Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Louisville Red Cross Hosts 29th Annual Holiday Party

Santa will be arriving a few days early in Louisville this year for the holidays—on a fire truck. He and Mrs. Claus will be stopping by the American Red Cross Louisville Area Chapter building to greet children and pass out presents for the 29th Annual Holiday Party.

The party is held every year for Kentuckiana children whose homes have been lost or severely damaged to fires. The auditorium is decorated with snowflakes and garland and turned into a winter wonderland. The room where we host health and safety training is turned into a welcome area, where kids and their families can enjoy pizza, games, and crafts: the only reindeer might be ones the kids make out of candy canes, but the magic is no less real when the kids head upstairs to meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus and receive their presents.

The people who work behind the scenes work their own kind of magic to make sure that everything runs smoothly during the festivities. The fire engine Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on is provided by the Louisville Professional Firefighters Union Local 345, which sponsors the party every year and purchases the toys for the children. The party itself would not come together every year without the work of Kim Jackson, who works in disaster services, and her team of 30 volunteers.

Kim and her team are the ones who decorate the auditorium and organize the presents the kids will receive at the party. They spend a morning with area firefighters before the party, shopping for gifts for nearly 150 children, and then spend the afternoon sorting through all of them so that each child will have a bag of toys when Santa arrives. Once the party is in full swing, the volunteers are busy helping the children with crafts, painting faces, guiding them upstairs, and helping families take their gifts back to their cars when the party ends.

Over 120 children and their families will attend the Holiday Party this year. With nearly 25 home fires every month, the Louisville Area Chapter provides fire victims with assistance for food, clothing, temporary shelter, and other needs families might have. It is because of the support of people like Kim and her volunteers, and the firefighters of the Local 345 Union, that the Red Cross can provide these services and give Santa the chance to come early for these families.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Five Years of LG&E Pillowcase Project

2015 marks the fifth year that LG&E and the Red Cross have presented the Pillowcase project to elementary school students. The Pillowcase Project was created after Hurricane Katrina to provide emergency preparedness support for children. 

Volunteers in the project visit schools and guide students through an interactive presentation about the importance of being prepared for disasters such as tornados, house fires, and ice storms. Each student receives a pillowcase with several items to keep in case of emergencies, including first-aid supplies, glow sticks and crayons. Students are encouraged to decorate their pillowcases, add their own supplies, and to keep them somewhere they will be able to easily access during a potential disaster.

It is the hope that kids will share what they learned during the presentation of the project with their family and discuss having an emergency preparedness plan at home. Check out a video of the presentation in action below. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What is #GiveLocalLouisville?

For the second year in a row the Community Foundation of Louisville will host Give Local Louisville, an online “Giving Day” which raises money and awareness for many local nonprofits that serve the Louisville community. The Red Cross Louisville Area Chapter will join over 350 other nonprofit organizations from the Louisville area this year.

The event will start at 12:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2015, and last until 11:59 p.m. the same day. Donations will take place online, and every dollar given to local nonprofits will be proportionately matched by the Community Foundation of Louisville and its supporting partners. In addition, the nonprofit that raises the most money during certain periods of time will be eligible to win additional prize dollars. Last year, over 160 nonprofits raised $1.89 million dollars in 24-hours!

The money donated to the Red Cross during Give Local Louisville will be used to support Louisville and the surrounding area. Donations will start at $25 dollars, and with $25 dollars, the Red Cross can provide disaster training for a volunteer in disaster relief and a hot meal to someone at a shelter. $25 can provide a Red Cross clean-up kit to a family who needs help recovering from a disaster, and it can also provide comfort kits that include personal supplies like shampoo and toothbrushes to ten people. Help the Red Cross take advantage of this event! We need your to help to make this day big for the Louisville community!

For more information about Give Local Louisville and the participating nonprofits, check out Also visit our donation page, and keep an eye out for posts from our Red Cross Louisville Area Chapter Facebook and Twitter in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Profile: Bill Downard

When people think of the Red Cross, chances are that they think of blood services, disaster relief, or the services to the military and their families that the Red Cross provides.

Bill Downard thinks about these things, too. He has to; as fleet manager for the Kentucky Region, Bill is responsible for managing all vehicles the Red Cross uses and making sure they are deployed during its operations.

After retiring two years ago from a long career in insurance, Bill became interested in volunteering for the Red Cross through his mother-in-law, who worked in Blood Operations. At first, Bill started out working in Blood Operations himself by picking up and transporting blood from donation sites. In April 2015, Bill shifted gears. Instead of driving, he became the manager for the Kentucky Region’s vehicle fleet.

Bill took the reins and rebuilt the position from the ground up. It opened up his eyes to areas of disaster response that he had never really envisioned before, so the true scope of Bill’s responsibilities comes at little surprise. Bill had to compile and build all of the data files he now uses to keep track of the fleet from scratch. Vehicles had to be located from where they had been placed across the state, and their maintenance had to be assessed.

When it comes to preparing and responding to disasters, Bill has to make sure that the proper paperwork is filed in order to meet the needs of operations. Not only is Bill responsible for sending vehicles to operations sites and reassigning vehicles all across Kentucky, but also making sure they are all in working order.

It was a learning process, and Bill doubts that his job is ever going to fully stop evolving. He finds all of it to be rewarding, though: Volunteering at the Red Cross has given him the opportunity to do something he enjoys that was totally different than in his working career. It gives him a sense of reward, and he loves getting to meet people who come together from all parts of the country to offer their time and help to the Red Cross. The ability to apply his skills in ways that give back to the Red Cross is important to Bill, and he encourages others to consider volunteering as well.