Tag Archives: California Northwest

Celebrating our amazing volunteers!

National Volunteer Week is celebrated each April; so we thought we’d give another salute to the (amazing) volunteers honored in our region in 2018

California Wildfires 2018

Volunteers, like the many who cared for and comforted so many people during last fall’s wildfires in Northern California, are an essential part of all lines of service in the American Red Cross. (Photo: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross)

National Volunteer Week this year takes place from April 7 to 13 and serves as an important reminder within the American Red Cross about the critical role that volunteers play in everything we do.

Each spring also means that a new round of Volunteer Recognition Events is getting underway in our region, giving each of the local operations a special opportunity to acknowledge (and celebrate) the tremendous work done by volunteers in each one of the counties we serve.

It’s in that spirit that we thought we’d take a moment to thank — one more time — the many volunteers we honored at our 2018 Volunteer Recognition Events:

Alameda/Contra Costa Counties Event

Central Coast Chapter Event

Humboldt and Del Norte Counties Event

Marin County Event

San Francisco Event

San Mateo County Event

Silicon Valley Chapter Event

Solano County Event

Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino Counties Events

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2019 Volunteer Recognition Events: Some of this year’s volunteer recognition events in our region have already taken place; most have not yet. That means there’s still time to go to this page in Volunteer Connection and register to attend an upcoming event that is still accepting registrations.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 90 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. Get started by going to this web page.

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.

Regional teams continue to ‘Sound the Alarm’ during the month of March

sta_420x279On 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 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 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of March, eight more Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region. Here is a brief summary of each of these local activities:

  • In Vallejo on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 36 alarms in 19 homes. (See the photo album for this activity.)
  • In Rohnert Park on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 80 alarms in 28 homes. (See the photo album for this activity.)
  • In San Francisco on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 100 alarms in 21 homes. In all, the work made 52 people safer. For the home visits in the Outer Sunset neighborhood that day, the Red Cross partnered with Holy Name Church and the San Francisco Fire Department. 
  • In San Jose on Saturday, March 23, 49 volunteers installed 251 alarms in 87 homes. In all, the work made 163 people safer. For the home visits that day, the Red Cross teams partnered with Beautiful Day and the San Jose Fire Department.
  • In Oakland on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 214 alarms in 54 homes. In all, the work made 197 people safer. The Oakland Fire Department was a key partner in this work.
  • In Watsonville on Saturday, March 30, more than 40 volunteers installed 162 alarms in 52 homes. In all, the work made 228 people safer. The eight Red Cross teams were also supported by volunteers from the Watsonville Fire Department, Watsonville Fire Cadets, and Watsonville Police Cadets. Watsonville Fire Chief Rudy Lopez greeted the teams and shared his heartfelt appreciation for their live-saving service. Central Coast Board Chair, Rayvon Williams, also participated in his first Sound the Alarm event.
  • In Willits on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 59 alarms in 20 homes. The Red Cross partnered with NCO (North Coast Opportunities) and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) teams to make these home visits.
  • In San Francisco on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 41 alarms in 9 homes, making 19 people safer. Volunteers also gathered 18 sign-ups for future appointments.

From April 27 through May 12 this spring, volunteers and partners in communities throughout the country will be making an extra push to make in-home Sound the Alarm visits. The goal of this national effort will be to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

A number of these spring events are scheduled to take place in our region, and organizers are still in need of volunteer support. For information about how you can volunteer at these events, please see this press release.

For more information about the overall impact of the Home Fire Campaign in our region — and to sign-up to help at an installation event near you, you may also go to this web page. (This page also contains information about our generous regional and national Sound the Alarm partners.)

Thank you to all who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

Marshmallows and whipped cream included

Addison Patane 6, is not your average barista. After seeing a commercial urging help for California’s wildfire victims, she was inspired to serve others. Addison had prior success with a neighborhood lemonade stand. Like any savvy business entrepreneur, she changed her menu for the season. With just an art table, a few supplies, and a little help, this young miss set up a hot chocolate stand in her front yard. But, the profits made in the fall of 2018 didn’t go towards buying a new pair of dance shoes. She donated all of the proceeds to the American Red Cross.

Addison’s story began to percolate after a trip to a craft store. There, her mother purchased materials to make blankets for CHP employees that lost their homes in the Camp Fire. Addison wanted a project of her own but didn’t know how someone her age could make a difference.

The following day, Addison saw a commercial about a little girl who collected turkeys for fire victims. The story turned on a light bulb. Addison could launch a hot chocolate stand.

Kayla Patane, 26, was thrilled to learn that her daughter wanted to serve up cups of kindness for a cause. Right away, the two purchased all of the necessary supplies.

