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Assistance League of San Jose Donates 50 Hug-A-Bears to American Red Cross

Back Row (Left to Right): Mary Ann Reilly, Red Cross Volunteer (RCV);  Jane Earle, Assistance League (AL): Liz Dietz, RCV; Stephanie Wilde, Red Cross; Michael Nealon, RCV;
Male, left side next to Mary Ann is Shayan Shafikhani (San Jose State Nursing Student – SJSU) | Front Row (Left to Right)
An Huynh (SJSU), Anmol Sandher (SJSU), Monica Bacon-Proctor (AL): Ellen Brooks (AL), Terry Hicks (AL) Nikki Rowe (RC) and Ken Toren (RC)
Front next to boxes Ariane Dacanay (SJSU)

The American Red Cross is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of 50 Hug-a-Bears from the Assistance League of San Jose.

Assistance League of San Jose is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization whose members have had a passion for supporting vital community services since 1983. Their philanthropic programs are designed to serve unmet needs in the community. The Hug-a-Bear program was established in 1983 to provide teddy bears to children in their time of need.

Liz Dietz, 40 year Red Cross volunteer and Silicon Valley Board of Directors member is also a member of the Assistance League of San Jose and recognized how the teddy bears could comfort children who are impacted by disasters.

The bears will be given to children in need of support when the Red Cross responds to disasters. The Red Cross responds to a variety of disasters ranging from Single Family Fires to Wildfires to Earthquakes and floods. The bears will provide comfort to those children in need. The bears will also be provided to military families through the Red Cross Service To Armed Forces (SAF) and in other settings where these comforting toys are appropriate.

Liz worked with Terry Hicks, VP of Philanthropic Services of the Assistance League to coordinate the welcome donation of 50 bears. The bears were presented to the Silicon Valley Chapter on December 6 by Ellen Brooks (Hug-a-Bear Lady), Terry Hicks, Monica Bacon-Proctor, and Jane Earle of the San Jose Assistance League. Accepting on behalf of the Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter were Ken Toren, Nikki Rowe, Liz Dietz, Mike Nealon and Stephanie Wilde. The presentation was also attended by San Jose State Nursing Students An Huynh, Shayan Shafikhani, Anmol Sandher and Ariane Dacanay who are completing their Public Health Nursing rotation at the Silicon Valley Chapter.

About the author: Larry Dietz is a Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army Reserve, as well as a dedicated Red Cross public affairs volunteer in the Silicon Valley Chapter.

“I’m here to help, and I care.”

Margot Simpson, Alameda County Volunteer of the Year

By Marcia Antipa

Margot during the Lake County fires of 2015

Margot Simpson has responded to hundreds of house and apartment fires in more than a dozen years as a Red Cross volunteer. One of those Disaster Action Team (DAT) calls happened on a summer day at a 12-unit apartment building in Oakland.

“The residents were all standing outside; they were not all friendly with each other, so it was kind of a tense situation.”

Margot acted quickly, rallying her Red Cross trainees to gather information and hand out comfort kits filled with toiletries.

“It got interesting because two of the residents almost came to blows arguing out in front of the building. I had to step up to them and say ‘Look, we’ll leave and nobody gets help if you two don’t stop.’ So they did.”

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A nurse, a red cooler and paying it forward

Joseph Padilla and his wife, Susan.

Joseph Padilla proudly works for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in San Joaquin. There they store and supply everything for all five branches of the military: parts, gear, food, etc. Joseph relishes the ability to serve his community through work, a value instilled in him by his parents. He also counts himself lucky to be alive following a dreadful car accident in 2015.

Three years after the accident left Joseph fighting for his life, he received an alert at work for a blood drive with the American Red Cross. What he recalled from the ER on that terrible night flashed back, and he could see yet another way for him to help.

“I remember when I was rushed to the ER that a lot was going on,” Joseph said. “I had never had anything major before. Unfortunately, I was awake the whole time. I was so cold.”

Because of a storm, medics could not airlift Joseph to Stanford Hospital, so he had to be driven. As they wheeled him into an ambulance, Joseph remembers a bright red cooler sitting on his gurney. He says, “One of the guys shouted, ‘We’re not authorized to send this blood with him.’ But then a woman shouted back, ‘He needs this blood, or he won’t survive.’ It was the moment I realized how bad it was.”

“That memory sticks with me,” says Joseph. “Man, I wouldn’t be here without those donations, and if that one nurse hadn’t sent the blood with me. That act of kindness saved my life, so I’m paying it forward.”

And he did.

Joseph attended the drive at work in 2018 and has been donating blood ever since. He’s even a Power Red donor. A Power Red is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow you to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning your plasma and platelets to you.

“Knowing that I’m helping save someone’s life is all the motivation I need,” Joseph says. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that you are helping people. I wish I could give more!”

Volunteer lifts morale of all around her

Deborah Torres knew she wanted to volunteer for the Red Cross even before she retired from San Mateo County, where she ended a long career in social services and public mental health in 2013. Not long before her retirement, Torres found herself partnering with the Red Cross after two large fires destroyed two apartment buildings in Redwood City. The Red Cross had opened a shelter at the armory near Red Morton Park for people displaced by the fires and was helping them figure out their paths to recovery. “I got to see [the Red Cross] in action,” Torres said.

“I told myself when I started working with Red Cross, that when I retire that’s what I’m going to do,” she said.

Just three months after her September 2013 retirement, Torres became a Red Cross volunteer.

And this year, Torres was named the Red Cross Volunteer of the Year for San Mateo County.

“I was totally surprised [to receive the award],” Torres said. However, her fellow volunteers were not surprised. Torres’s background in social services and mental health and as a bilingual Latina with decades of experience working in the county make her invaluable.

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Red Cross responds as atmospheric river impacts California

This information was last updated on Monday October 25, at 11 a.m

In response to evacuation orders in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, and flooding and potential debris flow across the region, regional Red Cross teams mobilized over the weekend to support those in need.

The Red Cross assisted county and local officials to support evacuation centers and overnight emergency shelters in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. All evacuation centers and shelters in both counties have now closed.

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Blood donors gave her the chance to go home

On July 9, 2020, Jennifer Sahni of Fremont, Calif., gave birth to her baby girl, Millie. Millie arrived into the world via an unscheduled c-section, something Jennifer tried to avoid, but “there you go.”

After delivery, Jennifer’s cesarean incision would not stop bleeding. She received two units of blood, which stabilized her. Two days later, she had to receive a second transfusion with an additional two units of blood. She was able to go home the next day.

“I was a little nervous – not to receive the blood – but because I needed it,” Jennifer said. “I figured I was just tired because I had a baby. But it was a relief to know that the solution was so easy and readily available.”

One year later – in July 2021 – Jennifer gave the gift of life in a new way. She donated blood.

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