Tag Archives: Bay Area

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.

Red Cross provides support following gas line explosion in San Francisco

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See full-size photo and the incident photo album.

A gas line explosion in San Francisco on Wednesday, February 6, resulted in a three-alarm fire and displaced residents and workers. The explosion occurred around 1 p.m. at the corner of Geary Blvd. and Parker Ave. in the city’s Jordan Park neighborhood; the ensuing fire was brought under control about three hour later.

Six mixed-use commercial/residential buildings have been red- or yellow-tagged as a result of the incident.

An evacuation center was opened at Saint Mary’s Cathedral at 1111 Gough St. for individuals in need of shelter or impacted by PG&E’s need to shut off power to the affected area.

Red Cross volunteers also responded with an Emergency Response Vehicle to provide water and food to first responders and evacuated residents at Mel’s Diner. Two muni buses were requested as additional warm spaces for evacuees. Dinner was ordered for first responders and residents at the evacuation site and for the shelter.

The volunteers have collected information at the evacuation site from six families whose residences were affected by the fire. All other impacted individuals or families have found their own lodging.

Red Cross personnel closed the shelter today (Thursday, February 7) and are continuing with traditional casework and referrals to our partners.

Residents displaced by the gas line explosion and fire may call 415-427-8010 to register for Red Cross assistance and referrals.

Finding her place at the table

Briana Taylor was vacationing in Thailand for Christmas in 2004 when the tsunami struck with lethal force. Trapped on the island, she and her family watched the devastating aftereffects unfold.

Once Briana made it home, she repacked her bags and returned to Thailand only six weeks later to do disaster recovery work. She was in a wave of spontaneous volunteers who arrived to help islanders find some sense of order.

Then Katrina hit in 2005, and Briana joined the American Red Cross as an event-based volunteer. She’s been a part of the organization ever since. Read more

Organization is key for this Red Cross volunteer

Donna Logan 420x279By Andrea Mendoza

For Donna Logan, the call to help came after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The devastation that this natural disaster left in the state of Louisiana and nearby states — and the effect that it had on the country as a whole — was enough inspiration for Logan to get involved with the Red Cross. She had been retired for about a year, and Logan was looking for causes in San Francisco with which she could get involved. With a master’s degree in organizational development and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, Logan hoped to find a position in which she could use her experience and skills.

As a volunteer with the American Red Cross, Donna Logan has more than done that. And this year, she was honored for her many contributions and compassionate work when she received a Clara Barton Award at the annual Volunteer Recognition Event for San Francisco volunteers. Read more

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