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On Tuesday, December 2, 2014 people from around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. We have a day for giving thanks, two days for getting deals, and on #GivingTuesday charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students will come together to give something more.

timeThe American Red Cross relies on the generosity of those looking to give back to our humanitarian mission. From providing disaster relief, to responding to local emergencies, to educating communities on lifesaving preparedness and training, to supporting our military and their families, our work is only made possible by donors and volunteers.

This #GivingTuesday choose to give your time, your money or your blood to the American Red Cross.

The 2014 American Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog provides a list of gifts that support our military, ease urgent needs, and help spread global compassion. Gift prices start at $15.00, which will provide fire safety training and the installation of one fire alarm to help keep families safe and prepared. Gift prices range all the way to $1,000.00, providing a full day of emergency shelter for 20 people, which includes three meals, two blankets, one cot, snacks and personal hygiene supplies. Free gifts are included with donation while supplies last. For a complete list of gifts, please click here.unselfie movement

In addition to making a financial donation, volunteering your time is another way to contribute to #GivingTuesday. Getting involved is an easy way to give back to your local community this holiday season. To join the team of volunteers delivering care and compassion to those in need everyday, please click here. And don’t forget that the American Red Cross supplies more than 40% of the nation’s blood supply, so we are always in need of more donations. You can sign up to make a blood donation or host a virtual blood drive right on our website.FAB_give_blood

Now here’s the best part. Throughout the day on #GivingTuesday the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania will be following along on social media as you tweet, post, like, and share how you are contributing to #GivingTuesday. You can take a photo, video, or post an #UNSelfie of your #GivingTuesday activities to join in the worldwide movement. We look forward to seeing the global impact of everyone’s contributions and activities on #GivingTuesday and hearing all about #WhyIGive.

 

-Submitted by Jessica Webb, Communications Volunteer

When you work for the Red Cross you learn very quickly to be ready for anything. That was my first lesson when I started here; it just happened to be the same day Superstorm Sandy struck our region.

Most folks when they start a new position have some idea of how their first day will go. I had no idea what to expect since this was not only my first day on the job but my first time dealing with a hurricane. Being from Texas I was well versed in what to do in a tornado but hurricanes were out of my league.

In spite of my apprehension, I knew that this storm was an “all-hands-on-deck” situation and I didn’t want to let anyone down my first day on the job. On the morning of October 29, 2012 I found myself driving very slowly and carefully to our offices in Philadelphia.

Once there I discovered that a lot of the staff had decided to stay at the chapter overnight. Preparations for Sandy had been made several days in advance throughout our region and I was astounded at the level of preparation and dedication everyone showed. Without hesitation my colleagues were ready to face whatever Sandy was going to throw at them and I was so inspired.

rco_blog_img_SEPACotsThroughout that day and the weeks and months after Sandy I continued to be amazed and honored to work with such incredible individuals. The workers of the American Red Cross are persistent and hard-working. Whatever the need they roll up their sleeves until the job is done. My first day on the job was the best orientation I could have had. I saw first-hand the importance of what we do. We represent the very best of what the American people are capable of when our sleeves are up, our hearts are open, and we’re all in.

Now, one year later, I’m still in awe of what we were able to accomplish that day and what we continue to do every day. Whether it’s Sandy or the 3-5 fires that happen almost nightly in this region the Red Cross is there and I’m glad I’m a part of it.

Michelle Wigianto is major gifts associate for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania,
who began as a volunteer. Her first day as a paid employee was the day Sandy struck.

Back in October of last year, I had just moved into a new role at American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania when I heard about a hurricane approaching the East Coast. When it became clear that the “superstorm” would impact the Philadelphia area, I remember frantically sending out emails to friends, family, and Red Cross partners urging them to take the storm seriously and make preparations. (The Red Cross offers a wealth of great preparedness information  – that I was able to share.) I also went about readying my own home – making sure I had all the necessary disaster supplies and bringing outside furniture indoors.

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On Sunday evening, Oct. 28, I participated in a Red Cross phone bank on NBC 10, answering calls from viewers seeking information about shelter locations, storm precautions, and much more. It felt great to take part in this effort with our volunteers and to help our region prepare.

I remember that the weather was worsening when I drove home from NBC’s studio that night. On the day Sandy struck, Oct. 29, I went into work to participate in disaster update meetings. Our development team came up with plans for reaching out to donors, but we were also called on to assist with shelters in all five counties we serve. (I previously served as a government liaison at an office of emergency management during Hurricane Irene.)

My sister, home from work, was calling me all day telling me that the weather was getting worse and I should really get home. My boyfriend came to pick me up because he was so concerned about me driving in the dangerous conditions. Many roads were closed by that point, so we drove very slowly and carefully on highways in order to get home. When we arrived, I began to see the heartbreaking images of devastation up and down the East Coast. Shortly after, we lost power. Fortunately, my house had a generator that powered key lights, systems, and appliances, but it was very dark, very few outlets functioned, and there was no Internet or cable.

