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Throwback for National Donut Day: Donut Dolly, Kathy Hoff

A version of this post originally appeared on News from the Kentucky Region, written by Lauren Thomas.

Happy National Donut Day! If you’ve never heard of Red Cross Donut Dollies, you’re in for a treat! (That is, unless you’ve already snagged a donut today. Then this is treat number two.)

From her time as a Red Cross Donut Dolly in Vietnam, to disaster responses across the United States, to her current service in Lexington, Kentucky, Kathy Hoff has devoted years of time and talent to helping the Red Cross in a variety of capacities.

Kathy Hoff Donut Dolly national donut dayHoff’s first volunteer experience with the organization was in 1969. As an adventuresome recent college graduate, she and her roommate saw a newspaper ad to go to Vietnam as “Donut Dollies,” and they signed up. She spent the next year there, offering moral support for the troops. The Dollies, a name inherited from their predecessors in World War II and Korea, would run recreation centers, put on self-designed programs to entertain the troops, and visit hospitals, which was difficult and heart wrenching for Hoff.

“As long as we could take the guys’ minds off the war, that was our main aspect of having them do these games. A lot of times I would just sit and talk. I did not like going to the hospital, because I had to smile and be cheerful, and seeing these guys that were my age and younger, and what they’ve been through [. . .] that was really challenging,” she said.

Following her service in Vietnam, Hoff was deployed twice following Katrina. She spent three weeks in Mississippi operating an mobile feeding vehicle, and then two weeks in New Orleans feeding the thousands of displaced residents. Since then, she has responded to numerous disasters across the country, including relief operations in California, Iowa and Texas, and on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Currently, Hoff presents The Pillowcase Project (a free disaster preparedness program) to elementary school students, and she’s continued her work with the military, serving as a Service to the Armed Forces Specialist and donating her time at the local VA hospital.

kathy hoff donut dollie volunteer red crossA retired teacher originally from the Seattle area, Hoff and her husband moved to Lexington five years ago to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren. Volunteering is a way of life for Hoff, and she has discovered plenty of volunteer opportunities in the Bluegrass State.

“It’s just giving of yourself, just thinking of other people, and not worrying about yourself and all that’s going on. It’s just such a good feeling to help. There’s a lady at the VA where I volunteer. She’s 98 years old, was a nurse in World War II, and she just beams when I walk in,” she said.

She has stayed in touch with a number of fellow Red Crossers from her deployments around the country. Kathy is also relaying the importance of volunteering to younger generations by involving her grandchildren in numerous activities.

“It’s a great feeling to give of yourself. When you get a hug [. . .], that’s the biggest pay you could ever have.”

Learn more about the Donut Dollies, and find Red Cross volunteer opportunities on www.redcross.org.

Biggest Risks for Popular Summer Activities

What’s on your to-do list this summer? I’m driving to Ohio for a wedding and flying to a cabin in Michigan, so I’ve got my road trip and water safety tips all ready to go.

While my summer line-up doesn’t include incredibly strenuous activities, I’m always cautious in new surroundings to avoid any injuries or surprises.

Here are some things I like to keep in mind when I’m on the go, which you may find helpful as well. Are there other summer safety thoughts that cross your mind around this time of year? Let us know what they are and how you keep your summer fun safe and enjoyable!

Summer Travel Safety Risks

Did you know sprains and falls are some of the most common misfortunes travelers may face? Depending on your plans, here are some other risks to watch out for:

  • Cruise: Sprains are the most common injury for someone on a cruise, along with contusions and other superficial wounds.
  • Camping and mountain trips: Falls are the biggest threat, many due to poor decision-making, lack of skill or not being properly prepared. Dehydration is also a danger.

red cross summer risk travel safety

So what’s a summer-loving person to do?

  • Pack: Appropriate clothing, insect repellent, sunscreen and first aid items. Include soap, tweezers, wound gel, personal medication and items such as fever reducers, fungal creams and pain relievers.
  • Know: The level of ability of the people in your group and the environment around you.

Head over to redcross.org to find tips for specific situations, such as getting stung by a jellyfish or dealing with a blister.

Bonus Preparedness Points: Classes and Apps

Oh, so you’re an overachiever? Want all the safety arrows in your quiver? Get suited up with a couple more critical resources.

  • Take a Class: Prepare for the unexpected with First Aid/CPR/AED training.
  • Download Apps The Red Cross First Aid App has instant access on how to treat common emergencies as well as a hospital locator which is helpful for travelers, and the Emergency App is a single ‘go-to’ source for weather alerts and safety tips.

Stay safe out there, folks!

11 Hurricane Tips for 2016

hurricane tips preparedness prep

If you guessed Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Ike – you were right! Read more about these disasters and our response in our post from 2013.

As hurricane season approaches, we have some tips to help you brush up on your preparedness so you’re ready in case another one hits. Crossing our fingers you don’t need them!

First, download the Red Cross Emergency App. In addition to hurricanes, it covers more then 30 disasters and emergency situations.

Top Hurricane Prep Tips

Here are 11 tips on what to do if a hurricane is headed your way:

  1. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio (Available in the Red Cross Store) for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  2. Check your disaster supplies. Replace or restock as needed.
  3. Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (e.g., bicycles, lawn furniture).
  4. Close your windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  5. Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. Keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
  6. Turn off propane tank.
  7. Unplug small appliances.
  8. Fill your car’s gas tank.
  9. Create a hurricane evacuation plan with members of your household. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
  10. Find out about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs and make plans for your pets to be cared for.
  11. Obey evacuation orders. Avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.

The Respond and Recover tabs on our hurricane page offer a list of recommended hurricane supplies and tips for recovering after a hurricane as well.

Stay safe out there!

Postcard from the Houston Floods: Cruz Roja Mexicana is Here!

Cruz Roja Mexicana is in the house! Since Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross has become a close partner with its sister society from Mexico. While separate organizations, the two nonprofits are part of an international federation that offers mutual support and aid.

Houston cruz roja american red cross mexico

As Houston residents reel from the third major flood in less than a year, several members of the Cruz Roja have offered their services in assisting in delivering clean up supplies, food and other items to the affected areas.

This is Gustavo Santellan’s fourth deployment to the United States. He says he loves meeting all the people, “but the language can be a challenge.” Yet their fluency in Spanish is a great help when communicating with some of the residents who have lost their homes in the floods.

One role of Cruz Roja in Mexico is as EMTs and ambulance service, which means that the members of this unit tend to focus on individuals having a health crisis.

“I love coming to help in the United States,” says Eric Travesi. “Here I can help many more people doing disaster relief, bringing them hope.”

If you see one of our Cruz Roja friends in the field, make sure you say, “Hola!”

A version of this post originally appeared on the Texas Gulf Coast American Red Cross blog.

Red Cross Volunteer Nurses Serve Across the World with Armed Forces

We tip our hats to nurses everywhere for National Nurses Week, but couldn’t help calling out some fantastic nurses serving with our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) department. These volunteer Red Cross nurses demonstrate the same compassion for the military community first demonstrated by Clara Barton during the Civil War. They carry on her legacy of caring for the members of the military and their families on U.S. military installations around the world.

Naomi Mendoza: Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

Naomi2Naomi Mendoza, RN, adjusts a blood-pressure cuff on a patient at Reynolds Army Community Hospital on Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. She serves as a volunteer Red Cross nurse in the Urgent Care Clinic. Her duties include patient check-in, taking and monitoring vitals and ensuring that all patients receive the highest quality of nursing care. Mendoza has been a volunteer at Ft. Sill since August of 2015.

Suzanne Bucci: Joint Base-Andrews, Maryland

Bucci 1Suzanne Bucci, RN, OB/Gyn NP and Red Cross volunteer, served as a nurse in the U.S. Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine (AIM) Center at Joint Base-Andrews, Maryland. She is an Army veteran, the wife of a retired Army officer and the mother of two adult children, one of which has served in the Army. She has been a Red Cross volunteer for the past 15 years. Bucci has volunteered in the local communities where she and her husband were located since she separated from the Army.

Danny Chacon: Naples, Italy

Chacon 1

Danny Chacon is a valued RN and Red Cross volunteer at U.S. Naval Hospital Naples, assisting in the Ambulatory Procedures Unit and the Post Anesthesia Care Unit. With over 700 hours of volunteer service since October of 2015, Danny’s contributions as an RN and as SAF station Naples’ health and safety program lead are endless. He is a military spouse and veteran, previously serving as a Navy Corpsman before becoming an RN in May, 2014.

Stephanie Broughton: Naples, Italy

Broughton 1

Stephanie Broughton is an RN volunteering with the Red Cross in the Occupational Health Clinic at U.S. Naval Hospital Naples, Italy. Before arriving in Naples, Stephanie worked in the cardiovascular unit at the Mayo Clinic. She is a wife, mother and full-time student who never fails to give back to her community every week as a nurse and a CPR/AED/First Aid instructor. Stephanie is the epitome of a Red Cross volunteer through her dedication, service and selflessness.

Selina Amador: Honshu, Japan

Amador 1Selina Amador, RN, volunteers for the Red Cross in the Yokota Air Base Hospital. She splits her time as the hospital co-chairman and as the training management technician within the Education and Training department. Originally from Texas, Selina is a military spouse new to Japan.

Barbara Nelson: Rota, Spain

Nelson 1Barbara Nelson, RN, CDE and Red Cross volunteer at U.S. Naval Hospital Rota in Rota, Spain, has been volunteering since June of 2010. She has been volunteering in some capacity with the Red Cross since 1984 during the time her husband was Active Duty. Nelson has been working with doctors, corpsmen and patients as a certified diabetes educator (CDE), in addition to general nursing during her time in Rota.

Katarina Johnstone: Naples, Italy

Johnstone 1Katarina Johnstone volunteers through the Red Cross as a nurse at Naples Elementary School in Naples, Italy. Katarina has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2005 while in nursing school. She assisted on-site with Hurricane Katrina and fires in San Diego by helping set up places for victims of disaster to stay as well as providing medical attention. Now living in Italy with her husband and two children, she comes in every week to help young patients and assist the school nurse using her years of experience as both an RN and a Red Cross volunteer.

Looking for historic images of Red Cross nurses? Our 2015 National Nurses Week post has you covered!

Twitter Offers Relief for Family in Ireland Worried About Colorado Fire Victim

This post originally appeared on a Red Cross chapter blog, Colorado Stories. By Patricia Billinger 

In today’s information age, news travels fast about disasters happening all over the world. Less than 24 hours after a fire forced more than 130 seniors to evacuate from an apartment building in Littleton, Colorado, family in Ireland had already heard the word and were worried for their relative, Pat O’Connor. Pat was among the seniors who evacuated, first to a temporary evacuation point and then to a Red Cross shelter set up in a church across the street from the apartment building.

twitter initialPat is one of a family of eight siblings (six boys and two girls), most who still live in Ireland. According to his family, he has numerous nieces and nephews, as well as grand nieces and grand nephews in Ireland.

“I first learnt of the fire via a phone call from my dad (Pat’s brother),” said Leanne O’Connor, one of Pat’s nieces in Ireland. “Pat’s partner’s daughter had sent a message to my cousin over here to tell him about the fire and the message was disseminated through the family from there.”

Many of the evacuated seniors were without a steady form of communication, having left behind cell phones when they evacuated, never owning cell phones, or – in the case of a few seniors with family overseas – not able to afford the high cost of placing international calls from a cell phone. Worried about the fate of her uncle, Leanne hopped on the internet to find out more.

“I Googled the fire and came across a news article that mentioned the Red Cross Denver with their tweets regarding the fire,” Leanne explained. Hungry for information and updates, she followed @redcrossdenver on Twitter.

The American Red Cross is often considered a national leader in using social media during emergencies – known in the industry as #SMEM – and makes it a regular practice to share informational updates, lifesaving tips and advice, and guidance on how to give and get help during disasters large and small. The 130-unit apartment evacuation in Littleton was no exception; local Red Cross staff and volunteers were actively sharing information on Twitter, Facebook and redcross.org.

In addition to the updates posted to Twitter, Red Cross staff responded to Leanne’s inquiry on the social media platform and were able to confirm that that he was safely staying with a daughter.

twitter SMEM Red Cross fire twitter SMEM Red Cross fire

twitter SMEM Red Cross fire

“The information that I was able to obtain from your Twitter account administrator was invaluable as it put our minds at ease over here in Ireland,” Leanne said. “I cannot thank you enough!”

Leanne said Pat has been in contact with a few family members since the fire, although his contact has been limited due to the expense of making international calls from a cell phone.

“I’d just like to reiterate my thanks for all the information you were able to provide to extremely worried relatives in Ireland,” Leanne said. “The power of Twitter is just amazing!”

Curious how the little things count and how we clothe displaced seniors in dignity? Read more blogs from this fire response from our Colorado blog.

Providing an Emergency Message for One of Our Own

Many people aren’t aware that assisting the U.S. military through the Service to Armed Forces (SAF) program is a Red Cross core service. Providing assistance to the armed forces for more than 100 years, the Red Cross takes pride in being that direct link between service members and their families. Emergency communications is one of the activities provided by the SAF program. Just in 2015, over 350,000 emergency communications were provided to more than 100,000 military members and their families.

Helping the Helper: Red Cross Emergency Communications

Army Specialist (SPC) Job Ojo, a native of Nigeria, is a member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado. He is also a Red Cross SAF volunteer. Through his work, he has a keen understanding of the importance of emergency communications messages and keeping families connected during military deployments.

red cross service to the armed forced saf emergency communications volunteerWhile he made sure his family knew how to use the Red Cross emergency communication services in the event of an emergency, he never thought that he would need to experience Red Cross support first hand.

“I’d been trained by the Red Cross, so I knew pretty much about emergency situations and the need to get information to service members,” SPC Ojo said. “I gave the information out to my family members in Nigeria, just in case.”

In January of 2016, Ojo’s adoptive father— “the one who sent me to school,” as Ojo described him— was on the way to the Federal University of Technology in Minna, Nigeria where he served as a guest lecturer. As he made his journey early in the morning, his car struck a truck parked on the roadside. The passenger side where Ojo’s father was sitting absorbed the brunt of the impact. He suffered serious head injuries and died a little while after the accident.

SPC Ojo’s sister was the first to be notified. She immediately began passing along the news to the rest of the family, but she was unsure of how to get in touch with SPC Ojo who was with his unit in the United States.

Luckily, an elder brother remembered information he had been given regarding Red Cross services to use in an emergency. A call was made and a message was sent to unit Command alerting SPC Ojo to the emergency. That message put things in motion allowing him to reconnect with his family. Red Cross documentation also helped secure a zero interest loan from the Army, so that he could return to Nigeria for his father’s funeral.

“I’d just like to extend my appreciation to the Red Cross,” SPC Ojo said. “Getting the message through the Red Cross was helpful because my chain of command was notified and that helped a lot in processing my emergency leave travel to Nigeria to attend the funeral.”

SPC Ojo knew that the SAF program would help if there was a need to connect with his family anywhere in the world. He had worked emergency communication cases for other service members. Now has an even greater appreciation for the Red Cross and the SAF program’s emergency communications services.

Need Help? How to Initiate an Emergency Communication

You can initiate a request for emergency assistance for members of the military currently serving on active duty by contacting our Red Cross Hero Care Center, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Using a computer, smartphone or tablet, you can start a request for services and track progress from anywhere in the world. To speak to a Red Cross Emergency Communications Specialist call: 1-877-272-7337.

A version of this story originally appeared on Colorado Red Cross blog, written by Southeast Colorado Volunteer Kyle Fiehler.

Photo in post: SAF volunteer SPC Job Ojo, holding a photo of his family while standing with SAF managers Barbara Shufelt (l) and Gaby Skovira (r) outside the Southeastern Colorado Red Cross office in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo by Richard Firth/American Red Cross

Two Ways Technology Helps Red Cross Earthquake Response

American Red Cross disaster relief has taken on many forms since our inception in 1881, when Clara Barton dispatched two men to help distribute relief goods and cash for victims of a Michigan forest fire.

Fast forward more than 130 years, and we’re still using whatever means necessary to provide support and relief to disaster victims, sometimes even to disasters across the globe. We have been thrilled to see a couple news outlets take notice, covering the innovative ways our staff is using technology to assist in a disaster.

The Washington Post, in “How a bunch of tech geeks helped save Nepal’s earthquake victims,” included the work of two volunteers frequent Red Cross Chat readers know well: Glen and Judy Bradley. The Bradleys are phenomenal volunteers who help set up telecommunications systems to open up desperately-needed digital channels following a major disaster.

The Post notes:

“Advancements in technology have also helped humanitarian organizations use their people more efficiently. With a satellite connection, doctors who can’t physically get to a disaster site can talk directly to patients, or analyze their X-rays, or review blood test results remotely. The result is a significant boost to the quality of care.”

Our own Dale Kunce and Jenelle Eli were included in a recent piece in The New Yorker, “Creating a Map to Navigate the Post-Earthquake Landscape in Ecuador.” To get a better sense of damage following a disaster such as an earthquake, relief organizations use crowdsourced maps created by efforts like the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

We’ve already shared other inspiring technology ideas about disaster prevention and recovery, from wearable technology to smart fire sensors. We also look forward to highlighting future innovations in humanitarian aid.

If you’ve come across exciting examples of disaster technology, please share with us in a comment below!

Hats Off to Celebrity-Packed TUBEATHON Concert

Last week, the Red Cross joined forces with iHeartRadio and What’s Trending to kick off our annual Giving Day with an online, celebrity-packed concert. The TUBEATHON was a live streamed music event featuring social media influencers to raise money and awareness for the Red Cross.

A Hashtag for Good

The event focused on #help1family, a hashtag designed to increase awareness of the families we help recover from emergencies every day. In fact, the Red Cross meets a family that has lost everything due to a home fire or another disaster nearly every eight minutes. The TUBEATHON was a great opportunity for people to donate to provide hope for these families in their time of need.

For every tweet with the #help1family hashtag, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark donated $1 to the Red Cross. These thousands of simple tweets made all the difference to families in need.

Now Featuring…

Twhats trending red crosshe event was live streamed from the iHeart Theater in Los Angeles, and featured numerous celebrities and social media stars. The influencers traditionally generate more than 200 million social media impressions combined.

Hosted by Shira Lazar, the TUBEATHON included performances by Alyson Stoner, BC Jean and Mark Ballas, Chanel West Coast, Melanie Martinez, iLoveMemphis, Tyler Hilton, DSharp, 80Fitz, Sky Blue, Sam Tsui, Janina Gavankar, Alex Boye, Heffron Drive and more.

What’s the Impact?

Thanks to the TUBEATHON and Giving Day, we raised enough to help over 28,000 families in need during and after a disaster. If you missed out on Giving Day, you can still make a difference for families in need by donating here or learning more ways to support our lifesaving mission.

What’s Trending posted a teaser video on Facebook, giving an overview of the event and TUBEATHON participants.


Houston Residents Face Disaster Fatigue After Second Flood in a Year

Lindsay Ellard and her family had just moved back into their house after flood waters had destroyed her home in May of 2015, many of their belongings were still in boxes. Lindsay recalls that their infant daughter, who was 6 months old at the time of the May floods, saved their lives by crying as the waters rose in the night. Mother and daughter were trapped in the higher part of their house until they could be rescued.

Ten months later, flood waters returned, wiping out everything that had been rebuilt.

“I’m not sure which was better,” said Lindsay. “To wake up and find the water there, or to watch it creep up slowly, knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

Disaster fatigue red cross floodsLindsay is not alone as hundreds of families affected by the earlier floods have found themselves repeating the process. Many of them came by the Red Cross bulk distribution center to pick up cleaning supplies this weekend and to swap stories of their experiences. There were those in tears over having to start over again, others angry, and some resigned.

What is Disaster Fatigue?

Disaster fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when an individual, family or community is faced with a string of crises, as in the case of the neighborhoods of Houston who have had storm after storm and flood after flood. The emotional strain around having to rebuild lives is difficult enough the first time, but doing it over again compounds the stress.

The families who come to the Red Cross are dealing with the challenges in different ways. Rob Raphael shared that he and his neighbors took different paths in their recovery from the first flood. He chose to wait for the slow approval of a total rebuild of his house so that it would be “elevated” on a higher foundation. This required a longer build time made even more challenging by the waiting list for contractors in the area. His neighbors chose to refurbish their home in its original setting, betting on the flood being a one-time disaster. “They took a gamble. Now they have to decide if they want to gamble again.” Rob was quick to point out that the Red Cross helped him and his wife the first time around. “My wife was so impressed that she signed up and is now a volunteer for the Red Cross.”

Staying Postive and Getting Help After Floods

The vast majority of the people who came to get supplies had positive and determined attitudes. Helen Haywood has a full house with her daughter’s family staying with her while their home is cleaned up. “This is when you see everyone at their best,” said Helen. “People are really good about helping. The Red Cross has been there, too! Thank you, thank you!”

Lindsay Ellard had words of advice to anyone who has to face a disaster. She suggested that making a list of contact information, medical needs and anything else vital then keeping it ready is important for trying to recover. For the first flood, she didn’t ask for help, not wanting to take resources from other people who might need it more, but this time she says she’s learned that there is nothing wrong with getting help and that community support is how she’s picking up the pieces. “I’m trying to stay calm and not freak out. I never thought I’d have to worry about things like PTSD, but every time it rains I find myself starting to panic. Everyone has been so understanding.”

Tips for Coping with Disaster Events

Often people under stress feel physically and mentally drained, get frustrated more quickly and more often, but there are some things people can do to cope with events over which they have no control:

  • During stressful times it’s important to eat properly and maintain a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get some rest.
  • Staying connected with friends and family is important because getting support reduces that feeling of being alone.
  • Be patient with those around you and recognize that everyone is stressed and may need time to put their feelings and thoughts in order.
  • Remain positive and remember having successfully gone through other tough times and reach out when support is support is needed and help others when they need it.

Bill Pennington summed up this philosophy when asked about how he was handling his second flood: “No reason to moan and groan! Just get ‘er done…one more time.”