Friday, August 27, 2010

My Year of AmeriCorps Service

The past year has been amazing! When I walked through the doors at Headquarters on September 1st, 2009, I had no idea what was in store for me during my term of AmeriCorps service. I have come out of it a changed and stronger person. Through long hours, exhausting work and excellent supervision, I have grown into the person I am now.

It began with my supervisor, Jackie Dempsey, who supported, guided, listened and encouraged me and my AmeriCorps co-workers to accomplish what many people thought impossible. We taught American Red Cross safety classes in under-resourced areas without many of the materials that regular instructors had and with an almost non-existent budget. In addition, we performed extremely well while being paid below minimum wage.

After a whirlwind of training in the first three weeks of September, 2009, I was now an instructor of a variety of programs. I was now responsible for conducting outreach to set up classes, teaching the classes and completing all necessary documentation. This was difficult at times because people were less interested in taking a CPR class than they were interested in paying their bills. Even though I taught all classes for free, many people could not attend classes or simply did not show up. This made for a very humbling year. I was still able to interest plenty of people and taught many full classes.

Another aspect of the position was service projects. Individually and as a group, service projects were taken to new levels. A transitional living home named Grace House in Decatur, Illinois got renovated, children learned about all of our kid safety programs, Anixter Center had their courtyard revived with planters and plants, winter coats were donated, canned food was donated, comfort kits were made and many other lives were impacted.

In the end, close to 7,000 people were certified by AmeriCorps members in American Red Cross classes and over 35,000 people were taught in non-certification classes. I know I have changed tremendously and so have my co-workers. This has been an amazing experience and I am so glad that I was a part of it. Thank you AmeriCorps and the American Red Cross!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces reaches out to returning Marines.

On August 14th 2010 I attended a briefing held by Cindy Price at 2711 Mcdonough Street in Joliet. The purpose of the briefing was to educate Marines returning from a deployment about all the services the Red Cross offers to them, and their families. Cindy was very friendly and professional as she talked to the Marines about the many services the Red Cross has to offer. The marines left with a vast amount of knowledge about the Red Cross programs including psychiatric help, life insurance for veterans, and guidance on coping with pre and post deployments. To find out more about the Chicago Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces visit

Watch as Cindy talks about the Get To Know Us Brief

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taneshia's Hurricane Katrina Story of Survival, 5 Years Later

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Taneshia Dunn watched the damage unfold on the television screen in a hotel lobby in Houston. She had evacuated her home in New Orleans, and she knew from watching the footage that her life was changing forever. When recounting her story of survival, Taneshia credits the American Red Cross as being a beacon of hope wherever she went.

Taneshia was working at a hotel when Hurricane Katrina began barreling toward the Gulf, but this wasn’t her first hurricane. Just a year earlier, Hurricane Ivan had rolled through. Taneshia and her fiancĂ© William had hunkered down in the hotel where Taneshia worked and had survived with barely a scratch. So in 2005, they took a critical eye toward Katrina, but decided to wait and see.

On the Saturday before the storm hit, they went to Wal-mart. The lines to get gasoline trailed down the block. It was miserably hot, and Taneshia’s car didn’t have air conditioning. She was still skeptical about taking a long trip for nothing. All night, she and William watched the news. At one point, she heard a stern warning from the city’s mayor that changed her mind. At 4 a.m. on Sunday, they packed up a few bags and headed to Houston. It took them more than 8 hours to make the 4-hour trip.

Taneshia and William spent the first month after the hurricane living with family in the countryside. They had no power for that entire time, so they grilled their meals in the yard and relied on generators. When the city of New Orleans reopened, Taneshia went home to see what she could salvage. Almost everything in her house was destroyed. Her neighbor had stated behind and taken photos during the storm. “The whole street looked like a lake,” Taneshia said.
They headed to Baton Rouge and found a motel with an open room. “I remember thinking, ‘We’re here, now how are we going to eat?’” Before she could worry for very long, the American Red Cross arrived at the motel offering warm meals, cold water and snacks. “They came by every day, three times a day,” Taneshia said. “It made me think, ‘Wow, this Red Cross is really something special.”

After months of staying in the motel, Taneshia was offered an opportunity to relocate to Chicago. She had never lived anywhere but Louisiana, but she felt like it was the right choice. Soon, a temp agency found her a position at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. The job turned permanent, and she has been here ever since. “After an experience like Katrina, your outlook on everything changes,” Taneshia said. “It taught me to appreciate things on a whole new level.” Working at the Red Cross has also helped Taneshia heal. “I made a vow that when I got back on my feet, I wanted to give back,” Taneshia said. “Now I get to be part of the organization I care so much about.”

To learn more about preparing for disasters, visit

-Kristin Claes is the senior writer for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brenda Saves a Fellow Volunteer

When Brenda Snapp became a CPR instructor with the American Red Cross, she never thought she’d use her skills to help a fellow Red Cross volunteer. On a sweltering day in early August, however, that’s exactly what she did.

Brenda was representing the American Red Cross at the Kankakee county fair on a sweltering day in early August. Everything was going well, despite the heat. “We had just won first prize for our display,” Brenda said. Another volunteer showed up for his shift, and Brenda started chatting with him. “I noticed he was sweating a lot, and I thought he might have heat stroke,” Brenda said.

Suddenly, the man told her, “My arms don’t feel right,” and he passed out. Brenda lowered him gently to the ground and called 911. She used her training to act quickly. Monitoring the man’s breathing and pulse, Brenda placed a cold bottle of water under his neck. She stayed by his side and kept him cool with a fan until the ambulance arrived.

Brenda said her Red Cross training helped her know what to do to help her fellow volunteer. “I knew what I was doing was the right thing and that I couldn’t harm him. I did what I could to get the people there to care for him and get him to be where he needed to be, in the hospital.” The volunteer is still recovering from his illness and calls Brenda regularly to keep her updated on his progress.

The experience has reinforced Brenda’s love for working at the Red Cross. “You feel good when you leave here after a day of work. Like your day was actually spent doing something very good,” she said.

-Kristin Claes is the senior writer at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Red Cross prepares parents and kids for school with safety.

It was a great day on Friday August 13, 2010 as hundreds of parents and children attended the WGN TV back to school fair. It was a hot morning, and the Chicago Red Cross was on the scene offering tips on safety and beating the heat. Parents were thankful to the Red Cross for all the advice that was given to them to prepare for disasters. “I think safety is very important especially when it comes to my children,” Nancy Lewis said, “and I am personally thankful for everything the Red Cross offers from safety advice to disaster relief.” The Red Cross taught families all about what they needed to prepare for an emergency through escape plans, making a disaster kit, and a solid communication plan. The Red Cross provided pamphlets on safety, water bottles, and visual demonstrations on how to prepare an emergency disaster kit to all the parents and their children. To learn how you can prepare your family for an emergency visit our website at

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

shark week safety

Here we are in the middle of Shark Week and I think this is an excellent opportunity to brush up on water safety. While we don't have to worry too much about a shark attack in Lake Michigan, there was a time when a shark attack was a realistic threat in the Illinois stretch of the Mississippi river. In 1937, a freshwater-loving bull shark was caught by commercial fisherman in Alton, Illinois. Since then, dams have prevented bull sharks from entering Illinois.

What if the unthinkable happens and the dams break or bull sharks decide to take up residency in Lake Michigan? Or, on a more realistic note, what if you are planning a summer trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where Great White sharks have recently been spotted? If faced with a shark, would
you know what to do?

Here is a (fictional) scenario one girl found herself in - unknowingly provoking a shark attack:

- Emily's boyfriend just gave her a shiny new engagement ring and she swore she'd never remove it from her finger. While celebrating her new engagement with a day in the sun, sand and surf (using the proper sun block of course), she decides to take a dip in the ocean to cool off. On her way to the water, she cuts her toe on broken glass. Instead of using the First Aid knowledge she learned in her Red Cross class to tend to her wound, she decides that she will go rinse off her foot in the water. As she wades in the water, she sees fishermen off in the distance. Jumping up and down to wave hello, she creates splashing in the water, sends the blood from her toe through the water current and flails her shiny new ring around - causing it to reflect throughout the water. Next thing you know...Wham! Shark attack!

A few Red Cross tips could have kept Emily from becoming shark bait:

-Swimmers should not wear shiny jewelry and avoid bright colors which sharks may confuse with fish scales and colorings.

-Do not swim in open fishing grounds and exit the water immediately if something happens that causes you to bleed as sharks can be attracted to the smell of blood from a distance.

-Always swim in groups, do not swim too far from the shore and avoid the water during the times of day when sharks are most active – at dawn, dusk and during the night.

-In general, everyone should learn first aid and CPR/AED skills to know how to respond to an emergency.

-This is a scary incident for the victim and community, and although shark attacks rank low in terms of water-related risk, it is still important that people take precautions when participating in recreation on or around the ocean.

While a shark attack is a very uncommon event, it is a good thing to be prepared. Chicagoland residents are lucky to not have to worry so much about sharks. However, we
do need to know how to stay safe from everyday threats in rivers, lakes, streams and swimming pools. Any body of water can present dangerous conditions and everybody should be prepared on how to stay safe in them.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Girls Basketball Team Shoots Hoops for Pledges

Like father like daughter, the Satter family is doing their part to help those in need. John Satter is a volunteer in disaster services with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. “I enjoy working with the Chicago Red Cross because I’m part of an organization that provides assistance to those in need,” John said. “I feel a sense of pride when I see the efforts being carried out locally, nationally, and internationally.” He and his 12-year-old daughter Liz joined forces with her basketball team to raise support for disaster victims in Nashville. Liz and her basketball team headed to Nashville for a tournament and decided to give their time, and even their victories, to charity.
The team of 10 girls competed in an AAU Basketball tournament against 60 teams from all over the country. The team asked the crowd to make pledges based on their scores during the tournament. The girls ended up scoring 10th place in the tournament, scoring a total of 257 points in six games. The girls received pledges of nearly $10,000, which was donated to the American Red Cross for disaster relief. The girls also took time out of their schedules to help out at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville.
“It was life-changing and unbelievable,” said 12-year-old Madie Kaebler, one of the players. “When we went to the food pantry to help, we couldn’t stop once we got started. It was an experience I will never forget.”“What I liked most about the trip was the chance to be with my friends,” said Maddie Welter. “It’s really fun when you know you’re doing something fun and helping other people.”

To find out how you can make a difference go to
Bottom Row: Sarah Amburn, Bailey Busscher, Madie Kaelber, Maddie Welter, Amanda Kowalski, Becca Napoli, Abby Dein.
Top Row: Liz Satter, Kelly Johnson, Assistant Coach D.J. Kaelber, Coach Rick Kolsky.