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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.”

Photos
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

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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.

harlem1

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.

 

Podcast: Red Cross CEO Shares Advice From Her Career Journey

In Rasuwa District, Nepal, May 5, 2015, Gail McGovern meets local woman during a trek along to see destroyed houses along the remote hills near Dunche with Red Cross staff.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/American Red Cross

Looking for career advice? American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern shares the steps she took from corporate to education to non-profit in this new podcast with career expert Joseph “JoeWoo” Rychalsky. She also opens up about her lifelong love for volunteering and what she finds most gratifying about working for the Red Cross.

Charlie, the Kangaroo Hero

Therapy kangaroo named CharlieFor many military veterans, the support of therapy animals can be life-changing. For residents at a Salt Lake City veterans home, the same holds true. Though where one may be accustomed to seeing a dog or cat fill such a role, at the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake City Veterans Home a rather unusual animal is getting the job done.

Charlie, a one-year-old baby red kangaroo is providing love and support to dozens of delighted residents. The impact of therapy animals is well known, but Charlie the therapy kangaroo brings an entirely different dimension to this wonderful time-tested concept. The veterans love having him there and for some it is an unforgettable joy.

“He is an amazing therapy pet that allows the residents to laugh and share the joy of having him visit,” said Noralyn Kahn, Charlie’s caretaker and an administrator at the home. On a given day Charlie can be seen lounging in a resident’s arms for hours, just cuddling or letting them bottle-feed him. Sometimes he’ll bounce over to a resident’s room to share a piece of licorice or politely beg for a bite of apple. For everyone, the constant hopping around is always a highlight of the day.

Baby kangaroo being bottle-fed“Our residents are sometimes in their own worlds, and animals have a unique quality that helps bring them back,” says Kahn. In the last 16 years, Kahn has helped raise 14 kangaroos to work as therapy animals in nursing homes but she confesses that Charlie is her favorite by far.

And the residents aren’t the only ones who benefit, as Charlie’s presence also encourages young children to visit their family members.

“Kids are often afraid of nursing homes because they become uneasy at seeing the effects of the residents deteriorating condition or sometimes frightening behaviors such as in Alzheimer patients. With Charlie there, it makes the visit much less stressful,” says Kahn.

Noralyn says that  when kangaroos reach adolescence they tend to become more aggressive, at which time they are “retired” to a Kangaroo farm with their predecessors where they are tended to and cared for through their remaining years. Until that time comes for Charlie, however, he will continue to dispense his daily dose of therapy and bring smiles to the faces of all those he meets.

For their selfless work to bring comfort and support to veterans, Charlie and Noralyn were recently honored as local Red Cross Heroes by the American Red Cross Utah Region.

Speaking about the recognition Noralyn says, “Charlie seriously deserves it. He gives unconditional love.”

“The tie-in to veterans is especially great, because the Red Cross has such a deep history and affinity for the military and our veterans,” said Rich Woodruff, Communications Director of the Red Cross Utah Region, “The fact that he’s a kangaroo is an interesting story in itself but the real story is the positive impact Charlie has on the lives of veterans.”

Woodruff recalls Noralyn sharing a story that demonstrated just how much Charlie means to the residents. “One of the veterans was in hospice care in his final hours, and before he passed, he just wanted to hold Charlie. It’s such an emotional connection.”

 

What’s Your Superpower?

cropped-heroes_image

“If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose?”

This occasionally-asked hypothetical question prompts a wide variety of answers, from invisibility and unyielding strength to the ability to fly, read people’s minds and see into the future.

My mother’s answer to this question, when asked by her daughters many years ago, came as a surprise. “I already have a superpower,” she replied. “I save lives.” She wasn’t bragging, but simply stating a fact my sister and I didn’t fully understand until a few years later. As a registered nurse, she actually did – and continues to – help save lives as often as I pop into the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.

I considered becoming a nurse, but after working for a summer in an assisted living facility I had to acknowledge that I lacked many of the personality traits essential for a successful career in nursing. I looked for another way to follow my superhero mother’s lead and found something more suited for me: I became a regular blood donor.

I’ll admit to donating blood for the first time as a 17-year-old high school student who rolled up her sleeve primarily to escape fifth period European History. But eventually I made a commitment to regular blood donation as a way of quietly acknowledging the lifesaving example my mother set for me throughout my childhood.

No matter how you look at it, blood donors help save lives. And in my book, that makes blood donors the best kind of superheroes. Maybe the Red Cross should start handing out capes instead of cookies…

Blood donation appointments can be made by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).