Tag Archives: Central Coast

Red Cross and community help RV park residents recover from flood waters

Even before an American Red Cross emergency response vehicle dropped off 100 meals at the Mission Farm RV Park in San Juan Bautista on March 21, eager residents lined up for lunch, happy to get some fuel for the difficult job of trying to clean up the damage done by flooding to their community 11 days earlier. 

Mission Farm RV Park homeowner, Kerry Dickie, thanks American Red Cross volunteers for the cleanup kits and food delivered to his neighbors. Photo by Jaka Vinsek/American Red Cross

Kerry Dickie was among them. Dickie said he lost his mobile home and about 70 percent of his possessions to the flooding and mud that followed. Dickie said that even before waters from several adjacent creeks and a nearby subdivision’s retention pond started pouring into the park, he and his son found their way out was blocked by flooded streets strewn with large underwater rocks.  

As water started to come in, the two tried to move his collections from an enclosed porch into his 1986 Avion mobile home. By the time they got everything into the mobile home, water was knee high.  

The two took one of their vehicles to dry land but by the time they came back to move the other, water had already crept inside the mobile home.  

While the water receded within about 24 hours, when Dickie returned home, he found 1.5 feet of standing water inside. The enclosed porch was totaled as is his mobile home.  

“It’s just a horrible muddy mess,” Dickie said.  

Red Cross volunteer Roberta Jones and Leslie Jordan, mayor of San Juan Bautista, unload meals for residents of the Mission Farm RV Park. Photo by Barbara Wood/American Red Cross

“I’m kind of wondering what my next house is going to look like because this one’s not habitable any more,” Dickie said. He said he will probably look for a used mobile home to replace the one destroyed by the water.  

He’s not one to take handouts, Dickie said, but “when you need help, you need help.”  

Residents of the park have been helping each other recover from the flooding, which affected some of the recreational vehicles more than others. Kurt Kurasaki, whose father built the park in the 70s, says he tried to come out to assess the storm damage on March 10th, but couldn’t get through the flooded roads. When he trudged in through the water he saw the berm he had built to raise the heights of a nearby creek bed by a foot was about to be overtopped. Kurasaki started going door to door telling residents of the 70 recreational vehicles and mobile homes on the property to evacuate.  

Kerry Dickie thanks Red Cross volunteers Mary Marcus and Hideaki Yamazaki for the cleanup kits. Photo by Jaka Vinsek/American Red Cross

Not everyone left. Some people were at work, Kurasaki says, some “opted to ride it out” and some didn’t have a vehicle to get out with.  

Kurasaki said the park had flooded once before, but it was two decades ago.  

Now, those who had less damage are helping those with more damage to remove their trashed belongings.  

Leslie Jordan, the mayor of San Juan Bautista, and other volunteers came in Tuesday and Wednesday to help serve the food and promised to come back as long as the deliveries lasted. Earlier in the week, more San Juan Bautista residents came out for a work party to help their flooded neighbors.  

“This is our community,” Jordan said. 

Red Cross Responds as Bomb Cyclone Impacts California

This information was last updated on Tuesday, January 31 at 11:00 a.m. Please check back regularly for updates.

American Red Cross volunteer Diana giving an update to Shelter Supervisor Peggy at the Seven Trees shelter in San Jose. Photo by Alex Keilty / American Red Cross

As Californians continue cleaning up after the weeks of severe weather at the beginning of January, the American Red Cross is helping and will also be there in the days and weeks to come, supporting people as they move towards recovery.

This online story map offers a look at the ongoing response to the California floods. Since New Year’s eve:

  • Almost 800 trained Red Cross disaster workers are supporting people in California.
  • The Red Cross and partners have provided more than 9,300 stays in more than 80 shelters, more than 62,400 meals and snacks, and distributed more than 14,700 relief items such as comfort kits and other relief supplies.
  • Trained Red Cross volunteers are helping families cope during this challenging time and replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment like canes and wheelchairs.
  • Teams on the ground are also conducting damage assessments to determine the impact of these storms and which communities will need additional support moving forward. Preliminary damage reports indicate that of the 5879 total assessments done to date, 134 homes were either destroyed or suffered major damage.

We Need You!

  • While trained Red Cross volunteers and staff continue to manage the response efforts, we are looking for additional volunteers to help with disaster response and recovery activities, including feeding, supply distribution, clean-up kit building and more. Apply online to become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting tinyurl.com/ARC2023FloodsApplication if you are interested in helping with this response or responses like this in the future.

Blood During Disasters

  • The Red Cross is working to maintain a stable blood supply amid the threat of storms and winter weather across the country, as severe weather often causes widespread blood drive cancellations. Where it is safe to do so, we encourage donors to make and keep blood donation appointments by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Help Those in Need

  • You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief.Donations for Disaster Relief enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation..

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Why I Help: Edmund Tang’s Story

By Sharon J. Alfred, Red Cross, Senior Journalist Volunteer

Photo courtesy of Edmund Tang

Edmund Tang started volunteering with the American Red Cross at an early age. He was just 16 years old when he became heavily involved with the Red Cross Youth Corps. During his high school years, Tang was a dual volunteer in both Northern and Southern California regions. Then he went to the University of California – Santa Cruz.

Settling in the Northern California Coastal Red Cross Region (NCCR), Tang found out there were no formal youth programs there so he met with his Red Cross chapter and region team and AmeriCorps representatives to start official youth programs.  This four-year project was one of his favorites. Tang proudly asserted that “by the time I left my position in 2021, we had a small Youth Corps in our chapter that was linked to the region’s Youth Corps.”

Now, Tang identifies his main volunteer region as the NCCR, though he sometimes volunteers in the Los Angeles area. He said, “I spend a lot of my other time volunteering in NCCR as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Administrator and Information & Planning (I&P) Coordinator. I am also a medical responder, assistant station leader for the First Aid Stations team in the LA Region for the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA. I deploy nationally in Disaster Health Services (DHS) as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Shelter Associate.”

Photo courtesy of Edmund Tang

Tang continues to volunteer with the Red Cross because of the valued connections he makes in the communities. Even as a busy medical student, he keeps up his Red Cross volunteer activities. “On my breaks from school, I schedule myself available to volunteer at any capacity from tabling events, chapter logistics to community events in both the LA region and NCCR, and I also spent some time virtually as a DAT Dispatcher, taking information and sending DAT responders to calls,” he remarked.

Tang plans to remain a Red Cross volunteer for a long time. He loves to hear disaster victims’ stories of recuperation, progress and recovery, such as: “I am fully recovered from the hospital”; or, “my insurance got everything handled”; or, “I finally got my house rebuilt.”

A Community of Helpers

Photo by Virginia Becker/American Red Cross

Disaster mental health services are an often lesser-known, behind-the-scenes Red Cross resource that is vitally important to the recovery of families affected by disasters. Equally vital are the disaster mental health volunteers that give their time and expertise in support of those who need them. Enter, Sharon Parker.

Sharon is a dedicated disaster mental health volunteer from Santa Cruz, California. She combines her 30 years of work as a psychotherapist with her humanitarian volunteer service as part of Red Cross disaster responses from coast to coast. Although Santa Cruz County has been the principal beneficiary of her many talents, Sharon’s volunteer work has served countless people both throughout Northern and Central California and across the nation.

“When any of us is affected, we are all affected — either directly or indirectly,” she said. “Individuals and communities need a boost in the wake of a disaster, large or small. I’ve belonged to a community of ‘helpers’ for more than 30 years, and I am proud to be part of an organization that steps in following a devastating event and effectively and impartially plays a direct role in easing people’s suffering.” 

Sharon enjoys being on the ground, reaching affected communities and helping folks move forward after a life-changing event like a disaster. From cooperating with her fellow Red Crossers on a “common mission to be of service”, to seeing the work she does become part of a solution to a difficult life situation, to connecting families with local resources so that they may begin the long road to recovery, the time and energy that Sharon dedicates to the Red Cross mission has resulted in many memories and experiences that have remained with her, even years later.

Another aspect of Sharon’s work as a disaster mental health volunteer is being present and offering support to her colleagues who are also deployed. “For example, if we notice a case worker, or another volunteer who is showing signs of needing a break, we approach them and ask if they’d like to take a brief walk, have a bottle of water, or in some other way give them a bit of respite,” she said. She also makes check-in calls, offering counseling and support when fellow Red Crossers come back home after a deployment.  

For all this work and more, Sharon was recently honored with the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership for the Central Coast Chapter of the Red Cross. Named after the founder of the organization, this special award highlights the significant contributions of volunteers who serve in a series of leadership positions held over a period of years. It is the highest honor of volunteer achievement at the chapter level.

Throughout an ever-changing landscape and advancements in mission delivery and technology, Sharon has met every obstacle with a willingness to learn and adapt, striving to provide better service to those in need.  

“I am humbled by having been nominated for — and then received (!) — the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Leadership,” she said of the recognition. “This is particularly true because I know very many other volunteers who are truly much more deserving.” 

When asked what advice she would lend to those who may be interested in becoming part of the Red Cross team, she recommends talking with several current volunteers, to gain perspectives regarding the roles they might like to explore. “There really are so many ways to be of service!” she said.

Sharon is a true example of compassion and empathy, and volunteers like her honor the legacy of our founder. Thank you and congratulations on this well-deserved award, Sharon!

The Spirit of Volunteerism: Celebrating our Volunteers of the Year

The Volunteer of the Year Award is the highest honor a volunteer can achieve within our chapters, awarded annually to the individuals who best exemplify the spirit of volunteerism.

The most recent awardees have contributed significantly to the American Red Cross across all our lines of service and worked alongside staff and other volunteers in multiple roles.

Their contributions have enabled the Red Cross to fulfill our mission to the community throughout the region.   
We proudly present:

Cindy Leung
Bay Area Chapter
Alameda County

Cindy has been part of the Community Partnership outreach program in Alameda County since 2020.

Her leadership has made the program a model for similar initiatives across the region. Her professionalism and dedication has allowed the Red Cross to reengage with multiple key partners while developing new relationships.

Cindy is a passionate volunteer who believes that “we can only fulfill our mission as a team and as a community.”

“I’m motivated by the incredible selflessness and dedication of other Red Cross volunteers, the staff and our partners who all drive towards disasters instead of away from them. With climate change, I see more and more human suffering and displacement in our future, and there will be even greater need for our services, before, during and after emergencies.”

Suzanne Garrett
Bay Area Chapter
Contra Costa County

Red Crosser extraordinaire Suzanne Garrett was honored for her service, dedication and time as a large-scale disaster responder and as a Disaster Action Team member. She’s held several key roles in Contra Costa County, including Disaster Chair, Disaster Action Team Lead, Duty Officer and Caseworker.

She also serves as our county  Program Lead for The Pillowcase Project and has kept the program thriving in Contra Costa County, even through the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to thank all the many volunteers I have the pleasure to serve with, in Contra Costa and also throughout (our region.) You have made me feel like part of a true family where we all have a common purpose – Sleeves Up, Hearts Open, All In.”

Ann Bennett Young
Central Coast Chapter
Santa Cruz County

Since joining the Red Cross, Ann has supported blood drives as a Donor Ambassador and as a blood drive coordinator.

She has also been an advocate and champion of inclusion, belonging, equity, and access, and has presented on cultural intelligence on multiple occasions within our region and to regions across the U.S.

Ann has also assisted Disaster Cycle Services, working with community partners and residents to ensure they are prepared to respond to disasters.

“Volunteering with the Red Cross allows me to spend time with people who know that they can make a difference for those around them. Problem-solving and meeting needs become so much more meaningful in a context where others can benefit directly. Additionally, I learn so much and am always able to strengthen my skills by taking on new and different challenges.”

Alisa Zhou
North Bay Chapter
Marin County

Alisa is a kind and passionate volunteer, and a wonderful leader for her chapter’s Youth Executive Board.
From her position on the North Bay Board of Directors, Alisa was inspired to create a storybook that highlights Red Cross volunteers around the world. In addition to her storybook project, Alisa is always thinking of new ideas to engage chapter youth volunteers and promote Red Cross Clubs.

Furthermore, she has invited notable guest speakers to events that allow high school students to learn about the organization’s impact.

“I’m blessed to have found a family among the Red Cross community and look forward to continuing to grow — both personally and professionally — together. The Red Cross community is one that is so special…(t)his organization truly bridges the line between friends and colleagues,” she said.

Matthew Tsai
Silicon Valley Chapter
Santa Clara County

With his determination to serve communities impacted by wildfires, Matthew became an effective advocate for expanding youth engagement in disaster response within our region.

He was the first youth volunteer from our region to be deployed in the staffing function, specifically the Disaster Event Based Volunteer team.

In this role, Matthew supported community members who graciously raised their hands to join our wildfire response. He hosted new volunteer welcome sessions, managed the regional volunteer shift tool, and helped fill open shifts, all while attending school during the day. 

“I am continually inspired by how the collective power of our organization enables us to respond to major disasters and help people across the globe.”

A Spirit to Serve

Jamshid Kiani’s path to the American Red Cross is a familiar one for many volunteers: he was led by a spirit to serve others. Media coverage of a Red Cross disaster response in 2015 had piqued his interest, so he sought to learn more.

“A few months after retiring from my job as a chef at a private resort, preparing up to 1200 meals per day, I saw a news item showing Red Cross volunteers providing food and other items to affected clients. I was moved, and I thought to myself ‘I have the knowledge and ability to help with this,’ so I went online to see what the Red Cross is all about.”

Kiani presenting at a Fire Safe event in Santa Cruz County.

That online foray kicked off a humanitarian journey that recently culminated in one of the top honors for a volunteer: this past June, Kiani was awarded the Central Coast Chapter’s Disaster Cycle Services Exceptional Leadership Award. In his seven years as volunteer, Kiani has achieved both experience and leadership in multiple disaster roles, including 46 disaster response deployments, two of those as extended deployments in the Virgin Islands and Oregon. In Northern California, he works with the Regional Response Management Team, and is a disaster response instructor for new Red Cross disaster teams and volunteers.

In short, Kiani has made good on that spirit to serve. But his initial intent to apply his culinary skills on a disaster back in 2015 didn’t quite go to plan. After taking online Red Cross training courses and learning more about the organization, he visited his local chapter office.

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