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Surviving Disaster for the Second Time

Written by Stefanie Arcangelo, American Red Cross for Texas Gulf Coast Blog

At 1:45 a.m. on March 10, 2016, Stacey Kellum and her family were watching the creek, fed by the Sabine River, near their home. The creek was rising, but didn’t appear to be a threat. The family was awoken at 3 a.m. by the sound of their dog barking. They looked out the window and could tell water was knee deep. By 5 a.m., the water was waist deep outside their home and the family decided to evacuate by boat.


Stacey Kellum of Kirbyville hugs Red Cross volunteer Stefanie Arcangelo outside her home. This is the second time in 10 years Stacey lost her home to a flood. Photo: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

Kellum had lived on this block in Kirbyville, right near her parents and grandparents, for nearly 20 years. The recent flooding brought back memories for Stacey. “10 years ago in October, this same flood came,” said Kellum. “We lost that home and built this one. We had an inspector come out to look at the property where we were rebuilding; he told us the water hadn’t been up this high in 100 years.”

stacey2Stacey Kellum’s home is now destroyed after taking on nearly six feet of water during the Southeast Texas flood on March 10, 2016. The interior of her home is also full of ruined belongings and is already developing black mold.

The home Kellum built 10 years ago is now destroyed. Nearly six feet of water was inside the home when Kellum and her 19-year-old daughter, Tiffany, came back in the early afternoon of March 10 to try to retrieve some photos. “Tiffany is a Red Cross certified swimmer,” said Kellum. Kellum and Tiffany waded through the waist- to chest-high water to reach the home, “I managed to open the door and all of the water and things in the home started to pour out,” said Kellum. “Tiffany told me to get on her back and she swam us back to the boat.”

Kellum, her four children and husband are safe and staying at her in-laws. The family visited the Multi-Agency Resource Center at Trout Creek Baptist Church in Kirbyville recently to begin the road to recovery. “The Red Cross provided us with help. They connected us with Goodwill, The Salvation Army and provided us with assistance to move forward.”

Having the Red Cross and other organizations there to help has been a comfort for Kellum. “It’s really great to know that we have somebody here. At least we have hope.”

Standing in the yard of her home a little more than two weeks after the flood was hard for

Kellum. “I don’t like looking at it. I know it’s a total loss. I want to dig a hole and let it fall in.”

Still, Kellum is looking toward the future, “If I can get substantial help, I’m not coming back. I can’t do this again. I am hopeful I won’t be back out here.”

Recruiting Social Ambassadors for Red Cross Giving Day: Are You In?


Ever wonder if all that time spent tweeting, posting to Facebook and snapping Instagram pics would pay off? Here’s your chance to use your social savvy for good!

Who We Need: Social Ambassadors

For Giving Day, we’re looking for anyone with:

  • Experience on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
  • Passion about helping those who are in need.

Wait, What’s Giving Day?

Giving Day, on April 21, is an opportunity for thousands of people in communities across the country to come together to help families who have been impacted by a home fire or other disaster and will need Red Cross assistance to get back on their feet.

What You Can Do

Help carry our Red Cross Giving Day message far and wide. We’ll give you all the tools you need, and you can help out as much (or as little) as you’d like. Wondering what to write? We’ve got you covered. Our Social Ambassador page provides easily customizable, click-and-paste social posts and images for you to use. We even have a special hashtag to use – #help1family – to add to the Giving Day conversation.

Ok, Sign Me Up! 

It’s easy – head to the Giving Day website and let us know a little about who you are. Sign up now to start receiving weekly email updates that you can share to inspire even more people to get involved.

Together let’s bring more good days for families in need! #help1family

What Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Work Looks Like in Spain

You may be a long-time blood donor, a disaster volunteer or a proud CPR-trained citizen. But how much do you know about our work with United States Armed Forces across the world? For Red Cross Month, we have a Q&A with Jonathan Glenn, Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Regional Program Manager at the Naval Station in Rota, Spain.

Tell us about your life as an SAF staff member in Spain

They say you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do; in that case, I haven’t worked in years. I have on the other hand traveled the world, met incredible people and had many life changing experiences as an American Red Cross SAF staff member.

Where I live, there are palm trees in my front yard and the Atlantic in the back. If that sounds like paradise, you’re right! However, scenery isn’t everything. What makes my life great is the privilege I have to serve the Active Duty Servicemembers and their families who live and work on Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Located on the southern coast of Spain (I can get to Africa faster than Madrid from where I am), I wake up energized every day to get to work and make a meaningful impact on my community. You may be surprised to learn that an overseas SAF station is essentially all the departments of your community’s Red Cross chapter in the States rolled into one, offering the full range of services with a fraction of the staff and resources with which to do it.

What’s one thing you’re currently working on?

We don’t shy away from a challenge, even when we are tossed a curve ball. In fact, this week started off with me making an announcement to my volunteer staff that I have been asked to deploy to our Red Cross office in Kuwait for a little over five months. I leave with just a few weeks of notice and will be there for the height of the heat, as if Spanish summers weren’t hot enough! Note to self: pick up sunscreen after work.

In all seriousness, I am excited to be following in the footsteps of many generations of Red Cross staff who have ventured to deployed sites to provide services to our Armed Forces throughout American history.

So what does preparing for a deployment look like?

There is a lot to do before a deployment and pace of office doesn’t slow down for you to get it done. Between trips to the clinic for blood draws, a hearing test and other fun activities required before I can leave for Kuwait, I have to meet with base leadership to plan a deployed ship’s homecoming ceremony. I’ll also need to build my PowerPoint for tonight’s Disaster Action Team orientation and I need to swing by the library this afternoon to snap some photos of our reading tutor volunteers who are helping young students with English reading comprehension.

What else happens at a Red Cross SAF installation?

I spend a lot of time away from my desk. Luckily my super talented Field Office Assistant, Emily, is there to help with an emergency message in the event of a family illness or death back home. We’re doing a beach clean-up project this Saturday. A health and safety lead volunteer teaches the Girl Scouts on base how to use a pillowcase to prepare for natural disaster in the scout hut. There is no shortage of opportunities to see my team in action around the base.

I’ll share some photos of other activities around the base.

Regional Program Manager Jon Glenn facilitates the Disaster Action Team orientation for a group of new Red Cross volunteers. The DAT will lead the Red Cross’s disaster education activity in the community, as well as respond to house fires on base.

Red Cross service to the armed forces disaster action team

The Rota Red Cross’s collaboration with MWR Library provides Red Cross volunteer tutors who are paired with youth 5-10 years old for the “Reading Buddies” program. The students read to the volunteers to practice their reading comprehension skills. Pictured here: Red Cross volunteers Gersen Reyes, Christian Ramilo, Mervin Chavez and program lead Emiley Murphy.

Red Cross service to the armed forces Reading Tutor

Naval Station Rota celebrates the arrival of ships when they return to port from deployment. The base leadership looks toward the Red Cross for volunteer support at the events and it all starts with planning meetings. This is me on the left (Regional Program Manager Jon Glenn) with Command Master Chief Terrell.

Red Cross service to the armed forces ship

Preparing the base community for earthquakes, tsunamis and other potential threats is a focus of the Red Cross at Naval Station Rota. Volunteers Scott Humphreys and Aaron Swanson man an informational table at a Red Cross sponsored safety event.

Red Cross service to the armed forces Disaster Preparedness

On National Acts of Kindness Day, Scrubby Bear handed out free hugs, roses and candies to passersby around base. Even busy Exchange Store manager Rick Nelson has time for a hug from Scrubby Bear (supported by volunteer Erik Monda).

Red Cross service to the armed forces hug

On National Acts of Kindness Day, Red Cross volunteers accompanied our office mascot, Scrubby Bear (supported by volunteer Raiza Cruz), around base. Scrubby took time to play games with single sailors at a base recreation hall.

Red Cross service to the armed forces Scrubby Bear Ping Pong

Thanks to the leadership provided by my Volunteer Partner, Jen Cunningham, and my Community Volunteer Leader, Heather Piedrahita, I know that the Red Cross Rota station will thrive while I am in Kuwait. I can’t wait to see what they have achieved when I return.

Cheers to Ten Years, Twitter!

Happy birthday, Twitter!

We’ve had our ups and our (now infamous) downs, but needless to say our operations wouldn’t be the same without Twitter. We #LoveTwitter! Here are some of our favorite highlights.

Our first tweet

Highlights during our Haiti earthquake response

Yes, that’s right. Add a new factoid to your trivia quiver! President Obama’s first tweet came from the @RedCross Twitter account.

Bottom line: Our Twitter journey has been incredibly meaningful.


The Red Cross Is There as Soldiers Return Home

By Brittany Jennings, Regional Communications and Marketing Director in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Hours before families arrived for a welcome home ceremony at Ft. Bragg on March 9, the American Red Cross was preparing for them.

At 2:45 a.m., coffee brewed in the Red Cross office on the installation. Volunteers put on their blue vests and got to work loading their cars with canteen supplies – orange tang, coffee, granola bars, cookies, coloring books, tissues, informational materials and more. By 4 a.m., the team of eight volunteers was ready to serve and entertain the families who eagerly awaited their soldiers.

The empty warehouse-like building quickly turned into a maze of hundreds of people. Throughout the crowd, blue vests could be spotted. Some handed out Goldfish crackers and crayons, while others simply sat and listened to the anxious moms and dads who hadn’t seen their sons or daughters in almost a year.

Heather Sizemore and her three children were the firred cross solider return homest to arrive.

Despite it being 5 a.m., 7-year-old Sarah sprinted into the empty building, and 3-year-old Asher scaled the wooden benches. Heather held her sleeping 15-month-old as she tried to corral the others. She’d already been up since 4 a.m., ridding Asher’s bedroom of monsters.

Following her children in, Heather found a seat in the first row of benches, directly in front of where the 82nd Airborne Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division would march into the building from the runway. The soldiers were the last group of paratroopers to return home from deployment in Iraq.

With a big grin, little Sarah told me she was waiting on her daddy to come home.

“He’s been gone nine months,” Heather said. “You have to prepare yourself mentally and be patient with your children.”

A few rows over from Heather’s family sat Kym LaRiviere and her 3-year-old, Evelyn. “I’m going to run to my daddy and tell him I love him,” Evelyn said.red cross soldiers return home

Evelyn already had the day with her dad mapped out – eat snacks, play puzzles and eat more snacks. She grazed on a chocolate-covered granola bar as she spoke to me. And in her left hand, she carried a “Frozen” Disney balloon. That’s how she planned to get her daddy’s attention. “Balloons are good for daddies,” she explained.

The plane finally touched down as the sun rose over the tarmac. Families moved outside to see 118 paratroopers marching in. Of those soldiers returning home was Maj. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne.

Before going home to his own family, Clarke shook hands with each Red Cross volunteer at the canteen.

“Thank you for always being here,” he said. “The Red Cross is always here when we get home.”

1. Heather Sizemore (right) with her children, Sarah (left), Asher and Gabriel.
2. Kym LaRiviere (left) plays with her daughter, Evelyn.

Red Cross Month: Marc’s Story of Helping Save Lives Through Blood Donation

In honor of Red Cross Month this March, the American Red Cross celebrates the blood and platelet donors, blood drive coordinators, volunteers and other supporters who make our lifesaving mission possible. Marc Satalof is one dedicated blood donor hoping to inspire others to join him in rolling up a sleeve.

Marc’s Inspiring Blood Donation Story

I began donating blood as a young man in my early twenties during the 1970s. I donated my first pint of blood at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) to ensure that my mother, who was scheduled for some surgery, would have blood if needed. At that time, I set a lifetime goal of donations totaling 25 gallons (200 pints).

red cross blood donor donation marcSince that first donation, I have had the good fortune to be able to donate 242 pints of whole blood, at a rate of 5 to 6 pints per year. I have been blessed with overall good health that has enabled me to continue my donations with very few interruptions over the past 40 plus years.

Last fall, I eagerly awaited donating my 240th pint at the Carol H. Axelrod blood drive in the Philadelphia area. With that donation, I am currently at a total of 30 gallons given.

My decision to continue donating blood beyond my original goal of 25 gallons has been driven by that fact that I know that each and every donation provides “another day to smile” for those less fortunate than myself.

My greatest inspiration in donating blood comes from the humanitarian elements of this life-saving activity. Donating blood is one of the opportunities in our lives that takes very little time and provides a vital substance that science has yet to be able to successfully duplicate. It can often extend the lifetime of those whom we love, from family members and friends, to multitudes of individuals whom we have never met.

The implicit benefit of donating blood is the underlying truth that the donation of this most precious substance truly does save many lives. For me, no other incentive is needed. I have met countless other people who feel the same way. Anyone who donates even one pint of blood in their lifetime is to be considered a very special person.

Want to Donate Blood?

This Red Cross Month, please consider rolling up a sleeve to help patients in need. Blood donation appointments can be quickly and easily scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

International Women’s Day: Fe’s Story

Happy International Women’s Day! Jenelle Eli has traveled to the Philippines with the Red Cross multiple times to help with Typhoon Haiyan recovery. She sat down with us to share the story of typhoon survivor Fe Potente.

Potente’s home in the Philippines was built by local workers with funds from the American Red Cross. Elevated from the ground, the house will be less prone to flooding and storm surges. The Red Cross has also installed a new latrine for Fe, so her family doesn’t need to walk to a relative’s house in the middle of the night. In the year since Fe moved into her new home, she has planted a beautiful flower garden and sells vegetables and bananas that grow in her yard. She wants to own a piggery one day and her biggest hope is for her children to go to school.

“We would never have been able to afford to build a house without the Red Cross,” says Fe, who is glad that her four children can sleep comfortably in a home.

Listen to Jenelle tell Fe’s story

Images of our International Women’s Day spotlight, Fe Potente

Photos by Niki Clark/American Red Cross 2015 

Psst! Looking for more inspiration? Read some interesting facts and quotes from our founder, Clara Barton, for International Women’s Day.

Four Things to Know Before Heading to Your Spring Break Destination

Post by Greta Gustafson, American Red Cross intern

As winter drags on, getting away to somewhere warm over spring break is top of mind for most students. As a college student myself, I understand the need to clear your mind with a beach vacation all too well. For many of us, this will be our first time trading our winter coats for bathing suits since summer, which means we need to take a minute to brush up on some beach safety skills before checking out the shore.

Whether you are piling your family into the car or a college student taking your first sans-parents trip, the Red Cross urges everyone to check out these spring break safety ideas before taking that long-awaited dive in the ocean.

Check the weather forecast and water conditions before going swimming or boating.

These last few weeks have been evidence that the weather can change instantaneously. Keep alert to any changes in weather while in the water. If thunder or lightening occurs, get out of the water as quickly as possible and stay out until at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap or lightening flash.

Lightning storm spring break beach safety

If you go boating, wear a life jacket.

Most boating fatalities are due to drowning. Even if you are a strong swimmer, wear a life jacket as an extra spring break safety precaution.

Wear a life jacket when boating.

Only swim in designated swim areas.

Swimming in the ocean takes different skills. Be aware of rip currents, which can be incredibly dangerous even for strong swimmers. Swim only at lifeguard-protected beaches within the swimming areas and obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards, as they are the experts in open water swimming.

Swim spring break safety lifeguard

Know what to do in an emergency.

If you spot someone in distress in the water, make sure to follow these drowning survival steps to help save a life without putting yourself in danger. Don’t forget to download our Emergency App for all other emergencies you might encounter!

Emergency preparedness at the beach.
Wishing a fun and safe spring break 2016 to everyone – you deserve it!

This Leap Year, 3 Ways to Make a Day’s Difference

Post by American Red Cross intern, Greta Gustafson

Every four years, we are granted an extra day at the end of February: Leap Day. For many of us, this extra day slips by without us recognizing the potential impact a day’s difference can make. Sure, you may get a few more chores done, but it’s never anything too memorable. Though an extra day may not seem like much to you, it offers the opportunity to engage in an activity that you might not otherwise have time for. And when used properly, that extra day could mean a lifetime of difference to someone in need.

Here are a few ways to make a day’s difference this Leap Day:

1. Give Blood

The need for blood is constant. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Did you know that you can help save up to three lives by donating just one unit of blood? And it won’t even take the full day, so you can still finish those extra chores that have been on your to-do list. Find more information or make an appointment on redcrossblood.org.

Lewis and Clark / Arizona Blood Services Region CEO gives blood to set an example for her employees. She is joined by her executive assistant, Tristian Bush.

2. Practice Your Fire Escape Plan

Home fires are the most common disaster that the Red Cross responds to. Fire experts agree that you may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. Use this extra day to practice your home fire drill to make sure your family stays safe. If you don’t have a home fire escape plan, make one with this grid.


Monday, January 18, 2016. District Heights, Maryland. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, thousands of volunteers across the country participated in a day of service by canvassing their local communities and installing smoke alarms for their neighbors. The National Capital Region of the American Red Cross hosted MLK Day of Service events supporting the Home Fire Campaign in communities throughout the National Capital Region. Gerson Reyes (9) creates his fire escape plans. Photo by Dennis Drenner for the American Red Cross

Photo by Dennis Drenner for the American Red Cross


3. Volunteer

With the Red Cross being made up of 90 percent volunteers, there are so many ways to get involved in your community. From installing smoke alarms to helping out at a blood drive or in times of disaster, there is a place for everyone. Find yours on redcross.org.


January 3, 2016 -- Garland, Texas -- Red Cross shelter at the Gale Fields Recreation Center. Red Cross volunteer Misty Manglona reads to Jeremiah Moore. Photos by Dennis Drenner for the American Red Cross.

Photos by Dennis Drenner for the American Red Cross

This Leap Day doesn’t have to be just another Monday. Make it count by helping out your family and those in your community.

From the Archives – History of the Red Cross in Harlem

FTA Banner

History of the Red Cross in Harlem 

In 1959, the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY) was formed. Red Cross units in the five boroughs were united into a single citywide organization, while at the same time recognizing the unique characteristics and specific needs of local neighborhoods.

Eventually ARC/GNY became a network of 11 chapters and service centers which delivered complete and comprehensive human services to meet the individual needs of the community.

As reported in The New York Times, a new Red Cross Harlem Service Center (HSC) opened in October 1970.

Newspaper clipping and photo about Red Cross opening Harlem unit.

During its 35 years of operation HSC carried out traditional Red Cross programs such as disaster relief, water safety, CPR and first aid training, home nursing and youth services, as well as neighborhood-based programs.  For many years it also hosted an annual youth conference in conjunction with city and state agencies and hospitals. Week-long conferences were devoted to health and social issues that affected the community, such as HIV/AIDS, substance and child abuse. The Harlem Service Center also sponsored health fairs, and its Helping Hand Committee distributed holiday baskets. Jazz and gospel concerts were held as fund-raisers.

This 1971 photograph shows Harlem Service Center staff members.

       This 1971 photograph shows Harlem Service Center staff members.


First Aid and Home Nursing training were popular Harlem Youth Services activities.

  First Aid and Home Nursing training were popular Harlem Youth Services activities.

OJay crop

Above, Eddie O’Jay, radio announcer of the “Soul at Sunrise” show on WWRL, WBLS and WLIB in New York City gave many hours of his time to the Harlem Service Center.  O’Jay is a member of the Black Radio Hall of Fame.


Sickle Cell Testing Mobile Unit Truck

              Sickle Cell testing was conducted using mobile unit trucks.

In December 1997 21 volunteers at the HSC were trained in detecting high blood pressure. These volunteers visited densely populated African-American neighborhoods to test for blood pressure problems. Elizabeth Ellis-Barksdale, a Red Cross instructor in first aid and home nursing, said, “The volunteers [went] where the people are. . .including. . .churches, colleges and stores.”

In a pilot program with Harlem Hospital a few months earlier, 10 Red Cross volunteers tested 1,658 people and found 321 with high blood pressure.

Unlike with other groups at the time that tested for high blood pressure, the Red Cross had a follow-up service to determine if those found to have elevated blood pressure should consult a physician.

In 2005 the HSC transitioned to the Red Cross headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to allow for better coordination and help to better meet the needs of residents in Harlem and surrounding areas. To this day, volunteers continue to provide services and support to Harlem residents in need.

In March of 2014, when a gas explosion collapsed a Harlem apartment building, Red Cross volunteers were among the first on the scene to provide aid to hundreds of affected residents.


The Red Cross has a proud history in Harlem and throughout Greater New York and continues to answer the call every day to help all those in need.

Learn more about the Red Cross at redcross.org.  Follow Nicholas Lemesh on Twitter, @NickLemesh.