Tag Archives: American Red Cross

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.

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.

Delta Sigma Phi Philanthropy

0727151323a_resizedArticle by Derek Zuverink

The Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity at Grand Valley State University established the Red Cross River Dash in 2014.  In a recent effort to improve our philanthropy efforts, this event was created.  This year, our chapter was able to raise $11,620 for our national philanthropy, the American Red Cross, while completing the 120 mile canoe trip down the AuSable River an entire day early.  The trip itself took place May 14-16, 2015.  Each night, we set up camp right alongside the river, where we cooked food and rested for the next day.

We had 12 brothers attend this year’s trip, while nine canoed on the river, and three became support crew (set up camp, cooked food, drove alongside the river with supplies,etc.).  With businesses donating to our efforts, as well as friends and family, we were able to see this event succeed.

The Red Cross River Dash means a lot to my chapter, and to myself as an individual.  This event is an opportunity for my fraternity brothers and myself to give back to the community, and help others understand that Greek life is not the negative stereotype recently seen in our society.  For a lot of us, dare I say most of us, we genuinely want to help the community and make a positive impact on others.  I’d like to believe this doesn’t just apply to my chapter, or my university – but for Greek life seen at all of our nation’s universities.  If we look past the negative media, there is evidence that supports this idea.

As I go into my senior year at Grand Valley State University, I feel confident that once I graduate, this event will continue to grow.  I’m incredibly excited to see how the Red Cross River Dash will influence the community, and how it will influence my brothers as well.  The American Red Cross has truly been a pleasure to work with, and I feel very privileged to have them as my fraternity’s national philanthropy.

Have a Safe Fourth of July Weekend!

558c8a6726505.imageThe long Fourth of July holiday weekend is just ahead and the American Red Cross has steps you can follow to stay safe when enjoying the fireworks or taking a trip to the beach.

FIREWORKS SAFETY The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Many states outlaw most fireworks. If you are setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
  • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
  • Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.

BEACH SAFETY If your holiday plans include swimming in the ocean, learn how to swim in the surf. Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. While you’re enjoying the water, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. Make sure you swim sober and that you always swim with a buddy. And even if you’re confident in your swimming skills, make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.

Other safety tips include:

  • Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters.
  • Keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
  • Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.

RIP CURRENTS Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Any beach with breaking waves may have rip currents. Be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following:

  • If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.

Additional water safety tips are in the free Red Cross Swim App and available here.

SUN PROTECTION Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. Reapply your sunscreen often. Remember to drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that will absorb 100 percent of UV sunlight. And don’t forget your feet! The sand can burn your feet and glass and other sharp objects can cut them.

During hot weather, watch for signs of heat stroke—hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke:

  • Call 9-1-1 and move the person to a cooler place.
  • Quickly cool the body by applying cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin (or misting it with water) and fanning the person.
  • Watch for signs of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.

FIRST AID APP Another thing people can do is download the free Red Cross First Aid App which puts expert advice for everyday emergencies at someone’s fingertips. Users can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Have-a-Safe-Fourth-of-July

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.

Hometown Heroes 2015 Profiles: Judge Sara Smolenski

smolenskiWe are continuing a series of posts highlighting the award recipients  for the 2015 Hometown Heroes Celebration put on 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 30 from 6:00PM-10:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.

The American Red Cross of West Michigan is proud to honor Judge Sara Smolenski with the Mabel Boardman Spirit of Volunteerism Award. Judge Smolenski has proven her commitment to her community through the many services she provides including her active volunteer efforts.

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