Monday, August 22, 2011

A New Generation of Philanthropists

When eight year old Eden Juliette Macknin saw the devastation caused by the tornado that ravaged Joplin, Missouri on television, she wanted to do something to help. Eden’s father, David, described his daughter as a “very empathetic, sensitive kid, who has been captivated by the tornado damage and wildfires” and says that whenever she sees news of disasters like tornados and fires she asks “are the animals safe? Are the firefighters safe?”

After Eden learned about the destructive tornados in Joplin, she told her father that she wanted to raise money to help the people that had lost their homes and belongings. She brainstormed with her dad and came up with the idea of a lemonade stand. Eden had seen other children in the neighborhood with lemonade stands and thought she could give that a try, but she wanted to have a good location so people would see her stand. They drove around their Highland Park neighborhood looking for the ideal spot and decided on the bike and jogging path along Green Bay Road. David, eager to encourage his daughter’s philanthropic effort, suggested that they walk along the path and watch the people to get ideas for her lemonade stand. Eden quickly realized that most runners and bikers don’t carry money while they exercise so they would not be able to donate. Eden and her dad crafted a note asking for donations for the Red Cross and placed them in pre-addressed envelopes to distribute at their stand. She made a big sign that said that the lemonade was free if a donation was made to the Red Cross for tornado relief.

When the big day arrived, Eden had her stand ready with lemonade, water and a stack of the donation envelopes. She was encouraged by all the people who stopped and commented at what a good thing she was doing to help others. A few days later, envelopes started arriving in the mail. Eden was able to raise more than $100 dollars for the Spring Storms relief effort with her lemonade stand, but more importantly, she learned that one person can make a difference in the lives of others.

This is not the first time that Eden has displayed a passion for helping others, and certainly won’t be the last. Her father says that she always gives her own money in the collection box at their Synagogue and that she aspires to be a teacher when she grows up. No matter what career she chooses, we hope that she will continue to support the mission and values of the American Red Cross.

Written by Heidi Schwartz and Blair Janis

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stand Down 2011

Coming into my summer internship with the Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, I had an idea of the type of work I’d be doing, but I didn’t realize the impact it would have on others. Three months later, I am very aware of how much the American Red Cross helps our servicemen, women, veterans, and their families. From assisting them before, during, and after deployments to delivering coffee, toiletries, and clothing to the Jesse Brown and Hines VA Hospitals. We also attend various military and community events informing families of the Red Cross services that are available to them, such as our emergency communication service that helps connect families in the U.S. to their loved ones servicing overseas. The Red Cross is always there.

Having the opportunity to work with, and learn from, the members and families of the armed forces, the staff at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, the volunteers and employees of the local VA Hospitals, and other service organizations is such a blessing. They are kind, selfless, passionate, fun group of individuals who inspire me with their work everyday.

All of the events and projects I worked on have been interesting and worthwhile, the most memorable was Stand Down 2011. This event for homeless and low-income veterans was an extremely satisfying, eye-opening, and fun three days. It began with setting up in General Jones Armory, which required sweeping, mopping, setting up tables, and sorting through the clothing, food, and donated items. On day one over 700 veterans came to register, that is when I understood the importance of our pre-event preparations. Day two included free eye and medical exams, haircuts, legal, housing, and job assistance. The Red Cross also provided attendees with two hot meals, live music, and most of all a sense of camaraderie. On day three, after breakfast had been served, we handed out huge bags of supplies, which included brand new boots, shirts, socks, underwear, toiletries, bagged lunches etc. The level of appreciation and smiles on their faces was so gratifying, and I will look forward to volunteering at this event again.

While interacting with veterans and families at Stand Down and other deployment events is exciting and rewarding, there is also a lot of behind the scenes work that the Manager of Operations Support, Erin Counihan, does to be able to provide the support of the Red Cross. Many tasks have to be performed before the event, but the most challenging for me was SAF casework. Calling families that had suffered a loss or had emergencies was difficult, but when they genuinely thanked me for being a part of a network that was able to get their father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister home from war in a time of need, I realized the importance of the SAF program. Our current and passed service men and women and their families have made so many sacrifices for our freedom, and being able to help them in their time of need and show them our appreciation is truly a gift.

Written by: Jodie Lieffring

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Building Hope in Haiti

In the midst of great tragedy and suffering caused by the 7.0 earthquake last year, which killed an estimated 230,000 men, women and children in Haiti, it seems impossible that one year later progress has been made. The American Red Cross employees, volunteers and generous donors are meeting the needs of communities and lifting spirits of the Haitian people. Gail McGovern, American Red Cross CEO, has traveled to Haiti many times since the devastating earthquake. On her most recent visit to Port-au-Prince, she describes seeing “people who are hopeful, optimistic and resilient.”

Typically, the Red Cross focuses solely on providing immediate relief when disasters like the earthquake in Haiti occur. Immediate relief comes in the form of Disaster Services workers distributing food, clothing, medication and supplies to victims and coordinating shelter for people affected by the tragedy. In this circumstance, the Red Cross has established a long term relationship with communities and organizations in Haiti for the benefit of the people.

The American Red Cross has worked in Haiti since 2004 responding to disasters ranging from major hurricanes to small floods, and following the earthquake worked to build on the foundation of programs that existed. In the past year, an incredible amount of work has been done to improve the disaster management strategies in place and the health of Haitians.

The Red Cross mission statement discusses the importance of relieving the suffering of individuals, focuses on guiding response actions by the needs of the people and specifies giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress. Gail McGovern saw firsthand the plethora of opportunities for the American Red Cross to truly embody the mission statement of the national organization. She insists that “building permanent communities will be harder, and it will take longer. It will involve not just the homes themselves, but a whole series of interconnected services, from water and sanitation to roads. We’re talking about a massive urban renewal program that’s going to take years to complete.” The process will be lengthy, but focusing on five key facets of rebuilding will empower the people of Haiti (emergency & long term housing, health, water & sanitation, disaster preparation, disaster risk reduction & livelihood).

Many Haitians found themselves either displaced or hosting displaced relatives or friends, which put enormous stress on already scarce resources. To maximize the impact of donations, the American Red Cross partnered with Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance institute, to expand their existing programs to support over 220,000 people mostly women heads of households like Odette Mednard. She is a dressmaker and the owner of a small food shop attached to her home. Odette’s house was damaged and she lost much of her store’s inventory in the quake, but this partnership allowed Odette and others to restart their small businesses. Thanks to the American Red Cross, Odette and thousands of other Fonkoze clients have received financial assistance. Odette’s house was damaged and she lost much of her store’s inventory in the quake, but today her business is growing.

Be a part of our efforts to rebuild Haiti by by making a donation. Learn more about our work in Haiti by viewing the Haiti Earthquake Response Progress Report.

Written by Blair Janis

Monday, August 01, 2011

Want to Save Lives? Give Blood.

Blood is everywhere. Blood is the central theme for our favorite shows, war video games and horror movies. We are not a squeamish nation. The sight of blood doesn’t have us searching for our fainting salts or produces nightmares. Five movies of SAW is proof of our sturdy constitution. The American Red Cross like the rest of the nation is partial to the sight of large supplies of blood. We like to have our blood bank overflowing with healthy and viable blood that is ready to save lives. Currently, the American Red Cross is experiencing a shortage of blood donations, which poses a challenge when demand for blood remains steady.

One pint of blood can save up to 3 lives. Only 3% of Americans donate blood. The following reasons may help inspire you to give blood:

• Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
• More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.
• More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of
them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
• A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
• A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.
• The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event
• Sickle cell disease affects more than 80,000 people in the U.S., 98 percent of
whom are African American. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood
transfusions throughout their lives.

Join the 3% of the population and help save lives. Give Blood.

To find a local blood drive, visit
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