Author Archives: Jim Burns

Celebrating our amazing volunteers!

National Volunteer Week is celebrated each April; so we thought we’d give another salute to the (amazing) volunteers honored in our region in 2018

California Wildfires 2018

Volunteers, like the many who cared for and comforted so many people during last fall’s wildfires in Northern California, are an essential part of all lines of service in the American Red Cross. (Photo: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross)

National Volunteer Week this year takes place from April 7 to 13 and serves as an important reminder within the American Red Cross about the critical role that volunteers play in everything we do.

Each spring also means that a new round of Volunteer Recognition Events is getting underway in our region, giving each of the local operations a special opportunity to acknowledge (and celebrate) the tremendous work done by volunteers in each one of the counties we serve.

It’s in that spirit that we thought we’d take a moment to thank — one more time — the many volunteers we honored at our 2018 Volunteer Recognition Events:

Alameda/Contra Costa Counties Event

Central Coast Chapter Event

Humboldt and Del Norte Counties Event

Marin County Event

San Francisco Event

San Mateo County Event

Silicon Valley Chapter Event

Solano County Event

Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino Counties Events

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2019 Volunteer Recognition Events: Some of this year’s volunteer recognition events in our region have already taken place; most have not yet. That means there’s still time to go to this page in Volunteer Connection and register to attend an upcoming event that is still accepting registrations.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the total Red Cross workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Get started by going to this web page.

Regional teams continue to ‘Sound the Alarm’ during the month of March

sta_420x279On 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 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 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of March, eight more Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region. Here is a brief summary of each of these local activities:

  • In Vallejo on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 36 alarms in 19 homes. (See the photo album for this activity.)
  • In Rohnert Park on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 80 alarms in 28 homes. (See the photo album for this activity.)
  • In San Francisco on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 100 alarms in 21 homes. In all, the work made 52 people safer. For the home visits in the Outer Sunset neighborhood that day, the Red Cross partnered with Holy Name Church and the San Francisco Fire Department. 
  • In San Jose on Saturday, March 23, 49 volunteers installed 251 alarms in 87 homes. In all, the work made 163 people safer. For the home visits that day, the Red Cross teams partnered with Beautiful Day and the San Jose Fire Department.
  • In Oakland on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 214 alarms in 54 homes. In all, the work made 197 people safer. The Oakland Fire Department was a key partner in this work.
  • In Watsonville on Saturday, March 30, more than 40 volunteers installed 162 alarms in 52 homes. In all, the work made 228 people safer. The eight Red Cross teams were also supported by volunteers from the Watsonville Fire Department, Watsonville Fire Cadets, and Watsonville Police Cadets. Watsonville Fire Chief Rudy Lopez greeted the teams and shared his heartfelt appreciation for their live-saving service. Central Coast Board Chair, Rayvon Williams, also participated in his first Sound the Alarm event.
  • In Willits on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 59 alarms in 20 homes. The Red Cross partnered with NCO (North Coast Opportunities) and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) teams to make these home visits.
  • In San Francisco on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 41 alarms in 9 homes, making 19 people safer. Volunteers also gathered 18 sign-ups for future appointments.

From April 27 through May 12 this spring, volunteers and partners in communities throughout the country will be making an extra push to make in-home Sound the Alarm visits. The goal of this national effort will be to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

A number of these spring events are scheduled to take place in our region, and organizers are still in need of volunteer support. For information about how you can volunteer at these events, please see this press release.

For more information about the overall impact of the Home Fire Campaign in our region — and to sign-up to help at an installation event near you, you may also go to this web page. (This page also contains information about our generous regional and national Sound the Alarm partners.)

Thank you to all who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

‘Sound the Alarm’ teams make an impact in February; gearing up for spring push

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With the help of the Red Cross’s Katareina Vincent, Christian (left) and Carlos Chavez create an escape plan during a February “Sound the Alarm” visit to their home in Oakland. (Photo: Cate Calson)

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 events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free 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 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of February, four more Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region alone. Here is a brief summary of each of these local activities:

• In Novato on Saturday, February 9, seven teams of Marin County Red Cross volunteers made 53 homes at a mobile home park safer. In all, the teams — joined by partners from Solano and the local Salvation Army — installed nearly 80 smoke alarms.

• In San Jose on Saturday, February 16, more than 50 volunteers made 53 homes and 243 residents safer in the Sunshadow Mobile Home Park. In all, 216 free smoke alarms were installed in the residents’ homes. The Silicon Valley Chapter’s regular partner in local smoke-alarm installations, the San Jose Fire Department, was also on hand to help that Saturday. Fire Chief Robert Sapien and department PIO Mitch Matlow were there, as were 2 fire engines and 1 ladder unit. In addition to Red Cross volunteers taking part in the activity, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation provided six volunteers who supported the home visits. Breakfast was donated by Chick-fil-A, and coffee was provided by Lee’s Sandwiches, which also supplied lunch at reduced prices. (See the photo album for this activity.)

• In Alameda County on Saturday, February 16, Red Cross volunteers conducted home visits in Oakland (Fruitvale community) and in Spanish-speaking communities in various areas of Alameda County, installing free smoke alarms and educating residents about home fires. They visited 40 homes, installed 117 alarms, and made 188 residents safer. (See the photo album for this activity.)

In the town of Gonzales on Saturday, February 23, 8 teams of volunteers visited 51 homes, installing 136 smoke alarms. Supported by the Gonzales Fire Department and Seaside High School National Honors Club students, the volunteers also replaced batteries in existing alarms and helped develop safety plans for each home’s occupant(s). In all, the effort made a total of 187 residents safer in this Monterey County community. (See the team photo for this activity.)

In the community of McKinleyville on Saturday, February 23, Red Cross volunteers and partners visited 14 homes and installed a total of 34 smoke alarms. That day, 7 Red Cross volunteers were assisted by 8 members of the California Conservation Corps from Fortuna. In all, the installations made 35 residents safer in this Humboldt County community. (See the photo album for this activity.)

From April 27 through May 12 this spring, volunteers and partners in communities throughout the country will be making an extra push to make in-home Sound the Alarm visits. The goal of this national effort will be to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

A number of these spring events are scheduled to take place in our region, and organizers are still in need of volunteer support. For information about how you can volunteer at these events, please see this press release.

For more information about the overall impact of the Home Fire Campaign in our region, please go to this web page.

Thank you to all who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

Giving people purpose in times of catastrophe

By Andrea Mendoza

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Ann Eichhorn is shown with her husband Bill at a Red Cross shelter in Santa Rosa in 2017. (Photo: Virginia Becker)

“The mission of the Red Cross, its reputation, and its non-biased position to help whoever needs help is what originally inspired me to volunteer,” says Ann Eichhorn, who was recognized with a Volunteer of the Year Award this past May during the annual recognition event for Marin County volunteers.

Ann’s volunteer experience with the Red Cross officially began in the early 1970s as a young adult. Back then, she might not have imagined becoming the organization’s Marin County Disaster Chair, a position she has held for the past two and one-half years. In between, her experience as an emergency room nurse and an ordained minister has also come in handy when nurturing clients during disaster responses.

Her current Disaster Chair position allows Ann to coordinate volunteers and manage the organizational goals and objectives. “I find that this is something that I like to do,” says Ann. “I love working with the volunteers and the folks who find themselves in difficulty to help bring both safety and relief to their situations when they need it.”

The recent fires in Northern California led to an increase in volunteers, people who stepped up and made themselves available to help those affected. According to Ann, volunteers have almost tripled in number, and one of her challenges is to make sure that volunteers with special skill sets get placed in the right spot where they can be engaged and comfortably give the best of themselves.

“My job is to give people a purpose and to help them find their place where they can serve with the time they have available, as well as helping people see beyond a catastrophe to see what needs to be done and how we can help,” says Ann.

In working with the Red Cross, Ann has not only helped in giving volunteers a purpose within the organization but has also directly helped those who have sought aid and comfort. One of her most memorable experiences was an 11-day deployment to the Santa Rosa Veterans Center when it became a needs shelter for over 300 people. “It was a very intense 11 days,” remembers Ann. “There were lots of good lessons learned, and we all made it out alive,” she says jokingly.

Like other volunteer leaders who exhibit endless dedication in service of others, Ann was not expecting to be honored last spring for doing what she loves. “There have been a lot of great volunteers before me, and there’s a lot of people who do a lot more than I do with the Red Cross too,” she says, reflecting on the Volunteer of the Year Award. “I was both humbled and honored.”

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About the author: Andrea Mendoza is interning with the American Red Cross in the Santa Rosa office.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference in the San Francisco Bay Area by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the total Red Cross workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Email arcbav@redcross.org to get started.

 

 

Doing what you can, when you can

By Andrea Mendoza

bob-elaine_420x279With Red Cross experience that spans more than 26 years, volunteers Robert and Elaine Florkowski are no strangers to disaster response. While their endless contributions to the Red Cross, dating to the early 1990s, have always been appreciated, the spotlight on the Benicia couple was especially bright at the most recent recognition dinner for Solano County volunteers. At the 2018 annual event, they were awarded the Clara Barton Award, recognizing their many years of volunteer leadership.

For Robert, it was an earthquake in South California that led him to a nearby Red Cross office to learn more about what to do in a future disaster. He decided then and there to volunteer and help others be better prepared in case another earthquake hit. “I liked putting together and teaching classes, as well as preparing the monthly meetings,” says Robert.

Throughout his many years as a shelter manager for the Red Cross, Robert has also deployed to other states to assist in emergency situations. Over the years, he figures he has volunteered at more than a dozen disasters, including a deployment to help with the September 11 attacks in New York. Noting how simple yet personally rewarding Red Cross service can be, Robert remembers a particular deployment in which he served as a shelter manager in Mississippi during a bad flood. “I got to go to all of the flooded areas and directly helped the people affected,” he recalls.

During her own years of Red Cross work, Elaine has put her nursing background to good use, serving as a Health Service Lead in Solano County. She was inspired by what the Red Cross could do and by the number of people she could help through the organization. “I did enjoy it when I was a Registered Nurse,” says Elaine. “I was one who took care of a lot of clients, too, and those have been memorable experiences to me.”

In addition to her assistance in the medical field, Elaine has also worked with client services — which she describes as a lot of fun — and supported the Service to the Armed Forces program at the Travis Air Force Base.

“It’s nice getting to receive an award that acknowledges the time and effort you put in to help patients and clients,” says Elaine, speaking modestly of the Clara Barton Award. Robert adds that he was completely surprised to learn about the recognition. “I didn’t think what I did was a big deal,” he says. “You just do what you can and when you can.”

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About the author: Andrea Mendoza is interning with the American Red Cross in the Santa Rosa office.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference in the San Francisco Bay Area by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the total Red Cross workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Email arcbav@redcross.org to get started.

Volunteer teams continue ‘Sound the Alarm’ activities in San Jose, Alameda County

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With the help of the Red Cross’s Katareina Vincent, Christian (left) and Carlos Chavez create an escape plan during a “Sound the Alarm” visit to their home in Oakland. (Photo: Cate Calson)

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” events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free 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 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

On Saturday, February 16, two more “Sound the Alarm” events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region. One of the organized events took place in the city of San Jose; another was held in various locations in Alameda County.

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San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien and the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Terry Unter brief volunteers prior to the installation activities. (Photo: Oleksii Nazaruk)

•  In San Jose, more than 50 volunteers made 53 homes and 243 residents safer in the Sunshadow Mobile Home Park. In all, 216 free smoke alarms were installed in the residents’ homes. The Silicon Valley Chapter’s regular partner in local smoke-alarm installations, the San Jose Fire Department, was also on hand to help on Saturday. Fire Chief Robert Sapien and department PIO Mitch Matlow there, as were 2 fire engines and 1 ladder unit. In addition to Red Cross volunteers taking part in the activity, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation provided six volunteers who supported the home visits. Breakfast was donated by Chick-fil-A, and coffee was provided by Lee’s Sandwiches, which also supplied lunch at reduced prices. (See the photo album for this activity.)

•  In Alameda County, Red Cross volunteers were out in Oakland (Fruitvale community) and in Spanish-speaking communities throughout Alameda County, installing free smoke alarms and educating residents about home fires. They visited 40 homes, installed 117 alarms, and made 188 residents safer. (See the photo album for this activity.)

From April 27 through May 12 this spring, volunteers and partners will be making an extra push to make in-home visits in communities throughout the country. The goal of this national effort will be to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

For more information about the Home Fire Campaign in our region, please go to this web page.

Her son’s heroism reintroduced this dedicated board member to the Red Cross

chris-carlton_420x279Chris Carlton’s work for the American Red Cross is plenty heroic: She has served tirelessly on the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Board of Directors for seven years, including two years as board president; she is currently serving as chair of the board’s Development Committee; she has generously supported the Red Cross with financial donations, qualifying her to be a Tiffany Circle member; she has served on the Tiffany Circle Council; and several years ago she even helped draft Culture Initiative values for the Pacific Division.

With that kind of a Red Cross portfolio, it’s easy to see why Chris was selected to receive the chapter’s Clara Barton Award for 2018. The award, named after the founder of the Red Cross, recognizes a volunteer for service in a series of leadership positions held over a number of years; it was given to Chris at the chapter’s Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos last spring.

While Chris is proud of her Red Cross efforts, she is the first one to say that her devotion and dedication to the organization stems from the actions of the real hero of this story: her son, Evan.

Evan’s heroism occurred nearly 10 years ago, as he and a girlfriend were returning home from a San Jose Shark’s game. Waiting for a train at the nearby Diridon Station, the couple struck up a conversation with a man and his grandson. “My son turned away for a minute, and when he turned back, the man was on the ground,” Chris says. “The gentleman was turning purple.”

Without hesitation, Evan asked anyone within earshot if they knew CPR; no one responded. “So he just took it upon himself to attempt to revive the man,” Chris says. “Evan started doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and another person nearby subsequently joined him to start chest compressions.”

When the paramedics arrived, they attempted multiple times to restart the man’s heart with a defibrillator. Eventually, they took the victim away in an ambulance.

Evan returned home that fateful night, believing that the man he had tried to save had not made it. “He was pretty depressed about it,” Chris recalls.

Then, some two months after the incident, the family spotted an article in the San Jose Mercury News. In the column, the writer was relaying a message from a reader who was recovering from a heart attack suffered at the train station after a Sharks game. The survivor was looking for a young man he had been speaking to — and who had led the effort to save him that night. He was looking for Evan so he could thank him.

Evan’s family responded on his behalf, and shortly after that, the man (“Paul”) and Evan met. Following their exchange, Paul decided to nominate Evan for a Red Cross Award. Not surprisingly, the nomination was well received by the local chapter, and in 2010, Evan received a Good Samaritan Hero Award. (See this video featuring Evan and Paul.)

Paul was fortunate that night: Evan had worked as a lifeguard for several years, so he was skilled in CPR; and the person who assisted Evan was studying to be an EMT. “It was the two boys, basically, who worked hard to save the man’s life,” Chris says.

Her son’s lifesaving efforts did more than fill Chris and her husband with justifiable pride: The incident spurred them to both get recertified in first aid and CPR themselves. Their Red Cross training put them in touch with chapter personnel, and eventually Chris was asked to join the local Board of Directors.

“Many years ago, I had taken a first aid training class from the Red Cross,” Chris says. “I also taught a first-aid class for a while, but then my career [in high-tech in Silicon Valley] got very busy so I just had to drop it.”

But, since reconnecting with the Red Cross, Chris Carlton has more than made up for her gap in service. While her volunteer work can be time-consuming, it comes with real benefits, says the former HR executive.

“I get to work with people who are on a humanitarian mission,” Chris says. “They are down to earth, put other people first, and are willing to do whatever it takes to help others.”

In other words, she gets to work with people like her own son, Evan.

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