Monthly Archives: June 2019

By: Susan West

Volunteering never happens in a vacuum.

It takes a trained, well-oiled  team to serve people impacted by disaster, and the Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Training Conference, held for four days on the campus of Moravian College in Bethlehem, offered information overload for everyone. For logistics geeks, there was “ConOps”—a.k.a. “Concept of Operations” training, which explored the organizational structure of a relief operation. For Mass Care volunteers, a simulation session walked people through the steps of opening a shelter. For Disaster Action Team members, instruction focused on the recovery needs of people who have endured the worst times of their lives after a fire, flood, hurricane, or other emergency.

Empathy Education

Training is key. One of the most revelatory events at the conference was something called a poverty simulation, designed by Tammy Schoonover of the Bucks County Opportunity Council. The session was meant to challenge our assumptions about people who are under-resourced. After dividing the class into several three- to six-member “families,” Tammy assigned each family a set of circumstances—say, one working parent earning $9 an hour with a daughter in school, a disabled mother-in-law, and some public assistance. Then she threw curveballs at them—car breakdown, big utility bill, stolen purse, Dad with the flu, shuttered daycare. The exercise spotlighted the stress of living on the edge of debt. “Survival can be a full-time job for under-resourced families,” she said. “Poverty causes us to spin in a cycle of survival.” Dealing with impersonal social service bureaucracies, payday lenders, and unresponsive law enforcement can be frustrating and dehumanizing. If Tammy’s intention was to foster empathy and dispel myths about poverty, everyone agreed that she accomplished that goal.

Tammy Schoonover, Bucks County Opportunity Council

Classes and Camaraderie

Why do people volunteer? The reasons given were as varied as the curriculum at the conference. One attendee, a former telecommunications manager dealing with memory loss and cognitive impairment at age 61, is a fierce advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness. “I can’t do the complicated things anymore,” he told me, “but at least I can load trucks.” Others discovered the Red Cross after disaster touched them or a family member. Still others saw volunteering as ministry. “The more training we have, the more sensitive we become,” said one attendee.

Join the Fun

Volunteering has many benefits both physical and emotional. It combats isolation by getting us out into our communities. It helps prevent depression by instilling in us a sense of purpose. It helps us feel valued and part of a team. Perhaps most important, volunteering gives us a chance to leave a legacy and make a difference in the world. It’s good for us and it’s good for  society. The Red Cross has many roles for volunteers to fulfill, and the organization is committed to arming its volunteers with the tools and expertise needed to perform those roles. In short, the Red Cross will train you up good. For more information about how you can volunteer, go to

By: Sophie Kluthe

Employees at UPS in South Philadelphia pack and donate comfort kits

Take a peek into your own bathroom and you’ll probably find at minimum, some soap, a towel and anti-perspirant. Sometimes that shower-fresh feel is all you need to have the confidence to tackle your day. Unfortunately, that’s not a possibility or the reality for a lot of men and women in the years after they finish defending their flag.  

SAF Director Bill Rodebaugh and his right hand volunteer, Julie Martinez, at the UPS comfort kit event

Regional Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces Director, Bill Rodebaugh, knows the scenario all too well as his work is devoted to serving active military, their families and veterans.  

“It is an awful reality that veterans who have served their country can find themselves in situations where they can no longer maintain the basic qualities of life that most of us enjoy.  Being able to wash and be clean has a quality of refreshing a person not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well,” Rodebaugh said. 

That’s where companies and comfort kits come in. Recently, TheZenith Insurance Company, ThermoFisher Scientific and UPS have donated, and even taken the time to pack comfort kits for local veterans in need.  

Earlier this week UPS employees (above) gathered around tables in assembly line-fashion, rapidly filling small bags with items like a razor, shampoo, soap and a wash cloth. It wasn’t long before they filled 35 boxes with about 1,200 of these kits.  

At TheZenith Insurance Company a few weeks back (pictured above), employees smiled and packed to folk music, walking around the tables in shifts, lovingly adding one of each item to the bags.  

It only takes a few hours of the employees’ time, but it’s harder to measure the outcome once these kits get to where they’re going.  

Photos: Part of the SAF team poses with employees from ThermoFisher Scientific after thanking them for their donation.

“Building these kits seems so small. but it does a lot to show our veterans that we hold them in high regard and value. If they in turn can begin to recognize and remember what it is to be valued, then perhaps they can take the first steps in valuing themselves again and be encouraged to seek help and better their situation,” Rodebaugh said. 

A military veteran himself, Rodebaugh knows a thing or two about serving your country. He also knows that small acts of kindness, and in this case, comforts, can pave the way for bigger change. 

“For those of you involved in building these kits, you are expressing your humanity in a way that truly reflects the goodness we all strive to do, because you are valuing the humanity of another you lift us all and in that way you have bettered your community in a lasting way.” 

Would your company or organization want to donate comfort kits to local veterans in need? If so, email for more information.  

2018 Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

June 1-7 is National CPR and AED Awareness Week. The American Red Cross, along with other National Cardiac Arrest Collaborative members, is stressing that every second counts in cardiac arrest and people can save lives by knowing how to perform CPR and use an AED.

If someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, their heart suddenly stops beating, stopping blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. More than 1,600 people suffer cardiac arrest every day in the United States, so if you see someone collapse without warning, know your ‘Cardiac Arrest 1-2-3.’

The best way to prepare when every second counts is to take a First Aid/CPR/AED course: