Category Archives: Homepage posts – featured

Help now: Type O blood shortage

May 2019_Type O Shortage_blog graphic

Spring is a busy time of year for many people, but the need for blood and platelets doesn’t let up. Last month, more than 11,500 fewer donations were collected than needed as spring break schedules and end of the school year activities contributed to a low turnout of blood donors. As a result, the American Red Cross has a critical shortage of type O blood and urges type O donors to give now to ensure blood is available for patients in need of lifesaving treatments or facing traumas.

Right now, the Red Cross has less than a two-day supply of type O blood available for emergency rooms – where it can be most critical. Type O donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than they are coming in. Type O blood is the most needed blood group by hospitals but is often in short supply.

All eligible donors – especially type O donors – are urged to roll up a sleeve as soon as possible. In thanks for helping meet patient needs, those who come to donate blood or platelets with the Red Cross May 1-June 10 will receive a $5 Gift Card via email. (Restrictions apply, see Additional information and details are available at

Don’t wait – help now!

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting our website or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
  2. Let your friends and family know there is a type O #BloodShortage and ask them to give now.
  3. Bring someone to donate with you.

Every day, volunteer blood and platelet donors across the country are needed to help save lives. Your support can help ensure that blood products are there for accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

Make an appointment to give now.

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


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.


For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: 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


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).

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.