Author Archives: Jim Burns

Caring donors make Santa Cruz blood drive a special success

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Zoë Brouillet is following in her father’s footsteps as a regular Red Cross blood donor.
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You could almost say that helping others is in Zoë Brouillet‘s blood.

That’s why the 19-year-old Santa Cruz resident shifted gears halfway through a “Gap Year” program last year, deciding that her time between finishing high school and beginning college would be better spent in Asia helping the disadvantaged, rather than in Italy studying opera. “I decided part way through the year that I wanted to change locations so the experience could be about something greater than me,” Zoë said. “I ended up helping build water-filtration systems in Cambodia, treat Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, and conserve elephants in Thailand.”

That’s also why Zoë was one of the first people in the Santa Cruz office of the American Red Cross yesterday morning for a blood drive event. Read more

Celebrating our amazing 2018-2019 AmeriCorps team members!

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Pictured are the regional AmeriCorps workers who were in San Jose on July 25 for a celebration of their capstone projects. (Photo: Cynthia Shaw)
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Each fall, a new class of AmeriCorps workers becomes a critical part of the American Red Cross, supporting offices and staffing teams in regions throughout the country. It’s a union that benefits both the workers and the Red Cross: The AmeriCorps employees gain valuable on-the-job experience, while the Red Cross is the recipient of the workers’ key support, ideas, and energy.

The value of the AmeriCorps/Red Cross partnership was especially evident at a recent end-of-year celebration, honoring the tremendous work done in 2018–19 by the AmeriCorps employees of the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR). The celebration, during which each of the workers described his or her “capstone project” for the past year, took place on July 25 at the Silicon Valley Chapter in San Jose.

Delaram “Deli” Mehrkish was just one of the dozen AmeriCorps workers who were — very deservedly — saluted that day.

Working out of the region’s San Jose office, Mehrkish described how she, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader designed a “Prepare Your Club” capstone project that trained leaders of area youth clubs in the principles of the Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign — and in the process, encouraged the club members to inspect their own homes for emergency preparedness.

“Because of our project, the Red Cross was able to reach an additional 44 homes in Santa Clara County, ensuring that the residents of those homes had working smoke alarms and were educated in emergency preparedness,” Mehrkish says. “It was so successful that, with the efforts and momentum of our youth volunteers, we hope to make this a permanent youth-led project here in Santa Clara County.”

Mehrkish, shown in the accompanying photo (front row, second from left), is quick to say that AmeriCorps workers like her get as much from the Red Cross experience as they give. “Working for a nonprofit such as the Red Cross has given me so much fulfillment,” she says. “Not only have I gained professional skills and wisdom to help me in my future career, but I have also met the most incredible volunteers and employees, and I feel like I belong to a whole new community.”

Mehrkish, whose AmeriCorps term ends on August 23, adds that she will always cherish her year with the Red Cross. “I feel indebted to the people who showed me so much compassion from day one,” she says, giving an extra nod of appreciation to staff members she interacted with regularly in the Silicon Valley Chapter office: Jonathan Bernier, Nikki Rowe, and Romina Cervantes. “I am now a better person because of the experience.”

Allie Parker, who along with Bernier are the NCCR Volunteer & Youth Services employees who coordinate the region’s AmeriCorps program, says the members of this year’s AmeriCorps workforce provided key support — on a daily basis — in almost every line of service. “And, with their capstone projects, they imagined, created, and implemented initiatives that really augmented our operation,” Parker says. “We are so grateful for their effort and impact.”

Here is a list of all of our region’s amazing AmeriCorps 2018-19 team members, as well as a brief description of the capstone projects they undertook during the past year:

Cameron Soon, Regional Preparedness Coordinator
Project: GIS Mapping for Home Fire Campaign activities — Cameron created a GIS training for volunteers and staff to be able to utilize mapping while planning for “Sound the Alarm” events. By using GIS to plan their Sound the Alarm home visits, teams can factor in high fire-risk areas, previous Disaster Action Team calls, and more.

Danielle Halprin, International Services & Service to the Armed Forces Coordinator
Project: Consulate Engagement — Danielle worked to reach out to 40+ international consulates in our region in an effort to build partnerships with the current national delegates who are stationed in our region representing their nations. These partnerships also help the consulates stay up to date on Red Cross offering. Halprin even taught a few disaster preparedness classes to consulate employees.

Darren Adams, Disaster Services Coordinator (Alameda County)
Project: Shelter Management Decision-Making Tool
Darren built an Excel tool that allows teams to input all shelter data from the National Shelter System (NSS) and filter by immediate need when opening a shelter. His tool considers variables such as shelter location, population size, accessibility, etc. The tool will allow teams to better utilize our shelter partnership database while considering the immediate needs for a shelter.

Deli Mehrkish, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader, Youth Services Coordinators (San Jose)
Project: Prepare Your Club Initiative — This trio worked to ensure that not only are our youth volunteers educated in fire safety, but that their own homes are actually prepared as well. By leveraging youth executive boards, the group was able to encourage youth volunteers to do a fire-education safety check, including checking for working smoke alarms. If the youth found that they did not have working smoke detectors, they filled out a form, and a local “Sound the Alarm” team scheduled a home visit. Through this program, we were able to have youth better prepare dozens of their own households.

Hannah Christen, Disaster Services Coordinator (Humboldt)
Project: Disaster Action Team Resources Guide, including pocket resource guides, local services, and lodging information — Hannah created a local resources binder for Disaster Action Team volunteers in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This includes updated maps, partner agency contacts, and tips and tricks for new volunteers on the DAT team.

Gwynn Domecq, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland), and Steven Rolon, Youth Services Coordinator (San Francisco)
Project: Volunteer Relations Training for Lead Volunteers and Staff — Gwynn and Steven created two trainings for volunteer relations. The first is an onboarding training for new volunteers on the Volunteer Relations Team; this training gives a detailed overview of the Volunteer Relations process, the various roles and responsibilities, and includes a table-top exercise. The second training is designed to help volunteer supervisors better understand the Volunteer Relations process as well as provide tips and tricks on how to engage in helpful conversations that prevent challenging interactions from escalating into difficult cases.

Hannah Tarling, Disaster Services Coordinator (Santa Clara County)
Project: Starting-a-DR Job Tools for Santa Clara County — Hannah created various job tools designed to help volunteers and staff launch a Disaster Relief Operation out of the Silicon Valley Chapter. These tools include information on how to access the building after hours, vehicle maintenance, and how to create an initial staffing pattern.

Jessica Gregory, Volunteer & Youth Services Coordinator (Sonoma County)
Project: Academic Service-Learning Framework for Youth Volunteer Service — Jessica built a framework for establishing an Academic Service Learning Program with high schools or universities. This included a template MOU, onboarding tools for supervisors, and initial projects with which the volunteers could help.

Kat Vincent, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland)
Project: Internship Program — Kat created an internship request, recruitment, and placement process to ensure that our region is aligned with national Red Cross policies. She was able to recruit and place over 10 summer interns in four different offices and four different departments.

Katie Glockner, Regional Workforce Engagement Coordinator
Project: Disaster Health Services Shelter Handbook — Katie worked alongside the Divisional Health Services lead to gain input for local DHS volunteers on the new shelter protocols. This also included updating all of our regional sheltering kits with the new information as well as equipping our region’s DHS volunteers with this knowledge as they deploy out of region.

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Even though spring has passed, it’s still ‘Sound the Alarm’ season

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New Regional CEO Jennifer Adrio joined Silicon Valley Chapter CEO Ken Toren, more than 100 chapter volunteers, and partner teams at a very successful Sound the Alarm event earlier this month in San Jose. (Photo: Camilla Boolootian)
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On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the American Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 600 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

Teams throughout the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region were especially busy in April and May, organizing and holding a large number of Sound the Alarm “signature events.” These events were part of a special spring push that American Red Cross volunteers and our partners were making nationally from April 27 through May 12. The goal of this national effort was to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

But, while the spring push was successfully completed, Sound the Alarm teams in our region have continued their home visits in June and July. Here’s a brief rundown of those recent STA activities:

  • On June 20, 12 team members from the Central Coast Chapter installed 49 smoke alarms in 22 homes in Cachagua, a community located in a remote area of Carmel Valley. The work, which focused on two mobile-home communities, made 61 people safer. See photo of this event.
  • On July 20, more than 115 volunteers from the Silicon Valley Chapter and volunteer teams from our corporate and community partners installed 269 smoke alarms in 76 homes in the Eastridge Estates Community in San Jose. The effort made 309 residents safer. See story and photos of this event.
  • On July 27, 14 volunteers from the California Northwest Chapter installed 48 smoke alarms in 37 homes in the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park in Napa.
  • On July 27, teams in the Central Coast Chapter installed 184 smoke alarms in 65 homes in the city of Salinas, making 264 residents safer. See advance press release and photo from the event.

In addition to these larger Sound the Alarm events, Red Cross teams have also continued work throughout our region, installing free smoke alarms and conducting educational visits to individual homes on an appointment basis.

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RELATED INFORMATION:

•  Supporting our ‘Sound the Alarm’ home visits: This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our national partners: Airbnb, Delta, and Nissan; and our regional partners: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer, Dignity Health, Linden Root Dickinson Foundation, Camille McCormack, State Farm, John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, Karen Turner Sanford, and Veritas.

•  Thanks also to our amazing volunteers and partners, who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

•  Related stories:

•  Support our region’s STA efforts: You can still participate in and support our Home Fire Campaign efforts by going to this web page.

Santa Clara County home fire illustrates value of smoke-alarm installations

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Mo Ghandehari, left, and Gordon Sakai visited the same Gilroy home twice: once to install two smoke alarms; a second time when the same alarms were activated by a fire in the attic.
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Summoned to the scene of a house fire in Gilroy this past November, American Red Cross volunteers Mo Ghandehari and Gordon Sakai thought the residence — badly damaged — seemed eerily familiar to each of them. That’s because it was.

The two Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members for South Santa Clara County had been there before; in fact, just seven months before as installers on a Red Cross smoke-alarm installation team.

“We had installed two alarms in the very same home as part of our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign,” Ghandehari says.

In this case, the eight occupants of the home were alerted to the fire by a neighbor who, seeing smoke billowing from the attic of the Lewis Street house, had knocked loudly on the door. But if the neighbor hadn’t happen to see the smoke, the recently installed Red Cross smoke alarms — also sounding a warning — might have been the only thing separating the home’s two adults and six children from almost certain tragedy.

“The incident really underscored for us the value of our smoke-alarm installation program,” Ghandehari says.

On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 550 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

In addition to neighborhood-wide Sound the Alarm efforts, the Red Cross also works with its partners to promote appointment-based home visits. And the South Santa Clara County team, which also consists of volunteers Terrie Berry and Gilbert Dalit, has diligently scheduled and followed up on those individual home visits.

“In fact, it was an appointment that brought Gordon and me to the Lewis Street residence,” Ghandehari says. “We had announced the program at the Gilroy Senior Center, and that particular home visit resulted from our Senior Center outreach.”

Once the fire occurred at the residence, Ghandehari and Sakai offered the occupants Red Cross financial assistance to help them with short-term emergency lodging, as well as “comfort kits” containing personal hygiene items.

But it was the sound of two smoke alarms, installed just seven months earlier, that could have very easily been the most important assistance the Gilroy family received from the American Red Cross.

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For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:

  • How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
  • The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!

Read about the great work our regional Sound the Alarm teams did during a special spring push in April and May.

Regional teams continue ‘Sound the Alarm’ activities in May

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A “Sound the Alarm” event in San Jose in May resulted in 812 smoke alarms being installed in 229 homes! One of the many well-organized teams that day — comprised of Red Cross and San Jose Fire personnel — get ready for their assigned installations. (Photo by: James Cagle)
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On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the American Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 550 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of May, teams throughout the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region were especially busy organizing and holding a large number of Sound the Alarm events.

These installations included the “Signature Events” that were part of an extra Sound the Alarm (STA) push that American Red Cross volunteers and our partners were making nationally from April 27 through May 12 this spring. The goal of this national effort was to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

Here’s a rundown of the STA activities in each of our region’s four chapter areas during the month of May:

California Northwest Chapter

  • On May 11, teams installed 146 smoke alarms in 60 homes in Rohnert Park.

Bay Area Chapter

  • On May 1, teams installed 191 smoke alarms in 53 homes in Antioch (see photos).
  • On May 3, teams installed 42 smoke alarms in 20 homes in Marin County (see photos).
  • On May 5, teams installed 24 smoke alarms in 13 homes in San Mateo.
  • On May 11, teams installed 201 smoke alarms in 81 homes in Vallejo (see photos).
  • On May 11, teams installed 243 smoke alarms in 115 homes in San Mateo (see photos).
  • On May 11, teams installed 123 smoke alarms in 30 homes in Oakland (see photos).
  • On May 11, teams installed 66 smoke alarms in 18 homes in San Francisco (see photos).
  • On various dates in May, teams installed 56 smoke alarms in 19 homes at various locations in Alameda County (see photos of May 4 installation in Richmond).

Central Coast Chapter

  • On May 19, teams installed 60 alarms in 22 homes in Santa Cruz.

Silicon Valley Chapter

  • On May 4, teams installed 812 smoke alarms in 229 homes in San Jose (see photos).

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RELATED INFORMATION:

•  Supporting our ‘Sound the Alarm’ home visits: This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our national partners: Airbnb, Delta, and Nissan; and our regional partners: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer, Dignity Health, Linden Root Dickinson Foundation, Camille McCormack, State Farm, John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, Karen Turner Sanford, and Veritas.

•  Thanks also to our amazing volunteers and partners, who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

•  Related stories:

•  Support our region’s STA efforts: You can still participate in and support our Home Fire Campaign efforts by going to this web page.

Red Cross workers see — firsthand — the value of the Home Fire Campaign

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Helen Cosentino, right, and Kelly Donnelly-May are thanked by John Hulliger, one of the responding members of the Hollister Fire Department. Hulliger, himself, has assisted with many of the Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” events in that community.

Two Red Cross workers, preparing for a recent “Sound the Alarm” event in the city of Hollister, saw first-hand why the organization’s campaign to reduce home-fire injuries and deaths is so important.

“We were in a particular neighborhood, going door to door to let residents know of our upcoming smoke-alarm installation event there,” says Helen Cosentino, the Disaster Program Specialist for the Central Coast Chapter. “But as we approached one home, we heard what sounded like a smoke alarm that was already going off. My volunteer partner ran to the front door, pounded on it, and screamed for the residents to get out.”

Having been alerted to a kitchen fire by their smoke alarm — and by Red Cross volunteer Kelly Donnelly-May — a man and woman quickly emerged; Cosentino, meanwhile, wasted no time dialing 9-1-1 on her cell phone. Within minutes, the Hollister Fire Department was on the scene, ensuring that the home was vacant and that the fire — which was confined to the stove area — was extinguished.

For Cosentino, the incident on April 16 illustrated perfectly why the American Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign almost five years ago:

  • Home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States.
  • And having working smoke alarms inside homes can — and does — reduce those tragic numbers.

In fact, it is believed that the campaign’s Sound the Alarm home visits — in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, install free smoke alarms for residents that need them — have already saved more than 550 lives since the national campaign began!

“Having smoke alarms just in that one home on that one day may have prevented a tragedy,” Cosentino says.

Since the Home Fire Campaign began, volunteer teams across the country have installed more than 1.6 million smoke alarms in homes that need them. In just Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties alone, volunteers and partners working out of the Central Coast Chapter installed more than 1,500 free smoke alarms during “Sound the Alarm” home visits in 2018.

But the Red Cross wants to do more, and during a three-weekend push this spring (April 27-May 12), the organization has set a goal of installing an additional 100,000 smoke alarms.

In fact, the Sound the Alarm event that Cosentino and “Kelly May” had been preparing for that afternoon in Hollister was part of that spring push. And on Saturday, April 27, 28 volunteers from the local chapter and Hollister Fire Department installed 130 alarms in 55 homes, making 170 residents safer in that city and in nearby Tres Pinos.

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For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:

  • How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
  • The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!

Read about the great work our regional Sound the Alarm teams did in just April alone.

Red Cross ‘boot camp’ will introduce attendees to International Services

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The presenters at the first boot camp hosted by International Services gathered outside the Carmel Office in March. Pictured are (l-r) Simone Cesa de Melo, Laura Fullem-Chavis, Mo Ghandehari, Jill Hofmann, and Go Funai.

The International Services Team of the American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region is hosting a “boot camp” in San Francisco in June that is designed to inform attendees about the program’s many activities — and prepare them to help.

The workshop, the second the group has hosted in recent months, will take place on June 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Red Cross office at 1663 Market Street. More than two dozen people squeezed into the first boot camp at the Red Cross office in Carmel on March 9.

Sessions planned for that day will introduce attendees to:

“The International Services Boot Camp is a way to complete trainings and workshops in our key activity areas, all in one day,” says Go Funai, Director of International Services in the region. “It’s also an opportunity to meet some of the most interesting, intelligent, and caring people around.”

The workshop is designed for current Red Cross volunteers and employees. Interested people should send email in advance to Go Funai.

Jill Hofmann, an International Services volunteer, says organizers are asking attendees to participate in a potluck lunch. “We’re hoping that they can bring a food dish to share that represents their family heritage.”

If people have questions about the workshop, they may also send email to Danielle Halprin or Jill Hofmann (or phone Jill at 831-566-8841).

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