Tag Archives: NCCR Region

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.

Santa Clara County home fire illustrates value of smoke-alarm installations

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Mo Ghandehari, left, and Gordon Sakai visited the same Gilroy home twice: once to install two smoke alarms; a second time when the same alarms were activated by a fire in the attic.
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Summoned to the scene of a house fire in Gilroy this past November, American Red Cross volunteers Mo Ghandehari and Gordon Sakai thought the residence — badly damaged — seemed eerily familiar to each of them. That’s because it was.

The two Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members for South Santa Clara County had been there before; in fact, just seven months before as installers on a Red Cross smoke-alarm installation team.

“We had installed two alarms in the very same home as part of our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign,” Ghandehari says.

In this case, the eight occupants of the home were alerted to the fire by a neighbor who, seeing smoke billowing from the attic of the Lewis Street house, had knocked loudly on the door. But if the neighbor hadn’t happen to see the smoke, the recently installed Red Cross smoke alarms — also sounding a warning — might have been the only thing separating the home’s two adults and six children from almost certain tragedy.

“The incident really underscored for us the value of our smoke-alarm installation program,” Ghandehari says.

On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the 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 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.

In addition to neighborhood-wide Sound the Alarm efforts, the Red Cross also works with its partners to promote appointment-based home visits. And the South Santa Clara County team, which also consists of volunteers Terrie Berry and Gilbert Dalit, has diligently scheduled and followed up on those individual home visits.

“In fact, it was an appointment that brought Gordon and me to the Lewis Street residence,” Ghandehari says. “We had announced the program at the Gilroy Senior Center, and that particular home visit resulted from our Senior Center outreach.”

Once the fire occurred at the residence, Ghandehari and Sakai offered the occupants Red Cross financial assistance to help them with short-term emergency lodging, as well as “comfort kits” containing personal hygiene items.

But it was the sound of two smoke alarms, installed just seven months earlier, that could have very easily been the most important assistance the Gilroy family received from the American Red Cross.

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For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:

  • How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
  • The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!

Read about the great work our regional Sound the Alarm teams did during a special spring push in April and May.

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.

Follow these Red Cross Steps for a Safe 4th of July Holiday

The 4th of July holiday is just around the corner and many of us will take time off to enjoy a long weekend of summer fun. The American Red Cross wants everyone to have a great holiday and offers safety steps people can follow.

FIREWORKS

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public firework show put on by professionals. Stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.

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If you are setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
  • Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”

BARBECUE SAFETY

grillingKeep perishable foods in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs. Wash your hands before preparing the food. Don’t leave food out in the hot sun. If you are going to cook on a grill, follow these steps:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • Never grill indoors — not in your house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open and away from the house, the deck, tree branches or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to help keep the chef safe.

HEAT SAFETY

heat-strokeNever leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.

  • Stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors as they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Slow down, stay indoors. Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day. Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.

 WATER SAFETY

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Be “Water smart.” Children and adults should learn to swim so, at a minimum, they achieve the skills of water competency: be able to enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, find an exit, swim a distance and then get out of the water safely.

Prevent unsupervised access to water. A person who is drowning has a better chance of survival if these steps are followed:

  • Recognize the signs of someone trouble and shout for help;
  • Rescue and remove the person from water without putting yourself in danger;
  • Call 9-1-1;
  • Begin rescue breathing and CPR; and
  • Use an AED, if available, and transfer care to advanced life support.

Here are a few more steps people can take as we approach the holiday:

  • Go to www.redcross.org/watersafety for water safety courses, tips, and resources.
  • Download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to information on how to treat bleeding, burns, insect bites, and stings, and more.
  • Give blood. The number of people donating blood often drops during the summer when people are on vacation and schools are closed. Visit www.redcrossblood.org or download the Red Cross Blood App for more information or to schedule your donation.

Regional teams continue ‘Sound the Alarm’ activities in May

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A “Sound the Alarm” event in San Jose in May resulted in 812 smoke alarms being installed in 229 homes! One of the many well-organized teams that day — comprised of Red Cross and San Jose Fire personnel — get ready for their assigned installations. (Photo by: James Cagle)
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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 550 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of May, teams throughout the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region were especially busy organizing and holding a large number of Sound the Alarm events.

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

Here’s a rundown of the STA activities in each of our region’s four chapter areas during the month of May:

California Northwest Chapter

  • On May 11, teams installed 146 smoke alarms in 60 homes in Rohnert Park.

Bay Area Chapter

  • On May 1, teams installed 191 smoke alarms in 53 homes in Antioch (see photos).
  • On May 3, teams installed 42 smoke alarms in 20 homes in Marin County (see photos).
  • On May 5, teams installed 24 smoke alarms in 13 homes in San Mateo.
  • On May 11, teams installed 201 smoke alarms in 81 homes in Vallejo (see photos).
  • On May 11, teams installed 243 smoke alarms in 115 homes in San Mateo (see photos).
  • On May 11, teams installed 123 smoke alarms in 30 homes in Oakland (see photos).
  • On May 11, teams installed 66 smoke alarms in 18 homes in San Francisco (see photos).
  • On various dates in May, teams installed 56 smoke alarms in 19 homes at various locations in Alameda County (see photos of May 4 installation in Richmond).

Central Coast Chapter

  • On May 19, teams installed 60 alarms in 22 homes in Santa Cruz.

Silicon Valley Chapter

  • On May 4, teams installed 812 smoke alarms in 229 homes in San Jose (see photos).

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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.

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