Red Cross Stays Busy in Sumter

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Written by: Nancy Cataldo, Executive Director, American Red Cross, Sandhills Chapter

Yesterday, the Sandhills Chapter of the American Red Cross was very busy helping members of the community recover after a home fire, as well as practicing for future hurricane responses.

Red Cross volunteer, Steve Shumake, responded to a fire that completely destroyed a home in Sumter.  In total, he assisted a family of four including a nine year-old child. He provided the family financial assistance to purchase food and clothing lost in the fire, as well as temporary lodging and referrals to local agencies.

One adult suffered severe burns and was flown to the August Burn Center in Georgia.  We have been in contact with the Augusta Chapter of the Red Cross to check on the client in the hospital and get updates on his condition. We will continue to be there for this family on their road to recovery.

Yesterday we were also busy participating in a State Hurricane Exercise in Clarendon County.  The exercise involved a shelter opening at Manning High School as a result of a hurricane evacuation. Red Cross staff and volunteers partnered with South Carolina Emergency Management and the Department of Social Services (DSS) to open the shelter and provide services to the individuals that registered. We also had a volunteer that staffed the Clarendon Emergency Operations Center.

As part of the day, the Red Cross trained 42 DSS workers in Shelter Operations and 12 people participated in our Shelter Simulation class. Our partners at McDonald’s in Manning provided the lunch and Clarendon School District 2 provided snacks and drinks to all participants.

As you can see yesterday was a busy day.  We were able to help a family in their darkest hour and also prepare to help our community in the event of a large disaster because of you. Thank you to our dedicated volunteers for giving their time and to our financial donors for supporting our mission each and every day.

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Red Cross Takes Steps Now to Prepare for Hurricane Season at the Rachel Hodges Leadership Institute

Hurricane season has arrived!  As you prepare to safeguard your families it is important to plan for the worst and know and understand the resources that are available to you. 

It is also very important for the Red Cross to train and prepare to be ready to respond during hurricane season.  For that reason, the Red Cross, Francis Marion University and the Konduros Fishermen Fund hosted the inaugral Rachel Hodges Leadership Institute from May 19 -24, providing volunteers with a new perspective on disaster training and ensuring that everyone is prepared for the 2012 Hurricane Season. 

In total, over 350 volunteers and staff from 12 states traveled to Florence, SC to recieve training in specialized areas of disaster preparedness and response at the Intstitute. 

One of our training highlights was the Red Cross 53-foot mobile kitchen, the “Spirit of America.”  During the two-day “Disaster Kitchen Training” course, volunteers gained the opportunity to see first-hand how to manage mass feeding operations during large scale disasters.  The “Spirit of America” is a fully self-contained trailer, designed to daily produce 30,000 hot “home-style” meals within heavily impacted disaster areas.  Meals prepared in the unit can then be loaded onto mobile feeding trucks to be distributed to disaster victims throughout affected areas.

During the exercise, Red Cross volunteers cooked food donated thanks to Perdue and American Italian Pasta Company.  Once the 500 meals were prepared, the volunteers loaded them in mobile feeding trucks and delivered them to five fixed locations throughout the Pee Dee.

The hands on training was broken down in three key areas….

1.) cooking the meals 2.) packaging the meals 3.) loading the meals in our mobile feeing trucks 4.) delivering the meals to the community

Red Cross volunteers were up bright and early at 5 am to cook meals inside of the “Spirit of America”

Volunteers packaged 500 hot meals that morning.

Meals are placed into cambros and then loaded into mobile feeding trucks for distribution at five feeding sites.

Sonnoco Plant workers were among the many to receive a hot meal that early afternoon.

Click here if you would like to see more photos of the “Disaster Kitchen Training” excercise.

This week was filled with insightful learning opportunities. Volunteers and staff also participated in the annual South Carolina Hurricane Meeting and Excercise to prepare and practice emergency readiness and response plans.

In addition, President of Humanitarian Services for the National American Red Cross, Jerry DeFrancisco traveled from Washington, D.C. to deliver a keynote speech at the Institute Welcome Luncheon. DeFrancisco oversees operations of more than 1,200 Red Cross locations across the country and around the world.  He inspired attendees by sharing his personal experiences and the true values of what makes an outstanding, visionary leader. 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or signing up for Red Cross disaster training, please contact our Regional Volunteer Manager, Katharine.Stafford@redcross.org or call (803) 540-1242.

Thank you to all of the generous sponsors for making the Leadership Institute possible!

Be Safe this Thanksgiving in the Kitchen!

The kitchen is the place where family and friends love to gather, but it is also the setting of more fires than any other room in the house.

Cooking is the number one cause of home fires in this country and during the holidays, the American Red Cross wants everyone to be aware of steps they should take to avoid a fire while cooking.

Click here to take a Red Cross quiz to see if your cooking safety knowledge is up to snuff!

Start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.  Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food.  If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.  Other safety steps include:

  • Check your food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen.  Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • 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.

The Red Cross responded to more than 62,960 home fires during the 2011 fiscal year.  House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States.  To learn how to prevent a fire in your home and how to keep members of your household safe, you can download The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist.  Downloadable fact sheets are also available at www.columbiaregionredcross.org on how to be fire safe over the holidays, how to avoid home heating fires, candle safety, proper use of smoke alarms and teaching your children what to do in the event of a fire.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.columbiaregionredcross.org.

“It’s Going to be Okay”

Story written by Ginny Parrish-Loy, American Red Cross Volunteer

10-year-old, Trenton tells Red Cross worker, Madison Webb, what happened to him and his family when a tornado ripped through their neighborhood on Wednesday, November 16th.

When the family of 10-year-old Trenton, 3-year-old Kaiden, and 2-year old Brooklin were preparing dinner Wednesday evening, they saw tornado warnings on their television.  When the storm got closer, they gathered the family and ran next door to their grandmother’s house.  They looked up and saw a funnel cloud coming towards them and a barn being destroyed across the field.  The horrified family ran inside and huddled together in a closet.  Trenton said he was terrified and that all he could do was scream.  His younger brother, Kaiden, looked at him and said, “It’s going to be okay.”  And it was, for them.

Across the street, the elderly couple who lived there was not so lucky.  They both lost their lives that night when the tornado slammed into their home.  Sadly, there was also another fatality down the street from Trenton’s home.

While telling his story, 10-year-old Trenton said, “The house across the street is now missing and they are gone.”  Trenton’s grandmother says the children will need counseling to help them get through this disaster.  Red Cross mental health volunteers will be there to meet Trenton’s needs and those of all who were affected by this disaster.

Since the night the tornado touched down, the Red Cross has had an Emergency Response Vehicle on the scene providing meals, snacks and drinks to affected residents and over 70 first-responders.  In addition, the Red Cross has been conducting damage assessment, client case work and is distributing clean up kits and hygiene kits throughout the neighborhood.

Siblings hug the day after they survived a destructive tornado in their neighborhood in Rock Hill.

Young Kaiden could not have said it better, “It’s going to be okay.”  And they will be okay, with the help of family, friends, community and the American Red Cross.

You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.  Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.  To make a financial donation, click here or call (803) 329-6575.  Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter at 200 Piedmont Blvd Rock Hill, SC 29732 .

For more pictures of this disaster, click here.

A Special Thank You to Our Veterans!

American Red Cross disaster volunteers, Al Noft and Dan Coto, prepare for Veteran’s Day in Columbia, S.C.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 The Red Cross is home to many quiet heroes, but this week we spotlight two Veterans of the Vietnam Era: Al Nooft and Dan Coto.  Each man has his own story, but each share a need to pay it forward.  Al says he came to the Red Cross “to return the favor for people who are not so lucky.  Dan says he sees his work at the Red Cross as an extension of his service to his country in the active Army and as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT. 

Al Nooft says he will never forget the day that he got his letter from the Draft Board.  It was February 15, 1969.  He spent the next 30 years serving, first in the active Army, then the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves.  He was lucky.  His active duty time was spent at Fort Ord in California.  Al began as a private and went on to Officer Candidate School and retired as a Major.

Al came to the Red Cross three years ago.  He had retired and wanted to give back to the community for the good life he has enjoyed.  Soon after Al began volunteering, his wife became ill and he stepped back for a time to take care of her.  After his wife‘s death, he returned to the Red Cross, this time to have something to do to fill the time.  He volunteers as many hours as most of us spend at our full time jobs.

Al wanted to serve people across the county.  He got his wish.   He has deployed three times this year: to the North Dakota and Memphis floods and in New Jersey after Hurricane Irene. He is trained in sheltering and has served as an associate, a supervisor and as a manager.

Dan Coto was born and raised in New York City.  He entered the Army in 1966.  He was stationed in the Southern Region of Vietnam, between Saigon and Tin Ninh as a tank commander.  He served in the Tet Offensive.   After serving his country in war, he went back to New York City and got his degree from City College, going to night school to become an accountant.  Over the next years he served as a Volunteer Firefighter and EMT in New York and in Florida.  Eight months ago he came to the Red Cross in Columbia to offer his services.  He says he saw the earthquake in Haiti and the Tsunami in Japan and became excited about the mission of the Red Cross.  He was quickly trained and put to work.  He serves as a government liaison and as the regional training lead.  He also serves on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) as a DAT Captain.

Coto says, “It’s in my gut to be a volunteer.  It started with the fire department and never went away.”  He finds it very rewarding to give “the teddy bear” to a child who has just lost everything.

Dan deployed to Bingham, New York for five weeks after Hurricane Irene.  He says he loves using his brain again and enjoys the staff and other volunteers.  He is at the Red Cross office in Columbia between 35 to 40 hours each week.

The theme of service is ingrained in both these men.  Both of them say their time serving in the armed services altered their views of responsibility and leadership. 

So today, when you see a Veteran, thank him or her for their service.  You might just be talking to a Red Cross Volunteer, too!

Red Cross Shelters and Feeds Displaced Residents in Sumter

Garden Circle Apartment resident, Mr. Burgess, rests and eats a meal at the Red Cross shelter, located at Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department

Red Cross disaster workers  from the Columbia Region provided shelter and meals to 19 residents that were evacuated after a fire occurred Saturday, October 22nd at the Garden Circle Apartments in Sumter, SC.  The shelter was open for five days and was located at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department on 155 Haynesworth Street. 

Over this five day period, the Red Cross provided 72 overnight stays, 254 meals, 236 snacks and 19 hygiene kits.  24 trained disaster workers, including nursing support, were on the scene 24-7 providing mental health counseling and emotional support to meet the immediate, disaster-caused needs of each resident.

Shetler residents gather to eat a meal together at the Red Cross Shelter located at Sumter County Parks and Recreation.

Disaster volutneer, Dan Coto serves drinks for shelter residents.

This is the second time that the Red Cross has provided a shelter for the residents of the Garden Circle Apartments.   On July 16th another fire caused residents to be evacuated and a shelter was opened at the Bernie Center, remaining open for five days. During that shelter operation the Red Cross provided 60 overnight stays, 149 meals, 672 snacks and 15 hygiene kits to shelter residents.

“During both shelter operations, our dedicated disaster volunteers were on the scene and provided a safe place and positive support system for our shelter residents,” said Scott R. Salemme, regional chief executive officer, American Red Cross, Columbia Region.  “We are not a government agency and rely solely on the generosity of the community to support our disaster relief program.  We ask that our community continues to support our important work by making a financial donation to help as we prepare for and respond to disasters every day.” 

You can help your neighbors prepare for and recover from disasters like home fires by making a financial contribution to the American Red Cross today by visiting http://www.columbiaregionredcross.org, calling (803) 775-2363, or mailing a check to the American Red Cross, 1155 N. Guignard, Suite 2, Sumter, SC 29150.

For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information, visit www.redcross.org/homefires.