Friday, February 27, 2009


There’s nothing like crisis to make us grateful for what we have. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago makes sure the millions of residents of the Chicagoland area live on to be grateful after crises and have the resources and support to get through disasters.

I want to devote today’s blog entry to highlight some of the great work our local chapter does around the community every day. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago serves the 8.3 million people of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry & Will counties. From disaster response to unique programs to safety training and blood collection – the Chicago Chapter touches all of us in one way or another.

Disaster Response

The greater Chicago chapter responds to an average of three disasters a day, every day in the Chicagoland area including:
  • Residential Fires
  • Floods
  • Tornados
  • Earthquakes
  • Extreme Temperatures
  • Carbon Monoxide Leaks
  • Transportation Accidents
  • Hazardous Material Incidents
  • Community Emergencies

Unique Programs

  • Residential fires are the most prevalent disasters affectng Chicago-area communities. Through the Red Cross Team Firestopper program, hundreds of families in fire-prone neighborhoods learn valuable fire prevention techniques.
  • Being prepared for emergencies is the cornerstone of the Red Cross mission. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago educates individuals about what to do in life-threatening emergencies. Corporate volunteer teams are trained to respond to local disasters through the Ready When the Time Comes program.
  • Latinos make up nearly 30% of the Greater Chicago area. The chapter’s Latino Initiative provides classes in Spanish to better serve the diverse community and recruits Spanish speaking volunteers to provide services.
  • Children make up 50% of the victims who receive emergency aid from the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. The Kid Firestopper and WHALE Tales (Water Habits Are Learned Early) Programs teach thousands of youth annually lifesaving home and water safety lessons in schools.
  • CPR Training Days, Chicagoland’s largest one-day English and Spanish CPR training event makes communities safer by training thousands of people in this lifesaving skill.
    During major emergencies, the American Red Cross Patient Connection Program provides hospitals and medical facilities with a patient management system that connects the injured with families and loved ones. The Red Cross can track patient admissions, provide appropriate information to inquiring families and assist in providing counseling to those injured during the disaster and their family members.

Client Services

Emergency needs are determined by a Disaster Action Team’s (DAT) on-scene damage assessment. Recovery kit(s) and/ or financial assistance to support the immediate emergency needs created by a disaster are provided.

During the first 48 hours after a disaster, the services we provide a family to assist them are:

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Clothing, shoes, coat replacement
  • Toiletry items
  • Flood clean-up kits
  • Medical replacement (Rx, glasses, dentures, etc.)
  • Mental Health support
  • Funeral expenses
  • Referrals to other community organizations to assist with other needs
  • Information to assist with planning long-term recovery
  • Mass Care Sheltering and other client services (for large-scale disasters, in which over 25 people are affected)

Service Delivery

Service Delivery is completed at three levels of operation:

  • Disaster Action Teams - Respond to smaller Chicagoland area disasters (volunteer and paid staff)
  • Chapter Operations - Respond to larger disasters that include Community Services such as feeding and sheltering.
  • National Level Operations - If necessary, our National organization provides support to American Red Cross of Greater Chicago responders with human and material resources to assist with large-scale operations anywhere in the USA.

Red Cross services are provided to clients without bias, based solely on disaster-caused need.

All disaster assistance provided from the Red Cross is free of charge. The programs are available through the generosity of the American people. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago has no expectation of receiving reimbursement for services provided from the client or community.

These are just some of the services provided by our chapter. The fact that our chapter helps so many is precisely why we need a solid base of fundraising activities. With the help of our Auxiliary Board, the American Red Cross of Great Chicago is able to fund these vital services, but we need more people to step up and be part of our team. To become a member of the Auxiliary Society and become part of such an important cause, contact Courtney Manuel, Sr. Manager of Special Events and Sponsorship or call 312.729.6138.

Now back to our usual silliness. As part 7 of our 25 part introduction of our Auxiliary Board, I present this week's profile: former cheerleader and voted most likely to major in underwater basket weaving by his high school.

Brett Gerig: Brett is a native Ohioan and has worked at Ernst & Young, LLP and Interra Development Partners, LLC since graduating from the University of Toledo in 2004. He enjoys traveling, athletics, attending concerts, and spending time with friends and family. Personal Motto: Ernest Hemingway's "Live life to the fullest"

Until next week, stay warm and dry, and please, please, join us at our next Flirting for Disaster event on March 19.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teddy Bears Offer Hope to Cope

A small item such as a teddy bear can make a huge impact to a child that has been affected by a disaster. It gives them hope to cope with traumatic experiences, such as losing your home to a fire. Comfort is an important part of their recovery.
Many youth volunteers such as those in the Red Cross Club at Northside College Prep High School take action to help children in need by holding teddy bear drives at their school. This winter, members of the Red Cross Club collected bears and other stuffed animals to donate to the Greater Chicago chapter. Our Disaster Action Team distributes the teddy bears to children (and sometimes even to adults) when they respond to local emergencies.

KUDOS to the Northside College Prep High School Red Cross Club for collecting 125+ teddy bears! For the remainder of the school year, they plan to hold a blood drive, a first aid training for students, and collect blankets for families living in shelters. They understand that their contributions and efforts make a difference to others. “If every student donates one pint of blood or one teddy bear or one blanket, each donor impacts a life,” states Zahra Lalani, Club President.

It’s great to see motivated youth, taking action to give back to their communities! Interested in implementing a service project in your school or workplace? Contact Eboni Prince in at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Real Top Chefs Know CPR

Hey Top Chef fans—ever wonder what Tom Colicchio would do in a given situation? Apparently, he’d give you abdominal thrusts if you were choking. Tonight’s the season finale of Top Chef New York, and just a few weeks ago Tom stopped a fellow chef from choking on a piece of chicken:

“Alice Waters came running, shouting for someone to perform the Heimlich Maneuver after (Joan) Nathan began to choke. Colicchio happened to be close by and was able to dislodge the offending morsel quickly.”

Go Tom! I wonder if Tom would pay a mere $9 to take a CPR course during the month of March. Hmm. I bet if he lived in the Chicago area he would! Our Red Cross chapter is deeply discounting courses during CPR Training Days this March. Sign up and you’ll learn how to care for people who are choking, having heart attacks or even drowning. You’ll learn moves that will certainly make you the lifesaver of the party if an emergency happens.

We should all be more like Tom—he has exquisite taste, and didn’t hesitate to help. Now who’s going to cheer for Carla with me…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No Smokes, Lots of Steps

Devon Albert and Taneshia Dunn grin during the Hustle.

Most people make changes a little bit at a time. But people like Taneshia Dunn just go for it. Taneshia ran up 52 flights of stairs this weekend during Hustle Up the Hancock. That’s 816 steps, people, all in one afternoon. That’s a bold move for a lady who’s working on quitting smoking AND losing weight, all while sharing her story with Lifetime television viewers.

(Don’t you want to support our girl? Go vote for her here!)

Taneshia works in the Preparedness department here at the Greater Chicago Red Cross, and she’s one of four finalists in the Lifetime Clean Start Challenge. For four months starting in February, Taneshia has taken on challenges that complement her goals to drop some pounds and to kick the nicotine habit.

“I’m having the time of my life. It’s fun," Taneshia said. "It’s making me do a lot of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do, like hustling up the Hancock. It’s changing me a lot."

Taneshia joined the Hustle when she was challenged to raise money for a non-profit. In March, Taneshia will be picking up trash in the Pilsen neighborhood—a green idea she got from AmeriCorps member Lindsay Ortega. (Taneshia’s recruiting volunteers for that project, so give her a shout if you want to help!)

You can catch a glimpse of the Red Cross in Taneshia’s video here, and she hopes to incorporate the Red Cross into one of her upcoming challenges. You can keep up with Taneshia during her webisodes, and vote for her here. Go Taneshia, go!

Monday, February 23, 2009


As you know, your two favorite Monday Bloggers are AmeriCorps members here at the Red Cross of Greater Chicago. That being said, we have some very exciting news to share with you!

On February 17th, President Obama signed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
This Act will allow the National Service … two hundred million dollars to be distributed throughout the AmeriCorps program, thus creating about 16,000 new AmeriCorps positions as well as helping to finance existing grants.
The Act as a whole is a reaction to the growing number of people seeking jobs in Non-Profits, as well as to the population of those in need increasing due to the current state of our economy.

On behalf of the AmeriCorps here at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, we say thank you President Obama!

Are you ready to serve?

Friday, February 20, 2009


Last night, 150 young professionals from all over Chicago gathered at the China Grill at the Hard Rock Hotel downtown to learn more about membership in the Auxiliary Society of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago ARCGC.

The secret’s out by now – this is not your grandfather’s American Red Cross. There was mingling, networking and new memberships being penned as the membership mixer increased the Auxiliary Society roster and added some cool new talent to our chapter. We met and exceeded our goal of new members, as the interest to learn more about our Chapter initiatives and all of the exciting events in which we participate and plan throughout the year was top of mind for those in attendance.

Here’s a summary of what “went down” last night:
Hip servers dressed in black passed trays of beef teriyaki skewers and an Asian spin on Caprese salad to-go (buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil served on a crisp wonton with reduced balsamic drizzle), it was the kind of good eats the fueled the fervor of fundraising!

Red Cross-tinis, the event’s (free) featured drink made with Smirnoff Vodka, was the crowd favorite, but a full bar catered to any taste. The spot was jumping with up-beat, up-tempo groovy modern dance music with an eclectic feel that matched the crowd.

ARCGC Bingo – lots of excitement about learning more about the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago by way of ARCGC "bingo" -- bingo cards were distributed to the attendees to allow them to ask questions about specific facts about the Red Cross, such as how many house fires a day the Red Cross responds to (A: 4-5), or when was the Red Cross founded (1881, Clara Barton, Washington, D.C.). Completed bingo cards granted the attendee a chance to win a $100 gift card to the China Grill at the hard Rock Hotel.

The Flirting for Disaster/Mission Red and Golf Outing event tables generated a lot of buzz and throughout the night caused "traffic jams" as attendees flocked to those tables curious about those events -- at least with FFD/Mission Red, 20+ attendees signed up to volunteer for those event committees .

But it was clear that most of the attendees were there to learn more about the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and how they can get involved. The mission of the evening was to sign-up new members to the ARCGC Auxiliary Society and keep the buzz going about our exciting member roster and event schedule. If you weren’t there last night, call, write or stay tuned to this blog for our next membership event.

By the numbers:
The Board recruited 23 new Auxiliary Society Members raising over $2000 from Society membership dues. *Additionally, we sold 65 Red Cross squares and raised an additional $69 for the chapter!

As part 6 of our 25 part introduction of our Auxiliary Board, I present this week's profile: the strikingly stunning Catherine Erickson – new member to our chapter with quite a knack for making balloon animals.

Catherine Erickson: Catherine is a first year member of the Auxiliary Board. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, she graduated with a BA from the University of Iowa. She has worked as an Associate Auctioneer and Vice President of Susanin’s Auctions for the last five years. Despite her work as an auctioneer, she cannot talk really, really fast.

Join us next week when we’ll share some shocking facts about the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and how our chapter benefits from the fundraising events we do as Auxiliary Society and Board Members in tangible terms.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's Tax Time! Help the Red Cross this Year Just by Getting Your Taxes Done!

It's that dreaded time of year - Tax Season!

Your mailbox is slowing filling with W-2 forms and you are busy trying to collect 401K statements and student loan reports - it can be quite overwhelming. THEN, you have to file them and just looking at all of the lines and trying to sort them out starts to make you dizzy.

No fear - we have an easy way to do your taxes this year that includes a bonus: a donation to the Red Cross!

H&R Block will donate $25 to the Greater Chicago Red Cross for each new customer referral they receive this tax season. All you have to do is download and print the referral form and bring it to an H&R Block facility when you're ready to prepare your taxes. You can find an H&R Block near you by visiting or you can call 1-800-HRBLOCK.

Make sure to bring in the Red Cross referral form with you, which you can find here.

It's that easy!

To find out about other ways you can support the Red Cross by doing everyday things like searching the web, buying flowers for that special someone, and opening a checking account, visit

Good luck this tax season, and as always, thanks for supportting the lifesaving services of the Red Cross!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Did You Miss Us?

Dearest Readers, we apologize for leaving you hanging for an entire day. We know how much you look forward to our blog.

But you see, Friday the 13th proved to have lasting effects that turned our President’s Day upside down!

At around 4 p.m., we were notified of a fire not too far from our office.
Sam had responded to a fire at the same address earlier, so we weren’t expecting much. As we grabbed our boots and hats, dispatch called us back to notify us that the fire department was pulling people out of the building.

When we arrived on scene, things were still a bit chaotic.
We found a representative from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and two representatives from the Department of Human Services and decided to work together to find as much information as we could.

Next, we took a walk through the affected building with the property manager, OEMC and the fire department to assess the damage. While walking through a very wet, yet still in tact building, we were part of a decision making process that concluded the building was unsafe and would be closed for the evening.

Red Cross to the Rescue!

In large situations such as this fire, the Red Cross responds by activating our Mass Care Team.
Shutting down this building meant putting sixty-five families out of their homes; the Red Cross provides shelter for those who had no where to go.
Mass Care arrived on scene with a canteen, providing water and snacks for the residents. A short while after, dinner was also provided while other members of the Mass Care team were locating a suitable shelter to house those displaced.

As the night went on, we worked to get an accurate count of those affected who would be staying in our shelter. As members of the DAT team, we worked directly with the emergency response personnel, but also helped to communicate new information to the tenants.

Several pizzas later, after a few teddy bears were handed out and a very scared cat got a ride on a CTA bus it was decided that a Red Cross Shelter was not necessary. Most of the building’s tenants thankfully were able to stay with friends and family and hopefully the building will be back up and running shortly!
I guess the only question now is, what did you do on your President's Day?

Friday, February 13, 2009


In today's edition, we'll recap our last Flirting For Disaster fundraising event, which was a ginormous success!

You know you’ve joined the right charity organization when you get to see a knock-out performance by Cher at a fundraising event. Well…Cher as played by Candy Stratton from the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club. But Cher nevertheless, belting out “Turn Back Time”, showcasing her massive head of curls and sporting her familiar black leather jacket and fishnet stocking ensemble.

The singing sensation was featured at our Chicago chapter’s first GLBT Flirting for Disaster event, in partnership with the Northalsted Area Merchants Association, on Feb. 5. But there was more… Guests at Hydrate nibbled on fantastic appetizers from Home Bistro and Halsted’s (you couldn’t peel me away from the tasty liver pate) while enjoying a leather fashion show sponsored by Shel-don Chicago and I.D. Chicago. The leather appeared to take a backseat to the skin it was supposed to cover, but there didn’t seem to be any audience complaints about that – or the models.

All in all, it was an enlightening evening. Amidst women wondering out loud if the cute guy in the corner was straight and the cashmere sweater-wearing group of guys by the bar giggling like schoolgirls, the event was a true success, raising more than $4,800 for the American Red Cross. Great to know Red Cross supports not only the greater community but also our neighborhood communities and cultures through such events. The biggest challenge will be finding a better headliner than Cher next year.

Our next FFD event is March 19 at Lalo's. Let's get our act together and make it there! That means you...and you!!!

As part 5 of our 25 part introduction of our Auxiliary Board, I present this week's profile: the dangerously magnanimous David Landeck - pillar of society and proud owner of a Toyota Prius...(I made that last part up).

David is now both and the Vice President of Development at Prevail Health Solutions and a grad student at Chicago Booth School of Business. Previously he attended University of Notre Dame and worked at CSG Systems, Inc. He enjoys sailing, traveling, hiking, reading, and athletics.

Join us next week when we'll talk about Timbuktu, Unitarians and the theory of relativity. Until then, dot your i's, cross your t's and mind your q's.

And remember, "When in Rome..."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Learn How You Can Change Lives and Network for a Cause

Calling all Chicagoland young professionals! Are you looking for something significant to do with your time? Perhaps--like me--you're thinking that you want to step up your philanthropic efforts and really make a difference in your community. Even in this current economic climate, I've found that many young professionals still think it's important to focus on the needs of others by volunteering.

If this sounds like you, then join us at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Auxiliary Board & Society Membership Event at hotspot China Grill at the Hard Rock Hotel! There, you'll learn how you can be an ambassador for the Red Cross and make an impact in the Chicagoland area. While you're learning about all the great things you can do through the Red Cross, you can sip on free Smirnoff cocktails, delight in tasty hors d’oeuvres and enjoy $5 domestic beers and $7 specialty cocktails! To top it all off...the event is FREE!

It's time to stop daydreaming about getting involved with a cause and actually doing it. The Red Cross makes this easy to do through our Auxiliary Board & Society group. Join us next Thursday to see how you can get involved!

WHEN: Thurs, February 19, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: China Grill at the Hard Rock Hotel, 230 N. Michigan Ave.

HOW: Reservations are required. To make a reservation, call 312.729.6134 or visit

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Get your hearts pumping!

Only a few more days until Valentine’s Day; are you ready with the perfect gift? I bought mine last week (can’t tell you hear what it is of course… but I’m ready).

I love those little chocolates hearts as much as the next person, but I was noticing the other day that Valentine’s gifts are all basically unhealthy-fancy dinners, big heart-shaped boxes of chocolate etc. Have you ever thought about giving something a little more heart warming (with fewer calories)? I have a suggestion. Sure it’s a off the beaten path but what could be a bigger thrill than learning to save a life together?

Pet, infant or adult CPR classes are great gifts for loved ones. Taking a class together provides you with quality time and shows that you really care about your loved ones health and it’s an activity you can do with a family member, friend or romantic interest. If taking the class with a romantic partner you should know that we practice the mouth-to-mouth portion on manikins in the class so don't get any funny ideas (what you do on your own time is none of our business)..

Frugal Valentine’s should check out our discounted CPR Training Days program in March where we offer CPR classes for just $9.00-this happens just once a year. Sure you can’t take the class this month but you can register early and tuck your event confirmation into a mushy, gushy card (and maybe even include some dark chocolate, which is supposed to be healthy in moderation right?-yum) in celebration of the holiday.

What type of off-the-beaten-path Valentine’s Day gifts have you given or gotten?

Since Martha Carlos is already CPR certified she would like (somewhat healthy) dark chocolate for Valentine's Day. If she wasn't up to date on her lifesaving skills, she would take a class AND request chocolate.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Animals Inside!

Dearest Readers:

Today, we would like to take this opportunity to discuss something very near and dear to our hearts: pet safety.

Last Tuesday, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago responded to a fire in the city of Chicago.

The client was sitting in the back of a police car because he had fled his home without shoes, but that was not his only concern: he had also left without his cats.
I, Lily, sat in the back of the car with him and tried to explain to him what assistance the Red Cross provides. He cut me off, only to ask if I could inquire about his cats. Having a cat myself, I could understand his anxiety and set off to find any information I could about his cats.
Several firemen told me that they had not seen any animals, but would continue looking. The police officer (who’s car we were sitting in) even offered to go look around the house with some treats after the fire department had gone – the client, however, knew that with the extensive damage to his home, the possibility of finding all three of his cats alive and well was not good.
Later that afternoon, the Chicago Tribune posted the picture seen above.

This site, is a great resource for ways to keep your pet safe.
It breaks down what to do before, during and after a disaster in regards to your beloved animals. Here are a couple highlights:

Have a current photograph.
Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet!

Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first served basis.
As much as you love them, DO NOT reenter a home during a disaster to attempt a rescue. Instead, notify the firemen of the animal and let them go in after him/her.

Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home.
If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office.

Also, the American Red Cross organizes classes that teach both Dog and Cat first-aid.
Links for these classes in Chicago can be found at by browsing through the Traditional Course list.
Finally, the ASPCA ( can provide you with a pet safety sticker which you can put on your house to alert the firemen of the type/number of animals you have in the home.

- Lily and Sam....... and Macchiato

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tick, Tock. Tick, Tock. There Is Still Time to Nominate a Hero!

It’s February 4th already. That means…that there are still 44 days until the first day of spring!

But that also means that there are only 2 days left to nominate your hometown hero for the 2009 Heroes Breakfast!

(Sorry, Batman, we know that your movie brought a lot Chicago pride for being filmed here, but you don't count.)

The event’s sponsor CBS 2 is helping spread the word around the Chicagoland area to encourage you to recognize a REAL person, an ordinary individual who has made an extraordinary difference in your community.

Heroism is measured by great acts of bravery, commitment, and goodwill. It may only take seconds to perform CPR and save a stranger’s life in an emergency. It may take days or weeks just to help neighbors rebuild a home and life after having lost everything to a disaster.

Either way, it only takes a few minutes to share your hero’s inspiring story with us! Check out the award categories to see where your hero fits in, and nominate that special person by visiting

Spread the word around your neighborhood about the 2009 Heroes Breakfast. We look forward to helping you say “Thank you!” to your hero…in a big way!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Punxsutawney Prediction

It was a bright day in Punxsutawney, PA this morning and we all know what that means…. Phil saw his shadow. As the rest of the world sits and wonders if the prophesying groundhog will be correct about our future winter weather, we DAT members begin to worry about other things….

For example:
Exactly how many pairs of socks are we going to be wearing to our next fire?

The American Red Cross responds to disasters in all weather conditions: weather (get it, weather/whether?!) it’s a balmy 40 degrees like we had for Super Bowl Sunday or a blistering -16, we’ll be there.

Generally speaking, as the temperature drops our number of responses skyrocket. On a consistent basis we have seen incident numbers go from 0-2 a day in the summer months to around 4-6 a day during the chillier months of November through January. We even saw a spike in responses in the middle of December when there were 14 incidents in a 24 hour period (fires and pipe bursts causing flooding)!

Often times, when responding to fires clients will ask us how many fires we normally respond to and are usually shocked at our response.
In case you’re wondering, here’s some information to let you in on exactly how much the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Disaster Services Team does in the Chicagoland area:

  • Last week, we had 20 separate incidents. An incident can be a fire, flood, Carbon Monoxide leak…. Anything disastrous

  • We opened 84 cases and assisted 88 individuals

  • In the last six months, the ARCGC has assisted 3,338 people and have been to over 700 incidents.

Give us a call.
Volunteer today!

Sam and Lily