs blood transfusions to fight a chronic disease. Maybe it would it be used to help someone getting an organ transplant. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion. If a trauma victim ends up in the emergency room, it’s the blood already on the shelves that will save their life.  

National Blood Donor Month 

This January the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month, which has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter. The colder months are typically the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. During the winter months, bad weather often results in cancelled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses like the flu may cause some donors to become temporarily unable to donate. This winter, the need is especially urgent, since there weren’t as many people who donated in the fall compared to years past.

A Sweet Incentive

Throughout the month of January, presenting donors in Southern New Jersey and Southeast Pennsylvania will receive a voucher for a free medium Dunkin’ hot coffee and a classic donut, redeemable at participating Dunkin’ restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia Region, while supplies last. Blood donation appointments can be made by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or to receive more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 

Regional Red Cross CEO, Guy Triano, kicks off the January promotion alongside Jessica Weissman, Integrated Marketing Manager for Philadelphia, Dunkin’ Brands

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. 

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site. 

It’s easy to get caught up in both the joys and obligations of the holidays between the party frenzy and the nonstop shopping! Don’t let the hectic season stop you from making a real difference today and support a cause you believe in.  Your charitable donation to the American Red Cross ensures we are there for millions of people who face emergencies year-round and help as they rebuild their lives.  Although charity should be altruistic, there can also be some great tax benefits for those who give. However, to receive those benefits, timing your gift at year-end can be crucial. The gift date—the date used for tax purposes—is the day you transfer control of the asset. And that depends on the asset and your method of giving.  Read below to make sure you keep in mind how a simple date could affect you.

How the Gift Date is Determined:

  • Checks — The USPS mailing date, as postmarked, is the date of the gift.
  • Credit cards — The day the charge is posted by the credit card company is considered the gift date.
  • Pledges — Pledges are deductible in the years they are fulfilled and not the year the initial pledge is made.
  • Securities — If securities are electronically transferred to the American Red Cross, the gift date is typically the day the securities enter our account. If security certificates are mailed, the mailing date, as postmarked, is the gift date. It is important to send, by registered or certified mail, the unsigned certificates in a separate envelope from the signed stock power and letter indicating the purpose of your gift.
  • Real estate—The day you deliver the signed deed to us is the date of the gift. If your state law requires recording of the deed to fulfill the title, though, then the date of recording is the gift date.
  • Tangible personal property—The gift date is the day you deliver the property with a signed document transferring ownership, if necessary.

Charitable IRA Rollover

The Charitable IRA Rollover has been a popular option for friends of the American Red Cross, who are 70½ or older, to transfer up to $100,000 directly from an IRA to the Red Cross, without having to declare the funds as taxable income. Your IRA administrator must initiate the rollover. Speak with your CPA or other advisor to determine if an IRA Charitable Rollover is the right choice for you.

As you decide how best to fulfill your year-end gift to the American Red Cross, please take into consideration the time needed by brokerage firms and fund administrators to process your requests.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Colleen Becht-Foltz at 215-299-4082 or via email at colleen.bechtfoltz@redcross.org. Thank you for supporting the American Red Cross.

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This information is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results.

By Kathy Huston

The recent hard-hitting hurricanes (most notably, Florence and Michael) brought out many heroes to help with relief and recovery efforts. Here, two of them who have recently returned from deployment, reflect on their service and the satisfaction it brings them.

Jared Isaacs learned about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross during an outdoor festival about six years ago and has been volunteering with Disaster Assistance Teams (DAT) ever since. “I was a volunteer firefighter and EMT for many years and stopped doing it when I moved to a new area. As soon as I heard (that with the Red Cross) you can go to big fires and not have to roll the hose up afterwards, I decided to join,” he jokes.

Isaacs’ most recent deployment was to Chapel Hill and Lumberton, NC for about 10 days, working in two different shelters with the Health Services Team. “While there we cared for those with medical emergencies and those with chronic health conditions,” he says. “Some of our time was spent coordinating with outside agencies and other health-care professionals.”

He recalls a man staying at one shelter who had complex medical and mental health issues. “He had no family or friends to support him. We were able to find an outside caseworker from another agency who had recently been assigned to him. That caseworker met with him on several occasions and will support him long after the Red Cross leaves,” he says.

Isaacs also lent an attentive ear as a single parent relayed her frustration trying to find housing for her and her son. “She couldn’t even get an appointment with any of the local housing agencies,” he says. “We talked about how she could advocate for herself and her family. On my last day, she came over and was so excited to tell me she was able to get an appointment with a housing counselor. For her, just being able to get the appointment was a huge win.

“When someone is affected by a disaster, the fire department shows up to do the rescue, EMS is there to handle their injuries and the police will take care of any criminal justice issues. The Red Cross is the only agency that is there to listen and offer support just by being there,” he says. “I’m always amazed by the kindness and compassion offered by our volunteers.”

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Friday Center – Red Cross Shelter. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo by: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross 

Cathy Jensen was living in Germany in 2000. The apartment building next door housed American Red Cross volunteers. “I saw, and experienced as an Army wife, all the good they were bringing into the world. I then committed to volunteer with ARC once my life provided me the time,” she says. “That time came in July 2014. I have been volunteering ever since.”

On September 17, Jensen deployed to North Carolina, serving as the Disaster Spiritual Care (DSC) lead in the Durham headquarters, supervising five DSC teams and providing disaster spiritual care to those working in headquarters. On October 17, she deployed to the Red Cross Disaster Operations Center near Washington, DC, providing support to the Disaster Spiritual Care leaders in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Jensen supervised the DSC teams on the ground and was intent on meeting the DSC needs of the staff caring for the clients, whatever their role might be. “All those serving clients risk finding themselves spiritually and emotionally depleted at times,” she notes. “To me, caring for the care providers is paramount in achieving the positive outcomes for our clients. I believe we cannot provide 100% to our clients if we ourselves are not 100% whole.”

Disaster Spiritual Care providers are there to listen to the stories people want to tell, and to help them find their hope and strength to move forward into their recovery. “I enjoy being part of the best humanitarian organization in the world,” Jensen says, echoing Isaacs’ sentiments. “When people see American Red Cross, they see relief, they feel hope … relief from their suffering, and hope for their future. This is why I volunteer, to bring relief from suffering and hope into lives devastated by disasters.”

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If you are interested in volunteering in any of these roles, please visit https://www.redcross.org/local/pennsylvania/eastern-pennsylvania/volunteer.html

By Grace Nava

Every fall we mark National Fire Safety/Fire Prevention Week. As the weather gets colder, the number of fires typically increases dramatically. Considering that, on average, 7 people die every day from home fires, fire prevention is a serious business.

The American Red Cross is very proud of its programs related to fire prevention and their wonderful results:

The Pillowcase Project. Learn. Practice. Share. Originally created by an American Red Cross Chapter in Southern Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was developed in part as an art therapy program to help children cope with the traumatic effects of the disaster, but it evolved into a nationwide prevention program. The children decorate pillow cases which they use to create an emergency kit. They also learn about fire safety and are encouraged to share their gained knowledge with their parents and caregivers. So far, 1,207,470 children have been reached through this campaign!

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Sound the Alarm. Save a Life. Almost one and a half million free smoke alarms have been installed in high risk neighborhoods since the program started in 2014. During “Sound the Alarm 2018,” volunteers installed 122,259 smoke alarms and raised over $15,400,000 during a two-week blitz. Sound the Alarm, Safe a Life events take place in the spring.

Arlington Home Fire Campaign 2016

However, winter months are when the American Red Cross responds to most fires. Home heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires (cooking is number one). This includes the use of space heaters that overload electric circuits. This is particularly a problem in older homes that may have outdated wiring. In order to prevent a fire, keep the following tips in mind:

Around the House:

  • Never leave candles unattended, that includes leaving candles lit while you sleep.
  • Keep lit candles way out of the reach of small children and pets.
  • Do not overload electric circuits by plugging multiple heat producing devices into one outlet.
  • Avoid heaters with open heat elements.
  • Never smoke in bed or leave lit cigarettes unattended.
  • Unplug your Christmas tree lights when you go to bed.

In the Kitchen:

  • When cooking, don’t leave anything flammable such as mittens or wooden utensils near an open flame.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but don’t try to put out a fire that is too big for your extinguisher.
  • Don’t leave food being cooked unattended.

