By: Janice Winston

Red Crossers pore over their training materials at a Logistics Boot Camp session.

The Back Story
Most people become aware of the American Red Cross through its blood drives, made possible by dedicated donors and volunteers. But those campaigns are just one element of the organization’s larger humanitarian mission. In fact, the Red Cross offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities tailored to all talents and passions, and there are lots of ways you can help. If you’re an orderly, systematic type of person who loves to plan things out, give logistics a try. It might become your favorite Red Cross activity.

What does logistics mean for Red Cross projects? It’s a critical aspect of serving a disaster-affected community. Jeff Banks, manager of logistics for the Eastern Pennsylvania region, defines it simply as “the management of the movement of supplies from one point to another.” In other words, it’s all about wrangling the moving parts, and the organizational geeks at the American Red Cross have logistics down to a science. The volunteers behind the scenes form the backbone of this effort.

Jeffrey Banks -Red Cross Logistics Specialist

“Logistics volunteers engage in such activities as transportation, warehouse, supply, procurement, in-kind donations, life safety asset protection, facilities, and disaster services technology,” Banks said. All of those efforts give the organization the ability to prepare, respond, and offer recovery services after any disaster, whether it’s a single-family home fire or a larger response involving a hurricane or wildfire.

The Training
Preparedness is key in any Red Cross response, so on February 1, the region hosted the first of three logistics boot camps organized by Jeff Banks and regional training lead Kate Crowley. Held in Norristown, it was an entire day of education on ordering supplies, obtaining in-kind donations, completing shelter surveys, and more. Banks and Crowley provided the all tools for volunteers to succeed in their chosen activity.

Kate Crowley leads a discussion at the February 1 boot camp.

Good logistics support ensures that everyone has what they need to fulfill their mission in the field. In communities across the country, these ongoing planning efforts help the Red Cross have material resources in the right place and at the right time—critical in a time-sensitive disaster situation. Logistics involves coordination, analysis, and the ability to have the resources named, ordered, and delivered. The boot camp participants received important training from experienced instructors. Volunteer Jayne Cabnet told me she enjoyed the people in the class, gained useful knowledge, and is now interested in working in the supply area.

“Our mission is dependent on courteous, reliable, and trained logistics workers to provide support every day within our organization,”  Banks says. This first boot camp gave volunteers the opportunity to meet, bond, share a common learning environment, and provide input. Some volunteers may end up working together. A truly rewarding experience!

Don’t Miss Out
Upcoming boot camps, to be held February 22 in West Chester and March 7 in Wilkes Barre, will focus on warehouse and transportation endeavors and review some topics covered in the first boot camp. To learn more, reach out to your local chapter. Hope to see you behind the scenes!

By: David Haas

“The secret of success is to do the best job you can, and if possible, also like your work.” These are the words of Regina Collins, who has defined success at Red Cross of Southeastern PA for 45 years. Of Black History Month, she says “let’s celebrate it every day and acknowledge the good work of those around us.” 

Regina has outlasted 12 supervisors since she began working for the Red Cross in 1974. When she walked into the HQ building at 23rd and Chestnut Streets — which has been renovated and reorganized more than once — she knew that this was going to be where she spent her career. It has suited her well, as she likes to operate behind the scenes, managing paperwork and making sure Red Cross services are seamless and smooth for all.  

Her work has changed dramatically over the years. Regina remembers ordering bulk mattresses and kitchen appliances for house fire survivors. “They would come to our office for an interview and then receive a disbursing order with goods and services provided by the Red Cross.” Today, people affected by disasters receive a cash card from case workers who visit them onsite, allowing them to make financial decisions that best serve their own needs. 

Regina says that she “heard rumors of personality conflict in the work world,” but she has never actually met a difficult coworker at the American Red Cross.  Perhaps her approach is part of the reason, as she “takes each person as an individual and works with them based on who they are.” 

Regina has had three peak experiences in her life: having two sons and seven grandchildren; working at the Red Cross; and visiting Paisley Park near Minneapolis where the African American rock star Prince lived and recorded his music.  In fact, the picture that flashed on the screen when she received her 45-year pin was taken in Prince’s recording studio.  You can see the pride in her face from both visiting the home of her hero and achieving an incredible milestone.   

By: Judith Weeks

On December 29, 2019, Nicholas Strohecker was awakened by the screeching sound of a smoke alarm inside his home in Pottsville. It was enough to jar him out of bed and he instinctively ran down the stairs from his second story bedroom and out the door. He didn’t stop to see where the fire was or what set off the alarm. He just knew he had to get out. Once outside, he called 9-1-1. 

While on the phone with dispatchers, he described fire and smoke pouring out of the windows and roof. Minutes later the Pottsville firefighters arrived and put the fire out relatively quickly. 

Nicholas’ home was in the middle of 17 rowhomes and because of his smoke alarm, quick evacuation, and 9-1-1 call, the firefighters were able to save the other homes as well. Eighteen months earlier, in July of 2018, the American Red Cross, in partnership with the Pottsville Fire Department, had canvassed the neighborhood installing smoke alarms. They installed the very smoke alarm that alerted Nicholas to the fire that December night.

All too often, without a working smoke alarm, people cannot get out in time after they are awakened by smoke and flames. Even if the fire department arrives within minutes, it may be too late to save someone, as you can have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. On average, home fires claim seven lives every day. This is more than deaths from all natural disasters combined in the United States. Having a working smoke alarm can cut the risk of death from a home fire in half. 

In a December 30 email to American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Matthew Breidenstein, Pottsville Fire Chief James Misstishin said, “This incident is exactly why smoke alarms save lives, and we saved one yesterday.” 

Chief Misstishin praised the American Red Cross Sound the Alarm. Save a Life initiative, part of the organization’s Home Fire Campaign, and wants other fire chiefs in Schuylkill County to know of the partnership opportunity with the Red Cross.  

The American Red Cross partners with fire departments all over the country to install free smoke alarms in homes. Since the program started in 2014, at least 715 lives have been saved thanks to these smoke alarms.

That’s why the American Red Cross is rallying 27,000 volunteers to install 100,000 free smoke alarms nationwide during Sound the Alarm, Save a Life events over a two week period this spring. Volunteers who participate in this program are passionate about community safety and want to make a real difference by hands-on contact with the public to install fire alarms. 

Would you like to participate in this year’s Sound the Alarm campaign and install smoke alarms in your community? Head to www.soundthealarm.org and type in your zip code to find the event closest to where you live. Join us in making a difference and helping save lives in your community! 

By: Susan West

Janice Winston

Nearly everyone who dedicates their time and energy to volunteering can cite an event that put the American Red Cross on their radar. For Janice Winston, that moment came 31 years ago, in 1989, when her father passed away. At the time, her son was serving overseas in the military and needed to be notified of his grandfather’s death. Enter the SAF program, or Service to the Armed Forces. The SAF caseworker’s empathy and warmth left an indelible impression on Janice, and she decided then and there to serve the American Red Cross when she retired. 
 
A few years later saw the U.S. Middle East presence in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and Janice acted on that promise to herself. She eased herself into volunteering with the Red Cross by supplying canteen refreshments and other items to soldiers during their Philly airport layovers. And that, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 
 

Around 2003, her service began in earnest with International Tracing, and over the years Janice has worn plenty of hats in the organization. Today she’s a Red Cross rock star—disaster responder, liaison to county emergency management agencies and FEMA Region III, and Red Cross rep for the Crescenz V.A. Medical Center in Philadelphia. 
 
Janice has a pile of awards and honors, but the certificate she treasures most, from John L. Kinsey School, was for using her Red Cross skills to save the life of a choking student. She’s also received grateful thanks from families for her efforts as a Service to the Armed Forces caseworker—inspired, of course, by that SAF volunteer who helped her back in 1989. 
 
More recently, one of her most fulfilling Red Cross projects was designing and presenting a Diversity and Inclusion seminar at the 2019 Red Cross Volunteer Leadership Conference. The trust in the room, the sharing of personal experiences, and the level of engagement, she says, was truly gratifying and made the presentation a success for all involved. Equally gratifying, she adds, is seeing more people of color volunteering and taking on leadership positions. As Black History Month continues, she says she’s humbled by the legacy of all who came before her, known and unknown, who sacrificed so much—including their lives—so people of color can vote and enjoy full recognition as citizens of the United States. 
 
Today, from her vantage point 30 years beyond that initial Red Cross encounter, Janice Winston has some sage advice for her younger self, and for all youth who are looking to leave their own legacy: “Give back as much as you can as soon as you can,” she says. “You will look back in life and love what you see. Nothing stays the same forever except the warm heart of a volunteer.” 

He has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop, but what may be most impressive about Ron Davis, on top of a long list of career accomplishments, is the time and dedication he thoughtfully puts into serving his community.  

Ron Davis, accepting his award at the Celebration of Volunteers in 2019

Davis turned his drive into action on the pro football field. In the early 1970s, Davis played as a defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers, the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals, and the Atlanta Falcons. After leaving the NFL, he worked his way up in the corporate world, eventually leading him to his current position as Chief Diversity Officer & Director of Community Development at Parx Casino. 

Davis is also a member of the Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania Region’s board acting as co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He is instrumental in tending to the incredible relationship the region has with Parx Casino, a donor and supporter of the American Red Cross locally.  

As if that isn’t already a large commitment, Davis is also a member of the Diversity and Inclusion team for the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross; it’s work he takes very much to heart.  

“The journey of African American participation in the Red Cross and the African American participation in America, this great country, is an American story,” Davis said. 

With Black History Month in view, it’s also a time Davis is reflecting on what the month means to him.  

“Black History Month is a time of celebration. There are so many people who have been leaders in various areas of American History. So many leaders who inspire me and have inspired me,” he said. “I consider myself standing on the shoulders of others who have done a tremendous job for America. This is a great country and I’ve been blessed to have grown because of the faith, trust and focus of others.” 

Specifically, Davis mentions Dr. Charles Drew, who plays a defining role in American Red Cross biomedical history. As a surgeon, Dr. Drew pioneered methods of storing blood plasma for transfusion and organized the first large blood bank in the country.  The Biomedical Services Charles Drew Institute is named for him. (Read more about Dr. Charles Drew here: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/Red-Cross-Celebrates-African-American-History-Month.html

Coincidentally, it was blood services that began Davis’ nearly decade worth of commitment to the American Red Cross. “The mission is one that attracted me through my church, originally,” he said. “We have a blood outreach and I was really astounded that an organization would take the time to reach out to me to help me number one, help me help other people through my donation of blood, and also help me understand what the Red Cross is all about. The disaster side and all the other things that they do.” 

Davis has been a blood donor and blood donation advocate ever since. If there’s one thing that links his early NFL days to his current Red Cross efforts, he says it’s teamwork. “I played on some horrible teams, so I definitely know what a good team is when I get on one,” Davis says laughingly. “And the Red Cross is a great team. The team concept is one that is near and dear to me.” 

Davis speaking at an Interfaith Breakfast at ENON Tabernacle Baptist Church in 2019

It’s a concept Davis doesn’t just talk about but puts into practice. He’s been a key player at the American Red Cross and was recognized with a Commemorative Award at the 2019 Celebration of Volunteers in Philadelphia. And to the organization’s delight, he doesn’t plan to back down any time soon.  

“I want to thank the Red Cross for its willingness to listen, its willingness to connect with hard questions, some of them uncomfortable, and its willingness to move forward in the diversity and inclusion space to help our communities understand the Red Cross and save lives in all our communities,” he adds. 

To which the organization says, “thank you, Ron!” 

By: Alana Mauger

For members of the Nitschmann Middle School community, donating blood is personal. Two of the school’s long-time teachers, Lara Ellis and Dawn Mendez, are both battling cancer and have received blood transfusions as part of their treatments.

When a loved one is battling cancer, donating blood or platelets is a meaningful way to show your support. In fact, cancer patients use nearly one-quarter of the nation’s blood supply and need more blood than patients fighting any other disease.

While too young to donate blood themselves, students in seventh grade teacher Gayle McLaughlin’s service club organized the school’s first-ever American Red Cross blood drive on Jan. 24 in honor of Ellis, a librarian, and Mendez, a gifted support teacher. The drive collected 63 units of blood – more than 50% over its goal – and raised awareness about the importance of having blood products available for patients who need it.  

While Ellis and Mendez could not attend the drive, Dr. Peter Mayes, Nitschmann’s principal, texted them photos while he gave a Power Red donation.

“It’s emotional for them, and it’s emotional for us to support them,” he shared from the donation chair. “It feels like they’re a part of us every day, but today was an opportunity to do something a little more public.”

Approximately 80% of blood donated through the Red Cross comes from blood drives hosted by volunteer blood program leaders like Nitschmann Middle School, and new blood drive sponsors are always needed to ensure hospitals in the Lehigh Valley and across the region have an adequate supply of all blood types on hand.

Give a lifesaving gift

You can schedule an appointment to donate today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the blood donor skill on any Alexa Echo device by saying, “Alexa, find a blood drive.” To speed up the donation process, you can also complete a RapidPass® online health history questionnaire on the day of your donation at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass on mobile devices.

By: AJ Suero

AJ Suero is a communications manager at the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region, currently assisting with the earthquake relief effort in Puerto Rico.

January 15, 2020. Guánica, Puerto Rico. American Red Cross member AJ Suero observes damage to homes impacted by earthquakes in the town of Guánica. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Last week I met a man whose home was destroyed by an earthquake back on January 11th. His son would be turning five in just a couple of days and amidst the devastation he still wanted to make the day special. He and his wife decided to move forward with a birthday celebration in spite of the loss that they had just suffered, and they decided to take the family camping to a nearby hill, where they cut his birthday cake. The young boy thanked him for a “special camping birthday,” not realizing that the tent would now become their new temporary home.

There have been so many other interactions, so many faces and a lot of devastation – each one as heartbreaking as the last. As a member of our Public Affairs team, my job is to help tell the story of what is happening through images, videos and stories.

Many on the island are so worried about adjusting to their new day-to-day reality, and yet their struggles are unknown to many. For many of us, home is a refuge; a place of solace where we can escape from all of the dangers of the world. The people of Guayanilla, Yauco, Guánica and other surrounding areas now fear going home due to the ongoing aftershocks that are felt multiple times every single day.

January 15, 2020. Guánica, Puerto Rico. Pista Complejo Deportivo Edilberto Cruz. American Red Cross member AJ Suero distributes a Red Cross comfort kit to shelter resident. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Some have completely lost their homes due to destruction, others are not able to return because the structure has been deemed unsafe, but many have lost the sense of home because they fear that the next tremor may be the big one. Many are sleeping in camp cities – locations such as stadiums, parks and large open areas.

The needs are great, and the Red Cross will continue to serve these affected communities for the weeks and months to come.

January 16, 2020. San Germán, Puerto Rico. American Red Cross member AJ Suero enjoys an imaginary tea visit with 3-year-old Mijah at the shelter in San Germán. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

For more on the relief effort and how to help, visit: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2020/puerto-rico-red-cross-responds-as-quakes-take-out-power.html