Tag Archives: Bay Area

Contra Costa Smoke Alarm Lead Wins Top Award

Marcie Wright-Powell-420x279by Marcia Antipa

Marcie Wright-Powell considers herself an unlikely hero. As with many Red Cross volunteers, Marcie shuns the spotlight. She says, “I really don’t do anything special and certainly a lot less than other volunteers.”

But Marcie could not avoid the accolades this spring, as she was named the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for the American Red Cross of Contra Costa County.

Those who nominated Marcie for this award noted that she is one of those volunteers who does it all: “…being deployed to local disasters, working in shelters, volunteering at the Red Cross Galas, delivering food to our Red Cross shelters, working on our volunteer events committee, and along with everything else she has done, with a can-do attitude, excellent leadership skills, and a true volunteer spirit.”

Now, Marcie is the lead for scheduling all volunteers in the “Sound the Alarm” smoke detector campaign. Marcie’s journey to that role started five years ago. After working as an office manager for 30 years, she joined her husband, Don, in volunteering for the Red Cross. “It’s a challenge, another thing we can do together.”

Their first assignment as a team was with Volunteer and Youth Services, working with high school Red Cross Clubs. “They were very impressive and had all their fundraising plans together.”

Marcie’s next big step was into Disaster Deployment. She worked 12-hour shifts at shelters during several fires in Contra Costa County. She checked fire survivors into the shelter, served food, and found a way to deliver food to another shelter that was cut off by the fire.

During a fire in Clayton, Marcie worked at a shelter at the local library. “One guy came in filthy dirty from work and asked ‘do you guys just have a clean t-shirt I can wear?’” The volunteers found him one. “His son was just thrilled to have pizza and soda and asked if he could read a book from the library.” Marcie said this work gave her a new perspective, that “just having a toothbrush, food, and water” can make a huge difference to a fire survivor.

Marcie also heaps praise on other volunteers, and even the survivors themselves. She noted that the Red Cross partners with Animal Services to help care for pets affected by the fire. “I was really impressed. They bring crates, food, water, leashes, collars. One lady evacuated without her cat. Her neighbor just ran into her house, grabbed her cat, threw it into his car, and brought it to the shelter.”

But Marcie felt she could put her office management skills to better use for the Red Cross. Now she marshals her own army of volunteers, contributing hundreds of hours to the “Sound the Alarm” campaign. She schedules volunteers to install smoke alarms free of charge in clients’ homes and to provide education on fire safety and preparedness.

Marcie has recruited teams of Sound the Alarm volunteers, often husbands and wives, or groups of friends. “My only request is – come up with someone you can work with. Four guys who are in Kiwanis set up their own team and give me four hours a month. They can get five homes done in a day.”

Marcie says people are grateful for the help. She remembers a single mother who had been scared about a fire breaking out in the middle of the night. The team took the time to go over fire safety with her children. “I get emails from people saying, ‘Thank you. Your crew was so professional.’”

And there is a lighter side to her work. Marcie once called an 85-year-old woman to schedule an appointment for the smoke alarm team. “She was pretty much homebound, and very talkative. She said, ‘Now I just have one question for you. I need a man, but he has to drive and he can’t wear a diaper!’”

What will Marcie take on next with the Red Cross? She has an idea she’d like to promote to help volunteers stay engaged. Along with the more formal meetings at Red Cross offices, she asks, “Can we just meet somewhere in a non-business way, and have a cup of coffee with a few people? That’s where ideas come from; not by meeting, but by actually talking.”

With her “true volunteer spirit,” Marcie just might make that happen!

Marcia Antipa is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Discovering an Unlikely Passion

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Pamela Ingram accepts her award from Debbie Yee, Senior Disaster Program Manager.

Like many empty nesters, Pamela Ingram, 58, was at a crossroads a few years ago when her son left home to attend college.

A former stay-at-home mom and mortgage underwriter, Pamela wanted to re-enter the workforce. So she joined a job skills training program and was assigned to a front desk position at the Red Cross in Fairfield, Calif.

“I really didn’t know much about the Red Cross when I started,” recalls Pamela, whose responsibilities included answering the phones and providing basic office support. “I just thought the Red Cross responded to national emergencies.”

But the more time Pamela spent volunteering, the more interested she became in local humanitarian work. “I would hear what the volunteers were doing and how they were helping people, and it really fascinated me,” says Pamela. Little by little, she decided to get more involved.

With encouragement from a co-worker, Pamela completed training to become a Red Cross caseworker and joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT). 

Her first deployment was to Guerneville, Calif. where she spent three days interviewing flood victims. “It was cold, it was rainy, and we didn’t have a building to work out of, but it was gratifying to be able to help people who had lost everything,” she says.

During the recent California wildfires, she provided administrative support and logistical assistance from the Fairfield office to volunteers deployed to the fires.

“It gave me such a different outlook on our volunteers,” she says. “They didn’t get paid, and they didn’t complain. It was just amazing to see how hard they worked.”

Participants in the job skills training program receive new assignments every six months, but Pamela has chosen to stay at the Red Cross. She loves her position and feels invigorated by the work. “I always wanted to directly help people, and I never knew how I could do it,” she says. “Now, I feel like I can.”

In April, Pamela was recognized for her commitment to the Red Cross by being named Solano County’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year. The award was presented at the Bay Area Chapter’s annual volunteer appreciation dinner in Vallejo.

“It was such an honor,” says Pamela, who attended the event with her 22-year-old son, a student at San Francisco State. “I can truly say that since becoming a Red Cross volunteer, I am more compassionate and empathetic – a better person.”

Arianne Aryanpur is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

 

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.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Brenda!

Bay Area Chapter Board of Directors Chair Jonathan Velline, Brenda Isaula-Cordon, and Interim Regional Executive Teresa Caver

At last week’s American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter Board of Directors Meeting, Brenda Isaula-Cordon was honored for her 25th anniversary. 

Brenda began her career with the American Red Cross in May 1994 as an assistant in the Human Resources Department. She has also worked as an Accounts Receivable Specialist in the Finance Department and as a Chapter Management Assistant, working for Harold Brooks.

She took training in disaster casework where her Spanish language skills have been invaluable with local fire responses. Also, she deployed on several two-week Disaster assignments, including:

  • October 1991 – Caseworker for wildfires in Redding, CA
  • September 2001 – Spanish interpreter in New York for the 9/11 hotline after the World Trade Center attacks
  • October 2004 – Caseworker for Hurricane Ivan in Florida

Nowadays, Brenda supports the San Francisco office, ensuring the office runs smoothly and that both external and internal customers are received with a warm welcome.

Congratulations, Brenda, on achieving this anniversary with us! We know you have worked hard for this accomplishment and you have been such a significant part of our team. We truly appreciate your dedication. We couldn’t imagine our workplace without you!

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).

Regional teams continue to ‘Sound the Alarm’ during April

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At a Sound the Alarm event in Contra Costa County, 14 teams of 4 went door-to-door to install smoke alarms in the Concord Cascade and Sun Valley Village communities in Pacheco. (Photo by Virginia and Albert Becker)

Spring push kicks off with ‘Signature Events’ on April 27

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 April, many more impactful Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region.

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

General Events:

  • April 13 — In San Mateo County, Red Cross volunteers installed 127 smoke alarms in 32 homes.
  • April 18 — In Napa and Sonoma Counties, Red Cross volunteers installed 40 smoke alarms in 24 homes.

Signature Events (Saturday, April 27):

  • In San Benito County, Red Cross and Hollister Fire Department volunteers installed 130 smoke alarms in 55 homes, making 177 residents safer. (See a group photo of the volunteers in Hollister.)
  • In San Mateo County, Red Cross volunteers installed 25 smoke alarms in 11 homes, making 21 residents safer.
  • In San Francisco, Red Cross volunteers installed 16 smoke alarms in 4 homes, making 8 residents safer.
  • In Contra Costa County, Red Cross and community volunteers installed 374 smoke alarms in 124 homes, making 365 residents safer. (See the photo album of this “kick off” Signature Event.)
  • In Lake and Mendocino Counties, Red Cross and AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers installed 80 smoke alarms in 31 homes.
  • In Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, Red Cross volunteers installed 144 smoke alarms in 52 homes, making 101 residents safer. (See the photo album of the volunteers in action in Crescent City.)

Signature Events (Sunday, April 28):

  • In San Mateo County, Red Cross volunteers installed 11 smoke alarms in 7 homes, making 22 residents safer.
  • In Napa and Sonoma Counties, Red Cross volunteers installed 91 smoke alarms in 30 homes, making 115 residents safer.

A number of spring Signature Events are still planned in our region, and volunteer support is still needed. To sign up to volunteer at an event near you, please go to our region’s campaign web page.

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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!

Free Smoke Alarms Provide Peace of Mind

Blog main logo_StackedAt age 70, Elizabeth K. isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Her schedule includes regular Zumba classes and volunteering at an equine therapy center for people with mental and physical challenges.

“I try to stay busy,” says the Contra Costa resident, whose partner Fred passed away from cancer a few years ago.

“When Fred was alive, he was able to reach things around the house that I couldn’t. After he died, the smoke alarms in our house started beeping and I couldn’t get to them,” explains Elizabeth, who is 5-feet-tall and afraid of falling from a ladder.

That’s why she was so relieved when a friend told her that the Red Cross installs smoke detectors and provides fire safety education to seniors for free.

“It was a huge relief since I had nobody to help me,” she says.

Fire safety education is particularly important for seniors, who can experience a decline in cognitive and physical abilities, affecting their ability to change smoke detectors and evacuate during an emergency. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, older adults are 2.7 times more likely to die in a home fire than the total population.

Elizabeth scheduled an appointment and in February, two volunteers visited her home, where they installed four smoke alarms in 15 minutes.

“It was very quick and the size of the smoke alarms was the same as the old ones, so I didn’t have to worry about [unsightly] paint on the ceiling,” she says.

The new state-mandated devices have extended life batteries, which means she won’t have to worry about replacing them for another 10 years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends replacing smoke alarms 10 years from the date of manufacture, which can be found on the back of the alarm.

“It’s been a huge relief to me because the hardest part was when the batteries would go out and I couldn’t figure out which one was beeping, or how to replace it,” Elizabeth says.

The volunteers also provided her with information about creating a fire escape plan, which includes identifying multiple ways to exit your home and designating a meeting point with others where first responders can find you. “I hadn’t really thought about it but it makes sense,” she says.

Elizabeth was so pleased with the program, she’s already shared the information with a senior friend.

“The peace of mind alone is worth it,” she says.

About the author: Arianne Aryanpur is a Red Cross volunteer writer with our California Northwest Chapter.

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