Hometown Heroes 2016 Profiles: Bing Goei

We are continuing a series of posts highlighting the awards recipients for the 2016 Hometown Heroes Celebration by the American Red Cross of West Michigan. Each year, the American Red Cross celebrates the community heroes who inspire us through their commitment to service and their recognition of the humanity of their neighbors down the street, across the country, and around the world.The event will be held on Thursday, April 21 from 6:00PM-9:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information, please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.

In the middle of daily readings on national business leaders and historic social change agents, I often need to remember the great local heroes surrounding me. Bing Goei is one of those hometown heroes that I admire for his work and the tangible benefits it produces for people.

It is fitting that Bing is being honored by the American Red Cross of West Michigan. He exemplifies the values of the American Red Cross of relief, healing, compassionate care, and partnerships that help communities. As the founder and president of a project management firm adhering to social responsibility, I count Bing as a model of how to advance those values in the context of business.

For the community, customers, citizens and civic leaders Bing is the CEO of Eastern Floral Company, Director of the Michigan Office for New Americans, founder of the International Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence (ICEE), Board of Director for the West Michigan Asian American Association and former President of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bing represents all of those great elements in addition to friend, former client, provider of my customer needs and inclusion ally. Bing has inspired me to join the American Red Cross of West Michigan in saluting Bing by sharing my appreciation of his passion for being a hero in providing:

Relief: Some in our community often encounter barriers keeping them removed from equal access, power-sharing and resources. As I witnessed from our time on the Varnum Law Diversity Advisory Council, his business advocacy and other mutual endeavors, I have been emboldened by Bing’s work as a tireless champion in eliminating exclusion. He has embraced risk and innovation to replace exclusion with social and economic progress for people regardless of their race, ethnicity or gender.

Healing and Compassionate Care: I salute Bing’s work on creating an environment that welcomes immigrants and the talents they bring to Michigan. Bing’s ethics and values for how we embrace strangers makes him the perfect public representative of sound immigration policies amid public discourse where solutions and ideas are not often compassionate, solution-oriented or respectful of people.

On behalf of thousands of people looking to make a better life in the West Michigan region, I wish Bing continued success in his work as Director for the Office for New Americans and head of the ICEE to create the tone, conditions and policies that are compassionate and affirming of new arrivals.

Partnerships: Great heroes enter into the battle of change work with humility, commitment and a skill to connect allies together. Bing is being honored because from attracting young professionals to West Michigan to supporting entrepreneurs via funding opportunities, he forms partnerships between people of all backgrounds. He is to be saluted because those partnerships have created economic security and empowerment for the most vulnerable.

I salute and honor Bing Goei, our hometown hero. Furthermore, I will continue to take inspiration from him.


Eric K. Foster is Principal of Progress Strategies+, a project management consultancy in five areas of social responsibility. He created Progress Strategies+ to serve organizations, corporations, non-profit groups and other clients in consulting and direct project management in the areas of diversity and inclusion, community engagement strategies, grant writing and grant project management, public policy and advocacy and corporate social responsibility.




Who’s Your Hero? | Hometown Heroes Event Series 1

This post is a recurring series celebrating the heroes in our own community. As we count down to the 2016 Hometown Heroes Celebration, we would like to take a moment to recognize that while not all heroes are alike, all heroes impact our lives. Each year, the American Red Cross celebrates the community heroes who inspire us through their commitment to service and their recognition of the humanity of their neighbors down the street, across the country, and around the world. The event will be held on Thursday, April 21 from 6:00PM-9:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information, please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.

It occurs to me that the word “hero” may mean different things to different people. I hadn’t really considered the word other than in a lighthearted “you’re my hero” to my husband until I went to a fundraising lunch for a local nonprofit adult skills-training center.

The lunch speaker, a recent graduate, shared her life story and achievements as a single mother in her late thirties who lived in the inner city of Grand Rapids with her two boys. Life wasn’t easy; in fact, it was incredibly hard. Upon hearing about the school-to-work program, she decided she wanted more for her two boys and took a huge risk. While maintaining her low-paying day job, she signed up for the pharmacy technician program and worked hard each day to lift her family single-handedly out of poverty, graduating at the top of her class, and securing a well-paying pharmacy job in town.

As she told the story of her journey, she shared how she noticed the difference in her two boys. As they saw how hard she was working at school, they too became better students. She became a role model to her next generation and those around her as she changed her family’s economic trajectory.

