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Here as a volunteer blogger for the SEPA chapter, I’m getting a chance to learn some of the things that the Red Cross does that don’t make it onto your local news but does make an impact on people’s lives.

Whether it’s mental health volunteers helping out in Colorado or the SEPA Communications team being the first on the scene to help survivors access the help they need following a fire in Philadelphia, I’m also learning that the hundreds of Red Cross chapters nationwide and their volunteers adhere to one vision and one mission.

Two Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania workers console a woman displaced by a fatal fire in West Philadelphia.

The mission is to “prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

The vision is to turn compassion into action so that:

.all people affected by disaster across the country and around the world receive care, shelter and hope;

..our communities are ready and prepared for disasters;

…everyone in our country has access to safe, lifesaving blood and blood products;

….all members of our armed services and their families find support and comfort whenever needed; and

…..in an emergency, there are always trained individuals nearby, ready to use their Red Cross skills to save lives.

Both are daunting tasks and responsibilities.

Yet both were demonstrated during the number of tragedies this past summer. Tragedies that ranged from but not limited to house fires, water main breaks, and some natural disasters on the local level as well as wildfires and mass causality crises on the national level.

American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania mental health volunteer meeting with a man displaced by the Colorado wildfires.

Through them all, the American Red Cross was there to help and through their actions I begin to realize how volunteers live the American Red Cross mission and vision everyday.

– Jabril Redmond, volunteer guest blogger

Danelle Stoppel, a Red Cross volunteer with the SEPA Chapter who specializes in mental health services who is a very experienced volunteer when it comes to disasters. She has no problems transiting from volunteering at the local level to the national level. During her last two deployments, Danelle has been traveling and keeping us updated on what she has been experiencing through text message. After spending time in Colorado, she is now in Tulsa, Oklahoma just a month later. Here is her latest string of texts outlining her recent deployment:

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August 9, 2012

Arrived in Oklahoma and redirected to Tulsa.  Along the interstate there were long stretches of burned areas.  I was assigned to a work site in Creek County where American Red Cross (ARC) services are being delivered.  There are strong community liaisons like Colorado spring, the Baptist church and the medical corp.  Temperatures are in the 100s, but there is little humidity.  There are strong winds and no chance of rain until Sunday.

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All that is left of a neighborhood after the Creek County Wildfires in Oklahoma. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

August 10, 2012

Disaster Relief (DR) is very small. I have been assigned to Mannford and services are concentrated there.  Like Colorado Springs, the local chapter, county and state agencies are working together.  Services begin at twelve noon, but I am meeting with client case management to coordinate mental health services in an outreach effort.  I will know more after that meeting.  I still have not seen the damaged areas since these fires were scattered over a large area.  I met a gentleman last night who lost everything.

August 10, 2012

All services in Creek County are located in a service center.  Four other mental health workers and myself are  working with client case management as people arrive.  We serviced over 80 families today.  Families are receiving funds from the Red Cross.

Red Cross provides services to aid victims of the wildfires. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

August 10, 2012

Many of the families from Creek County live on large tracts of land…50,100 acres with multiple houses of family members’ land that has been in the family forever.  People reported helping their neighbor rescue their horses only to return home and find their own land on fire.  One young woman operates a family salvage business and in June a fire swept through about ten acres burning most of their salvaged autos.  She was married several weeks after and last week her home was completely destroyed including all of her wedding presents.  Her husband fled their home wearing the first present she ever bought him, a green pair of shorts.  She laughed thinking of how much she hated those shorts since they were now four years old and had a large white stain on them.  But those pants survived the fire as did her husband.  People from here are very hard working and never ask for help.  Many of them are now realizing that they need help.  Due to the fire and the drought many farmers do not have feed for their livestock.  See attached request

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A flyer for hay and feed donations in Creek County. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

August 11, 2012

The staff at ARC are overwhelmed with the number of people seeking assistance.  In the last four days over 300 901s have been written.  Many animals /pets have been injured, missing and lost in the fire.  A local group called the Alliance for Animals is providing free medical services.  The front of the center has posters for missing pets.  The four mental health workers are working hand in hand with client management.  It has been difficult to assess since large tracts of land were affected. The fires were finally contracted on Tuesday.  Families were allowed to return to their properties late on Tuesday.  Emotions are very raw since FEMA has yet to arrive.  A farmer came into the center and reported that his entire farm of 1,000 acres has been burned and he needs assistance with his livestock.  People reported having only minutes to leave their homes.

Compiled by: Lana Pizzo