Monday, November 20, 2017

10 Holiday Cooking Safety Tips from Red Cross

Cooking is leading cause of home fires. Smoke alarms and other precautions can help prevent them.

Millions of people will gather for Thanksgiving to enjoy time with loved ones and a delicious holiday dinner this week. With cooking being the number one cause of home fires, the American Red Cross recommends that everyone follow these fire safety steps:
  1. 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 if your smoke alarm requires it.
  2. Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
  3. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended – stay in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  4. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  5. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  6. Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  7. Keep anything that can catch fire - pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains - away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  8. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  9. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  10. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
Bonus Tip
The Red Cross First Aid App provides expert advice for common mishaps or emergencies including cuts, burns and what to do if someone is choking. Download the app for free in your app store or text GETFIRST to 90999.

With the support of 4,400 partner organizations, the Red Cross has helped to make more than one million people safer through home visits to install free smoke alarms, assist families with developing fire escape plans and provide home fire safety education. This past year we worked closely with several amazing partners like Metro State University and the Denver Chapter of Hope Worldwide. As part of our #30DaysOfThanks, we want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for the support you give in the community. 

Join this Red Cross effort today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives. Visit for more information.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Too Long Alone - Restoring Family Links

Story and Photos By Karen Baldwin, Red Cross Restoring Family Links Caseworker

When I first met Shadia, it took only that first sight to halfway break my heart. She seemed young – VERY young. She had that slender, delicate look that makes one want to encircle her within a protective embrace. Huddling her arms close about herself, she sat hunched at the single, tiny table in her bare-as-bones one-room apartment. She bore the saddest expression on her beautiful young face, framed by a bright hijab – the only spot of brightness in the room.

Glancing around as we settled ourselves to talk on one of only two (hard) chairs, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of any curtains on the window, and the small, ragged futon sofa that clearly doubled as her bed -- the sole remaining content of the room. The other half of my heart broke to see this young girl in these circumstances.

Shadia’s ‘Restoring Family Links’ file revealed the terrible circumstances of her escape. Her mother had died giving birth to her twin sisters, Salma and Salha. Her father had been killed while serving in the Burundi military. She and her sister Hafsa, and the little twins, began living with her grandparents, two cousins and her Aunt, whose husband had been involved in politics and murdered because of it. But their home of Bujumbura, Burundi, was a still torn by civil war.

Shadia, then only 14, was at the market with her little sister Hafsa, her aunt and cousins when a rebel attack arose. In the midst of gunfire and violence, and not daring to return home, they fled, not even knowing if the rest of the family had gotten away. With the continuing gunfire and violence in the streets, it was unthinkable to consider returning home even after a little time had passed, as the danger had not. (Indeed, much later she would learn that her grandparents, still at home, had been murdered.) On foot, the little family troupe faced a journey of over 1500 kilometers to reach the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, far to the northwest. Prospects looked bad for a woman alone with four young children and no resources.

Long days spent traveling the road brought them to the refugee camp. But Shadia’s aunt was overwhelmed by all that had happened. After just a few months, her aunt stole away in the night with her own two children and all their belongings, leaving the two sisters confused and abandoned. After sleeping for a time in the camp’s refugee reception area, the officials eventually placed them with various foster families in the camp. A year later, 16-year old Shadia stayed home sick from school, one day, and her 10-year old sister went off to class as usual … but never came back.

Shadia, sick with grief and fear, searched desperately for her sister. In the camp. In the nearby town. With the camp officials. With the town’s police. But there was no word, no witness. Hafsa had disappeared without trace.
Shadia feared that everyone in her family had been killed, kidnapped, or both. She could not help but think with heartache of her tiny twin sisters, left behind those awful days ago. And wondered why someone had taken Hafsa from her, her sole remaining hearts’ tie. She had lost everything and everyone she had ever known.

But time passes, as it must, and two years later, Shadia was allowed to emigrate, alone, to the United States late in 2014. Shortly after, she was referred to the Red Cross Restoring Family Links team in Denver in hopes of finding her missing family members.We stayed in touch with Shadia providing both a shoulder to lean on and a sympathetic ear to the displaced young girl. Even here, Shadia had it rougher than most. She was placed with a family that had neither room nor much patience for her, but at least let her sleep on their couch. She soon ended up homeless, moving between the homes of school friends.

