By Debbi Behrman
In March, Marianna Thomas of the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region, received a call from Luke Beckman, Division Disaster State Relations Director for California. Luke needed someone with Mass Care expertise to develop hotel shelter training for state and local government partners to better manage isolation and quarantine for people experiencing homelessness. The non-congregate shelter sites, which are part of California’s Project Roomkey, include hotels, motels, and trailers. California was the first in the nation to receive FEMA funding to secure thousands of isolation rooms in hotels for our most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness with the intention to protect them from COVID.
Marianna is the Mass Care Co-lead (along with Laura Hovden) for the Northern California Coastal Region, as well as the lead for the National Mass Care Webinars, and the perfect choice. “My first reaction,” Marianna recounts, “was our expertise is with helping people in disasters, not helping people experiencing homelessness and putting them in hotels.” American Red Cross is known for congregate sheltering (like in a high school gymnasium-style shelter), not non-congregate (one person per room) sheltering. Then she realized that the Red Cross is an expert in developing and delivering training and knows more about sheltering than just about any other organization. That’s how she came to lead the team who developed the non-congregate shelter training for partners.
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Most people know that American Red Cross teams regularly respond to disasters — both large and small — throughout the country, providing critical support to affected individuals, families, and communities. But the organization also works hard to help people prepare for disasters before they happen.
In fact, Red Cross volunteers regularly meet with business, school, and other community groups to promote the organization’s popular Be Red Cross Ready program and its three key elements: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to have the usual in-person “Be Red Cross Ready” (BRCR) sessions, the Northern California Coastal Region several weeks ago began hosting virtual BRCR presentations that are open to the public. Read more
(l to r) Eva Marquez, Keith Hoffman, LouAnne Williams, and Jeff Airth. Photography: Kane Wong | American Red Cross
LouAnne Williams keeps it simple. On October 31, 2013, she began to look for ways to give back to her community. She tried to register with a local hospital but felt that they had an overwhelming number of rules and regulations. Craving something simpler and more direct, she sought counsel from friends and family. Her son-in-law suggested she try the Red Cross, so LouAnne walked into the front door of the Red Cross, literally across the street from the hospital. And she has never looked back.
LouAnne began her journey as a preparedness instructor and now leads her peers in multiple capacities. Last year, she received the San Mateo County Volunteer of the Year Award, something that came as no surprise to her colleagues.
By Debbi Behrman
Ed Silva with City of Oakland Battalion Chief Zoraida Diaz. Photo: Ziji Zhou | American Red Cross
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Florida and Louisiana causing catastrophic damage and loss of life. It was the deadliest hurricane in the United States since 1928. A month later, Ed Silva saw that help was still needed, and he called the Red Cross to volunteer. Ed went in one day for training, and the next, he was on a plane to Florida.
This past year, Ed received the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership. It turns out that Katrina was just the beginning of an action-filled volunteer career with the Red Cross that spans 15 years.
by Marcia Antipa
JJ, center front, surrounded by fellow Red Crossers at the 2019 Bay Area Holiday Party. Photo by Eric Carmichael | American Red Cross
“Bringing people together for a great cause and a great organization.” That’s how JJ Lara describes his role as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, and it is key to his winning the San Francisco Volunteer of the Year award.
From Fleet Week to the Leadership Council, and a few roles that might surprise you, JJ has spent seven years giving to the organization.
Berlin Gomez-Muniz, 11, received a Red Cross “Hero” medal for alerting her family to a Dec. 19 fire in San Jose. Her mother, Frankie, and Silicon Valley Red Cross chapter board chair Terry Unter look on. Photo: Mark Butler/American Red Cross
Berlin Gomez-Muniz stood quietly as a 3-inch diameter “Hero” medal was draped around her neck at the Jan. 16 Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross board meeting, but when it was the most important, the 11-year-old says, she yelled so loud her throat hurt after she alerted her extended family to a fire just before Christmas. Read more