Tag Archives: Youth

Volunteer LouAnne Williams keeps it simple in order to serve hundreds


(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.

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11-year-old who alerted her family to a fire is honored as Red Cross hero

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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

Over half of homes in Silver Creek Mobile Estates made safer by ‘Sound the Alarm’ event

On October 19, 2019, a team of over 100 American Red Cross and Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers supported by Council Member for District 7, Maya Esparza, San Jose Fire Department worked in teams to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

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The Silver Creek Mobile Estates is a community of 240 homes located in San Jose, California. Captain Bien Doan of the San Jose Fire Department working with Terry Unter, Disaster Services Volunteer at the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Red Cross, directed a coordinated campaign to canvass the community and pre-book Saturday morning appointments for the installations. Following the installation, everyone regrouped for lunch: subs from Lee’s Sandwiches. Read more

Leadership Development Camp posts record numbers and attendance

LDC-420x279The American Red Cross Youth Leadership Development Camp for the Northern Californa Coastal Region was held at Camp Butano Creek in Pescadaro on August 5th through 8th. The multi-day camp involves youth throughout the Bay Area in Red Cross activities and provides leadership and learning activities to develop our future leaders.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • 123 campers attended this year representing all four regional chapters – a first for the region!
  • An additional 23 youth staff attended, including seven advisory board youth staff, all of whom worked to plan the camp since December 2018.
  • 146 youth were certified in CPR/First Aid.
  • All participants experienced Community Disaster Education and learned how to install smoke alarms/check their homes for fire safety preparedness.
  • Campers studied the following components of Raid Cross, a role-playing simulation activity that helps students understand the basic rules of International Humanitarian Law:
    • Prisoners of War
    • Militia members making artillery decisions
    • Army Generals making a decision far away from the battles themselves

Always a highlight, Raid Cross introduces many students to unique parts of armed conflict and Red Cross’ involvement in each one.

  • Each student took part in the Diversity program designed to guide youth in understanding privilege. Students took part in a diversity circle to encourage recognition and appreciation of each other’s similarities and differences.

Thank you to all who attended. We hope to see you next year!

Please visit this link to view pictures from the event.

Celebrating our amazing 2018-2019 AmeriCorps team members!


Pictured are the regional AmeriCorps workers who were in San Jose on July 25 for a celebration of their capstone projects. (Photo: Cynthia Shaw)

Each fall, a new class of AmeriCorps workers becomes a critical part of the American Red Cross, supporting offices and staffing teams in regions throughout the country. It’s a union that benefits both the workers and the Red Cross: The AmeriCorps employees gain valuable on-the-job experience, while the Red Cross is the recipient of the workers’ key support, ideas, and energy.

The value of the AmeriCorps/Red Cross partnership was especially evident at a recent end-of-year celebration, honoring the tremendous work done in 2018–19 by the AmeriCorps employees of the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR). The celebration, during which each of the workers described his or her “capstone project” for the past year, took place on July 25 at the Silicon Valley Chapter in San Jose.

Delaram “Deli” Mehrkish was just one of the dozen AmeriCorps workers who were — very deservedly — saluted that day.

Working out of the region’s San Jose office, Mehrkish described how she, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader designed a “Prepare Your Club” capstone project that trained leaders of area youth clubs in the principles of the Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign — and in the process, encouraged the club members to inspect their own homes for emergency preparedness.

“Because of our project, the Red Cross was able to reach an additional 44 homes in Santa Clara County, ensuring that the residents of those homes had working smoke alarms and were educated in emergency preparedness,” Mehrkish says. “It was so successful that, with the efforts and momentum of our youth volunteers, we hope to make this a permanent youth-led project here in Santa Clara County.”

Mehrkish, shown in the accompanying photo (front row, second from left), is quick to say that AmeriCorps workers like her get as much from the Red Cross experience as they give. “Working for a nonprofit such as the Red Cross has given me so much fulfillment,” she says. “Not only have I gained professional skills and wisdom to help me in my future career, but I have also met the most incredible volunteers and employees, and I feel like I belong to a whole new community.”

Mehrkish, whose AmeriCorps term ends on August 23, adds that she will always cherish her year with the Red Cross. “I feel indebted to the people who showed me so much compassion from day one,” she says, giving an extra nod of appreciation to staff members she interacted with regularly in the Silicon Valley Chapter office: Jonathan Bernier, Nikki Rowe, and Romina Cervantes. “I am now a better person because of the experience.”

Allie Parker, who along with Bernier are the NCCR Volunteer & Youth Services employees who coordinate the region’s AmeriCorps program, says the members of this year’s AmeriCorps workforce provided key support — on a daily basis — in almost every line of service. “And, with their capstone projects, they imagined, created, and implemented initiatives that really augmented our operation,” Parker says. “We are so grateful for their effort and impact.”

Here is a list of all of our region’s amazing AmeriCorps 2018-19 team members, as well as a brief description of the capstone projects they undertook during the past year:

Cameron Soon, Regional Preparedness Coordinator
Project: GIS Mapping for Home Fire Campaign activities — Cameron created a GIS training for volunteers and staff to be able to utilize mapping while planning for “Sound the Alarm” events. By using GIS to plan their Sound the Alarm home visits, teams can factor in high fire-risk areas, previous Disaster Action Team calls, and more.

Danielle Halprin, International Services & Service to the Armed Forces Coordinator
Project: Consulate Engagement — Danielle worked to reach out to 40+ international consulates in our region in an effort to build partnerships with the current national delegates who are stationed in our region representing their nations. These partnerships also help the consulates stay up to date on Red Cross offering. Halprin even taught a few disaster preparedness classes to consulate employees.

Darren Adams, Disaster Services Coordinator (Alameda County)
Project: Shelter Management Decision-Making Tool
Darren built an Excel tool that allows teams to input all shelter data from the National Shelter System (NSS) and filter by immediate need when opening a shelter. His tool considers variables such as shelter location, population size, accessibility, etc. The tool will allow teams to better utilize our shelter partnership database while considering the immediate needs for a shelter.

Deli Mehrkish, Gurpreet Lally, and Timothy Fader, Youth Services Coordinators (San Jose)
Project: Prepare Your Club Initiative — This trio worked to ensure that not only are our youth volunteers educated in fire safety, but that their own homes are actually prepared as well. By leveraging youth executive boards, the group was able to encourage youth volunteers to do a fire-education safety check, including checking for working smoke alarms. If the youth found that they did not have working smoke detectors, they filled out a form, and a local “Sound the Alarm” team scheduled a home visit. Through this program, we were able to have youth better prepare dozens of their own households.

Hannah Christen, Disaster Services Coordinator (Humboldt)
Project: Disaster Action Team Resources Guide, including pocket resource guides, local services, and lodging information — Hannah created a local resources binder for Disaster Action Team volunteers in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. This includes updated maps, partner agency contacts, and tips and tricks for new volunteers on the DAT team.

Gwynn Domecq, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland), and Steven Rolon, Youth Services Coordinator (San Francisco)
Project: Volunteer Relations Training for Lead Volunteers and Staff — Gwynn and Steven created two trainings for volunteer relations. The first is an onboarding training for new volunteers on the Volunteer Relations Team; this training gives a detailed overview of the Volunteer Relations process, the various roles and responsibilities, and includes a table-top exercise. The second training is designed to help volunteer supervisors better understand the Volunteer Relations process as well as provide tips and tricks on how to engage in helpful conversations that prevent challenging interactions from escalating into difficult cases.

Hannah Tarling, Disaster Services Coordinator (Santa Clara County)
Project: Starting-a-DR Job Tools for Santa Clara County — Hannah created various job tools designed to help volunteers and staff launch a Disaster Relief Operation out of the Silicon Valley Chapter. These tools include information on how to access the building after hours, vehicle maintenance, and how to create an initial staffing pattern.

Jessica Gregory, Volunteer & Youth Services Coordinator (Sonoma County)
Project: Academic Service-Learning Framework for Youth Volunteer Service — Jessica built a framework for establishing an Academic Service Learning Program with high schools or universities. This included a template MOU, onboarding tools for supervisors, and initial projects with which the volunteers could help.

Kat Vincent, Youth Services Coordinator (Oakland)
Project: Internship Program — Kat created an internship request, recruitment, and placement process to ensure that our region is aligned with national Red Cross policies. She was able to recruit and place over 10 summer interns in four different offices and four different departments.

Katie Glockner, Regional Workforce Engagement Coordinator
Project: Disaster Health Services Shelter Handbook — Katie worked alongside the Divisional Health Services lead to gain input for local DHS volunteers on the new shelter protocols. This also included updating all of our regional sheltering kits with the new information as well as equipping our region’s DHS volunteers with this knowledge as they deploy out of region.


‘Sound the Alarm’ teams make an impact in February; gearing up for spring push


With the help of the Red Cross’s Katareina Vincent, Christian (left) and Carlos Chavez create an escape plan during a February “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.

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

• In Novato on Saturday, February 9, seven teams of Marin County Red Cross volunteers made 53 homes at a mobile home park safer. In all, the teams — joined by partners from Solano and the local Salvation Army — installed nearly 80 smoke alarms.

• In San Jose on Saturday, February 16, 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 that Saturday. Fire Chief Robert Sapien and department PIO Mitch Matlow were 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 on Saturday, February 16, Red Cross volunteers conducted home visits in Oakland (Fruitvale community) and in Spanish-speaking communities in various areas of 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.)

In the town of Gonzales on Saturday, February 23, 8 teams of volunteers visited 51 homes, installing 136 smoke alarms. Supported by the Gonzales Fire Department and Seaside High School National Honors Club students, the volunteers also replaced batteries in existing alarms and helped develop safety plans for each home’s occupant(s). In all, the effort made a total of 187 residents safer in this Monterey County community. (See the team photo for this activity.)

In the community of McKinleyville on Saturday, February 23, Red Cross volunteers and partners visited 14 homes and installed a total of 34 smoke alarms. That day, 7 Red Cross volunteers were assisted by 8 members of the California Conservation Corps from Fortuna. In all, the installations made 35 residents safer in this Humboldt County community. (See the photo album for this activity.)

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, please go to this web page.

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

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