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Volunteer

Written by Sam Antenucci

Imagine yourself in a disaster without power or internet. Finding out vital information would be next to impossible.  However, amateur radio – ‘Ham’ as its more commonly called—is a popular hobby that doubles as a way to send disaster messages without the need for internet. During a disaster when internet and power can go down, Ham radio acts as a lifeline in times of need.

Seeing the potential of Ham Radios in disaster scenarios, John Weaver, a Red Cross Disaster and Mental Health volunteer, has been advocating and pushing for more awareness of Ham radios and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) field day. Weaver says that “Field day is a chance to reach out to the community, practice for emergencies, enjoy informal contests, and most of all have fun!”

john Weaver

John (left) , Al (center) and Sean (right) from the Red Cross Lehigh Valley-Buck Chapter visited the 2018 Field Day sites. Using the Ham radio, they simulated emergency communication to an ARC volunteer in Texas.

With more than 40,000 attendees including Red Cross volunteers, the ARRL field day is easily the largest gathering of radio amateurs in the United States. During the ARRL field day, enthusiasts set up transmission stations throughout the Nation to showcase the service opportunities that the radios hold.

Ham radios work on a variety of frequencies for communications and can be set up anywhere in the world. Both Ham and non-Ham users can tune into their own receivers or radio scanners to listen to the broadcasts. Ham users utilize many frequency bands across the radio spectrum that have been given to them by the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) for amateur use.

Ham radios have often been utilized in the past by those wishing to aid in disaster services. For example, Amateur Radio Services helped New York City agencies keep in contact with one another during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio has also aided in rescues during Hurricane Katrina and helped in the disastrous flooding in Colorado in 2013.

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Volunteers participate in Ham Radio training at the 2018 Red Cross Disaster Institute

If Ham radios are something you might want to get involved with, you need to acquire an Amateur Radio license from the FCC and your own equipment. The Red Cross offers Ham training and encourages you to participate in the 2019 ARRL field day on June 22nd and 23rd . Save the date and we’ll see you there!

Written by David Haas

Danelle Stoppel is a local Red Cross volunteer who has been deployed to support national disasters twenty-two times, including the Boston Marathon bombing and recent Puerto Rican hurricane relief efforts.  With so much experience, she has many stories to tell – often funny – but always in an emotional voice expressing gratitude for being allowed to help others.

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Danelle, second from the left, takes part in the Integrated Care and Condolence Team in Puerto Rico.

Danelle talked recently to a group of trainees at the Red Cross Deployment lab held at Red Cross headquarters.  She described participating in a tornado disaster response in Norman OK when a hurricane hit.  She says that people she met there and in other locations “are more resilient than I will ever be.”  While responding to fires and mudslides in California last year, she witnessed family members digging out other family members and realized that “disasters don’t discriminate – you never know when it will strike you or me.”

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Danelle says that she “doesn’t know anything better than to give back through the Red Cross” and that “there are always people (on deployments) who adore giving back, and that is the essence of the Red Cross.”  Volunteering with the Red Cross has made her “grateful for what I have much more than before, and a better person as well.”

She encourages volunteers to respond locally in order to qualify for national deployments. Once deployed, she encourages volunteers to understand that safety comes first, and learning to work effectively with local residents and providers comes second.

 

Written by David Haas

A priority for the Red Cross is reducing fire deaths in Eastern Pennsylvania. On Wednesday June 6th, Red Cross volunteers participated in a neighborhood safety walk-through with the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Fire Protection Division and the Fire Department Explorers (the Fire Explorers is a program for teens and young adults interested in fire science, emergency medical services (EMS), disaster relief, emergency management, and military-related training).

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During the three-hour event, Red Cross volunteers installed smoke alarms and discussed fire safety with residents of the North Philadelphia neighborhood around Bustleton Ave. & Van Kirk St. where a fire death recently occurred. The Red Cross participates in fatal fire walkthroughs along side the Philadelphia Fire Department to promote fire safety and install smoke alarms in at-risk communities.

