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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Four Ways to Holiday Safety

139711-holiday-campaign-social_1200x1200_hopeIt was Christmas Eve at my Grandmother’s house. Tummies were full of holiday treats, stockings were hung by the chimney with care, and the family was gathered at the kitchen table playing cards. That’s when my Dad smelled the smoke.

“Is something burning?” he asked. Everyone looked up from their cards with concern and started sniffing the air. It did smell like smoke. Dad got up from his seat and followed the scent into the living room. That’s when we heard him shout, “Get some water!”

Everyone jumped up from their seats and rushed to the living room to see what was causing the distress. There, on the table, was my grandmother’s carefully placed nativity set fully engulfed in flames.

Just days before she had so delicately placed the wooden figurines on a bed of angel hair and thoughtfully surrounded it with candles. But it didn’t take much – just a flame catching the slightest wisp of angel hair – to cause the fire to start.139711-Holiday-Campaign-Social_1200x1200_Shelter.jpg

Thankfully we were all home, awake, and able to quickly put the fire out. There was minimal damage, except for the nativity set itself, and we were able to laugh about it for the rest of the holiday and for years to come. But that’s not the case for many families during the holiday season.

With the holidays comes a whole host of safety hazards that often result in disaster. Last year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, the Red Cross Central California Region responded to help  373 families affected by fires, providing relief and comfort to those that  had lost everything.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can help us reduce that number this year. Here’s how.

Get Red Cross Ready

Following a few Red Cross fire safety tips goes a long way to stopping preventable tragedies. Holiday mishaps can happen to anyone, including you and me. So put the odds in your favor by being extra cautious.

This video shows just how quickly a Christmas tree can go up in flames:

Don’t let this be your home this winter. Place Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.

Always unplug the tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.

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Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

Find even more holiday fire safety tips from the Red Cross here.

Be a Social Butterfly

Share your favorite tips with your social networks. Share this blog post on social media along with your own holiday hazard story to illustrate the importance of fire safety. Social media users are far more likely to listen to a plea of safety from their own friends and family. So share the love!

Give With Meaning

Make a donation to your local Red Cross and #GiveWithMeaning this year. Stuck on gift ideas for that person who has everything? A gift to the Red Cross in their honor helps to educate families on the importance of fire safety and installs free smoke alarms in local neighborhoods. Plus it provides your loved one with a unique holiday present that they’ll remember for a lifetime.

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Find out how your gift helps those in need.

Sign up to Help

On January 14, 2017, we’re hosting three different Home Fire Campaign events in Bakersfield, Fresno, and Oxnard. We’re looking for passionate citizens like you to help build stronger communities by installing free smoke alarms. You don’t have to be an existing Red Cross volunteer to help! Visit redcross.org/cencalhfc to sign up and learn more.

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Photo Credit: Eddie Zamora, American Red Cross

If we all just commit to one of these four opportunities for fire safety, our beautiful Central California community will be a much stronger, more resilient place!

From all of us at the Red Cross, have a safe and happy holiday season!

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Partnering For Fire Safety

In Fall 2014, the Red Cross took on a lofty new goal to reduce home fire death and injuries by 25% over the next five years. This would largely be done through fire safety education and free smoke alarm installations – one home, one neighborhood at a time.

We knew immediately that this couldn’t be accomplished on our own; the Home Fire Campaign would need the support of the entire community.

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FRCSW Detachment being honored at a Ventura County Home Fire Campaign event

That’s where the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Detachment at Point Mugu came in. Partners like military installations, first responders, local churches and businesses are crucial to the success of the Home Fire Campaign. The sailors at the FRCSW Detachment have participated in multiple events, bringing a special level of energy and dedication to the program.

“We love having the Fleet Readiness Center participate in our events,” said Red Cross Preparedness Manager Sara Northrop, “They’re all so eager to help the community and teach local families the importance of fire safety.”

IMG_3516And the members have fun and feel rewarded, too.

“Volunteering with the American Red Cross and their Home Fire Campaign has been the most self-rewarding opportunity for me. It feels great to know that I am making a positive impact in the communities around me,” said AD1 Cody Brissey, “Seeing the smile we put on people’s faces when we tell them what we are doing in their community is a great feeling.”

IMG_3508“I’ve volunteered multiple times in this campaign,” said Casey Young of the FRCSW Detachment, “and each time my experiences have gotten better and better.”

We thank the FRCSW Detachment and all of the organizations and corporations who help to make the Home Fire Campaign a success! With your support, we’re able to save lives and build community throughout the region.

If you’re interested in participating in a Home Fire Campaign, either as an individual or with your organization, you’re in luck! The next event is happening in Santa Maria on Saturday, January 30, 2016. Click here to sign up today!

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Red Cross Helps Flooded Communities Across California and the Nation

Winter storms and El Niño conditions have certainly arrived, bringing with it dangerous flooding, blizzards, tornadoes, and mudslides. The stormy conditions have kept Red Cross volunteers busy across the nation as they work to provide safety and comfort to thousands of families.

Here on the west coast, teams have opened shelters in San Diego, Silverado Canyon, and Camarillo Springs, the site of the 2014 landslide that wiped out more than a dozen homes.

Further across the nation, hundreds more volunteers have been providing relief to residents affected by violent storms in Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.

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Missouri resident Dianna Bush reflects on the support provided by Red Cross disaster relief workers

“Red Cross people are special,” said Missouri flood survivor Dianna Bush, “It’s a family. They’re so happy to hug you.” Dianna and her dog survived the Meramec River flooding and like some people she’s relying on the Red Cross for shelter and food.

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In just one month, since December 7, the Red Cross has served 86,000 meals and snacks, provided 1,900 overnight stays in emergency shelters, and distributed 56,000 relief items. In some areas, trained volunteer workers are also meeting one-on-one with people to help them plan their recovery.

Local Red Cross teams around the Central California Region are continuing to work with government partners to determine where help may be needed. Shelter supplies and volunteers are at the ready, for if and when local chapters are called into more action.

In the meantime, make sure your family is taking precautions to stay safe during these storms. Try not to travel when weather is bad, but if you must, make sure you have an emergency kit in your car with extra chargers, batteries, water, food, and emergency signalling tools like flares or reflective signs. Make sure to also have an emergency kit in your home with any necessities you need to survive for at least three days.

Visit redcross.org/elninopreparedness to learn more storm safety tips to keep your family safe this El Niño season.

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Safety

It’s that time of year again. Time for candy canes, gingerbread cookies, and figgy pudding – whatever that is! That’s right, it’s the holiday season and time for me to stuff my face with delicious treats before New Year’s resolutions kick in. But it’s also a time for something even more sinister, that you may not have considered. It’s also the time of year where home fires are the most frequent.

Amidst the holiday cooking, festive baking, and Christmas decorations, danger can lurk behind every corner of the home, ready to steal your holiday joy. But don’t get your Christmas lights in a twist, because the Red Cross is here with a few tips on how you can keep your community safe during the holidays.

1. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets in one outlet.holidaylights-crop

 

2. Choose decorations and artificial trees that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Place the tree away from heat sources and exits. Water real trees daily.holidaytree-crop

3. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Make sure you have working smoke alarms. Keep any objects at least three feet away. I’m looking at you, stockings!holidaystockings-crop

4. Holiday safety is a true community effort. You can help the Red Cross build safer communities through your holiday generosity. This year your local Red Cross is grateful to be working with the Ventura County Star for the annual Bell Ringer campaign. The Red Cross, along with two other local non-profits, will be the beneficiary or your charitable donations through the program. With your support, Red Cross volunteers will be able to install free smoke alarms and teach local families the importance of fire safety.

Click here to learn more about the campaign!BellringerMainPhoto1

We hope these tips will keep your family safe and sound this holiday season. For more Red Cross holiday safety tips, click here.

From all of us in your Red Cross family, Happy Holidays!

 

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communciations

Giving with Meaning on Giving Tuesday

Close your eyes and image…

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It’s a cold winter night with temperatures dropping below freezing. You and your family are huddled together for warmth along with hundreds of other refugees. Outside you can hear the buzzing of disaster responders working feverishly to secure the area. Other families are sharing an open flame out on the sidewalk for warmth and cooking. There’s no hot water for cleaning or showering.

You’re not in a foreign country or war zone. You’re in an apartment complex in Fresno, California.

This is the reality that hundreds of local Southeast Asian refugee families are currently facing since the gas was shut off on November 12th due to safety concerns. It’s not a typical natural disaster – it’s manmade, due to neglect. But the City of Fresno called in the local Red Cross to help.

Summerset2The Red Cross distributed nearly 1,000 blankets to the residents, and helped establish partnerships with other non-profits like FIRM and the Southern Baptist Convention to provide warm meals and hot showers. In disasters natural or manmade, community partnerships are critical.

“We work 365 days a year to build strong relationships with other non-Summerset4profits, first responders, and local government agencies so that when disaster does strike, we’re ready to respond quickly as a unified team,” said Red Cross Executive Director Barry Falke, “When hundreds or thousands of lives are at risk, not one organization can do it alone. We have to build partnerships before disaster strikes.”

It’s one of the many behind the scenes roles that the Red Cross often plays. The organization often acts as the central nervous system between multiple agencies like the City of Fresno and the Southern Baptist Convention and helps to organize workshops, meetings, networking, and training opportunities for local disaster response groups.

But disaster preparedness doesn’t stop there. The Red Cross recognizes that every family needs to be prepared for emergencies.

Summerset1When the Red Cross and City officials got a closer look at the refugee apartment complex, they realized a big problem. Many of these units did not have working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors. With many families using space heaters, open flames, or other non-traditional heat sources, this was a recipe for disaster. The Red Cross immediately took action, installing more than 150 free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors for the residents alongside community partners, translators, and first responders.

The Red Cross is only able to prepare for disasters and educate local families on the importance of emergency preparedness thanks to the generosity of the community. Through your donations, Red Cross disaster teams are able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to build a stronger, more resilient Central California.Summerset5

The holiday season is a time for family, reflection, and generosity. Every year people all over the world come together for the global social media event that has become known as Giving Tuesday. After the holiday shopping rush of Black Friday or Cyber Monday fades away, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to bring people together and celebrate the non-profits that serve our communities.

So this Giving Tuesday, consider all the behind-the-scenes details that might take place in your community every day to make sure it’s Red Cross Ready for anything. This Giving Tuesday, consider donating to your local Red Cross.

This Giving Tuesday, #GiveWithMeaning.

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Thanksgiving Tips To Be Thankful For

If your family is anything like mine, then you know that Thanksgiving can be a perfect storm of disasters waiting to happen. Take a bunch of loud family members, add a deep fryer, and sprinkle in a few kids and pets, and it’s a recipe for holiday chaos!

It’s no secret that cooking fires are the most common cause of home fires and fire injuries, and Thanksgiving is a time when you are more likely to be distracted while preparing a meal. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving Day 2013 was the leading date for home cooking fires with 1,550, 230% above the daily average. That’s why your Red Cross has a few tips to make sure all family and food make it safely to the table:

  1. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease build up. Never pour water on a grease fire. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen.Thanksgiving1
  2. Keep children and pets away from the cooking area. Make sure children are at least three feet away from cooking areas. White meat turkey can be safe for your pet, but make sure to remove any excess skin or fat, and make sure there are no bones.
  3. Never leave cooking food unattended. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check on it regularly.
  4. Keep flammable items away from cooking surfaces. This includes oven mitts, towels, or food packaging.
  5. Download the Red Cross Emergency App. Get more safety and first aid info at your fingertips. Test your disaster knowledge with fun quizzes and set up customized weather alerts.

Most of all, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday from your friends at the Red Cross!

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Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications