Tag Archives: California Northwest

Leadership Development Camp posts record numbers and attendance

LDC-420x279The American Red Cross Youth Leadership Development Camp for the Northern Californa Coastal Region was held at Camp Butano Creek in Pescadaro on August 5th through 8th. The multi-day camp involves youth throughout the Bay Area in Red Cross activities and provides leadership and learning activities to develop our future leaders.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • 123 campers attended this year representing all four regional chapters – a first for the region!
  • An additional 23 youth staff attended, including seven advisory board youth staff, all of whom worked to plan the camp since December 2018.
  • 146 youth were certified in CPR/First Aid.
  • All participants experienced Community Disaster Education and learned how to install smoke alarms/check their homes for fire safety preparedness.
  • Campers studied the following components of Raid Cross, a role-playing simulation activity that helps students understand the basic rules of International Humanitarian Law:
    • Prisoners of War
    • Militia members making artillery decisions
    • Army Generals making a decision far away from the battles themselves

Always a highlight, Raid Cross introduces many students to unique parts of armed conflict and Red Cross’ involvement in each one.

  • Each student took part in the Diversity program designed to guide youth in understanding privilege. Students took part in a diversity circle to encourage recognition and appreciation of each other’s similarities and differences.

Thank you to all who attended. We hope to see you next year!

Please visit this link to view pictures from the event.

Celebrating our amazing 2018-2019 AmeriCorps team members!

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Pictured are the regional AmeriCorps workers who were in San Jose on July 25 for a celebration of their capstone projects. (Photo: Cynthia Shaw)
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Each fall, a new class of AmeriCorps workers becomes a critical part of the American Red Cross, supporting offices and staffing teams in regions throughout the country. It’s a union that benefits both the workers and the Red Cross: The AmeriCorps employees gain valuable on-the-job experience, while the Red Cross is the recipient of the workers’ key support, ideas, and energy.

The value of the AmeriCorps/Red Cross partnership was especially evident at a recent end-of-year celebration, honoring the tremendous work done in 2018–19 by the AmeriCorps employees of the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR). The celebration, during which each of the workers described his or her “capstone project” for the past year, took place on July 25 at the Silicon Valley Chapter in San Jose.

Delaram “Deli” Mehrkish was just one of the dozen AmeriCorps workers who were — very deservedly — saluted that day.

Working out of the region’s San Jose office, Mehrkish described how she, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader designed a “Prepare Your Club” capstone project that trained leaders of area youth clubs in the principles of the Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign — and in the process, encouraged the club members to inspect their own homes for emergency preparedness.

“Because of our project, the Red Cross was able to reach an additional 44 homes in Santa Clara County, ensuring that the residents of those homes had working smoke alarms and were educated in emergency preparedness,” Mehrkish says. “It was so successful that, with the efforts and momentum of our youth volunteers, we hope to make this a permanent youth-led project here in Santa Clara County.”

Mehrkish, shown in the accompanying photo (front row, second from left), is quick to say that AmeriCorps workers like her get as much from the Red Cross experience as they give. “Working for a nonprofit such as the Red Cross has given me so much fulfillment,” she says. “Not only have I gained professional skills and wisdom to help me in my future career, but I have also met the most incredible volunteers and employees, and I feel like I belong to a whole new community.”

Mehrkish, whose AmeriCorps term ends on August 23, adds that she will always cherish her year with the Red Cross. “I feel indebted to the people who showed me so much compassion from day one,” she says, giving an extra nod of appreciation to staff members she interacted with regularly in the Silicon Valley Chapter office: Jonathan Bernier, Nikki Rowe, and Romina Cervantes. “I am now a better person because of the experience.”

Allie Parker, who along with Bernier are the NCCR Volunteer & Youth Services employees who coordinate the region’s AmeriCorps program, says the members of this year’s AmeriCorps workforce provided key support — on a daily basis — in almost every line of service. “And, with their capstone projects, they imagined, created, and implemented initiatives that really augmented our operation,” Parker says. “We are so grateful for their effort and impact.”

Here is a list of all of our region’s amazing AmeriCorps 2018-19 team members, as well as a brief description of the capstone projects they undertook during the past year:

Cameron Soon, Regional Preparedness Coordinator
Project: GIS Mapping for Home Fire Campaign activities — Cameron created a GIS training for volunteers and staff to be able to utilize mapping while planning for “Sound the Alarm” events. By using GIS to plan their Sound the Alarm home visits, teams can factor in high fire-risk areas, previous Disaster Action Team calls, and more.

Danielle Halprin, International Services & Service to the Armed Forces Coordinator
Project: Consulate Engagement — Danielle worked to reach out to 40+ international consulates in our region in an effort to build partnerships with the current national delegates who are stationed in our region representing their nations. These partnerships also help the consulates stay up to date on Red Cross offering. Halprin even taught a few disaster preparedness classes to consulate employees.

Darren Adams, Disaster Services Coordinator (Alameda County)
Project: Shelter Management Decision-Making Tool
Darren built an Excel tool that allows teams to input all shelter data from the National Shelter System (NSS) and filter by immediate need when opening a shelter. His tool considers variables such as shelter location, population size, accessibility, etc. The tool will allow teams to better utilize our shelter partnership database while considering the immediate needs for a shelter.

Deli Mehrkish, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader, Youth Services Coordinators (San Jose)
Project: Prepare Your Club Initiative — This trio worked to ensure that not only are our youth volunteers educated in fire safety, but that their own homes are actually prepared as well. By leveraging youth executive boards, the group was able to encourage youth volunteers to do a fire-education safety check, including checking for working smoke alarms. If the youth found that they did not have working smoke detectors, they filled out a form, and a local “Sound the Alarm” team scheduled a home visit. Through this program, we were able to have youth better prepare dozens of their own households.

Hannah Christen, Disaster Services Coordinator (Humboldt)
Project: Disaster Action Team Resources Guide, including pocket resource guides, local services, and lodging information — Hannah created a local resources binder for Disaster Action Team volunteers in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This includes updated maps, partner agency contacts, and tips and tricks for new volunteers on the DAT team.

Gwynn Domecq, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland), and Steven Rolon, Youth Services Coordinator (San Francisco)
Project: Volunteer Relations Training for Lead Volunteers and Staff — Gwynn and Steven created two trainings for volunteer relations. The first is an onboarding training for new volunteers on the Volunteer Relations Team; this training gives a detailed overview of the Volunteer Relations process, the various roles and responsibilities, and includes a table-top exercise. The second training is designed to help volunteer supervisors better understand the Volunteer Relations process as well as provide tips and tricks on how to engage in helpful conversations that prevent challenging interactions from escalating into difficult cases.

Hannah Tarling, Disaster Services Coordinator (Santa Clara County)
Project: Starting-a-DR Job Tools for Santa Clara County — Hannah created various job tools designed to help volunteers and staff launch a Disaster Relief Operation out of the Silicon Valley Chapter. These tools include information on how to access the building after hours, vehicle maintenance, and how to create an initial staffing pattern.

Jessica Gregory, Volunteer & Youth Services Coordinator (Sonoma County)
Project: Academic Service-Learning Framework for Youth Volunteer Service — Jessica built a framework for establishing an Academic Service Learning Program with high schools or universities. This included a template MOU, onboarding tools for supervisors, and initial projects with which the volunteers could help.

Kat Vincent, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland)
Project: Internship Program — Kat created an internship request, recruitment, and placement process to ensure that our region is aligned with national Red Cross policies. She was able to recruit and place over 10 summer interns in four different offices and four different departments.

Katie Glockner, Regional Workforce Engagement Coordinator
Project: Disaster Health Services Shelter Handbook — Katie worked alongside the Divisional Health Services lead to gain input for local DHS volunteers on the new shelter protocols. This also included updating all of our regional sheltering kits with the new information as well as equipping our region’s DHS volunteers with this knowledge as they deploy out of region.

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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.

Recognizing Leadership in Dennis Burke

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Dennis Burke pictured with Richard Goldfarb, Disaster Program Manager.

On March 16, 2019, the American Red Cross of the California Northwest Chapter honored three volunteers from Lake and Mendocino Counties at its annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Dennis Burke of Lake County was one of them.

When selected as the recipient of the 2018 New Volunteer Award for his contribution to the Red Cross in his first year of service, Burke went up to receive his award in shock.

“It did not register,” recalls Burke.

Burke felt humbled and proud of the unexpected honor even though he did not anticipate being the center of attention that day. After the award was in hand, a sense of accomplishment came over him.

“At first, I was embarrassed because there were so many other people who had been volunteering so much longer than I had,” says Burke. But when fellow Red Cross volunteers and staff clapped, the feeling of recognition kicked in. “It was a good feeling. It was nice to be recognized for a job you’ve been doing and learning along the way.”

Burke played a vital role during the Mendocino Complex Fire volunteer efforts. Familiar with the area, the Lake County resident helped “hotshot”, or returned to burned-out areas with supplies for the residents as they repopulated the area.

Burke is no stranger to public service. He joined the Hayward Police Department before taking over as the senior animal patrol officer. As a state humane officer, Burke investigated acts of cruelty against animals. In 1989, he became the Director of Lake County Animal Control. Burke found happiness later in life in the construction business. He is now semi-retired and spends his newfound free time wearing many hats with the American Red Cross.

“They keep you busy,” Burke says with a grin.

Burke organizes the volunteer calendar, detailing all events and helps communicate with the team to make sure everyone is informed and up-to-date about volunteer opportunities. He is supporting Sound the Alarm in Mendocino plus recruitment and engagement of new volunteers. The award winner has also taken on the leadership role of the preparedness team lead. From tabling events to DAT calls, Red Cross volunteers and the community are likely to cross paths with Burke at some point.

“Dennis has been an awesome team member and valuable part of driving the Red Cross Mission in Lake and Mendocino,” says Richard Goldfarb, Disaster Program Manager.

When Burke isn’t volunteering, he spends time with his three daughters, seven grandchildren, and three canine companions – Ruff, Rascal, and Reckless.

Burke looks forward to future opportunities with the Red Cross and aims to make a difference. On Father’s Day, he attended the first Red Cross event held in Comptche, a town with less than 200 people. He hopes to reach smaller communities like Comptche that have not been focused on in the past due to staffing shortages.

When asked what he would tell potential volunteers for the Red Cross, Burke replied, “It’s all about the people – working with those in need and working with others that are just as wonderful.”

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.

Lindsay R. Peak is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Tanya Sullivan of Sonoma County Awarded Coveted Clara Barton Honor

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by Marcia Antipa

“I was stunned.”

That was the reaction from Red Cross Volunteer Tanya Sullivan of Sonoma County when she was given the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership for the California Northwest Chapter.

“I was so surprised and just so honored. Just the name – it’s quite a recognition!”

Anyone who has worked with Tanya in her many Red Cross volunteer roles would not be so surprised to hear of her award. Marianne Arden, of Volunteer and Youth Services, says, “Tanya always downplays her role, but she is absolutely critical to our chapter, and during a disaster, she probably puts in a 70-hour week.”

The Clara Barton Award is given to a volunteer who has made “significant contributions while working with other volunteers and paid staff in developing and implementing effective programs in a resource manner which has enabled the American Red Cross to provide valuable service to the community.”

Tanya’s journey to this prestigious award began four years ago when her uncle passed away. He was a volunteer firefighter in the small Sierra Nevada community where Tanya was raised. “His death motivated me as a new empty nester to find ‘the next thing in my life.’”

Previously, Tanya had a professional career with Fireman’s Fund, then spent time at home raising her children, volunteering in the schools, little league, and other organizations. She also took a part-time job at a nursery. But when her children left home, she wanted to find a well-organized group that could use all of her skills and, as she says, “help me lead an impactful life.”

That group was the American Red Cross, where Tanya joined the Disaster Action Team. Her first “Mission Moment” was a call to a house fire late one night.

“It was in December, very dark and very rural, east of Santa Rosa up in the foothills.”

Tanya says every time she deployed to help a family, “there is an element of shock, of ‘what are we going to do tomorrow?’ We are there while the house is still smoldering, and the fire trucks are still there. One family I met was focused on how the kids were going to get to school.”

Tanya also deployed to the Russian River floods this winter, where she handed out buckets of cleaning supplies to start people on their “disaster recovery.” She says it’s her favorite role.

“You’re not just giving them a bucket – you’re hearing their stories.”

Tanya says in the Russian River community, many residents have been through floods several times over the years.

“The word you hear so much in these situations is resilience. It has become an overused, hashtag word. But I saw it; neighbors helping neighbors pull soaking wet furniture from homes, finding a way to start moving forward.”

Tanya now volunteers in Workforce Engagement. That’s where she earned the Clara Barton award, for streamlining the system to help new Red Cross Volunteers get trained and ready for deployment.

“It was full of speed bumps and potholes. Courses that were required didn’t exist; no one knew where to look. I saw this opportunity to fix all that. I don’t like whack-a-mole solutions that provide an immediate answer, but create a problem downstream.”

Tanya compiled a new document that closed the gaps in workforce training, at the regional and national level. “I was the persistent squeaky wheel that wouldn’t go away.”

Those who nominated her for the Clara Barton award wrote, “Her impact is huge, as this is a primary tool for all of Workforce Engagement, and impacts each and every [disaster services] volunteer.”

Tanya is obviously proud of her work, and of the army of volunteers that carries out the mission of the American Red Cross.

“It just blew my mind when I found out how few paid staff the Red Cross has, and look what we can do! Red Cross knows how; I love being a part of that!”

Congratulations to Tanya Sullivan!

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.

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

Motivated by the ‘Need to Serve’

Tamara Rushton 420x279Tired of the harsh Wisconsin winters, Tamara Rushton was seeking a new adventure when she decided to leave the Midwest in 2014 and start afresh in Northern California.

Not long after settling in Humboldt County, she found a part-time job in retail and quickly adapted to West Coast life. But Tamara has always been motivated by a need to serve the vulnerable – she was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for 13 years – and soon after moving to McKinleyville, she felt that pull once again.

Driven by a deep desire to apply her former emergency response experience in a new capacity, Tamara decided to research local volunteering opportunities. Pretty soon, the Red Cross sprang to mind.

“I knew it was a very fine organization and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Tamara explains. “So I called up the local Red Cross office and asked if they needed volunteers. And they said, ‘Yes, we’d love to have you.’ ”

With her extensive EMT background, Tamara joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT), a group of on-call volunteers who provide emergency assistance or mass care on local disasters like house fires and larger regional and national disasters such as floods and tornadoes.

For Tamara and other DAT volunteers, being on call means they never know when, or where, their assistance will be needed—just that they’ll be called upon in an emergency at often a moment’s notice.

In 2017, Tamara got a call to deploy to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, one of the costliest tropical cyclones in human history. She and other volunteers drove Emergency Response Vehicles, or ERVs, packed with meals to hurricane victims in rural locations throughout Houston.

“People had no water, no power, no way to feed themselves or their families,” Tamara recalls. “In a lot of the areas we served, people didn’t speak English.”

Despite the language barrier, Tamara says she was moved by her ability to assist victims in their most vulnerable moments and for the gratitude they expressed. “It’s a human-to-human interaction – you didn’t need words,” she says.

In 2018, Tamara was deployed to Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, where she led vehicle teams that provided large-scale assessment of flood-damaged homes. This past year, she served as a caseworker for a large fire in Humboldt County, interviewing victims to determine their immediate housing, food and personal care needs.

This spring, Tamara’s commitment to the Red Cross and its mission earned her the 2019 Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award. Tamara was recognized at a volunteer appreciation event, and later reflected on what volunteering has meant to her.

“I consider myself very lucky to be a part of an organization that helps so many people,” she said, adding: “If you are considering volunteering for the Red Cross, do it. The emotional and spiritual rewards you gain will be far beyond what you think.”

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.

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

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!

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