Monday, March 30, 2009


Here at the Red Cross of Greater Chicago, we strongly urge you to pause for a moment before making a comment about this weekend’s peculiar weather.

We know, we know – it’s not supposed to snow two weeks before Easter!

The reason we ask you to take pause is because Red Cross volunteers from around the country are currently responding to North Dakota. If you having been paying attention, residents of North Dakota have been terrorized with severe weather in the past week from flooding to blizzards – and it’s not quite over yet!

A few weeks ago, we took time to chat a bit about National Deployments with the Red Cross. As of 7:30 p.m. Friday night, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago has deployed ten people from the Chicagoland area to respond!

We’d like to take a moment to applaud Disaster Services very own Duane Whittingham who is currently in North Dakota on an Emergency Communications Response Vehicle, or ECRV!

The ECRV deploys to disasters and provides assists with communications with its various antennas and satellite systems. It takes about forty hours of classroom and hands on training to become an ECRV Operator and there are less than twenty ECRV’s in the United States.

We know Duane is making the Red Cross of Greater Chicago proud – be safe out there!!
~Sam and Lily

Friday, March 27, 2009


After a much-deserved Spring Break, the HAPPY FRIDAY blogger is back and armed with a slew of spring break recommendations and favorite destinations from my years of thorough, firsthand research on this topic.

As a former resident of Miami, native of Spain and former employee of the Mexico Tourism Board, I have plenty of fodder on this topic.

Miami Beach is an international hotspot any time of year, but adding spring break to the mix makes South Beach white-hot for party-loving coeds, cutting loose between semesters from colleges across the country. If you go, stop by Wet Willie’s on Ocean Drive. This is a staple and sure to cool even the hottest party-goers with their signature frozen daiquiris and breath-taking ocean views. Next stop, walk three blocks over to Washington Ave, and visit Mansion Nightclub, the hottest club on the strip right now, and a favorite destination of yours truly. Splurge a little and get into VIP – you won’t regret it! Before heading back to the hotel, take a short cab ride to Club Space in downtown Miami. This New York style club features three rooms on two levels and a rooftop patio where partygoers from around the world have been watching the sun rise over the Miami skyline for many years.

Next on my list is Cancun, where the city’s best nightclubs are conveniently located in the hotel zone with the gorgeous turquoise waters and sugar white sand beaches of the Caribbean as a backdrop. My number one spring break hotspot on the Cancun strip is The City, without question Mexico’s best nightclub. This spectacular venue features nine bars on three levels with a 1,000,000 watt sound system and 650 square feet of video screens. Be ready for anything at this dance and entertainment mecca and let your inhibitions go. Spring break in Cancun is not complete without a stop at Senor Frog’s, a longtime staple of the Cancun nightclub scene. Located in the heart of Cancun’s nightclub district, this international disco has been attracting spring break college crowds for almost 20 years. This hotspot comes complete with a water slide leading to a fresh water lagoon to help cool you down after hours of friction on the packed dance floor. On the last stop of our party tour, join 3,000 of your closest friends at one of Cancun’s hottest superclubs, Coco Bongo. The sights and sounds of this multi-level mega- structure include live bands, flying acrobats and a tantalizing light show accompanied by a powerful sound system.

My final and most decadent spring break getaway destination is actually an entire island dedicated exclusively for the serious partygoer not on a budget. Ibiza is world famous for being a club and party scene, featuring an eclectic mix of house and techno nightclubs with a flair for the exotic. My top spot is Pacha, attracting the world’s most discerning partygoers for over 40 years. My dad’s been there, but that’s another story! This place gets jumping after 3am, when the electrifying music moves the jam-packed ocean of people dancing to the intoxicating beats. Featuring guest DJs from around the world and sexy dancers strutting atop the club’s seven bars, this place is truly one-of-a-kind. The final destination of my Ibiza tour is Space Ibiza. This techno-dance wonderland features six rooms with a gigantic main room, all featuring state-of-the-art sound and light shows, and an ultra-extravagant VIP lounge just off the main dance floor at the heart of the club. These two clubs should do the trick, but if you have any energy left, there are plenty of small bars and pubs around the island that cater to any craving you may concoct.

And since we always promote safety at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, we encourage that you drink in moderation, always travel with a partner, and leave your travel itinerary with someone back home. These places are very safe, but travel overseas always requires extra precautions.

For the latest travel tips and international travel alerts, visit the US Department of State website.

Until next time, bottom’s up and HAPPY FRIDAY!

Join our LinkedIn group and stay tuned for our Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tornadoes Aren't Just For Kansas, Toto

A year ago last week, a tornado tore through Atlanta causing lots and lots of damage and killing one person. I live in Chicago, and the thought of a twister tearing down Michigan Avenue just never really occurs to me, but maybe it should.

Sure, I grew up hearing tornado sirens and marching dutifully to the basement to seek refuge. But the city seems to varied, too dense to allow a tornado to get very far.

Turns out, my hunch is very wrong and cities might contain the forces that cause tornadoes to begin with. From a Wired article about the Atlanta tornadoes:

“As with any tornado, the causes were many, but the prime culprits were the drought, and the nature of the city itself. The findings are preliminary but disturbing. Atlanta is an archetypal modern sprawl city, and droughts are expected to become more common as Earth's climate changes.”

I guess us city dwellers need to be hyper-aware of the tornado sirens, too. Sit back, relax, and watch an urban tornado develop on YouTube. While you’re at it, check out the Red Cross tornado safety tips.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

On Sunday, I was waiting to watch the new episode of "Desperate Housewives." I happened to switch the channel over during the ending of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The preview for the next episode resonated with me since it featured blood drives done by the Red Cross.

For the March 22, 2009 episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Ty Pennington and his team of home builders visit Tucson, Arizona. The team has decided to build a new house for the Bell family. One of the members of the Bell family is a 14-year-old girl, Lizzie, who requires blood transfusions in order to survive her life threatening blood disease. Lizzie and her family started the John P. Bell Foundation in order to raise awareness of the need for blood donations. Also, Lizzie won the Red Cross Hero Award for raising awareness of blood drives.

To learn more about "Extreme Makeover" and Lizzie, visit this website and be sure to catch Sunday's episode featuring the makeover of the Bell home. Can't watch the episode on Sunday? Visit the ABC site to watch the episode at a later time. There are Red Cross blood drives in the episode and you'll be able to see how easy and painless it is to donate blood and help someone in need!

To donate blood near you, visit Give Blood, Give Life.

Photo of Lizzie Bell courtesy of Extreme Makeover Tucson

Monday, March 16, 2009


Hello everyone!

Choosing to volunteer with the American Red Cross here in Chicago is a wonderful way to help out the community, but it could also become a stepping point to helping those in need nationally.

When a national disaster happens, like Hurricane Gustav or wide-spread wild fires in California, local Red Cross chapters may need to reach out a hand for help. This turns into deployment opportunities for those volunteers ready to serve! Hurricanes Ike and Gustav both occurred during our term as AmeriCorps, so we were able to witness how the Red Cross deploys its volunteers.

The first step a chapter takes is reaching out through the DSHR network. The network reaches all members that have signed up for DSHR and volunteer for the Red Cross in Disaster Services. Generally, chapters find volunteers that are qualified in areas that are in need. For example, Client Casework and Disaster Assessment are usually needed shortly after the disaster. By volunteering in Chicago, you can learn the valuable skills needed to help in the event of a national disaster!

Lily was selected through DSHR to be a volunteer in Louisiana…

Using the training I received here at the Greater Chicago Chapter, I deployed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana under the Client Casework function. So basically, I was sent to Louisiana to exactly what we do here in Chicago every day - just under slightly different circumstances! While I was in Louisiana, I worked in south central Lafayette traveling to the surrounding Parishes to assist those more directly affected by Gustav and Ike.
I had such a good time! It was an extremely challenging experience, but it was also very rewarding and gave me a new perspective on our country.
I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, or have been trained to be such an asset to the team had it not been for the working with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Disaster Services.

It all starts here!
What are you waiting for?
Sam and Lily

Friday, March 13, 2009

HAPPY FRIDAY! (-the-13th)

While I dare NOT make any direct tie-ins to the American Red Cross and this ominously-associated date, I think it’s an appropriate topic for today’s blog.

In a year where we need all the luck we can get, we have three Friday-the-13ths, the most possible in a twelve-month period. Could this be a sign of things to come…? I resisted blogging about this in February’s Friday-the-13th edition, but we have to face our fears and address this most despicable of days (OK, maybe it’s not that bad).

While there are some of us who do take this date very seriously, most have at least a light trepidation, or a healthy fear, with their own theories of the legend’s origins. Let’s take a look at some theories and you can make up your own minds:

According to Wikipedia – The actual origin of the superstition appears to be a tale in Norse mythology. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga (the source of the name Friday and the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility) was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil - a gathering of thirteen - and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath."

Another theory about the origin of the superstition traces the event to the arrest of the legendary Knights Templar. According to one expert: The Knights Templar were a monastic military order founded in Jerusalem in 1118 C.E., whose mission was to protect Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. Over the next two centuries, the Knights Templar became extraordinarily powerful and wealthy. Threatened by that power and eager to acquire their wealth, King Philip secretly ordered the mass arrest of all the Knights Templar in France on Friday, October 13, 1307 - Friday-the-13th.

MSNBC offers a lighter side of this legend, with five of the favorite Friday-the-13th facts:

1. Fear of Friday-the-13th — one of the most popular myths in science — is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.

2. Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor and some airline terminals omit Gate 13.

3. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and President Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.

4. Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. "It was bad luck," Twain later told the friend. "They only had food for 12." Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.

5. The number 13 suffers from its position after 12, according to numerologists who consider the latter to be a complete number — 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas and 12 eggs in a dozen.

A seemingly odd, but quite obvious coincidence (once you think about it) about Friday-the-13th is that they are among the safest days of the year. Fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home.

Hence, I can finally tie a purportedly unsafe day superstition back into the mission of a very safety-conscious and support-oriented organization and wish you all a very safe, uneventful, and HAPPY FRIDAY! (-the-13th).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tell Your Red Cross Story

There's only a few days left for a great contest that the Red Cross is doing right now in honor of Red Cross Month: the Change A Life Contest. Regardless of if you win, you still benefit from your submission!

The American Red Cross wants to know about a life changing experience you or someone you know has had as a result of their efforts By submitting your story in 75 words or less, you have the opportunity to win backstage tickets to Keith Urban's upcoming concert in Washington D.C., a 52'' flat screen TV, DVD player, Red Cross DVD collection, or Red Cross vintage T-shirts. I know I said everyone gets something for submitting an entry...well, you do! If you submit an entry, you get a coupon for 10% off at the store.

So, you can pretty much save 90% this week on great Red Cross opportunities. 10% off on a Red Cross item from the online store and 80% off on CPR Training during March are great deals in a recession. Use these discounts to get prepared!

The submission deadline is March 16. Start writing your story!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Save a Life (and some money)

A quick search on ebay told me that for $9.00 I can get a Malaysian stamp, Berkley travel mug, or a slightly worn ladies cotton three quarter-sleeved t-shirt. I’ve got a better use for your hard earned money. This month only (coincidentally March is Red Cross month) the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is offering CPR training for only $9.00. This is 80% off the regular price of $45.00. Sure you may have taken this training in high school or sometime in the 80’s but things have changed since then and it’s time to refresh your skills. Sure this training might help you get a job but I can’t think of a better motivator for taking one of these classes than the fact that you’d be empowered to save a life should you ever need to. The fact that it’s on sale this month is just a great bonus. Sign up here!

Martha Carlos works at the Red Cross, she knows CPR and also a good bargain when she sees one.

Monday, March 09, 2009

They say, "April showers bring May flowers"....

...This, however, is not April.
And it’s going to be 32 on Wednesday, so I do not foresee any flowers in the near future.

So what do March showers mean?
Well, for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Disaster Action Team it means responding to flooding!

We watched the weather and news carefully this weekend, expecting much more flooding than what we actually got. Thankfully, because of the warmer temperatures last week, the ground thawed just enough to be able to absorb some of the rain water, stopping it from invading homes and basements.

Unfortunatly, we did have about five families who were affected by this weekend’s heavy rains.

Red Cross to the Rescue!

Last evening Sam and I both embarked on separate flooding adventures. I went to a basement apartment home that had taken in over a foot of water! Sam was dispatched to a garden apartment with the warning of raw sewage and water overflowing from the sinks and toilets. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case, but he was greeted by many household items floating through the client’s primary living space.

We mainly write about our fire responses, but it is important to know that the American Red Cross responds to any and all disasters!

You too can be a part of the Disaster Action Team - go ahead, jump in!

So April showers bring May flowers. And Mayflowers bring Pilgrims!

Think Spring Chicago!!

~Lily and Sam

Friday, March 06, 2009


If you’ve ever wanted to look like Ricky Martin or Gloria Estefan on the dance floor without the hassle of all that tight leather and hairspray, then you’re in luck. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is hosting a social mixer in two weeks that features free dance lessons and much more.

You could wear hairspray, but remember, do not apply near an open flame. We’re very safety conscious! Leather is optional.

OK, so we may not help you look like Ricky or Gloria, or maybe even dance that good, but you’ll certainly leave with more rhythm than you came in with. Linda’s Dance Studio is leading this cocktail mixer/dance workshop at Lalo’s on March 19th as part of the Chicago Chapter’s Flirting for Disaster social calendar.

Since the theme of this event is all things Latin, including free tequila mixed drinks and shots, hot salsa music, and hotter appetizers, we figured we would spice things up even more and add dance lessons to the mix.

I’ll tell you one thing, if I wasn’t Latin myself, I’d appreciate this combination of liquor and dance lessons. They probably don’t encourage that at dance studios, but it works for us. So bring your partner, or meet one there, and dance the night away with fellow Latin dance novices and great drinks and appetizers.

After a few tries at this whole Latin dancing thing, you may be in the mood for a massage. And guess what…we’re providing complimentary massages. OMG! Talk about a great way to end a night of drinking and dancing!!!

Tickets are $20 in advance (click here) or $25 at the door.

· Complimentary appetizers by Lalo’s
· Complimentary drinks by Don Julio from 6-7:30pm
· Demonstrations of “The Perfect Jose Cuervo Margarita”
· Dance tunes spun by DJ Eclipse
· Free massages by Body Balance Therapy
· Raffle, including gifts from Flirty Girl Fitness, Stella & Dot, Jeffery Lamorte Salon, Rumba and MUCH MORE!
· Special performance by Linda’s Dance Studio
· Art display by Mirella S. Campos and jewelry display by Gloria’s Illusiones
· Drink specials by Lalo’s all night long!

Coqueteo con PrĂ³posito

Thurs, March 19, 2009Lalo's
1960 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago6 - 9 p.m.

So long for now, and join us again next Friday for our next edition of HAPPY FRIDAY and we’ll see you at Flirting for Disaster!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

CPR is In! Thank you The Office, Top Chef

Did you catch Top Chef yesterday? Thank you Tom Colicchio, again! In case you haven't heard, CPR is in vogue. It's trendy. Pop culture to blame. And we love it. Only wish there was more of it. Nope, we could not buy that kind of PR, especially because we really make a point of spending donor dollars wisely.

We spoke to our preparedness team today--our phones are rining off the hook. We've been getting at least six calls a day from people anxious to get training. Weeks ago, The Office also gave us a MAJOR plug. Soo glad these two shows stepped up to underscore how essential CPR is, especially in our work place were we spend most of our day.

Luckily, for those in the Chicago area who are still "thinking about it", you can now save lives and money. Sign up for our CPR Training Days this month. At $9 a class, you'll be telling us about your own "Office" lifesaving episode in no time. Just click on the right and go straight to registration. Go on, be pop influenced and follow Tom and Dwight's lead.

Top Chef
The Office

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

From Blue to Red

Wow! This is my very first time ever blogging and I am very excited about it. As much as I feel like I should have some really interesting story to start off with, I don't. I joined the ARC because I was honestly just bored to pieces- seeing that the current state of the country had left me jobless.

Three months ago, I was really really depressed, feeling useless and very unproductive, so I literally just sat in front of my computer, typed in “Red Cross” (a.k.a and viola I was on the homepage where I clicked on “Volunteer” and the rest is history. It was really that easy. Funny thing, when I tell people I volunteer for the Red Cross they almost always ask me how I knew about the organization. This is usually surprising to me because I thought everyone knew about Red Cross.

Anyway, I (and apparently thousands of other people that support us) truly believe that the Red Cross does amazing things in our community daily, but most importantly it has done wonders to my life. I am enjoying the ride so far and learning a lot, like blogging, working on campaigns, research and trying to keep you interested in what I am saying right now:)

I tend to lean more towards low maintenance tasks so physical labor is not quite my thing. However, whatever your interests and strengths are, there is a place for you here. We all have our own motivations and stories. This is mine. What will be yours?

Oh, and if you are already a volunteer, send in your story and “Tell us how a Red Cross experience changed your life or someone else's life” in 75 words or less and you could win a FREE trip for two-nights to Washington DC (exciting, huh?). Enter at

Uche A
Uche is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a BA in Psychology. Her favorite color is yellow and her favorite quote is, “You can try to fit in but you were born to stand out”. She loves to change the status quo by being herself- unique :-)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Show Chicago Some Love During Red Cross Month

While I was living in New York during college, I was constantly surprised by just how often I would randomly meet other people from Chicago. Of course, it would not be long before I would learn that so-and-so was not really from Chicago, but rather from some suburb about 40 miles away. Everybody seemed to have their own reasons for saying that they were truly [or nominally] from the City. Either way, I learned that whether they were fervent Sox fans, deep-dish pizza aficionados, had really thick, nasally accents, or had never been south of Fullerton, everybody identified with Chicago on some level and felt that in some way, they too belonged to this big neighborhood. Clearly, it is all about the Chicago pride!

I know that I love all things Chicago, especially the great people. But what would I do if a disaster occured down the block or the other side of town? Would I be prepared and there to help my neighbor? And what are the chances of a disaster happening anyway?

Well, actually, there is a lot going on all the time in our backyards. I did not realize that until fellow blogger Erick Laseca had mentioned just the other day that our chapter responds to about THREE disasters in our communities…DAILY.

Also recent news to me, President Obama officially declared March as Red Cross Month! Keeping the tradition alive since FDR’s first proclamation in 1943, President Obama recognized the Red Cross’ long history and enduring commitment of providing relief services to individuals and communities in the event of both large- and small- disasters.

Additionally, he noted that the mission, daily efforts, and successes of the organization would not be possible if not for the humanitarian spirit, collaborative support, and dedication of the thousands of volunteers across the nation. After all, 96 percent of the American Red Cross workforce is made up of volunteers! This month, let’s celebrate all the great folks who make this organization so critically important for our neighbors next door and abroad.

There is always something going on around town. You can change a life, starting with your own! Be a part of the action, be a part of Chicago.

Here is just a smattering of ideas of how you can act locally this month:
-Flirting for Disaster: Coqueteo con PrĂ³posito
-CPR Training Days [Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 10 different Chicagoland locations]

What Are You Waiting For?

Here in Disaster Services, we know the perks of being a Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer.
For example, we know that while responding to fires, there’s always a chance that your backside will make the news.
We know that there are always snacks – here at the office or off of a canteen.

We also know that we can make a difference.

Yesterday, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago responded to a 2 alarm fire on W. Hollywood in the city of Chicago.
While Fire Fighters were making heroic ladder rescues, the Red Cross was on the move.

Sam was part of the first team that arrived on scene. Along with several other volunteers, he worked with the Fire Department, the Landlord of the building, and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications to ensure that the residents of the building were going to have a place to go.

The Red Cross opened a shelter that is currently staffed with outstanding volunteers to provide those displaced with food clothing and shelter.

A very wise man once said that the best part about being a Disaster Action Team volunteer is that you are spending time actually helping those in need instead of wondering and hoping that they will get help.

So sure, Sam and the other volunteers may have missed last night's "The Bachelor" 3 hour special (Don't worry, he's going to catch it online later today). They may have been just a little bit cold hanging out by the lake front. But they went home knowing that the residents of the building on W. Hollywood had a safe place to stay for the evening, clothes and something to eat.

What are you waiting for?