Concerned residents warmly welcomed the volunteers, who explained that fires are a major issue in aging homes around Philadelphia.  The most important thing someone can do to prevent fire is to install a smoke alarm. The second most important thing is to have an emergency escape plan.  In almost every house visited, non-working and outdated detectors were found and replaced.

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The Fire Department supplied smoke alarms while the Red Cross supplied drills and step ladders. Members of the Red Cross Spiritual Care team provided assistance to residents who needed support. WCAU Channel 10, the local NBC affiliate, recorded the event for coverage on its TV news program and online. Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel was on hand to thank the program participants.

You can check www.SoundTheAlarm.org/EasternPA to learn more, or access Volunteer Connection to sign up for an upcoming event.  Disaster Action Team members are alerted to Fire Walkthrough in coordination with the Fire Department.

In March of 1944, Frances Etherington was in her mid-20s and just joined the American Red Cross to serve in World War II. Following a six-week course at the American University in Atlanta, she sailed to London from Brooklyn, New York.

Paper shortages, buzz bombs and blackouts did not damper France’s dedication. She qualified for an international truck driver’s license and began driving a 12-ton truck through the busy streets of London; a “horrifying” feat, in her words. She served in the Red Cross Club Mobile Unit, providing coffee, doughnuts and special meals to soldiers.

Frances Eth

A couple months into her deployment, Frances sensed something big was about to happen. Just before what would come to be known as D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1945), “London became very quiet and eerie. It wasn’t as crowded and many soldiers had been moved out,” she recalls. That night, while listening to the radio news, she learned of the attack.

Later that month, her unit sailed from Portsmouth to Utah Beach in Normandy. Etherington spent her first night on land just beyond the beach in a field that had been swept for German mines. She slept under a truck because the hedgerows were mined. In the coming weeks, her unit followed troops liberating European towns, never staying in one place for long.

While Frances’ unit avoided the immediate war zone, the devastation of the bombed French villages, images of refugees walking in hordes along the roads and a “nauseating” visit to a concentration camp were etched in her memory. “Such a methodical and scientific means of destroying human lives that I shuddered at the coldness of it all,” she remembers.

Etherington considered herself lucky to serve soldiers coffee and food. She was given a whiskey allowance, which she put towards the doughnuts fund since she didn’t drink alcohol. There was even some fun during it all, the unit was entertained by an army group of musicians and magicians.

In May 1945, victory in Europe was declared. In August, Etherington sailed back to New York on a hospital ship filled with amputee soldiers. As they entered the New York Harbor, a huge message painted on the banks of the river was there to greet them: “Welcome Home. Well done.”

Etherington returned home to her native North Carolina and remained involved in the Red Cross, donating throughout the years and establishing a Charitable Gift Annuity. She recently turned 100 years and her daughter thought to document her mother’s experiences with the Red Cross before it was lost.

Transcribed by Laurie Etherington

Written by Kathy Huston

 

By: Elizabeth McLaren

One phone call can determine the entire course of Red Cross DAT Responder Elizabeth Stinson’s day. As part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT) in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Stinson knows her circumstances can change in an instant, just as they did on November 16, 2017. News of a five-alarm fire with possible injuries and fatalities at the Barclay Friends Senior Center in West Chester jarred her awake.

“I had fallen asleep on my couch,” Stinson said. “I got the call, got myself together and went.”

Stinson was on the scene of the Barclay fire for over 12 hours, supporting other local emergency responders and Barclay facility staff who were transporting clients to nearby senior and assisted living centers, and reuniting clients with family members. The relief efforts on the ground involved many moving parts. Stinson saw first-hand how small details can matter the most. “It was all about compassionate care. One of the volunteers went out to buy applesauce so patients could take their medicine.”

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Of the experiences Stinson has witnessed during her 419 hours logged as a DAT Responder, and close to 1,300 hours on call, the Barclay fire continues to stick with her. “It was the most rewarding experience I had with the Red Cross. I had no idea going into it how large the fire was or the type of people impacted. When I saw the clientele, we wanted to just keep them warm.”

Stinson helps with Red Cross workforce engagement on the days when she’s not involved with disaster response. She coordinates with Volunteer Services to introduce interested Red Cross volunteers to the many responsibilities of DAT Responders. Stinson helps with Red Cross initiatives such as the Home Fire Campaign and the Pillow Case Project, working towards community engagement for volunteers. She is also part of the committee organizing the Red Cross Disaster Institute offering classes to train DAT Responders. With her many efforts, she keeps one main approach in mind, both for herself and for potential volunteers.

“There’s no typical day at the Red Cross. Every day is different. I think that’s what I like about it. Each day is a new and unique set of challenges. Sometimes it’s routine like updating data and records, but it’s always different.”

Stinson believes that this variety adds value not only to her role, but also to her daily life. “Every experience is something to add to your toolkit. They’re all learning experiences. It’s [about] being a better human being. You get out there and you realize not everyone’s as fortunate as you.”

Tracey Howard joined the American Red Cross Team after retiring from 24 years in law enforcement as a federal probation officer for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. District Courts.  Tracey is a firm believer in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

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Her commitment to community service has given her the opportunity to work with agencies including BEBASHI, Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Youth Aid Panel, Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the Girls Scouts, and AARP.  In addition to serving at the American Red Cross in various capacities (humanitarian, warehouse assistant, blood donor ambassador, …. she has served over 26 years on the Multi-Media Ministry for New Covenant Church and is the current President for Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter (VFAC) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  She is most proud to have initiated partnership with VFAC and the American Red Cross, participating in the Sound the Alarm Program., Emergency Preparedness Workshops, Hurricane Harvey Relief, the Pillowcase Project, and blood drives for VFAC service area.

Last year, the Red Cross in Eastern Pennsylvania collected more than 155,000 blood donations. Through voluntary donations, the American Red Cross Biomedical Services fulfills the needs of the American people for the safest, most reliable and cost-effective blood services.

Written by Sam Antenucci

April is National Volunteer Month and the American Red Cross wants to shine the spotlight on our wonderful volunteers that make the Red Cross what it is; an organization, empowered by our volunteers, to help those suffering in the face of emergencies. Without their talents, time, and efforts, the Red Cross could not accomplish it’s goal of making the community a better, safer place.

One of our volunteers, Cara Keiper, has stood out as an exceptional volunteer and has poured hard work and positivity throughout her time here at the Red Cross.

Cara

“I am a volunteer with the Red Cross because it’s a good feeling to know that I am helping out my community.” said Cara. She sought out to help the American Red Cross and joined the team in May of 2014. She has been working at the front desk of the Scranton chapter and also has volunteered her time in Disaster Service Cycle. She has logged over 1500 hours since she’s been here! Cara is a wonderful volunteer and is a positive presence at the Scranton Chapter. Her diligent work in helping the community and uplifting spirit is exactly what makes the Red Cross a special organization.

The Disaster Service Cycle is one of the five lines of service within the Red Cross that focuses on recovery, preparation, and response in the face of emergencies like fires, hurricanes, floods, and tornados. We rely on volunteers to make up over 90% of the work force and make it possible to aid in 70,000 disasters yearly! As a part of the Disaster Service Cycle team, volunteers can work in delivery response services, which supplies food, shelter, and comfort after disasters. Volunteers can also teach about preparedness to communities and children about being safe in the case of emergencies, work in Recovery services to help aid victims of disasters get back on their feet, teach courses to other volunteers, and/or work as a disaster mental health volunteer to offer emotional support and crisis interventions to those affected by disasters.

As a member of the team, our Disaster Cycle Service group will engage in the community as leaders, serve in planning responses and recovery situations, and/or assist in training efforts and community preparedness opportunities.

Through all the disaster situations, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornados, the Red Cross needs amazing volunteers to help engage within the community with services that can save the lives of those around us. The Red Cross is always looking for more volunteers of all ages and skill sets to help! To join the American Red Cross, you can follow the link, redcross.org/volunteer, to find an opportunity you like and submit an application today!