HOW TO: Use the Pet First Aid App (and Scare Your Human Mom at the Same Time)

Narrated by: Joe Willie Gamble

me and joe

My name is Joe Willie and when I’m not napping, I’m usually causing some sort of trouble, which often entails eating something I shouldn’t. Luckily for my Mom (that’s her in the picture), the Red Cross just released its Pet First Aid app and it covers all of my recent escapades:

1. I’m slightly allergic to my vaccinations. My mouth and eyes puff up a little bit every time I get them. A frantic call to the vet always ensues. Now Mom can direct dial our vet right from the app and learn what to do until we get there.


2. I’m curious. I like to stick my nose in flowers and holes in the ground. One time a bee came out and got me. Not cool, bees. The app is cool, though, because it shows you what to do about bees.


3. I love snacks. All the snacks. I once got into a box of fiber bars and ate five of them. It was a bad 24 hours for Mom and Dad. We don’t speak of it any more in my house. But the app will let you know how to deal with chocolate and other stuff we’re not supposed to eat.

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4. I have a “sister” (insert air quotes here), who is a cat. I aggravate. She takes swipes at me. Sometimes my nose gets caught in her claws. How is she not amused by me?


Sometimes afterwards my nose looks like this:

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When she’s not coughing up hair balls, she looks like this:

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There’s info on more than 25 common pet emergencies and tips on what is normal for your pet and what isn’t. The cat portion of the app will even tell you that hair balls and that humorless look are perfectly normal.

You can check out the rest of the features below or go to

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About the author: Joe Willie is a 5 year old Miniature Dachshund who lives with a cat that simply tolerates him. His mom (and apparent publicist) works for the Red Cross. When he’s not getting into trouble or narrating blog posts, he enjoys wearing sports jerseys, loves to watch Alabama football and is, indeed, named after the great Joe Namath.

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Delivering Messages of Hope


Red Cross volunteer Brandon Baird reads through cards being sent to Veterans, members of the armed forces and their families

Each holiday season the American Red Cross puts on the Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign to send encouraging and uplifting cards and letters to members (past and present) of the armed services and their families. It’s estimated that this year as many as 2 million cards were handed out. For West Michigan, the campaign culminated last month with a card sorting and distribution event hosted at the Red Cross of Grand Rapids.

On December 13, community members, Red Cross volunteers, and Red Cross employees took time to read through and sort the thousands of cards being sent to members of the military and their families. Among those who volunteered to help at the event were the AmeriCorps members from the Goodwill of Grand Rapids. Over twenty members from the nonprofit, along with volunteers and staff from the Red Cross, spent several hours that morning categorizing and organizing the cards.


AmeriCorps members from the Goodwill of Grand Rapids volunteered to help with the sorting

“The event was an amazing success. We sorted nearly 11,000 cards for Veterans, service members, and their families. It was great to see so many people from the community offering messages of hope and encouragement to those receiving the cards”, said Meghan North, coordinator of the event.

After the cards had been sorted, volunteers began delivering the cards around Grand Rapids to local VA clinics, Home for Veterans, and Armories. Through the month of December cards were distributed all across west Michigan carrying messages of thanks and good wishes. It may have taken only a day to sort and deliver these cards, but the messages they carried will certainly last much longer.

Red Cross through the generations: the story of James Waller, WWII 71st Infantry Division

Photo - James on Left

James Waller (left) with his Company Clerk.

It’s difficult to overstate the reach of Red Cross’ impact over the past 130 years. Whether we’re aware of it or not, most of our lives have been touched, directly or indirectly, by the humanitarian work of Red Cross volunteers and staff.

Take Deb McDermott, a board member of American Red Cross’ Greater Grand Rapids Chapter, for example. Deb recalls that her father, a veteran of World War II, was never keen to relive his days of service, but the one piece he would recount, over and over, was: “you could ALWAYS count on the Red Cross.”

Deb’s father, James Waller, belonged to the 271st Engineer Combat Battalion of the US’ 71st Infantry Division. The 71st fought campaigns in Europe from February 6th 1945 through March 10th 1946. James Waller’s division saw 62 days of combat and captured more than six cities during their tour. But it’s what James and his fellow servicemen saw after that combat which likely changed them the most.

The 71st liberated several concentration camps, including an Austrian camp named Gunskirchen Lager.

Tattered and worn from combat, the 71st were greeted at Gunskirchen Lager with a bittersweet mix of elation and despair. The horrors the inhabitants of the camp had experienced were beyond words.

Deb recalls her father “spoke very little about the war, always stating that the heroes were the ones who didn’t come home.”Image

What James and the rest of his division saw there is chronicled in a pamphlet named “The Seventy-First came to Gunskirchen Lager”, which you can read online here.

In the midst of death, combat, unthinkable conditions and the stark reality of the concentration camps, the Red Cross’ presence stood out to James as a beacon of hope – the one positive memory he could bring home and relive with his family decades later.

James Waller passed away in 2011.

Take a moment this holiday season to discover how the Red Cross may have touched generations of your own family, friends or neighbors. You might be surprised by what you find.

Raene’s Story

Members of the community have been volunteering through the American Red Cross for as long as the organization has been around. Each generation of dedicated individuals finds ways to answer the unique needs of their time. As a teenager in the late 1960s, Raene Kott of Fruitport, MI saw a need at Ferguson Hospital in Grand Rapids and decided to help. Her work likely never ended up on the front page of the newspapers or got her a spot on the evening news, and yet for the residents of Ferguson hospital Raene was a hero.


A Red Cross outfit similar to what Raene wore at Ferguson Hospital

“I went in and visited with the people that were in there,” said Kott, now 65. “I just went around and asked them if they needed something.”

Raene helped deliver meals to the hospital’s residents. Often times, however, she says her job was only to sit and talk with residents who needed the simple joy of connecting with another person. She volunteered at the hospital for about two years.

Raene says she served a wide range of residents from the elderly to the very sick to disabled veterans. Interestingly, she has seen her service to veterans come full circle as her son is currently in the military and a veteran of the Iraq War.

“(The work) was interesting because of the different people all of the time,” she added. “It was a very easy thing to do for the people.”

Sometimes it’s the seemingly “easy” work of Red Cross volunteers that can be the most important.

Pat’s Story

Patricia Hamel, of Traverse City, Michigan, is no stranger to being deployed to national disaster relief operations with the American Red Cross. She says that since 2007 she has been deployed to 15 different relief operations across the country. So it came as no surprise when she was asked to travel to Colorado for several weeks this past October. Flooding in parts of the state had caused widespread damage and the Red Cross was looking to its national network of volunteers for help.


(Photo Credit: Robert Miller)

While the nation may have seen Red Cross workers delivering life-saving food, water, and medical supplies on the front lines of the disaster, Pat’s job was largely behind the scenes and away from the cameras—yet just as important to the residents of Colorado. Her role was as a manager of disaster health services. Disaster Health Services, or DHS, is a department of the Red Cross which works to assess residents’ medical needs in a disaster and replace lost medications and medical supplies.

Pat worked primarily out of the Red Cross relief operation headquarters making sure that the disaster assistance centers where residents could go for help were adequately staffed by Red Cross DHS workers. In addition, she was responsible for coordinating the Red Cross emergency aid stations that were sent out to smaller, more rural communities that had been cut off by the floods.

“My job was to make sure the delivery of services to clients goes smoothly and effectively,” she added.  

While being on deployment is nothing new to Pat, she also recognizes the unique challenges and features each relief effort brings to the table.

“They (disaster relief operations) are all very unique,” she observed. “They’re unique to the event that took place. They’re in unique parts of our country and they’re unique to the culture of the local people.”

Part of what made the relief effort in Colorado unique was the spirit of the state’s communities.


(Photo Credit:Robert Miller)

“As we were meeting clients’ needs, we were very impressed the resourcefulness of people,” Pat remarked. “This was…a culture that really reached down to help one another.”

Indeed, it takes one to know one, and Pat surely knows what it means to lend a hand to those in need.

How to Help: Donate to Typhoon Relief on Facebook

For the next few days, Facebook is making it possible for users to donate directly to the American Red Cross either through a notification in News Feed, or directly on our Facebook page. We’re excited and grateful that they are activating this feature to support the massive global response effort following the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines this past week.

If you visit your Facebook News Feed, you will see this at the top of the screen:


Clicking Donate $10.00 will bring you to a simple payment screen, where you will be asked for your payment information.

Just follow the simple directions to complete the donation, and you’re done!

If you’d like to give a different amount, you can also visit the American Red Cross Facebook Page to make a donation.


100% of the funds raised through Facebook will go to the American Red Cross. All of the donations will be provided by the American Red Cross to the Red Cross groups that are working on the typhoon response. The Philippine Red Cross has been leading this response effort, aiding with search and rescue immediately after the disaster, providing shelter, food, and water, and distributing relief supplies. However, as we mentioned earlier, this has truly been a global response effort. Specialized emergency response teams from Red Cross societies across the globe are moving into the affected area to assist. These include teams with expertise in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation.

Typhoon Haiyan 2013
Volunteers and staff working with food items at Philippine Red Cross HQ. Photo: Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross

To read more about the response so far, please visit this page.


Have more questions?

Why did Facebook decide to do this?
Facebook is a place to connect to the people, places, and things they care about most. In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones, get updates, and to learn how they can help. We regularly work with relief organizations, government organizations, media partners, and private industry to be part of this effort so we can all improve preparation for disasters, contribute to relief efforts, and bring to the forefront the needs of those directly impacted. This is just another way for us to help – and make it as easy as possible for people to help those impacted by the typhoon.

Why hasn’t Facebook done this for other natural disasters? 
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. We regularly work with relief organizations, government organizations, media partners, and private industry to be part of this effort so we can all improve preparation for disasters, contribute to relief efforts, and bring to the forefront the needs of those directly impacted. This is just another way for us to help – and make it as easy as possible for people to help those impacted by the typhoon.

We’re always exploring various options for helping people contribute and assist during a time of crisis. This is just another step towards making the assistance even easier, and we’re committed to evolving our products to find new solutions over time.

Will Facebook offer this for other causes other than natural disaster?
We’ve always exploring various options for helping people contribute and assist during a time of crisis. This is just the latest evolution, and we’ll continue to keep finding new and different solutions.

Why are people in New York and California unable to donate through Facebook?
We are currently working to get approval from NY & CA regulators for direct donations. We hope to have these states up and running as soon as those state regulators give their approval.

Does Facebook get a cut of these donations?
No, all of donations will go to the American Red Cross.

How secure is my payment information?
Your payment information is completely secure. When you make a donation on Facebook, your payment information will only be stored with Facebook and not shared externally.

For additional information on the security of your payment information, please visit:

Will my donation be broadcast to my Facebook friends?
No, your donation will be kept private. You can, however, let your friends know via a status update if you would like to share.

Robert’s Story


An ERV against a scenic Colorado horizon

Being a Red Cross volunteer means being ready to adapt—just ask Robert. On a Saturday morning last month, Robert Miller received a call from his Red Cross chapter asking him for help. Due to the flooding in Colorado, the Red Cross had put out a call for 16 mass care feeding volunteers and the chapter wanted Robert to submit his name. He agreed and several hours later was informed he would be leaving for Denver the next day.

Leaving for Colorado wasn’t the last time Robert would have to adapt. After arriving at the Red Cross relief operation headquarters, he learned that his role had changed in the disaster operation.

“Upon processing in on Monday, my designation was changed to ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) driver,” said Robert. “I was assigned to the warehouse where ERV drivers were hauling bulk”.

Robert and another volunteer were tasked with delivering food and water to a town in the mountains about 20 miles away. What should have been a short trip into the surrounding mountains quickly turned into a several hour trek as many of the roads had been damaged due to the floods. They received assistance, however, from a familiar source.

As Robert and his partner sat in their ERV in disbelief at the seeming impossibility of their directions, a woman pulled up next to them. She explained that she was a former Red Cross volunteer and offered to help.


Roads in Colorado were badly damaged due to the flooding

“She told us that she had driven ERVs before and that there was no way we would get to our destination the way the GPS was directing us,” said Robert. “Then she told us how to realistically get to where we were going.”
Throughout the week Robert and a team of volunteers delivered and distributed supplies to the communities surrounding Denver. Miller says he was surprised at the community of those in the mountains.