Through all this, Shadia somehow continued to attend school, learn English, keep up with her lessons, and learn to negotiate a sometimes baffling culture that does not always welcome people like her. She took care of herself as best she could. One day, while exploring yet another place to stay temporarily, a teacher at her school overheard and offered help. That teacher changed things for Shadia. She found Shadia a subsidized low-rent apartment and even picked up the extra expense for it that Shadia had no way to pay.

All her perseverance, though, could not allay her deep sadness. When I met her, her face was full of pain, her eyes were downcast and would not meet mine, her arms wrapped close around herself. Despite all she’d survived, and all she’d accomplished for herself, she was still utterly alone in the world, and clearly felt it.

The Search Begins 

Not every search is a straight line. With the help of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) we continued to search for her family for two years. After so long with either no tidings at all, or leads that hadn’t panned out, in June 2016, we at the Red Cross finally had good news for her … the Red Cross in Africa sent word that her paternal Aunt had been found, and this aunt knew where all three of Shadia’s sisters were -- I was so filled with anticipation to be able to tell her so!

Hearing the news that day, Shadia’s face awoke in light – her arms unwrapped from about herself and her hands raised to Allah together with her eyes. Her entire body seemed to unfold itself and a half-moon smile flashed large in relief and joy across her face. We celebrated, together.

But even then, we weren’t entirely out of the woods. Shadia did not know this ‘Aunt’ we had found, and doubt crept back into us when that Aunt proved unwilling to share the location of her sisters, and asked Shadia for money to travel to Rwanda. She refused to share phone numbers or addresses or the names of those with whom Shadia’s sisters were living. In our uncertainty, we at the Red Cross feared the possibility of an opportunistic stranger impersonating family and pressing for monetary gain (not, after all, an unknown exploit).

But we got lucky – the Burundian Red Cross had contacted a former neighbor who’d moved into the girls’ original home, and that kind woman knew where another of Shadia’s aunts – her maternal Aunt Betty, was living. She contacted Aunt Betty to tell her Shadia had long been searching for her sisters. Through a phone call, Shadia received the happiest, most exciting word that she had an aunt she’d never even known as a child, and not only that, all three of the missing sisters were there. But even so, Shadia wasn’t yet able to confirm things by actually speaking with her long-lost sisters.

Time for the American Red Cross Phone Project! 

Robbe Sokolove and I went back to Shadia’s apartment, once again. This time, even that small room seemed to have bloomed together with Shadia’s spirits. Not only had it been furnished with a real bed, a beautiful desk, some comforts and curtains and brightness, but Shadia even had a laptop computer for schoolwork, and had found a job. With her teacher’s help, Shadia had obtained financial aid, and gained admittance to a college in Denver, where (she told us proudly) she was soon to begin studying aeronautics and pursuing her dream of becoming a pilot.

With a mix of hope and trepidation, we sat with her to place the call to her sister.

There they were! All three of Shadia’s sisters were living with their Aunt Betty, happy and healthy and each attending school. Shadia chattered joyfully with each of them in turn, beginning the process of re-connecting and catching up.

Shadia’s sisters were as happy to hear from Shadia as she was to hear their voices. And her family has now expanded to include her Aunt Betty. We could see the joy and excitement visibly radiating throughout Shadia’s whole being as they finally spoke together, after so many years apart.

Thanks to her teacher, the Red Cross, and her own strong will, Shadia’s future has been entirely changed – not only in the opportunities she has found here, but in the joy of reunion with her long-lost sisters and Aunt. No longer alone, no longer anguished, no longer destitute, the future for her looks bright, as bright as her eyes now shine when we see her.

The American Red Cross can only do our work to alleviate human suffering, thanks to partners like The Ball Foundation. The Ball Foundation gives $300,000 annually to the American Red Cross as a Disaster Responder Program member and just announced an additional gift of $300,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for total giving of $600,000 to the Red Cross globally.