Preventive:

  • Check your smoke alarms. Preferably, put a fresh battery at the beginning of winter. If you need smoke alarms, you can contact us here.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector if you have an attached garage or any fuel burning heating system that uses gas, oil, coal, or wood.
  • Have an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with your family.

Once a fire starts, leave the home or building immediately. Fires can spread extremely fast and the smoke is very toxic. Stay warm and safe this winter!

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Written by David Haas

Isolated by high water for three days, a dedicated team of five Red Cross volunteers opened and maintained a shelter serving 900 people.  Outside contact was limited to helicopter deliveries. One of the five was an 84-year-old retired nurse with more than 30 deployments on her volunteer resume. “I am too busy thinking about other people, people who have lost everything” she says.

Helicopter

Red Cross volunteers personal belongings onto a national guard helicopter. They will fly to relieve shelter volunteers isolated by the effects of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, NC. Photo credit: American Red Cross

A Red Cross volunteer from Newport NC summed up the hurricane’s effect by stating that, “it looks like someone took a bomb and dropped it” on her hometown. We found the woman helping run a Red Cross blood drive, a higher priority for her than cleaning up the storm damage to her home.

Flying over Elizabethtown North Carolina, a Red Cross volunteer saw “saw a silo and a barn roof sticking through the water, and knew there was a farm below that was surrounded by water.”  Four hundred pounds at a time, he worked with other volunteers to deliver 288,000 lbs. of supplies.

These are just some of the inspiring stories told by the more than 2,350 Red Cross volunteers providing disaster response for Hurricane Florence. More than 70 Eastern PA volunteers and staff deployed as part of the national response and many are still there providing support in the coastal areas of North and South Carolina.

As a public affairs volunteer during the first week following landfall, I witnessed the generous nature of Red Cross volunteers and the communities they support.

For example, one of the 110 Red Cross shelters in North Carolina was located in Chapel Hill.  Housing 340 people at its busiest, the shelter received tremendous community support. This included volunteers reading to children, fire fighters showing off their trucks, boy scouts cleaning cots and the entire championship UNC-Chapel Hill basketball team.  It was hard to tell whether the shelter residents or the Red Cross volunteers were more excited by the visits, but it did wonders for morale in the midst of long days in the shelter.

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Red Cross volunteers take pictures with members of the championship North Carolina Tarheels basketball team during the team’s visit to a shelter in Chapel Hill. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

More than 19 non-profit organizations coordinated with the Red Cross during the disaster. Members of the Southern Baptist Crisis Care Team worked in stand-alone kitchens to prepare 6,000 lunches and dinners each day. The meals were delivered by Red Cross volunteers to first responders, residents and survivors of the hurricane.  “The Red Cross and the Southern Baptists represent a unique display of partnership that is working well.”  Said spiritual care provider Kristen Curtis.

Southern Baptist

Red Cross volunteers load meals prepared by Southern Baptist volunteers at a mobile feeding station in Washington, NC. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

Even American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern participated, spending two days visiting disaster assistance headquarters to listen to the issues faced by volunteers and thank them for their dedicated service. She stayed for a long time at each location until all questions were answered and all selfies were taken.

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American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern speaks with Red Cross volunteers staffing North Carolina District 2 disaster relief headquarters in Greenville NC. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

We could not reach many areas until the water level on roads receded.  Then I saw firsthand the damage caused by Florence.  Traveling with a small team, we visited a shelter in New Bern, NC to meet with volunteers and determine what additional supplies were needed. En-route, we saw boats lifted onto dry land by the surge, trees ripped up by their roots from the wind, and hundreds of homes whose insulation flooring and furniture were lying in the road, removed because of flood exposure.  We could see the discoloration of water marks halfway up the sides of many buildings.

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The contents of historic homes in New Bern, NC are piled in their front yards after being inundated with water during Hurricane Florence. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

Returning to regional headquarters, we learned of two Red Cross volunteers who left their 12-hour shift and were first on the scene of a serious car accident. A mother was trapped in the driver’s seat and her teenage daughter injured and hanging out of the passenger side window.  Using their Red Cross First Aid/CPR training, one stopped traffic to prevent a secondary collision while the other worked to stabilize the injured until first responders arrived.

Still wearing his Red Cross T-shirt, the volunteer was able to calm the teenager. “What we did seemed natural” he said. “When you see a need, you help.”