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It was early (for a Saturday at least) when I got the call from Dave asking me to come to the shelter. He had been there all night and had fatherly duties he needed to fulfill. I was a little nervous as I had never been to an active shelter response and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I got ready I scrolled through the Twitter feed that Dave had updated throughout the night. I had no idea the fire had affected so many people and it was just up the road from where I lived! Dave came out to meet me when I arrived at the shelter and updated me on the situation. Several of the displaced residents had found friends or family but around 20 remained. My job was to serve as the contact person if reporters wanted to interview a volunteer or client covering the Wyncote fire. I was also responsible for getting any new updates out to the public.

I ended up doing so much more than that.

Since it was my first time and I was hobbling around on crutches due to a fractured foot (from a sports injury) I wasn’t sure I would be able to help very much but I soon discovered that the Red Cross provides so much more than basic necessities. It provides human comfort and compassion in the face of disaster.

While I waited to hear back from a reporter I started to talk with another volunteer, Greg. We got on the subject of basketball, which as a Dallas Mavericks fan I was happy to commiserate with an equally disappointed Sixers fan. As we chatted, one of the residents joined in the conversation. We talked about our favorite players and moved on to football and he told us about his favorite teams and players. Our conversation turned to our families and he told us about his new granddaughter. Then he stopped and said that he wished he could show us pictures but they were all on the new smart phone his son had given him which he lost in the fire.

I reminded him that the great thing about living in this day and age is that cherished photos on cell phones are digital and can be retrieved. He agreed and told us that talking with us had allowed him, briefly, to forget about everything he had lost. He told us that the fire had started from his apartment and you could see the pain in his face as he relived the events of the night before.

I quickly changed the subject and Greg and the resident told me about their favorite Philadelphia stores growing up.

It was during that conversation I realized that what volunteers provide, more than a warm meal or a cot and blanket is compassion. Losses in a fire can be devastating and the Red Cross provides support. We reach out to someone who is suffering and ease their worries, remind them of what they still have and help them keep going. The ability to reach out to someone who is suffering and maybe for a time, ease their worries and remind them of all the things they have not lost and to keep going.

Howdy!

As the temperature (slowly) rises I’m reminded of my home state of Texas. Now Texans are no strangers to heat advisories, warnings and their ilk. Our summer temperatures usually stay between 90-105 degrees. Heat related hospitalizations and even deaths are a sad yet common occurrence there.

The excessive heat advisory issued this week has been a top news piece recently but all of this hubbub seems a bit over the top. I’ve been assured by many Philadelphians that it does get very hot and humid here but I still have my doubts. This is probably the first summer I’ve been able to wear a light sweater outside!

I play Ultimate regularly so I do spend quite a bit of time outside and it’s definitely a muggy heat but nothing like the scorchers we have in Texas. I’m from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region so our climate tends to be bone-dry, like walking into an oven (as opposed to a steam room.) Last year’s summer saw the worst drought in recent years. It got so bad in places that critters would get stuck where the ground had cracked.

So as a survivor of many a Texas summer here are some of my personal tips to help keep you cool and sunburn free this summer.

  1. One thing that commuters tend to forget is that your left arm is exposed to the sun for however many minutes (or hours) you’re stuck in traffic. Cover up! My mom keeps a long sleeve button down in the car and throws that over her left arm when she drives for long periods of time.
  1. Umbrellas are great for rain but they also provide portable shade! Yes you may get funny looks but it beats melting in the sun!
  1. Personal water misting fan. Carry everywhere. (The link is not an endorsement to buy that specific product. Just an example!)
  1. Sunglasses and lip balm with UV protection are essential. It’s definitely possible to get sunburn on your eyes and lips. I’ve done it. It hurts. Learn from my mistakes.
  1. Speaking of sun protection, you can never say enough about sunscreen. Apply a thick coating and wait for your skin to absorb it before heading out the door. Some limbs that get commonly forgotten: the ears, the back of the neck and the tops of your feet (if you like to wear flip flops but don’t like the flip flop tan line!) Ladies, there are a lot of makeup options that have sunscreen too so no excuses! And reapply often.
  1. Cowboy hats are not just a bold fashion statement but a very practical way to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck!
  1. Keep your clothes in the fridge. Sounds weird but it feels really nice to slip into cold pajamas after a long hot day!
  1. Most people tend to eat cool things in the summer like salads and ice cream but eating spicy food actually helps cool you down. You sweat more when eating spicy food which helps to cool your body. Add a fan and you’re in business!
  1. If you do a lot of outdoor activities plan ahead and throw water bottles in the freezer. Take them out when you’re ready to head out and you should have ice cold melted water when you need it!
  1. If after all of these tips you still manage to get sunburned do not take a hot shower! Use lukewarm water (or cold water if you can stand it) pat your skin dry and use burn relief gel. The aloe variety is my favorite. It’s especially nice when you get some cool air on the burn.

Hope y’all find these tips useful! Have a safe and happy summer!

One thing I love about working at the Red Cross’s Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter is the sense of community spirit. After what can only be called, in families with teenage sons parlance, a “rough morning”, my arrival at work was greeted with a cheerful invitation to “come down to breakfast!”

Perhaps you were unaware, but here at the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, we are looking forward to the Red Cross Walk and Run to Save Lives on Saturday, April 21! This is an annual fundraiser that invites members of our community to walk slowly, walk faster, run fast, run slowly, sprint, run with a dog, walk with a dog, walk with assistance, roll, push a stroller or boogie across our 5K finish line! Don’t be shy! Try wearing tiny red running shorts – or anything red, for that matter and show your solidarity.

Many enterprising individuals form fundraising teams, which is how I ended up invited to a fantastic breakfast. Team “ES Faster than Disaster,” held a breakfast fundraiser this morning at chapter headquarters. The menu included pancakes, scrambled eggs, and turkey and beef sausages. There was even a French toast line for my more patient colleagues.  For a mere fiver, I got all the pancakes, eggs and turkey sausages I could consume in a single sitting! The best part is that it goes straight to (my hips) disaster relief!

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Other teams are initiating their own methods of money extraction. Apparently, our Volunteer Administration Department has morphed into the Fast and Fabulous team. They are sponsoring a General Store and Vintage Photo Booth. Hard working Red Cross team members can have their photos taken wearing the Red Cross paraphernalia of yesteryear. A recently received email invites us to shop the General Store for everything from Bonsai plants to hipster dresses. Who could refuse? Not to be outdone, our Financial Development team is providing a singing telegram service. I’ve heard some of those folks can really croon.

The Red Cross invites you to be creative in your own workplace. Organize some office bonding for a great cause and then invite everyone to come out on April 21st and propel their bodies in any way they please at the Red Cross Walk and Run to Save Lives.

It’s important to mention that being part of a team is not required. If you are your “own dog” like my teenager, sign up as an individual and come join the fun. Even if you’re just hearing about it now there’s still time to sign up! Check out this  page for more information.

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