Author Archives: Kathryn Hecht

Red Cross welcomes a growing partnership with Corazón Healdsburg

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:

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Corazon Healdsburg bilingual volunteers (left) Norma Gomez and Luisa Fernandez-Palacios staff a desk inside the evacuation shelter at the Sonoma County Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa on Oct. 30. Photo credit: American Red Cross|Barbara Wood

Local nonprofit and Red Cross partner Corazón Healdsburg offered a crucial point of contact for Latinx families during the Kincade Fire. The organization staffed Red Cross shelters in Sonoma and Marin counties with bilingual volunteers. They met with displaced Spanish-speaking families or those who were adversely affected. For some, it was the only point of contact with whom they felt comfortable.

Since 2016, Corazón Healdsburg has worked diligently in the Latinx community to create resources and a safety net for low-income families to thrive. Their programs range from financial literacy to first-generation college counseling. So when disaster struck, many in the community already knew where to go: The Healdsburg Community Center.

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Electeds help lead the charge in preparedness

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:

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Red Cross shelter manager Virginia Escalante and volunteer David O’Neil welcomes Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore at the Sonoma County Veterans Building. 10/28/19
Photo credit: Kathryn Hecht | American Red Cross
See more stories related to the Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire.
See photos from this response.

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore says the “new normal” should refer to preparedness, not disaster. “Let’s embrace being ready,” he said during a press conference in the middle of the Kincade Fire.

 

For the past two years, Gore, and his colleagues on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors put in place ambitious plans – coordinating with numerous state, county, and local agencies (including the Red Cross) and neighborhoods – to not only help a community recover from the Tubbs Fires Disaster in 2017, but also prepare for the next one.

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Remembering the Loma Prieta Earthquake: 30 Years Later

loma prieta 420x279On October 17, 1989, the devastating 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake rocked Northern California with the Bay Area and Central Coast bearing the brunt of the impact. The resulting catastrophic damage and loss of life forever changed the landscape, infrastructure, and people of the Golden State.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary, the American Red Cross is gathering stories from those who experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake. Through sharing these stories of recovery and resiliency, we hope to encourage active preparation for the next major event. If you have a memory, experience, or photos/videos from Loma Prieta, we invite you to share them with us. Read more

Leadership Development Camp posts record numbers and attendance

LDC-420x279The American Red Cross Youth Leadership Development Camp for the Northern Californa Coastal Region was held at Camp Butano Creek in Pescadaro on August 5th through 8th. The multi-day camp involves youth throughout the Bay Area in Red Cross activities and provides leadership and learning activities to develop our future leaders.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • 123 campers attended this year representing all four regional chapters – a first for the region!
  • An additional 23 youth staff attended, including seven advisory board youth staff, all of whom worked to plan the camp since December 2018.
  • 146 youth were certified in CPR/First Aid.
  • All participants experienced Community Disaster Education and learned how to install smoke alarms/check their homes for fire safety preparedness.
  • Campers studied the following components of Raid Cross, a role-playing simulation activity that helps students understand the basic rules of International Humanitarian Law:
    • Prisoners of War
    • Militia members making artillery decisions
    • Army Generals making a decision far away from the battles themselves

Always a highlight, Raid Cross introduces many students to unique parts of armed conflict and Red Cross’ involvement in each one.

  • Each student took part in the Diversity program designed to guide youth in understanding privilege. Students took part in a diversity circle to encourage recognition and appreciation of each other’s similarities and differences.

Thank you to all who attended. We hope to see you next year!

Please visit this link to view pictures from the event.

Contra Costa Smoke Alarm Lead Wins Top Award

Marcie Wright-Powell-420x279by Marcia Antipa

Marcie Wright-Powell considers herself an unlikely hero. As with many Red Cross volunteers, Marcie shuns the spotlight. She says, “I really don’t do anything special and certainly a lot less than other volunteers.”

But Marcie could not avoid the accolades this spring, as she was named the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for the American Red Cross of Contra Costa County.

Those who nominated Marcie for this award noted that she is one of those volunteers who does it all: “…being deployed to local disasters, working in shelters, volunteering at the Red Cross Galas, delivering food to our Red Cross shelters, working on our volunteer events committee, and along with everything else she has done, with a can-do attitude, excellent leadership skills, and a true volunteer spirit.”

Now, Marcie is the lead for scheduling all volunteers in the “Sound the Alarm” smoke detector campaign. Marcie’s journey to that role started five years ago. After working as an office manager for 30 years, she joined her husband, Don, in volunteering for the Red Cross. “It’s a challenge, another thing we can do together.”

Their first assignment as a team was with Volunteer and Youth Services, working with high school Red Cross Clubs. “They were very impressive and had all their fundraising plans together.”

Marcie’s next big step was into Disaster Deployment. She worked 12-hour shifts at shelters during several fires in Contra Costa County. She checked fire survivors into the shelter, served food, and found a way to deliver food to another shelter that was cut off by the fire.

During a fire in Clayton, Marcie worked at a shelter at the local library. “One guy came in filthy dirty from work and asked ‘do you guys just have a clean t-shirt I can wear?’” The volunteers found him one. “His son was just thrilled to have pizza and soda and asked if he could read a book from the library.” Marcie said this work gave her a new perspective, that “just having a toothbrush, food, and water” can make a huge difference to a fire survivor.

Marcie also heaps praise on other volunteers, and even the survivors themselves. She noted that the Red Cross partners with Animal Services to help care for pets affected by the fire. “I was really impressed. They bring crates, food, water, leashes, collars. One lady evacuated without her cat. Her neighbor just ran into her house, grabbed her cat, threw it into his car, and brought it to the shelter.”

But Marcie felt she could put her office management skills to better use for the Red Cross. Now she marshals her own army of volunteers, contributing hundreds of hours to the “Sound the Alarm” campaign. She schedules volunteers to install smoke alarms free of charge in clients’ homes and to provide education on fire safety and preparedness.

Marcie has recruited teams of Sound the Alarm volunteers, often husbands and wives, or groups of friends. “My only request is – come up with someone you can work with. Four guys who are in Kiwanis set up their own team and give me four hours a month. They can get five homes done in a day.”

Marcie says people are grateful for the help. She remembers a single mother who had been scared about a fire breaking out in the middle of the night. The team took the time to go over fire safety with her children. “I get emails from people saying, ‘Thank you. Your crew was so professional.’”

And there is a lighter side to her work. Marcie once called an 85-year-old woman to schedule an appointment for the smoke alarm team. “She was pretty much homebound, and very talkative. She said, ‘Now I just have one question for you. I need a man, but he has to drive and he can’t wear a diaper!’”

What will Marcie take on next with the Red Cross? She has an idea she’d like to promote to help volunteers stay engaged. Along with the more formal meetings at Red Cross offices, she asks, “Can we just meet somewhere in a non-business way, and have a cup of coffee with a few people? That’s where ideas come from; not by meeting, but by actually talking.”

With her “true volunteer spirit,” Marcie just might make that happen!

Marcia Antipa is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Tanya Sullivan of Sonoma County Awarded Coveted Clara Barton Honor

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by Marcia Antipa

“I was stunned.”

That was the reaction from Red Cross Volunteer Tanya Sullivan of Sonoma County when she was given the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership for the California Northwest Chapter.

“I was so surprised and just so honored. Just the name – it’s quite a recognition!”

Anyone who has worked with Tanya in her many Red Cross volunteer roles would not be so surprised to hear of her award. Marianne Arden, of Volunteer and Youth Services, says, “Tanya always downplays her role, but she is absolutely critical to our chapter, and during a disaster, she probably puts in a 70-hour week.”

The Clara Barton Award is given to a volunteer who has made “significant contributions while working with other volunteers and paid staff in developing and implementing effective programs in a resource manner which has enabled the American Red Cross to provide valuable service to the community.”

Tanya’s journey to this prestigious award began four years ago when her uncle passed away. He was a volunteer firefighter in the small Sierra Nevada community where Tanya was raised. “His death motivated me as a new empty nester to find ‘the next thing in my life.’”

Previously, Tanya had a professional career with Fireman’s Fund, then spent time at home raising her children, volunteering in the schools, little league, and other organizations. She also took a part-time job at a nursery. But when her children left home, she wanted to find a well-organized group that could use all of her skills and, as she says, “help me lead an impactful life.”

That group was the American Red Cross, where Tanya joined the Disaster Action Team. Her first “Mission Moment” was a call to a house fire late one night.

“It was in December, very dark and very rural, east of Santa Rosa up in the foothills.”

Tanya says every time she deployed to help a family, “there is an element of shock, of ‘what are we going to do tomorrow?’ We are there while the house is still smoldering, and the fire trucks are still there. One family I met was focused on how the kids were going to get to school.”

Tanya also deployed to the Russian River floods this winter, where she handed out buckets of cleaning supplies to start people on their “disaster recovery.” She says it’s her favorite role.

“You’re not just giving them a bucket – you’re hearing their stories.”

Tanya says in the Russian River community, many residents have been through floods several times over the years.

“The word you hear so much in these situations is resilience. It has become an overused, hashtag word. But I saw it; neighbors helping neighbors pull soaking wet furniture from homes, finding a way to start moving forward.”

Tanya now volunteers in Workforce Engagement. That’s where she earned the Clara Barton award, for streamlining the system to help new Red Cross Volunteers get trained and ready for deployment.

“It was full of speed bumps and potholes. Courses that were required didn’t exist; no one knew where to look. I saw this opportunity to fix all that. I don’t like whack-a-mole solutions that provide an immediate answer, but create a problem downstream.”

Tanya compiled a new document that closed the gaps in workforce training, at the regional and national level. “I was the persistent squeaky wheel that wouldn’t go away.”

Those who nominated her for the Clara Barton award wrote, “Her impact is huge, as this is a primary tool for all of Workforce Engagement, and impacts each and every [disaster services] volunteer.”

Tanya is obviously proud of her work, and of the army of volunteers that carries out the mission of the American Red Cross.

“It just blew my mind when I found out how few paid staff the Red Cross has, and look what we can do! Red Cross knows how; I love being a part of that!”

Congratulations to Tanya Sullivan!

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.

Marcia Antipa is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Sticking with it for the community

Annie Schaefer - 420x279The American Red Cross named Annie Schaefer the 2018 Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year for Napa County. Though Annie shuns the limelight, her passion and belief in the Red Cross exude with every breath and action she takes on behalf of the agency. This is her story.

Ten years ago, Annie Schaefer worked for a large pharmaceutical company in Napa. The senior team set aside 100K every year to give to important causes, so it was no surprise when a board member from the American Red Cross in St. Helena made a pitch to her company’s leadership in search of additional board members. Annie’s boss recommended her for the job.

“I got a cold call, [this man] shared his experience, and I listened,” Annie reflects. “He asked me about my involvement in or knowledge of the Red Cross. I only had one distant association. My mother was a nurse in the community, and my parents were always active. But the cool thing about the Red Cross was that my Mom volunteered at the summer fair at the first aid station. So I agreed to attend a Board meeting.”

At the time, in 2009, Annie had a son overseas in Iraq. During that Board meeting, the team talked about the work of the Red Cross with military families. “I got a lump in my throat,” she says. “And it became apparent I was one of the only people with a direct link to the military. I bit, and joined the Board.”

As Annie learned more, she started taking classes. She dove into her work as part of the chapter’s Disaster Action Team. Then in 2014, when Annie had taken the helm as the Napa Valley Board Chair, American Red Cross transformed its local operations nationally to meet the growing demands for services while making the best use of donor dollars. In the new chapter design principle, a chapter must serve a minimum population of 340,000.  This led to the consolidation of many smaller Red Cross chapters into fewer larger ones, hence the birth of California Northwest. A year later, Annie was the last remaining Napa Valley Board member. “The timing couldn’t have been worse,” she says. “My primary concern was to keep the Red Cross front and center and to let people know we weren’t going anywhere.”

Annie says the timing was challenging.  In the middle of all the transitions of structures and roles, the area was hit with a couple of major disasters. The 2014 earthquake destroyed the Napa office, even though St. Helena’s survived. And then the wildfires of 2015 ravaged the northern counties. “Twelve hundred people showed up in 48 hours at the Calistoga fairgrounds,” she recalls. “And that’s when we got the hit. People said, ‘the Red Cross doesn’t know what they’re doing’ and people were left with a bad taste in their mouths. But everyone was at fault; the entire region – government, nonprofits, Red Cross, companies, residents – was unprepared and overwhelmed.”

Why did Annie stick with it in spite of challenging feedback and community misperceptions? “I thought: these are my people,” she says. “It’s the personal piece of it that makes it worthwhile. My community is what kept me coming back. Even when it became the most grim.”

Annie recalls, “When I helped open the mass care shelter in 2015, a very gentle retired fellow came up to me. It was quiet, and he smiled and said ‘ya know, I’ve always donated to the Red Cross so now I get the payback.’ And it’s because of our [donors and volunteers] that we can provide for people who need us.”

When asked what she would tell potential volunteers for the Red Cross, Annie replied “You can’t measure the warmth. When you give something, don’t look for what you get out of it, look for how it makes you feel. Get the whole story – go out on a call – you can watch and see what happens.”

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please visit this web page.

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