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.
SAF Director Go Funai, Kathleen Lenihan, Marilyn Byington, Leeann Woodward, and Julianna Jaynes deliver comfort kits to the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Photo: Nanette Shamieh | American Red Cross
The Covid-19 pandemic has hampered more than a few activities, but it has also spawned a number of opportunities. For example, shelter in place orders forced the canceling of several stand downs. A stand down is an event hosted for veterans where they can avail themselves of a variety of resources in one place. Resources include medical and dental treatment as well as haircuts in a safe and secure temporary environment.
Each veteran attending receives a comfort kit. These kits typically include a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, shaving cream, razor, shampoo, etc. According to Kathleen Lenihan, a retired Army Officer and Service to Armed Forces volunteer, “Walmart and other generous partners donate money, goods or make the kits.”
And with the cancellation of stand downs, a number of kits that were going unused.
Red Cross nurse leaders Liz Dietz, Anna Likens, Karen Isabelle, and Mary Ann Reilly chat with Larry Dietz, Public Affairs Officer of the Red Cross communications team. | Screenshot: Larry Dietz.
The Red Cross nurse is part of a tradition that dates back to the founding of the organization and core to the Red Cross Mission of alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has proclaimed the theme for Nurses Day 2020 as “Nursing the World to Health”.
Nursing the suffering is the stock and trade of the Red Cross Nurse. I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing nurse leaders of the Silicon Valley Chapter to learn more about what is special about being a Red Cross Nurse and to have them share some moments in their Red Cross Service that have stood out in their minds.
Red Cross nurses are indeed special.
Jillian Balceta, an AmeriCorps worker in the Silicon Valley Chapter, also serves on the chapter’s DAT and Casework teams. She supported the DAT team on two recent calls using her computer at home.
While the Covid-19 crisis has shuttered businesses, postponed community events, and required widespread sheltering-in-place, the pandemic hasn’t changed at least one thing: Individuals and families are still confronted with home fires and other emergencies that require critical assistance from the American Red Cross. Read more
Volunteers are the lifeline of the American Red Cross, providing critical services such as educating clients on home fire prevention. (Photo: Samar M. Salma; American Red Cross)
Every April, the American Red Cross joins organizations around the world to shine a spotlight on the people who make the real difference in our communities: our volunteers. Their selfless time, energy, compassion, and dedication are what get the work of the Red Cross done.
National Volunteer Week takes place this year from April 19th through April 25th. As a ramp-up to this special time, now is the perfect moment to recognize – once more – the incredible volunteers honored throughout our region at our 2019 Volunteer Recognition Events:
Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. (If you can’t find a blood drive in your area right now, please check back as Red Cross teams are rescheduling them as quickly as possible. Thank you!)
As the coronavirus pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have also grown at an alarming rate. As of March 18, nearly 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses, and schools during the coronavirus outbreak. These cancellations have resulted in some 150,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type. Read more