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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.”

Tracey Photo 2

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!

Written by: Brian Myers

Since October 2017, Nancy Tora has volunteered for the Red Cross in the Poconos region. She has completed 294 hours of volunteer time since then. Nancy’s multiple roles include her service in the Financial Department, on-boarding new volunteers and working on special projects. Additionally, she has served as a volunteer instructor for Volunteer Services.

Nancy Tora

I had a chance to briefly talk with Nancy about her volunteer work that she has done all across Eastern Pennsylvania.

Why did you choose to support the Red Cross?

“I previously worked in special education and that job ended. I was ready for a new challenge in my life.”

Where do you do your volunteer work?

“I volunteer at the Stroudsburg office, in the Poconos. And then also in the Wilkes-Barre office and the Scranton office. So, I kind of bounce around.”

What are some of your duties?

“In the Financial Development, I work as the Special Events Planning Assistant or just Special Events Assistant. I’m also a Volunteer Engagement Lead.”

So basically, you work at getting events and financing together?

 “Not so much in dealing with the financing. What we do is put together the fundraisers for the Red Cross. For example, last month we just had the big one, the Red Ball in Philadelphia, which was a lot of work but also really glamorous and exciting. It was held at Lincoln Financial Field. And that was really neat.”

How does your work help the community?

“Well, in the financial development it’s all about the fundraising. The money we raise goes to fund the Sound the Alarm events and for when a disaster strikes, the money goes to vehicles, fuel, and food.”

It sounds like you’re really involved then? 

“Yeah! I love it. I’m having a really good time and the people I meet are just phenomenal.”

How might other people volunteer to do the same work that you do?

“Actually, it’s really simple. You go to RedCross.org and right there, that first page asks: ‘Are you a volunteer? Do you want to volunteer? And once you fill out that form, the opportunities are just endless. You know, a lot of people, when you say ‘Red Cross’ think it’s just volunteering to help out with disaster assistance and giving blood. That’s a huge part of what the Red Cross does, but there are also so many other opportunities. There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer in the Financial Development and through community outreach. There are so many moving parts in the Red Cross, and no single part is more important than any other one. And I tell people all the time that nothing happens without the volunteers!”

Thanks for your time, Nancy! And come join us as a volunteer! You won’t regret it!

Written By Diane Coffey

Julie Martinez supports service members, veterans and their families as a Casework Lead and Volunteer leader for the Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) in Southeastern Pennsylvania. After moving to the greater Delaware Valley, Julie found herself wanting to do something to help veterans. Julie started with the Red Cross as a SAF volunteer in 2016.

Julie Martinez

Julie begins her caseload work by giving priority to any notifications of death and making phone calls to military families.  Julie’s days are filled connecting clients with resources offered by the Red Cross, the Federal Government, and various non-government agencies. She rounds out her day overseeing the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) client online data management system, cross training volunteers, and interviewing prospective case workers.

She participates in a monthly conference call with National Red Cross. These monthly calls provide updates and improvements that affect case workers and coaching hints to help volunteers. Sometimes the calls are simply “Kudo Calls” to say great job!

Her dedication and due diligence is demonstrated by one situation when winter temperatures dropped below zero and a veteran had no heat in the home. Julie worked on this case for 24 hours until heat was turned on.

Julie is a military wife who supported her husband throughout his 26-year U.S. Navy career while raising their daughter and son. She comes from a strong military connected family, starting with her Grandfather who served in the U.S. Army in World War II, her father retired with 20-year service in the U.S. Navy, followed by her U.S. Army baby sister who retired with 20 years of services, and two brothers who each completed Army tours.

Last year, the Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania provided 3,186 services for military members, veterans and their families. The Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program dates back to the establishment of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton in May 1881. Today’s American Red Cross workers proudly carry on this tradition through the SAF program, which serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families.