Heroes Series: Serving Those Who Serve Our Country

There are 19.3 million military veterans in the United States as of 2014, and California is home to the largest veteran population in the nation with nearly two million. That means there are countless people and organizations like the Red Cross working hard every day to support our local veterans and their families.

Two of those people have been honored as this year’s Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Heroes: Sandra Gould and Pete Pepper.

 

Sandra plays an important dual role, serving as both a Case Manager with Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) through CAPSLO and also as a Veteran’s Service Representative with SLO County Veterans Services. With her support, the SSVF program has assisted 143 veterans and their families.

Watch her story:

Pete Pepper is the founder of Central Coast Veterans Helping Veterans and serves as the Co-Mentor Coordinator for the San Luis Obispo Veterans Treatment Court. He has also made multiple trips to Vietnam with fellow veterans, creating an award winning documentary, Killing Memories, about their healing journey.

Watch his story:

Both Sandra and Pete were nominated by their peers and community for these awards, because of their compassion and dedication to serving military veterans.

“What Sandra has done for the homeless veterans in our county is nothing short of amazing,” said nominator Robert Ellis, “Sandra has played a most significant role in this success by connecting these veterans with the benefits they deserved, and were not getting, that enabled them to move out of the creek or off the street and into permanent housing.”

“Pete is an outstanding example of a vet advocating for vets,” said Sr. Theresa Harpin. His advocacy for local veterans has made the Veteran’s Mentor Program “one of the finest in the country.”

The work of everyday heroes like Sandra and Pete can often go unsung, but the Red Cross is proud to honor their selfless acts of compassion and courage. Learn more about the Heroes for the American Red Cross program at redcross.org/sloheroes.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is proud to present this year’s Service to the Armed Forces Hero awards. The Red Cross is proud to be celebrating a 40-year safety partnership with PG&E.

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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Honor Veterans by Supporting Your Local Red Cross

NMCB5-Homecoming

This Veteran’s Day, take a moment to serve those who serve our country by supporting a local charity like the Red Cross. Service to the Armed Forces is one the organization’s least known services, and yet one of the oldest Red Cross traditions. Everyone knows the Red Cross for large disasters like wildfires and earthquakes, but many may not realize the important role that Red Cross volunteers play every day to support the military.

The mission of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program is to provide humanitarian support to military members, veterans, and their families around the clock and around the globe. The Red Cross even provides more blood to veterans than any other organization in the country.

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Logan Weaver, 1992

Another one of the many services that Red Cross volunteers provide is emergency communications between families and service members. In the last year alone, the Red Cross Central California Region connected 746 local military families to service members through emergency communications. Local Red Cross volunteer and 20 year Navy veteran Logan Weaver knows about these Red Cross services first-hand.

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Logan and his Dad, 2000

When his father had his first heart attack in 2000, Logan was on a Navy ship off the coast of San Diego heading to Hawaii. That’s when he received the official Red Cross emergency message that his father was seriously ill. Within hours, he was on a helicopter headed home to see his dad.

“The ship that I’m on, at the time, does not stop and turn around,” said Logan, “Had I not been able to get that helo, I probably would’ve had to wait 10-12 days to cross the Pacific and get to the Hawaiian Islands. Without the Red Cross message, I wouldn’t have been able to get that helo ride out. The Red Cross trumps everything. It’s a crucial portion of going on emergency leave. It’s like the golden ticket!”

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Logan Weaver receiving an award on the USS La Salle, 1991

That was one of five Red Cross emergency messages Logan would eventually receive over his 20 year career in the US Navy. Now, as a veteran, Logan feels that he has the opportunity to give back to the organization that provided him so much support in his time of need. As an Armed Forces volunteer and Disaster responder, Logan provides moral support for service members returning from or leaving for deployment and helps the Red Cross set up shelters in times of disaster.

“I find that the Red Cross is a blessing to me,” said Logan, “I’m able to give back, and I’m able to pay forward all at the same time.”

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Logan Weaver, proud Red Cross volunteer

So this Veteran’s Day, consider supporting a local charity like the Red Cross. Whether it’s through volunteering like Logan, donating blood, or by giving a financial donation, your generosity allows the Red Cross to provide vital services to service members and their families right here in Central California.

Jessica Piffero,
Regional Communications Director

Doing it for Mom: A Volunteer’s Journey to the Red Cross

I’ve been asked why we wanted to create a cycling event with the Red Cross throughout the course of our involvement by many friends and family. Until very recently, I thought I had a great story: when I was younger I couldn’t afford a car and when I could they broke down. So I would ride to and from work and school on my bike. This led to longer rides and culminated with a ride across the country as part of a charity event benefiting the American Cancer Society.

I have done numerous rides for various charities over the years and was always a blood donor for the Red Cross. One day my wife and I were talking about how the Red Cross should do such an event. In fact, I became adamant that the one thing all those rides had in common was that they all probably received support from the Red Cross in some form or another. Why not give the Red Cross something back?

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The rest of the story is simple, we told our friend Ken Bauer who is on the local Red Cross Board and he wanted in,. We pitched it to the local CEO and BAM! We are putting together the 1st annual Operation: Ride for the Red bicycle ride to support Service for the Armed Forces, a program built to help local retired and active service personnel and their families. Given the location of a Red Cross office in Camarillo and that the routes going along two of the Ventura bases, it seemed a natural fit.

So what is my new story or explanation as to why we’re doing this? I was sharing our efforts with my Mother, Faye Delson, and she shared with me her involvement with the Red Cross. During World War II when both of her older brothers went oversees she was left to help her single mother raise her two younger sisters and find work where she could.

They happened to live near a Red Cross building and one day she decided she wanted to help but didn’t know how. The solution came from a Red Cross volunteer who offered to teach my mom how to knit. They would provide the materials, only if she would make a Red Cross sweater that would be sent overseas to a serviceman. She did, and has spent a lifetime knitting and later crocheting. I have watched her create many blankets over the years and never knew why she did it.

When she told her story to me I could see in her eyes that she was proud her son was paying back a gift of a lifetime. So now I just say I am doing it for my mom!

The first annual Operation: Ride for the Red event takes place on Saturday, November 7, 2015. Registration is still open – join us today!

Kevin Delson
Red Cross Volunteer

Three Easy Ways to Honor the Armed Forces on Memorial Day

Red Cross Central California Volunteers spend a Saturday planting a garden at a local Veteran's Home.
Red Cross Volunteers spend a Saturday planting a garden at a local Veteran’s Home.

The history of the Red Cross began on the battlefield, supporting military members during times of war. Today, the Red Cross continues to serve the Armed Forces, from the newly enlisted to long time veterans. So it’s only natural that the Red Cross Central California Region has continued this long tradition of supporting our local Armed Forces right here in our own community.

This Memorial Day, there are three easy ways you can help honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country:

1. Watch, Reflect, and Share
Meet Laura, a Red Cross volunteer with the No Veterans Die Alone program. Watch her unique volunteer story and share it with friends and family.

2. Download to Donate
From May 22 – May 26, you can support the work of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces by making a donation using the generosity app from Google’s OneToday website and mobile app (download for free on Google Play or Apple App Stores). This app aims to create a culture of giving every day and lets donors easily give $1 each day to causes and nonprofits that inspire them. Thanks to generous support from SanDisk, your $1 donation will be multiplied by 1x, 10x, 100x, or even 1000x… up to $50,000.

ORFTR-SaveTheDate_Page_13. Save the Date
This fall the Red Cross of Ventura County is hosting the first annual Operation: Ride for the Red, a bicycle ride to support the local Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program. On November 7, join us in a 30, 50, or 100 mile ride with all proceeds going directly to the SAF program and local military members. Check out the Facebook event page here.

So between road trips and cookouts this long weekend, choose one of these ways to take a moment to honor those who sacrificed all to serve our country.

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Day in the Life: Service the Armed Forces, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Carol-SAF3It was dinner time at the Ventura Veterans Home when Carol Rogers arrived. As a Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) volunteer, she often visits with local veterans both at the home and out in the community. Carol sat down at a table and began to chat with the residents about their outing next Wednesday.

“Wednesdays are reserved for offsite outings. We go to so many interesting places such as museums, car shows, ball games, swap meets, race tracks, missions, casinos, luncheons, historical locations, art galleries, and harbors,” said Carol, “I assist the veterans getting on and off the bus, support the vision impaired and help with any other physical need, sometimes just keeping the veteran company.”

On other days like today Carol often visits with the residents at the home to lift their spirits or simply be someone to talk to over a warm meal.

Carol-SAF1Carol’s husband Jim is a Viet Nam veteran, so she was instantly drawn to the SAF program when she signed up to volunteer. Together they serve as Red Cross representatives for the annual Veterans Stand Down in July where veterans get much deserved assistance with hygiene, dental work, legal assistance, and more.

But the SAF program doesn’t just support veterans. From the moment service members enlist, the Red Cross is there to support active duty military and their families. From resiliency training to linking military families during emergencies and to supporting wounded warriors, the Red Cross is dedicated to supporting all levels of military service.

Carol-SAF2SAF volunteers like Carol and Jim often visit local military bases for deployments and homecomings, to be a friendly face and warm hug for service members.

“Simpson was on the working crew until his unit deployed,” said Carol, “When he left I told him I would see him on the tarmac in 6 months when he returned. He said I wouldn’t remember who he was by then. When he returned he came up behind me at the Welcome Home and said, ‘Hi, bet you don’t remember me!’ while covering his name on his shirt. I said, ‘Bet I do! Hi Simpson, welcome home.’ He gave me the biggest hug with tears in his eyes.”

SAF volunteers like Carol Rogers are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian services in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12-18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.