Author Archives: Jenny Arrieta

A Spirit to Serve

Jamshid Kiani’s path to the American Red Cross is a familiar one for many volunteers: he was led by a spirit to serve others. Media coverage of a Red Cross disaster response in 2015 had piqued his interest, so he sought to learn more.

“A few months after retiring from my job as a chef at a private resort, preparing up to 1200 meals per day, I saw a news item showing Red Cross volunteers providing food and other items to affected clients. I was moved, and I thought to myself ‘I have the knowledge and ability to help with this,’ so I went online to see what the Red Cross is all about.”

Kiani presenting at a Fire Safe event in Santa Cruz County.

That online foray kicked off a humanitarian journey that recently culminated in the top honor for a volunteer: this past June, Kiani was awarded the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership. Named after the founder of the Red Cross, this award recognizes a volunteer for their years of service in various leadership positions. In his seven years as volunteer, Kiani has achieved both experience and leadership in multiple disaster roles, including 46 disaster response deployments, two of those as extended deployments in the Virgin Islands and Oregon. In Northern California, he works with the Regional Response Management Team, and is a disaster response instructor for new Red Cross disaster teams and volunteers.

In short, Kiani has made good on that spirit to serve. But his initial intent to apply his culinary skills on a disaster back in 2015 didn’t quite go to plan. After taking online Red Cross training courses and learning more about the organization, he visited his local chapter office.

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A helping of hope: Red Cross joins community partners at local food distribution event

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Red Cross volunteers load bags of groceries into the trunk of a car occupied by a San Benito County family in need of food assistance.
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As California endures a third month of the COVID-19 outbreak and its many associated challenges, the American Red Cross has stepped up to provide hope and help wherever possible — including lending a hand to its community partners.

On Friday, May 22, workers from the Central Coast Chapter joined First 5 San Benito County to support a food distribution event in Hollister. During the COVID-19 shutdown, many families have struggled with a lack of income due to record unemployment; the food provided at these events is a vital resource for many who can no longer afford a trip to the grocery store. The day was a successful one, but tough, and required a lot of effort and coordination. Thanks to decades of experience in disaster response, the Red Cross was able to jump in and do what it does best: serve others. Read more

The work of the Red Cross continues – no matter what

The past six weeks have been unusually quiet in Northern California. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced much of the population indoors on shelter-in-place orders. For many, the 9-to-5 workday is a recent memory; classrooms are eerily silent. Parking lots nationwide sit empty; all but essential storefronts are closed indefinitely. The entire country has seemingly ground to a halt.

And yet, there are segments of the American workforce that forge on stronger than ever: intrepid healthcare workers, food service employees, first responders, and American Red Cross volunteers and employees. As the largest humanitarian aid organization in the country, the work of the Red Cross is constant, as is our commitment to helping those that need us.
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Blood donors turn out to give during COVID-19 outbreak

It’s a rainy, chilly Tuesday in Fairfield, Calif., the spring blooms drooping under the March wet. The forecast mirrors the national mood amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: a sober longing for warmer, brighter days.

Inside the American Red Cross Solano County chapter office, the outlook is undeniably more optimistic. In place of the normal tables and chairs are padded beds, techs bustling about in red scrubs, glass vials, plastic tubing, gauze and the ubiquitous red blood drop stress balls. The office’s Red Cross inhabitants have made room to welcome a new team and a lifesaving service: a blood drive. Read more

Amid wildfire worries, comfort and kindness in a Red Cross Shelter

This is another in a series of stories we are posting on this regional blog related to the American Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire disaster:

By Barbara Wood, American Red Cross

Lynne Fredericks recounted to American Red Cross volunteer Larry Dietz how she ended up in an evacuation shelter in the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, California during the Kincade Fire.

Fredericks, her sister, plus dog Jack and two cats, were part of a mandatory Kincade Fire evacuation from nearby Windsor that began on Saturday, Oct. 26. They were able to return home a few days later, after the evacuation was lifted on Thursday, Oct. 30.

“Their kindness and generosity make it easier for me and other people who are there,” Fredericks said of the American Red Cross and other volunteers staffing the shelter. “I am in awe, and I mean that seriously, of how you have been able to put all this together and make it work,” she said. The American Red Cross, along with community and government partners, had set up in just hours as the fire spread on Saturday, Oct. 26.
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The Hardest Job

30 Years Later, the Loma Prieta Earthquake Response Remains Jim Aldrich’s Most Difficult

Galveston Island had seen better days. Hurricane Jerry had battered the Texas barrier island cum tourist haunt the day before, leaving flooded roads strewn with flotsam and sand dunes pummeled into the mud. Jim Aldrich of the American Red Cross, who was in Galveston as part of the organization’s recovery effort, had just settled in to watch Game 3 of the World Series from his hotel room. The game’s telecast, aired live from San Francisco, suddenly scratched with static as the frame jerked and spasmed. There was confusion, shouting.

“We’re having an earth-” someone said before the live feed cut to black.

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An aerial view of the collapsed section of the Cypress Structure. The 6.9 earthquake caused the top deck of the highway to fall onto the lower deck, killing 42 people.

It was October 17, 1989, and Northern California had just experienced a catastrophic event, the Loma Prieta earthquake. The 6.9 tremor ravaged homes, infrastructure, and lives from Monterey Bay through the Bay Area, leaving 66 people dead, thousands injured, and tens of thousands homeless. Like Jim, millions watched the quake strike in real time on live television.

The Red Cross contacted Jim, an employee from St. Louis, within hours of the now-cancelled World Series game; he would trade the Texas Gulf Coast for a new deployment to the earthquake response in California. Having 8+ years with the Red Cross and ample disaster experience under his belt, he felt up to the job. However, as he would learn over the next three months, the Loma Prieta response would be the most challenging of his career.
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