Will You Be Our Valentines?

Dear Red Cross Volunteers,

Red Cross volunteer Rick Campion hands food to Janice Lewis during the Hurricane Isaac disaster response, September 1, 2012. (Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross)
Red Cross volunteer Rick Campion hands food to Janice Lewis after Hurricane Isaac on September 1, 2012. (Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross)

We think that you’re fabulous. We appreciate your positive attitude, your willingness to help out in anyway that you can, and your desire to learn and share your expertise. We love your commitment, your sense of humor and your compassion. Our hearts pound with joy when we think of how smart and dedicated you are, and how you share time, talent and grace under tremendous pressure. We see how wonderful you are and we know that what you give to the Red Cross and the people we serve means more than we could ever write on a card.

Thank you for everything that you do, for everything that you are, and for your friendship and support. So, will you be our valentines?

With much love from,
The Staff at American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region

Let Our 2012 Heroes Inspire You

The American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region is pleased to present our 2012 Heroes Awards recipients. This year’s honorees include a teenage boy who performed life-saving CPR on his sister, police officers who rescued people from a burning building, and a soldier who stayed in the line of gun fire so that his teammates could seek safety.

Click on each image to see each hero’s story.

Saint Paul resident Sarah Meggitt rescued a woman from Como Lake. One night last October, Meggitt dove into cold water to rescue a woman who was trying to commit suicide. The woman did not want to be saved, but Meggitt stayed and fought to keep the woman’s head above water until professional responders arrived on-scene. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Cloquet student Kody Denison performed life-saving CPR on his 2-year-old sister, who suffered a seizure and stopped breathing at home. A ninth-grade student and hockey player, Denison learned CPR in health class at Cloquet High, which has a long-time commitment to Red Cross life-saving training. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Frank Mackall saved people from a burning apartment complex. Responding to a call involving a woman threatening to start a fire, Officer Mackall arrived early on-scene, finding a fire spreading rapidly through the apartments. With Officer Weinzierl, Mackall rescued six people including a paraplegic who was barely seen because of smoke. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Todd Weinzierl saved people from a burning apartment complex. Responding to a call involving a woman threatening to start a fire, Officer Weinzierl arrived early, finding a fire spreading rapidly through the apartments. With Officer Mackall, Weinzierl rescued six people, including a paraplegic who was barely seen because of smoke. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Ed White of Amery, Wisconsin, performed life-saving actions when a man collapsed at a fitness center. White is among the most active members of the Amery Fire Department. He’s involved with department fundraisers, prevention education, and social activities. White is a hero and an inspiration to many in the Amery community, including two of his children who have joined the Amery fire explorer program and have plans to follow in their dad’s life-saving footsteps. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Brooklyn Park youth Zachary Pierson used life-saving CPR last year to save Robert Meredith, Pierson’s baseball coach. When Pierson saw that Meredith was not breathing, he immediately started giving chest compressions and continued for about ten minutes until first responders arrived. Pierson then helped the emergency responders to the ambulance when his heart stopped again. Doctors later performed heart surgery on Meredith and told him 95 percent of people like him do not survive because rarely is someone close enough to perform CPR during a heart emergency. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Plymouth resident and charity founder LaDonna Hoy  founded Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP), a social services charity that helps families in crisis. Hoy was instrumental in guiding IOCP to raise more than $5.5 million dollars that was used to renovate an old grocery store. The store now houses IOCP’s food shelf, case management, mental health resources, financial assistance, computer lab, re-sale shop, and other services that move families from crisis to stability. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Andrew Strege, United States Army soldier and resident of Wyoming, Minnesota,  performed courageous acts while on patrol in Afghanistan last September. A hostile insurgent force ambushed Strege and his squad. In spite of his injury, Strege returned fire, enabling his squad members to seek cover and coordinate movements for his rescue. As a result, Strege lost half of his right leg, but saved the lives of his squad members. While still undergoing rehabilitation and learning how to live with a leg prosthesis, Strege is sharing his experience with others and looking forward to a career in education and law enforcement. (Photo credit: Tommy Hutlgren)

Ham Lake resident Elizabeth Estepp founded Friend 2 Friend, a mobile clothing charity that continues to assist people affected by the Minneapolis tornado. Immediately after a tornado hit North Minneapolis on May 22, 2011, the Friend 2 Friend mobile unit was on-the-ground providing water, hygiene items, gloves, clothing, and other essential supplies to affected people. This past fall, Estepp delivered school supplies, clothing, and meals to more than 200 children and their families in metro area apartment complexes and mobile home courts. (Photo credit: Andy King)

Dolly Ruark of Saint Paul reached a 100-gallon blood donation milestone. Ruark started donating whole blood in the late 1960s. In 1984, Ruark began donating platelets—a blood clotting component with a five-day shelf life—and has continued to do ever since. Donating blood honors her brother who died from complications of AIDS. (Photo credit: Andy King)

American Red Cross Heroes are honored for demonstrating the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. You can support this mission by becoming a Red Cross volunteer, giving financial contributions, or donating blood. Learn more on redcrossmn.org

Morning blaze serves “full meal deal” to volunteer in-training

Scott Olson, a volunteer Red Cross disaster relief worker in-training, got his first on-scene experience, Friday, March 9, 2012, when his phone rang early that morning. The Red Cross was responding to a 3-alarm fire in downtown Minneapolis.

2:30 got the call; 3:00 arrived on scene

Scott Olson, Red Cross volunteer-in-training, at Minneapolis apartment fire, March 9, 2012. Photo credit: Dave Schoeneck/American Red Cross

We tried to walk close to the building, but there were flames licking out the second and third floor windows. The whole area was cordoned off by fire trucks and police.

We went to the shelter bus. About that time there were ten people on it. Most of them were very upset, crying, sort of in shock. I remember another responder saying she expected more people to be on the bus. She handed me a clip board and told me to go ask them some questions. Then they started to trickle out of the bus, finding places to go.

The other responder said this isn’t typical for a first response. I hope it’s not scaring you away she told me. No, I’m not scared. It was neat. I got the full exposure. I got to watch the media. It was the full-meal deal, really.

8:00 am close to getting parking ticket, left the scene; 8:10 am arrived home; stripped and fell on bed; magic happened after that

Want to join us? Click here.

Bashir gives blood in the room with a view

The view from the room with a view:

Bashir excited to be in the room with a view:

Bashir relaxing on a chaise in the room with a view:

A life-giving gift from Bashir in the room with a view:

Thank you, Bashir, for donating to one human from another in the room with a view:Click here to schedule a blood donation appointment in the room with a view.

Red Cross women on the Russian front during the Great War (WWI)

WHILE browsing the library stacks at one of our local universities, we stumbled across this report from the field. In this case, the field is the Russian front at the onset of The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) in 1914. The reporter is Stanley Washburn, the American war correspondent who saw first hand the work of Red Cross volunteers.

Stanley Washburn's "Field Notes From the Russian Front" references the Red Cross numerous times and includes a chapter on women serving during The Great War.

EVERY cloud, so the proverb runs, has its silver lining. Surely there can be no greater cloud than the ghastly shadow of war which lies all over Europe to-day, but equally true is it that this one also has its silver lining, a side filled with human sympathy, love and the best instincts of which the race is capable. This, of which I would write a few lines, is the world of devotion and beauty supplied by the sisterhood of the Red Cross in Russia at war to-day. For several weeks now we have travelled constantly amidst scenes of war and the wreckage that man has created among his fellows, and there has not been a day in all these weeks that the picture has not been softened by the presence everywhere of the gentle womanhood of this country, ministering to the smitten, and alleviating the suffering of those who have fallen before the tempest of shot and shell that has swept across this great zone in which we have been travelling.

As the troops have responded to the call to the colours, so the women and girls have given themselves broadcast to the work of alleviating the misery of the wounded, and of speaking the last low words of love and sympathy to those whose minutes upon this earth are dragging to their appointed end. Most significant of all to the stranger who has been led to believe that Russia is a land of two classes the aristocrat and the peasant is the democracy of the women. In response to the appeal to womanhood, there is here no class and no distinction, and one sees princess and humble peasant woman clad in the same sacred robe of the Red Cross. On more than one occasion I have discovered that the quiet, haggard-faced sister, whom I have questioned as to her work among the wounded, was a countess, or a member of the elite of Petrograd’s exclusive society.

As my mind runs back over the past days, a number of pictures stands clear in my mind as typical of the class of selfless, high-minded women whom the exigencies of war have called from their luxurious homes to the scenes of war’s horrors. In Lemberg [Lvov, Poland], just at twilight, I spent two hours in one of the huge barracks of misery in which were crystallized all the results of man’s ingenuity to destroy his fellow. There went with me the round of the wards a woman whose pale face and lines of sadness bespoke the drain on nerve and sympathy that weeks in the hospitals had involved. In her uniform frock and white-faced headgear, with the great red cross of mercy on her bosom, she seemed to typify womanhood at its very best. As we entered each ward every head was turned in her direction. At each bed she paused for a moment to pass a smooth, white hand, soft as silk, across the forehead of some huge, suffering peasant. Again and again the big men would seize her hand and kiss it gently, and as she passed down the line of beds every eye followed her with loving devotion such as one sees in the eyes of a dog.

During WWI, in hospitals such as this one in Tours, France, Red Cross Volunteers worked as nurses, nurses aids, and “searchers,” who tried to find information for families whose sons were wounded or had died. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

And in each bed was a story not a detail of which was unknown to the great-hearted gentle woman. Here was a man, she told me, the front of whose head had been smashed in by a shrapnel ball which had coursed down and come out at the back of the neck. “Two weeks ago,” she said,  “I could put two fingers up to my hand in this man’s brain. Yet we have fixed him up and he will recover,” and with an adorable movement she stooped quickly and patted the great, gaunt hand that lay upon the coverlet. And so we went from bed to bed. When she at last left me I asked the attending surgeon of her. “Ah, yes,” he said, “she is here always, and when there is a rush, I have known her to spend fifty hours here without sleep and with little food. Who is she ? Countess. There are many, many like her here.”

Again comes to mind a picture at Rawa Ruska. The street from the station is lined on both sides with hospitals. As I was returning to the hotel last night I paused beside an open window. Inside the room was an operating table, on which, beneath the dull rays of an oil lamp, was stretched the great body of one of Russia’s peasant soldiers. This point is near the battle line now, and many of the wounded come almost directly here from the trenches. The huge creature that now lay on the table was without coat, the sleeve of the left arm was rolled to the shoulder, and over him hovered two girls as beautiful as a man could wish to see. The one sitting on a high stool, held in her aproned lap the great, raw stump of bloody flesh that had been a hand, and even in the dull light one could see the smears of red upon her apron. As she tenderly held the hand, she spoke in a low and gentle voice to the soldier, whose compressed lips showed the pain his wound was costing, although no groan or murmur escaped him. The other girl, kneeling by his side, was sponging the hideous member with the gentleness of a mother handling a baby.

Chapter VIII, “The Women in the War,” Vladimir Valensky, Russia, October, 21, 1914, Field Notes from the Russian Front, by Stanley Washburn, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Mora fire invites reflection

Once a week Angela Carlson heads to the American Red Cross Central Minnesota Chapter where she supports local disaster action team volunteers. On Thursday, December 8, Carlson received a phone call from a volunteer who said someone might have died that day from fire in the chapter’s local response area.

A Red Cross volunteer told me that her pastor had called and reported a death in an apartment building fire in Mora. The first thing I did was contact the Sheriff’s office to verify that the Red Cross had been asked to respond. When I had confirmed that they wanted us there, I called the volunteer back to dispatch her and a second volunteer responder to the scene. After starting incident paperwork, I called Judy and Dick Pike, long-time Red Cross disaster relief workers. I told Judy that I wasn’t sure why I was calling, and that I just needed some support to process the dispatch. I reviewed my next steps with Judy who was very helpful.

"I have empathy for the individuals involved and understand that it’s difficult to be in any position during a disaster," says Angela Carlson, the client services caseworker who handled the Red Cross disaster dispatch for the tragic fire in Mora, Minnesota. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The Mora fire was the first dispatch involving multiple chapters and multiple deaths that I have been involved in since I started with the Red Cross in October. While I was at the local chapter I felt much support from staff both in St. Cloud and in Minneapolis. Being in St Cloud rather than Minneapolis that day made a huge difference in the disaster response dispatch, giving it a local and community-based feel. People there checked in with me and made sure I was doing all right. In the end, a couple people said that they really looked forward to meeting me at the next Disaster Action Team meeting. I felt the same.

I was exhausted at the end of the day. The Mora fire response left me feeling reflective of the mission and vision of the Red Cross and of the services we provide. While I can’t fully appreciate the devastation families feel after a disaster because I don’t respond on-scene, I have empathy for the individuals involved and understand that it’s difficult to be in any position during a disaster. It’s meaningful to know that our clients are being served with such compassion.

This is a response that I will carry with me, especially after learning details about the people who died. There was a phone call that I took from a volunteer who was helping family members who did not yet know that a loved one had died. There was also a surviving teenager. That has been the hardest for me to process. I’ve been thinking about her a lot and when I do my heart just breaks. But each time that happens my heart mends itself stronger and that, in turn, helps me support our Red Cross volunteers more effectively so that they can continue serving our communities in great ways.

Angela Carlson, is a client services coordinator for the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. She is based in Minneapolis at the Twin Cities Area Chapter.

Stuffing Comfort

Wells Fargo employees, including Emily Wilke (center), stuffing Red Cross comfort kits. Photo credit: Carrie Monroe O'Keefe/American Red Cross

Little things do matter. Take a Red Cross comfort kit. It consists of shampoo, toothbrush, washcloth, and other toiletry essentials. These are small things that add up to big comfort after disaster.

Recently, Minneapolis-based Wells Fargo employees helped make more than 300 comfort kits that Red Cross volunteers will give to families affected by home fires, flooding, and other disasters.

Helping out like this is a darn cool thing to do for your community. Thank you, Wells Fargo, for stuffing a bit of comfort for when people need it the most.

Others can help too by shopping the 2011 Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog.