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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Red Cross Caseworkers Join Family Fun Night in West Point, KY

Written by: Kristen Perdue, Virginia Region and Amy Miller, Kentucky Region
Photo provided by Jessica Rains

Every March, the American Red Cross celebrates Red Cross Month as a chance to honor and celebrate the everyday heroes who help us fulfill our Red Cross mission. This year, Kentucky and Southern Indiana rang in Red Cross Month with flooding up and down the Ohio River, and Red Cross volunteers that came from across the country to lend a hand to those who were impacted.

While some disaster volunteers drive emergency response vehicles, assess damage, or provide hot meals or clean up supplies, Red Cross caseworkers assist individuals one-on-one with recovery planning. Casework assistance could include connecting people with existing social service programs in their local community, getting them counseling, identifying child care resources, or helping to locate new housing.

After meeting with Red Cross caseworkers who had been visiting West Point, KY to help residents recover, West Point Independent School’s Family Resource and Youth Services Coordinator, Jessica Rains, asked the casework team to attend the school’s Family Fun Day event. After dealing with high water and the ongoing clean-up efforts, the event gave families in West Point the opportunity to take some much-needed time to relax.

Recovering from a disaster can be a confusing, emotionally draining and complicated process. After speaking with students and their families, Rains felt having the casework team attend the school’s event would be a helpful resource for West Point residents, stating she “hoped the Red Cross [would be] able to assist.” 
 
When they weren’t dancing to the live band with the other attendees, Red Cross caseworkers were able to introduce themselves to community members who had been impacted by flooding. Red Cross caseworkers were able to explain some of the services that the Red Cross provides, as well as inform parents on tips that can be used to ensure their child’s mental health after disasters. Iris Doty, a caseworker, stated her team was even able start cases while there to provide families with assistance.

“I am glad they were able to come,” said Rains,Hopefully they were able to have some fun themselves.” 

After the event ended, Red Cross workers came together and spoke of the event as a great way to reach the community and spread the word about the Red Cross. 

Learn more about volunteering with the Red Cross here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Pillowcase Promise

Written by: Cuthbert Langley, South Carolina Region
Pictures by: Kristen Perdue, Virginia Region

“It just happened.”

Ten-year-old Tanner said it happened in seconds. He was watching television with his mom in their Hopkinsville, Kentucky apartment around 9:30 p.m. on February 24. In almost an instant, they had to make a run for their lives.

“The lights just turned off, and then my mom said the wind was really blowing,” said Tanner. “She just started pulling my arm and we went out.”

They ran out of their apartment into the hallway after a tornado ripped through the complex. The family watched from underneath the apartment’s stairwell as part of the ceiling caved in. Tanner stood next to his younger neighbors and quickly realized he needed to help them.

Larissa, Tanner's mother, speaks with Mary Summers,
Regional Preparedness Manager for the Kentucky Region
“They were really scared and really nervous, and he put his arm around [their] shoulders, and he was like, ‘everything’s going to be fine. We’re safe here under the stairs.’ He was amazing, just amazing,” his mom, Larissa, said.

Turns out, just a couple of weeks before the tornado hit, Tanner participated in the Red Cross Pillowcase Project at his school, South Christian Elementary taught by Kathy Hayes, a Red Cross volunteer.  Thanks to a grant from Disney, the Red Cross, and volunteers, like Kathy, are able to teach 3rd-5th graders preparedness tips for local emergencies. Tanner learned during Kathy’s presentation about tornado safety, including picking a safety spot—the apartment’s stairwell—where he could meet his family outside of his home.

The program also teaches coping skills to help kids through those emergencies. Tanner used some of those same skills to help his younger neighbors.

“[Mrs. Hayes] said breathe in, breathe out.”

Volunteer Kathy Hayes presents Tanner with a new
pillowcase and emergency supplies.
In addition to learning about skills, Kathy gave the children a pillowcase they could decorate and use as place to store their own emergency kits. However, she taught Tanner and his classmates to leave the pillowcase behind in “act fast” emergencies, like tornadoes, when there is no time to spare.

