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By: Kusuma Schofield

While winter doesn’t officially start until December 21, we’ve already seen snow and had our share of cold temperatures this season. Keeping a snow shovel at the ready might come in handy over what could be a long winter. Two years ago on March 21, a powerful nor’easter dropped heavy snow and caused whiteout conditions in Pennsylvania. It was the second day of spring…and the fourth nor’easter of the month. So buckle up!

Is your vehicle ready to handle everything that blows its way? Here’s a quick reminder on prepping for and dealing with a big storm, or if you have a road trip or long commute in your near future.  

1. The Hours Before 

We’ll assume you already have basic roadside emergency supplies in the trunk: jumper cables, a blanket, flashlight, tools, a scraper, flares or reflectors, extra motor oil and coolant, and a first aid kit. Throw in a portable shovel and some sand or salt. Make sure the gas tank is full—this helps prevent gas lines from freezing and keeps you going in a prolonged emergency. Got water? Batteries? For more ideas on things to include in your survival kit, visit redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html

2. The Day of the Storm 

You hear this a lot: If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out! Why risk life, limb, and your nice car? Leave the roads open for plow crews. Stay home, turn up the heat, and make French toast. (You did buy bread, milk, and eggs, right?). If you must go out, take public transportation where possible. 

3. If You Must Drive…  

Sometimes life gets in the way and we need to be on the road, so please slow down, stay alert, and drive safely. Seatbelt on. If your cellphone rings, ignore it or pull over to answer it. Never pass a plow or salt truck. Don’t tailgate, no matter how big your SUV is—all vehicles need the same stopping distance on slick roads. Try to anticipate your stops well in advance so you can coast to a halt instead of using the brakes. This is not the day to use your cruise control, Speedy.  

4. You’re Stuck: Now What? 

Stay with your vehicle, unless you have a visual of a heated location that you can safely get to. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna and leave the overhead dome light on while the engine is running so you can be easily spotted. Last but not least, start the car every hour for 10 minutes with the heater on, while making sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow so fumes do not get into the car. 

Safe travels!  

The American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania is mourning the loss of Pennsylvania investor and philanthropist, Warren V. “Pete” Musser, whose generosity made an impactful, and lasting difference on both the humanitarian and biomedical services of the organization.

Musser died early Monday, November 25, at the age of 92.

Musser founded Safeguard Scientifics, a venture capital investment firm in Radnor. Its name is emblazoned on the Red Cross of Eastern Pennyslvania’s humanitarian headquarters located at 23rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, a nod to the company that donated the building.

A photo of Musser with his golden retriever hangs in the lobby, greeting everyone who enters. Under the photo a sign reads, “This building is the result of the vision of many people, foremost of whom is WARREN V. (PETE) MUSSER whose great generosity, leadership and example have made the Safeguard Scientifics American Red Cross Headquarters Building a reality.”

Less than three miles away is an American Red Cross building that dons Musser’s name, the Musser Blood Center on Spring Garden Street. Musser advocated for the building alongside his wife, the late Betty K. Musser. The Musser Blood Center is the largest blood manufacturing center in the Northeast and also holds a one-of-a-kind research lab.

Warren V. “Pete” Musser, second from right, in front of the Musser Blood Center

Known as a great philanthropist, Musser was a generous donor to the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania and has certainly left a lasting legacy in the region.

By: Sophie Kluthe

When disaster strikes, time can sometimes be an emergency responder’s worst enemy, but thanks to ToyotaLift Northeast, major response operations have just been sped up for trained Red Cross disaster workers in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Earlier this month, a truck arrived at the American Red Cross warehouse in Montgomery County with a delivery that would make any logistics specialist smile; it was a beautiful forklift gifted to the American Red Cross by  ToyotaLift Northeast.

From left to right: Mike Carra – Vice President of Sales Toyota Lift Northeast, Jeffrey Banks -Red Cross Logistics Specialist, Daniel Rosado – Red Cross Logistics Service Associate – Hunter Menges – Marketing Coordinator, ToyotaLift Northeast

“This new forklift enables us to be better prepared for disasters big and small. This warehouse stores disaster related supplies for our entire region – like clots, blankets and pillows to open emergency shelters when the need arises. By having the ability to quickly load these supplies into trucks, it allows the Red Cross to reach more people in need, more quickly, when they need it most,” said Erin Stephens, Regional Disaster Officer of the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region.

On what was one of the coldest days of the season so far in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the sight of a new, orange forklift rolling into the warehouse was a sight that would warm any Red Crossers heart. Thank you, ToyotaLift!

Red Cross regional logistics lead, Joe Cirillo, tries his hand at operating the new lift he helped acquire for the Eastern Pennsylvania Region warehouse

By: Sophie Kluthe

Jeffrey Middleton and Tamika Hunter on the last full day of their stay at the Red Cross House

After losing their home to a fire in September, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Jeffrey Middleton and his partner, Tamika Hunter, found themselves at the Red Cross House in Philadelphia. The Red Cross House is the center for disaster recovery, where people just like Middleton and Hunter can go after losing almost everything in a fire. 

“I’ve never experienced a fire in my life. To come home and you’re looking at your place, and there’s nothing you can do, it’s a very humbling experience.” Jeffrey said. 

Jeffrey had been at work and Tamika had been at her son’s school for a parent-teacher night, so they’re thankful neither of them were hurt. But they say the whole situations still felt “surreal.” 

“You just see all your stuff being destroyed and that’s devastating. Very devastating. Because we work hard. We’re working people,” Tamika said.  

Not knowing what to expect, the couple arrived at the Red Cross House to find comfortable beds, three meals a day and the space to decompress from what they had just gone through.  

“It’s like a second home, a temporary house, until you transition into your stable environment,” Jeffrey said.  

Even more helpful were the resources the Red Cross House staff linked them up with to help them get back on their feet.  

Tamika and Jeffrey talking to Sibongile Sithole, the Red Cross recovery specialist who assisted them during their stay

Jeffrey added that his assigned recovery support specialist knew exactly what custom programs and benefits would be helpful for his veteran status, making their transition that much easier. He even ended his stay with a new job providing transportation services for the V.A.! 

“Some of the assistance I knew, but they gave me more information, so I did feel good that they were open and willing to help me,” he added. 

The couple ended their stay at the Red Cross House on a happy note. A combination of Red Cross and V.A. resources helped them find and lock down housing that was even better that what they had previously lived in. They said they were thankful to have had a comforting place to be at the Red Cross House while they worked through their recovery.  

“It’s a place where they an ease your mind temporarily so you can focus on transitioning into the next level,” Jeffrey said. 

To learn more about the Red Cross House, visit redcross.org/redcrosshouse 

By: Marta Rusek

Halloween is just around the corner, and neighborhoods are gearing up for a fun night of trick-or-treating. Are you and your loved ones ready to celebrate and encourage a safer evening for all? Whether you’re giving out candy, accompanying a trick-or-treater, or planning to bring your pooch out on the candy route, here are a few helpful hints for everyone who’s planning to enjoy spook-tacular activities on Halloween night.

For Trick-or-Treaters: Before you or your younger siblings venture out in search of tasty treats, make sure your costumes can be seen when it gets dark outside – that means wearing lighter colors or adding reflective tape to your outfit or bag. Using make-up instead of a mask is also a good idea, since a mask can make it hard to see when you’re walking from door to door or crossing the road. Before the witching hour begins, confirm with your parents where you’ll be trick-or-treating and when it’s time to come home for the night. 

Once you’re out and about, walk on the sidewalks and use a flashlight to illuminate your path. Look both ways when you cross the street, and cross at the corner, not between parked cars where drivers may not be able to see you. Only visit houses with the porch light on, and always take treats from the front door. Never go inside a house to get your Halloween goodies!

For Parents and Chaperones: Younger children need a parent or responsible adult to go with them. Those bags of candy can get heavy, and little ghosts and ghouls will need to hold your hand when crossing the street. For children who are older and eager to trick-or-treat without an adult this year, make sure you know where they’re going and confirm a plan around checking in by phone or in-person along the candy route. A grown-up should check the goodies before eating.  

It’s also important to communicate what to do in case of an emergency. Even if the child in your life is older and able to look out for themselves, being close by and ready to help if they trip on their costume or experience an allergic reaction is a good safety precaution. If you need a course in First Aid and CPR this fall season, check out our website for the next available class

For Neighbors Giving Out Treats: Sweep leaves and anything else that may be slippery from your front porch or steps, and let trick-or-treaters know you’re there and ready to give them candy by making your front door area well-lit. 

For Drivers: Whether you’re dropping off trick-or-treaters, delivering food, or earning extra cash picking up passengers with a rideshare app, be extra careful and cautious as you drive. The excitement of Halloween and gathering copious amounts of candy may cause children to forget to look both ways before they cross the street. 

For Pet Owners: If you have an excitable pet that doesn’t do well with loud noises (like lots of kids screaming “Trick or Treat!!!”), secure your furry family member in a calm room with their favorite toy or a Halloween treat they can enjoy throughout the evening. If you’re planning on bringing your dog with you for the evening’s festivities, keep them on a leash and don’t be afraid to establish boundaries around who can and probably shouldn’t pet them. 

Happy haunting, and may the treats be ever in your favor!

By: Marta Rusek

Now that pumpkin season is in full swing and temps are on the descent, it’s time to break out the puffy vest and serve up some hot apple cider. It’s also the time when you suddenly notice your thermostat, the fireplace, and that space heater you had stored in your coat closet all summer long. So as you snuggle into nesting season, take a few moments to make your household is fire safe. Here’s how: 

Test your smoke alarms and review your home fire escape plan.

While you’re up on the ladder hanging your Halloween skeleton, hit the test button on your smoke alarms and replace batteries as needed. Fully functional smoke alarms are true lifesavers: The National Fire Protection Association reports that three out of every five home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms, or nonfunctioning ones. Moreover, in nearly half of fires where a smoke alarm didn’t work properly, it was due to missing or disconnected batteries. Equally important is having a dialogue with your household members about a fire escape plan. Everyone in the home should be able to escape in under two minutes. Talk about it.

Follow space heater safety guidelines. 

A recent Red Cross survey found that more than half of U.S. adults have used a space heater. These devices are so widely used that they’re involved in two out of every five home-heating fires. To prevent a fire emergency, make sure to allow three feet of open space around your heater. Do not place a space heater on a carpeted area or rug, and keep it away from curtains and bedding.  Place it on a ceramic tile floor if possible, or choose or a surface is hard, fireproof, and level (not slanted or uneven). Never leave a space heater unattended. That means turning it off when you go to sleep.

Be mindful of burning candles and fireplaces. 

If you just can’t give up your candle-lighting habit, you’ll need to be vigilant. A candle can go from a fall mood-setter to a bad dream in no time, so never leave candles unattended and keep them away from kids and pets. And think about flameless candles! If your home has a fireplace, use a protective screen—and heed the same precautions as you would with a space heater. Keep furniture, fabric, and flammable decorations at least three feet away and never leave it unattended. 

Fall is a time to be festive and celebrate longstanding traditions. Make fire safety and prevention part of your fall traditions too. Fore more information about fire safety, redcross.org/get-help and click on “How to Prepare for Emergencies.”

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.

How the Gift Date is Determined:

  • Checks — The USPS mailing date, as postmarked, is the date of the gift, when making a gift from a checking, savings or money market account.
  • 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.

IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions

The IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) 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.  QCDs must be deducted from the qualified retirement account before December 31 to count during that tax year.  Speak with your CPA or other advisor to determine if a QCD 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.

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.