Celebrating a Century of Service

rco_blog_img_1917-1918-comfort-kit-shop-mnhs
1917-18 Comfort Kit Shop. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

In 1917, as the United States entered World War I, the American Red Cross quickly emerged as the largest social welfare agency throughout Minnesota and across the nation. The community quickly embraced the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors and by the end of the war, 20 percent of all Minnesotans had joined the organization.

This year, as we celebrate a century of service, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region invites individuals and organizations to join us as we prepare for whatever may come in the next 100 years. Click here to learn more about our Centennial Year.

1960-nurses-with-blood-mnhs
1960 Red Cross nurses with blood. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

During the past century, we have served millions of people. Through disaster services, we have provided immediate, emergency housing, food, clothing, medical supplies, and essential household items to victims of the more than 600 disasters that occur in the Minnesota Region annually. From preparedness education and health and safety programs to ensuring the daily demand for blood is met, we have worked vigilantly to prepare our communities with the tools and resources that save lives before urgent situations happen. We have supported our military heroes and their families before, during and after deployment and have reconnected families separated by conflict around the globe.

chawa_yang
2011 Minneapolis Tornado relief effort. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Today, 100 years since our inception, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region stands ready 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with volunteers and staff on standby to bring comfort, care and relief to victims of disasters or critical emergencies, work as health and safety trainers, and meet demand for area blood supplies.

We welcome you to join us!

rco_blog_img_centenniallogo

Become our newest community hero

Jennifer Pluhar (l) is a Red Cross volunteer who has helped dozens of families after disasters in Minnesota. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Jennifer Pluhar (l) is a Red Cross volunteer who has helped dozens of families after disasters in Minnesota. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteer Jennifer Pluhar spent her birthday helping more than 25 people displaced from their apartments after a fire in Minneapolis on February 23. Like hundreds of other Red Cross volunteers across Minnesota, Jennifer puts her own life on hold to help others during a great time of need. People rely on Red Cross volunteers to help them find safe and warm shelter after disasters. Sometimes they count on volunteers like Jennifer to hold a hand, listen and support them on the path to rebuilding their lives.

Jennifer’s contribution, along with hundreds of other volunteers across Minnesota, is invaluable. This is why the American Red Cross sets aside the month of March as Red Cross Month, a time to celebrate our everyday heroes and to ask you to become one of our newest community heroes.

The Red Cross depends on people like you to deliver help and hope to others, both neighbors and strangers, during emergencies. During the 2015 fiscal year, the American Red Cross Minnesota Region supported 2,541 people affected by local disasters, provided 2,459 emergency communications to military families and trained 122,656 people in lifesaving and caregiving skills. And, people from this area donated 215,091 units of blood. These acts of service truly save lives.

133903-March-is-Red-Cross-Month-Twitter-FINAL1March is the time for you to become a community hero by taking two simple steps. First, be ready for the next emergency by creating a preparedness plan for your home. Find help at redcross.org. Second, test your smoke alarms, and ask your neighbors to do the same. If you don’t have smoke working alarms, click here to get free smoke alarms in your home. You can also sign-up to be a Red Cross volunteer, blood donor or financial contributor by going to redcross.org/mn.

Thank you Jennifer. And thank you to all of the Red Cross volunteers, donors, and contributors in this region, across the nation, and around the globe who assist others during life’s darkest hours.

Meet BJ, a new Red Cross Community Volunteer Leader

Story by Nancy Rogers, Volunteer Services Specialist for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota

An American Red Cross Community Volunteer Leader (CVL) is a single point of contact for a community with the primary goal of developing, building and expanding the presence of the Red Cross in a given area.  A CVL serves as the face of the Red Cross to local communities with a dedicated focus on recruiting volunteers, managing relationships, fulfilling region-wide objectives and supporting delivery of the Red Cross mission.

BjBJ Kohlstedt was selected recently as the first Community Volunteer Leader (CVL) for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota.  She’s excited about a new role that allows her the opportunity to represent the Red Cross along Minnesota’s North Shore.

Since 2008, BJ has been the Emergency Manager for Lake County. She first became acquainted with the Red Cross when a shelter was opened in Silver Bay during the 2009 ice storm, and she was very impressed by and grateful for the work the Red Cross did while helping people in that community. While later serving as a Red Cross chapter board member, BJ learned more about the variety of services the Red Cross provides.  Now, she’s looking forward to building local awareness and engagement in her community that will strengthen a Red Cross presence.

