Friday, November 30, 2012

Scores of Coloradans Contribute to Sandy Relief Efforts

Since Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast on Oct. 29, more than 70 American Red Cross workers from Colorado have deployed to assist with Red Cross relief efforts, and more deploy each week as the Red Cross continues its massive outreach to affected residents.

As of Nov. 28, Colorado has deployed 73 total workers – with 30 workers still deployed on the East Coast. Volunteers have accounted for 90 percent of the local Red Cross workers deployed, and seven local employees also deployed – several who spent Thanksgiving working side-by-side with their Red Cross colleagues.

Colorado workers are fulfilling a wide range of Red Cross duties as they contribute to the largest Red Cross disaster response in five years. Volunteers have delivered front-line basic needs by driving through affected neighborhoods to deliver hot meals, setting up fixed feeding sites, staffing shelters to provide a warm, safe refuge, and distributing massive quantities of recovery supplies like clean-up kits, blankets, gloves and batteries. Local volunteers have also met one-on-one with affected residents to meet their physical and emotional needs, including six volunteers who are serving in disaster mental health.

Don Hughes and Peggy Gray are two of many volunteers who supported sheltering.

Don Hughes-worked in the Bronx, New York. “By the time we left, the clients were pretty sad to see us go,” Don said. He said he was particularly impressed by the size of the Red Cross operation as well as the attitudes and hard work of his fellow volunteers.

“I'm always impressed by how much gets done through the Red Cross," he said. He added, "One nice thing about the Red Cross is the people are there because they want to be there.”

Peggy served at a shelter that had more than 200 overnight residents at its height, ranging in age from children to a 99-year-old.

“This was my first deployment out of state, and I think one of the things that really impressed me the most-- not having a lot of experience-- was that everyone had their role to play, and really pitched in,” Peggy said. “I was very impressed. Everything went very smoothly.”

Read stories about the Red Cross response to Sandy and the work our volunteers are accomplishing by visiting

Earn extra money this holiday season by becoming a certified Red Cross babysitter/caregiver

Tomorrow is December 1st! It's almost hard to believe, but it's here. This time of year is probably one of the busiest, especially for parents: there are holiday parties to attend, after-school concerts and activities, and of course the need to do some "Santa" shopping sans-kiddos. With all the running around that most families will do from now until New Year's, the opportunities for competent babysitters definitely should be picking up. Combine that with the fact that most young people will have some time off from school, it's a great time to make some extra spending money by picking up some new gigs.

I myself babysat from about the age of 10 until I was 16, and had a few regulars. I've done anything from a late New Year's Eve night to an "au pair" week at the beach with the family, being an extra helping hand with the three little ones. (That's me in the collage to the right, with some of "my" kids, ages 6, 3 and 1 and the time, circa 1995.) Even though I was young, the parents felt comfortable with me, especially because I took the Red Cross Babysitting course (held at our local YWCA) where I learned everything from basic First Aid/child CPR to house fire safety and everything in between. (I even still vividly remember the video on how to contain a fire by shutting doors and stuffing towels/blankets underneath them!)

Designed especially for young people (ages 11 to 15), the Red Cross Caregiving & Babysitting course prepares you to become a safe and competent babysitter - and of course, shows parents that you take this responsibility seriously. You'll gain practical knowledge such as feeding and diapering infants, and confidence in your skills through videos, hands-on activities and class discussions. You can also sign up for a course which also includes Pediatric First Aid/CPR to earn these certifications as well.

I highly recommend going through the training if you're considering babysitting as a side job - you'll be more comfortable and prepared, plus, you can make the case for that extra dollar or two an hour that you'll well deserve for being the best babysitter possible! Learn more about these and our other training courses at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Colorado Gives Day is Dec. 4!

Black Friday sales have come and gone, Small Business Saturday has had its moment and the frenetic clicking of Cyber Monday has subsided. But there’s good news for those wishing to give philanthropically this year (or those who still have some stubbornly hard-to-shop-for folks on their list): Colorado Gives Day is just around the corner. Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 4, is a statewide initiative to inspire and unite donors to “give where they live” through online philanthropy.

During Colorado Gives Day, donors may make gifts (as little as $10) in their own names or as a gift in someone else’s name using The 24-hour event also includes non-profit trivia games (through Nov. 30) and a $300,000 incentive fund provided by event sponsor First Bank to further leverage donations received. In addition to providing bandwidth and incentives for the event, the Community First Foundation also covers the credit card fees for donations, ensuring that 100% of monies received benefit the organizations involved.

The Mile High Region of the Red Cross is one of more than 1,000 non-profits participating in this year’s event. During Colorado Gives Day in 2011, the Mile High Region received more than $100,000 in donations from its supporters, ranging in size from $10 to $10,000. This year, the Red Cross hopes to raise at least $100,000. Every gift helps us reach that goal.

You can make your gift on Dec. 4, or you can log on now to schedule your gift to occur on Dec. 4. For more information and to donate, visit

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The best thing to be thankful for, and a great gift idea

By Patricia Billinger

Jody Connally had reason to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: He is alive, thanks to his two teenaged children.

A year ago on Thanksgiving Day, Connally was changing the oil on his truck with his then-17-year-old son, Matthew, when Connally collapsed of sudden cardiac arrest. Matt ran to the house and told their mom to call 911, then pulled his dad from under the car and began CPR. His sister, Kate, who was 14 at the time, came to his side to help. Kate had learned CPR through a Red Cross babysitting course, and she performed rescue breaths while Matthew continued compressions.

“I had passed away,” Jody said. “The doctors told me I experienced sudden cardiac death.”

But his children’s efforts helped bring him back to life. Their use of CPR kept vital blood and oxygen flowing to his brain until emergency responders could arrive and transport him to the hospital.

“My kids really rose to the occasion. I love them more than anything,” Connally said.

Here at the Red Cross, we are thankful for all the everyday heroes like Matt and Kate Connally, who have used skills to save a life. We’re also thankful for the dozens of local volunteers who help to teach our CPR, First Aid and AED courses here in Colorado.

As we head into the holiday season, we ask you to consider giving the ultimate gift this year: the gift of life. Learn how to perform CPR and use an AED, or give a loved one the gift of training. The Red Cross is offering 20% off all courses through 1/31/12 if you use the coupon code HOLIDAY0113 when you book a class online or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

7 Kitchen Tips for A Safe Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving is all about food and family – turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and family time. However, preparing holiday goodies can lead to disaster: The kitchen is the setting of more fires than any other room in the house, and cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home.

Here are seven safety steps to use while preparing the Thanksgiving feast.  
  1. Start with this most important rule: Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave even for a short period of time, turn off the stove. 
  2. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make children stay at least three feet away from cooking applicances.
  3. Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains – away from the stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  4. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  5. Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen.
  6. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  7. Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
Another helpful step is to download the Red Cross First Aid app. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the app gives instant access to information to handle the most common first aid emergencies.
House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States. To learn how to prevent a fire in the home and how to keep members of the household safe, download The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist.You can also watch the video news story below for additional tips and information.

We wish you a happy, healthy, safe Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Toast to Give Thanks Like No Other

Giving Thanks Event Welcomes Donors
By Mary Jacoby Hastings

Brown Palace Hotel lobby, Denver, CO  (photos by Mary Jacoby Hastings)
On Veterans Day, November 11, 2012, donors in the American Red Cross Giving Thanks program gathered at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado to pay tribute to active members of the U.S. Armed Forces and veterans worldwide. SAF Giving Program members are among the most valuable Red Cross partners. They receive the highest level of recognition in channels that reach military members and the general public. When companies and foundations join the SAF Giving Program, they stand beside us in caring for and thanking military heroes and their families.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Best Topic for Conversation Over The Holiday Dinner Table

November and December bring lots of occasions for get-togethers with family and friends.  These occasions are the perfect time to chat about disaster preparedness and discuss preparedness plans.

“What? Why? Isn’t that a bit of a downer?”

Sure, disasters aren’t the most light-hearted of discussions. But here are 3 Top Reasons to Bring up Disaster Preparedness Around your Holiday Dinner Table:
  1. These are the people – family and close friends – you’re most likely to turn to and rely on if a disaster upsets your life, and vice versa. 
  2. You’re celebrating and being thankful - what better time to acknowledge all the daily comforts that we have and think about what steps you’d need to take to protect  yourself and to make your life as comfortable as realistically possible during disaster times?
  3. It’s safer and less divisive than talking politics or bringing up old family feuds.
Here’s a simple fact: it takes a community to survive a disaster. Even people who are well-prepared need a place to go if a disaster has destroyed their home, and we all must contribute to making sure we assist neighbors, family and friends who are elderly, disabled, or face other challenges.

Top 3 Questions to Ask Around the Holiday Dinner Table:
  1. Where will you go if you have to evacuate your home? Your entire city? All evacuation plans should include a nearby meet-up place as well an alternative location that is not likely to be affected by the flood, wildfire, tornado or other disaster in your neighborhood.
  2. How will we get a hold of each other if a disaster happens? What if phones are down? Communications is an essential part of your emergency planning. You may not have time to grab your cell phone, you may have lost it, the battery may be dead, or cell phone (and sometimes landline) service may be out completely during a disaster. Picking a meet-up place is one simple solution so that you will know where to find your loved ones if you have to evacuate. Also, select an out-of-area contact that you can call with updates. That friend or family member can serve as the hub to deliver updates to other people inquiring about you. Discuss who is going to serve as this hub during your dinner conversation.
  3. What plans have we made for loved ones with special needs, pets or other people we care for? Make sure that if Aunt Sally is your emergency place to stay, she isn’t deathly allergic to Fido! And if she is, figure out where you can take your furry family members. Go through this process for anyone you have responsibility for or who has special needs like medication, mobility issues, etc. Also, think about friends who live alone and don’t have family in town, and encourage them to participate in planning!

I’d love to hear your comments below on how it goes :)

Mile High Region Volunteer Came to Run, Stayed to Help in NYC

Runner and social worker Erin Wertheimer had only completed her beginning classes as a Red Cross volunteer when she found herself in the midst of the chaos Hurricane Sandy wrought in New York. A licensed clinical social worker and new Red Cross volunteer, Erin was in New York City for the marathon and found herself questioning whether a marathon was what New York really needed at the time. “We were feeling a lot of guilt, just like, how can we go running through these neighborhoods where everyone has lost power, and they have nothing?” she said.

When the race was cancelled, Erin banded with other runners who were in town for the race, and put her energy towards helping those in need. Upon entering some of the communities, she found that although the shelters she encountered were well- stocked with food, water and clothing, mental health services were in high demand. As a result, Erin spent time in the hard-hit Staten Island area, offering her skills and background as a social worker to those navigating the psychological trauma of the disaster.

Erin is a recent Red Cross volunteer who has been in practice for seven years as a mental health professional and is currently working at Aurora Mental Health. Among the victims she helped in Staten Island was a woman weathered the storm in her home, where she’d lived for 20 years. “She just refused to leave her house,” Erin said, “which is totally understandable, but really, nobody could live there. It was completely damaged.” As a social worker, Erin was able to assist the woman, who was also trying to find a lost pet amid the wreckage. “She wasn’t as bad as I was expecting,” she said, “but you could tell there was a lot of shock and trauma that she went through.”

Erin observed that mental health services are still desperately needed in areas affected by the hurricane. That is one of the needs Red Cross teams are working to address, as trained mental health workers hit the streets alongside Safe and Well workers and caseworkers, going door-to-door to check on residents. It takes time, and a lot of footwork. “These people are walking around experiencing these horrific events, there’s such a need,” Erin said.

Erin says she is hoping to contribute her services again as soon as her formal volunteer training is complete – to hopefully deploy as part of a formal Red Cross disaster mental health team.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Crossing" Paths: an Impromptu HS Reunion

To be honest, Dear Reader, the original thought of interviewing Chris DuPuy had nothing to do with this headline.  That’s because Mr. DuPuy, a 57 year old Montrose resident who moved here 20 years ago recognized me, actually my name tag, at a Red Cross training session in Grand Junction last year. 

