Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Meet Your Bloggers: Kristin Greco

Hello!  My name is Kristin Greco.  I’m a new blogger for the Red Cross and I will be bringing you stories about clients and the services provided to them through the Red Cross.

At Disney World with
my husband and kids.
I was born in northern Wisconsin, lived in Alaska for a handful of years and then moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado with my family when I was in elementary school.  I graduated from the University of Colorado (Boulder) with a degree in Journalism and Advertising and worked as a marketing manager for many years before having three kids in 3 years and then taking some time off to raise our kids.  I’ve always been passionate about writing and I’m looking forward to this opportunity to start writing again while conveying stories from clients of the Red Cross.

Before having kids, I would have said my interests were traveling, skiing and creative endeavors.  Now that our kids are getting a little older, those things have become our family’s passions.  We all enjoyed skiing together this past season at Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Steamboat.  It’s been so fun to see my kids develop a love for something that was such a big part of my life growing up in a ski resort.  We also love to travel and go camping with our kids.  Our weekends are full with the kids’ sporting events – soccer, flag football and taekwondo.  It’s a busy household rounded out by a dog, a cat and a guinea pig.

My connection to the Red Cross is through my husband, who knows a little bit about the organization – he is the CEO for the Mile High Region.  I’ve always known about the Red Cross, but I have loved hearing stories from my husband about the people the organization has helped, the incredible number of people who volunteer and the numerous programs that are offered.  It really is an amazing organization and I hope to spread awareness of all the wonderful things the Red Cross does for Colorado.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Colorado Chapters Celebrate Local Heroes

Whether they’re volunteering long hours to respond to a disaster, saving someone’s life using CPR, or delivering compassion and assistance to the community, heroes are often everyday people who have stepped up to perform extraordinary acts. The American Red Cross is s a non-governmental organization that relies on the hard work of volunteers and believes in empowering everyday people through lifesaving training – and so every year, local Red Cross chapters take time to celebrate community heroes.

Red Cross chapters held heroes events in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Durango and Grand Junction this spring, and the Northern Colorado Chapter in Fort Collins will host a heroes event in June.

The Pikes Peak Chapter kicked events off with a Hometown Heroes celebration on Jan. 31 in Pueblo.

The Red Cross Mile High Chapter Breakfast of Champions on March 8, 2013, commemorated the theme “Colorado Overcomes: Together We Triumph Over Tragedy” and honored heroes in nine categories.
Some of the award winners included:
  • A pair of fashion consultants who organized a dignified, fun, personal way for women displaced by the Waldo Canyon Fire to replace clothing lost to the flames
  • A brother and sister duo who saved their own father’s life on Thanksgiving Day
  • A couple who volunteered with the Red Cross to serve their neighbors, even as their own home was threatened by the High Park Fire
  • A group of ER doctors who saved the lives of 23 people the night of the Aurora shooting
  • Meet all the heroes and watch their stories here.
The Pikes Peak Hometown Heroes event in Colorado Springs on March 21 honored eight heroes, including:
  • A soldier who rescued a driver from a burning semi on I-25
  • A man who dove into a lake and rescued a drowning swimmer
  • An elementary school principal who raised funds to rebuild the school playground after it was destroyed by a series of mudslides
  • The medical response team that quickly and safely evacuated a nursing center as the Waldo Canyon Fire approached
The Southwest Colorado Chapter held their Heroes Breakfast in Durango on April 3, 2013, and honored 17 Southwest Colorado residents, including a group of responders who saved the life of a 7-year-old Ute child. Read the stories and event coverage by the Durango Herald.

On April 26, the Western Colorado Chapter celebrated with their annual Real Western Heroes event in Grand Junction.

Some of the 10 award winners included:
  • A dispatcher and a six-year-old boy who worked together to help save the boy’s mom when she was having a severe diabetic emergency (Watch the KJCT video)
  • A woman who brightens lives at the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle (Watch the KJCT video)
  • A firefighter who rescued a man from an icy river. (Watch the KJCT video)
The Northern Colorado Chapter will conclude our season of special events with their “Celebrating Community Heroes” event on Thursday, June 6, at the Hilton in Fort Collins. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lift Yourself Up: Become a Volunteer

by Cindy Shank, Executive Director, Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

Following that advice from Booker T. Washington has helped lift up countless people and create more resilient communities around the world. This National Volunteer Week, April 21-27, the Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross is celebrating its dedicated volunteers and partners. These volunteers power the Red Cross, making it possible for the organization to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Each year, local Red Cross volunteers bring food, shelter, comfort and hope to many local families faced with evacuating because of wildfires or rebuilding after house fires or flooding.

We provide assistance and comfort during national disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. We sent six volunteers to serve the residents of New York and New Jersey affected by the superstorm.

Volunteers are vital to the work of the Red Cross in Southwest Colorado and in communities across the country, making up 94 percent of the Red Cross workforce. In our area, we have one paid employee and 40 dedicated volunteers that work every day of the year to take care of our residents and emergency responders. According to the Independent Sector, the 2012 value of volunteer time was $22.14 per hour, further evidence of the tremendous value and impact volunteers hold for nonprofits such as the Red Cross.

Volunteering with the Red Cross now is easier than ever because of a new system called Volunteer Connection. This online system is easy to use and better allows new volunteers to match their skills and interests to needs across the organization. People interested in volunteering can visit to search and apply for opportunities in our community. The Volunteer Connection System was made possible by a grant from W.W. Grainger Inc.

Currently, our chapter needs people who are interested in responding to local house fires, providing personal emergency-preparedness presentations, assisting in shelter residents after an evacuation, serving as a disaster health or disaster mental-health service worker or working with local emergency-management agencies during a disaster.

Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives also are changed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

National Guard Chemical Attack Exercise Draws Support from American Red Cross

Mary (Jacoby) Hastings
By Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

Members of the Army and Air Force National Guard from Colorado and other states joined together for a mock disaster simulation at the West Metro Fire Training Academy in Lakewood the weekend of April 19-21. At the invitation of the Guard, volunteers with the American Red Cross Disaster Services team conducted a feeding exercise, providing snacks and water to the military all three days. Service to Armed Forces volunteers staffed an information table and distributed military information bags.

Over the course of that weekend, role players acting as victims of a disaster involving a chemical attack moaned and groaned as practicing triage teams assessed how to treat each. Makeup was applied to the actors to enhance the illusion of serious injuries. “Victims” were loaded onto stretchers and treated in makeshift facilities that resembled primitive M.A.S.H. units. Decontamination units were also set up and utilized.

Cold temperatures and high winds made the exercises more challenging. By Sunday, wind gusts proved too much for the huge tents that had been held down by weights as they blew from their foundations. Nevertheless, the event was scheduled to continue, rain or snow or shine—disasters don’t stop for the weather and neither do our first responders.

It was difficult to write this particular blog given what transpired the day following the simulation. It was particularly surreal watching events unfold at the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street immediately after observing our local first responders during a mock exercise.

Tragedies like the bombings in Boston on April 15, 2013, explain why men and women in uniform practice continually.

Every soldier and airman that visited the Red Cross station for sustenance expressed gratitude for the services of the American Red Cross.

After interviewing some of the military personnel at the simulation, it was apparent that these individuals took the emergency exercises seriously and would be ready for the call when needed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The humble hero: volunteer Dan Bingham wins awards for labor of love

Dan Bingham was deployed to the High Park fire near Fort Collins when he got a call saying his services were required elsewhere… namely, back home in Craig, where his own family was being evacuated for a wildfire as well. But balancing volunteer time in his own community and wherever else he may be needed is a strong suit for Dan, who received commendation from the Colorado Emergency Management Association earlier this spring as the Outstanding Emergency Services Volunteer for the Northwest portion of Colorado. Dan will also receive the Red Cross Hero Award on April 26 for his broad range of volunteer responsibilities in his community. As Jody Acres, the Northwest Area Manager for the Red Cross said of Dan's devoted service, “If a disaster happens anywhere in Moffat County you can bet that Dan will be there serving in many different capacities.”