“There are all kinds of people living in these mountains…they all seem to look out for each other,” he noted.

Passing out food and supplies to residents in need, Robert also recognized the independent spirit of the Coloradoans.

“Most people seemed very independent, humbled by their current need and very grateful for what they were receiving, taking only what they needed,” Robert observed. “If we tried to give them something they didn’t think they had a need for, they insisted we keep it for someone who really did.”

Overall, the ten days Robert spent in Colorado were challenging and often unpredictable, but ultimately worthwhile—giving him a deeper perspective on helping others.

“The people who volunteer with the Red Cross are all kinds of people, from all walks of life, just like those we are there to help,” Robert reflected. “I have that in mind whenever I’m thanked for my work—I say ‘That’s OK, at any time I, my family, or my town could be on the other side’.”

Tips for a safe Halloween!

ImageHalloween’s greatest hazards aren’t vampires and villains, but falls, costume mishaps and traffic accidents, so the Red Cross is offering the following tips to help make this Halloween safe:

  • Look for flame-resistant costumes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends costumes made out of synthetic materials like nylon or polyester, which are less flammable than other materials.
  • Plan the Trick-or-Treat route and make sure adults know where children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children along the planned route.
  • Make sure the Trick-or-Treaters have a flashlight. Add reflective tape to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags. Have everyone wear light-colored clothing in order to be seen.
  • Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
  • Instead of masks, which can cover the eyes and make it hard to see, consider using face paint.
  • Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.
  • Be cautious around pets and any other animals.


WELCOMING GHOSTS AND GOBLINS If someone is welcoming Trick-or-Treaters at their home, they should make sure the outdoor light is on. Other safety steps include:

  • Sweep leaves from the sidewalks and steps.
  • Clear the porch or front yard of any obstacles that a child could trip over.
  • Restrain any household pets.
  • Use a glow stick instead of a candle in the jack-o-lantern to avoid a fire hazard.


LEARN WHAT TO DO People can download the free American Red Cross First Aid App. Users receive instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies whenever and wherever they need it. Features of the app include:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to handle the most common first aid situations;
  • Videos and animations that  make the skills easy to learn;
  • Safety and preparedness tips; and
  • Quizzes that users can take to earn badges which they can share with their friends on social media.


People can find all of the Red Cross apps in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store by searching for American Red Cross or by going to

West Michigan Volunteer Featured during Colorado Flood Response

[Note: The Red Cross in Colorado originally posted this story on Sept. 21, 2013]
Photos and Story By Carl Manning
The American Red Cross call center for  the Colorado floods is operating 12 hours each day to provide information for those both needing assistance and those wanting to offer assistance. Red Cross volunteer Leonard Garyson, who is the call center manager, takes his job seriously.

Workers at the American Red Cross call
center are busy answering the phones.

“It’s important that the information goes out to the public in a timely manner and that those who call are able to have their questions answered,” said Garyson, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
The center is staffed by a blend of Red Cross volunteers and temporary employees hired for the job after being trained. Garyson said the center has been handling 20 to 30 calls each hour in its opening days. That includes calls the center returns to those asking information where some research had to be done, like finding out which agencies are accepting clothing donations. As time passes, he expects the number of calls will jump as word gets out that the center is open and that calls will start tapering off as the various needs are met. Garyson emphasized the call center will remain open as long as there is a need.
 American Red Cross volunteer and call center manager,
Leonard Garyson, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Some calls are from people wanting to know where they can get clothing and those wanting to donate clothing. The call center provides information in each instance.  Some people displaced by the flooding want to know where they can take their pets and the call center helps with that. He said the call center also been getting calls from people who weren’t  affected by the flooding. Instead they were offering living space in their homes for those who have been displaced.
“They said they want to help. They haven’t been affected and they want to reach out and help,” he said.
Garyson says there have been some unusual requests, but perhaps one of the more unusual ones was from a man offering his 20-seat passenger plane for use.
“You don’t get that kind of call every day,” Garyson said.
Call Center is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (Mountain Time) seven days a week.