Making the Conversation Easier

Volunteer Spotlight: Mercedes Nunez – Farm Pond Lane shelter 7/17/2017

Mercedes Nunez has dedicated her life to helping individuals and their families. Nunez was born in the Dominican Republic but was raised in New York where she worked as a correctional officer supervising juvenile, male and female inmates for twenty years. She then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she is a Family Advocate at a local high school. In addition to joining the American Red Cross this summer, Nunez also went on a mission trip to Mexico where she spent time translating for children at an orphanage as well as the mission workers.

Two months ago today, Nunez was deployed locally to assist the displaced families from the Farm Pond Lane apartment fire in Charlotte, N.C. She helped the families by translating their needs to Red Cross volunteers as well as helping to convey Red Cross inquiries to the families. When asked about her reason for volunteering, Nunez said, “I know when you don’t speak the language it can be hard. You know, being a child of immigrant parents I know how hard it can be to get help and to communicate with folks. When I saw the email to help I said ‘sure!’”

To some, Spanish is just Spanish. But Nunez explained how different dialects can affect the conversation: “It’s Spanish but I have picked up a lot of Mexican, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Colombian [dialects]. It’s Spanish but with a twist. The Spanish they teach you in school is different than what you speak.” When you look at two dialects side by side, they could use two different words to describe the same thing. When you do not understand the dialect, it can make understanding the conversation very difficult.

Farm Pond Lane’s shelter was Nunez’ first experience as a Red Cross volunteer. Her knowledge of two languages, as well as the various dialects, helped her to assist the families struggling through the events of their disaster in the best way. “I was already familiar with Crisis Ministry, I was familiar with the information [needed] on the forms,” Nunez explained. It was heartwarming for Nunez to see the faces of the impacted “light image1up” with comfort and relief when they realized the person they were asking for help could communicate with them. “It creates a sense of comfort,” Nunez added.

When asked about an individual who left a lasting impression at the shelter, Nunez shared the story of a man who had helped his young children jump out of a second story window to save them [during the fire] and had then jumped out himself. It paints a haunting visual for Nunez who lives on a second floor herself.

Nunez is looking forward to continuing her Red Cross journey potentially with more translating and Disaster Action Team (DAT) membership. Her skills as a bilingual translator will make her assistance as a Red Cross volunteer invaluable. When asked about her reasons for joining the Red Cross as a volunteer, Nunez responded, “I just wanted to help people.”

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers who can help with sheltering, feeding or translating. If you are interested in learning how you can help, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

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Authored by McKenna Estes, intern with the Western North Carolina Region communications department.

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A Glimpse of Hope

Volunteer Spotlight: Annie Bynum – deployed 9/11/2001

On September 11, 2001, millions of American lives were changed forever as four American planes were hijacked, two of which flew directly into the World Trade Center’s North and South towers. Thousands of Red Cross volunteers and employees from all over the country flew and drove to New York City to help overwhelmed law enforcement and displaced civilians. One of those who responded to the call was Annie Bynum, a volunteer for the Red Cross.

Bynum’s work in New York began with driving the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). “As I was driving the ERV,” Bynum recalls, “we were out providing meals and snacks to [our] team members: those that were working on the line, and police departments, and whoever needed food or a snack.”

Bynum described the scenes where she worked as a “war zone.” She worked long and strenuous days in downtown New York. “It was really a twelve-hour day process. We just kept going and going and never stopped,” she said.

Bynum’s unit also worked to provide meals for those who were working amongst the chaos and destruction, as well as the victims. In addition, her unit helped to find and assist those who needed medical attention.

“Client caseworkers, Mental Health, [there were] just so many different functions. Mass care was needed, there were shelters set up, and there were a variety of functions that were going on.”

As well as her job assisting with meals, she also worked alongside Mental Health employees during a process known as “sifting” for about two weeks. The process of sifting involved Bynum looking through the ruins and debris for personal items such as watches, jewelry, and other types of clothing. Even grimmer was the task of finding human flesh and body parts.

Another important part of her job while in New York was helping those who had lost family and friends try to cope with the pain of losing a loved one. Bynum that the overall mission when it came to reaching out to the community was to comfort them while they were dealing with their losses, whether it be the losses of family, jobs, friends, or homes. She remembers crying along with those who lost their family or their home during the attacks.

“I knew that there was nothing that I could really do but comfort them. I would give them a glimpse of hope. We all would talk with them and hug them… We cried with them while we were trying to comfort them. There were tears from our eyes because we could feel that hurt and the pain from the family members… We also let them know that they weren’t alone.”

Fortunately, the Red Cross was also able to help these families begin to put their lives back together by providing the families most affected by 9/11 with monetary assistance for food and clothing. The Red Cross was also able to afford the funeral costs for the families of those killed in the tragedy.

Among the many different experiences that Bynum had serving in the aftermath of 9/11, one of the most important ones was a connection she made with a girl named Lisa, a native New Yorker who lived downtown. During the second plane’s collision into the Twin Towers, Lisa attempted to capture photographs of the event while making sure that she was out of harm’s way. She gave a copy of one of the pictures that she had made to Annie, which helped to solidify a strong friendship that endured for years following the tragedy.

“My memories of the American Red Cross… I will never forget the great job that we did. Each and every one of us had something different to do, and we all tried our very best at thumbnail_20170824_111313.jpgdoing it. Hopefully, we accomplished our mission.”

While Bynum’s memories of the work that she did remain positive and cheerful, she still loathes the circumstances that created the need for work. “I hope and pray, [that] never, ever [again] in my lifetime that I be deployed to an assignment like 9/11.”

Bynum had served alongside the Red Cross since 1997. Regarding her experiences with the organization, she stated, “I have truly enjoyed my quality of service.”

The Red Cross is always looking for a few good volunteers. To learn what opportunities there are and how you can get involved, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

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Authored by Sam LaRose, intern with the Western North Carolina Region’s communications department.

 

Local Red Cross Volunteers Prepared to Assist with Hurricane Irma Relief

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Local Red Cross Volunteers Prepared to Assist with Hurricane Irma Relief
(CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Sept. 8, 2017— As Hurricane Irma barrels closer to the Southeastern United States, the American Red Cross is mobilizing a massive relief effort ahead of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm on record.

Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall along the Florida coast, packing approximately 175 mph winds and heavy rains, and causing devastating storm surge in its path. The powerful Category 5 storm, which has already caused destruction on many Caribbean island nations, could impact states through the mid-Atlantic region for several days.

The Red Cross is mobilizing hundreds of trained Red Cross disaster relief workers, truckloads of kitchen supplies as well as tens of thousands of ready-to-eat meals to support this response effort. Trailers full of shelter supplies including cots and blankets – enough to support more than 120,000 people – are on their way to help people affected by Irma.

“The Red Cross is working closely with its community partners, and emergency management and government officials to prepare in advance for any impact to our great state,” said Angela A. Broome Powley, regional executive officer. “We are especially thankful to our volunteers and donors, without whom we would not be able to deliver the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering.”

As many as 120 Red Cross emergency response vehicles are activated with more on alert. The Red Cross is also working in close collaboration with government officials and community partners in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to coordinate potential response efforts.

BE PREPARED
Those in the storm’s path can find a shelter by visiting redcross.org or by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The Emergency App also puts real time information about the storm and hurricane safety tips at your fingertips. The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

You can also follow these safety steps:
 Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
 If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
 Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
 Head for higher ground and stay there.
 Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
 Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
 Keep children out of the water.
 Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
 Make sure you have a plan and supplies for your pets. Download the free Red Cross Pet First Aid App for emergency preparedness tips, a pet-friendly hotel locator and an animal hospital locator.
During the storm:
 Stay indoors.
 Don’t walk on beaches, riverbanks or in flood waters.
 Use flashlights in the dark if the power goes out. Do NOT use candles.
 Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
 Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors and maintain direct control of them. Prepare an emergency kit for your pets, including sturdy leashes or pet carriers, food and water, bowls, cat litter and pan, and photos of you with your pet in case they get lost.
Find more information on preparedness on redcross.org.

YOUR HELP NEEDED NOW
The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Irma by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Irma relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS. The best way to ensure your donation will go to a specific disaster is to write the specific disaster name in the memo line of a check. We also recommend completing and mailing the donation form on redcross.org with your check.

VOLUNTEER TO HELP
The Red Cross is currently seeking volunteers to help those affected by Hurricane Irma. To volunteer, please visit redcross.org/volunteer to complete a volunteer application and see what opportunities are available.

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Prepare Before You Have to Act: Building Your Emergency Kit

Red Cross Ready

The best way to prepare is by being proactive; and the best place to start is right at home! Should a disaster occur, we want everyone to “Be Red Cross Ready.” Part of this means having all of the necessary supplies in case of an emergency. Having these supplies in one place is most efficient and helpful during a time of disaster. Create an “Emergency Kit” for you and your family that you can use at home or take with you in case of evacuation.

There are some basic supplies that should be included:

  • Water: one gallon per person, per day (minimum 3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (minimum 3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered/hand crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation/personal hygiene products
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Map of the area

This is the bare minimum that you should have in your emergency kit. These supplies might be enough to keep you comfortable and get you through; however, there is more to consider. You should take into account the types of disasters that are common in your area and prepare accordingly. Right now, with the devastation by Hurricane Harvey and the nearing of Hurricane Irma to the U.S., it is of vital importance to take all of the necessary precautions.

If your area is asked to evacuate you will not have to time to think of everything you would need in that moment, so being prepared will leave you with one less thing to worry about. You might add to your kit things like: rain gear, towels, extra clothing, and blankets or sleeping bags. Also, those important documents that you should have can take up space and may be damaged; consider putting them on a flash drive for easy portability.

If you have children there are other supplies you should pack, such as: diapers, bottles, formula, baby food, games and other activities. If a family member needs medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contacts, syringes, etc.) be sure to include these items as well.

And we can’t forget about our furry friends that many consider to be family. If you have pets you should include them in your emergency kit and evacuation plan. In your emergency kit you should have: food, water, cat litter/pan, any medications, a first aid kit, a photo with you in it in case they get lost, their bed, and some toys.

There is always the possibility of a disaster occurring in your area. Be proactive! Emergency kits can be life-saving tools; and although they cannot prevent a disaster from happening, they can give you the strength to make it through, as well as peace of mind knowing that you are ready.

Authored by Katelyn Shiring, an intern with the Western North Carolina Region’s communications team.

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Red Cross Prepares for Hurricane Irma While Continuing Response to Hurricane Harvey

The American Red Cross continues to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey while getting ready to respond as powerful Hurricane Irma nears the United States and its territories. Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm on record and people in the possible path of this storm should monitor weather reports and get prepared now.

In North Carolina, the Red Cross is establishing a statewide relief operation based in Charlotte, working closely with government officials and community partners to coordinate potential response efforts while identifying people and material resources so additional resources may be requested as needed. In addition, supplies are being staged so they may be dispatched quickly to wherever they may be needed should shelters be opened.

“We hope that within the next 24 hours the hurricane projection models give us a better idea about which parts of the state will be most impacted,” said Rick Schou, regional disaster officer, Western North Carolina Region. “We urge everyone to follow the path of this storm and to prepare now.”

Hurricane Safety Steps

Find a shelter by visiting redcross.org or by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The Emergency App also puts real time information about the storm and hurricane safety tips at your

fingertips. The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps. You can also follow these safety steps:

  • Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radioor TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
  • Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
  • Make sure you have a plan and supplies for your pets. Download the free Red Cross Pet First Aid Appfor emergency preparedness tips, a pet-friendly hotel locator and an animal hospital locator.

During the storm:

  • Stay indoors.
  • Don’t walk on beaches, riverbanks or in flood waters.
  • Use flashlights in the dark if the power goes out. Do NOT use candles.
  • Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
  • Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors and maintain direct control of them. Prepare an emergency kit for your pets, including sturdy leashes or pet carriers, food and water, bowls, cat litter and pan, and photos of you with your pet in case they get lost.

Find more information on preparedness on redcross.org.

TO MAKE A FINANCIAL DONATION:

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Irma by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED-CROSS texting the word IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

TO VOLUNTEER:

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to complete a volunteer application and see what opportunities are available.

TO DONATE BLOOD:
Visit redcrossblood.org for a location or blood drive near you.

Preparing Your Schools For Emergencies

School Prep

School is back in session! What better time to prepare your school, staff and students for emergencies and disasters than right now; during National Preparedness Month?

Our mission statement reads: The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. ​

Preventing or preparing is the first step to take when thinking about disasters. The Red Cross encourages everyone to “Be Red Cross Ready”. That means assembling emergency kits, making an evacuation plan and staying informed on your community’s risks and response plans in order to be fully prepared should a disaster strike.

For many children, school is a home away from home. It not only provides an academic education, it also encourages social engagement, teaches life skills, and provides a structured routine. Parents rely on schools and their staff to provide for and take care of their children 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and it all starts with being prepared.

The Red Cross has many tools available to the public for this purpose. For schools as a whole, there is the Red Cross Ready Rating Program. This self-paced, membership program helps determine your school’s level of preparedness and helps to strengthen areas that need improvement. For everything from active shooters to natural disasters, the Red Cross Ready Rating Program offers in-depth assessments along with videos to maximize your knowledge and provide the tools you need to be prepared.

A great way to proactively prepare your staff, is enrolling them in our group training courses. The Red Cross is the leading provider of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-compliant health and safety training. There are three options that are offered so you can pick the one that best fits the needs of your school. You can go online to http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/workplace/train-employees and sign up in just minutes!

For children, the Red Cross provides fun and effective teaching tools that will get your students involved and excited about being prepared! Sponsored by Disney, the Pillowcase Program is a perfect example. For grades third through fifth, students learn about personal preparedness and safety skills along with basic coping skills. This is a crucial aspect because when disaster strikes and families are not prepared they may not have the time to explain to their children what has happened and they may not be able to find the words to help comfort them. With this tool, children can learn the basics of processing what can be a traumatic experience and how to cope with their emotions.

Another example of a fun and effective tool is the Disney Mickey and Friends Activity Book. It uses interactive games and activities to engage students in a fun and easy-to-use way. It is available to download in both English and Spanish. Along with the Activity Book, you can download the Action Kit to help your students assemble their emergency kits, or pillowcases, and help them make a family evacuation plan.

With the Red Cross, your students can get involved in hands-on preparedness fun!

If you would like to get involved there are many volunteer opportunities. Visit www.redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.

Authored by Katelyn Shiring, an intern with the Western North Carolina Region’s communications team.

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ALL in for Wren

Your child being diagnosed with cancer is a parent’s worst nightmare. You hope and pray it could never be your child. For Brandi Jansen, her greatest fear was realized last summer when her daughter, Wren, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Looking back, all the signs were there. As a former trauma nurse, Jansen is trained in observing and for Wren, all the signs were there. As a three year old, you are going to be tired. But Wren was different in that she would put herself to bed instead of waiting for her parents to. Jansen also recalls Wren complaining of running low grade fevers, headaches as well as leg and ear pains. The family had had blood tests done to no avail until one week where Jansen decided her daughter’s symptoms had reached a critical level. Her grandparents had taken her for a walk as they had many times before, but afterwards, she was so tired and complained  her legs hurt to the point where she wouldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom, then her fever spiked. “We took her to the ER at Levine’s [Children Hospital] the next afternoon. After the MRI results of her legs and blood work came back, the doctors confirmed she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I told them they needed to scan her head because that seemed to be where most of her random symptoms were coming from. That MRI revealed three tumors; one behind her right ear, her left sinus and on the top of her head.” Proof that a mother is always right.

Wren UnicornSo started the long road of treatments and operations. As Wren’s treatment started, it became clear that Wren was going to need something to put a positive spin on all the blood transfusions and medicines she was taking. “Unicorns are her thing,” Jansen laughs. “The nurse who gave her first blood transfusion told her it was ‘unicorn juice’ and it would ‘help her feel so much better.’ It was true. Her color and energy returned. As long as we tie unicorns into it, she feels better.”

When asked to summarize her emotions at the time of Wren’s diagnosis, Jansen said, “Blindsided. As a nurse, I knew something was wrong. You never want to be the hypochondriac [parent] that assumes the worst and says ‘oh my kid has cancer.’ You feel like you do everything right but here this is and you can’t fix this.” As a mother, Jansen had a difficult time rationalizing the events that were uprooting her world. “It was important to me to make sure something good could come out of this.”

That was where the Red Cross came in. Jansen reached out to Theresa Jones, a neighbor of the Jansen’s who works for the Charlotte Metro Red Cross, to set up a blood drive and fast. “When Wren was receiving blood transfusions, the doctors told us there was a shortage. My husband said ‘well I’ll go donate now.’ They told us it wasn’t that simple.” Jansen made a decision right then and there to campaign for blood donations, not just for Wren but for others as well. Jansen did not want to hear the words “there’s a shortage” when her child and so many others were in need.

After the success of last year’s blood drive, the Jansen’s have decided to do it again. This year, the blood drive is being held at the Baxter Village YMCA and Jansen is hopeful for another success. “We have a goal of 200 donors to meet. But even if we got three individuals to come out and donate, we will have raised awareness and that’s a win for me.”

 

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Support kids with cancer, like Wren, and donate blood! The blood drive in honor of Wren will be at the Baxter Village YMCA, 857 Promenade Walk, Fort Mill, SC. Friday, September 1st from 1:30 pm – 6:30 pm and Saturday, September 2nd from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. Come out and roll up your sleeves!

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Authored by McKenna Estes, intern with the Western North Carolina Region communications department.