After a few moments staring at each others name tags and in each others face,  we realized that we went to the same high school in Denver and after a year has passed, I thought I’d call him up and say, “I’d like to write a little story about how our lives have crossed paths again after so many years.  Could I write this piece?  We’re different people who went off on different paths and after 40 years, converging at Red Cross and reconnecting.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meet Your Bloggers: Neal Elinoff (Western Colo. Chapter)

Hi everybody,

My name is Neal Elinoff and I live in Telluride. 

Here is a little info about me. I have 4 grown children living in NY, Chicago and San Diego and together with my wife of 10 years, Karla, we've recently adopted three abandoned sisters from Honduras; Emili (9), Karlita (12) and Dayan (13).  We've been caring for them for almost two years in the capital city of Tegucigalpa and moved them this past spring to the Island of Roatan for safety (Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world) and a better school.  Dona Minerva, an “abuelita” (grandmotherly nanny) lives with them, cooks for them and makes sure they do their homework because we've not been able to get their visas, yet.  To imagine what it was like for them in Tegucigalpa, they lived behind razor wire and steel gates, leaving their little home only to get on a bullet-proof mini-bus for school 5 days a week. This is no way for children to grow up, but it was a lot better than their orphanage, the description of which could be another blog story of its own. (Disclosure: my wife’s half-brother was the father to these three girls before the state of Honduras took them into the state orphanage.)

Karla and I own a small retail store in Telluride that sells higher-end jewelry and fine art, and we also have a couple of rental condos that we rent out to tourists and visitors.  All of this keeps us busy year ‘round.
I grew up in Denver, studied Statistics at CU, went to Medical School in Grenada, lived in Houston where I started my first family and also Neal’s Ice Cream & Neal’s Cookies stores, lived in Chicago where I invented a counter-top commercial coffee roaster, and finally opened a restaurant in Silverthorne before moving to Telluride in 1995 and getting into the gallery business.

Except for 12 years in Houston and Chicago, I've lived nearly all my life in Colorado and for the last 18 years, I've been in Telluride.

Before moving to Telluride, I enjoyed fundraising for non-profits and still intend to get back into that, especially since finding out that the Red Cross is 100% donor funded.  Explaining to people, even strangers, the ethical need to do something for others who are less fortunate is what gives me the foundation for volunteering, myself. In later blogs, I’d like to write about ethics; what it is and how it affects happiness for both self and others.  Indeed, it is the very foundation we use for volunteering and can be explained rationally, even for atheists and agnostics. In the meantime, look for my monthly posts covering Western and Southwest Colorado. I hope you’ll join me in making our region the most effective volunteers and fundraisers in the nation.

Restoring Family Links Helps Reconnect Separated Loved Ones

Mary Jacoby Hastings
Through its Restoring Family Links (RFL) program, the Red Cross helps thousands of people around the world in their search for loved ones separated by war or disaster. The separation could be the result of an extreme natural disaster or war somewhere in the world, some kind of major event that severs normal communication between immediate family members.

In an ongoing case, Michele, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo now living in Colorado, contacted the Mile High Region of the American Red Cross in Denver when he learned about the program in August 2012. A widower, Michele had been separated from his three children by war and was desperate to find his family, the family he had not been able to contact for five difficult years.

He began the paperwork process with Tim Bothe, manager of International Services in Colorado. The National office of the American Red Cross completed the screening process then put the search into motion. Typically the International Red Cross (ICRC) and other international societies conduct the actual search overseas.
Michele Lubembela

Within two months, Michele’s three children, the youngest of which is five years old, were located in a refugee camp in Zimbabwe. The two older children wrote letters to their father, which were then personally delivered to Michele by American Red Cross staff.  Michele reciprocated with letters to his children, letters which are now on their way to Zimbabwe.

The American Red Cross will continue to facilitate the process of delivering messages between Colorado and Zimbabwe. If a reunification becomes a possibility, the American Red Cross will provide referrals to help the family connect with the appropriate agencies.

“War affects everyone involved; the humanitarian work we do transcends religious, ethnic and geographic boundaries to provide assistance to the families that need it most,” says Lisa Ghali, a caseworker with the American Red Cross.

Thanks to the many volunteers and staff who dedicate countless hours, the Red Cross is able to successfully resolve 74 percent of the cases it receives through the Restoring Family Links program.

For more information on how the Red Cross reconnects families or to receive help in locating a loved one through this service please visit