A self-proclaimed “under the radar kind of guy,” Dan brought his experience as an EMT to the Red Cross in 2004, hoping to help with tsunami relief in Thailand. Instead of serving overseas, he wound up volunteering in his own community of western Colorado, where he volunteers with a focus on disaster relief and preparedness. Although he is active in several volunteer positions with a number of organizations, Dan says the Red Cross gives “the real foundation” to his volunteer work. “I look at the Red Cross model for how to manage my time and give the right focus to those groups that need my time,” he said.

Dan’s first Red Cross deployment was to Louisiana, to help with Katrina relief in 2005. Within 24 hours of walking into a Union Hall-turned shelter, Dan’s skills took him from a data entry clerk to a position with a shelter management team, managing, as he put it, “all the nightmares and the successes you could imagine” in the region. His efforts helped to reunite families scattered by the storm, and his work as a shelter volunteer coordinated resources for hundreds displaced in the disaster.

While Dan’s work has helped countless individuals in his own community and in areas affected by regional disasters across the country, he describes his experience as a volunteer as “a lot of ups and downs, a lot of littles and bigs.” During his experience with Katrina, one story sticks out in his memory. While touring a shelter, he was able to help the organization reunite an elderly man with his neighbor, which helped the client reconnect with his family. Dan’s volunteer work during the disaster was on a regional level, but the story of helping an individual client is particularly salient for him. As Dan put it, “It’s not about the big things; it’s about the little things.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Resources for Coping With Traumatic Events

Last week was, needless to say, a pretty stressful week in the United States. As the Red Cross continues to respond in West, TX and Boston, we constantly provide mental health support to those affected by these disasters. I've collected a sampling of some reliable sources on stress management, with a focus on reacting after a disaster:

The American Red Cross

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
(An excellent resource to help explain how our minds react to an attack)

Remember that you can receive free, 24/7 support by calling the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. You can also text "TalkWithUs" to 66746.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Client Profiles: Eudora Pierson

"They care. They give me attention. They come on time"

That’s how Eudora Pierson describes Red Cross transportation services volunteers, a handful of whom ensure that she gets to the grocery store every Thursday and to doctor appointments, eye exams, and other critical services monthly.

The transportation services the Red Cross provides Eudora not only fulfill a critical transportation gap –– she relies on a walker and no longer drives ––they also offer friendship and community.  At her recent 101st birthday bash, volunteers brought Eudora cards, flowers, and a memento from her favorite aisle in the oft-visited grocery store, “the aisle with the pickles and the condiments,” says Eudora, with a laugh. “And the party, it was quite a big shinding!”

Eudora likes to say that she’s “just an ordinary citizen,” but has accomplished a lot in her 101 years.  She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, then entered Transylvania College, a liberal arts college in Lexington, back in 1934, a time when “you could fit all of us (students) on the steps of the main building.” She didn’t graduate– money was scarce, and left to work in banking and insurance. 

During WWII, Eudora entered the Naval Reserves and was on active duty for five years, ultimately earning the title of Lieutenant.  She traveled all around the country, to Norfolk, Key West, Pensacola, and San Francisco. Some of her favorite recollections remain from those years.

“Getting to San Francisco was the best. We got off the train in Santa Fe to buy Indian artifacts –– and it started to take off! We had to run after it. We almost got left. And San Francisco – well, I thought it was just wonderful.  All the little trolley cars going up the hill; most of the time you were just barely hanging on. I loved it.“

After her service was over, Eudora got married and moved to a ranch in Weld County, Colorado.  She ranched turkeys for three years, then moved to Commerce City, where she still lives with her son. Asked about the secret to her old age, Eudora replied, “I’m not sure. Just live every day, I guess! I didn’t ever dream I would live to be 100. I think it must be some gene.  I don’t eat healthy foods, really; I live on fried chicken and potatoes! I still say I’m just a housewife – an ordinary citizen.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Meet Your Bloggers: Kate Lapides

Kate (left), with her twin Karen and dog nephews Finn & Ryder

Hi All:  My name is Kate Lapides.  I’ll be writing client stories and volunteer profiles for the Red Cross.

I was born near San Francisco, but moved to Colorado at an early age and for decades, have called this beautiful state home. I’m an alpine junkie who has spent most of my free time for the past several decades running long, long miles on Colorado’s mountain trails.  In the winter and shoulder seasons, I also love to pursue a passel of other requisite mountain sports: telemark skiing, mountain biking, road cycling, and ski mountaineering.  I’m passionate about living life at altitude in small mountain towns with heart and a great civic ethic and sense of community, and as a result, have called Breckenridge home for 18 years.

For the past two years, I have worked weekdays as the Marketing Editor for Colorado Mountain College, managing social media, producing photo and video shoots, writing blog content, and project managing the college’s print collateral campaigns. On weekends, I return to my first love:  my longtime work as a freelance photographer. 

Photojournalism and writing are my passions, especially when the work involves documenting humanitarian issues abroad. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work in Africa, Asia, Central and Latin America and the rural U.S. for clients including Save The Children, the International Rescue Committee, Resurge International, United Somali Women of Maine, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.  I also teach a children’s photography workshop at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass each summer, create grant-funded community photography projects for new immigrants and rural youth, and work as a regular contributing writer and photographer for Breckenridge magazine. 

My interest in volunteering as a writer for the Red Cross stems from my storytelling passion.  I love sharing stories – especially stories about people in need. The act of listening – and learning– about someone’s experience of life, and then working to capture and share that experience in compelling photographs and words with integrity is work that I love deeply.   I hope that my volunteer work with the Red Cross will offer the opportunity to engage with people at this level locally – and ultimately lead towards writing and photographing on a broader level with this incredible organization.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Area Boy Scouts Learn Emergency Preparedness at 2013 Camporee

Over the weekend of April 12, more than 325 Boy Scouts gathered at Carter Lake for the 2nd Annual Camporee, a weekend getaway where the scouts camp out and attend sessions to earn merit badges.  This year’s Camporee theme was “Zombie Preparedness,” and while the Red Cross doesn’t claim to be zombie experts, we do know a thing or two about being prepared for an emergency.  So, bright and early on April 13, members of the Red Cross Youth Preparedness Group teamed up with some great Red Cross Northern Colorado Chapter Disaster Action Team volunteers to share our knowledge with the Scouts. 

Scouts checking their supplies
The scouts got to tour a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), learn about Red Cross Emergency Response activities and practice building an emergency kit.  In order to fully earn their Emergency Preparedness merit badge, the scouts had to take what they learned and build an emergency kit with their families.  As the Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be prepared,” the boys came to us with a good foundation to build upon.  Using one of the Preparedness Department’s favorite games, we worked with the scouts to shift their focus from getting themselves prepared to survive in the wilderness to getting their families prepared to survive a disaster.

Touring the ERV
Next, the Northern Colorado Red Cross team took over and gave the boys a crash course in responding to and recovering from an emergency.  Led by volunteer Mike Ring, the boys learned the differences between an ERV and an ambulance, the protocol for our mobile feeding operations and some food safety tips.  Ring shared fun facts, for example: “the dirtiest thing you can have in your kitchen is a reused sponge.”  While this isn’t the most important thing when it comes to being prepared for an emergency, it does make you think twice when you’re washing your dishes!  Although Scouts learned lots of other facts – for example, that each trip in the ERV can deliver about 300 meals and that each and that every one of the 323 ERVs in the U.S. were deployed to Hurricane Sandy – Ring said that the most important message he conveyed to them was that the “Red Cross responds to many different kinds of events to help our neighbors.”  For him, and lots of us with the Red Cross, the opportunity to help our community is what keeps us coming back every day.

Even though we all had to get up very, very early, the day was a huge success.  The Red Cross team interacted with about 50 Scouts who were working towards their Emergency Preparedness badges and we were all very impressed with the kids.  After a lunch of gumbo and spicy cornbread, we were all able to chill out and get to know other, which made me realize just how important this day was for all the organizations involved.  Not only did we teach youth in our community about preparedness and disaster response, we created bonds between our own regional volunteers, the Boy Scouts and the Broomfield Civil Air Patrol.   It’s these relationships with our community members that we ultimately rely upon when the Red Cross is called upon to help people affected by disaster and emergencies.

If your group or organization would like to get involved in preparedness, visit

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meet Your Bloggers: Beckie Kenter

Hey y’all! 

My name is Beckie and I’m the new Preparedness blogger.  I’m a native Wisconsinite and Badger who moved out to Denver in August of 2011, where I saw mountains for the first time; let’s just say it was love at first sight!  Speaking of, hiking in those mountains is one of my favorite activities, especially in the winter!  My husband and I also manage to keep busy going to local music shows, eating at great Denver restaurants and going to all the great sports events in town.  If I have any free time left, I spend it gardening, baking and working towards my goal of reading 1,000 novels in my lifetime.

I teamed up with the Red Cross in April of 2012 after seeing one of the Preparedness Team ladies on the news announcing a Preparedness Workshop.  I’d been looking for a way to get involved with my new community and after meeting people at the workshop, I knew that the Red Cross was the perfect fit.  I’ve come quite a ways in the year since I attended volunteer orientation; I’ve helped to build the new Youth Preparedness Team, of which I am the volunteer lead, I’ve earned my Babysitter’s Training Instructor status and I am now proud to add Preparedness Blogger to the list! 

I would say that the main reason that my Red Cross resume is so full of Preparedness is that of all the services that we offer to our community, I think that Preparedness has the most potential to empower people.  Also, I love working with kids and Preparedness the most fitting Red Cross department where kids of almost any age can, and do, make a huge impact in their communities.  None of us can ever predict or completely deter an emergency, but by arming our community with the tools to be prepared, our community feels and is a safer place to be.  I guess you could say that getting prepared is my passion!  Drop me a line if you have anything preparedness-related you’d like to see on the blog!

Peace, love and preparedness!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What today's non-blizzard says about preparedness

by Patricia Billinger, Communications Director

Last night, we watched the scroll of pre-emptive school and business closures in anticipation of blizzard conditions in several parts of the state and 8-14 inches of snow in Front Range cities.
Today, roads in the metro-Denver area were nearly dry by the afternoon, and only a few inches of snow coated the ground. 

I couldn’t think of a better scenario to talk about the importance of preparedness.

Why? Because today’s non-blizzard underscores the fact that disasters are unpredictable. We can’t control (and often can’t correctly predict) the weather; if a big storm can miss us, then we can also miss predicting a big storm. Meanwhile, there are some disasters – like wildfires – that strike suddenly and with little warning.

We didn’t get buried in snow during this storm. But two families in northeast Colorado lost their homes to the extreme winds associated with the storm.
The Red Cross is helping those families with their disaster-related needs. But ask yourself this: as you prepared for winter weather last night, did your plans include knowing where you would go and what you would do if your home were suddenly destroyed by the storm instead of just snowed in? What if, during this cold snap, your apartment building was damaged by a heating-related fire?

It happens all too often.

We can’t control the weather or disasters. The only thing we can truly control is ourselves – our actions and the steps we take to make sure we have the plans and resources in place to minimize negative outcomes when terrible things happen.

We can protect ourselves and our loved ones and mitigate risk by planning and practicing emergency plans. 

With temperatures forecast (and turning out to be) well below freezing all night, it’s perfect weather to cuddle up with your loved ones, hunker down in your home, and work on your personal preparedness plans while sipping a hot drink.

You can find more resources and ideas at