That’s a message Tanner remembered that night.

“I wanted my pillowcase, but I didn’t [grab it],” Tanner said.

Hayes also promised the children that, if they lose their pillowcase due to a disaster, she would replace it. She followed through on her promise and met Tanner to replace his pillowcase.

In the backroom of the Red Cross chapter, Tanner quickly sat down and began decorating his pillowcase. He excitedly looked through all of the emergency supplies Kathy made sure he received.

“It did make a huge impression on him,” his mother said with a smile.

Tanner and his mom are now living with family while they search for a new place to live. The family will continue to work with Red Cross caseworkers to create their recovery plans.  



Thursday, March 8, 2018

What happens when you call the client hotline?

When a person calls the Client Hotline for disaster assistance, an American Red Cross representative will be on the other line to answer your call. The Red Cross representative will take down your information and pass it along to our casework team, which will send that information to the team closest to the caller’s neighborhood. The local neighborhood caseworker will attempt to contact the person to set up a time to meet to assess needs (clean up kits, referrals, etc.).

Frequently Asked Questions
Can you provide me with a place to stay?
The Red Cross is not providing housing assistance at this time. But, the organization has a strong team of community and government partner organizations that assist the organization in helping residents recover from disasters. Caseworkers will be able to assist in referring you to a partner who will be able to meet your lodging needs, on an individual basis.

Can I get financial assistance for damages within my home?
The Client Hotline representative will refer you to a caseworker that will help determine the level of assistance needed and referrals for your individual case.

My neighbor got assistance, will I?
Every case is different. Caseworkers will work individually with residents to determine what that person needs.

Why is it taking so long for someone to call me back?
Right after a resident calls the hotline, a volunteer passes that information along to the casework team. Casework involves working with each individual or family to determine what they need and the best way to meet those needs. The Red Cross wants to spend the money people donate for disasters as quickly as the organization can, but it’s also important that we spend the funds wisely and carefully. Both of these considerations take time. In addition, it can take some time for families to determine what they need, or their needs may change over time as more is known about the damage. However long it takes, the Red Cross is committed to helping residents recover.

What is a clean-up kit?
A clean up kit is a variety of supplies that can assist in the clean-up of your home. Items can include: gloves, shovel, rake, trash bags, bleach, etc. Please also view our tips for cleaning safety here: http://rdcrss.org/2xnQMWk



From Flooding to Family: Red Cross Volunteers Celebrate 50


Written by: Cuthbert Langley, South Carolina Region
Pictures by: Kristen Perdue, Virginia Region

When you walk into the Community Baptist Church in Henderson County, you’ll find seven people sitting in the lobby, chatting. There’s hardly a lull, never an awkward moment. Laughs are ever-present. You’d think you’re listening to a gaggle of life-long friends.

They’ve only known each other for six days.

Five people in the lobby are American Red Cross volunteers who have opened a shelter in the church.  The other two are Deborah and Shon Bear from Reed, Kentucky. Deborah sits with a smile as bright as her personality, her hair hidden with a beautiful, paisley scarf. She and her husband are at the shelter because they had to be rescued from their home as floodwaters forced them out.


“The water was all around us and they had to come rescue us,” Deborah said. “We had to climb down a ladder from our porch into a boat.”

Nearly a dozen first responders from the town of Reed and Henderson County helped the Bears escape. They’re now safe in a shelter, becoming fast friends with the Red Cross volunteers who discovered she had a milestone birthday quickly approaching.

“Everybody was sneaking around and I was like, ‘what are they doing?’” Deborah said with a grin.

What the volunteers were doing was secretly baking a cake and getting birthday supplies together. In the middle of the shelter on a chilly Tuesday, the warmth of friendship ushered in Deborah’s 50th birthday.

“It was just a real joy,” she said. “They were all here with me. We had a little party; we had dinner, cake, and ice cream. It was wonderful.”

Little did Deborah know she, too, left a lasting impression on the Red Cross volunteers.

