Hurricane Harvey – Close Up

By David Schoeneck, American Red Cross Volunteer

As the winds, rain, and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey last week pummeled Southeast Texas, first hundreds, then thousands of residents sought refuge at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. By Tuesday night, August 29, more than 9,400 people had sought shelter at the center, a mammoth 5-block long structure with five large halls covering over half a million square feet.

They came as individuals, as families, as extended families, as neighbors. Often with only the wet clothes on their back, they needed a safe, secure place to stay, dry clothes, a hot meal, and most of all, hope. And the Red Cross was there for them. Working closely with government partners such as the city, the county and the state, Red Cross shelter workers welcomed them in, helped them dry off, fed them a hot meal, and saw to their health needs and concerns.

Dave Schoeneck, Red Cross Volunteer

Where only a few days before, there was an empty cement floor, within 48 hours a village, then a town, then a city of over 10,000 residents sprang up. Neighborhoods developed. One hall was reserved for people with pets, another for families. People of many different heritages and backgrounds from all over Texas were united as survivors of a terrible natural tragedy. All entered this giant “lifeboat” mega-shelter knowing that they would now be safe and cared for.

The Red Cross rushed workers from across the nation to Houston, even before Harvey struck. By the end of the week, more than 2,700 trained disaster workers were on the ground, and another 800 were on the way, along with more than Red Cross 200 emergency relief vehicles. Over 37,000 people stayed in 270 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas on Saturday.

At the George Brown Shelter, hundreds of local Houstonians reached out to help their neighbors. They sorted donated clothes, provided meals and food service, and rendered medical assistance. Boy Scout troops served up an oatmeal breakfast, and were introduced to folks who live outside of their middle-class neighborhoods.

Stories were shared of rescues by strangers from rising flood waters, as neighborhoods were suddenly inundated. Travel around the area was difficult, as major freeways were under water for several days. Sad stories were also shared of relatives who had tried to drive to safety, but were swept away by the floods. Red Cross Mental health and health services professionals have provided over 11,000 contacts to provide support and care for the evacuees.

Shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees

Journalists from all over the world rushed to cover the story, with TV crews based here sending stories and pictures back to networks in countries such as Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, and Denmark. In addition, all of the national networks, the local and regional television and radio stations, were well represented, as well as many Texas and national newspapers.

While squeezing nearly 10,000 people into one shelter isn’t optimal, everyone there was safe, out of the weather, and had access to hot food and medical assistance. Additional shelters opened up the next day and relieved pressure on the George R. Brown Convention Center shelter.

One survivor summed it all up. When told to make sure she held on to a certain document, as she slide it back into a large manila envelope, she simply said, “Don’t worry. My entire life is in this envelope.”

Hey, Red Cross bloodmobile, you’ve come a long way baby!

Story by Sue Thesenga of North Central Blood Services and
Abby Arthaud 
of Southwest Blood Services Region 

Red Cross blood truck, ca. 1940s. Image: University of Minnesota

You’ve probably seen one rolling down the road or through your town on its way to a blood drive — an American Red Cross bloodmobile. They allow blood drive organizers to host drives anywhere, making it more convenient for donors to give near home, work or school.

A self-contained bloodmobile from 1957. Among the first in the nation, it was paid for by the St. Paul Masonic Women.

Throughout the years, Red Cross bloodmobiles have changed, but their mission has stayed the same—to help fulfill the need for blood donations.

As far back as WWII and the Korean War, requests for blood for the armed forces reached St. Paul and donated blood was included in air shipments overseas. The successful efforts of collection centers throughout the war spurred calls from the nation’s hospitals and other medical facilities for an ongoing civilian blood program.

Train bloodmobile

In January 1949, the first mobile operation from the St. Paul Blood Center was deployed to North Branch, Minnesota. This was one of the first self-contained, traveling blood donation centers and transformed blood collection. Another bloodmobile was put into operation in the St. Paul region in 1950 to help serve 32 additional counties. Since then, self-contained bloodmobiles have been adopted across the nation and world.

American Red Cross bloodmobile of today

Today’s bloodmobiles are fully equipped for blood collection and short-term blood storage, featuring open floor plans, climate control, advanced technology and spacious interiors. They are designed to be more comfortable and enhance the donor experience. The newest bloodmobiles include special features for donors, such as iPads on each donor bed with all of the Red Cross apps and an LCD billboard on the exterior that tells passersby which blood types are currently most needed.

Today’s bloodmobile interior

Bloodmobiles travel all over the state every day to fulfill the constant need for blood. From planes, trains and bloodmobiles, the mission of the Red Cross is to ensure patients get the blood products they need wherever they need them, whenever they need them. Some things never change!

Help us celebrate 100 years of Red Cross service in Minnesota. Click here to find a blood drive near you. Click here to share your Red Cross story. 

Hurricane Matthew: How The Red Cross Is Helping

The storm hit in the early morning, just after midnight, says Stephanie Hughes on the porch of her home while speaking with a Red Cross relief worker in Pembroke, Georgia. They were very scared especially, she says, when trees started to come down and water started rising around the house, which has been in her family for generations. October, 8, 2016. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross
The storm arrived in the early morning, just after midnight, says Stephanie Hughes on the porch of her home while speaking with a Red Cross relief worker in Pembroke, Georgia. They were especially scared, she says, when trees started to come down and water started rising around the house, which has been in her family for generations. October, 8, 2016. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of people in shelters. Thousands of relief workers responding. Too many lives lost. This disaster is a big one, for all of us, requiring many hands, heads, and hearts pulling together to help others in dire need. Shelter, food, and relief supplies are Red Cross priorities. And blood and platelet donations are needed from people in unaffected areas to make up for canceled drives. Check out the stories below. They’ll show you how the Red Cross is helping.

You Just Gotta Be Strong: a video from the American Red Cross features Terry, a shelter resident who was forced to evacuate his home in Tarboro, North Carolina, because of Hurricane Matthew

Haiti Needs Help from All of Us: an opinion piece from American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern published in Huffington Post addresses rumors, issues, and concerns about disaster relief responses in Haiti

Hurricane Matthew: An Inside Look: a blog post featuring photos and stories about people in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Georgia and South Carolina

Suffering Continues After Hurricane Matthew: a news release from the American Red Cross with details about how the Red Cross is responding to the disaster in the U.S. and in Haiti

From Minnesota, there are 24 Red Cross relief workers deployed to help in the affected areas. More will likely be on their way in the days to come.

Karen and Rick Campion are taking a Red Cross mobile feeding truck from Minnesota to North Carolina where they distribute meals and relief supplies. October, 11, 2016. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Karen and Rick Campion are taking a Red Cross mobile feeding truck from Minnesota to North Carolina where they will distribute meals and relief supplies. October 11, 2016. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Please support this relief effort. Click here to donate money to Red Cross disaster relief. Click here to make a blood or platelet donation appointment.

Thank you!

Top reason to get involved in Red Cross Home Fire Campaign

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Phil Hansen with Bea, 90, at her home in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Story and photo by Kaylee Beevers/American Red Cross Intern

On April 23, Phil Hansen, the senior executive for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, had the opportunity to participate in Home Fire Campaign activities in St. Cloud. His experience was mostly what he expected: teams made up of Red Cross volunteers and St. Cloud firefighters installed smoke alarms. But this was his first time actually doing installation outreach in homes. “I was really surprised by the number of homes that had inadequate smoke alarms or didn’t have any at all. It was great for us to come in and help make these installations for people who needed it most.” The reason why Phil made the trip to St. Cloud is because he truly believes in what these installations are doing: saving lives. As of April 2016, Red Cross installed smoke alarms have saved more than 90 lives across the country. For Phil, the best part about making home visits was meeting gracious people and seeing their faces shine with thankfulness after sharing with them a lifesaving gift. “For the future, we plan to see this program grow throughout the country due to the number of lives saved.” One challenge, he says, is the number of volunteers and partners currently participating. “We have great groups going out to serve their communities, but we need more.” And the top reason to get involved: “It’s a great reward knowing you’ve impacted and changed lives within your community.”

Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

Six inspiring stories about people helping people

On May 6, the American Red Cross in Minnesota presented six awards that honored ten people for their heroic efforts helping others during great times of need. Below we share with you their inspiring stories.  

Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Six of ten heroes honored at the 2016 American Red Cross Minnesota Region’s Heroes Breakfast. They include (clockwise) Shawn Hansen, Bryden Bronikowski, Mike Clark, Jerry Nelson, Jenny Braith and Russ Braith. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Duluth teen Bryden Bronikowski was honored with the Youth Good Samaritan Hero Award for helping to save the life of his young cousin. “Panic is your worst enemy,” says Bryden. “Fearing anything can go wrong.” Watch Bryden’s story.

Nisswa Chamber of Commerce president Shawn Hansen received the Community Hero Award for being a vital part of daily coordination and communications during the windstorm disaster relief efforts in Nisswa in July 2015. “As human beings we have to focus on making the world better,” says Shawn. Watch Shawn’s story.

Mike Clark of Eagan received the Military Hero Award for supporting the needs of people in the armed forces. “It gives me an opportunity to connect with people that are just really down to earth,” says Mike. “And they’re really thankful for knowing there’s somebody out there who cares about them.” Watch Mike’s story.

Shoreview resident Jerry Nelson was honored with the Give Life Hero Award for his continuous blood donations and support of organ transplant families. “I’m not a hero for giving blood,” says Jerry. “Transplant patients and the people who get the blood are the heroes.” Watch Jerry’s story.

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Three Willmar police officers received Red Cross Heroes awards on May 6, 2016.

Willmar police officers Mike Jahnke, Joshua Helgeson, and Jeff Liebl were honored with the First Responder Hero Award for putting their lives on the line to resolve a potentially tragic situation. “He’s a human being,” says Josh. “It’s our job to help him, and that’s what we did.” Watch Mike, Josh, and Jeff’s story.

Greg Pint received a Red Cross Hero Award. Photo provided courtesy of Greg Pint.
On May 6, 2016, Greg Pint received a Red Cross Hero Award.

Montgomery residents Russ and Jenny Braith, and Lonsdale resident Greg Pint, were honored with the Good Samaritan Hero Award for putting their own lives at risk to save a man from a car going underwater. “I heard him hitting the buttons, the door locking, but no windows coming down,” says Russ. Watch Russ, Jenny and Greg’s story.

Click here to nominate someone for the 2017 Heroes Awards. Post by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.

These internet stars can do it in two minutes – can you?

What’s Trending has teamed up with the American Red Cross and your favorite social media celebs to help save lives.

By Christine Linnell, What’s Trending

Shira Lazar and Bart Baker can totally do it in two minutes. Destorm Power couldn’t do it back in high school, but by college he was doing it like a pro. GloZell? Under two minutes.

It’s not what it sounds like, but we’re glad we’ve got your attention.

The American Red Cross is reaching out to the online community and partnering with What’s Trending, iHeart Media, the Charity Network and the Reveal Project to launch #2Steps2Minutes, a campaign to promote home fire safety and help reduce deaths and injuries associated with home fires by 25%.

The two steps are simple: 1) practice your home fire drill until you can get out the door in less than two minutes, and 2) check your smoke alarms each month to see if the batteries need replacing.

It’s common sense stuff, but it could be the difference between life or death. On average, 7 people die every day and 36 are injured from a home fire. Having a working fire alarm alone can reduce your chances of death or injury by 50%

Here to remind you to stay prepared are some of your favorite social media stars and friends of What’s Trending. Directed by the Brothers Riedell, this PSA features Glozell Green, Frankie Grande, Bart Baker, Shira Lazar, Brodie Smith, Brittany Furlan, Destorm Power, Twan Kuyper, comedy duo Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin, Teni Panosian, Amanda Cerny, 80fitz, Trisha Hershberger and Nick Riedell.

And there’s a lot more to come – throughout the campaign, celebrities and influencers will be supporting the Red Cross through your favorite social media platforms, special merch, exclusive auction items and one-of-a-kind experiences, all benefitting the non-profit.

It culminates with the fourth annual What’s Trending Tube-A-Thon fundraising event, taking place in April at the iHeart Theater in Burbank. Stay tuned for updates – you won’t want to miss it!

For more information about the campaign, visit RedCross.org/2steps2minutes.

Also, check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes video featuring bloopers and off-camera moments from your favorite stars!

This story is posted with permission. The original post was published on What's Trending

What’s a Red Cross dispatcher?

By Kaylee Beevers, American Red Cross intern

Across the United States, the American Red Cross has people who volunteer their time as dispatchers during Red Cross disaster responses. These volunteers help fulfill the Red Cross mission to reduce human suffering during emergencies. Red Cross dispatchers coordinate response teams that provide basic comfort and care to families after home fires and other disasters. These dispatchers serve their communities with care. This volunteer role is one of the most worthwhile ways to get active in the Red Cross. Below are brief portraits of five volunteers who serve as disaster response dispatchers for the Minnesota Red Cross region.

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Mike and Deb Hofmann, St. Cloud 
Based in central Minnesota, Mike and Deb Hofmann proudly serve together as Red Cross volunteer dispatchers. The couple met in high school and they currently living in Cold Spring. Mike has served the American Red Cross for 40 years through multiple volunteer positions and Deb has been with the organization as a dispatcher for 10 months. Some of the most rewarding parts of the job for the couple is knowing you can help people during their time of need and offer services. Deb says, “When they’re looking for a way to go, we give them a direction.” Their advice? If you want to get involved, connect with your local Red Cross chapter.

Dunder 1Diane Dunder, Duluth
After retiring as a health and physical education teacher, Diane Dunder decided to take on the volunteer role as a Red Cross disaster relief dispatcher. Dunder says she was graced with “the best instructors who knew what they were doing and were very well informed about the job.” Some of the role’s challenges in her area,  she says, are not having enough field responders as well as other dispatchers. “We all have other things going on in our lives and yet more help would be appreciated.” One of Dunder’s greatest rewards while serving as a dispatcher was helping an elderly woman after a house fire. The victim had health issues and Dunder spent several days following up and working with healthcare and mental healthcare professionals to make sure that the woman was safe. “Being a dispatcher is a great way to volunteer and keeps you educated,” says Dunder.

Joe ReinemannJoe Reinemann, Mankato
Stationed in the southwest Red Cross chapter in Mankato, Joe Reinemann has been a volunteering dispatcher for more than a year. Reinemann usually works as a dispatcher during night shifts that start from 4:30 to midnight or from midnight to 8 am. Reinemann, who helped create the most recent dispatcher training materials, says “we’re upgrading our dispatcher manual. It’s extremely hands-on. It’s also one-on-one.” Reinemann felt nervous when he received his first dispatch call for Red Cross disaster response. He wanted to make sure that everything went well, but he says “the help and training are so great that sometimes you don’t even need any assistance from other dispatchers.” Reinemann’s advice to future volunteers is to “DO IT! It may be imitating to sign up, but it’s not complicated at all.”

Jan Reyers, Mpls-St.Paul Metro
Jan Reyers has served as a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than 35 years. Most currently, he’s disaster response dispatcher based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Originally from White Bear Lake, Jan is proud to serve with the Red Cross alongside his wife Bonnie, who is also a dispatcher. “It’s always nice to have your wife as a dispatcher to help coach you along.” Being a dispatcher has taught Jan how to prioritize what he’s doing and to get it done correctly. Jan says the skills you need in order to become a dispatcher are communication, organization of information and people, and demonstration of empathy. Having served as a disaster responder in the field helps. “Get involved, sign up and be available to serve,” is Reyers’ advice to all anyone who wants to participate with Red Cross disaster relief teams.

Learn more
The need for Red Cross volunteer dispatchers is great. Last year the Red Cross supported more than 2,500 people affected by local disasters, which were mostly home fires. It’s a great way to serve and to meet new people. The current Red Cross dispatchers need to you step up and to get involved! More importantly, your neighbors, friends, family and thousands of others across this region need you. You never know when hard times will strike and you could lend a hand to someone who needs it the most. You could be the person who gives someone hope during a time of despair and a way to look toward a brighter tomorrow. To learn more, click here.