Sunday, June 30, 2013

Red Cross and Military are Close Comrades in Times of Disaster

Story by Patricia Kemp

The Red Cross visited service members of the Army National Guard and Air Force who were stationed June 26 at the Papoose Spike Camp. The camp, located about 20 miles from Creede, Colorado, is a temporary home for the military and firefighters who can eat and rest when they’re not battling the West Fork Complex fire.

Fighting wildfires is a 24-7 operation to protect people, their homes and livestock, and service members appreciated the break to visit with Red Cross volunteers who brought water and supplies to the camp.
Colorado-based service members Staff Sgt. Shawn Riley, Specialist John Soper, Private 1st Class Ryan McKinney, Specialist Dane Kostl, Staff Sgt. James Castellano and Tech Sgt. Travis Tucker welcomed Red Cross volunteers Vangela Hansen and Jason to the camp and thanked them for their support.

Kids Help the Red Cross Help Others

Story By Bill Fortune

In every disaster there is an outpouring of support for those that are suffering.  Some people volunteer their time and some prefer to make monetary donations.  Often the first people who feel the need to help are children so it is no surprise when they pitch in to make a difference. Here are three examples of local children who have stepped up to help those affected by the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Taylor Pruett, age 12, presents his hard earned donation
to Liz Jordan, Emergency Services Director, Pikes Peak Chapter
Taylor Pruett, age 12: The Black Forest Fire began on June 11. The fire raged through the area and the television was inundated with footage of burning homes. Taylor saw the need and told his dad that he wanted to help. So, Taylor, along with a friend, decided to open a lemonade stand so that they could collect money to help with the disaster relief effort. On June 14, 2013, Taylor and his dad brought an envelope containing $101.75 to the Pikes Peak Area Chapter in Colorado Springs. “I just wanted to help the Red Cross help those people,“ Taylor said as he handed the envelope to Emergency Services Director Liz Jordan.

Heather Heath(left) works alongside volunteer Ethyl Styron
Heather Heath, age 16: Heather’s family home was in the pre-evacuation area not far from the Black Forest Fire. She saw on television that the Red Cross was providing support to all of the families and knew that there had to be place for her to help. She contacted the Pikes Peak Chapter office and they quickly enrolled her as a spontaneous volunteer. Heather has worked at the Disaster Response headquarters and at the Red Cross aid station in Black Forest. “I was worried about my friends that might have lost their homes,” Heather said, “This makes me feel like I’m doing something and I like to volunteer.” Heather has worked many hours helping the Red Cross help others.

Fernando Dominguez, Age 11, presents a donation
to Job Director Jaici Murcia
Fernando Dominguez, age 11: Fernando is a member of the Red Cross Club Red at Atlas Preparatory School in Colorado Springs. He decided that the best way to help was to collect donations from other students. With the help and support of Kate Chadwick, who leads the Club Red program at the school, Fernando went student-to-student and teacher-to- teacher asking for donations to help the disaster response. “Club Red has taught me about the Red Cross and the good work that it does,” Fernando said. “I want to be in the Air Force when I grow up but the Red Cross would be a good job too.”  Fernando collected $35 at his school. He brought an envelope to the Disaster Response headquarters and presented it to Jaici Murcia, the Disaster Response Job Director.

Friday, June 28, 2013

South Fork Resident to Red Cross: "We're so appreciative of what you've done."

Story and Photos by Patricia Kemp

South Fork resident Nell Nichols gives Red Cross shelter
manager Joe Louis a hug thanking him for caring for people
during the West Fork Complex fire evacuation in SW Colo.
Nell Nichols and her husband came to the Red Cross evacuation shelter in Del Norte every morning this week. They came for breakfast and the community meetings about the wildfires that shuttered their small mountain town in southwest Colorado for seven days. The couple, who had been staying with friends, received the news on June 28 they’ve waited a week to hear – the evacuation order was lifted on South Fork and they are going home.  Before they left, Nell thanked Red Cross workers for helping people in her town.

“We’re so appreciative of what you’ve done,” Nell told Red Cross shelter manager Joe Louis of the volunteers. “They have compassion. They are compassionate people who stay positive and that’s what we need right now.”  

For the last week, the Red Cross provided food, shelter and emotional comfort for South Fork evacuees in nearby Del Norte. The Red Cross will continue to help people affected by wildfires as they return to their homes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Selfless Volunteer, Amanda, Serves Others on Her Special Day!

Video by Bill Forune and Lynette Nyman, Disaster Public Affairs

Amanda Kelly is a Red Cross volunteer with Health Services. She is currently deployed to the Colorado Wildfires DRO 163-13. We caught up with Amanda as she celebrated her 28th birthday. This is no the first time that Amanda has spent a special day deployed with the Red Cross. She was deployed for the Hurricane Sandy deployment from Thanksgiving, Christmas and News Years Day.

Video Postcard From Wonderful Volunteers

So many amazing many wonderful stories! Ann and Brian Fenderson celebrate their 30th Wedding Anniversary while responding with the Red Cross. Watch their video postcard from the Colorado Wildfires. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Black Forest Wildfire Survivor Welcomes A Red Cross Hug

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

When the Black Forest fire started, Sid Webb's first instinct was to go home. By the time he got near his house it was blocked off.

“The fire hit so fast," says Sid. "People were leaving in front of a wall of flames.”

  Wildfire survivor Sid Webb with Red Cross disaster
relief workers Jody and Jim LiVecchi.
That night while staying with friends, he watched TV news coverage of the fire and saw his home burning. There was no doubt about it. The forty-year old wooden structure was kindling for the fire.

“The good news," he says, "is that we had closure immediately.”

Sid and his wife were renting the house. The home was a new start in their lives after downsizing and leaving Atlanta. The Black Forest fire burned everything that they'd kept from their previous life, except their lives.

“You have no clue how fast a fire moves," Sid says. "If you think you’re going to personally fight fire you’re not, you’re going to die.”

Red Cross disaster relief worker Jody LiVecchi walked the home's charred remains with Sid. He welcomed a hug from Jody, saying that he needed nothing else. 

"I'd rather Red Cross help go to others who need it more."

Nothing remains but burned shards where Sid Webb and
his wife lived before the wildfire in Black Forest, Colorado.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Red Cross Feeds South Fork Evacuees and Firefighters

Story by Patricia Kemp
Photos by Lynette Lyman

Derek Gentry moved in his new place on Thursday. Friday he evacuated South Fork. Saturday morning he found his way to the Red Cross shelter at Del Norte High School for a hot meal and updates about the wildfires in southwest Colorado. 
South Fork resident Derek Gentry and his dog Inca visit the
Red Cross Del Norte shelter for a wam meal and updates
on the wildfires. 

“This fire is brutal,” said Derek of the inferno that’s threatening his small mountain village of 400 townspeople.

All residents were ordered to evacuate. The river guide had 45 minutes to escape to a friend’s house as smoke and haze filled the air. He grabbed his dog Inca and food for her, but left in a hurry without anything for himself to eat. The homemade cinnamon rolls and egg casserole baked by the local Amish community at the shelter hit the spot.
The Red Cross also made three trips to the South Fork Fire Department delivering meals made by the Amish to feed hungry firefighters battling the blaze. 
Bill Werner, Disaster Relief Coordinator for the St. Luis Valley,
delivers meals to firefighters in South Fork. 

Firefighters and evacuated residents of the small town are grateful for the support of the Red Cross and the community to have a warm meal waiting for them.  The Red Cross will continue to support disaster relief by providing food to people affected by the wildfires.
The Red Cross is partnering with the local Amish community
to provide meals to firefighters and evacuated residents of South Fork.

Well Wishes from a Red Cross Volunteer Who Cares

Story and Photos by Patricia Kemp

When Dick Hoffmann went to the Red Cross aid station at School in the Woods June 19, he was swarmed by volunteers eager to load his pickup truck with outdoor cleanup supplies.
Volunteers help Dick Hoffman load his truck with
 outdoor cleaning supplies.
“The Red Cross really cares about me and my family,” said Dick. “Everyone’s so helpful, coming up to me asking what I need -water, buckets, rakes, shovels.”
Volunteer Denise Brill went a step further and offered to help unload the truck for the Black Forest resident whose property is only 900 yards from the aid station. Denise followed Dick to where his house used to stand on Hardin Road, now reduced to ash and twisted metal. Together, they walked around broken tea cups floating in gray soot and past a melted swing set where Dick’s grandson would play.

Volunteer Denise Brill and Dick Hoffmann walk past the melted
swing set where Dick's grandson used to play. 
On the far side of the property a wishing well remains standing, untouched by the inferno – a sign of hope that Dick’s family can recover with support of volunteers like Denise who care and wish him the best.  

VIDEO: Serving Their Country In the Air and On the Ground

Story by Paula Negele

In their normal course of work, the 11 men who arrived early Saturday morning at the Red Cross disaster headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO., take to the air as U.S. Army helicopter pilots and/or crew members. Today, however, their commitment to serving Americans was in the form of loading Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) with supplies, and helping to distribute the goods to residents affected by the Black Forest fire.

The innate teamwork of the 3-4 Aviation Helicopter Battalion was evident as cases of water, sheaths of shovels and stacks of buckets were relayed hand-to-hand, filling the ERV to capacity. They drove off to deliver resources to three fixed aid stations staffed by Red Cross and Salvation Army disaster relief volunteers.

Thank you, gentleman, for your service to Coloradans!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Air Force Academy Cadets Help the Red Cross Help Others

Cadet Dallas Schwake smiles as he puts together
a comfort kit. Photo credit: Nicole McAlpin
At the Red Cross, the demographics among volunteers are broad and beautiful. It is a melting pot of compassionate men and women who come together for a common purpose. So it was no surprise to find three young cadets from the Air Force Academy systematically stuffing personal care bags at the disaster assistance center (DAC) in Colorado Springs, CO to help the victims of the Black Forest Fire.

Trevor Muzzy of Columbia, MO, Mario Bernard of Pittsburgh, PA, and Dallas Schwake of Tupelo, MS – all class of 2016 – had one thing on their minds during what could have been a week long break from their duties at the Air Force Academy, and that was to do whatever they could during their free time to serve others.

Clapp Family Was Prepared to Evacuate

Story by Patricia Kemp

Even as the fire damage to her home remains uncertain, Belinda Clapp’s mind is on helping others. She wants to volunteer for the Red Cross. Belinda and her five-year-old son, Matthew, stopped at the Red Cross aid table at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center seeking safety tips for when her family can return home.

Belinda would make an excellent volunteer as a Red Cross safety instructor. She taught her family to be prepared so they could evacuate at a moment’s notice. When the call came to vacate their Black Forest neighborhood, Belinda and her family were ready.  Family photos and the children’s artwork were scanned on a laptop she could grab and go. Knowing her precious archives aren’t destroyed gives her comfort. Belinda’s husband also told their three boys each could pick five toys to take. One of her sons chose his stuffed gorilla. It gives him comfort.

“I want to encourage everyone to make a list and get a kit together so you can take what’s important,” Belinda said.

Red Cross counselors comfort Black Forest residents

Story by Patricia Kemp

Red Cross grief and trauma counselor John St. Clair could sense the tension behind the sunglasses that shielded Jennifer Schradel’s eyes.

“How are you doing? Are you sleeping?” he asked.

St. Clair chatted through the car window with Jennifer and her husband John June 18 when they drove to the Red Cross aid station at School in the Woods on Vollmer Road. Black Forest residents can find resources to help them recover from the wildfire there. Counselors are on site to check in with residents and offer support.

Jennifer told St. Clair the last week has been difficult for her family. The couple is living in a RV with their 19-month-old and 6-month-old infants on her parent’s driveway. When Jennifer saw the blue sky flicker between orange flames and black smoke, she and John quickly gathered their two babies, a special needs adult they are caring for, and their two poodles.

St. Clair assured Jennifer she did the right thing got everyone out. The Red Cross has had 517 health and mental health contacts since the fire destroyed hundreds of homes. Counselors continue to offer comfort to residents at three Red Cross aid stations in the neighborhood.

Black Forest Resident Urges Neighbors to Register on Safe and Well

Story by Patricia Kemp, photo by Emery Graham

Edwin Busby is registered on Safe and Well to let friends and family know he’s ok. But he wants to know where his neighbors are and how they’re coping after the B
lack Forest fire.

Edwin hasn’t heard from three families on Shoup and Vollmer Road since June 11 when thousands in his community had to evacuate. He visited the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center June 18 to scan the online list with Red Cross workers.

World Refugee Day

Story by Rochelle Ball
Photos by Tim Bothe

On June 15, World Refugee Day was held at New Freedom Park, located at 13th and Yosemite in Denver. Mercy Housing sponsored the annual event, although this was the first year the American Red Cross has participated. One woman approached a volunteer, and although she didn’t speak English, her wide smile and recognition of the Red Cross emblem indicated that the impact of this organization is felt worldwide.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Red Cross Nurse is an Angel in the Black Forest

Story by Patricia Kemp
Photos by Emery Graham

She’s been hailed as an angel by Black Forest residents, but Pam Robinson, RN is just doing what comes natural as a Red Cross nurse.
Pat Robinson, RN
Robinson roams the halls at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center. When she sees someone in distress, she’ll ask in a soft and soothing voice if she can sit with them. Her quite compassion shines a beam of hope to residents in the dark days after the fire.
Homeless and heartbroken over the loss of her home, Brooke Ash, holding her six-month-old daughter Lilianna, found Robinson sitting beside her June 18 at the disaster assistance center.
Brooke fled her home with only the clothes on her back and Lilianna in her arms. She recounts the last few days of turmoil crisscrossing the town, staying with different friends. Brooke tells Robinson the hardest part is watching her daughter go through this and longs for stability.
Through her network of partnering agencies, Robinson finds Brooke and her baby a place to stay. She also finds infant supplies like formula, diapers and pacifiers for the young mother.

“I’m so touched by her kindness,” said Brooke. “I wasn’t looking for her, but she found me. An angel found me.”    

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Black Forest Fire Victims Start The Next Chapter

Story by Autum Mihm

Catherine and William Blake had less than an hour to collect their belongings when the Black Forest wildfire evacuations forced them from their home.

“We got our dogs and a lot of important items from the house before we left,” said William. “We didn’t have enough time to get everything; we made it out just as the smoke was rising from behind our yard.”

The Blake’s then had to wait nearly a week before they could return to see what became of their home. Unfortunately, their house could not be saved from the blaze although some of the houses surrounding them had been spared.

“It was shocking to see when we got here,” said Catherine. “I couldn’t believe how everything was just gone.”

Catherine Blake talking with volunteers
Shortly after returning to their home they stopped by the Red Cross aid station and picked up a fire debris sifter, rakes, shovels and gloves to go through the ash and rubble to see if anything was salvageable.

“I’ve found some teacups and things I wouldn’t have thought would have made it,” said Catherine. “I’m going to try and find my ring and my mother’s china but I can’t even tell what anything is.”

While the Blake's were outside digging through the ash and debris which was once their home, Red Cross volunteers and the fire chaplain stopped by to see how they were doing. Teams of Red Cross mental health counselors along with the fire chaplains have been going through areas damaged by the wildfire to speak with residents and offer emotional support.  The volunteers offered resources for recovery, comforting words, hugs, and even a stuffed animal for their daughter.

Remains of Catherine and William's home
“She’s taking it very well and looking forward to the cleanup,” said William, referring to his daughter.

Catherine and William are taking everything in stride as they work to rebuild their lives after the disaster.  They agree that what matters most is that they have each other, their daughter and their pets.

“We will rebuild,” said William. “We don’t know if it will be here but we will rebuild.”

Red Cross Distribution Center Assisting Fire Victims

Story by Autum Mihm

Catherine Brown-Swain, local business owner in the Black Forest area, was fortunate enough to have a home not affected by the wildfire but her neighbors weren’t so lucky. She and her husband rushed immediately to the aid of their neighbors who were in need of assistance.

“We the got the neighbors horses out of the evacuation zone since they were on vacation in Hawaii,” said Brown-Swain. “We had the trailers and the means to get them out so we went right over.”

Brown-Swain visited the Red Cross distribution site at Black Forest Square where other residents who were affected by the fire were sharing their stories and collecting supplies.  She was in tears as she spoke to fellow neighbors and Red Cross volunteers, recounting the trauma and sadness of this last week’s events.  Although saddened by the events over the past few weeks, Brown-Swain was happy she was able to help her neighbors save their horses.

The Red Cross distribution center offered cleanup supplies and refreshments along with emotional support and resource referrals.  It’s important to take care of your emotional health during a disaster and the Red Cross is here to help whether you need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.  Red Cross aid sites will be set up throughout the affected areas as long as help is needed.

Thompson Family and their Mountain Dogs Visit Red Cross Aid Station

Photo and story by Patricia Kemp and Emery Graham

With their three dogs in tow, Jay, Diane and their son stopped at the Red Cross aid station at School in the Woods after leaving the site where their house once stood.  Jay picked up a rake and a shovel. A small, but first step that will help him plant new trees for his wife and restore a yard for his mountain dogs.

After eight days of not knowing whether their house was still standing or if Diane’s orchard escaped the inferno, the Thompsons were allowed to drive up their street to see their home.

“It’s dust,” said Jay.

When the wildfire forced the Thompsons to evacuate last week, they herded their dogs, Ava, Ozzy and Blitz in their truck and fled for safety.

Jay and Diane Thompson have lived in their Black Forest home since 1986 where she grew fruit trees and he bred German Shepherds.

Although the Thompsons lost their home, they were grateful they had each other, their pets, and the support of the Red Cross and the community.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Red Cross Workers provide services at The Disaster Assistance Center in El Paso County

Story and photos by Emery Graham

Volunteers assisting members of the community
The  Disaster Assistance Center, in El Paso County, Colorado, is a very busy place. It’s a one stop service center for victims of the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Practically every type of social service support is present in the center and fire victims and their families can receive timely and effective assistance to help get them back to normal. Red Cross workers are there helping victims locate relatives, acquire mental health assistance, and making sure that victims have a place to say during this disaster.

Various information and assistance stations 
You can help people affected by disasters like the Black Forest Fires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. The Red Cross is a volunteer organization that uses the donations from our generous supporters to provide the services disaster victims need. A gift of any size supports the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross whether it's responding to a disaster, collecting lifesaving blood, teaching skills that can save a life, or assisting our military members and their families Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.

If you’d like to help in this effort you can call 1-800-REDCROSS. You can make a donation of $10 by texting a message to 90999. Or you can go to and use the donation link there.

Evacuees Celebrate Father's Day at Red Cross Shelter

Story and photos by Autum Mihm

Desli, Rowena, and Tim Pascoe, left, with Red Cross
volunteer Keith, right
On Father’s Day June 16, Red Cross workers, along with the Knights of Columbus and partner groups throughout the area threw a Father’s Day celebration for Black Forest fire evacuees and volunteers at Palmer Ridge High School.  Over 50 volunteers and residents were at the event that featured a delicious meal prepared by the Knights of Columbus, costumed entertainers, a face painter, balloon artist, live music, games and joy for everyone.  This was an opportunity for disaster volunteers and those that have been displaced to spend time with loved ones, relax, and enjoy themselves.

Eleven year old Dimitar Georgiev and his dad Valentin were all smiles as they watched magic tricks and played with balloon animals.

“It’s great here,” said Dimitar. “There’s unlimited snacks and play time and lots of games.”

Valentin and Dimitar Georgev
The Georgiev family was forced from their homes when the wildfire began and have been staying at the Red Cross shelter for nearly a week, waiting for the area to be cleared.

The Pascoe family had to leave their home when the wildfire blazed through Black Forest and came to the Red Cross shelter at Palmer Ridge HS along with their two dogs.  Tim Pascoe his wife, Rowena, and daughter, Desli, enjoyed the Father’s Day festivities.

“We are glad we had this time to spend with our family,” said Rowena. “Things have seemed pretty unreal since the evacuation.”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Disaster Assessment For Black Forest Fire Began Sunday

Story and Photos by Bill Fortune, Disaster Public Affairs volunteer, Pikes Peak Area Chapter

The Disaster Assessment (DA) work for the Black Forest Fire began Sunday (6/16) as three DA volunteers got into a 4-wheel drive pickup early in the morning. The team leader, George Newell, along with team members Julie Utschig and Jenny Steenhoff, are seasoned disaster assessment volunteers. George and Julie worked the Waldo Canyon Fire and Jenny worked the Lower North Fork Fire in 2012.

The morning began with a detailed briefing and the review of "street sheets." These sheets are obtained from the Incident Command Post and provide a list of homes in the burn area. From that list, the assessment team drives through the area in an attempt to locate each residence. This can be a difficult task because address signs are often not clearly visible.

"We try to evaluate each home based on a 3-sided evaluation," said Newell. The team does a drive-by assessment of the front and each side to determine if the home was a total loss, partially damaged or not affected. The information is tallied for Red Cross use only so that recovery planning and support can begin. The numbers provided by the Disaster Assessment teams help the Red Cross decide what vehicles, supplies and manpower are needed to help with the recovery.

"This was the first day of disaster assessment; we have a long way to go,” Newell said. “The complexity of the terrain makes it a slower process." Newell also said that this is sometimes a difficult and emotional task when you consider the impact this kind of disaster has in families and the community.

Father's Day in the Midst of Disaster: Red Cross Dads Celebrate With their Families at Operation Headquarters

DENVER, COLO., June 16, 2013 – Disaster relief workers involved in the Red Cross response to Colorado wildfires got to pause in their busy day and spend a few moments with their loved ones during a special Father’s Day picnic for disaster operations staff on Sunday, June 16.

From left: Rick, Traeger, Eric Jones, celebrating Father's Day
The Red Cross hosted a brief Father’s Day picnic so that workers’ family members could spend a few moments with Dad before he went back to work helping the Red Cross deliver essential basic needs for people affected by the Black Forest Fire and other fires in the state. Food was donated by Catering By Design.

One of the fathers who experienced a moment of joy with both his son and his own father is Eric Jones, Red Cross State Disaster Officer for Colorado. Jones just recently returned from a harrowing, 16-day deployment to Norman, OK, where he had to hunker down during a massive tornado that passed over him and his disaster workforce.

Shortly after completing his assignment as Assistant Director of the Red Cross relief operation in Oklahoma, Jones returned to his home in Lakewood – and almost immediately jumped right back into another major disaster response as wildfires erupted in numerous locations in Colorado on June 11.

Jones, like other Red Cross volunteers and employees, has been working nonstop 12- to 14-hour-days since, and has had little time to spend with his family. He said he had been looking forward to pausing for a moment to celebrate Father’s Day with his family at the Red Cross headquarters.

"We're all working hard today and will tomorrow, and so will the fathers out there on the front line,” Jones said. “As a side note, it touches my heart that my family is willing to come be a part of this celebration of spirit.”

Jones exchanged Father’s Day cards with his son, Traeger, 2, and his father, Rick Jones, at the event.

“I’m so proud of my son for the sacrifices he makes and the people he helps,” Rick Jones said.

For his part, Jones said he learned the importance of service to others from his dad, who retired as a government civil servant after more than 30 years. Rick Jones is still serving to this day, now as a volunteer for a local Sheriff’s Auxiliary. And Eric hopes to instill the same spirit of service and sacrifice in his own son.

Last year, Jones and other Colorado Red Cross staff also worked through Father’s Day and July 4th as they responded to a busy wildfire season. “We're all appreciative of the Red Cross family and for all of those who chose to serve on this special holiday. The Red Cross is all about mobilizing the power of communities and the generosity of donors  - and today Dads especially,” he said.

Lacey the Therapy Dog Helps Provide Emotional Support

Story and photos by Catherine Barde

Lacey pictured with Skyler, Kiona and Sorel Bath
Thea Wasche and her Assisted Therapy K-09 “Lacey” visited the American Red Cross shelter opened in Monument, CO to provide emotional support to families displaced by Colorado’s largest wildfire leaving almost 500 families homeless.

“She is wonderful! She just leaned on me!” squealed one of the many children staying at the shelter. Thea and Lacey walk around and visit with the families. Sometimes the interaction can be as quick as a rub on Lacey’s head and other times, it is as profound as someone who just lost their pet in the fire clinging onto Lacey, crying. “Oftentimes children don’t know what to make of such tragedy and while petting Lacey, they may ask questions or get a moment of comfort and distraction. People open up in ways around Lacey that allow for the healing process to begin,” says Thea.

Thea and Lacey worked tirelessly during the Waldo Canyon Fire, almost one year ago in Colorado Springs. They serve with Ft. Carson’s Evans  Army Hospital Chapter of the American Red Cross in Colorado Springs. The duo works with the Wounded Warriors and also assists patients with less-obvious injuries such as Post Tramatic Stress Disorder as well as trauma and anxiety from natural disasters such as wildfires.

Brook Cramer, age 9, with her mother Shelly
play with Lacey. At right: Thea Wasche, handler
Lacey is a Registered Therapy Dog with Delta Pet Partners, American Humane as well as the American Red Cross.  Lacey has been a registered therapy dog since 2008 and the duo have been volunteers for the American Red Cross for 4 years.  The team has donated more than 400 hours each year providing animal assisted therapy to over 3,900 military and civilian personnel.

In her professional career, Thea is a 30 year employee with the Department of Defense  and currently serves as the Deputy Commander for the Force Support Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colorado.

Red Cross Health Services Answers the Call to Black Forest Fire Response

Story and photo by Catherine Barde

The Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross, in partnership with the Medical Reserve Corp of El Paso County, have been providing On-Call, Physician care at the three Red Cross shelters opened in the Colorado Springs area in response to the Black Forest Wildfire. Almost 40,000 individuals were evacuated from their homes and many had medical or special needs and during this time, over 250 individuals received medical services at one of the shelters.

Bill Grieson, 36-year resident of Monument, CO,
and Red Cross therapy dog, Lacey
This week they have monitored clients with diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and breathing difficulties exacerbated by the smoke and assisted with Red Cross Health Services Team with the specialize care which Bill Grieson requires. He has been staying at the Palmer Ridge High School in Monument Colorado since Wednesday, June 12, 2013 in a comfortable, private area with a medical cot and the assistance he receives to manage his daily living. "Red Cross volunteers have treated me with such dignity during this difficult time. It makes leaving my home of 36 years just a little easier," said Bill.

The Medical Reserve Corp volunteers include medical and public health professionals such as physicians, nurses and pharmacists who donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to emergencies and promote healthy living throughout the year.  Medical Reserve Corps of El Paso County has co-partnered with the Red Cross in many shelters including those during Waldo Canyon Wildfire.

"We are incredibly pleased with this partnership and this is the perfect example of how well we work together to provide for the special and medical needs of those evacuated," said Frankie Gales, LPN and Coordinator for El Paso County.

The Red Cross relies on a trained workforce of volunteers to provide emergency assistance. “Our hearts are warmed by the huge outpouring of people who want to help others by giving their time through the Red Cross.” said Lori Geres, Regional Volunteer Services Director for the Red Cross in Colorado.  To become a Red Cross trained volunteer, visit

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Evacuated Families Hoping For The Best

Story and photo by Bill Fortune, PA Volunteer

Julie Bohatch and her family were evacuated from their home Tuesday evening as the Black Forest Fire surged in their direction. Their home is located on the border of the mandatory evacuation zone and just a short distance from a fire station. "We are hoping that being close to a fire station will help our home survive," said Bohatch. "We had to move fast so we gathered the important things, the kids, the cat and the dogs, and just took off as fast as we could."

Julie and her family arrived at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs where the Red Cross had opened an evacuation shelter. She joined the other families that have similar stories. Julie feels that the attitude in the shelter is one of optimism and hope, while recognizing the seriousness of the emergency. "I keep trying to look on the bright side of things and try to stay happy," she said.

Julie is very appreciative of the service provided by the Red Cross and grateful to New Life Church for making the shelter available. She has been pleased with the level of service by the Red Cross. "They even found a phone charger so that I can keep my phone running," Bohatch said. "That is just amazing."

While they are all concerned about the fate of their home, they all know that it doesn't help much to worry and that the best thing do is to hope for the best.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Celebrating Community Heroes" Event in Fort Collins Recognizes Local Heroes

by Melody Storgaard-Stieve, Northern Colorado Chapter

Sometimes, heroes come to us in unexpected ways at the perfect time. These heroes may turn out to be neighbors who persevere through personal loss to help others, local businesses who step up to help the community they call home, emergency personnel who continue serving their community despite their own personal losses, or even your own daughter. Surprisingly, even an animal can inspire us with how they react during difficult times.

Erin Mounsey (left) and
"Clara Barton" (aka
Eva Sue Littleton)
On Thursday, June 6, the American Red Cross in Northern Colorado spent an evening honoring these courageous people and one extraordinary animal. The evening started out with a cocktail hour - which provided an opportunity to learn about Red Cross services – followed by a dinner and award ceremony.

OtterBox received the Red Cross Commitment to Community award. During the wildfires last year, the staff of OtterBox partnered with Brinkman Partners and McWhinney to make and donate sifter boxes for residents to use to sift through the ashes of their homes to recover personal items. In addition to the sifter boxes, The OtterCares Foundation also gave a generous donation to support Red Cross disaster relief..

Local couple Jerry and Patti Ellman were honored with a special recognition during the ceremony. Despite the devastation of losing their own home during the High Park Fire, they continued to volunteer with the Red Cross and help others.

The Spirit of the Red Cross award went to Poudre School District for providing shelter and gathering facilities for  residents evacuated from the High Park Fire, and for their employees’ continued care for affected residents throughout the difficult waiting period. Poudre School District often opens up their doors for Red Cross use when people are in need of a warm place to stay during times of disaster.

The Animal Lifesaver award went to Ellie the donkey. She saved herself, three Percheron draft horses and another donkey during last year’s High Park Fire. She kept the animals calm and together for three days while they awaited rescue.

The Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department award presentation:
(L to R) Erin Mounsey, Norm Miller, Luke Whitson, Jeff Elsner,
Carol Dollard, Bob Gann, Drew Yancey
The Red Cross presented the Professional Rescuer award to the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department. These brave men and women continued to work tireless hours under strenuous circumstances to make sure their communities were safe – even as many received personal devastating news of losing their own homes and the destruction of one of their own fire stations.

Youth Lifesaver Julia Hastings learned Red Cross CPR through lifeguard training, not knowing how or if she would ever use her newly learned skills. Julia’s ability to stay calm and use the techniques she learned enabled Julia to save the life of her mother when she found her mom without a pulse and unconscious on the floor.

Thank you to all of our award winners for showing us what can happen when someone steps out of their comfort zone in order to lend a helping hand to someone in need.  You inspire us all to be prepared and have compassion for those around us.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mile High Chapter Launches Behind the Red

Behind the Red, an “active professional group” that supports the Red Cross through volunteerism, fundraising and advocacy, made its official debut last week at an event emceed by Kyle Clark, anchor of 9News.

Cori Plotkin Streetman and Sarah Hogan, co-chairs of Behind the Red, bring years of experience in fostering corporate-nonprofit partnerships to this new group in order to “roll up our sleeves, help Colorado and give something back to the community.”

Behind the Red members also look forward to developing their leadership potential within the Red Cross organization.  Representing a valuable demographic to one of the world’s most recognizable and reliable support organizations, they bring an action-oriented agenda targeted at assisting the Red Cross in “responding to everyday needs in our community.”

Outside Mile High Station, a shiny, new, Red Cross emblazoned disaster vehicle was parked as a visual reminder that Behind the Red was hoping to raise $25,000 to provide a new one to the Mile High Chapter.  

The first Behind the Red service project is scheduled for Saturday, June 8th, at Heil Valley Ranch, part of Parks and Open Space in Boulder County.  “We won’t know exactly what the ranger will have us doing,” said Mieke Scheirer who is organizing the project for Behind the Red.  “We may be planting trees, seeding various areas or raking ruff, but it will be good for the park as well as fun for our BTR volunteers!” 

Gino Greco, Regional Chief Executive Officer of the Mile High Chapter, said that launching “an affinity group like Behind the Red” represented a vision that he had for the Red Cross and thanked the governing council and board for making it a reality.  He reiterated that “every day, one of us is touched, in one way or another, by the Red Cross.”  Behind the Red would be a great addition to the “power and passion of the Red Cross volunteer community.”

On a lighter note, The Whisk Beat provided a most entertaining and eclectic set of songs by three guys drumming on a variety of metal pots, pans and plastic tubs.   Utilizing recognizable kitchen supplies and a “deep rhythmic knowledge” of music from around the globe, they provided a lively introduction for Cori Streetman as she welcomed attendees and officially launched Behind the Red as a new vehicle for supporting the Red Cross.

For more information about joining Behind the Red, send an email to:  To sign up for the June 8th volunteer day at Heil Valley Ranch, email Mieke Scheirer at: