Pizza Man Dan

Pizza, volunteering, and newly formed friendships. Sounds like a great day, right? That was the theme of the Home Fire Campaign that the American Red Cross of Ventura County held on January 14th, 2017. Volunteers met early in the morning and divided into teams with different functions such as installers, educators, recorders, and translators. They installed hundreds of smoke alarms in the Oxnard area. Kimberly Coley, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Ventura County, explained that the volunteers go through orientation and training onsite. The American Red Cross of Ventura County was able to recruit the owner of Pizza Man Dan, Dan Collier, to donate pizzas to feed the volunteers.  Coley stated, “The generous donation from Collier was amazing and greatly appreciated.  The message of the American Red Cross is an important one, and we are pleased to hear that our message managed to reach Collier as well.”

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When Dan realized the goal of the event he felt compelled to help. Collier described how he became familiar with the American Red Cross, and the lifesaving work that we provide.  Collier explained that he found out about the Red Cross after losing his brother in-law to a home fire in New York two months prior.  Collier said the fire started while he was asleep, and that his life could have been saved if the smoke alarm in his home had been connected.  Collier said when he was approached by the Red Cross to assist with the event he jumped at the opportunity.

“When I heard the goal of yours was to install 400-500 smoke alarms in one day here in Oxnard it was not only great timing, but I wanted to do what I could to help spread awareness to people that were as unfamiliar with the work of the Red Cross as I was.  I am impressed with the work that the American Red Cross is doing, and all the volunteers that have dedicated their whole Saturday.  The least I can do is provide lunch for them.”

Dan also mentioned that the American Red Cross was the first and the only organization that arrived at the scene of the fire of his brother in law’s home before it was out. He explained that they offered everything they said they would. He praised the program for carrying out the same services in New York as well as in California. The volunteers offered emotional, financial, and other visible support when his family needed it most.

This event turned out to be a huge success.  Red Cross volunteers managed to install 518 smoke alarms, educate 676 residents, and create 278 safety plans for families in the event of a disaster.

Collier returned three months later to provide lunch for volunteers and provide vouchers for pizza to families at the Camarillo Home Fire Campaign on April 8, 2017.  On this occasion, community volunteers managed to cover 53 homes, install 158 smoke alarms, and educate 212 residents.

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Dan Collier may not have heard much about the American Red Cross prior to his family’s unfortunate loss, but he has continued to show his support and help families potentially avoid such an accident.  Like many others in the region, Dan may not have heard much about the Red Cross prior to his unfortunate incident, but now that he has experienced the importance of home fire safety first hand, he is committed to making sure no one else must go through the same tragic experience.

Next Saturday the American Red Cross of Ventura County will host another Home Fire Campaign in Port Hueneme, California.  Once again Pizza Man Dan will be supporting our volunteers with lunch, and participating families with vouchers.  Sign up to volunteer here: http://www.redcross.org/local/california/central-california/home-fire-safety

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Ready for Wildfires: 5 Steps to Prepare your Family and Home

The drought may be over for most of California, but that doesn’t mean the threat of wildfires is gone. In fact, many fire experts agree that this summer the threat may be even worse. The weather has only started to heat up, but the Central California Region has already seen thousands of acres burned due to fast moving grass and wild fires.

California Wildfires

That’s why it is so important for us to be prepared for what is already shaping up to be a busy wildfire season. Here’s five steps that you can take to make sure you’re ready:

  1. Know your risk and stay informed. Make sure everyone in your family is familiar with the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS). Keep an eye on the weather, especially humidity and wind levels. Pay attention to red flag warnings in your community.

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    Photo: CAL FIRE | calfire.ca.gov
  2. Clear your defensible space.
    By clearing brush and other debris within 100 feet of your house, you greatly improve your home’s chances of surviving a wildfire.
  3. Review your homeowner’s insurance policies. Prepare or update a list of your home’s contents. Store digital copies of your insurance paperwork, other important documents, and photographs on an easy-to-grab thumb drive or in secure cloud storage.
  4. Get a kit and make a plan. Keep essential items in an emergency preparedness kit that you can take with you in the event of an evacuation. Make sure to include food, water, medications, and hygiene items. Get the full list of recommended supplies here. Every member of the family should be prepared for disasters big and small – not just wildfires. Make sure everyone knows how to respond to a disaster, and can get out of the home in two minutes or less.
  1. Download the Red Cross Emergency App. Get more emergency preparedness knowledge at your fingertips, and even find shelter locations near your during a disaster with the free Red Cross Emergency App for smartphones and tablets.
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Wildfire tips from the free Red Cross Emergency App

When fires strike in our community, the Red Cross will always be there to help. But by following these important steps, the process of responding to and recovering from a wildfire will be much easier for every member of your family.

Check our more safety tips and download the full wildfire safety checklist on redcross.org.

Cold Springs Rancheria HFC

On Saturday, March 11, 2017 AmeriCorps Disaster Team member Bushra Zamzami met with 12 volunteers in Cold Springs Rancheria for a Red Cross Month Home Fire Campaign. Bushra set out Saturday morning from our Fresno location to not only install smoke alarms, but to help spread awareness to the Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California. The American Red Cross has proudly been working towards an ongoing effort with Indian Country for the past two years to increase preparedness within the communities.

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This being the first HFC within Cold Springs Rancheria was an absolute success. The group managed to canvas over 30 homes. More than 20 families were educated on home fire safety, and together 27 lifesaving smoke alarms were installed. While installing the alarms one of the tribal citizen volunteers mentioned that her home had caught fire not too long ago. At the time of the fire she did not have any smoke alarms installed within her home. She was thankful to be a part of something so impactful and helpful. After experiencing firsthand how devastating a fire can be she was excited to help her fellow tribal citizens with installing smoke alarms and helping make sure they had a home fire escape plan.


Bushra wanted to especially thank Team 3 consisting of, Suha, Arlene, and Jennifer. Their team managed to install the most alarms for the day (12), and snagged the notorious “Golden Smoke Alarm Award”. The Red Cross also gifted the tribe 2 tool kits and step ladders to help reduce home fire related injuries and deaths in the area.
Not only was this our first HFC for the area, but it was also an all women group that completed the task. What a way to kick off “Women’s History Month”, Clara Barton herself would be proud. Great job everyone!

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Ryan Henry Jackson
Communications Coordinator

Home

It’s two in the morning and you’re on a flight home.  You’ve been overseas for eight months, and were unsure if you would ever actually see it again.  The feeling that overcomes you isn’t what you would expect it to be though.  Happiness…Joy…excitement.  These are the typical emotions that you would expect to feel when returning back to the place that was once your place of comfort. Home.

For many veterans there is an abrupt end to the extended duration of time spent on deployment.  Organized duties and missions completed with a cohesive unit suddenly come to a screeching halt, and you are thrust back into civilian life once again.  Airmen bring back their military issued rucksack full of gear which has seen months and miles of resolute but lonely duty, but they also bring back their mental baggage full of tough experiences and painful moments locked deep in a vault that was created to harden the mind to perform their duty.  Straddling the line between military life and civilian life while trying to exist part-time in both worlds is the challenge.

Last month The American Red Cross – Central California Region held a workshop in collaboration with the Department of Defense called the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.  The event hosted the men and women of the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno, California.  The event provided marriage counseling, Veterans affairs information on education and training benefits, domestic violence and suicide awareness and prevention.  It also provided vital information regarding depression, brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorders.

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The Red Cross augmented the schedule with a mid-day “Reconnection Workshop” where the nearly 250 attendees were put into groups of 20 led by an American Red Cross mental health professional who helped guide them through a carefully targeted training module.  The module titled “Communicating Clearly” gave the participants a fresh perspective on how to enhance their communication skills, and be more successful in their relations at both home and work.  The implementation of these “Reconnection” workshops is a key aspect in helping to reconnect our service members with family and successfully re-engage them to civilian life.

As a special addition to the day’s schedule, the Red Cross also provided a companion skill building activity for the children of the attending Service members.  While their parents were learning valuable communication skills in the “Reconnection Workshop”, the children were engaged in the interactive “Pillowcase Project”.  The Red Cross emergency preparedness program helps to educate and increase awareness regarding natural hazards.  The “Pillowcase Project”, sponsored by Disney, is an interactive activity where each child received a pre-printed pillowcase with Disney characters that they get to decorate and take home to use as their personal preparedness kit.

At the end of the day families left for home better outfitted to deal effectively with the special challenges a military family faces that are often impacted greater by a tough deployment.  Deployment can be hard not only on the deployed, but the family that they leave behind.

It’s eight in the morning and your flight has landed. You’ve retrieved your luggage from the baggage claim, and as you start to walk towards the entrance you hear someone shout your name.  You turn to see the bright shining faces of your loved ones, and that is when you remember.  This is HOME.

Ryan Henry Jackson                                                                                                       Communications Coordinator

When It Rains It Pours

When it rains it pours, and it has certainly been pouring in California this winter. Massive amounts of rainfall in the Golden State has caused flooding, landslides, sink holes, road closures, power outages, and mass evacuations. All of this has led to a major Red Cross response effort, with volunteers from around the nation pouring into our state to provide relief.

Oroville Dam Spillway
Last Sunday night nearly 200,000 residents were told that the Oroville Dam Spillway failure was imminent, and they had only an hour to leave home. Within just a few hours, the Red Cross Gold Country Region managed to set up multiple emergency shelters to house thousands of residents fleeing the threat of the dam.

By Monday afternoon, 12 local Central California Red Crossers were on their way to the operational headquarters in Sacramento to help provide relief and comfort. Their support ranged from shelter staff, public information officers, and Emergency Response Vehicle drivers.

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Meanwhile, more rain was on the way and all eyes were on the atmospheric river slowly churning over the Pacific Ocean. The Central California Region quickly teamed up with the neighboring regions and Red Cross National Headquarters to formulate a plan for supporting multiple communities that would be impacted by this new storm all at once.

Friday night, our local Red Cross activated five emergency shelters for families looking to avoid the storm’s wrath. Many more shelters were placed on standby just in case. Red Cross volunteers worked through the night, making sure that anyone who needed assistance was supported.

Get Red Cross Ready

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Photo: Marko Kokic, American Red Cross

The winter weather still isn’t over. With more rain on the way, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your family is ready for disasters big and small. There are three simple steps that everyone can take to help make a difference: get a kit, make a plan, be informed.

Follow a few flood safety tips to prepare for and respond to flooding in your area:

  • Keep your car gas tanks full, so that in the event of an evacuation, you can get quickly to safety.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for possible flood warning and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Turn around, don’t drown! If water is flowing above ankle level, stop, turn around, and go another way.
  • Keep children out of the water which can be swift moving or contaminated.

Download the Emergency App
You can download the FREE Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information available on your mobile device, including open shelter locations, emergency weather alerts, and flood safety information. Red Cross apps are available in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

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The Red Cross will always be there for our community in times of disaster. But by following a few simple steps to make sure your family is ready, you’re helping us to build a stronger, more resilient Central California – come rain or shine.

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

The Red Cross is the Place I Get to be Myself

“I’ve been told I’m a “Preparedness Fanatic,” laughs Holly Green a Red Cross Volunteer in Bakersfield, California. “And, that’s okay, because at the Red Cross, I get to be myself!”

Holly Green enjoys helping her community prepare
Red Cross volunteer Holly Green stands in front of an Emergency Response Vehicle during the Home Fire Campaign MLK Day of Service event in Bakersfield.

