Tag Archives: North Bay

Relentless in their help

Most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to escape a home fire. 
Photo by Brad Zerivitz | American Red Cross

_____

Navy veteran Michael Ocaranza awoke to flames engulfing his apartment. He had just enough time to grab his dog, Sparky, and race out the door as fire licked around his head. Mike ultimately suffered 1st and 2nd degree burns on his forearms and shoulders. He was hospitalized in San Francisco for two weeks.

American Red Cross volunteers and case managers, Betsy Witthohn and Cindy Jones, first contacted Mike during his hospitalization and began to put together resources for his welfare following his stay. After two weeks of care, Mike’s brother Alonzo – also a veteran – transported Mike from the hospital back to Sonoma County.

“I picked Mike up, and we went directly over to the Red Cross office,” said Alonzo. “Betsy met us outside. She had a cash card to give to Mike, some emergency supplies and a little startup money. She was really, really nice from the beginning. Her communication skills blew me away. I had never experienced anyone who put so much effort… and as a volunteer… they were helping me, too.”

Read more

Feeding people for a lifetime

Susan Reese in the field.

American Red Cross volunteer – and recent transplant to Fairfield – Susan Reese always planned to work with the Red Cross when she retired. When Susan finally retired from the restaurant industry last year, she became a volunteer wildfire associate. While working at a Local Assistance Center (LAC) during the North Complex fires in Yuba City, disaster response leadership called for people to join the feeding team. Susan jumped up, and said, “Feeding is what I love doing!” Just like that, Susan’s first deployment brought everything full circle. 

Susan first had contact with the Red Cross in 1997 when she lived in Klamath, California. That year, the Klamath River breeched and flooded the town. Susan says that the entire area “was wiped out.” The Red Cross arrived and began to feed survivors and evacuees by bringing in food from a neighboring city. 

Read more

Celebrating volunteers during Red Cross Month!

Red Cross volunteers always manage to make the best of difficult situations, and social distancing for our 2019 recognition events was no exception.
Photo: Kathryn Hecht | American Red Cross
_____

As the pandemic wears on, research shows that more people want to help those in need. This month, we celebrate this humanitarian spirit during Red Cross Month and ask others to join us.

For almost 80 years, the president of the U.S. has proclaimed March as “Red Cross Month” to honor people giving back through our lifesaving mission — which is powered by more than 90% volunteers. The volunteer superstars from our 2019 recognition events are featured below. May their stories inspire countless others to heed the call.

Read more

Sonoma County volunteer Andy Witthohn recognized as Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year

Andy and Betsy Witthohn at a volunteer thank you event in 2018. Photo by Ritch Davidson | American Red Cross

Andy Witthohn has a long history of volunteerism and service work spanning multiple continents, industries, and community needs. Born in Bangor, ME, Andy studied in Nairobi, served in the Peace Corps in Somalia, and taught school – mostly kindergarten – for 20 years in Sonoma County. He finished his professional career advocating for teachers with the California Teachers Association. 

In December 2020, he received the Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year award for his extensive efforts with the American Red Cross during the devastating Kincade Fire in 2019. 

His peers were quick to gush. 

“Not afraid to try new things or take on new challenges, Andy quickly became one of our most steadfast and reliable volunteers in the Napa-Sonoma Territory,” said Angela Hunt, volunteer for the Northern California Coastal Region and presenter of the award. “With his energetic spirit and constant good humor, he made short work of any project he took on, and he’s taken on quite a few. We’re so appreciative for everything he does.” 

Read more

‘He is meant to be alive’

THE DRAMATIC STORY OF HOW QUICK ACTION AND TRAINING SAVED THE LIFE OF A YOUNG SANTA ROSA MAN

Six coaches and swimmers from Santa Rosa Junior College have received the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for their efforts to rescue a student athlete.

by Marcia Antipa

Morgan DeSalvo and teammate Megan Ference. Photo submitted by Megan Ference.

“The last thing I remember is looking up at the ceiling, and then I blacked out.”

On March 5, 2020, Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) student Morgan DeSalvo finished a lap of a swim team workout when a lifelong heart condition finally caught up with him.

Morgan and a few teammates were at the pool wall, catching their breath, when he slipped underwater and sank to the bottom. Swimmer Katie Morrison noticed Morgan underneath her.

“He [wasn’t] moving,” Katie recalls. “He was underwater on his back. His mouth and eyes were open.” She reached under Morgan’s arms and struggled to lift him. Teammate Megan Ference was in the next lane and hurried to help.

Read more

‘Go-To Guy’ is the Marin Volunteer of the Year

By Marcia Antipa

Red Cross volunteer Kevin Sagar flexing skills

What does a law enforcement officer do in his spare time? Volunteer to help others, of course. Meet Kevin Sagar, the American Red Cross Volunteer of the Year for Marin County.

Kevin is wrapping up his first year as a police officer with the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit, known as the SMART Train.

“The majority of my job is looking for people that are on the train tracks, either oblivious to the trains or trying to hurt themselves. Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere at the right time, but it is nice when we do get there and spot someone before something happens.”

Read more
« Older Entries Recent Entries »