Tag Archives: Volunteers

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.

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.

Red Cross workers see — firsthand — the value of the Home Fire Campaign

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Helen Cosentino, right, and Kelly Donnelly-May are thanked by John Hulliger, one of the responding members of the Hollister Fire Department. Hulliger, himself, has assisted with many of the Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” events in that community.

Two Red Cross workers, preparing for a recent “Sound the Alarm” event in the city of Hollister, saw first-hand why the organization’s campaign to reduce home-fire injuries and deaths is so important.

“We were in a particular neighborhood, going door to door to let residents know of our upcoming smoke-alarm installation event there,” says Helen Cosentino, the Disaster Program Specialist for the Central Coast Chapter. “But as we approached one home, we heard what sounded like a smoke alarm that was already going off. My volunteer partner ran to the front door, pounded on it, and screamed for the residents to get out.”

Having been alerted to a kitchen fire by their smoke alarm — and by Red Cross volunteer Kelly Donnelly-May — a man and woman quickly emerged; Cosentino, meanwhile, wasted no time dialing 9-1-1 on her cell phone. Within minutes, the Hollister Fire Department was on the scene, ensuring that the home was vacant and that the fire — which was confined to the stove area — was extinguished.

For Cosentino, the incident on April 16 illustrated perfectly why the American Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign almost five years ago:

  • Home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States.
  • And having working smoke alarms inside homes can — and does — reduce those tragic numbers.

In fact, it is believed that the campaign’s Sound the Alarm home visits — in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, install free smoke alarms for residents that need them — have already saved more than 550 lives since the national campaign began!

“Having smoke alarms just in that one home on that one day may have prevented a tragedy,” Cosentino says.

Since the Home Fire Campaign began, volunteer teams across the country have installed more than 1.6 million smoke alarms in homes that need them. In just Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties alone, volunteers and partners working out of the Central Coast Chapter installed more than 1,500 free smoke alarms during “Sound the Alarm” home visits in 2018.

But the Red Cross wants to do more, and during a three-weekend push this spring (April 27-May 12), the organization has set a goal of installing an additional 100,000 smoke alarms.

In fact, the Sound the Alarm event that Cosentino and “Kelly May” had been preparing for that afternoon in Hollister was part of that spring push. And on Saturday, April 27, 28 volunteers from the local chapter and Hollister Fire Department installed 130 alarms in 55 homes, making 170 residents safer in that city and in nearby Tres Pinos.

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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 in just April alone.

Regional teams continue to ‘Sound the Alarm’ during April

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At a Sound the Alarm event in Contra Costa County, 14 teams of 4 went door-to-door to install smoke alarms in the Concord Cascade and Sun Valley Village communities in Pacheco. (Photo by Virginia and Albert Becker)

Spring push kicks off with ‘Signature Events’ on April 27

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 April, many more impactful Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region.

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

General Events:

  • April 13 — In San Mateo County, Red Cross volunteers installed 127 smoke alarms in 32 homes.
  • April 18 — In Napa and Sonoma Counties, Red Cross volunteers installed 40 smoke alarms in 24 homes.

Signature Events (Saturday, April 27):

  • In San Benito County, Red Cross and Hollister Fire Department volunteers installed 130 smoke alarms in 55 homes, making 177 residents safer. (See a group photo of the volunteers in Hollister.)
  • In San Mateo County, Red Cross volunteers installed 25 smoke alarms in 11 homes, making 21 residents safer.
  • In San Francisco, Red Cross volunteers installed 16 smoke alarms in 4 homes, making 8 residents safer.
  • In Contra Costa County, Red Cross and community volunteers installed 374 smoke alarms in 124 homes, making 365 residents safer. (See the photo album of this “kick off” Signature Event.)
  • In Lake and Mendocino Counties, Red Cross and AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers installed 80 smoke alarms in 31 homes.
  • In Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, Red Cross volunteers installed 144 smoke alarms in 52 homes, making 101 residents safer. (See the photo album of the volunteers in action in Crescent City.)

Signature Events (Sunday, April 28):

  • In San Mateo County, Red Cross volunteers installed 11 smoke alarms in 7 homes, making 22 residents safer.
  • In Napa and Sonoma Counties, Red Cross volunteers installed 91 smoke alarms in 30 homes, making 115 residents safer.

A number of spring Signature Events are still planned in our region, and volunteer support is still needed. To sign up to volunteer at an event near you, please go to our region’s campaign web page.

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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!

Celebrating our amazing volunteers!

National Volunteer Week is celebrated each April; so we thought we’d give another salute to the (amazing) volunteers honored in our region in 2018

California Wildfires 2018

Volunteers, like the many who cared for and comforted so many people during last fall’s wildfires in Northern California, are an essential part of all lines of service in the American Red Cross. (Photo: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross)

National Volunteer Week this year takes place from April 7 to 13 and serves as an important reminder within the American Red Cross about the critical role that volunteers play in everything we do.

Each spring also means that a new round of Volunteer Recognition Events is getting underway in our region, giving each of the local operations a special opportunity to acknowledge (and celebrate) the tremendous work done by volunteers in each one of the counties we serve.

It’s in that spirit that we thought we’d take a moment to thank — one more time — the many volunteers we honored at our 2018 Volunteer Recognition Events:

Alameda/Contra Costa Counties Event

Central Coast Chapter Event

Humboldt and Del Norte Counties Event

Marin County Event

San Francisco Event

San Mateo County Event

Silicon Valley Chapter Event

Solano County Event

Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino Counties Events

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2019 Volunteer Recognition Events: Some of this year’s volunteer recognition events in our region have already taken place; most have not yet. That means there’s still time to go to this page in Volunteer Connection and register to attend an upcoming event that is still accepting registrations.

Become a Red Cross Volunteer: You can make a difference by becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Volunteers constitute about 90 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. Get started by going to this web page.

Sticking with it for the community

Annie Schaefer - 420x279The American Red Cross named Annie Schaefer the 2018 Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year for Napa County. Though Annie shuns the limelight, her passion and belief in the Red Cross exude with every breath and action she takes on behalf of the agency. This is her story.

Ten years ago, Annie Schaefer worked for a large pharmaceutical company in Napa. The senior team set aside 100K every year to give to important causes, so it was no surprise when a board member from the American Red Cross in St. Helena made a pitch to her company’s leadership in search of additional board members. Annie’s boss recommended her for the job.

“I got a cold call, [this man] shared his experience, and I listened,” Annie reflects. “He asked me about my involvement in or knowledge of the Red Cross. I only had one distant association. My mother was a nurse in the community, and my parents were always active. But the cool thing about the Red Cross was that my Mom volunteered at the summer fair at the first aid station. So I agreed to attend a Board meeting.”

At the time, in 2009, Annie had a son overseas in Iraq. During that Board meeting, the team talked about the work of the Red Cross with military families. “I got a lump in my throat,” she says. “And it became apparent I was one of the only people with a direct link to the military. I bit, and joined the Board.”

As Annie learned more, she started taking classes. She dove into her work as part of the chapter’s Disaster Action Team. Then in 2014, when Annie had taken the helm as the Napa Valley Board Chair, American Red Cross transformed its local operations nationally to meet the growing demands for services while making the best use of donor dollars. In the new chapter design principle, a chapter must serve a minimum population of 340,000.  This led to the consolidation of many smaller Red Cross chapters into fewer larger ones, hence the birth of California Northwest. A year later, Annie was the last remaining Napa Valley Board member. “The timing couldn’t have been worse,” she says. “My primary concern was to keep the Red Cross front and center and to let people know we weren’t going anywhere.”

Annie says the timing was challenging.  In the middle of all the transitions of structures and roles, the area was hit with a couple of major disasters. The 2014 earthquake destroyed the Napa office, even though St. Helena’s survived. And then the wildfires of 2015 ravaged the northern counties. “Twelve hundred people showed up in 48 hours at the Calistoga fairgrounds,” she recalls. “And that’s when we got the hit. People said, ‘the Red Cross doesn’t know what they’re doing’ and people were left with a bad taste in their mouths. But everyone was at fault; the entire region – government, nonprofits, Red Cross, companies, residents – was unprepared and overwhelmed.”

Why did Annie stick with it in spite of challenging feedback and community misperceptions? “I thought: these are my people,” she says. “It’s the personal piece of it that makes it worthwhile. My community is what kept me coming back. Even when it became the most grim.”

Annie recalls, “When I helped open the mass care shelter in 2015, a very gentle retired fellow came up to me. It was quiet, and he smiled and said ‘ya know, I’ve always donated to the Red Cross so now I get the payback.’ And it’s because of our [donors and volunteers] that we can provide for people who need us.”

When asked what she would tell potential volunteers for the Red Cross, Annie replied “You can’t measure the warmth. When you give something, don’t look for what you get out of it, look for how it makes you feel. Get the whole story – go out on a call – you can watch and see what happens.”

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please visit this web page.

Regional teams continue to ‘Sound the Alarm’ during the month of March

sta_420x279On 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 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 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of March, eight more Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region. Here is a brief summary of each of these local activities:

  • In Vallejo on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 36 alarms in 19 homes. (See the photo album for this activity.)
  • In Rohnert Park on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 80 alarms in 28 homes. (See the photo album for this activity.)
  • In San Francisco on Saturday, March 9, volunteers installed 100 alarms in 21 homes. In all, the work made 52 people safer. For the home visits in the Outer Sunset neighborhood that day, the Red Cross partnered with Holy Name Church and the San Francisco Fire Department. 
  • In San Jose on Saturday, March 23, 49 volunteers installed 251 alarms in 87 homes. In all, the work made 163 people safer. For the home visits that day, the Red Cross teams partnered with Beautiful Day and the San Jose Fire Department.
  • In Oakland on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 214 alarms in 54 homes. In all, the work made 197 people safer. The Oakland Fire Department was a key partner in this work.
  • In Watsonville on Saturday, March 30, more than 40 volunteers installed 162 alarms in 52 homes. In all, the work made 228 people safer. The eight Red Cross teams were also supported by volunteers from the Watsonville Fire Department, Watsonville Fire Cadets, and Watsonville Police Cadets. Watsonville Fire Chief Rudy Lopez greeted the teams and shared his heartfelt appreciation for their live-saving service. Central Coast Board Chair, Rayvon Williams, also participated in his first Sound the Alarm event.
  • In Willits on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 59 alarms in 20 homes. The Red Cross partnered with NCO (North Coast Opportunities) and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) teams to make these home visits.
  • In San Francisco on Saturday, March 30, volunteers installed 41 alarms in 9 homes, making 19 people safer. Volunteers also gathered 18 sign-ups for future appointments.

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

A number of these spring events are scheduled to take place in our region, and organizers are still in need of volunteer support. For information about how you can volunteer at these events, please see this press release.

For more information about the overall impact of the Home Fire Campaign in our region — and to sign-up to help at an installation event near you, you may also go to this web page. (This page also contains information about our generous regional and national Sound the Alarm partners.)

Thank you to all who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

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