Holly volunteers for the Red Cross Central California Region and has been a Red Cross Volunteer since Hurricane Katrina.  But she’s not the first in her family to feel the call to serve.

“My mother was a volunteer with the Red Cross back when I was little and we were stationed in Germany. She worked out of the Wiesbaden office, and did casework, so I guess you can say I followed in her footsteps.”  Holly explains that during Desert Storm, her mother’s hard work was instrumental in getting over 500 Red Cross Grants to soldiers coming home.

“I love working with the Red Cross, just as my mother did.” explains Holly.  “This job makes my soul feel alive and no matter how tired we are, the people we help are what make it all worthwhile.”

Holly stays busy as a caseworker, pitching in with office duties at her local chapter, and sharing her enthusiasm and talent at special events such as the Pillowcase Project and Be Red Cross Ready Presentations. Her latest effort was assisting her team in the installation of smoke alarms in her home town as part of the MLK Day of Service effort this January.  “This was an amazing project! I love installing these alarms and sitting with a family to help them prepare for a fire or other disaster, because I know we are saving lives.”

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Holly and her husband Aaron team up with Kern County Fire Department Explorer Gabriel Gomez and Red Cross Public Affairs volunteer Michele Maki to install free smoke alarms in Bakersfield homes.

Holly encourages others to volunteer too. “We get the opportunity to meet people in our own community and hearing how thankful they are for what we are doing. That makes my heart so happy!” And, as Holly said, if you care about others and want to help other prepare and prevent disasters, the Red Cross is a place where you “get to be yourself”!

For more information on how you can volunteer, please go to www.RedCross.org.

Michele Maki
Red Cross Volunteer

Since our local chapters were first chartered in 1917, the Red Cross has been here for the last 100 years when people in Central California needed us most.  Your Red Cross story of the past can be a part of our centennial celebration. Do you have your own Red Cross story to share? Click here to submit it directly online! 

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A Family Tradition: Two Generations of Red Cross Service

This month is the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and I would like to share a World War II Red Cross Story that involves my Mom.  It includes cities that are now in the Central California Region, and also highlights AAA partnership with Red Cross.

My Mom passed away in 2004 and I was recently going through a file and found the card and letter among her important papers (birth certificate, passport, etc.), so evidently it was something that was very dear to her.  The picture came from her picture album.

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This display of Audrey’s service now hangs in the new Red Cross satellite office in Oakhurst, CA

My mother Audrey grew up in San Francisco, her parents had married soon after experiencing the 1906 Earthquake. When World War II began, my mother, Audrey Stewart was finishing her Master’s Degree in Education at Stanford University in Palo Alto.  Men were heading off to war and many schools were in need of teachers. Audrey was immediately recruited to be a teacher in Santa Maria.

In February 1942, Audrey became a driver for the Santa Maria Red Cross (now Red Cross of the Pacific Coast.  I believe most of her duties were taking Plane Spotters to their locations along the coastal hills. For those of us who grew up on the west coast, our parents would tell us that after Pearl Harbor, there was a real fear that the Japanese might invade cities along the coast.  Volunteers manned observation posts along the coast with the purpose of identifying enemy aircraft in time to prevent future attacks.

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Now a volunteer herself, Hilary is proud of the special Red Cross connection to her mother.

Interestingly, I attended a Ready, Set, Respond! Disaster Preparedness Program at the AAA offices in 2013 in Fresno.  I was one of the attendees that later became a volunteer!

Hilary Swartz
Red Cross Volunteer

Hilary is a volunteer for Red Cross of the Central Valley, teaching lifesaving CPR/First Aid courses and providing relief as a disaster responder.

Since our local chapters were chartered in 1917, the Red Cross has been here for the last 100 years when people in Central California needed us most.  Your Red Cross story of the past can be a part of our centennial celebration. Do you have your own Red Cross story to share? Click here to submit it directly online! 135604-central-ca-region-centennial-logo-final-1