Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stretch for smoother running with Run Red

While most of my volunteer hours are spent with the Disaster Action Team of American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, I'm also a distance runner and enjoy helping coach new runners. While I've run plenty of races of various distances, this year I've very proud to be running the Chicago marathon with Run Red Team, the official Red Cross nationwide running team.

Training for a race isn't just about running. There is the cross-training, the gear shopping (my favorite!), making sure to properly fuel and hydrate, and (my other favorite) many minor tweaks and hacks which can be done throughout the day to contribute to better fitness and an easier time training.

Spending time hunched over the laptop and the general stress of certain jobs (or, the absence thereof, sometimes, too) causes tension in the neck and shoulders, which, believe it or not, carries over to running. Granted, running, as those of us initiated already know, eats stress nicely, but still! The smart runner is all about being proactive and training smart, rather than waiting to address an issue once it's a big issue.

When you have stiff shoulders due to tension, it limits the ability to swing arms freely forwards and back. When this happens, the arms take a less neutral side to side motion, which does not a lot to propel the body forward and mostly just wastes precious energy and causes unnecessary fatigue. Hello? Not good. So, here's a quick fix you can start doing today:

  • Take mini-stretch breaks throughout work time. Seems minor, but it matters.
  • Lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Press gently on your left temple with our fingertips. Hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side. Aim for a stretch here, not a neck-crack.
  • Raise right arm up, keeping your elbow locked straight and palm facing forward. Hold your arm between your elbow and shoulder with your left hand. Pull (gently please!), hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side.

Twice a day, then, to strengthen the shoulders:

  • Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides with your palms facing in. In one slow, constant motion, rotate your shoulders up, backward, downward and forward, bringing them toward each other. Hold them for a second. Do it in reverse, rolling shoulders until arms return to starting position. Do two sets of ten reps. Hold dumbells to make it more challenging as strength improves.
How easy is that? Very. So easy you can start right this second! And, as an added benefit, these mini-stretch breaks help you feel more alert during the day too. Pro-tip: there are several simple downloads you can utilize to remind you via email or pop-up to take a second and stretch during the workday. It doesn't get easier than that.

Hope to see everyone at the Team Run Red fun run on Wednesday August 5th at 6:30 on the west side of the North Ave. bridge.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My First Fire

It was the smell of death, I thought to myself. I couldn't get comfortable yesterday even after I was made aware that the immediate danger was over. That powerful and awkward smell kept bothering me even when we were trying to comfort and assist our clients.

The DAT (Disaster Action Team) was activated around 2:15 pm when dispatched called us and told us about the fire call on the South side of Chicago. Immediately, I got excited; I had been training for this day and finally it was here. I was going to be there with the Disaster respond team, assisting the American public in a real life emergency.

But little did I know what would happen next. The trip to the South side was pleasant, especially because the full responders that were there with me, inside the Red Cross truck. They were briefing me on the most common practices and procedures we were going to be performing. But upon our arrival, I was immediately impacted and it was not what you think it was. No, it was not the flames or destruction but rather the in-your face- strong smell of decaying wood destroyed by the fire. I have never smelled something remotely similar. It was a disgusting smell and one that is still lingered on the clothes I was wearing yesterday during our response.

After I got over my initial reaction to the smell, I watched how the full responders approached the burning building, talking to the neighbors and making their ways to our clients which were sitting on the steps in front of the small apartment building. My first impression was, wow- they are only wearing their pajamas. But when I got closer I was sadden to see the look on their faces. The look of confusion, of not believing that this is happening to them. They were quiet and they all had these solemn look on their faces, like they absolutely knew their lives were changed forever. It was hard to interrupt their train of thoughts. It was difficult mainly because you didn't want to be another thing they have to deal with.

But we knew that we could help and that is why we came all this way to tell them. The Red Cross team prepares, trains and is ready twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year for this type of disaster. Every time a disaster like this strikes, the Red Cross is there so you are not alone. And that is why we needed to interrupt their solemnest and try to find out what happened. But contrary to what I was expecting, they were happy to see us. I wish you could off seeing their faces, looking at us like if they been waiting for us all their lives, like if our red vests had encrypted on them a decoded message of hope, their faces just lighted up!

Soon we were there, talking to them, trying to understand the sequence of events. This was a very emotional part and they all had their own part of the story to tell. We were offering our compassion and support while trying to assess the situation at the same time. The owner of the apartment building told us how the fire started in the second floor of the house and how firefighters broke doors and windows to get them out. The mother was rejoiced that she was able to get her little baby out of the burning apartment with the help of the firefighters. And the owner of the building was very glad that because of the efficiency of the fire department, he was able to evacuate his two dogs out of the building's basement on time.

I was relieved to learn that the family was saved. However, the house wasn't that lucky. Upon our required inspection of the property, we were escorted by the fire department personnel. I felt we were walking into a dark tunnel, because there were no lights in this house- the firefighters have already turned all power down for safety and to avoid any more fires. We needed to be careful walking in top of the rubble and debris, making our way only with the light coming from our flashlights.

Inside the house water was dripping from all sides of the ceiling and the floor were starting to flood a little from the water the firefighters used to put out the fire. All of the house furniture was tainted by either smoke, water or fire and that was only the first floor. When we were finally allowed into the second floor to inspect if the clients clothes were salvageable I was furthered shocked. It was a complete disaster! Everything was gone, the only thing you could see from where I was standing was debris and burned wood. But among the debris you can still see the home that was no longer there, fragments of what were one day family portraits, a baby high chair, a Superman bedding, all the colors that make up a home, were now all, mutilated, violated by the violent flames.

It was then when our full responders decided that these families couldn't stay in this house and that the Red Cross was going to help them. We asked the clients if they had a place to stay and they responded no. They said that no one wanted to welcome them in because of their large two dogs. So we told them not to worry. This is why the Red Cross is there, to assist families like this, that have lost everything and which have no place to go. These clients were given comfort kits with the necessary toiletries to take care of them for a few days. They also were given debit cards loaded with enough funds to allow them to stay in a hotel for two nights while they figure out what is next for them. They were also given money for food and clothing. The baby client got a Red Cross teddy bear to help him cope with the stress of having his life disrupted in such a devastating way (at such a young age) but also provisions were made to give his mom enough money for baby formula and other baby essentials. I was glad to be able to give him something to play with, something that didn't had that disturbing smell.

Looking out the burned house was when it finally dawn on me, this could happen to me! This fire started like many others with some electrical malfunction causing a spark that ignited the fire. This family didn't do anything wrong to deserve this, it just happened to them and it could also happen to you. Are you ready for such an event?

If not, there are many ways the Red Cross can help. We offer disaster preparedness classes, CPR and first aid certification and much more. You need to be ready, have a plan and get trained, don't get caught by surprise.

I know that this experience have changed my life forever. I came back home from the fire and I wanted to fireproof all the houses of the people I love. Although I was unsuccessful on my task, I am definitely on it. I want to make sure we are preparing, preventing and getting trained for anything that life throws at us. Step one, getting a electrical inspection- mental note calling the electrician to make the appointment tomorrow.

What about you? Is your house fire proof?

Friday, July 24, 2009


You're invited to an exclusive party to reserve your discounted tickets for the hottest event of the summer - Mission: Red Experience Auction!

Mission: Red Experience Auction Ticket Pre-Sale Party -- Get $25 off your Mission: Red ticket – an exclusive offer for pre-sale party attendees on:

Monday, July 27
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
9 W. Hubbard St., Chicago

Also, if you are interested in attending Mission: Red for free, we're going to draw two of our fans on July 27, and each of them will win a pair of tickets to the August 14 Experience Auction at the Chicago Cultural Center! Recruit your friends to become our fans and be prepared to experience the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago like never before at the event of the summer

Free Admission / Complimentary appetizers
$4 Goose Island 312
$4 Import Bottles
$6 Skyy Cocktails

Reservations required
RSVP for pre-sale ticket party.

The Eastland Disaster - the 94th Anniversary

July 24 is an important date in Greater Chicago Red Cross history. It was on this day in 1915 that the Chapter provided its first disaster response just six weeks after it was founded. Despite the abbreviated time since the Chapter’s founding, the Greater Chicago Red Cross was on the scene of a steam boat that had rolled over in the Chicago River within one hour of the catastrophe.

This was the largest disaster in Chicago history. Of the more than 2,500 Western Electric employees that had boarded the steam boat, 844 lost their lives. During the initial rescue effort, when the wholesale grocer’s building was set up as a command center near the disaster scene, the Red Cross quickly secured enough operators to work the switchboard and set up offices for other assisting agencies. When the Armory was opened as a central morgue, Red Cross established first aid stations and rooms for families to rest. The Red Cross also supervised installation of extra phones in the Armory before family members were admitted. Red Cross nurses were on hand to help families deal with the trauma of losing loved ones.

A third Red Cross relief site was opened at the Western Electric plant, located in the neighborhood where most of the affected families lived. City Health Department nurses visited homes of 500 families known to need relief and recorded the information on Red Cross forms. The nurses called into the relief site at Western Electric when they found a family with urgent needs. Immediately, a relief worker from Red Cross or Western Electric would leave to visit the family, taking whatever the nurse said would be needed, including cash, a physician or an interpreter.

The aid didn’t stop once the initial shock of the incident came to a close. The Red Cross continued to provide monetary and medical assistance – as well as guidance to help them rebuild their lives – for three years following the event.

The Greater Chicago Red Cross response to the situation established the organization as a professional relief force and post-crisis stronghold in Chicago. We’ve been here for 94 years, and we’ll continue to be here to help people in the future.
--Gentry Lassiter is an intern in the Marketing & Communications department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Become a Safer Sitter this Summer!

I have been babysitting for more than ten years. I began babysitting my three younger sisters when I was about 13 years old, and I continued to babysit throughout my college years. I can still remember the first little girls I babysat, D.D., Mary and Abby. I used to have so much fun with them playing games, watching movies, and ‘vegging’ out all night before I put them to bed. They went to my grade school, and their parents were friends with mine, so it made sense to have me babysit these girls.

I loved it. I loved every minute of babysitting with them. I got older, and soon the oldest daughter could watch the younger siblings, but I began babysitting for other children. It wasn’t until I was 16 and in health class that I took a CPR/First Aid class. I learned all the skills necessary to respond in an emergency situation … three years after I had first begun babysitting.

I think to myself now- how useful these skills would have been when I was babysitting at 13. I would have felt much more comfortable as a babysitter, and I am sure the parents would have as well. It is without a doubt that they trusted me, but I am sure as parents they would have felt a lot safer if they knew I had some kind of First Aid or CPR training.

I know I would have loved to take a babysitting class when I was younger, so that I could develop skills as a babysitter. It would have given me something to do during free time in the summer, and it would have made me feel a lot safer as a sitter.

And Parents wouldn’t you love for your children to take a babysitting (and CPR/First Aid) training course so that you can feel a sense of ease when you let them watch their siblings or sit for a friend’s child?

This summer American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is offering Babysitter BootCamps that will teach children the necessary Babysitting, CPR and First Aid skills needed to respond in an emergency situation.

Offered throughout the Chicagoland area, this is a perfect course for babysitters to receive the training necessary to become the best babysitter they can be.

Babysitters Come Out and learn how to become a Safer Sitter today!

To learn more the American Red Cross and how to become a Safer Sitter visit: www.chicagoredcross.org/babysit

Monday, July 20, 2009

The "Chupete" Girl

When I was asked to write about my experience of been a volunteer for the Chicago chapter of the Red Cross I was kind of nervous but if you knew me you would know that, is this kind of tense emotions that keep me flying high.

I love to be challenged and to try things I never have tried before and even though I have been writing a personal blog for years now; this was a new audience and a new message.

So there I was pondering about my decision to write for the Chicago Red Cross blog when my best friend Tania interrupted my train of thoughts to share with me her rationale on why, I would be so perfect for this kind of assignment.

She told to me, “Barbie (this is how my friends call me) I knew that you should use what you are already doing anyway and reach out to a bigger audience.” I knew she was referring to expanding the scope and audience of my personal blog but then I asked her- how can I contribute to this Red Cross blog? I am still looking for my place in this organization, for ways I can help- and it was then when she told me that, she thought the Red Cross was the perfect place for me to help out. I asked to what she was referring and she answered with the “chupete” story.

A “chupete” is a pacifier and the story my friend Tania was referring to, was based on an advertizing campaign used by the Spanish Red Cross when my friend Tania was growing up in the Europe. Tania explained to me that this particular short ad, describes in thirty second why I will be perfect for this job and for you to get an idea of the image my friend Tania painted for me, you would need to hear her or see it for yourself. So I did my best and here it is.


She said that this is the ways, she thinks of me. I am the little girl with the “chupete” wanting always, to comfort those in need. I guess that is a natural instinct, nurtured by my mother and encouraged by the religion I was brought up in. But I must confess that I think that compassion and a desire to comfort and help others, doesn’t need to be an inborn tendency but this can also be taught. You don’t need to be born with a natural desire to go out of your way to help others; you can also be thought why it is in your best interest to do it.

In this day and age, we are so bombarded with scene of world poverty, war, genocide and crime that we have created our own system of tuning the noise down. We creatively selected the news we want to be fed into our customized portals, we consciously choose channels that have the programming that is sure to keep us laughing for the entire sixty minutes and we try to focus in positive small talk like, the weather and sports because it is safe and they are sure to avoid any conflict.

But the truth is that while we are trying to avoid pain by tuning down the troublesome noise we are also missing the chance to change the course of further problems, suffering and famine. The solution to this is not to shut down and screened the information that is coming our way, it is the opposite. In order to be able to alter the events that will potentially alter our lives we need to be open to the information that is all around us. The more knowledge you have about all the issues afflicting our planet the better decision power you will have to impact them, to alter them, to define them.

Issues like the genocide in Darfur, the famine in Haiti, the political instability of some Latino American countries, the warming of the planet, the alleged violation of the Geneva Conventions that could possibly be adjudicated to the Guantanamo handling of prisoners and the number of uninsured children in the US, are just a few of the issues that are causing short and long term consequences, that can and will potentially impact your ability of achieving happiness. They are not isolated events that have nothing to do with you or me, they, like a Tsunami, can be initiated one thousand miles away but wiped your entire existence before you had a chance to run.

That is why staying isolated from the issues won’t stop the problems from coming knocking on your door. Only by the acquisition of knowledge you can have a saying on what is going on. Only by allowing yourself to be submerged in these issues can you find a reason to care and contribute your part to shaping the planet we all need to share.

When you do start learning, studying, reading, getting involved you understand the many ways you can affect, alter, shape, support or stop them. You are an important part of protecting all the victims of hunger, abuse and crimes against humanity.

Your knowledge will serve you as the guide that can stir your vote a certain way, it can help you decided if you want to buy something from a culprit organization or rather support one that is playing by the rules and it will give you the confidence to make a stand when you fear that the situation has gotten out of control.

Knowledge is the one thing that no one can take away from you and the one thing that all of you have at the finger tips- on your computer search engines, in all the amazing public libraries near you and in the Red Cross.

Yes, the Red Cross offers amazing courses to the public. One of these courses is the International Humanitarian Law seminar, which I took some weeks ago and loved. The Chicago Red Cross chapter offers this course once a month. This amazing course teaches you about the origins and rationale behind the creation of the Geneva Conversions and its additional protocols. It covers the importance of ensuring that all citizens, of all nations, are aware of the agreed laws to protect humanity’s dignity during time of war. This course is very interesting and it is information, knowledge that is there at your finger tips, for free. Knowledge that is available to anyone who wishes to gain knowledge of this important body of law. You don’t need to be a Red Cross volunteer to attend; you just need to have the desire to learn.

I believe that by learning, by acquiring knowledge about the world around you, you can also be moved like the, “chupete” girl and see why it is imperative that these situations are stopped and avoided.

There is something you can do, all of us have an obligation to write this chapter of our history and it starts by learning about how we got here, so we don’t rewrite what has been written already but rather, write a much humane chapter of our, historical tail!

If you are interested to get enrolled in any of the Chicago Red Cross chapter courses, please contact: Elsie Serrano at serranoe@usa.redcross.org

Friday, July 17, 2009

Help American Red Cross Youth Services receive $250K – Best Buy @ 15 Campaign!

IT'S FREE! Best Buy has arranged a contest that allows youth to earn points and donate to their favorite charity. The American Red Cross is 1 of 4 charities that are competing to win $250,000 for Youth & Young Adult Services.

Want to help? It’s super easy!
1.) Only Youth ages 13-18 yrs. can register at http://www.at15.com/. (You automatically get 1500 points just by registering).
2.) Complete fun online activities and tasks to earn tons of points.
3.) Donate your points to the American Red Cross!
4.) Don’t forget to get your friends to register and donate their points as well!

Only YOUth can determine which charity receives the most moola $$$ for programs and activities that help youth volunteers make a greater impact in the community!

What are you waiting for? Voting begins NOW and lasts until July 31st!

Join the facebook event http://www.facebook.com/editevent.php?eid=36571794958

Happy Voting!

-Eboni Prince, Youth Services Associate

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local fashion and beauty representative partners with the Greater Chicago Red Cross!

These days, everyone is doing their best to cut expenses and save money. Being a college student, who is already on a strict budget to begin with, the economic downturn has really effected my beauty and fashion selections. When it comes to a great look for less, I have found a great solution in mark. Better yet, mark. has decided to partner with the Red Cross in the month of July!

mark. is an Avon organization offering a variety of make-up, skincare, fragrance, and fashion products for a fantastic price. mark. products are not sold in stores, they are sold through representatives and online. During the month of July, a Chicago representative has decided to donate all of her profits to the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. To take a look at all mark products and support the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, click here . This month, when you shop mark. you can reap the benefits of a great product and low price, all while supporting the lifesaving services of the Red Cross!

Some of my favorite products from mark. include:
  • Juice Gems Flavored high-shine gloss
    Eyemarker Color On Line
    Have a Heart Necklace
    Self Sanctuary Honey Jasmine Body Butter
    Multi-Task Weekender Bag

This is one of the many ways your everyday activities can support the Red Cross! Additional partners include; GoodSearch.com, AT&T, Flowerpetal.com, Berry Chill, and GoodShop.com. Learn how to make your dollar go farther and support the Red Cross by visiting www.chicagoredcross.org/fundraisers.

Happy Shopping!

Mari Bryerman
Community Fundraising Intern at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Need some reading material? Check out our running safety tips and local running blogs

I have been working to support the promotional efforts of the Greater Chicago Red Cross Run Red team for the Chicago Marathon, so I’ve been keeping up with a lot of local running blogs. The following are a few of the ones I’ve found fun to read. Those of you who are recreational runners or entrants in the race might find some of these resources interesting:

In it for the long run: Leslie Patton writes for runners of all abilities and goals. She offers information about running in the Chicago area and training, local races, running stores. She also writes about her experiences as a runner – unusual anecdotes about things she encounters while running: once a deer ran into her, she writes.

Chicago Running Examiner: Brenda Barrera has been running and competing in road races and triathlons for over 20 years. She was the National Web Editor for The Running Network as well as Editor for RunMidwest and Chicago Athlete.

I’m Running Red! : Barbara, one of our Run Red Team members and a contributor to Greater Chicago Red Cross News, maintains this blog on her experiences training for the Chicago marathon.

Chronicles of a First Time Runner: Rahul, a volunteer with the Greater Chicago Red Cross and a member of the Run Red Team, records his progress as he trains for the Chicago Marathon in Singapore.

Running News Guy: If you’re training for the marathon, a 5k, or simply running because you like it, you’ll want to check out this blog by ABC7 reporter John Garcia. He is a lifelong runner and offers advice for runners of all levels.

These blogs offer a lot of great advice about running and the situations both new and veteran runners experience. One of the tasks I’ve been assigned recently is combing through our safety tips and ensuring they’re up to date. While I was looking through our Web site, I came across these Runner Safety Tips.

A lot of the tips seem like they would be common sense, but many people forget them when they hit the trails on the weekends. I ride my bicycle along the Lakefront Path every weekend, and most of the runners aren’t carrying water with them. I know there are water fountains along the trail, but staying hydrated is important. You can’t replace all the water lost during a hard run with only a few seconds at a water fountain. Make sure you know where those fountains are along the path. That’s just one example of some of the common sense things you can do to make yourself safer during your runs. Some of the other suggestions are to run on a shaded path, tell someone about your route so they can find you in case of an emergency and don't ignore pain. One more thing to consider is to dress appropriately for the weather (just like the lady in that picture to the left). All of these things can maximize the benefits of your training (or recreation) and minimize the liklihood that you'll be injured! Check them out!

--Gentry Lassiter is an intern in the Marketing & Communications department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Would you be prepared to save your pet’s life?

Many people have a close bond with their pets. Their pets are a companion, a friend, and even a part of the family.

I have seen this first hand. My father loves cats; he even named his cat Sox, after his favorite team~ the White Sox. I have seen him spend countless days sitting on the couch with his favorite pet right by his side. The cat even waits for my dad to come home from work, and then hops on his lap as soon as he sits down.

I have seen this scenario played out countless times with multiple friends and family members. Whether it is dogs, cats, or any other pet, many people treat their pets as a member of the family. They play with their pets, by special treats for them, and some even bring their pets on vacations. And I know that all of these friends and family members would do just about to anything to protect their pets from harm.

American Red Cross is helping people prepare to do just that. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers Pet First Aid Classes and Pet Safety Tips that help people prepare to keep their pets safe in times of emergencies.

American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is offering $10 off Pet CPR Classes and 15% off Pet First Aid Kits designed to help you learn how to keep your furry friends safe in the case of an emergency.

Learn how you can be prepared to save your pet’s life.

American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Marketing and Communications Intern

Friday, July 10, 2009


If you’re one of the 9.5% of Americans that is unemployed, volunteering for the American Red Cross is a great way to avoid employment gaps and keep you active.

Layoffs are slowing, but jobs are scarce, leaving nearly 7 million Americans collecting unemployment checks and retailers looking for customers. The bad news is joblessness is at a 25-year high, with almost 1 out of every 10 Americans out of work. The good news is that the number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment insurance fell by 52,000, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

If this alarming figure includes you, there’s an opportunity to make the most of the situation by volunteering or interning at your Chicago Red Cross chapter. While you wait for the economy to rebound, keep your skills sharp and, network and make contacts while giving back to your community. At last, the up side of the worst unemployment to batter the country since the early 1980s.

Career counselors routinely advise people who've lost their jobs to volunteer for charitable organizations, both to broaden their resumes and to fill their unemployed hours. Although the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, released last September, show only a slight uptick in the number of Americans doing volunteer work, experts think the numbers this year will tell a different story.

According articles in The Examiner, The Baltimore Sun and Crain’s Cleveland Business, many recently-laid-off volunteers are looking to stay involved and broaden their own skill set to assist in their transition to another job. The volunteers are not looking to sit on the nonprofit's board, but they instead hope to join committees in which they can use their skills to help lead the organization.

I’ve personally loved my experience as a Red Cross Auxiliary Board member, with tremendous opportunities to network, take on leadership roles across a variety of projects and be a part of one of the most respected organizations in the world! For information on how you can volunteer: Complete the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago application. You may also request a hard-copy application form by contacting chicagoVR@usa.redcross.org or (312) 729-6222. To join the Auxiliary Society to participate in one of our many event and fundraising committees, click here and complete your membership by paying here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

It Used to Be a Bright House

Part of my job is to call people we’ve helped and see if they’d be up for sharing their story. Sometimes it’s still too tough for them, so I just listen. But most of the time people really want to share.

I just talked to a man whose family had a fire yesterday here in the city. Their apartment was a total loss, and he came home to see the apartment in ruins and his family standing outside:

“Everything was burnt,” he said. “It used be a bright house. The walls were bright, everything was white. When I walked in there (after the fire) everything was black and wet and broken. It was a pretty bad sight.”

His family was standing on the sidewalk, visibly distraught in front of their wrecked home, and a man passing by told them to call the Red Cross. “It was a complete stranger. That was so nice of him.” That stranger’s advice led to some immediate relief.

Within minutes, Red Cross volunteers were on the scene, including Patsy O’Kieffe. Patsy talked to the family, assessed the damage and gave them emergency assistance for food, clothing and shelter. That help meant the world to the man I spoke with today.

“The next thing we know, we’re in a pretty good position. We’re moving on,” he said.

Volunteers like Patsy go out every day with our Disaster Action Team to help local disaster victims move on.

“When I go out, I know I’m helping my community,” Patsy said. When she goes to fires, she thinks, “That could be my house. I’d want someone to be there for me, too.”

If you want to help out, become a Red Cross volunteer. Visit www.chicagoredcross.org/volunteer to learn more.

Thanks to the man who shared his story today, and thanks to Patsy and all the DAT volunteers. We appreciate you.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Babysitters BootCamp Is Going to Rock

When I was growing up, babysitting was my dream job. The girls who watched my brother and me on my parents’ date nights were like celebrities in our kiddie lives. We’d request Tammy, because she was the sweetest and let us stay up the latest. And she liked playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.

I was also obsessed with The Babysitters Club books and their spunky, entrepreneurial spirit. I would have been Kristy.

Needless to say, I was itching to begin babysitting. Before I could start, my mom signed me up for Red Cross babysitters training at the local fire department. We learned how to save a child from choking, how to hold an infant, and some fun games for kids of different ages and stages of development.

More than anything, I learned what it was going to mean to be in charge. If something scary happened, it was up to me to protect the kids and myself.

I used those skills in my long career of babysitting, mostly caring for the growing family across the street that (I think) peaked at 10 kids. While reading countless bedtime stories, changing diapers, giving baths and heating up zillions of bowls of mac ‘n cheese, I became a pretty great babysitter. And I grew up quite a bit, too.

This summer, kids can sign up for a two-day Babysitters BootCamp through the Greater Chicago Red Cross. They’ll learn a lot of the same skills I did, and they’ll be fully certified in First Aid and Child and Infant CPR. To learn more, visit www.chicagoredcross.org/babysit
Have any good babysitting stories? Post them in the comments!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Wishes You a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July is my favorite Holiday. It is a time where I get together with friends and family to spend hours in the sun, swimming, grilling, relaxing and watching fireworks. To me nothing could be better.

A few years back I had some friends who decided to light bottle rockets off in an alley near our house. Simple and seemingly harmless. However, as the night progressed, these same friends began to entertain themselves by lighting off multiple bottle rockets at a time. I wanted no part of it, but I let them be because they seemed to be having fun.

It was no more than minutes later that a friend of mine walked into the house with his entire hand bleeding. He was not being safe, and the bottle exploded in his hand, cutting his entire hand open, and needless to say ruining his 4th of July fun. We were having a blast until this simple act of carelessness, put fear into all of us.

Now, I know you may not believe that this will happen to you, or maybe that this story was not that bad. But I am left wondering if he wasn’t hurt then, would things of escalated? Things like this happen all of the time, and it is important to remember that despite the hours of relaxation and fun you are having you must first watch out for your safety and the safety of those around you.

As you travel to lake houses, vacations, to visit friends or family or stay home, be careful not just with fireworks, but with all activities. Whether grilling, swimming, or other activities you do, practice safe actions. I am not here to lecture, nor do I want to put a damper in your mood before this great, and to me the best, holiday weekend, but I do encourage a little safety. Don’t let not being prepared ruin your weekend.

That is why I am offering these safety tips, encouraging you to have fun, but be safe. American Red Cross even has tips and kits to provide you with all your Preparedness needs.

Have a great weekend and an amazing Fourth of July!
Photo courtesy of Merrick Brown

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Measure a Year: 1,236

(This is a beautiful new video from the American Red Cross that gets to the heart of why this is YOUR Red Cross. Hope you like it.)

It feels a bit like New Year’s Day in the middle of summer, and in Chicago we’ve got a big number to celebrate: 1,236. That’s the number of LOCAL disasters our relief workers have responded to in the past year. (June 30 was the end of our fiscal year, thus the New Year’s feeling and the tallying of that number.) And I can’t help but think that this terribly large number says much more about people than it does with anything else.

First of all, I bet you didn’t know that so many disasters happen in Chicagoland, but they do. And for each one of those 1,236 numbers, a family (and sometimes dozens of families) had their lives changed by a fire, flood or other emergency. Every year, we help more than 5,000 local disaster victims.

That number also symbolizes responses by our volunteers. When the phone rings at the Red Cross alerting us of a local disaster, it’s usually our volunteers who go out to comfort disaster victims and to bring them emergency relief for food, clothing and shelter. We’re alerted by local fire and police departments, from neighbors and clergy and friends of victims. And when they call, our volunteers leave their homes—sometimes in the middle of the night—to go out and help. More than 80% of recent responses have been by volunteers, which allows our paid staff to build up an even stronger volunteer base.

And of course, the critical number beneath this all is how many donors gave to the Red Cross to make sure this work happens. I don’t have exact numbers yet for how many individuals gave—that will happen soon in our annual report—but NONE of this work would be possible without your generosity.

So many thanks to all of you who support the Red Cross during this fiscal year. This number’s packed full of meaning, and I hope you find ways to tally not just numbers, but acts of compassion and kindness.

Kristin Claes is a writer at the Greater Chicago Red Cross.

A Tribute to Our Independence Day

Hey Red Cross Readers! When you see the fireworks on the Fourth of July and remember our fight for independence, remember also that the Red Cross movement began on the battlefield. After witnessing the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in 1859, Henry Dunant organized and set up temporary hospitals, recruited volunteers, and cared for the wounded soldiers without regard to their side in the conflict.

The Red Cross has always embraced the principles of voluntary service and neutrality, and we still provide vital services to military personnel through our Services to the Armed Forces Program. This program is an emergency communication network that transmits over 800,000 messages a year for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. We recently expanded our Service to Armed Forces Program to include active military members and veterans who are currently at military hospitals. Whether it is the happy news of the birth of a child or difficult news that a loved one has been critically injured, the support we receive is what enables this communication.

Independence Day is a great time to show your support of our troops and veterans. Join us in making this important expansion possible. Honor someone who has significantly impacted your life by giving a tribute gift in their honor or in memory. Visit our website or call (312) 729-6120 with any questions and make your gift today.

To reach members of your family who are in the armed forces, during times of emergency need, call the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Community Facility toll-free number: 1-888-737-4306. Thanks for your support!

- George Hofmann is an intern with the Resource Development at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago