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Just like everyone else, we have been adjusting to the new normal of working under social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic, while keeping our focus on our number one priority: the people we serve.  

Home fires have continued to displace families throughout the crisis, and our disaster action teams are determined to find ways to continue providing emergency assistance in a safe, yet effective way with minimal in-person contact.  

Because of their diligence in coming up with a solution, they’ve been able to do just that. 

Last week our team got a call about a single-family fire in southwest Philadelphia. The fire department was on scene and reported that the family was not going to be able to return to their home. The family needed our help, so the disaster action team jumped into action.  

Bob Schmidt responding to a local disaster prior to the COVID-19 situation

Instead of sending a team out to the scene, Bob Schmidt, the on-call Duty Officer, quickly contacted the family and used FaceTime to get a few important details, including observing the damage done to the home.  
 
Bob, who is also a member of the Disaster Action Team, dispatched Hiwa Shams who volunteered to act as a ‘runner’ to support the response. Hiwa went directly to the scene and provided the resident with emergency assistance and a folder containing recovery materials, keeping a safe social distance and minimal personal contact. The whole response took less than an hour, which helped the family move forward in their recovery more quickly, including help with a place to stay and resources to plan their next steps. 

Through the use of technology, the individuals affected, the first responders and our Red Cross volunteers were able to deliver the Red Cross mission through safe measures during a difficult time. 
 
Many thanks to Bob and Hiwa for their dedication to teamwork and ensuring that the Red Cross mission endures through this pandemic.  

By: Sophie Kluthe

We know all corners of the country are feeling the impact of COVID-19, and like many of you, we’re doing all we can to help. 

Here’s what we’re up against as it relates to our blood donation services: as of Monday, March 23, more than 6,000 blood drives were canceled due to Coronavirus fears, resulting in the loss of more than 200,000 donations. 358 of those drives were canceled in the state of Pennsylvania, with a loss of 10,311 donations. 

You know what’s so inspiring, though? As our country went into a severe blood shortage, we put out a plea for blood donors, and you flocked to redcrossblood.org to answer the call, filling up the few blood drive and blood donor center openings we had still open. And you continue to answer that call. 

That’s why, when you go to redcrossblood.org, it might take a while to load. If you want to give this week, you may find there aren’t any appointments available. Please don’t be discouraged. Have you considered donating next week, or the week after that? 

We’ve had thousands of blood drives cancelled, but we’re working around the clock to set more up. Despite our efforts, there are still fewer drives than would normally be, and that means fewer available appointments. Remember, that little kid with cancer, that person who needs a lifesaving surgery, will still need you next week, and the week after that. People will still depend on blood donations, because the need for blood is constant.  

As experts have emphasized, this outbreak is not limited to days, and the American Red Cross will continue to face blood collection challenges for weeks, and even months to come because of Coronavirus.  

So thank you, for being so willing to donate your precious, lifesaving blood. And thank you for being patient. Thank you for being open to setting up an appointment a little further down the line, helping us as we try to stabilize this blood shortage.  

During this crisis, we’ve also been working to keep blood donation is a safe process, increasing our already stringent safety protocols: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/coronavirus–covid-19–and-blood-donation.html 

We also want you to have the safety information that may help you get through this as well: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/coronavirus-safety.html 

We’ll get through this, together.  

By: Caitlin Mclafferty

March is Women’s History Month, and for volunteers with the American Red Cross, one name stands out above all others: Clara Barton, founder.

Born in 1821, Barton began her career as an educator in 1838. She was one of the first women to gain formal employment through the government when most of her colleagues were men. After about 12 years, as the American Civil War began to escalate, she moved out of the classroom and onto the battlefield. There she helped treat injured soldiers, cook meals, distribute supplies, and provide families of missing soldiers with information about their loved ones. 

Barton developed a bond with the soldiers. She called them “her boys” and saw the positive influence her efforts had on men embroiled in a bloody war. Notably, she helped construct a national cemetery around the graves of Union soldiers who died in Georgia’s Confederate POW camp, Andersonville Prison (also known as Camp Sumter). With assistance from a soldier, Dorence Atwater, Barton helped identify and record the deaths of 13,000 men. Currently, the National Park Service maintains the Andersonville National Historic Site as well as an electronic record of the deaths Barton helped record, which anyone can access to search for records: nps.gov/civilwar/search-prisoners.htm

Barton traveled to Europe after the war, where she was introduced to the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland. She was also influenced by a memoir by Henry Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross network. Inspired by what she learned and bolstered by her own Civil War experiences, Barton volunteered to help the Red Cross provide relief during the Franco-Prussian War. After seeing the Red Cross help soldiers and the greater community throughout the Franco-Prussian War, Barton returned to the United States and began to encourage a series of presidents to sign the Geneva Treaty so that a Red Cross organization could be established stateside. 
Barton continued to dedicate herself to emergency assistance and international relief while developing the American Red Cross.

Despite all of her accomplishments, Barton faced criticism as she faced diminished capabilities with advancing age; she was forced to step down as president of the American Red Cross in 1904. Even after that, she began another organization to improve public safety: The National First Aid Association of America. The organization was short-lived, but the effort shows how motivated Barton was to enhance the lives of people in need of health care and relief. The American Red Cross, which is currently active in communities across the United States, would not have been so effective and powerful without her influence. Throughout her life, Barton made a difference in countless lives through her efforts with the Civil War, the American Red Cross, and the International Red Cross.

By: Sophie Kluthe

When I think of the notion of ‘home’, I think of Nashville. It’s a place so full of vibrancy, color, and music at every turn. People are so welcoming and warm and excited to share their culture and story with visitors from all over the country and the world.

East Nashville is where I married my now husband. Just down the road from that venue was where we hosted our rehearsal dinner BBQ. It’s where we shared our first home. East Nashville is where we created incredible bonds with our neighbors and frequented many of wonderful restaurants, bars and other venues that helped make our time there so memorable.

East Nashville is also where two people were killed Monday night into Tuesday as an EF-3 tornado tore from the Germantown part of the city, through downtown, all the way through neighboring Donelson. Waking up to the images of those very same establishments where we created so many memories, crushed into rubble, with no roof in sight, was absolutely heartbreaking. It was upsetting to see the path of destruction that barreled through the homes of my neighbors, former coworkers, friends, and their families. That restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner just two years ago sustained damage to the windows and exterior.

March 3, 2020. Nashville, Tennessee. Red Cross volunteer Denisha White, right, holds Gaberl Booker, 5 months old, as the mother Quanisha Booker, left, holds Rapheal, also 5 months old, at Red Cross shelter at the Centennial Sportsplex for people displaced by a tornado in Nashville, TN. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Through all of it, I know that one of the bright lights for the people who are no doubt suffering right now, will be the warmth and safety of a Red Cross shelter, stocked with cots, food and resources to help them retain some sense of normalcy. Many in the Nashville area and Wilson and Putnam Counties, which were also hard hit, are dealing with unspeakable tragedy involving not just the loss of homes, but significant loss of life. I know that Red Cross volunteers, trained in mental health and emotional support, will help get them through what are probably the worst days of their lives. The volunteers supporting Middle Tennessee are from Middle Tennessee, because that’s the beauty of the Red Cross. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. And in the face of unspeakable tragedy, I know this will be one of the driving forces on that road to recovery.

To learn more about what the Red Cross is doing in Tennessee, and how you can help, visit: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2020/red-cross-helps-after-tennessee-tornadoes.html

By: Sophie Kluthe

At sunset on Sunday, March 1, Philadelphia’s iconic Boathouse Row will cast a red glow over the Schuylkill River, marking what is set to be a Red Cross Month like no other in Eastern Pennsylvania! 

For more than 75 years, the president of the U.S. has proclaimed March as Red Cross Month to recognize the organization’s lifesaving mission. Along with regions across the country, The Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania is celebrating its volunteers and encouraging others in the community to join in on the mission. Volunteers make up more than 90% of the Red Cross workforce and are what make it possible to help people in what may be their darkest hour. 

As winter’s grip begins to lift, March offers a long list of ways to get involved! 

Donate: It’s as easy as getting your coffee at Wawa! For the whole month of March, Wawa, a Red Cross national partner, will run a customer donation program out of all of their stores. Simply drop your spare change into the Red Cross buckets at the register through April 12! If you prefer to give online, American Red Cross Giving Day on March 25 is a day to circle on your calendar! On Giving Day supporters can donate at redcross.org/givingday to #help1family who loses nearly everything to a disaster. Your gift can provide hope and urgent relief like food, shelter and other essentials. A donation of any size makes a difference.  

Volunteer: There are many ways that you can help in your community, whether it’s providing support to a family after a disaster, installing free smoke alarms in neighborhoods with a high risk of home fires or supporting members of the military and veterans. Visit https://www.redcross.org/local/pennsylvania/eastern-pennsylvania/volunteer.html to learn more. 

Give Blood: Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood — from accident victims to children battling cancer to mothers giving birth. Eligible individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood or platelets at RedCrossBlood.org

Take a Class: Accidents can happen to anyone, anytime — and when they do, every second counts to help keep someone alive until medical help arrives. Visit https://www.redcross.org/local/pennsylvania/eastern-pennsylvania/take-a-class to register for a class in lifesaving skills such as CPR and First Aid.  

As spring approaches, we’ll spring forward the first weekend of March! Don’t forget to Turn and Test before going to bed on Saturday, March 7. Daylight Saving Time returns early in the morning on Sunday, March 8, and the Red Cross reminds you to turn your clocks ahead and test your smoke alarms! For smoke alarms with 9-volt batteries, you should replace the batteries at least once a year.  

Later in the month, on March 24, Red Crossers from all over Pennsylvania will meet at the State Capitol in Harrisburg to show our state leaders the impact of our organization on Pennsylvania. It’s traditionally a day that celebrates the wonderful partnerships we have with lawmakers and state agencies in our goal to serve communities across the state.  

Our last regional event of the month will take place on March 28th as the lights on the Ben Franklin bridge turn red for Red Ball in Philadelphia! This year is extra special since it’s the 20th Anniversary of the black-tie fundraiser, and it’s being held at an exciting new venue, Vie by Cescaphe! Visit redcross.org/redballphilly for info and tickets! 

By: AJ Suero

During my recent deployment to Puerto Rico, I had the amazing opportunity to work with our National Public Affairs Team. Our mission was to tell the story of what was happening on the island: how people had been impacted by a series of seemingly endless earthquakes and aftershocks, and what the American Red Cross was doing to help.  

Our travels led us to the small town of San Germán near the southwestern coast, where evacuees had set up a makeshift shelter camp. More than 200 people had traveled there to sleep in tents and cots set up in a large parking lot. For most, the recurring tremors had made it impossible for them to sleep comfortably in their own homes. 

Our team members on the ground were talking to residents, discussing medical needs, distributing supplies and providing mental health services. While documenting their work, I met a 3-year-old girl named Mijah. As a father of two outgoing children, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet Mijah was. Her mother told me she was growing increasingly concerned about the emotional impact the whole ordeal was having on her young daughter. 

During our conversation, something caught my eye. It was a cute, pink tea set that Mijah was playing with on her cot. Many of the other children under her tent were too young to play with her, so I told her that I would love to have a cup of tea with her. She was delighted! As she poured our cups and plopped in imaginary sugar cubes, the expression on her face began to change. 

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve found that to be true. My photo with 3-year Mijah was one of the most memorable moments of my time there. Each one of us has the capacity to make someone’s day, sometimes through the smallest of kind acts. Helping people cope, even just for a moment, can be as simple as participating in a tea party, pinky up, heart wide open. 

By: Janice Winston

Red Crossers pore over their training materials at a Logistics Boot Camp session.

The Back Story
Most people become aware of the American Red Cross through its blood drives, made possible by dedicated donors and volunteers. But those campaigns are just one element of the organization’s larger humanitarian mission. In fact, the Red Cross offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities tailored to all talents and passions, and there are lots of ways you can help. If you’re an orderly, systematic type of person who loves to plan things out, give logistics a try. It might become your favorite Red Cross activity.

What does logistics mean for Red Cross projects? It’s a critical aspect of serving a disaster-affected community. Jeff Banks, manager of logistics for the Eastern Pennsylvania region, defines it simply as “the management of the movement of supplies from one point to another.” In other words, it’s all about wrangling the moving parts, and the organizational geeks at the American Red Cross have logistics down to a science. The volunteers behind the scenes form the backbone of this effort.

Jeffrey Banks -Red Cross Logistics Specialist

“Logistics volunteers engage in such activities as transportation, warehouse, supply, procurement, in-kind donations, life safety asset protection, facilities, and disaster services technology,” Banks said. All of those efforts give the organization the ability to prepare, respond, and offer recovery services after any disaster, whether it’s a single-family home fire or a larger response involving a hurricane or wildfire.

The Training
Preparedness is key in any Red Cross response, so on February 1, the region hosted the first of three logistics boot camps organized by Jeff Banks and regional training lead Kate Crowley. Held in Norristown, it was an entire day of education on ordering supplies, obtaining in-kind donations, completing shelter surveys, and more. Banks and Crowley provided the all tools for volunteers to succeed in their chosen activity.

Kate Crowley leads a discussion at the February 1 boot camp.

Good logistics support ensures that everyone has what they need to fulfill their mission in the field. In communities across the country, these ongoing planning efforts help the Red Cross have material resources in the right place and at the right time—critical in a time-sensitive disaster situation. Logistics involves coordination, analysis, and the ability to have the resources named, ordered, and delivered. The boot camp participants received important training from experienced instructors. Volunteer Jayne Cabnet told me she enjoyed the people in the class, gained useful knowledge, and is now interested in working in the supply area.

“Our mission is dependent on courteous, reliable, and trained logistics workers to provide support every day within our organization,”  Banks says. This first boot camp gave volunteers the opportunity to meet, bond, share a common learning environment, and provide input. Some volunteers may end up working together. A truly rewarding experience!

Don’t Miss Out
Upcoming boot camps, to be held February 22 in West Chester and March 7 in Wilkes Barre, will focus on warehouse and transportation endeavors and review some topics covered in the first boot camp. To learn more, reach out to your local chapter. Hope to see you behind the scenes!