Thursday, August 28, 2008

Remembering Katrina, Preparing for Gustav

Today is the 3rd anniversary of one of the most destructive and devastating natural disasters in American history--Hurricane Katrina. At the time, the Red Cross deployed thousands of volunteers to the Gulf Coast to assist people with their immediate and long-term needs. I wasn't involved with the Red Cross at the time, but to this day I hear the emotional stories that our volunteers who were part of the relief efforts can still tell so vividly. It makes me feel like I was there, amidst the wreckage and part of the action.

While many volunteers were deployed south to the areas hit, a lot remained here in Chicago to help the displaced people that came our way to seek refuge. It blows my mind to know we helped an additional 7,000 people in the wake of the disaster. To put it in perspective, our chapter typically assists around 5,000 disaster victims in a year!

Ironically, today we have disaster relief workers on stand-by as we prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav and the possible path of destruction it may leave behind. I really hope history doesn’t repeat itself. But if it does, I rest assured that many Red Cross volunteers will be there to offer comfort and a helping hand. Who knows, I might even get to be a part of the action this time.

Do you remember where you were when Hurricane Katrina hit? Comment with your stories!

Visit our website if you want to read more about the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and what we’re doing to prepare for Gustav. For up to the minute news on our response to Hurricane Gustav, check out the Red Cross Online Newsroom.

Oana Odean is Senior Associate in Marketing & Communcations at the chapter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Retired People: Travel Safe, Travel Far!

On the news last night I caught a clip about the increasingly adventurous traveling habits of retirees. A long weekend in Wisconsin doesn’t cut it anymore. Retired people are taking epic trips across Europe, visiting the Great Wall of China and exploring our National Parks. This is fabulous news—I’d love to be active and traveling well into my retirement (t-minus 40 years from now). But this clip also reminded me that vacation healthcare emergencies should be a consideration among aging travelers, and my family knows ALL about that.

Several years ago, my grandpa and his wife left their home in Arizona to summer in Vancouver. That’s pretty darn far away from where my family lives here in Chicago. When my grandfather got a scrape on his head, he figured it would heal on its own and didn’t treat it. A week later, my dad took an emergency trip up to Canada because Grandpa was in the hospital with a wicked infection. It was scary for a while—they feared the infection might spread to his blood.

It pretty much ruined the summer, but hasn’t stemmed my grandpa’s sense of adventure. He and his wife still like to flee the heat for far-flung spots. And they should! But now they’re a bit more cautious, and so goes the direction of my tale: If you, your parents or grandparents are setting off on a vacation, consider these tips:

Now that you're feeling a little safer, hooray for people who are taking these vacations. Do you have a dream vacation planned for your retirement? Tell us about it in the comments!

Kristin Claes is the senior writer for the chapter. She wants to travel to San Sebastian, Spain, in retirement and never leave. Thanks to withoutyou for the image!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Should train conductors know CPR? Absolutely.

Shouldn't everyone who works with the public know it?

This question was raised by the Sun Times in an article about a man who collapsed on a Metra train last week and died.

Cardiac arrest is incredibly common, and it’s not the only condition that could require CPR—there are many others. Not only train conductors but wait staff, bank tellers, teachers, parents and anyone working in a public venue or service industry should know it, too. CPR is not a job requirement in many industries where people interact daily with the public. Shouldn’t it be?

Emergencies don’t just happen in public—they can happen at the office and occur most often in people’s homes. The article states that four hours is an impractical amount of time for some to devote to CPR certification. Is four hours really too long to become certified to save someone’s life? Is it worth the risk not to take this time? The American Red Cross offers shorter, non-certifiable courses for people who would like to learn the skill at home or do not require certification. We also offer low-cost training programs throughout the year so that training is available to more people. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Don’t believe that CPR is something other people will take care of when the time comes. You never think this will happen to you or someone you care about… but it does. Be prepared. Invest a small amount of time and acquire the skills that enable you to save a life. It may be the best investment you ever make.

Who do you think should be required to know CPR? Would you feel safer if your wait staff, teacher, coworker, spouse or train operator knew this skill? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Lisa Ardaugh is the Chief Preparedness Officer for the Greater Chicago Red Cross.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Storm Rages On, but the Red Cross is There

It looks like Tropical Storm Fay will not let up any time soon, and the Red Cross isn't backing down. The storm has already left thousands of Florida residents without power and worried about the possibility of floods and tornados. Our teams are on the frontlines providing food and shelter to affected residents, and we have more shelters ready should the massive rains the weather forecasters are predicting amount to anything.

While I don't like hearing about the major damage storms like these produce, it warms my heart to know that over 500 Red Cross volunteers, most of them Florida residents, are there to lend a helping hand to their fellow neighbors and friends.

It's always comforting to know someone has your back when the going gets tough, and I love when I'm reminded that it is at the core of what the Red Cross does every day.

Has there ever been a time when a friend or family member came to your rescue...and you were beyond grateful? I'd love to read about it!

- Oana Odean is Senior Associate in Marketing & Communcations at the chapter

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No fire response last night!

Shocking. According to our disaster report, we did not provide assistance to any fire victims last night. Usually, our volunteers are out 3-4 times a day. Most fires happen between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. in the morning. That's when our volunteers are the busiest, when the rest of us are sleeping. Fires kill more people than all disasters combined.

Kids start a lot of fires. I should know.

When we were kids, my older brother locked himself in the bathroom to play with matches. He lit a towel up that hung on a rack. It lit up the wall paper. Then we saw smoke coming out from underneath the door. He wouldn't open the door because he was afraid of getting punished. Our babysitter promised he wouldn't. He got out. She put out the fire.

At 5 years of age, all I could think of was getting my big brother out of the bathroom.

I ask myself, how many of our families, from kids to parents know what to do or are ready to evacuate? And, whether you know or not, how do we really act when a fire threatens a loved one? Tell me your stories. I'd love to hear them.

-Maria Corral is director of the Marketing and Communications team at the chapter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

West Chicago Needed Our Help, Glad to Be There

A lot of people needed help from the Red Cross in the wake of West Chicago fire on Sunday night. In all, the Red Cross helped 71 residents of the apartment complex—26 of whom were kids. Our team of staff and volunteers served 90 meals and snacks, and mental health workers were there until 9 p.m. last night to open cases for residents. It was important to stay open late because many of those residents got up and went to work the next day, and we wanted to make sure it was easy for them to seek help.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to move on with your life after a fire, let alone to get up and go to work mere hours after your home was burned. But that’s a big part of why the Red Cross is there for people—to help people move forward. Our mental health volunteers counsel families about their plans for recovery, and sometimes just talking about it empowers people to look to the future. We also give people the means to be independent in the days following a disaster—giving them funds for things like a place to stay, dinner and a change of clothes. By giving to the Red Cross, you’re helping to give disaster victims these things—dignity and a plan.

The shelter is closed, but if you or someone you love was affected by the fire, you can still contact the Red Cross at (312) 729-6100.

-Kristin Claes is a Senior Writer for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Monday, August 18, 2008

West Chicago Fire Response

I was jarred out of a deep sleep by the shrill ring of my cell phone at 2 a.m. this morning. For most people a late night call is bad news and this was no exception. There was a 3-11 fire in West Chicago (which is in DuPage County –not in Chicago proper as the name may indicate) that we were responding to. For those of us that work and volunteer here at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago being woken up in the middle of the night is a relatively common occurrence, especially during winter months in Chicago-a prime time for house fires. At 2 a.m. Greater Chicago Red Cross volunteers had already been on the scene for hours making sure people had a place to stay for the evening. 17 people stayed at our shelter last night and were served breakfast this morning. Today we’re getting ready to help even more people. Some may have stayed with friends or family last night instead of our shelter but these people likely still lost important items in the blaze so we're going to make sure we help them too. Our caseworkers will be on hand all day today to provide things like replacement medications, food and clothing to the people affected by this disaster. We will also have Red Cross workers on site to talk to anyone who needs a friendly ear or just a hug.
*Posted by Martha Carlos, Sr. Manager of Marketing and Communications at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Friday, August 15, 2008

American Red Cross to Send Aid to Georgia Conflict Zone

The American Red Cross is contributing $100,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) efforts to aid many who were injured or displaced as a result of the conflict in Georgia. Initial support will go to help extend the relief work of the ICRC on the ground, while additional response options are evaluated. Since Georgia is a conflict zone, the ICRC will take the lead in humanitarian response for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

ICRC launched a preliminary appeal seeking $7.4 million dollars to help meet the humanitarian needs of people affected by this conflict.

The current prioritity of the ICRC is the distribution of emergency assistance to affected people, especially those displaced by the conflict. They are currently working to secure access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, food and other basic items such as blankets and buckets. Other goals include providing medical assistance to the war wounded and gaining access to all persons arrested or captured in connection with the conflict.

The ICRC has also officially reminded Georgia and Russia of their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and distinguish at all times between the civilian population and those taking a direct part in the hostilities.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summertime Means More Swimming!

Ever since the Olympics started last Friday, my eyes have been glued to the television set watching Michael Phelps break Olympic history in swimming. Obviously Phelps and the rest of the swimmers in the Beijing games know how to swim, but that is not always the case with everyone. During the summer months when the weather is warmer more people tend to go swimming outdoors. When I go to the beach or pool, I make sure that I go with a friend and to never swim alone and to obey all the rules. If you do not know how to swim, do not worry! Your local Red Cross chapter offers swimming courses. Go and sign up, the classes are fun!

Shopping Never Felt So Good!

I can't wait for the Annual Shopping Benefit at Bloomingdale's on Wednesday, August 27th! When I purchase a $10 ticket at Bloomingdale's, I then will choose the Red Cross to be my designated charity. With the ticket I will receive a 15% to 20% discount throughout the store! All the ticket proceeds will be donated to that charity too. How great is that? I now can look forward to a fun day of full events at Bloomingdale's! There will be shopping incentives (not that I need those), live entertainment, fashion shows, cooking demonstrations, and more. All four of the Bloomingdale's in Illinois will be participating.

What’s better than saving money and helping a good cause? Click here to download the ticket!

-Annie Tierney is an intern at the Greater Chicago Red Cross this summer. She plans on volunteering here for a long, long time!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Spy Our CTA Advertising, Do You?

It was one of those days... I was already late for work, and on top of that the bus was late and it was pouring rain. Not just rain, but the slanty kind that gets you wet even if you have an umbrella. "I could have been there already," I kept thinking to myself, "If only it was sunny and I could ride my bike." Instead I found myself standing at the bus stop for a good 30 minutes, cursing the weather and the CTA. I'm sure you've found yourself in a similar position before.

When the bus finally arrived it was packed with people, but I was able to squeeze in and, at the next stop, someone with a seat right next to where I was standing got off the bus. As I took that person's seat and set my bags and my poor umbrella down in my lap, I looked up to glance out the window and lo and behold, check out what I noticed instead of the rain outside:

Needless to say I got all excited about seeing the Red Cross ad! So much that I whipped out my phone and took a picture of it right away. I also kept checking everyone around me to see if they'd noticed it, too. I think a few people had, because they had looked in the general direction of the window it was displayed above and I caught them smiling.

So, when I got off the bus that morning and walked the last few blocks to the Rauner Center, I was in a rush to get up the stairs to the Marketing Department... not because I was late, but because I was giddy and couldn't wait to tell everyone what I saw and show them the picture!

If you've seen the new CTA advertising, please let us know where, and what you thought of it in the comments!

entry by Erica Schoonmaker, Graphic Design Intern

Monday, August 11, 2008

Disaster Action Team Rushes to Aid Those Displaced by Early Morning Fire

Members of the Chicago Red Cross' D.A.T (Disaster Action Team) responded an extra alarm fire that lit up the sky over the Pilsen neighborhood early this morning. The Red Cross is assisting 6 people who were displaced by the fire, which stretched across three buildings on the 1500 block of West 18th Street. The chapter is providing the means for food, clothing and temporary shelter. Counseling services will also be available should they be required.

The Red Cross of Greater Chicago responds to an average of 3 to 4 disasters each day, many of them fires like this one. The chapter depends on donations from the community to provide the assistance that disaster victims desperately need. To find out how you can help those affected by future disasters like this one click here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Radio, Radio

We have a winner! Congrats to Kim for winning the emergency radio with her post. We picked a random number between 1 and 17, and she won. Here's an excerpt from Kim's storm story:

I should know better and have an emergency bag packed with the essentials that are necessary if things were to go bad. I only have some of the items. Putting an emergency bag together for you and your family is important. Go here to find out what is needed.

Nice plug for preparedness! Your kit is more REaDy than ever. Thanks to all for reading. Check back soon--we like giving stuff away!

It's been 10 years... Don't our volunteers deserve an increase?

There was an article two days ago in the New York Times about 100 charities (including the Red Cross) asking Congress to consider increasing the tax deduction for people who use their personal vehicles to volunteer. The current rate is 14 cents per mile compared to 58.5 cents per mile for people who use their cars for business purposes.
The charitable mileage deduction was last raised a decade ago. A decade!
Shouldn't volunteers be rewarded for their time and service and receive an increased tax deduction? What do you think?
Here's the article

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Calling all Cubs Fans! Last Day To Bid on Cool Cubs Items!

Bid on exclusive Chicago Cubs items to support the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. The deadline is 5 p.m. today so hurry! Very cool items like an authentic "W" flag that flew over the stadium and the opportunity to experience a dream day at Wrigley for four people. Check it out and place your bid at

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Win an Emergency Radio!

Were you ready for the storm last night? One of these radios could have helped you out:

It’s a Red Cross emergency radio, powered by batteries or a crank. It’s water-resistant, has a flashlight and will charge some cell phones with an adapter. We’re giving this one away!

It’s about a $60 value. Just leave a comment here on this post with your storm stories, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win. Include a question about storm safety or story about taking cover during a storm. Did you hear sirens? Did you go to the basement? Did you know where the flashlight was?

If you're impatient or unlucky and want to buy one of these radios right now, click here. For more storm safety tips, click here. The comments will close on Thursday Aug. 7 at 5 p.m. We’ll choose one winner at random by 5 p.m., Friday Aug. 8. Make sure you’re either signing in or leaving your email in the comment so we can contact you.

-Kristin Claes is a senior writer for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. Maria Corral is Director of Marketing Communications and a classy radio model.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The lights went out in Chicago and I was ready...

My power went out yesterday afternoon.
Almost immediately I went to my closet and grabbed my new American Red Cross Eton radio. This thing is awesome it only weighs 1 pound and can charge your cell phone, provide light and of course music and information via radio stations.
Within seconds I was happily listening to my favorite radio station, hunkering down for a long night sans power and playing with the flashlight portion of the radio-on- off-on-off (sort of annoying sure but I had very little else to do with no power). Besides, even though it was only 3 in the afternoon I wanted to be ready for nightfall.
Should I eat the ice cream cake in my freezer for dinner (after all it would melt and go to waste if I didn’t and that would be wasteful)? What should I do next?
A few minutes later I heard the power buzz back on. I was secretly a little disappointed that I didn’t get to use all the functions on my new toy but also glad that I had remembered where I put it and could easily access it when I needed it.
If you don’t have a battery operated or hand-crank radio, now is the time to get one. Put it somewhere you can find it easily. You never know when you might need it.

Enjoy a Game and Save A Life

Support the Red Cross and donate blood all while enjoying the family fun, inspiring role models and thrilling basketball of Chicago’s own ground breaking team, the Chicago Sky. When you purchase tickets for the Sunday, August 31 game, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. In addition, a blood drive will take place in the Sky Deck starting at 2 p.m. and will run until halftime of the game. All proceeds will go to benefit the American Red Cross. For more information, please visit

During the summer months, blood donations are down because our dedicated donors are on vacation. So come out and give blood for the first time! By donating your blood you may be giving another person a second chance at life. In fact, chances are you or one of your family members will need blood in their lifetime.