Not all volunteers get regular, middle-of-the-night phone calls that pull them out of bed and onto the scene of a disaster, but that’s par-for-the course for many American Red Cross Disaster Team members. And many of them do it for no pay. Abhinay Soanker is one of those disaster team volunteers who answers the call, time and time again out of pure dedication to his community and the Red Cross Mission. Here’s what Disaster Program Supervisor, Kristopher Dumschat, had to say about Abhinay:
“Abhinay Soanker has been a valued member of our Lehigh Valley-Bucks Chapter for many years. He plays a vital role on our Disaster Teams, responding out into the community at all different times of the day and night to help those in need. In 2018, Abhinay was our lead disaster responder in the LVB Chapter, going out to more than 60 responses in Lehigh, Northampton and Bucks Counties. Abhinay has helped with numerous shelter operations, dozens of home fires, floods, winter storms and much more.
Aside from disaster responses, Abhinay continues to stay involved by helping out at Sound the Alarm install events, Red Cross community events, and numerous training events. Abhinay works with many of our new Red Cross volunteers to help train and develop their skills within Disaster Cycle Services. Not only is Abhinay heavily involved with our numerous teams, he is a highly respected individual and a valued leader. In the time I have had working with Abhinay, I have continued to be impressed by his professionalism, his thoughtfulness and his willingness to drop everything and help those in need.”
The American Red Cross Depends on Volunteers like Abhinay to respond to disasters big and small, and help make our communities safer. Thank you, Abhinay!
The American Red Cross Lehigh Valley-Bucks Chapter is comprised of Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties, serving a population of more than 1.2 million people. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and alleviating suffering, here at home and around the world.
For more than a century, the American Red Cross has been dedicated to serving people in need. We do this every day because the Red Cross is needed every day. The Chapter’s 100th anniversary was in 2017, and we are an amalgamation of 5 chapters, most started in 1917 at the impetus of World War I.
The American Red Cross was organized on May 21, 1881 by Clara Barton. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter was started in 1916 with branches in surrounding counties including Bucks County.
The Allentown Chapter was chartered on April 30, 1917, chairman E. A. Saleliac at 931 Linden St, Allentown. The Chapter requested a name change to Lehigh County, granted September 19, 1938.
The Easton Chapter was chartered on May 14, 1917, chairman was Edward J. Fox. The first organizational meeting was held on April 19, 1917. The first office was at 118 N. 2nd Street in Easton.
The Catasauqua Chapter was chartered on May 29, 1917, chairman was James S. Stillman and included Catasauqua, North Catasauqua, West Catasauqua and Hokendauqua. The chapter was disbanded and transferred to Lehigh County on March 24, 1944.
The Bethlehem Chapter was chartered on June 4, 1917. Dr. William Estes helped organize the chapter. On February 18, 1916 a few women got together to do Red Cross work for European sufferers. They collected monies and produced items to be sent overseas.
The Lower Bucks County Chapter was chartered on October 24, 1955. Bucks County was originally a branch of the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter (SEPA). The parts of the county that were not in the chapter remained a branch of the SEPA chapter. The chapter was later disbanded and transferred back to SEPA.
The Lehigh Valley Chapter was chartered on July 1, 1988, consisting of the Lehigh County (Allentown and Catasauqua), Bethlehem, and Easton chapters. The counties involved were Northampton and Lehigh. The present day Lehigh Valley – Bucks Chapter was formed on November 1, 2014, consisting of the counties of Northampton, Lehigh and Bucks. The chapters in World War I were involved with the feeding of the troops and in production of garments. Throughout both World Wars the chapters enlisted many nurses for both the military and hospitals overseas and in this country.
World War II saw the first cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses started, swimming and first aid. Blood collecting was started in World War II. In between the Wars, the chapters responded to national disasters, such as in Florida, and Mississippi. The local chapters were also supportive of the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. Blood collecting continued during these conflicts.
The Red Cross has an excellent collection of scrapbooks, meeting minutes, and photos from the various chapters, including a collection of World War II uniforms worn by the Red Cross volunteers. All of these are located at 3939 Broadway, Allentown, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the following, for information on the chapters: Shirley Powers, volunteer historian; Annie Werbitsky, volunteer archivist at National; and Jane Ward, staff member, for help with Bucks County.
This week we’re recognizing a volunteer who goes above and beyond for the American Red Cross in Eastern Pennsylvania. Matthew Breidenstein, Disaster Program Specialist for the Tri-County Chapter, explains how Patty Daley embodies the spirit of volunteerism and the Red Cross Mission.
“Over the course of my tenure as the Disaster Program Specialist for the Tri-County Chapter, time and time again, Patty Daley has answered the call to provide outstanding service to those in we serve.
Ms. Daley is well known and respected in her community. She has developed strong relationships with every Fire Chief within the county and as a member of the Schuylkill Disaster Action team, these relationships have proven to be vital to helping those in our community who need us most. In addition to her duties within the DAT, she also serves as our Home Fire Campaign Lead for Schuylkill County. Again, due to the relationships she has fostered over the years and her passion to prevent fire related deaths, the Home Fire Campaign has blossomed in Schuylkill County. With leadership, she created a campaign with the Pottsville Fire Chief to install 1,000 alarms in FY18. This initiative involves over 60 volunteer firefighters encompassing all seven fire companies in Pottsville. They have surpassed this goal, and now are aiming to install 1,500 alarms in Pottsville alone by the end of the Fiscal Year. She also works the surrounding fire chiefs to ensure alarm installations are being conducted beyond the one–day Home Fire Campaigns that she also organizes throughout the year.
Schuylkill County has had a number of flooding incidents in the past couple of years that have involved opening up shelters and the bulk distribution of supplies. Her disaster volunteer experience coupled with her knowledge of the county has been critical to our effectiveness to provide mass care during the most critical of times.
Lastly, and most importantly, I have seen firsthand her directly helping with those affected by disasters. She embodies the six pillars of character with every person she helps. “
Thank you, Patty, for the generous donation of your time, and your undying enthusiasm for the American Red Cross!
The American Red Cross is so dynamic and it’s important to remember the work that happens behind the scenes to keep information up to date, attract donations big and small, and make sure events go on without a hitch! That’s why this week we wanted to spotlight Sandy Oberholtzer, who graciously volunteers her time in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Grant Specialist Emily Schricker had this to say about Sandy:
“Sandy Oberholtzer works in the Poconos Chapter with Executive Director Michele Baehr.She is committed to our transition to One Red Cross and is a constant presence at blood drives as well as helping Michele with Special Events. I found how brightly Sandy shines when I saw the activity data she compiles for the chapter. This information is EXTREMELY helpful for tracking the success of the chapter’s outreach efforts for both preparedness and disaster response.
When it was time for me to do the United Way application for Monroe County Michele sent me copies of her reports and it was wonderful to have all the info we needed right there. The number of students reached with Pillowcase Project in what counties, the same for Pedro, STA home visits outside of large–scale events, and any time Red Cross reps were in the community handing out preparedness information – she had it all in one excel doc and it was great!
A dedicated volunteer that can pay attention to detail like this is a great way for us to track this info and our grants and reporting are so much better for her doing it!
Thank you Sandy!”
Sandy is a great example of some of the diverse volunteer opportunities there are within the American Red Cross! If you would like to volunteer, apply and talk to someone about what your schedule allows and where your skill set fits best!
Ever wish you could speed up time? Sunday, Daylight Saving Time, is your big chance. But here’s the important part: You’ll also be hearing reminders to check your smoke detector batteries. Pay attention!
alarms do truly save lives, and the beauty of these simple devices is that they
require very little care and feeding. Simply gather the family, grab a step
stool (or a stick), and push the test button. If you hear no sound, replace the
take a look around your home. Do you have enough smoke detectors installed? You
should have one on every level of your home (including the basement) and
inside/outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Your local fire department or Red
Cross chapter can give guidance on placement, and the Red Cross can even
provide them at no cost to you. This simple preventive measure goes a long way
in safeguarding you and your loved ones. Remember, a smoke alarm gives your
family a window of opportunity to escape after a fire has started.
you’ve got the kids’ attention, ask them how they’d escape if they heard the
alarm go off in the night. If you’re getting blank stares, it’s time to talk
about escape plans. This dialogue is critically important to have before
the unforeseen occurs. Each person in your household should be able to evacuate
in under two minutes, and also know two ways to exit every room.
Have that talk.
Red Cross is responds to a disaster every eight minutes, and home fires are the
most common type by far. With over 1,000 fires last year, Disaster Action Teams
provided emergency assistance to more than 5,000 residents in eastern
as part of your Daylight Saving Time routine, remember this new Red
Cross prompt: “Turn and Test.” Turn your clocks back. Test
your smoke alarms.
Daylight Saving Time by visiting redcross.org/homefires. There you’ll find amazing tools and
resources to learn about fire prevention and keep your loved ones
Anyone who’s ever watched the evening news has seen the American Red Cross in action. In any emergency—large or small, day or night—the Red Cross is on the scene. Someone you know has probably been helped in some way by this humanitarian organization.
More than 75 years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt designated March as Red Cross Month, and the tradition continues today. You’ll spot the Red Cross logo all over Philadelphia this month, including on Red Cross flags flying around City Hall. The Ben Franklin Bridge was lit up in red earlier this week, and will be again on March 29, 30, and 31. To close out the month, the Red Ball (redcross.org/redballphilly)—a gala fundraiser to benefit Philly’s Red Cross House—kicks off at Lincoln Financial Field.
bring awareness to the mission, Wawa and the Wawa Foundation held a
National Partnership Campaign kickoff event in Delaware County, and now through
April 14, Wawa stores will be hosting a coin collection campaign. On SEPTA
buses, banners will spotlight the Red Cross, courtesy of the Lundy Law
Foundation. These two sponsors have teamed up to promote the importance of
During this Red Cross Month, the American Red Cross is asking you be a hero, and it’s easier than you think.
-Do you want to learn lifesaving skills? Find a first aid class, including CPR and defibrillator training, at redcross.org.
-Got blood? The need never stops, and you can donate blood or platelets at your convenience; visit redcrossblood.org. (Plus, get a coupon for a free hot beverage at Wawa!)
-Want to volunteer your time? You can give as many or as few hours as you want, and everyone is welcome, including people with disabilities. In fact, 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce is unpaid. Those volunteers you see on TV are unpaid. The Disaster Action Team members at a house fire? Unpaid. Other volunteers install smoke detectors or work behind the scenes from their own homes, helping to reconnect families separated by international conflict.
-On March 27, American Red Cross Giving Day, you can donate at redcross.org/givingday to help families during the first devastating hours of a disaster. Your gift can provide hope and urgent relief for people who need it most.
A lot of people outside of the organization don’t know this, but volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. Volunteers make it possible for the organization to fulfill it’s mission: The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
That’s why we decided it would be a good idea to highlight one volunteer each week during March, which is Red Cross Month! We’re kicking it off with a spotlight on Kathleen Mullen. Matthew T. Breidenstein, Disaster Program Specialist from the Tri-County Chapter, had this to say about Kathy’s dedication to the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region:
“Kathy Mullen is a lead responder with the Chester County DAT team and also the team’s Pillowcase Lead. With her leadership and guidance, her Pillowcase team is leading the region in the number (1,337) of pillowcases and home fire education provided to children thus far this fiscal year. This is due to her ability to delegate tasks, foster a team oriented environment and develop relationships with program partners. She is a leader and the results show this. In addition to great work she does with the Pillowcase Project, Kathy has been dependable and professional DAT responder. We are lucky to have her as a member of the Tri-County Disaster Cycle Services Team.”