Classmate Charlotte Reineck, 7, of Cali Calmecac Language Academy joined in the fundraising efforts. Addison and Charlotte crafted a sign that read, “Hot Cocoa 50 Cents for Fire Victims.” In two hours, the first-graders made a total of $42.

There were “a lot of customers,” recounts Addison. “One person even paid five dollars for a single cup!” Customers had the option of whipped cream and marshmallows at no additional cost.

So, why does Addison help strangers? In her own words, “I think it’s nice doing nice things because it’s good to share and to be nice to other people.”

Addison’s connection to fire victims is also personal. Her maternal grandparents, Gina and Casey Meints, lost their home in the Tubbs Fire. Kayla explains that her parents lived in her family’s home after the fire. That’s how Addison first learned of the Red Cross. “They went to the Red Cross right after the fires where they were treated with so much empathy and given help,” Kayla reflects. “The resources available for whom to call for different things and their overall support were extremely helpful. We were very appreciative of everything they did.”

“GiGi and Papa had a hard time, but things are getting better,” Addison pledges. Their new house should be rebuilt this month.

When Addison is not a local beverage artisan or spending time with family, she enjoys reading, math, and dance. After school, she takes ballet lessons. When she grows up, she would like to pursue dance professionally or become a veterinarian. A career in nursing or teaching are also top contenders.

Kayla adds, “Addison has had a nurturing and empathetic nature since she was little. It will be amazing seeing all she does as she grows up.”

Addison hopes students at her school, as well as adults, read about her day managing a hot chocolate stand. She hopes her story will create more pop-up kindness projects that benefit people in need.

I’m still useful

Ki Daniels 420x279
Ki Daniels poses in front of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, where she was staying in an American Red Cross evacuation shelter after flood waters from the Russian River inundated her home on February 26, 2019. (Photo: Barbara Wood)

By Barbara Wood

Ki Daniels, who has been living in an American Red Cross evacuation shelter since February 26, 2019 when forced to flee as the Russian River overtopped its banks, knows what it takes to recover from a disaster. That’s because in October 2017, Ki lost her home and all she owned in the Tubbs Fire, a loss from which she only recently had begun to feel she’d recovered.

Nonetheless, Ki, who had just recently completed renovating a home she thought would give her a fresh start on the banks of the Russian River, is upbeat about her future. She says her second loss of a home and most of her belongings in less than two years is “another opportunity for re-creation.” And she credits the Red Cross – which helped her recover after the Tubbs Fire and in the Sebastopol shelter gave her a safe, warm place to sleep, medical care, emotional support and meals – with helping to make that “re-creation” possible.

“The services that the Red Cross provides to those fleeing disaster is the foundation for their tomorrow,” Ki says. “I’ve been so well cared for.” She credits the Red Cross for helping her to manage her medical problems, as well as providing medication and medical supplies and providing a special adjustable, heavy-duty medical cot on which to sleep.

“It’s little things like that that make the world look different for someone who has medical problems,” she said.

Ki Daniels_Press 420x279

Ki Daniels shares the story of her recent escape from Russian River flood waters with a news reporter in front of the evacuation shelter in Sebastopol that the American Red Cross opened on February 26, 2019. (Photo: Barbara Wood)

Ki, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a business as a Feng Shui consultant, said she arrived at her Russian River home after an out-of-town trip only to learn the area was being evacuated. “I just grabbed a trash bag,” she recalls. She filled it with her medications, a blanket and pillow, and a few papers. A sheriff’s deputy took off his jacket and gave it to her. “I was freezing,” she remembers.

After arriving at the shelter in the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, “the Red Cross absolutely gave me all the additional support I needed,” Ki says. Red Cross volunteers helped her find a change of clothing and other necessities. “My heart’s not broken – it may be cracked, but it’s not broken,” Ki says. She also says that her attitude about the future changed while she was in the shelter, especially after she volunteered to help the Red Cross assist some of the shelter residents.

“Being here really shifted my mind. I’m still useful,” she smiled.

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About the author: Barbara Wood is a Red Cross volunteer writer with our Silicon Valley Chapter.

Community togetherness in times of need

By Lindsay R. Peak

rc420 x 279Having survived the Valley Fire that decimated so much of Lake County in 2015, the mother/daughter duo of Kathleen Connors, 66, and Kelly Grimsley, 33, moved to Santa Rosa in August 2016 to make a “fresh start.” They had barely settled there when they heard the astonishing news in October 2017 of the threatening Tubbs Fire near their new home.

