Tag Archives: Volunteers

Giving people purpose in times of catastrophe

By Andrea Mendoza

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Ann Eichhorn is shown with her husband Bill at a Red Cross shelter in Santa Rosa in 2017. (Photo: Virginia Becker)

“The mission of the Red Cross, its reputation, and its non-biased position to help whoever needs help is what originally inspired me to volunteer,” says Ann Eichhorn, who was recognized with a Volunteer of the Year Award this past May during the annual recognition event for Marin County volunteers.

Ann’s volunteer experience with the Red Cross officially began in the early 1970s as a young adult. Back then, she might not have imagined becoming the organization’s Marin County Disaster Chair, a position she has held for the past two and one-half years. In between, her experience as an emergency room nurse and an ordained minister has also come in handy when nurturing clients during disaster responses.

Her current Disaster Chair position allows Ann to coordinate volunteers and manage the organizational goals and objectives. “I find that this is something that I like to do,” says Ann. “I love working with the volunteers and the folks who find themselves in difficulty to help bring both safety and relief to their situations when they need it.”

The recent fires in Northern California led to an increase in volunteers, people who stepped up and made themselves available to help those affected. According to Ann, volunteers have almost tripled in number, and one of her challenges is to make sure that volunteers with special skill sets get placed in the right spot where they can be engaged and comfortably give the best of themselves.

“My job is to give people a purpose and to help them find their place where they can serve with the time they have available, as well as helping people see beyond a catastrophe to see what needs to be done and how we can help,” says Ann.

In working with the Red Cross, Ann has not only helped in giving volunteers a purpose within the organization but has also directly helped those who have sought aid and comfort. One of her most memorable experiences was an 11-day deployment to the Santa Rosa Veterans Center when it became a needs shelter for over 300 people. “It was a very intense 11 days,” remembers Ann. “There were lots of good lessons learned, and we all made it out alive,” she says jokingly.

Like other volunteer leaders who exhibit endless dedication in service of others, Ann was not expecting to be honored last spring for doing what she loves. “There have been a lot of great volunteers before me, and there’s a lot of people who do a lot more than I do with the Red Cross too,” she says, reflecting on the Volunteer of the Year Award. “I was both humbled and honored.”

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About the author: Andrea Mendoza is interning with the American Red Cross in the Santa Rosa office.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference in the San Francisco Bay Area by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the total Red Cross workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Email arcbav@redcross.org to get started.

 

 

Doing what you can, when you can

By Andrea Mendoza

bob-elaine_420x279With Red Cross experience that spans more than 26 years, volunteers Robert and Elaine Florkowski are no strangers to disaster response. While their endless contributions to the Red Cross, dating to the early 1990s, have always been appreciated, the spotlight on the Benicia couple was especially bright at the most recent recognition dinner for Solano County volunteers. At the 2018 annual event, they were awarded the Clara Barton Award, recognizing their many years of volunteer leadership.

For Robert, it was an earthquake in South California that led him to a nearby Red Cross office to learn more about what to do in a future disaster. He decided then and there to volunteer and help others be better prepared in case another earthquake hit. “I liked putting together and teaching classes, as well as preparing the monthly meetings,” says Robert.

Throughout his many years as a shelter manager for the Red Cross, Robert has also deployed to other states to assist in emergency situations. Over the years, he figures he has volunteered at more than a dozen disasters, including a deployment to help with the September 11 attacks in New York. Noting how simple yet personally rewarding Red Cross service can be, Robert remembers a particular deployment in which he served as a shelter manager in Mississippi during a bad flood. “I got to go to all of the flooded areas and directly helped the people affected,” he recalls.

During her own years of Red Cross work, Elaine has put her nursing background to good use, serving as a Health Service Lead in Solano County. She was inspired by what the Red Cross could do and by the number of people she could help through the organization. “I did enjoy it when I was a Registered Nurse,” says Elaine. “I was one who took care of a lot of clients, too, and those have been memorable experiences to me.”

In addition to her assistance in the medical field, Elaine has also worked with client services — which she describes as a lot of fun — and supported the Service to the Armed Forces program at the Travis Air Force Base.

“It’s nice getting to receive an award that acknowledges the time and effort you put in to help patients and clients,” says Elaine, speaking modestly of the Clara Barton Award. Robert adds that he was completely surprised to learn about the recognition. “I didn’t think what I did was a big deal,” he says. “You just do what you can and when you can.”