I brought my disaster kit and flashlight with me to bed that night. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t immediately determine the damage inflicted on my area of Montgomery County. I tried to venture out, and I discovered that roads were blocked by downed trees and power lines. I worked from home and made phone calls all day to Red Cross partners asking if they were ok and requesting support.

I was able to return to work the next day (even though my home’s power would be out for the next week), and that’s when the true Sandy chaos began for me. Our department was inundated with people wanting to help. The absolute best thing about working for the American Red Cross is seeing the way Americans open up their hearts — and wallets — during our country’s darkest hours. It is remarkable and so heartening. The only down side is that our department consists of only about 15 people to handle thousands of calls, emails, gifts, events, etc.

My main role during the Sandy response was helping with the huge influx of third party fundraisers. It was absolutely amazing to hear from so many schools, businesses, retailers, and community groups that wanted to hold events to benefit Red Cross Disaster Relief. Working out the details of these events, coordinating marketing materials and volunteers to attend, counting the funds raised (sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of change), and attending thank you presentations was exhausting but incredible.

These events lasted for months. Even though Sandy occurred at the end of October, we felt like we were still in the throes of it in February. Then came the weeks when our entire department had to stop what we were doing to catch up on data processing and gift entry in order to distribute delayed tax acknowledgment letters and deliver overdue “thank yous.” In times of disaster, it is impossible to not fall behind and we are never able to personally thank as many people as we’d like, but we tried our hardest!

Working for the development department here in Southeastern Pennsylvania during the Red Cross’ response to Superstorm Sandy was an experience I’ll never forget. It was challenging but also very rewarding. I was proud to work for the Red Cross, an organization that did such a great job of not only preparing people for the storm but also responding to emergency needs and getting those affected on the road to recovery (as it continues to do). Also, I will always remember the outpouring of support from our region. It is indescribably inspiring to see such compassion in a world that often seems so dark and full of destruction. Never more than during Superstorm Sandy did generous Red Cross donors and volunteers bring hope.

Victoria Genuardi is a major gifts officer for Chester County and has worked for the Red Cross for about two and a half years. 

The American Red Cross does not accept or solicit small quantities of individual donations of items for emergency relief purposes. Items such as collections of food, used clothing, and shoes often must be cleaned, sorted, and repackaged which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel that are needed for other aspects of our relief operation.

–National Red Cross Website

Here in the offices of the Southeastern Pennsylvania American Red Cross, I sit very near two lovely young women who are in charge of managing donations, large and small, for our disaster relief efforts in general and, more recently, our efforts to mitigate the suffering caused by Hurricane Sandy. They also take calls from people who wish to hold fundraising efforts of their own and then donate the results to the Red Cross.

These women do essential work. Without them, we would have been much less successful in collecting funds for this enormous project. They also face a surprising challenge. Citizens call all the time and want to donate stuff. By “stuff”, I mean things, items, objects they already own but no longer have need of. Judging by the quantity of these calls, mountains and mountains of “stuff” awaits redistribution.  And, it’s human nature that our generosity immediately finds a focus on items we no longer need. It’s much easier to give away a winter coat that’s been living in the attic for ten years, or the paper towels we overbought at Costco, than the cold hard cash we need for our own future purchases.

Unfortunately for those kind-hearted folks on the other end of the phone, the Red Cross cannot accept material donations. There are many excellent reasons for this policy. First, material donations require warehouses for storage before they can be redistributed. Second, these donations do not always meet the needs of those we serve. (When you collect the winter coat from the attic, you might also be tempted to throw in that old Fisher Price Playhouse Kitchen – a sweet and generous gesture, but not much use in an emergency). Third, material donations need to be sorted carefully, cleaned and showcased in a way that allows those in need to access them without too much trouble. This is a very difficult task to accomplish and takes away resources from meeting the urgent needs of those affected by the disaster.

Here at the Red Cross, our goal is to provide effective disaster relief to victims of terrible events. Please check out the “what-we-do” section of our website if you would like more information. The components of our mission are food, shelter and relief from suffering.  When Hurricane Sandy struck, we needed volunteers to set up and man shelters and meet the physical and emotional needs of displaced residents. We needed spaces to house relocated citizens and, most importantly, money to purchase and deliver blankets, cots, pillows, food and other daily life essentials. This is a great article about why material donations can sometimes do more harm than good. There are many others.

We have been astounded by the generosity of the people of our region.  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The two young women who sit near me are inundated with offers to give money and offers to fundraise even more. These donations will help us do our work in the most effective way possible. To those, who call with material donations, we commend your impulse to help. Please understand when we say we cannot take your material donations and refer you to agencies that do.