“When you lose everything you got and everything’s she’s gone through, it only takes a minute to give back,” said Red Cross volunteer, Lois Calloway.

Turns out, Deborah has gone through more than just a flood.

During that conversation in the lobby of the small church, Deborah was preparing to leave for Louisville. Not for a new home, but rather for six straight days of radiation treatment.

Deborah had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However, cancer has stormed back into her life. Doctors recently discovered additional cancerous spots. This day, however, she wasn’t focusing on her fight ahead; she was reflecting on her time with the Red Cross.

“They have been a wonderful, best bunch of people,” she said as tears peaked underneath her eyes.  “I didn’t dream of all the things the Red Cross does. Everybody has treated me with dignity and respect.”

That was not lost on Lois who also knows cancer too well.

“Today is my husband’s,” the volunteer paused, “… would have been my husband’s 73rd birthday.”

The cruel grip of cancer took her husband away four years ago, which is why she knew it was so important to stand next to Deborah as she celebrated her birthday.

“You think at least [on that day] she didn’t have to think about radiation and cancer,” Lois said.

As the conversation in the church-turned-shelter family room came to an end, Deborah reflected on her time with her new friends. She made sure every volunteer received a hand-written thank you note and a hug.

“If I could say any good thing about Red Cross, they’re angels […] It’s like God sent them down when we needed them in a crisis,” she said.

With tears flowing, Deborah says goodbye to South Carolina volunteer Ed Ballard.
While the group will separate, Deborah hopes to join them once her treatments are finished, not just as a friend but also as a fellow Red Cross volunteer. 

“I want to thank everybody from the Red Cross. When I get everything said and done, I’m going to go online and [sign up] to do some volunteering for Red Cross,” Deborah said with a smile.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

UMCOR and Red Cross: Disaster Relief in Action


Story and Pictures By: Amy Miller, Kentucky Region

Sleeves up. Hearts open. All in.

These six words embody the spirit of the American Red Cross. For nearly two weeks, the Red Cross has been "all in" in Kentuckiana. Hundreds of volunteers have left their daily lives behind to provide comfort and hope to residents who have been impacted by widespread flooding.

They haven't been alone.

Red Cross partners from across the state have rolled up their sleeves to help disaster workers respond and recover from this disaster.

The United Methodist Church is one of many local partners that stepped up and got to work when flooding began. As part of the partnership during the flood response, the United 
Methodist Church has supplied the Red Cross with nearly 2,000 buckets filled with cleaning supplies to help residents of Kentucky begin to recover. 2,000 buckets—that's enough to fill a semi-truck. These cleaning supplies are being distributed by Red Cross and UMCOR volunteers to impacted areas across the state.

"What the community sees [during this disaster response] is that it's not just one group, " said Jim Morse, disaster response coordinator for the Kentucky Annual Conference of the 
United Methodist Church. "It's multiple people, multiple organizations working together."

Throughout the year, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) creates and stores flood clean up kits and personal hygiene kits to pass out at shelters during disasters. Churches from all over the nation send supplies for these kits—toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, mops and buckets. Virtually every Methodist church lends a hand at one time or another—they go all in.

"I think it's very important for the community to see the Red Cross, the Cross and Flame, 
Southern Baptists, Catholic Charities—all the different parts and pieces of disaster response working together." Morse  said. "We serve the same people."

These "people" are the residents who stayed in Red Cross shelters hosted by Methodist Churches. These "people" are the folks who received buckets and mops and bleach from Red Cross and Methodist volunteers from across Kentuckiana.

When asked why the United Methodists wanted to partner with the Red Cross, Morse said that it seemed like a good partnership, and an opportunity for the United Methodists to gain experience in short-term disaster response. 

"We have an opportunity to see if we could make relationships we may not have had in the past with Red Cross, and work side by side with them for the people. When you can get that type of cooperation, everybody benefits."

More than 400 Red Cross disaster workers from across the region and country are on the ground in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, providing hope, care, and comfort to those impacted by flooding. That work would not be possible without partners, such as the United Methodist Church, who roll their sleeves up, keep their hearts open, and go all in.