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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

By: David Haas

What is your longstanding Thanksgiving tradition? Do you huff and puff through an early morning turkey trot, or cheer for your favorite football teams all afternoon?  My family gathers each Thanksgiving Thursday to eat a hearty dinner, in preparation for donating blood to the Red Cross on Friday morning. It’s an appointment that’s built into schedules every year, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for most people.

Only about three percent of Americans give blood each year. In December, many people are distracted by shopping, parties, the holidays, even weather, causing donations to drop off when the need in greatest. This can lead to blood shortages in January.

If you’ve never given blood, you may be nervous at first, but the long-lasting feeling, will be one of thankfulness and pleasure at knowing you’ve helped others.  The kindness and attention you will receive from donation center staff and volunteers reinforces the good feeling.

And right now, donating is a win-win! Let me explain, the donated blood can help save up to three lives, which is a win for the recipients, but there’s more! The Red Cross has teamed up with the NFL to offer one lucky winner two tickets to Super Bowl LIV, entry to the official NFL Tailgate, tickets to Super Bowl Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center, round-trip airfare to Miami, three-night hotel accommodations at The Alexander® – All Suite Oceanfront Resort (Jan. 31 to Feb. 3), and more! Details here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/win-a-trip-to-super-bowl-liv.html

Just come to give January 1-19, 2020, and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win. Make your appointment here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive

But wait, there’s another sweet incentive for the fine blood donors of the Greater Philadelphia area! Throughout January, presenting donors will receive a voucher for a free medium Hot Coffee and a free classic donut, redeemable at participating Dunkin’ restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia Region, while supplies last. The vouchers are not redeemable for cash.

For more information, and to schedule your holiday donation at a nearby blood center, please visit www.redcrossblood.org.

Home fires claim seven lives every day, but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half. 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. This spring, we’ll install free smoke alarms, share safety information in at-risk communities and fundraise to help families prepare for, respond to, and recover from home fires. 

If you’re passionate about community safety and want to make a real difference in a hands-on way, these events are perfect for you!

The Eastern Pennsylvania Region is hosting Sound the Alarm in four locations this year and signing up is easy! Just head to soundthealarm.org! You can even put in your zip code, and all the events withing a 100 mile radius will pop up!

Here are the locations and dates within the Eastern Pennsylvania Region:

April 25 – Allentown

May 1 – Philadelphia

May 2 – Reading

May 2 – Bristol

So grab your families, friends, colleagues, and head to soundthealarm.org!

Here’s a recap from last year’s campaign:

We’re starting off a new decade with a packed calendar! Whether you’re in the Pocono Mountains, Philadelphia, or anywhere in between, we hope you can join us for our fundraising events! We’re gearing up for a black tie charity gala, golf tournament, marathon, and so much more!

January 15, 2020 – Pocono Heroes Celebration

Awards brunch honoring Pocono local heroes

 Location: Shawnee Inn, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

March 28, 2020 – Red Ball

Gala featuring dancing, auction and tastings from Philadelphia area restaurants and breweries

Location: Vie Philadelphia, 7:00 p.m. – Midnight

April 17, 2020 – Lehigh Valley-Bucks Cabaret 

1920s themed fundraising dinner/dance

Location: Olympus, Centre Valley, 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

May 14, 2020 – Berks County Heroes Breakfast        

Breakfast and awards ceremony

Location: Crowne Plaza, Wyomissing, 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

May 17, 2020 – Run for the Red Pocono Marathon     

Annual Marathon and half marathon

Location: Stroudsburg HS, 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

June 9, 2020 – Red Cross Cup – SEPA Golf Tournament

A golf tournament and lunch with silent auction

Location:  The ACE Club, Lafeyette Hill, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

June 19, 2020 – Bucks County Heroes Breakfast

Breakfast and awards ceremony

Location: PARX Casino, Bensalem, 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

By: Marta Rusek

Last night, more than 200 community members enjoyed a night of good food, fun activities, and quality time with Santa Claus at our annual Children’s Holiday Party. Held at the Philadelphia American Red Cross Blood Donation Center, this year’s festivities welcomed families who received relief and emergency shelter from the Red Cross this year after being displaced by home fires and other disasters. All of the families in attendance stayed at the Red Cross House in Philadelphia at some point this year, a facility where families can reside together as they rebuild and plan their next steps after a disaster.

The Red Cross Chapter in Philadelphia received 600 gift donations from Accenture, Arkema, Sparks, PECO Energy, Essity, Girl Scouts of Bucks County, Pansini Mezrow, ARC – Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region, and The Fresh Grocer Supermarkets to give to the children who attended. It took dedicated volunteers from PECO countless hours of their time to wrap the gifts, but it was time well-spent as the children excitedly took in the sight of wall-to-wall presents.

“This party is awesome,” said Joyce Wilkins, whose family lost their home to a house fire earlier this year. “It’s a great way to help families during this time of the year.”

Children were treated to all the delights of the season in one exciting evening, from playing games to making yuletide arts and crafts to decorating gingerbread cookies with chefs from the JNA Institute of Culinary Arts, all while enjoying the catchy Christmas tunes of a DJ. After sitting down to a delectable meal with their parents, which was graciously paid for by Morgan Properties (the macaroni and cheese earned rave reviews throughout the night), the children were thrilled to receive a visit from the one and only Santa Claus! Kids flocked to Santa to share their Christmas wishes and get their pictures taken with him. Our talented Red Cross volunteers were on-hand to photograph the memories and play Santa’s elves.

As the evening unfolded and everyone enjoyed the festivities, volunteers worked tirelessly to create an experience that helped bring joy to families that had all experienced a major loss during the year. “We’re here to offer a little bit of normalcy,” said Guy J. Triano, CEO of the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania. “Being able to give gifts and bring holiday cheer to families who have lost everything this year makes our work worth it.” 

When the temperatures drop below freezing, the best advice is to stay indoors, but realistically there are probably things you have to do that require you to go outside. Whether it’s for your job, your commute, or work that needs to be done around your home or yard, here are a couple tips to keep you safe in the cold:

  • Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
  • Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
  • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
  • Bring your pets inside.

Photo Courtesy: Sue Gaur, Wallingford Elementary School

Our team at the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania is certainly feeling the holiday spirit after receiving a donation from some very special people at Wallingford Elementary School!

This particular check came with a letter attached, where we learned the money being gifted was thanks to sweet treats, hard work, and the kind hearts in one second grade class. Teacher Sue Gaur at Wallingford Elementary wrote in part:

“We held a milk and cookie sale at our school, where the parents of WES baked cookies and staff donated the milk. My 2nd graders and I sold the milk and cookies for an hour each day for 4 days and raised a total of $3,250.”

The school decided they wanted to help those impacted by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and that is where the funds will go. Thank you, to Ms. Gaur, her fellow teachers, her students, and students’ parents who made this donations possible!

Happy Holidays, indeed!