As a mother myself, I listened to her story with tears in my eyes. Her hard work and perseverance became my inspiration. This woman, whose story lives in my heart even when her name has been forgotten, became my hero that day.

These are the heroes of our community, every community—these men and women who overcome almost insurmountable odds to provide their family a better quality of life. They may not get the public recognition they deserve, but these men and women make our community the great place it is today.


Ellie Frey Zagel is the Director of the Family Business Alliance and 3rd Generation Trustee of the Frey Foundation. She along with her husband and 2 year old son live in East Grand Rapids with their dog, Via. Ellie can be reached at Ellie@FBAGr.org.

Kids Home Alone? Follow These Safety Ste

Kids Home Alone? Follow These Safety Steps!

School bells are ringing in a new school year and across the country kids are returning to the classroom. For many of these kids, a return to school also means being home alone after school until their parents get home from work.

The American Red Cross has steps parents and children can take to make these after-school hours safer and less stressful.

The first thing parents need to decide is if their child is responsible enough to stay home alone. If not, other options include after-school child care, programs at schools and youth clubs, or enrolling the child in youth sports programs.

Whether a child is going to stay home alone should depend on the child’s maturity and comfort level. A general rule of thumb is that no child less than eight years of age should be left alone for any extended period of time.

If the child is going to go home after school, it’s a good idea to have them call to check in when they get home. For an older child, set ground rules about whether other kids can come over when the parents are absent, whether cooking is an option, whether they can leave the home. Other steps parents can take include:

Post an emergency phone list where the children can see it. Include 9-1-1, the parents work and cell numbers, numbers for neighbors, and the numbers for anyone else who is close and trusted.

Practice an emergency plan with the child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure the child knows where it is.

If children have approved access to smart phones or tablets, download the free Red Cross First Aid App so they’ll have instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies.

Download the Red Cross Emergency App on smart phones or tablets for adults and children. This app gives real-time weather alerts and safety information, including steps on what to do if the alert goes off. The “Family Safe” feature allows parents to check in with their children via text message to see if they are safe or need help.
Let children know where the flashlights are. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them.

Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, ammunition and other objects that can cause injury.

Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, care-care fluids, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.

Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of the reach of children.

Install safety covers on all unused electrical outlets.

Limit any cooking a young child can do. Make sure at least one approved smoke alarm is installed and operating on each level of the home.

Limit the time the child spends in front of the television or computer. Caution them to not talk about being home alone on public web sites. Kids should be cautious about sharing information about their location when using chat rooms or posting on social networks.

Consider enrolling older children in an online Red Cross babysitting course so they can learn first aid skills and how to care for younger family members. Babysitting Basics is geared towards children aged 11-15 while Advanced Child Care Training is well-suited for those aged 16 and up.


When talking to kids about being at home alone, parents should stress the following steps and post them somewhere to remind the child about what they should, or shouldn’t, do until mom or dad get home:

Lock the doors and if the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone.

Never open the door to strangers. Always check before opening the door to anyone, looking out through a peephole or window first.

Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Ask delivery people to leave the package at…

Hurricane Katrina Led to Largest Red Cross Relief Response

astroddome2Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and the American Red Cross launched a disaster response larger than ever seen before. To this day nothing has reached the magnitude of the Red Cross Hurricane Katrina relief operation.

Katrina’s fury caused the loss of more than 1,800 lives. The storm left behind more than $81 billion in destruction and damaged or destroyed as many as 350,000 residences from Texas to Florida.

The Katrina relief effort was the first time a disaster forced the evacuation of an entire metropolitan area and saw survivors dispersed to every state. More than 245,000 Red Cross disaster workers assisted millions of people with shelter, food, money to get back on their feet, emotional support and other basic needs. The Red Cross:

Provided more than 3.8 million overnight stays in shelters in 31 states – seven times higher than any other disaster up to that time.
Served almost 68 million meals and snacks – four times more than what the Red Cross had ever provided during past relief efforts.
For the first time, served a million meals in a single day.
Provided emergency financial assistance to 1.4 million families – nearly 20 times more than any record prior to Katrina.
HELP CONTINUED AFTER THE STORM Katrina left behind such devastation, survivors needed help and support for years to come. The Red Cross set up the Hurricane Recovery Program to restore and improve the lives of the people who had suffered unimaginable losses during the hurricanes of 2005. This help was available not only in the immediate vicinity of the storms, but also to evacuees still living in distant cities.

