Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wanted: Dedicated, Committed Volunteer Health and Safety Instructors

Matt Reeves, Territory Training Specialist for the Rocky Mountain region, says the Red Cross is always in need of a few committed men and women to teach babysitting, CPR, First Aid and the other health and safety courses that make up the instructional component of the organization’s mission.

Training for instructors is extensive, with a process that begins after the standard volunteer application process. Instructors must complete a CPR refresher course, an instructor training, a co-teaching experience and teach a course under observation. The Red Cross provides all of this training for FREE – but Instructors are asked to repay the organization for their training by teaching eight courses per year. Individuals with an instructional or medical background (nurses, EMTs and other first responders) tend to be well-suited to provide the patience and expertise that this kind of volunteer work requires, although there are no special skills or regulatory requirements for becoming an instructor. One need only be over 18 (to teach a course alone) and, as Reeves said, must come into their role with a real desire to teach and to work independently. Successful volunteers, Reeves said, “Really want to be teachers,” and can be relied upon to consistently teach to the steady stream of interested trainees.

Reeves said that an ongoing need exists for instructors willing to teach the Red Cross babysitting course, which tends to draw a specific age group of tweens and adolescents. “I’m a big fan of people who like kids,” Reeves said, “Because I like to steer my volunteers toward teaching babysitting.” Coincidentally, Colorado sells out babysitting classes regularly and leads the nation in enrollment in this course.

But while the extensive training and the commitment to teaching requires a particularly dedicated volunteer, Reeves said this kind of volunteer work is “self-rewarding.” He described the common situation of meeting a former trainee in public: “I can’t really describe to you what it’s like when you’re in a grocery store or at a movie, and someone goes, ‘Hey, you were my First Aid instructor!’” He said. “Then the story kicks off with, ‘My daughter was choking,’ or, ‘My grandmother had a heart attack… Just the fact that they knew what to do was life-changing for them. It’s an easy feeling to get addicted to.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Time Has Come For Nominations For Volunteer Awards!

The dedicated men and women who undertake volunteer work see it as its own reward. That’s not to say, however, that a little recognition for a job well done or a commitment to exemplary service isn’t appreciated. That’s why local Red Cross chapters honor extraordinary volunteers with awards throughout the year. 

The Mile High Chapter is currently accepting nominations of outstanding volunteers. The chapter has 10 annual awards, each in recognition of a different way Red Cross volunteers serve their community.

Several awards are given to volunteers for exceptional service in specific fields in which the Red Cross operates: preparedness; disaster preparedness and response; transportation services; service to the armed forces and preparedness; and health and safety services (PHSS). Awards also recognize volunteers who are part of a family dedicated to service to the Red Cross and to honor a volunteer/employee partnership that exemplifies the commitment of the Red Cross to shared leadership. 

In addition to these, there are three awards that honor individuals for outstanding service regardless of service area specialization. The BJ Coyle award, named for a 22-year veteran of the Red Cross, honors those who selflessly devote themselves to serving those in need through the organization. The Volunteer Leadership award is given to an individual who demonstrates commendable leadership on any level in support of the Red Cross. Finally, there is the Honor Roll award, which recognizes those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments and service to the organization. The Honor Roll is the highest award volunteers in the Colorado Chapters may receive.

In consideration of the numerous and exceedingly destructive disasters to which the Red Cross has responded in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, as well as continued efforts to provide aid during home fire responses, many volunteers have been asked to give even more of themselves, their time and their services to the organization. Lori Geres, Regional Director of Volunteer Services for the Region, stated that the volunteers who devoted themselves to these efforts deserve recognition for their hard work. "Volunteers are the lifeblood of this organization," she said. "And they should be recognized for their incredible contribution."

Nominations for volunteer awards are due to Jenny Cowen ( by Aug. 12. Volunteers with someone in mind for a particular award should contact their staff supervisor for more information and the necessary forms. A regional ceremony to honor award recipients will be held in Fall 2013.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Registration Open for September Business Preparedness Academy

The inaugural Business Preparedness Academy is scheduled for September 18, 2013, in Black Hawk, Colorado.  At the Academy, participants will have the opportunity to participate in various sessions and many exhibits all focusing on emergency management and preparedness for businesses and organizations.  Dr. John Nicoletti, a national expert on identifying, assessing and defusing attack-related behaviors and violence in workplaces and schools, is the keynote speaker for the Academy and will be joined by other experts in the fields of emergency and disaster preparedness.

“Businesses need to be prepared not only for their own survival, but for the recovery and well-being of the communities in which they’re based. If your business can’t recover from a disaster, it can’t contribute the jobs, services, goods and tax revenues so vital to the greater community’s ability to recover,” said Troy Staples, Corporate Preparedness and Regional Ready Rating Manager for the American Red Cross of Colorado. Having an emergency preparedness plan can even save your business or organization money and help it from losing market share in the event of a disaster.
Registration for the event opened on July 1, and there is still time to sign up.  With a registration fee of $50 per person (or $25 per person for Red Cross Ready Rating members), this event is affordable for all businesses and organizations, big, small, corporate or local.  Community members who are interested in and/or concerned about preparedness are welcome and encouraged to attend the event.  At this time, we are also still looking for presenters and exhibitors to contribute to the Academy; if you are interested in this, click the link below for more information.

In addition to the main event, the Red Cross will be hosting a Pre-Academy Business Training Session on September 17, 2013, at the Mile High Chapter Office.  In this session, participants will have the opportunity to learn and practice emergency preparedness skills.  This event is a great compliment to the Academy but space is limited to 50 participants, so make sure to register early.
For more information on the Academy or Pre-Academy, to sign up to attend or to apply to present at the Academy, visit

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stuffed Bear Brings Smile After Wildfire

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Fourteen-year-old Katelynn Hughes lost everything in Colorado’s Black Forest wildfire. “My stuff didn’t live,” she says. “All my stuff from my childhood burned. That was sad.”

Katelynn Hughes receives a donated Build-a-Bear from
Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer John Gergen,
Black Forest, Colorado, June 28, 2013.
Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
And so it was a happy surprise for Katelynn when she stopped at a Red Cross bulk distribution site at the main cross roads in the Black Forest. There, John Gergen, a Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer, handed Katelynn a stuffed bear donated from Build-a-Bear.

Gergen has provided disaster mental health services, he says, since before disaster mental health was called disaster mental health. His specialty is working with children.

“Children are resilient, but they can be overwhelmed,” says Gergen. He recommends that parents pay attention to possible signs of stress, such as a child tearing up or not sleeping.

“Getting children back to their normal routines helps reduce stress,” he says.

For Katelynn, regular routines will be disrupted for a long while, but she appears to be doing all right even though going home after the fire was tough.

“It was strange to see my house burned down. But it was cool, she says, to see that some things, like my little sister’s tea set, survived.”

Lives Connect at Red Cross Bulk Distribution Site

Story by Patricia Billinger; photos by Bill Fortune

During a small gathering Saturday in the Black Forest community of Colorado, about two dozen people shared a tearful moment as they mourned lives lost, celebrated new friendships and witnessed the joy that a new puppy can bring into the life of someone who has lost everything.

Red Cross workers, community volunteers and members of the Black Forest community looked on during a special moment as Black Forest resident Darrell Fortner was presented with the gift of a new, trained puppy provided by a collaboration local people who wanted to help.

Fortner lost his dogs, cats, home and belongings to the Black Forest fire.

When the Red Cross opened aid stations in the Black Forest community where affected residents could stop by for water, snacks, clean-up items, emotional support and health services, Fortner started coming by on a regular basis.

That’s where he met Chief Warrant Officer II Brennan Avants and his team of Army volunteers from the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade. Avants and his fellow soldiers had signed up to give their time helping the Red Cross with a variety of needs, from moving heavy bulk supplies to helping in the warehouse to handing out clean-up kits and other items at the distribution sites in the Black Forest.

“Since we’ve been at the site, Darrell’s been a daily presence there, talking with us, crying on our guys’ shoulders, getting water, offering his tree removal service for free to help his neighbors who couldn’t afford it on their own,” Avants said. “We decided we had to do something for him.”

And then, Charlotte Romero of the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary stopped by the Red Cross bulk distribution site to offer assistance to anyone affected by the wildfire who needed help for their animal-related needs. A Red Cross emergency response vehicle driver passed along her information to Avants, who reached out to her to explore avenues for finding a new dog to brighten Darrell’s life.

The Black Forest Animal Sanctuary got Vom Dortmunder German Shepherds to donate a full-bred obedience-trained German Shepherd puppy to Fortner – the puppy that he joyfully and tearfully embraced Saturday at the distribution site that brought all of these separate lives and stories together.

“This is such a touching example of how a community can come together to help people affected by disaster. It is always gratifying when we can help provide the hub that enables people to connect with one another, to meet unmet needs, and to share a deeply human experience,” said Jaici Murcia, operations director for the Red Cross Colorado Wildfires disaster response.