The two quickly fled, traveling toward Healdsburg in search of safety. A wrong turn landed them in Guerneville. Realizing their mistake, they looped back toward the freeway, eventually arriving at the emergency Red Cross shelter at Windsor High School in the early morning hours.

Remembering the feeling of being displaced with her daughter and a just a few important papers, fire survivor Connors pensively jests, “This was as ‘fresh’ as it gets.”

Night one, the pair slept on wrestling mats on the shelter’s floor. Night two, there were cots. “That was a really welcome thing. We could really rest a little bit,” says Connors.

In the days to come, community donations began to pour in. Connors and her daughter recounted the large mountain of available items piling up in the center of the gymnasium, including bedding. Padding their cots with layers of sheets, blankets, and warm comforters made their unthinkable situation feel a little more like home.

“All of our immediate needs were met,” says Connors.

Connors had limited experience with the American Red Cross prior to staying in the shelter. She recalls participating in basic training decades before while volunteering as a candy striper, but not much more.

No strangers to giving, Grimsley and Connors had regularly volunteered with local charities and non-profit organizations. Grimsley, diagnosed with autism and with other medical challenges, enjoys donating her time to help benefit others. Most of the projects Grimsley and her mother had choosen to work on are geared toward fundraising for or increasing awareness of a particular cause.

But this experience was different, as the first-time shelter clients were receivers instead of givers of volunteer services.

“What an extraordinary compassion [it is] to receive,” says Connors. “I never gave it a second thought when on the other side. It’s just what you did. Being on the receiving side, you see that these people are really extraordinary. The compassion was extraordinary. To receive that was just amazing.”

Connors further explains, “All the resources were organized. We saw everyone working with law enforcement. We had food. Medical care was available. A hug was there if we needed a hug.”

Commencing the long process of rebuilding, Grimsley took to the Internet. Online, she discovered that a beloved local chapel was among the structural fire victims. Once praised for its exquisite mosaic wall, only the tiles survived. A handful of individuals sought volunteers for an art project aimed at making trinkets from these recovered tiles.

Mother and daughter had frequently taken art classes, so the project seemed like a perfect fit.

With their spirits down, the creative process was a welcome distraction. It was a way to occupy their minds, bring them together with the community, and use their talents in a positive way while going through the many stages of grief.

Over a period of three months, this mother and daughter worked roughly 200 hours on the project. After the tiles were cleaned, tumbled, and polished, they were crafted into crosses, ornaments, garden accents, and tie tacks, among other things. In all, the pair and others involved created over 1,000 unique keepsakes.

The tile creations were given away at a variety of events aimed at community togetherness. They served as a sign of strength, symbolic rebuilding, and comfort in times of need. Some mementos were sent to the Camp Fire this past fall. Others were distributed to local churches.

By word of mouth, more and more volunteers participated in the project. And, it is not over.

“There are still projects to do. There are still tiles,” says Connors.

Connors and Grimsley presented each Red Cross volunteer with one of their masterpieces as a token of appreciation at the California Northwest Chapter’s September BBQ celebration.

Connors has many human-interest stories and positive experiences to share, including a misunderstanding about the comfort level of a standard-issue cot.

After leaving the shelter, she and her daughter were briefly displaced again. Connors marched into the local Red Cross office to seek assistance one more time. Connors asked a Red Cross representative if she could borrow one of the cots she got so familiar with over the course of a few weeks in the shelter. The Red Cross representative looked at Connors with a confused look and said, “You want to borrow… a cot?” Connors confidently replied, “Yes. We were in a shelter. We slept really good on the cots. I will bring it back. I want to borrow it just for a few days.” The woman left momentarily and returned, visibly concerned. Without saying yes or no to the request, the representative compassionately stated, “Ma’am, I think you need a pysch evaluation.”

Connors, taken aback, then explained how the community donations and experience with the Red Cross made the standard-issue cot more than a cot to her and her daughter in their time of need.

Understanding her experience more completely, the two shared a good laugh.

“It was a fun moment,” says Connors.

Rising from the ashes, this mother-daughter twosome remain positive as they continue to search for permanent housing. They have slept in numerous places including an office and at Red Cross volunteer Peggy Goebel’s home.

Uprooted twice by natural disaster, Connors has learned and shares a mantra about one’s home:

“Home and sacred ground is where you are whatever moment in time it is.

“The fire was the fire,” she says. “We have to choose to appreciate things that came out of the fire that were amazing. There were a lot of people we wouldn’t have met or known had it not been for the fire. It has its moments. There is a little silver lining.”

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About the author: Lindsay Peak is a volunteer writer for the California Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross.

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