Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa?! I KNOW him!!

Yesterday, two of my co-workers and I volunteered to deliver Holiday Cards for Heroes to VA clinics and hospitals in the area.
One of our stops was at the USO in Midway Airport. Our instructions were to enter the Airport and meet a representative from the USO at the door.
As we waited we watched frantic travelers getting ready for their holiday celebrations.
Suddenly, we saw a man who had a striking resemblance to Santa walk towards us.
The representative from the USO who came to meet us had a full white beard and was wearing a bright red flannel shirt. As I shook his hand he gave me a warm smile.
He also told us that he would give the holiday cards to service members who were flying out that day to Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was very grateful that we were able to deliver the cards in time for service members to receive them before Christmas.
As we left, I got a feeling that the man we just met would soon be leaving on his sleigh to bring holiday cheer to all :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Time to Give

In my opinion, there are two types of holiday shoppers.

On one hand, there are people who plan out and purchase gifts throughout the entire year. They rest assured all their friends and loved ones have the perfect gift months ahead of time.

Then there are the rest of us. We face crowds of other last-minute gift-givers so we can check off all the names on our holiday list. All the while, we promise ourselves that this will under no circumstances happen again next year. Of course, it will.

The Red Cross can make the holiday procrastinators’ lives just a little easier by offering some gift ideas that will make everyone happy and support the Red Cross at the same time.

Baker’s Square- This December, Baker’s Square will donate $1 for every pie purchase with our coupon to the Red Cross.

Berry Chill- Join the Berry Chill “Culture Club” and the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago as your charity and they will donate 3% of each purchase you make back to the Red Cross.

Michigan Avenue Media- Author Marsha Cook and Michigan Avenue Media will donate a portion of their sales from select books to the Greater Chicago Red Cross. Books benefiting the Red Cross range from children’s books, comedy, and romance. Now you can save 15% when you send flowers, plants, gifts and gift baskets from FTD – the most trusted name in the floral industry. Purchase through the website to enjoy great savings, and 15% of the proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. It’s an easy way to give back to the community while you save money at the same time. Send flowers for that special occasion with and 12% of proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Remember, the holiday season is the perfect time to make a donation that supports the Red Cross. Provide food and shelter for a disaster victim for a day. Donate a military comfort kit with a robe, phone card and other supplies for a wounded warrior. Or, give a family in another country that lost everything in a disaster a month of basic necessities.

No matter which way you choose to help, remember that in this season of hope and in these economic times, people want their gifts to really matter more than ever. To see more about these gifts that save the day, go here.

Find out more about Red Cross gift opportunities at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't get burned!

Yes, candles are pretty and that they can make your home smell like the beach or a warm apple pie in seconds, but remember that candles can be dangerous too! A candle is an open flame – so when you decorate this holiday season, make sure you follow a few simple steps to keep from getting burned!

  • Place candles where they cannot be reached or knocked over by pets and children.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding,mattresses, paper, books, flammable decorations, clothing, and upholstered furniture.
  • Keep all lit candles and other open flames away from any flammable liquids.
  • Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • During an emergency, always use flashlights and not candles as light sources.

And always remember… smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

These fire safety tips are brought to you by Team Firestopper! We’re working to stop fires before they start in your community! For more information or fire tips, visit or!

*Fire safety facts and tips found at and

Friday, December 11, 2009

CPR cyclists, unite!

We all know the tribulations of the Chicago wintertime commute. For us bike commuters, winter is especially ... interesting.

Regardless, I commute via cycle e'ery day. And commuting to classes is a great way to explore the city, get a bit 'o exercise and have some fun on the way to work.

As an AmeriCorps member, I teach all kinds of classes. We've primarily focused on CPR, first aid, kid safety and community disaster education. And as a bike commuter, it takes a bit of planning to maintain punctuality, professionalism and total fashionability (a keystone trait).

But with a little preparedness, it's totally feasible to mesh cycling and class instruction.

You will need:

1) Long underwear
2) A hat and a helmet
3) A bike and a trailer
4) Chicago
5) Your youthful enthusiasm

Your end product should look something like this.

That's all. Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Calling All Chicago Snow Experts!

Can you identify each of these types of snow that you are likely to see this season?
Match these types of snow to their descriptions.

1. Flurries ______
2. Snow Showers _______
3. Snow Squalls ________
4. Blowing Snow _______
5. Blizzard _______
6. Sleet _______
7. Freezing Rain ______
8. “Lake-effect” Snow ______

A. It consists of raindrops that have frozen into little ice pellets before they reach the ground. It tends to bounce off surfaces, but it can accumulate on the ground and become a hazard to pedestrians and motorists.
B. These are common in the Great Lakes region. They consist of short, intense snow showers with strong gusty winds. Accumulation can be significant.
C. Light snow that falls for a short duration and does not accumulate on the ground much.
D. Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes snowdrift formation. It can be snow that has already fallen to the ground and is being picked up by wind, or snow that is in the process of falling.
E. Winds that are over 35 miles per hour with snow, resulting in a reduction of visibility near zero.
F. Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation may occur.
G. This is caused by wind crossing Lake Michigan which takes the Lake’s moisture, and results in snow squalls in costal areas.
H. This consists of liquid rain that has fallen onto surfaces such as trees, sidewalks, and roadways that have temperatures below freezing. It produces ice coats on surfaces and even a small accumulation can be a hazard to motorists and pedestrians.

Answer Key: 1) C, 2) F, 3) B, 4) D, 5) E, 6) A, 7) H, 8) G

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Disaster Journal: Lida's Recent Response

Lida McDaniel is an AmeriCorps volunteer in our Greater Chicago Red Cross Disaster Services department. This was a busy weekend, with 15 responses in total including 10 incidents where 79 disaster victims in total needed our help. Lida responded to two home fires this weekend, including one in Englewood that made an impression on her about the strength and vulnerability of the people we serve.

When Lida arrived on the scene in her Red Cross vest, the firefighters had already left and the displaced families were standing on a neighbor’s front porch. “They were all crying and very upset,” Lida said. They had fled their house without coats or shoes, so their neighbors had lent them some clothing. When they saw the Red Cross, “They were really appreciative,” Lida said. “They said ‘Thank you so much for coming out here.’ They really didn’t have any other resources.”

One woman made a strong impression on Lida because of her strength and humor amid the destruction of her home. “She was crying, but cracking jokes,” Lida said. Another woman, however, was not taking things well at all. Lida put in a call to our mental health team to do a follow up with her in the coming days. The Red Cross gave these local disaster victims immediate relief for food, clothing and shelter.

Lida says that she enjoys working with the Red Cross to help local disaster victims, especially in communities where people are already struggling to get by. “I go to fires where people are already in a really bad spot, but then we’re there to give them something tangible. Now they know, at least, that their next couple days are covered.” Lida and our Red Cross team also follow up with clients and give referrals to long-term care agencies. “It’s great to be able to give them more options to help out,” she said.

To learn more about how you can help disaster victims like these this holiday season, visit

Let Your Light Shine!

We know that you are probably trying to outshine your neighbors with holiday lights this winter, so shine away! But, be careful – holiday lights used improperly can also cause fires.

There are ways to stay fire safe, and even be green in the process!! Follow our tips and you’ll be on your way to outshining your whole neighborhood!

  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

  • Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both so be sure to check!

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory.

  • Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

  • Or, go green and try LED holiday lights that burn less energy and produce less heat!

  • Turn off all electrical light strings and decorations in your home before leaving home or going to bed. You can purchase a light timer to turn on and off lights for you at a set time everyday!

And always remember… smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

These fire safety tips are brought to you by Team Firestopper! We’re working to stop fires before they start in your community! For more information or fire tips, visit or!

*Fire safety facts and tips found at and

Friday, December 04, 2009

New Faces, Same Goals

Get Things Done!  Join AmeriCorps.  Go to

You may have noticed some new bloggers on the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago page recently. Myself, (Megan McCarthy) Brian Lewis-Jones, and Ashley Wierdsma are all members of AmeriCorps. What's that? Well, I'm glad you asked!

AmeriCorps is a national service organization, often referred to as the "Domestic PeaceCorps." We are a group of dedicated individuals who work at non-profit organizations all over the country, building communities through service.
At the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, there are 15 current AmeriCorps members and we represent the Safe Families Program. Our mission is to reach people in underrepresented areas through the American Red Cross Preparedness Programs. We teach in schools, churches, other non-profits, community organizations and community programs. The best part: most of our programs are FREE to the communities we serve!

We offer:
First Aid,
Babysitters Training,
Kid Safety,
Community Disaster Education
and Family Caregiving courses.

To find out if your community is served by AmeriCorps, contact the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Over the next year, you'll hear our stories, meet our members, and learn about what the AmeriCorps is doing with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago to help prepare for, prevent, and respond to emergences in Illinois.

Can't wait that long to learn more about AmeriCorps or the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago? Well, click on the links below to find more information!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Greatest Mother in the World...

Why do you support the American Red Cross? Just this morning I spoke with a woman who has been a long time supporter of the Red Cross. She said that she believes in the importance of the Red Cross. She went on to tell me a moving story about how the Red Cross helped her famly. During WWI her two brothers were serving overseas, and when one was severely injured the Red Cross was there to help him, providing the comforts of home.
Before WWI, the Red Cross was still a relatively small organization. It was actually the outbreak of WWI that led to the expansion of the Red Cross. In fact, after WWI nearly one-third of the U.S. population was either a contributing member of the Red Cross or a serving volunteer.

The American Red Cross is still busy providing Services to the Armed Forces.

Today you can show your support of our troops & the American Red Cross by visiting our Holiday Gift Catalog at: A $50 gift can make sure that a wounded patriot arriving at a military or VA hospital is welcomed with a Red Cross Comfort Kit. Kits contain the simple essentials like a phone card, robe, shower shoes, & toiletry items.

You can also volunteer with our GTKU Program & Events or VA Hospital Events by contacting us at 312-729-6141.

Thank you for your support of the American Red Cross!

Submitted by Rachael Garcia, Resource Development