Wednesday, May 29, 2013

As wildfire anniversary looms, need for nurses is high

As they watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfold on television, retired nurse Connie Hoffer and her husband knew they wanted to reach out to the victims of the tragedy in any way they could.

“I saw an appeal for 40,000 nurses across the country to respond,” Connie said. “I said OK, that is something I could probably do.” Together, she and her husband took the requisite Red Cross courses and Connie soon found herself tending to infants, seniors and families affected by the storm, at a shelter in the small town of Baker, La. “We had about 300 people ranging in age from a week old infant to a woman who was more than 100.”

Since her first deployment, Connie grew into her current role as Nurse Leader. She works to coordinate and recruit new nurses, as well as directing the efforts of health services volunteers. With extensive training and an uncanny ability to think on their feet, nurses are among the most valuable volunteer assets the Red Cross can deploy in times of disaster relief. But currently, nurses are needed more than ever in the Pikes Peak region, which was hit hard by the 2012 wildfire season. As the one-year anniversary of the Waldo Canyon fire approaches, the Pikes Peak chapter of the Red Cross is putting out a call for volunteer nurses, in the hope that the chapter will be fully prepared in the event of another devastating fire season.

“There is certainly a great need for nurses,” Connie said, “Particularly young nurses, who have more of the energy to work the 12 hour shifts, are really needed.” The Fort Collins region, she said, is also seeking health services volunteers.

In situations like the 2005 response to Hurricane Katrina and last year’s fire disasters, nurses played an integral role in the services the Red Cross was able to provide. Nurses who can respond quickly and assess complex triage situations are especially valuable to disaster relief efforts, but as Connie stated, “There really is a place for every kind of nurse in the Red Cross.”

A diverse and multi-talented corps of nurses is the best way to approach the diverse group of clients the Red Cross response is presented with. What makes a good Red Cross nurse, and what can a nurse expect from this kind of volunteer engagement? According to Connie, “It takes a lot of flexibility, and thinking outside the box to meet the needs of the people you’re serving.”  She recalls a situation where a nurse noticed that some time had gone by since she heard a newborn infant cry in the shelter she was serving. Her observation saved the child’s life; the baby was dehydrated and the nurse’s quick deduction resulted in life-saving treatment. “You need to be able to continue to think, but know that what you do has the potential to make a big impact on the people you’re serving.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Honoring Those Who Serve

Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

by Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

As Memorial Day approaches, we are all reminded of lives lost in the line of service or following a term of service. It is a particularly stressful for the families who have lost loved ones and troops that served alongside someone who died in combat.

The widow of James Motley, USAF Retired, is finding her first Memorial Day without her late husband to be especially difficult. Before his passing, Jim participated in the Veterans History Project through the American Red Cross in Colorado. While he may be gone, his story will live on.
Sherry is just one of thousands facing a Memorial Day that is just too painful to celebrate, but she will honor her husband’s memory by flying the American flag.

The American Red Cross is here for all who serve, including the families of military personnel, every day of the year.

From ministering to soldiers on the battlefields of the Spanish-American War to serving today alongside military personnel in the Middle East, the American Red Cross has been supporting the United States armed forces for more than 100 years.
During WWII, the Red Cross provided extensive services to the U.S. military, its allies, and civilian war victims. The Red Cross enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for military service, prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war, and shipped over 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. At the military’s request, the Red Cross also initiated a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.

Today, the Red Cross continues to be there for active duty military, reserves and veterans. Recruiting health professionals to assist at military installation clinics in Colorado is just one way the American Red Cross makes a difference today. These health professionals include individuals with training in mental health, to assist those going through a particularly rough time.

Despite its many services to the men and women who serve our country, the Red Cross is not a government agency, and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit

Thursday, May 23, 2013

World War II POW Thankful for Red Cross Care Kits

People give to the American Red Cross for many reasons.  Tom Cooney and his wife Mary give annually to the American Red Cross because of something the Red Cross gave Tom in a time of need.

Private First Class Tom Cooney was a young army photographer in 1945 when the B-24 he was flying in was shot down over Hungary during World War II.  He was taken captive by the Germans and held for nearly a year.  Tom attributes his ability to survive to the care kits he received from the Red Cross.  Inside the care kit were canned goods, cigarettes and vitamins.  Tom wasn’t a smoker, so he traded his cigarettes for other people’s vitamins.  Aside from the health benefits he was receiving from the canned goods and vitamins, Tom still believes today that just feeling like someone knew he was alive was what kept him going.  Tom remembers how helpful and important the Red Cross package was and knew that he wanted to contribute to and support the organization if and when he was released as a prisoner.

During World War II the nations in Western Europe allowed the Red Cross to carry out its work of supporting those who had been taken prisoner.  The Red Cross provided extensive services to the US military, Allies, and civilian war victims including 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war.  The American Red Cross has provided humanitarian support to the United States military, veterans and their families under a trusted symbol for more than 130 years. Through the Service to the Armed Forces program, the Red Cross provides emergency communications, supports military and veteran health care facilities, and provides social services to the more than 2 million military members to include National Guard and Reservists, 23 million veterans and their families.

The American Red Cross is able to provide these services through employees and volunteers who are stationed alongside the military, across the country and around the world. This includes a network of Red Cross Chapters and Stations that have offices on domestic installations as well as supporting service members on bases around the world.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Getting Tornado Safe to Honor Recent Tornado Tragedies

Two years ago today, a devastating tornado hit Joplin, MO. This EF5 tornado took over 100 lives, injured thousands and caused billions of dollars in damage in less than an hour. And earlier this week, a tornado similar in severity ravaged Moore, OK. While it’s rare to see a tornado as fierce as these, tornadoes threaten every state in the U.S. —including Colorado.  In fact, according to the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, Colorado has the 9th highest frequency of tornadoes in the U.S., and NOAA reports that between 1953 and 2004 Colorado experienced an average of 22 tornadoes per year.

Tornadoes often strike with little to no warning and are some the most violent storms found in nature, making preparation extremely important.  So, this summer, in remembrance of those who lost their lives, loved-ones, homes and livelihoods in Joplin and Moore, let’s vow to make our own families and communities more prepared for tornadoes.  If you'd like to learn more about the relief effort in Oklahoma or to donate to the cause, visit to learn more.

Here are some resources and tips to that can help you and your loved ones get started: 

1.    Download the Red Cross Tornado App
This cool new app, available for both Apple and Android users, allows you to have severe weather/tornado updates, alerts and preparedness tips right at your fingertips.  Visit and click the link on the right or search for the app in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store to learn more.

2.    Check out the Red Cross tornado preparedness page
Learn how to get your family tornado ready at  This page has lots of great information to help you before, during and after a tornado, including tips on finding tornado shelter in various scenarios.  Visit the Disaster & Safety Library at to access a Tornado Safety Checklist.

3.    Learn some Colorado tornado history
Visit the Colorado Office of Emergency Management blog to learn about some notable Colorado tornadoes like the 2007 Holly twister that hid from weather radars.  Click the link to see the full story:

4.    Learn the science behind tornadoes
Visit to learn about the EF scale for tornado severity as well as other interesting science behind tornadoes.  Explore the rest of the site to learn the science behind thunderstorms and the other hazards that they bring.

5.    Check out the Weather Channel Video “Safest Place During a Tornado”
This entertaining video not only tells you, but shows you why some places in your home are unsafe during a tornado.  Visit  to view this, and other, tornado safety videos.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

American Red Cross in the Fight to Eliminate “Invisible Monster”

Measles & Rubella Initiative Brings World Collaboration
By Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

A child in Madagascar describes it as an “invisible monster” that once took over his village and not everyone was lucky enough to be treated by a doctor. He believes that the “miracle” vaccine that came to his village can be shared with people everywhere as he looks to the day when he can “say goodbye to the last ‘measle’ on earth.”

Every day 15 children die from complications of Measles and Rubella around the world; but a  movement is in progress to stop and hopefully eliminate these debilitating illnesses, which are preventable.  The Measles & Rubella Initiative ( is a global partnership committed to ensuring no child dies from measles or is born with congenital rubella syndrome. Founded originally as the Measles Initiative in 2001, it’s led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Although measles was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 2002 and endemic rubella has not been detected in the Americas since 2009, outbreaks can occur when unvaccinated residents are exposed to infected people, mostly through international travel.

Measles does not cause death directly, but it weakens the immune system and opens the door to secondary health problems, such as pneumonia, blindness, diarrhea, and encephalitis. Approximately 30 percent of reported measles cases have one or more complications.

Rubella is another disease the Measles & Rubella Initiative is addressing. Rubella is generally a mild disease but can have serious consequences for pregnant women and their children. If infected with rubella in the first trimester women have a very high risk of giving birth to a child with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). CRS often presents in multiple birth defects including as heart problems, deafness and blindness.

With intervention by the Measles & Rubella Initiative and commitment from governments around the world, global measles deaths worldwide fell by 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, from an estimated 535,000 to 139,300. You can help the Initiative reach its goal of completely eliminating Measles and Rubella with any size donation. To learn more about donating to save lives, visit

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Generations of Mothers pass Volunteerism to Daughters

If you ask Jackie Norris what it’s like to come from a tradition of volunteerism that is now in its third generation, she will answer as if sharing a lifelong passion with her mother and daughter is as natural as sharing a meatloaf recipe or a pair of jeans. “I don’t know that we’ve ever stopped to think, ‘should we do this?’” she said. “We just kind of assume we should.”

Jackie and her mother were both Red Cross “Doughnut Dollies” in Vietnam and during World War II, respectively. Today, Jackie’s daughter, Elizabeth, is active in the Red Cross as a founding leader of Behind the Red. She frequently volunteers alongside her mother, who returned to the Red Cross after retiring from a 34-year career in Denver’s nonprofit world.

While Jackie says her mother’s volunteer work helped to spark her own lifelong commitment to volunteerism and professional engagement with nonprofit causes, she says she didn’t pressure her own daughter to become involved with the Red Cross. “I felt like just because I did it didn’t mean she had to be interested in it,” Jackie said, explaining that Elizabeth became involved with the organization when an opportunity came up at the Red Cross for individuals interested in working in a focus group. “It was better, from my perspective, for her to come to it on her own,” she said. Jackie also said that Elizabeth’s natural curiosity and outgoing nature “fit the profile” of volunteer work in a way that naturally led her to the same work Jackie values so much.

Jackie says that while her children were young, she was able to integrate her volunteer time with the demands of her own family. “When I was a parent of younger kids, my work was either connected to my professional volunteer work, or it was connected to their soccer teams or their schools,” she said. “You do things that are directly related to what’s important to you at the time, and at the time it was my kids. But once they go away, if you’re lucky, you have a lot of other interests and there are lots of other things to do.”

Jackie also volunteers with her husband, who is also a retiree from the nonprofit world. She also has a son, who has yet to get drawn into the world of volunteerism. But Jackie says, with a mom’s knowing tone, that this could change. “He’s got a family of his own now, and he’s starting to see the value of getting out there,” she said. “Fortunately, his wife gets it. She’ll have him out there, volunteering.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Celebrating World Red Cross Day May 8

by Mary (Jacoby) Hastings
Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

World Red Cross Day is celebrated each year on May 8 to emphasize the role of Red Cross members and volunteers in saving lives and aiding defenseless communities around the world.

The date for the commemoration was chosen because it is the birthday of Red Cross founder Henri Dunant, a Swiss merchant caught up in the Battle of Solferino, Italy, in 1859.

In 1862, Dunant published a book recounting his war memoirs in which he proposed the establishment of a neutral independent body of helpers  that could provide protection and care for the wounded in case of war regardless of side. As a result, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was formed by Dunant and four other men in 1863. It originated as a result of an aspiration to provide first aid as well as all possible assistance to victims on the battlefield, thus alleviating human suffering. In 1901, Dunant was awarded the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize for his role in founding the Red Cross movement and initiating the Geneva Convention.

Today, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies represent the world's largest humanitarian network. The movement carries out its activities and is present in more than 185 countries and helps some 233 million aid recipients every year. The National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent comprise approximately 97 million members and volunteers!

Each National Society lives by and operates under the same guiding mission – to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of disasters, emergencies and conflict – and each society is obligated to carry out certain programs that help fulfill this mission, such as providing disaster assistance, mitigating risk, and providing health services. However, how these services are delivered may vary slightly between countries – for example, in some countries, the Red Cross trains nurses and operates medical facilities and ambulance services (in the U.S., we provide training in lifesaving skills but do not operate hospitals or ambulances).

In tandem to the work of the National Societies, the ICRC continues to focus on fulfilling the mandates of the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavors to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

In particular, the ICRC has the right to visit prisoners of war and civilian internees. But the ICRC also delivers initiatives that support its humanitarian mission.

Read more about the work of the Red Cross

Monday, May 6, 2013

Communities Come Together to Mitigate Wildfire Risk

The Red Cross was one of many organizations that participated in statewide Wildfire Day of Service on May 4.

Red Cross volunteers filled sandbags, chipped trees, educated neighbors and more as part of the first statewide Colorado Wildfire Preparedness Day of Service on Saturday, May 4, 2013.

Working on a wildfire mitigation
project in Lake of the Pines.
The Day of Service was led by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in coordination with the American Red Cross, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, READYColorado, and Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

As part of the Day of Service, Coloradans were encouraged to participate in wildfire mitigation projects to reduce wildfire damage to their homes, neighborhoods and communities. Individuals and organizations organized projects all over the state, ranging from taking steps to improve their personal preparedness and wildfire mitigation to holding large community events to educate and aid neighborhoods with wildfire mitigation.

Grab 'n' Go Firefighting kits
constructed by volunteers.

Red Cross volunteers participated in a number of projects, including:
  • Filling 1,000 sandbags to mitigate flood risk in the Waldo Canyon burn area in Colorado Springs
  • Helping to remove fuels on Boulder County Open Space near Lyons
  • Working with corporate partners like Hosting to compile firefighter comfort kits (statewide)
  • Chipping downed trees to reduce fire risk near Durango.
  • Performing a neighborhood walkthrough with local fire department to identify well-mitigated properties and those that might need more work in Boulder.
  • Clearing and hauling brush in Morrison.
  • Providing defensible space safety training near Bailey.
The Wildfire Day of Service coincided with the International Association of Wildland Fire’s Global Wildfire Awareness Week and provided a unique opportunity for Colorado residents to get involved and take action against the threat of wildland fire across the state.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

7 Tips Everyone Should Know for Wildfire Season

Whether you live in Colorado’s beautiful foothills or mountains, on the grassy plains or in a more urban interface, chances are you were touched in some way by last year’s wildfires. Unfortunately, dry conditions persist in many parts of the state, and forest conditions also pose a high risk for continued wildfires this year.

Wildfires often begin unnoticed. However, they spread quickly and every second counts! Talk to your loved ones, friends, neighbors and community members about these simple ways to prepare for, prevent and be resilient in the face of wildfires.

1. Have a Plan. Know routes out of your neighborhood or workplace; choose an emergency meet-up location in case you must evacuate, and make sure loved ones know the location; set up emergency contacts; know what you will do with pets and/or livestock. More ideas and assistance here:

2. Download the Wildfire App. This FREE app for iphones and Android devices, has tools for you to make your household emergency plan as well as specific guidance on what to do before, during and after a wildfire. Search for “Red Cross Wildfire” in your iTunes or Google Play app store.

3. Build a Help Network. Time and again, we heard stories last year of people who saved neighbors’ lives by checking on them, helping them or their animals evacuate or providing other aid. Get to know your neighbors , their needs and your collective resources. Determine if there are folks nearby who may need extra help - an elderly resident, perhaps, or someone with a disability. Know whether you are self-sufficient or would need a helping hand from another, and make sure you have plans in place to receive or provide that help.

4. Gather Emergency Supplies. You may have to evacuate quickly. Gather essential supplies to sustain you for at least three days and have them in a go-bin that you can grab. View a list of suggested supplies here:

5. Clean Your Property. According to Firewise, “Wildfire doesn’t everything in its path. In fact, cleaning your property of debris and maintaining your landscaping are important first steps to helping minimize damage and loss. Take these NFPA steps to mitigate your risk:

6. Prep Your Surroundings. Make sure your driveway entrance and house number/address are clearly marked; Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool; Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.

7. Get Informed. Know how you’ll be notified of danger and what information sources you’ll turn to. Find out what emergency alert systems your local county, city or emergency agency has in place and sign up for notifications, if applicable. Make a back-up plan – weather radio, neighbors, etc. – to ensure that you have more than one source of info. And: When In Doubt, Get Out.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Honoring Military Kids for Their Sacrifices

When members of the armed forces deploy to serve their country, their family members – and especially children – also make sacrifices. In recognition of these sacrifices, the American Red Cross, Colorado National Guard and Colorado Operation: Military Kids (OMK) joined forces in April to draw attention to the estimated 35,000 school-age kids who are part of military families in Colorado.

April is designated as the “Month of the Military Child” and the Red Cross and its partners honored military children with several activities.

On Friday, April 12, Red Cross employees, volunteers and supporters donned to show their support for the thousands of youth whose lives are affected by a family member’s sacrifice and service to the country through the U.S. armed forces.

The 2nd annual “Purple Up! For Military Kids” celebration was sponsored by Colorado Operation: Military Kids (OMK), part of the 4-H Youth Development program of CSU Extension.

OMK encouraged everyone across the state of Colorado to wear purple on Friday, April 12, as a visible way to show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices. Purple is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue.

The Red Cross also co-sponsored an essay contest in partnership with the Colorado National Guard Youth Program. The contest, open to kindergarten through 12th grade students in Colorado, challenged participants write an essay on the topic of “What being a Military Child means to me” (K-6th grade) or “Does Patriotism Still Matter?” (7th-12th grade).

The contest ran April 1- May 3. During an upcoming awards ceremony, the Red Cross will award $20 gift card prizes to winners in 7 grade categories, as well as a Nintendo Wii to one grand-prize essay winner.

The Red Cross is supported these activities as part of its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program. Although best known for its disaster response, the Red Cross in fact has a long history of serving members of the armed forces through every war of the 20th century and continuing today. Red Cross SAF programs include pre- and post-deployment briefings for members of the military; emergency communications between deployed military and their families back home; support for military families while their loved ones are deployed; and assistance at veterans and military hospitals.

Read more about Red Cross SAF programs.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Red Cross Helps South African Woman Reconnect With Family After 50 Years of Separation

Story by Bill Fortune, Public Affairs Volunteer for Pikes Peak Area Chapter, Colorado Springs, CO. 

Imagine being exiled from your country because of your political stance on apartheid. Imagine not being able to contact your family for more than 50 years.  Imagine the Red Cross International Tracing Service bringing your family together again.
Here Bapsy shows the only photo
she has of Efodia during her wedding.

That is exactly what happened to Efodia Mokane Ricks (formerly Masadubele).  The oldest of three sisters, Efodia lived in South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle.  In 1962, the same year that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Efodia and her first husband were exiled. They spent time in several African countries, but when her husband was detained in Ghana, Efodia moved to Switzerland, where she continued to support  the anti-apartheid struggle in exile. Efodia immigrated to Germany and  attended the University of Tubingen and then in 1994 moved to the United States.   Efodia remarried, became a U.S. citizen and had a son. By 2010, however, both her husband and son had died, leaving her alone and homeless.

Fortunately, Efodia found the American Red Cross in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In March of 2012 James Griffith, a Red Cross caseworker for family reunification, drafted a tracing inquiry that was sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Pretoria Regional Delegation. Henrietta Leflape, an ICRC worker based in South Africa, began the extensive search to locate Efodia’s surviving relatives.

Efodia’s youngest sister, Bapsy, was contacted and immediately completed a Red Cross message to tell her sister that she was alive and well and that she was prepared to welcome her home. The Red Cross network facilitated phone calls and letters between the sisters while funds were gathered to cover the airfare costs to bring Efodia home.
Efodia as she looks out on 
Soweto from her sister's home.

Last week, all their efforts came to fruition: Efodia flew home to South Africa and to her family.

"Reuniting families is an emotional exercise,", Letlape said.  "The families' expectations are high and we hope that nothing bad happens to any of the parties prior to the reunification. Waiting at the airport was very emotional; it seemed like the clock stood still.  I just thought, ‘if she has missed her flight, what explanation am I going to give to her family?’ Thus, when she came through the arrival area, I let go tears of joy that she made it.  Handing her over to her family and bringing them home to Soweto brought me great satisfaction. ''

The long process of coordinating a return home began in August of 2012. James with the help of Mr. John Schuler and then his replacement Mr. John Kottenstette at Denver’s Senior Support Services contacted the South African Embassy in Los Angeles, CA.

Finally, on April 17, 2013, Efonia boarded a plane to return to her home and family in South Africa.  On Thursday, April 18, Efonia arrived in Pretoria to the cheers and tears of her long lost family. On the day of the reunification, Bapsy stated: "I don't have words to describe what the Red Cross has done for us.  I never thought such a day would come.  We didn't sleep for the past 3 days, awaiting my sister's arrival.  I was 11 when she left South Africa.  If I were to die now, I could rest in peace because my sister has returned home.  After she has a good rest, we will have a celebration where she will be formally welcomed home and will meet the entire family.  We will also visit the graves of our parents.  Thank you, Red Cross.  We will never forget you."

"I am so relieved to be back home in South Africa after so many years.” Said Efodia, “ I never thought this day would come."
Sisters, Efodia, Bapsy, and Khani on the 
day of Efodia's return to Soweto

The reunification process was a community effort.  The Colorado Springs PD’s “Homeless Outreach Team” played an important role in obtaining the temporary housing for Efodia. The people at Denver Senior Support Services housing helped with housing and even drove Efodia to the Denver Red Cross office for the international phone calls.  The Pikes Peak Chapter allowed the use of vehicles to transport Efodia’s belongings to her new apartment in Denver.  The Consulate for South Africa kept the paperwork moving and the ICRC in South Africa did the tracing and made the reunification a reality.

Photos copright of ICRC. Photographer I. Edelstein