Details on the Ball Foundation's donation to the IFRC is at: Ball Foundation grant to IFRC. and details about their gift as a member of the Disaster Responder Program is at: Disaster Responder Program

Friday, November 10, 2017

Celebrate Veterans Day...Everyday

A photo from our story about the Homeless Veterans
Stand Down.
Story by Bill Fortune, a veteran and a Red Crosser

Veterans Day is a day to recognize the sacrifices that members of our armed forces have made throughout America’s history. It began as Armistice Day following the end of WWI. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day saying, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”

After WWII, Americans saw the sacrifices that again were made to protect our freedom and witnessed again during the Korean War. The voices rose to have Armistice Day become more inclusive of all the sacrifices that have been made and that will be made. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law that made the name change from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Since that time our resolve has been tested on many occasions and our freedom remains in tact and our appreciation for those who have served remains unwavering. 

Father/Daughter photo from our story about Red Cross
support no matter what your rank.
Across America there are ceremonies, parades and events commemorating all veterans for their sacrifice in the protection of our freedom.

Celebrating Everyday
The American Red Cross celebrates Veterans Day every day of the year through our Service to Armed Forces program. Many of our Red Cross volunteers are veterans who recognize the value of Red Cross services and the importance of caring for those who serve in our armed forces.

A photo from our story about a letter
home from Vietnam
Every day, the Red Cross provides hundreds of global emergency communications services that serve to connect a service member to a family back home. Every day our volunteers provide comfort and care to thousands of veterans at military treatment facilities and veteran hospitals and clinics across the country and around the globe. Every day we partner with military support organizations to help our military members and their families cope with deployments and to rebuild their lives after deployment.  Every day we provide access to financial assistance to military members and their families. Every day we provide community outreach and conduct resiliency courses and workshops for military members and their families.

Whenever possible we like to post stories on this blog about military members, family members and veterans and how the Red Cross has supported them. 

Here is a list of recent stories showing how we thank our veterans through service:

Every day we recognize and remember the sacrifice. Every day we are here for our service members, their families and our veterans and every day we salute them for making our lives safer.

Thank you to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. You are in our hearts, every day. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nationwide is on Red Cross' Side

The shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States.  In this incident 58 people died and more than 500 were injured. The American Red Cross responded immediately by providing the necessary blood to save lives, giving care and comfort to survivors, families of the deceased, and members of the community.

The American Red Cross deployed 150 volunteers from all over the country. Volunteers reached out to people at the Family Assistance Center, in hospitals, at memorials and vigils, during blood drives, and in private homes. Their assistance made a huge difference to the people affected and their families.

Yadira (R) coordinates with Natividad Lewis about
supporting the Las Vegas community. Photo by
Bill Fortune/American Red Cross
Yadira Rodriguez, a Nationwide associate, was among those volunteers. Using her personal time and with the support of her manager and team, she deployed to Nevada quickly following the tragedy.

After her arrival to Las Vegas she reached to the Hispanic community affected by the tragedy, by partnering with, local churches, NGO’s and the local media. “The response from the community was amazing, the city came together and helped anyway they could,” said Yadira, who has been volunteering for the Red Cross for over four years. She received the 2017 Community Hero Award for International Services for her work with the Hispanic community in Colorado.

“The work that Yadira did for us was extremely valuable,” said Josh Lockwood, Red Cross Administrator for External Relations. “We were able to engage the Hispanic population more effectively so that they could receive Red Cross services.” Yadira’s work also served to improve the capacity of the Red Cross of Southern Nevada by recruiting volunteers of Hispanic descent.

The shooting in Las Vegas was an unprecedented tragedy and will always remain in the hearts and minds of the community and people affected. However, they will also remember that the Red Cross was there to help and guide them through this difficult process. Strong partnerships with organizations like Nationwide help the Red Cross respond to the needs of the community and make a remarkable difference.

Nationwide stands shoulder-to-shoulder with
the Red Cross. Photo by Axl David, American Red Cross
Nationwide, the Nationwide Foundation and the American Red Cross have a longstanding and significant partnership in Colorado and across the country. Since the company's first blood drive in 1944 in Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide associates have given around 14,000 pints annually — potentially saving 42,000 lives each year. As the country’s first corporate onsite donation center located in Nationwide’s home office, Nationwides associates represent about 5 percent of the local blood supply.

Nationwide does more than roll up their sleeves to give blood. The Nationwide Foundation is a founding member of the Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, contributing more than $16 million since 2000, to assist Red Cross with immediate resources to prepare for and respond to disasters.