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.

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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.

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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.”

Home fires kill seven people everyday. Fire Prevention Week begins October 7, and the American Red Cross reminds everyone to take two simple steps – practice fire drills at home and test smoke alarms monthly – to stay safe from the nation’s most frequent and deadliest disaster.

On average, seven people die every day from home fires, which take more lives each year than all other natural disasters combined in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. But working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

That’s why the Red Cross is working with community partners to install free smoke alarms, help families create home fire escape plans, and provide public fire prevention and safety resources through its Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide effort to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries. Since the campaign began in October 2014, it’s reached more than 1.6 million people and is credited with saving 472 lives nationwide.

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CTSY Adam Jennings/American Red Cross

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Experts say that today’s home fires burn faster than ever, leaving people with only as little as two minutes to escape a burning residence. But many mistakenly believe they have more time, according to a Red Cross survey last year. During Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross urges everyone to take these lifesaving steps:

  • Develop a fire escape plan with everyone in your household and practice it at least twice a year. Need help with your plan? Use these free Home Fire Campaign resources.
  • Install smoke alarms in your home, on every level and outside each sleeping area. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year if required.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one.
  • Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room.
  • Establish a family meeting spot outside.

Written by Grave Nava

The Red Cross has an app for that! In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, access to information and the ability to connect to loved ones is critically important.  We are reviewing American Red Cross apps that would be most useful in an emergency like Hurricane Florence. Considering there are so many, it’s tough to narrow it down. But in a case like Florence, these apps offer you the tools and preparedness info you need.

Emergency App

This all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, to help keep you and your loved ones safe. This latest app from the Red Cross provides information about what to do in case of floods, thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and more. The emergency alerts are available for the user’s location and to monitor where friends and family live. A single map provides open Red Cross shelter locations and weather information.

Emergency users can easily toggle between English and Spanish. Information is included on emergency first aid for situations such as heat-related emergencies and water safety for lakes and beaches. The app also covers what to do in emergencies that affect a large area, such as mudslides and snow storms.

“I’m safe” is another unique feature of the emergency app that allows people to see if loved ones are okay. You can notify friends and family of your condition and location through text message, email, Facebook and Twitter.

Pet First Aid

Our pets are part of our families and getting help for them is crucial in the event of an emergency. However, a veterinary is not always accessible when needed. This app fills the gap until the pet can be taken to the vet.

The main features include:

  • Convenient toggle between cat and dog content.
  • First aid steps for over 25 common pet situations.
  • Step-by-step instructions that include text, illustrations, videos, plus interactive quizzes for easy learning.
  • Storage for veterinary contact info for easy access.
  • A list of common toxic substances.
  • Help to locate the nearest emergency vet hospital or pet-friendly hotels.

A must for every pet lover!

First Aid

This is one of the most recognized American Red Cross apps and puts free and simple lifesaving information at your fingertips.

This app gives instant access to information on how to handle the most common first aid situations, taking critical first aid information normally stored on bookshelves and in pamphlets and places it at the fingertips of millions of individuals – in order to help save lives.

Videos and interactive quizzes are also part of the app. Users who take quizzes can earn badges they can share with friends through social media to show off their lifesaving knowledge.

First Aid App features include:

  • Simple step-by-step instructions for everyday first aid scenarios
  • Prioritized steps to take during an emergency, with a 9-1-1 call button
  • Sharable badges to be unlocked through interactive quizzes
  • Videos and animations to make learning first aid fun and easy
  • Safety and preparedness tips for a range of severe weather
  • Preloaded content that gives instant access to all safety information at any time.

The content is available in English and in Spanish. Downloading the app is not a substitute for first aid training but instead can be used in conjunction with training.

Hero Care

Can you imagine being away from your loved ones serving in the Armed Forces without being able to get hold of them? The American Red Cross has the solution: Hero Care. This is a free app designed to keep current members and veterans of the Armed Forces in touch with their family members. It allows emergency and non-emergency communication to reach either side 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round. The current version allows for only one service member, but additional members can be added over the phone 24/7/365 by calling the Hero Care Center at 877-272-7337. In addition to being a great tool to stay in touch with loved ones, it also provides useful information such as behavioral health assistance, local organizations serving veterans and active duty service men and women, and other valuable resources. The app is available in English and Spanish.

Download any of the FREE Red Cross Mobile Apps today, in the Apple App Store or in Google Play.

 

When the unspeakable happened on September 11th, 2001, the Red Cross was there in the immediate aftermath, and the years to follow. Immediately, the Red Cross:

  • Activated 6,000 Red Cross volunteers
  • Opened 13 Red Cross shelter
  • Sent Disaster Mental Health workers to shelters, crash sites, airports and hospitals
  • Set up a mental health hotline
  • Opened Respite Centers for firefighters, police officers, port authority workers and others
  • Received 1 million calls on the Blood Donation line (the previous record in one day was 3,000 calls)
  • Every chapter in the nation supported stranded passengers at airports as air space was shut down
  • Launched the Family Registration Web, a predecessor to today’s redcross.org/safeandwell
  • Sent teams of Red Cross workers door-to-door in the Restricted Zone for families who had chosen to stay
  • After one year, the Red Cross had served 14 million meals for disaster workers and victims, mental health services for more than 237,000 people, and health services for 131,000 people.
  • And much  more.

The Greater New York Red Cross has put together a YouTube playlist of Red Crossers remembering that day, including this video about all the spontaneous volunteers who showed up to help out where they could:

Remembering the Red Cross Response to 9/11