Working with everyone from individuals and groups to faith-based and civic organizations and many others, the program focused on several areas: assisting survivors to make good recovery plans and keeping them informed about all the resources available to them; health and mental health services to help people recover and cope with their loss; behavioral health programs to help vulnerable individuals and communities and making sure survivors, case managers and partners had effective and timely information to help in the recovery.

IMPORTANT TO BE PREPARED Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that the unthinkable can happen at any time and it is important to know what to do when an emergency occurs. The Red Cross teaches people across the country how to be prepared, along with lifesaving skills such as first aid and CPR.

Each person needs to be ready when disaster strikes. Households need to plan how they will deal with disasters that occur in their neighborhood, how they will stay informed and what they will do if they are separated during the emergency.

The Red Cross asks everyone to make their disaster plans now to ensure their household is ready should an emergency happen. Information about what individuals, schools and businesses can do to be prepared is available on this web site. There is even a special program – The Pillowcase Project – to teach children about personal and family preparedness.

The Red Cross has people, systems and plans in place to respond to disasters. But the government and organizations like the Red Cross can’t do it all. On this tenth anniversary of Katrina, visit the preparedness information available here and make sure you and your loved ones are ready should disaster affect your community.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at@RedCross.


How Ten Years Changed Disaster Preparedness and Response

gail-mcgovern-707x241Ten years ago, the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina – a natural disaster unprecedented in its size and scope. Yet what would happen if a storm of this magnitude were to occur again? Would the images of volunteers rushing to help be different? And could some of the darkest tragedies that still haunt our memories of Katrina be avoided?

Over the last ten years, the American Red Cross and other disaster response organizations have taken the lessons of Katrina and applied new thinking and new technology to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Today, the iconic American Red Cross symbol is not only found on vehicles and volunteers’ armbands, but on websites, apps, and software tools that guide and aid our work.

With so many families separated by Katrina, it was vital for people to have a way to reconnect after a disaster. This led to the development of the “Safe and Well” website, where people can search for loved ones who have registered. After the Boston Marathon bombing, for example, more than 450 people used the site to tell friends and family they were okay.

The Red Cross has also created a series of free disaster preparedness mobile apps that put lifesaving information at user’s fingertips when they need it most. The latest release – the Emergency App – gives people instant access to customizable weather alerts, safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different types of emergencies. Additionally, the Emergency App contains the “I’m Safe” feature, which helps people use their social media channels to let loved ones know they are okay after an emergency. In total, these apps have been downloaded nearly 7 million times and have been credited with saving lives in Oklahoma, Texas and a number of other states.

Over the past decade, social media has not only become an essential tool in our daily lives, it’s also become a vital resource in helping response organizations anticipate needs on the ground during times of disaster. Thanks to grants from Dell, the Red Cross now operates three Digital Operations Centers where we monitor social media conversations as a disaster strikes, using real time data to identify communities in need. When a tornado and flash flood recently hit Wise County, a small rural area northwest of Fort Worth, digital volunteers were able to gather street addresses, photographs from the ground, and up-to-the-minute information on county roads where damage had occurred. This information was given to disaster response teams before the first relief truck even rolled in. It saved hours of work for field responders, making for a more effective response operation.

We have also focused on better preparing communities and individuals in a number of ways. Using supply chain analytics, we’ve prepositioned and are able to refresh relief supplies in high risk areas so that we can respond faster to communities in need. Through the generosity of donors and corporate partners, we now have a connected, nationwide network of warehouses, with relief supplies for more than 500,000 people. Through the National Shelter System, we now have the ability to open shelters within hours of a disaster impacting the community, and affected individuals are able to use the Emergency App to find out where these shelters are located.

Along with the use of new technology, we have worked harder to build strong partnerships within the communities we serve. We’ve worked with diverse organizations, including NAACP, National Baptist Convention USA and 100 Black Men, National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Congress of American Indians, Islamic Relief USA and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, among others.

We also undertook a program to help people prepare for the most frequent disaster the Red Cross responds to – home fires. Most people are familiar with our response during large disasters like hurricanes and tornados, but every year we respond to nearly 70,000 domestic disasters – with the vast majority of them being home fires. Over the next five years we will help install smoke alarms, develop family evacuation plans and teach people ways to prevent fires.

When the next disaster strikes you will see images of American Red Cross volunteers delivering services where they are needed most. We will be there to give comfort to those who suffer unimaginable loss. The Red Cross emblem will always signal that help is near. And with each passing year we will use new technology to ensure that help is closer than ever before.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at@RedCross.
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