Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You Chicago city slickers are probably going to disagree with this statement, but I think NASCAR is awesome. The sport (yes, it's a sport) has it all: noise, speed, colorful personalities, huge crowds and giant barbecued turkey legs for sale at every race - amazing. I'm mesmerized every Sunday afternoon by the sight of 40ish identical cars repeatedly turning left on various oval tracks spread across the country. Don't judge!

And even if NASCAR isn't your thing, you can still benefit from the Red Cross's partnership with 3M, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle. Go #16!

In an effort to contend with the annual Summer slump in blood donations, the Red Cross and its partners are rolling out the third annual Red Cross Racing program, which adds a little bit of fun to the blood donation process - not an oxymoron. Over the course of the season, you can earn points for giving blood, then redeem those points for prizes, and no, they're not all NASCAR related.

Red Cross Racing makes it super easy to schedule a blood donation appointment online, make a financial contribution and track your points. Each consecutive procedure carries a higher point value, and you can even earn points for referring friends. Not interested in Red Cross swag? You can also donate your points to the men and women serving our country.

Visit to sign up and start earning points. After you've signed up, all you have to do is enter your location, choose a blood donation center and pick a time. 50 points are yours just for registering.

Also, check out the Ready, Set, Give & Win Sweepstakes. Two lucky winners will receive a VIP travel package to a race.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tell Us How Your Pet Has Changed Your Life

In honor of April being Pet First Aid month, I would like to introduce you to my fish, Toxie. Yes, Toxie (the name is a long story…).

Toxie is over 7 years old and has lived a wonderful, long life because I take very good care of him. Just yesterday, I cleaned out his tank and bought him a new plastic plant. What have you done for your pet recently?

Pets are considered part of the family. They greet you when you walk in the door, can put a smile on your face when you’re having a rough day and are full of affection. Give back to your pets by learning about pet safety! If your dog started choking, would you know what to do? If there is a disaster, a fire or tornado, do you have a plan that includes helping your pet?
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers great pet CPR/First Aid courses, as well as pet first aid kits that can help your pet in a flash if something were to happen. Be prepared and check out for information on signing up for a class or buying a kit!

For me, Toxie has been a constant in my ever changing life. He’s moved with me to four different apartments and traveled the long road from Madison, WI to right here in Chicago, IL. He’s also a very good listener and I don’t know what I’d do without his fishy company!

Leave a comment and tell us, how has your pet changed you life? We want to know! Submit a photo of your pet to and it could be turned in to an ad on our homepage! Try to model your photos on what you would include in a disaster kit. If for any reason you and your furry (or scaly or feathered) friend are separated, it is important that you have a picture that proves ownership. Make sure that you send in a picture that includes both you AND your pet!
By Cassandra Wilander, Marketing and Communications Intern

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cicero Spring Break Safety Classes

AmeriCorps members taught community safety courses to both adults and children during The Town of Cicero’s spring break on April 5-9. Each day from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., I taught kid safety classes such as: Kid Firestopper, First Aid for Little People, Home Alone and Scrubby Bear. The number of students per class averaged about 18. While I taught kid safety classes, Brandon Springer and Jennifer Foster taught Community Disaster Education to the parents. Topics included fire safety, family disaster plans, tornadoes and heat waves.

Classes were taught at the Cicero Community Center in partnership with the Cicero Health Department, the Cicero Youth Commission and the Cicero Fire Department. On April 5th, 7th and 9th the fire department provided a fire engine and firefighters who spoke with the children and showed them the many pieces of equipment that firefighters use. A few firefighters dressed up in their full firefighter suits to explain how it all worked. This also helped kids get over their fear of how firefighters look when they’re in their equipment. Excited from seeing the fire engine, the kids were eager to point out fire hazards on the poster that I showed them. Each student was given an activity book after the presentations.

On April 6th and 8th, students learned about how to be safe when walking home from school. They also learned how to keep their key hidden from strangers, that they shouldn’t talk to strangers, how to be safe when home alone, how to call 911 and how to stay clean and free of germs. Several of the students volunteered to call 911 on a fake cell phone as well as put a key on a string under their shirt to practice keeping it hidden from strangers. They also learned how to wash hands, what germs are, where they are and how to avoid getting sick. Each student was given a teddy bear after the presentations.

A Bus Ride and a Thank You Wall

One of our local volunteers, Richard Freund, sent me a message this week. Richard is an inspiring person. After retiring, he came to volunteer in our planning and information management department. He's been honored as staff member of the month and is a vital member of our Red Cross team. Here's his story:

One day recently I left the Red Cross office after a shift I worked as a volunteer. When I boarded public transit to head home I noticed a 60-ish couple and a 30-ish woman speaking what I thought to be Arabic. I sat down a couple rows away facing them. In a few moments, I noticed the older woman point at me and say something to the others. Shortly after that she walked up to me and said, "You Red Cross. You help."

I was momentarily perplexed, but realized that because my jacket was unzipped, my Red Cross ID Badge was visible. I asked her how I could help, and in her limited English she explained that they were visiting the area from Egypt and needed to get to a particular address in the near west suburbs. I was able to tell them which buses they needed to take to get to their destination.

Later, I thought that this was an extraordinary experience. My part in it was very ordinary. I simply tried to help a fellow traveler. What makes it extraordinary is the fact that these travelers who were literally halfway around the world from home and in an unfamiliar city and culture knew that they could reach out to someone that was wearing the Red Cross logo.

What this tells me is that those of us who wear the Red Cross logo here and around the world are trusted and appreciated by more people than we will ever meet. That certainly is a reward for me. I am compensated for my time, not monetarily, but by the people, expected and unexpected, I meet and interact with as a Red Cross volunteer.

To learn more about volunteering with the American Red Cross, visit

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Big Thanks!

It’s National Volunteer Week and I am thrilled to shine the spotlight on some wonderful volunteers! The Team Firestopper program began in 2000 and reached 215 households. In ten years, the program has grown immensely. This year Team Firestopper is on track to reach almost 19,000 individuals! This would not be possible without our volunteers.

In the last nine months Team Firestopper has utilized 550 volunteers to carry out its goal of getting fire safety materials to at-risk communities. Volunteers are at every step of the process – from community outreach to client follow-up. They help us to build folders and kits, to walk neighborhoods with fire safety information, and to visit homes to bring families smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. They truly are invaluable volunteers!

In addition to our event volunteers we have an exceptional group of leadership volunteers that include Adam McGriffin, Nayesha Pruitt, and Brenda Desino. Adam McGriffin is an AmeriCorps VISTA that focuses on community outreach and partnerships. He has done a wonderful job helping us to recruit new partners to spread our fire safety message! Nayesha Pruitt is an AmeriCorps VISTA that focuses on volunteer recruitment. Without the volunteers that Nayesha brings us, we wouldn’t be able to reach the thousands of individuals that we have! Both have given a year of service to the American Red Cross, and without a complaint they give up their weekends, nights, and days to help spread our fire safety message. Brenda Desino coordinates our registration process and trains new volunteers, among many duties. I must commend her patience, organization, and contribution to her community. These three individuals are a pleasure to work with everyday. THANK YOU!

Team Firestopper volunteers help the Red Cross to carry out its mission of helping people prevent and prepare for emergencies. Thank you volunteers for all that you do!

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's National Volunteer Week!

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is proud to appreciate our volunteers this week for all the hard work they do for the Chicagoland community. Throughout our seven county territory volunteers are constantly and diligently working on behalf of the Red Cross to help their neighbors.

Volunteers are busy everyday teaching life saving skills like CPR and First Aid, responding to local disasters by providing food, shelter and clothing to those in need, answering phones, sorting mail, entering data, helping at fundraising events, presenting community disaster education and much, much more.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago has over 2000 core volunteers and we would not be able to serve 8.6 million people in the Chicagoland area without them. The estimated dollar value of volunteer time in IL is $21.91. For FY08-09, that would equal approximately $626,000 worth of work! In reality, the work done by our volunteers is priceless and they are definitely worthy of appreciation not only this week but every week.

We are doing many different things to show our appreciation to our volunteers. One of them is a wall of thanks that we will have posted in all of our facilities for people to write a special note to our volunteers. Not coming to any of our facilities this week? Feel free to post a comment below to show your appreciation and we will make sure our volunteers receive your note. Thank you so much for supporting our wonderful volunteers and we hope you join the family one day soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Do I Look Someone in the Eye Through a Blog?

"How Do I Look Someone in the Eye Through a Blog?"

A spirited young lady asked me this question at a "Blogging for a Cause" workshop I hosted today at the Global Engagement Summit. This conference brings together students from around the world who have game-changing ideas about how to make the world a better place.

Her question made me think about confidence, courage and action. It reminded me that the single most important quality of a virtual or online community is that we come together and inspire change.

The remarkable students in the workshop have already started projects that will change our future -- projects that will likely advance the international relief efforts of the Red Cross when their NGOs take root. They will lead the organizations that someday the Red Cross may partner with to unravel the knots tightened by disaster -- knots that simply cannot be untangled by any organization alone.

In my time at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, I've been humbled by the incredible amount of work that gets done by volunteers and organizations working together, much like the students in the workshop. Their impact stems not from great ideas, but from having the courage to get started immediately when people need food, water, shelter, care and comfort after a disaster.

They assess the need around them, they open their hearts and they take action.

Volunteers acting immediately. That is a great idea.

And the blog? Well, that's just one more place we come together to get started, isn't it?

National Volunteer Week starts tomorrow. Honor those who take action. Take action yourself.

Whether your idea is big or your first action small, get started, for goodness sake.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Red Cross Aquatic Training

Summer is here! Or at least it feels like it. Knowing Chicago, we'll surely get a few more cold, windy days to ruin our fun. It's OK though, because that just means more time for YOU to go out and get a swimming or lifeguarding course out of the way before it's time to hit the pool.

Are you a teen starting to think about Summer jobs? Our Aquatic Lifeguard Training course will teach you the skills necessary to land that first lifeguarding position. As long as you're a competent swimmer, the class should be a cinch. Just think, you'll get paid to work on your tan by the pool all day with an endless supply of ice cream sandwiches flowing from the snack bar. Perfect! Plus, it'll look great on those college apps.

For the more experience poolside professional, the Chicago Red Cross also offers Aquatic Lifeguard Instructor classes and even Lifeguard Management. It's B-school for the pool!

...ok, not really, but you will learn effective techniques for managing and hiring other lifeguards.

Those that spend time around water but don't need a lifeguard certification can benefit from some of our other classes, such as Small Craft Safety and Basic Water Rescue - perfect for camp counselors, deck hands, fitness professionals and families with boats or pools.

Training sites are located in multiple locations in the greater Chicago area. Click HERE for a list of available classes. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are the Number of Earthquakes Rising?

Photo courtesy of the Red Cross society of China. This picture was taken during the 2009 earthquake.

With news of the earthquake in China yesterday, many people are wondering if the number of earthquakes is rising. The short answer: No. But our awareness about them is, especially as urban populations grow. Here are some thoughts from the Red Cross blog run out of Washington D.C.:

This year has been remarkable in the number of earthquakes in close succession that have had human impacts, but the number of earthquakes, from the earth’s perspective, is not unusual … it’s exciting and it’s terrible, but it’s not unusual – says Michael Blanpied, USGS’s associate coordinator for earthquake hazards.

Here are just a few of the many articles explaining exactly what’s happening with the earth right now:

Once again, here’s our tip sheet for making sure you handle a potential earthquake in the most resilient and prepared way you can. Just by reading it you’re helping yourself.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let the grilling begin!

Spring is here! Time to bring out the grill! So, when you bring your grill out this spring just remember a few helpful tips to keep your home safe!

  • Only use propane and charcoal grills outdoors.
  • Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

And don’t forget… Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. The NFPA recommends that you apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.

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!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Helping People After the Edgewater Fire

This morning, our Red Cross relief workers Erin Couihan and Chris Mitchell responded to a deadly fire in Edgewater. An elderly woman lost her life in the blaze, and her neighbors evacuated in the early morning hours, many waking up to hear banging on their doors and to find smoke in their hallways.

When Erin and Chris arrived, the residents were gathered downstairs. “People were really appreciative that we were there,” Erin said. The property manager had already brought over coffee and breakfast. Mostly, people just needed to talk. Erin comforted a neighbor who was close friends with the woman who passed away. Chris gave comfort kits to the 14 people who were displaced—baggies with toothbrushes, soap and more. After several hours, they were told they could return to their homes, but some were apprehensive. Erin and Chris went upstairs with them and offered tips for airing out the smell of smoke. “We got a lot of hugs,” Chris said.

Sadly, fires are the most frequent disaster in America. Here in Chicagoland, the Red Cross responds to 3-4 fires every day. Learn how to keep your loved ones safe at

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Red Cross - Peace and Conflict Mediation

Earlier today National Public Radio posted an interesting article (here) about the most recent clashes in central Nigeria. In particular, they mentioned that the Nigerian Red Cross has adopted an interesting approach to community health. As a result of the violence, the local Red Cross Chapter has combined Standard First Aid programs with peace and conflict resolution training. Since local residents are becoming increasingly motivated to avoid further bloodshed, Red Cross volunteers and staff have actually designed and implemented a program that attempts to diffuse potentially violent situations. While they are training community members to respond to some of the physical injuries that have taken place, the Nigerian Red Cross is also equipping citizens with the knowledge and ability to stem the surge of killings that have occurred over the past few months. Local coordinators like Manase Panpe are teaching residents about conflict transformation and open community dialogue as alternatives to violence. His strategy focuses on those most likely to be involved in the clashes:

"The targeted beneficiaries are perpetrators, inciters and victims of violent conflicts. You have the power to transform a potential conflict to a peaceful one."

Chicago area residents who have an interest in this sort of community justice might enjoy taking the free International Humanitarian Law class offered by the American Red Cross. In addition to tackling tough issues like genocide and ethnic violence, the IHL program investigates the roll of the individual in mitigating conflict. Click here if you’re interested in participating!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Looking for a volunteer opportunity?

Become a part of the Team Firestopper Community Canvassing Day!

Skip the gym and get your walk on during Team Firestopper’s community canvassing campaign! Volunteers will go door-to-door and distribute brochures, door hangers, fact sheets and other materials to teach residents about Team Firestopper and essential home fire safety tips. It is a great group and family opportunity!

This Saturday, April 10th, will be our largest canvassing event ever! Be will be canvassing in Aurora, Joliet, and in Chicago in the Englewood and Roseland neighborhoods. In all, we hope to reach 12,000 households with fire safety information!

Events take place from 9:00 am - 12:00. To sign up or get more info, visit or call 312.729.6179.

With Team Firestopper we’re working to stop fires before they start in your community! For more information or fire tips, visit or!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Scrubby Bear says "Wash those hands!"

Who knew washing your hands could be so adorable!

Last week I went to Melcafe Elementary School to witness our awesome AmeriCorps worker, Claire Rockett, present Scrubby Bear to the kids. For those of you not familiar with Scrubby Bear - It is an American Red Cross health program for children, dedicated to teaching kids how to effectively wash their hands and to stay germ free.

We visited many classes that day, and each class was filled with such great kids! Claire taught the kids about the importance of hand washing, covering your cough, teeth brushing and staying healthy through a fun interactive presentation.

During the hand washing demonstration the kids were told to wash their hands as long as it takes them to sing the ABCs. The class then erupted in a joyous song of the ABC’s while pretending to wash their hands. I joined in with my beautiful singing voice – American Idol here I come.

So, when did the famous Scrubby Bear make his appearance?

It wasn’t long until that cute little teddy bear showed his fuzzy face. With big eyes and smiles on their faces, the children watched as Claire introduced Scrubby Bear through a fun story about Scrubby Bear’s encounter with his misguided friend Tulip and her not so sanitary practices.

Such a fun day with the kids of Melcafe Elementary!

To learn about other Red Cross youth programs, go to

- By Erica Diermeier, Marketing & Communications Intern