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About the author: Andrea Mendoza is interning with the American Red Cross in the Santa Rosa office.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference in the San Francisco Bay Area by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 94 percent of the total Red Cross workforce to carry out our humanitarian work. Red Cross volunteers are trained to meet the needs of those affected by disasters, providing food, shelter, and comfort for families affected by major disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as helping local residents prepare for and recover from emergencies of all kinds. We’ll find the position that appeals to you and allows you to use your skills and talents. Email arcbav@redcross.org to get started.

Volunteer teams continue ‘Sound the Alarm’ activities in San Jose, Alameda County

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With the help of the Red Cross’s Katareina Vincent, Christian (left) and Carlos Chavez create an escape plan during a “Sound the Alarm” visit to their home in Oakland. (Photo: Cate Calson)

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” events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free 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 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

On Saturday, February 16, two more “Sound the Alarm” events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region. One of the organized events took place in the city of San Jose; another was held in various locations in Alameda County.

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San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien and the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Terry Unter brief volunteers prior to the installation activities. (Photo: Oleksii Nazaruk)

•  In San Jose, more than 50 volunteers made 53 homes and 243 residents safer in the Sunshadow Mobile Home Park. In all, 216 free smoke alarms were installed in the residents’ homes. The Silicon Valley Chapter’s regular partner in local smoke-alarm installations, the San Jose Fire Department, was also on hand to help on Saturday. Fire Chief Robert Sapien and department PIO Mitch Matlow there, as were 2 fire engines and 1 ladder unit. In addition to Red Cross volunteers taking part in the activity, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation provided six volunteers who supported the home visits. Breakfast was donated by Chick-fil-A, and coffee was provided by Lee’s Sandwiches, which also supplied lunch at reduced prices. (See the photo album for this activity.)

•  In Alameda County, Red Cross volunteers were out in Oakland (Fruitvale community) and in Spanish-speaking communities throughout Alameda County, installing free smoke alarms and educating residents about home fires. They visited 40 homes, installed 117 alarms, and made 188 residents safer. (See the photo album for this activity.)

From April 27 through May 12 this spring, volunteers and partners will be making an extra push to make in-home visits in communities throughout the country. The goal of this national effort will be to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

For more information about the Home Fire Campaign in our region, please go to this web page.

Her son’s heroism reintroduced this dedicated board member to the Red Cross

chris-carlton_420x279Chris Carlton’s work for the American Red Cross is plenty heroic: She has served tirelessly on the Silicon Valley Chapter’s Board of Directors for seven years, including two years as board president; she is currently serving as chair of the board’s Development Committee; she has generously supported the Red Cross with financial donations, qualifying her to be a Tiffany Circle member; she has served on the Tiffany Circle Council; and several years ago she even helped draft Culture Initiative values for the Pacific Division.

With that kind of a Red Cross portfolio, it’s easy to see why Chris was selected to receive the chapter’s Clara Barton Award for 2018. The award, named after the founder of the Red Cross, recognizes a volunteer for service in a series of leadership positions held over a number of years; it was given to Chris at the chapter’s Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos last spring.

While Chris is proud of her Red Cross efforts, she is the first one to say that her devotion and dedication to the organization stems from the actions of the real hero of this story: her son, Evan.

Evan’s heroism occurred nearly 10 years ago, as he and a girlfriend were returning home from a San Jose Shark’s game. Waiting for a train at the nearby Diridon Station, the couple struck up a conversation with a man and his grandson. “My son turned away for a minute, and when he turned back, the man was on the ground,” Chris says. “The gentleman was turning purple.”

Without hesitation, Evan asked anyone within earshot if they knew CPR; no one responded. “So he just took it upon himself to attempt to revive the man,” Chris says. “Evan started doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and another person nearby subsequently joined him to start chest compressions.”

When the paramedics arrived, they attempted multiple times to restart the man’s heart with a defibrillator. Eventually, they took the victim away in an ambulance.

Evan returned home that fateful night, believing that the man he had tried to save had not made it. “He was pretty depressed about it,” Chris recalls.

Then, some two months after the incident, the family spotted an article in the San Jose Mercury News. In the column, the writer was relaying a message from a reader who was recovering from a heart attack suffered at the train station after a Sharks game. The survivor was looking for a young man he had been speaking to — and who had led the effort to save him that night. He was looking for Evan so he could thank him.

Evan’s family responded on his behalf, and shortly after that, the man (“Paul”) and Evan met. Following their exchange, Paul decided to nominate Evan for a Red Cross Award. Not surprisingly, the nomination was well received by the local chapter, and in 2010, Evan received a Good Samaritan Hero Award. (See this video featuring Evan and Paul.)

Paul was fortunate that night: Evan had worked as a lifeguard for several years, so he was skilled in CPR; and the person who assisted Evan was studying to be an EMT. “It was the two boys, basically, who worked hard to save the man’s life,” Chris says.

Her son’s lifesaving efforts did more than fill Chris and her husband with justifiable pride: The incident spurred them to both get recertified in first aid and CPR themselves. Their Red Cross training put them in touch with chapter personnel, and eventually Chris was asked to join the local Board of Directors.

“Many years ago, I had taken a first aid training class from the Red Cross,” Chris says. “I also taught a first-aid class for a while, but then my career [in high-tech in Silicon Valley] got very busy so I just had to drop it.”

But, since reconnecting with the Red Cross, Chris Carlton has more than made up for her gap in service. While her volunteer work can be time-consuming, it comes with real benefits, says the former HR executive.

“I get to work with people who are on a humanitarian mission,” Chris says. “They are down to earth, put other people first, and are willing to do whatever it takes to help others.”

In other words, she gets to work with people like her own son, Evan.

Central Coast teams install 175 free smoke alarms in Seaside homes

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“Sound the Alarm” volunteers are shown in Seaside during the Central Coast Chapter’s installation of free smoke alarms in that city. (Photo by Russell Cole. Click here for a full-size image.)

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 by 25 percent.

A key component of the campaign is a series of “Sound the Alarm – Save a Life” events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the “Sound the Alarm” neighborhood visits have already saved more than 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

On Saturday, January 26, a Sound the Alarm event took place in the city of Seaside. That day, the American Red Cross of the Central Coast visited 69 homes in a 24-block area in the city, installing 175 free smoke alarms.

The volunteer teams also provided in-home fire and earthquake preparedness education during the home visits in that community, said Helen Cosentino, a Disaster Program Specialist for the local Red Cross chapter.

“A total of 36 volunteers made up 12 teams that conducted the home visits,” Cosentino said. “Because of volunteers’ great work that day, the 229 people who live in those homes are now much safer.”

In addition to Red Cross volunteers, the teams were supported by volunteers from UC Santa Cruz (the Rotaract youth club), from CERV (Community Emergency Response Volunteers), and from Seaside High School, Cosentino added. “We also received tremendous support from the Seaside Fire Department, which hosted us at their main station, joined our teams between emergency calls, and even generously donated breakfast and lunch for the volunteers. We are very grateful for the partnership we have with Fire Chief Brian Dempsey and members of his department.”

In addition to organizing local Sound the Alarm events, the American Red Cross of the Central Coast is also offering the installation of free smoke alarms and educational visits on an appointment basis throughout Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties. If you would like free smoke alarms installed in your home, please use one of the following options to schedule an appointment:

 

Helping people is a team sport

Photo of attendees at the boot camp

The American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter office in San Jose was the site of a well-attended training “boot camp” on January 20 that introduced local members of Rotary International and other attendees to the many volunteer opportunities available through the American Red Cross. (Photo: Sasha Boyko)

For more photos of the day-long event, please go to this Flickr album.

Two of the world’s leading service organizations — the American Red Cross and Rotary International — joined forces on Sunday, January 20, for an all-day “Red Cross Training Boot Camp.” The session, held at the Silicon Valley Chapter in San Jose, was designed to provide Rotarians and other attendees with “Shelter Fundamentals” training and to expose them to the many Red Cross volunteer opportunities. Read more

Red Cross, partner volunteers install more than 200 free smoke alarms in San Jose

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Volunteers are briefed at the beginning of the day’s installation activities.

More than 70 volunteers from the Silicon Valley Chapter and from two Red Cross partners (ARM and the Miss & Mrs. Vietnam USA) met on Saturday, January 19, at the La Buona Vita Mobile Home Park to Sound the Alarm by providing residents there with free smoke detectors. Read more

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