Category Archives: COVID-19 Pandemic (2020)

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.

The day began at 8 a.m. in Hollister with volunteers filling and loading grocery bags into vehicles destined for a second distribution site in San Juan Bautista, along with bags for the Hollister site. Each family would receive three bags totaling approximately 20 pounds of food: one containing the local Food Bank’s standard emergency rations (rice, beans, and several canned items); a second bag with more canned goods, cereal, and bread; and a third bag filled with fresh produce. Families with children also received an activity pack.

At 9 a.m. on the dot, the site opened for business. Residents were checked in by volunteers from the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints church, and the cars lined up to receive their grocery bags. As more families arrived, the team’s hands were full tending to a constant stream of vehicles.

Red Cross volunteers — no strangers to adapting on the fly — each took on a role to keep things moving. Bags flowed efficiently out of the building to the team’s staging area and into waiting cars. The team settled into a rhythm as residents continued to arrive. It was a long busy day; but by the end, 700 families had been served.

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Helen Cosentino, Disaster Program Manager for San Benito County, ensured that her team was able to help families in need and follow COVID-19 safety protocols.
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Disaster Program Manager Helen Cosentino, along with the other Red Cross volunteers, made note of the tactics that worked well, and how they can make future distribution events even better. As long as the need for community assistance continues, the team will continue to support this site.

“It was a sweaty day for everybody,” said Helen. “But very rewarding. Even with the addition of COVID-19 safety precautions, we overcame the challenges and implemented safety protocols to work efficiently and safely. We’re here to help our community, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

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  • More help is needed: Red Cross support is now needed to bring our work of hope and caring to those who are struggling to find enough food for themselves and their families during this pandemic. Red Cross volunteers can sign up for shifts in Volunteer Connection on this page or can navigate to My Shifts > Disaster Relief Operation – Volunteer Shifts within that system. Thank you!
  • To see more regional stories and other content related to the Red Cross response to the coronavirus pandemic, please see this blog post.

Project Roomkey – Red Cross leads the way to help most vulnerable fight COVID-19

By Debbi Behrman

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Marianna Thomas
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In March, Marianna Thomas of the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region, received a call from Luke Beckman, Division Disaster State Relations Director for California. Luke needed someone with Mass Care expertise to develop hotel shelter training for state and local government partners to better manage isolation and quarantine for people experiencing homelessness. The non-congregate shelter sites, which are part of California’s Project Roomkey, include hotels, motels, and trailers. California was the first in the nation to receive FEMA funding to secure thousands of isolation rooms in hotels for our most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness with the intention to protect them from COVID.

Marianna is the Mass Care Co-lead (along with Laura Hovden) for the Northern California Coastal Region, as well as the lead for the National Mass Care Webinars, and the perfect choice. “My first reaction,” Marianna recounts, “was our expertise is with helping people in disasters, not helping people experiencing homelessness and putting them in hotels.”  American Red Cross is known for congregate sheltering (like in a high school gymnasium-style shelter), not non-congregate (one person per room) sheltering. Then she realized that the Red Cross is an expert in developing and delivering training and knows more about sheltering than just about any other organization. That’s how she came to lead the team who developed the non-congregate shelter training for partners.

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Our region’s International Services classes and discussions are now offered online

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To see more regional stories and other content related to the Red Cross response to the coronavirus pandemic, please see this blog post.
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Like many other American Red Cross activities, the classes and discussion groups that have been hosted in our region by our International Services program are a service that has been re-engineered because of COVID-19 social-distancing requirements.

“When it became clear that this pandemic would be with us for a while, we started to rethink the way we were making our classes and other educational opportunities available,” says Go Funai, Director of the Service to the Armed Forces and International Services programs for the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR).

So, beginning late last month, with an introductory course that is part of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) series, Funai’s International Services (IS) team has begun to deliver its educational offerings virtually. Read more

COVID-19: Regional stories, messages, and other related content

covid-19-site_420x279Updated June 2, 2020 — This post was created to provide an index of Northern California Coastal Region stories, local messages, and other resources that shed light on how the American Red Cross is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The content includes information on important work that is continuing, engagement opportunities, and (most importantly) tips on staying safe. Read more

Northern California Coastal Region supports vets with comfort kits

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SAF Director Go Funai, Kathleen Lenihan, Marilyn Byington, Leeann Woodward, and Julianna Jaynes deliver comfort kits to the San Francisco VA Medical Center.  Photo: Nanette Shamieh | American Red Cross
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The Covid-19 pandemic has hampered more than a few activities, but it has also spawned a number of opportunities. For example, shelter in place orders forced the canceling of several stand downs. A stand down is an event hosted for veterans where they can avail themselves of a variety of resources in one place. Resources include medical and dental treatment as well as haircuts in a safe and secure temporary environment.

Each veteran attending receives a comfort kit. These kits typically include a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, shaving cream, razor, shampoo, etc. According to Kathleen Lenihan, a retired Army Officer and Service to Armed Forces volunteer, “Walmart and other generous partners donate money, goods or make the kits.”

And with the cancellation of stand downs, a number of kits that were going unused.

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Red Cross adapts disaster response protocols amid COVID-19

A three-alarm fire raged through an 11-unit Millbrae apartment building on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 27. Nearly 60 residents (37 adults, 19 children) were forced to evacuate as fire departments from Millbrae and San Mateo County battled a blaze that ultimately rendered the building a total loss.

Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene wearing masks and gloves and maintained social distancing during the response. They had also undergone health screening prior to responding, one of several steps the Red Cross has undertaken to keep both its workforce and clients safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more

Project Mask is ‘sew’ appreciated

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Red Cross Volunteer Susanne Newswanger sews face masks to help keep DAT responders – and their clients – safe and healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Red Crossers know how to pivot in disaster. Since the dawn of the Covid-19 crisis, the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) has done just that – now most calls are answered virtually.

But when a DAT member mobilizes to answer a call in person, these days, they must wear a mask. So when members of the DAT team sent out a call for masks, other members of the Red Cross team responded in kind – this time with needle and thread. Thus, Project Mask was born with the following call to action: ‘”Sew” the Disaster Action Team how much they are appreciated.’

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