“We’re fortunate to have BJ representing the Red Cross on the North Shore.  She has a perfect combination of credibility and genuine concern about the people in the communities she works with,” says Dan Williams, Executive Director for the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota.

BJ is jumping right into her new volunteer role. Already, she’s met with officials from all of the local fire departments in her area,  making them aware of the Red Cross services available to home fire victims. “The firefighters I met were very appreciative of my outreach and glad to know of our services so they can further assist those in their communities affected by a fire disasters.”  Soon, BJ will meet soon with other Red Cross volunteers and local partners to set up a Home Fire Campaign in the Two Harbors area.

BJ sees a lot of opportunities for the Red Cross to be involved in her area and she wants to build on that. One plan is to hold North Shore meetings for volunteers, giving them a way to stay connected to and involved with the Red Cross.

Another goal is to build the partnership between the Red Cross and the Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) on the North Shore. According to BJ, “The Red Cross and CERT serve communities throughout the United States in a variety of ways before, during and after emergencies. Both programs accomplish a great deal individually and they can do even more working together. In partnership, we can increase preparedness and resilience in communities, and offer assistance and support in the aftermath of disasters.”

BJ sees collaboration between the Red Cross and other emergency response organizations as vital to strengthening disaster preparedness and response. And she says she’s honored to have a new role and opportunity to help make it happen.

To learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities, click here.

This year’s highest Red Cross nursing honor goes to…

Janice Springer (c) receives the Ann Magnussen Award from Gail McGovern (l) and Linda MacIntyre (r) during the American Red Cross National Awards and Recognition Dinner on February 18, 2015, in Washington D.C. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross
Janice Springer (c) received the Ann Magnussen Award from Gail McGovern (l) and Linda MacIntyre (r) during the American Red Cross National Awards and Recognition Dinner on February 18, 2015, in Washington D.C. Photo by Jason Colston/American Red Cross

Each year the American Red Cross presents the Ann Magnussen Award to a Red Cross volunteer or employed registered nurse who has made an outstanding contribution to strengthening and improving Red Cross programs and services. This year, our very own Janice Springer received this great honor, which is the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross, at the National Awards and Recognition Dinner on February 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

Janice Springer, DNP, PN, PHN, has worked with the American Red Cross for 12 years. Based in central Minnesota, Janice serves as the Disaster Health Services Advisor for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. She is responsible for overseeing all health services activities, including sheltering, disaster mental health and disaster health. Additionally, Janice is a disaster volunteer with more than 20 regional and national deployments, and is the Public Health Consultant in the Red Cross Regional Nurse Network.

Janice is actively building regional disaster health services leadership. She supported Superstorm Sandy relief as a liaison among the Red Cross, the FEMA Disability Office, local community partners and the shelters. She has been instrumental in promoting the Disaster Health and Sheltering Course for nursing students, which will build capacity in regions and chapters and provide nursing students with an opportunity to assist during disasters. She also teaches numerous courses at the chapters.

Janice’s background also includes research in disaster shelters, and she completed her doctoral study in Public Health Nursing: Meeting Access and Functional Needs in Congregate Care Shelters in Disasters. After recognizing that her initial plan, developed with multiple federal partners, did not meet the needs of shelter clients and staff during pilot studies of disaster relief operations, she reconvened the federal interagency group to develop the current Red Cross shelter intake process to identify the needs of clients with access and functional needs. Her approach has been adopted by Disaster Cycle Services and is an integral part of the new Shelter Prototype Project.

To learn more about the American Red Cross, click here

This Year’s Training Institute is a Wrap!

NDSI_2By Dave Schoeneck/Red Cross Volunteer

Nearly 170 Red Cross volunteers and staff from Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas spent three and a half days at the 2nd North Star Disaster Institute, held October 16-19 at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minnesota. A total of 39 Red Cross courses were offered, and a total of 636 courses were completed by the attendees.

Highlights of the Institute included keynote speaker Mark J. Lindquist of Fargo, an entertainer and motivational speaker, who described his experiences as an AmeriCorps Red Cross volunteer following the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the Kitchen Training course and the “What’s New?” panel, which reviewed the 2017 organizational plan.

NDSI_1As always, the best part of the Institute was greeting old friends, meeting and making new friends, and learning new  skills in courses taught by experienced Red Cross instructors.

Institute leaders included Art McIntyre, Steve Bonine, Mike Hoffman, Cheryl Thompson, Lindsey Lanigan and Carrie Taylor. Many others supported the event.

Stay tuned for more details about the 2016 training institute. Meanwhile, click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer and click here to learn more about Red Cross disaster relief services.

Fire Prevention Week 2014

NFPW_SparkyIt’s Fire Prevention Week! Across the country, people will be checking smoke alarms, reviewing home fire safety plans, and helping others be more prepared for fire emergencies at home. Sponsored by the National Fire Prevention Association, Fire Prevention Week aims to increase public health and safety by reducing home fire hazards and the number of injuries and deaths that home fires cause each year. This year’s theme, “Working smoke alarms save lives. Test yours every month!” touches on an important reality few know about: nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen where there’s no working smoke alarm (Source: NFPA.org). And, a working smoke alarm cuts the number of home fire deaths in half!

m38640159_Home_Fire_Safety_Checklist 1

The American Red Cross knows this reality more than most because every 8 minutes its disaster relief volunteers respond to a fire somewhere across the country. The majority of the 70,000 disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year are home fires. So, we encourage everyone to take steps this week to improve their home fire preparedness. Reach out to vulnerable adults and others in your neighborhoods and help them Be Red Cross Ready, too. In addition to helpful resources from the NFPA, the Red Cross has tools available for personal use and for sharing with others, including this Home_Fire_Safety_Checklist in English and Spanish. Together, we can prevent home fire deaths and make our communities safer.

Red Cross — Helping Anyone, Anywhere, Worldwide

Story by Craig Yolitz

Minnesota Red Cross board member Craig Yolitz in Bangalore, India, 2014.
Minnesota Red Cross board member Craig Yolitz in Bangalore, India, 2014. Photo provided courtesy of Craig Yolitz.

During my recent trip to FindLaw’s Bangalore office, I had the opportunity to visit the Indian Red Cross Society headquarters for Karnataka, the state in which our office and many of our employees reside. My interest in doing so was because, as a board member for the regional Red Cross based in the Twin Cities, I wanted to see how the Red Cross in India supports the citizens of the Karnataka region.

Most of you have heard of the Red Cross (or the Red Crescent in many parts of the world). Some of you might have benefited from the organization’s work. Your exposure to the Red Cross is likely from its blood drives — which supplies around 40% of the nation’s blood products — or its relief work after tornadoes, floods, fire or other disasters. Lesser known, but equally impactful, is Red Cross lifesaving training, such as First Aid, CPR and lifeguarding; and services to military families. The Red Cross is the only recognized organization that can connect American military families with deployed service personnel in times of emergencies. And finally, the Red Cross helps  reconnect families separated by crisis, conflict or migration. These efforts are best summed up by the Red Cross mission: “To prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

The global Red Cross Red Crescent 7 fundamental principles posted at the Indian Red Cross Society, Karnataka Branch, 2014. Photo credit: Craig Yolitz.
The global Red Cross Red Crescent 7 fundamental principles posted at the Indian Red Cross Society, Karnataka Branch, 2014. Photo credit: Craig Yolitz.

My first impression when entering the Red Cross office in Bangalore was the consistency of the mission. Just like the office in Minneapolis, the 7 fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality were posted where I entered the office. Additional similarities included the contributions to the blood supply in the state of Karnataka, disaster preparedness and response, and lifesaving training. Unique to this area was the focus on healthcare and nutrition for expectant mothers, providing eyeglasses and hearing aids to the impoverished, and administering Tuberculosis vaccinations across the region. Like the Red Cross in Minnesota, the Red Cross in Karnataka relies on donations from individuals and corporations and hundreds of volunteers to do its humanitarian work and training.

Photo credit: Craig Yolitz.
Photo credit: Craig Yolitz.

It made me feel good that the valuable services the Red Cross provides here in Minnesota holds true half-way around the world. It was a great visit.

If you’re involved with the Red Cross in your city or have benefited from the efforts of the Red Cross I would like to hear from you. Please comment below. To those who help support the Red Cross anywhere in the world — thank you.