Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions - Lifesaving Habits

by Mary Urban

When most people mention they are making resolutions for the New Year, images of strenuous exercise or improving eating habits come to mind. Change is difficult; by mid-February resolve to transcend into a state of fresh routines is forgotten, and we cast aside our determination to choose steamed broccoli over French fries.

But developing lasting, beneficial habits can also include home safety. Preparing for hazardous weather conditions, power outages, or taking precautions against home fires can bring peace of mind, empowerment, and save lives. Winter months mean greater usage of space heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, and even candles. Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster – and the vast majority of these are home fires.

Here are some quick safety tips:

Cooking Fires 

We can be easily distracted by visitors and loved-ones while cooking holiday dinners—fires from cooking are the No. 1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. 
  • Never leave the room when food is cooking on stove-top. 


  • Place candles where they cannot be reached or knocked over by pets or children. 
  • Extinguishing all candles before leaving a room. 

Home Heating

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or wood/coal stoves to stay warm.

  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. 
  • Keep bedding, curtains, etc. at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces. 
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. 

Smoke Alarms/Escape Plan 

  • Make sure all family members know at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Always include pets in your escape plan. 
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly. A low battery warning usually sounds like a “chirping” noise. 
  • Smoke alarms wear out. Replace your alarms every 10 years. Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming over and around it regularly. Dust and debris can interfere with its operation. 
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms as well. If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. 

Power Outages 

In heavy snow, neighborhoods with tall trees and above-ground power lines can increase chances of power outages. For prolonged power outages, there are steps you can take to minimize food loss and keep members of your household as comfortable as possible.

  • An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. 
  • A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. 
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home. 
  • Keep bottled water on hand—one gallon per person, per day. 

For a comprehensive home and disaster safety list, visit the Red Cross website.

Scheduling time each month with your family to focus on just one aspect of preparedness can be a liberating and lifesaving habit, providing tools to empower all household members. Happy and safe New Year, and may all your resolutions last!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tidings of Comfort and Joy for Our Military Veterans

By Bill Fortune

The sacrifice that has been made by those who have served in our Armed Forces is immeasurable but deeply appreciated. During the holiday season the American Red Cross expresses that appreciation across the nation through our Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Across the country people get together to sign cards, some of which are handmade, wrap gifts and then deliver to active duty service members around the globe.

Our military veterans are also part of that effort. The cards are personalized and delivered to many of our nation's veterans homes, hospitals, service center and medical centers in an effort to show our appreciation for what they did to protect our freedom.

In Colorado cards were delivered to our veterans across the state by Red Cross Service to Armed Forces staff and volunteers and by our Red Cross youth clubs with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer.

Spanning the Generations
Students from Monte Vista Red Cross Club bring
joy to veterans at the Colorado State Veterans
Center-Homelake. Photo by Bill Werner
Students from Monte Vista 7th grade Red Cross Youth Club put on their holiday smiles and delivered cards and gifts to veterans at the Colorado State Veterans Center-Homelake, near Monte Vista. The students were given the names of their resident ahead of time so that they could get appropriate gifts and make personal cards. One student dressed as Santa and handed out gifts while other students spent time talking with each of the veterans. Bill Werner, Disaster Program Manager for southwest Colorado said it all with, “Hugs, smiles and tears were everywhere.”

SAF volunters and students from Red Cross Youth Clubs
brought comfort and joy to the Grand Junction
 VA medical center. Photo by Eric Myers
Students from the Red Cross Clubs in Fruita and Palisades put together a welcome event at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center. There, too, the personally made cards and happy conversations brought smiles from the residents of the VA Center.

Like good Christmas Elves, SAF staff and volunteers delivered cards to military installations across southeastern Colorado. Cards and warm wishes were delivered to service members at Fort Carson and Evans Army Community Hospital. The teams brought sign cards to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson along with boxes of blank cards that service members could use to write home to loved ones.

A Christmas Miracle?
At the VA Community Living Center (CLC) in Pueblo, Barbara Shufelt, a manager for the SAF program in Colorado, brought her Christmas Elf powers to provide an extra level of joy to the residents. The CLC has had a tradition of a holiday party for the residents over the years and Barbara has attended several. She noticed recently that the piano, which had been a source of merriment for the veterans, was not being used. When she checked on it, the staff at CLC told her that the old Steinway grand piano had “fallen on hard times” and it was no longer useable.

Barbara Shufelt (R) and  Bob Marshall stand behind the
new electronic piano provided to the Pueblo CLC.
Photo by Red Cross
That’s when Barbara went to work. Campaigning within the ranks of the Red Cross, Barbara managed to get funds approved to purchase a new electronic piano to give to the CLC residents. December 23, Barbara brought the gift to the CLC just in time for their holiday party.

“It was like a Christmas miracle,” said Keith Anderson, Volunteer Coordinator for the VA Community Living Center. “This was a very generous donation and we thank the Red Cross for all of the support they give to our veterans here at the CLC. The timing was perfect”

The new piano was placed in the lobby right next to the old Steinway. According to Rob Marshall, Recreation Therapist at the CLC, the electronic piano can play prerecorded music and it will be turned on each morning. “This will really brighten up their day, every day,” he said. “It is a great gift for these veterans who have served our country.” They also plan to arrange for students and other volunteers to come to the CLC to play music and sing along with the veterans.

I just couldn’t stand by and let them have their holiday party without the piano,“ Barbara said. “It was always such a source of joy for the veterans.”

When the music came on the mood in the room brightened. One veteran gave Barbara a hug and told her that about how they all appreciated the Red Cross and all that has been done for them at the Pueblo CLC. “You do great work and we love having you visit.”

The American Red Cross has a long history of support for our nation’s military and veterans in peace time and in war. That support continues and if you would like to be part of that effort you can become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting our web site at and then click on Volunteer.

Happy Holidays to all of our military service members, their families and to all veterans. We appreciate what you do, and what you have done, for us.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Spreading the Holiday Spirit to Military Families

Story by Bill Fortune

(L to R) Brig.Gen. Don Laucirica, Zoey Stealey, James Griffith,
 Suzanne Buemi and Isabella share a moment with Santa
 at the CoNG 8th annual Santa’s workshop. 
Photo by Arnett Luce/American Red Cross.
The Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) program has a century long history of supporting our nation’s military in peace time and in war. Our emergency communications service handles hundreds of contacts every day across the country and around the world in an effort to keep military members and their families connected.

During the holiday season our service continues and it takes on an additional opportunity to support the military families directly. SAF teams of staff and volunteers helped out at local holiday events on military installations around the state in an effort to spread some holiday spirit and to make sure that the children of our service members had something under the Christmas tree this year.

Volunteer Job Ojo hands a beanbag to Matthew Glidden at the
Schriever AFB Children's Fest. Photo by Joe Coleman/
American Red Cross
December 4 found our teams at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs for the annual tree lighting ceremony and at Schriever AFB the next day helping at the Children’s Holiday Fun Fest. These events get our military families together to celebrate the holidays and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season. Our volunteers were on hand to play games with the children and provide a little extra fun time while parents went "shopping".

December 12 found our teams in Grand Junction, Centennial and Colorado Springs supporting Santa Workshops for the Colorado National Guard members and their families. These well attended events offer an opportunity for service members and families to do some Christmas shopping. Free gifts were made available through community partners to make it easier for families to have presents under the tree. “This was the eighth year for the Santa’s Workshop for the Colorado National Guard,” said Suzanne Buemi who helped coordinate the event in Colorado Springs. “Service members are able to come to this event to get gifts so that their kids can have toys under the tree.” Santa was also at the event along with books and activities for the kids to do while the parents checked out the gifts.
Volunteers Rick Crabtree(L) and Julie Justus with Exec Dir
Eric Myers at the Santa Workshop in Grand Junction.
Photo by American Red Cross

At all of the events across Colorado, The Red Cross SAF teams wrapped presents and provided Red Cross first aid kits and emergency kits to give as gifts. James Griffith is an SAF volunteer and helps with these events every year. “This is one of my favorites SAF activities,” He said. “We do a lot of things for our service members and their families but this one really gets me into the giving spirit.”

Our service to Armed Forces program has helped service members, veterans and families for over 100 years. You can be part of that tradition by going to our website and clicking on Volunteer.

Happy Holidays to all of those who are serving our country, our veterans and their families.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Volunteer Profile: Disaster Action Team Captain Jason Heddings

In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck, Jason Heddings wanted to assist those in need. “When there is a big event you want jump in and help, but the people that have been trained are already there,” said Heddings. He decided that next time something happened, he would be ready.

Jason Heddings,
Adams County
Disaster Action Team Captain
For the last eight years Jason has been ready, volunteering as a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) captain for Adams County. “Whenever there is an emergency where people are displaced, the DAT volunteers are the first boots on the ground, so to speak, for the Red Cross,” said Jason. He and his team assess client needs at local emergencies ranging from single family fires that affect one family at a time, to apartment fires and floods that displace dozens of people. They meet families’ immediate needs by providing a warm, safe place to stay and help for things like food, clothing, baby formula, coats and shoes. They also connect clients with Red Cross resources such as health services to help replace lost medications and disaster mental health services to help process loss.

Jason still remembers his first disaster call -- a single family home fire, late at night and freezing cold, at a house belonging to a husband and wife pregnant with their first baby. Jason and the Disasters Action Team were able to arrange for a Red Cross feeding vehicle to come support the family and the first responders. “You don’t know what their situation is or why there was a fire, but you can see their gratitude and have the feeling that you are really helping,” said Jason.

Volunteers offer assistance at a home fire.
Another experience that sticks out for Jason was an unusual call, a home fire where the family had thousands of snakes in the basement. Jason and two other DAT volunteers transported crates of critters out of the basement and to the family’s barn, helping save the family’s snake-breeding business.

Working with clients is the most rewarding part for Jason. “It is 2 a.m. and the phone rings while you are asleep or you are in the middle of dinner, but as soon as you get to meet the clients face to face, it makes it worthwhile,” Jason said, adding, “I don't know that I truly realized what it meant to be part of a fully humanitarian organization until I joined the Red Cross. … At every turn we are there for someone else.”

If you would like to learn more about becoming an Adams County Disaster Action Team volunteer, join us on Dec. 12 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Thornton Community Center to speak with current volunteers like Jason.

Event Information
Adams County Red Cross Social: Meet some current volunteers and learn more about our open positions while enjoying some hot chocolate.

December 12, Noon - 2 p.m.
Thornton Community Center
2141 E.95th Ave Thornton, CO 80229

For more info email-

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Providing Help and Hope for People of Texas

By Leila Roche and Jennifer Marsh

Late October brought torrential rain and winds to Texas and many southern states. Houston received more than nine inches of rain in fewer than 24 hours as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia – the second Pacific hurricane on record to make landfall at its intensity – passed through and added to the impact of existing storms passing through the region.

Volunteers Peggy Johnson (L) and Larry Cornet after
from deployment to help with floods in Texas. Photo
by Walter Palmer, American Red Cross
Rain swelled rivers and flooded roads in parts of the Houston area. Other areas were hit harder: The tiny town of Powell in Navarro County got 20 inches of rain over 30 hours. Many areas also sustained tornado damage, as well.

Two Colorado Red Cross volunteers deployed to Houston, Texas to assist with response efforts.

These are their stories in their words:

Larry Cornett, Volunteer ERV Driver
Originally, we were called into service to assist Austin when Houston was still being impacted by the storms. By the time we got there, the need in Houston had escalated, and we were sent there once we reached Austin.

Larry Cornett (in ERV) and Peggy Johnson (L) load the
ERV with the help of another Red Crossw volunteer
before heading to flood stricken areas. Ohoto by
Mark Bishop, American Red Cross
Our Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) was loaded with everything: cleaning kits, bleach, trash bags, shovels, tarps, gloves, respirators. Our job when we got to Harris County was to capture the initial damage assessments and provide districts with supplies.

There was tornado damage when we got there – mostly roof damage and fences down. But there were a few houses that were completely destroyed.

There was one couple I talked to. Their home was destroyed by one of the tornados. The mom said she was able to grab their daughter and make it into the bathtub. But their 15-year-old son was sleeping, so the dad, Raj, grabbed him, and they took cover under the bed. They said the air pressure was so strong windows were blowing out throughout the house. Then, the roof lifted up – entirely off the house – and fell back down. It was all over in about 30 seconds, and no one was injured – thankfully. But the aftermath was devastating for them. Insulation from the attic was strewn over a three-house area – it looked like it’d snowed. And the roof caved into the house in front and was completely gone in the rear.

“We were spared by the grace of God,” Raj said. “It’s a miracle we were unharmed. The house had disintegrated around us.”

Before we left, he thanked us for our help and support – mental and emotional, too. He said it was comforting having the Red Cross there to assist him and his family on their road to recovery. I mean, that’s the entire purpose of the Red Cross – we are there when disaster strikes and when people need support and direction in dire times. It’s truly a privilege to provide comfort to others.

Peggy Johnson, Volunteer ERV Driver
Hurricane Patricia came through the southern Houston area about a week before we deployed. We loaded the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and drove down from Colorado with cleaning kits, bleach, tarps, trash bags, water, gloves and other cleaning supplies from the disaster response operation warehouse.

Volunteer Peggy Johnson gets a welcome hug
from Dee after providing her with cleanup supplies.
Photo by  Mark Bishop, American Red Cross
We were in a flooded area where people had water levels of 4-6 inches inside their homes. When we arrived on the scene, people were happy to see us. The response was very positive. They were so happy to have some time to talk to us about what they had been experiencing over the last week.

One client in particular I remember well. She was so appreciative. Her name was “Dee.” She showed us the water level on her house. There was a bayou nearby that washed out the area. She was really frustrated with the red tape of trying to get disaster relief from the local authorities. She’d been going to City Hall every day for a week without results. She couldn’t believe it when we gave her supplies to clean and disinfect her home, a case of bottled water and even a shovel to clean out the debris – all free.

Before leaving, we gave her the contact number for the Red Cross so she could have a caseworker come out to provide her with further assistance. She hugged and thanked us for quite a while before we headed out to assist others in the neighborhood.

“You are all angels from heaven. I so appreciate y’all so much,” she said. “You have brought hope to my home. You are a blessing.”

Volunteer Peggy Johnson Hands out supplies to a waiting
crown near Houston. Photo by Mark Bishop, American Red Cross
We pulled into one neighborhood, announced we were there with cleanup items and suddenly we were inundated. People clamoring for supplies like water, bleach and shovels. They helped us hand out the supplies and helped each other get what they needed. They were very happy to see us and grateful for the support we provided.

It was such a gratifying experience – being there to help when the need was the greatest.

A large crowd gathers behind the ERV to get cleanup
supplies to help recover from devastating floods in Texas
Photo by Mark Bishop,American Red Cross

The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters in America every year ranging from hurricanes to house fires. Dozens of Colorado Red Cross disaster volunteers deployed to disaster from South Carolina floods to Washington wildfires. They give their time and compassion to bring help and hope to people affected by disaster. We salute all of our volunteers and thank them for their service.

If you would like to help the Red Cross keep the promise of hope go to to find out how to volunteer or donate. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

IHL Film Series: Unaccompanied Minors, Human Rights and Dignity in "The Good Lie"

For the Lost Boys of Sudan, the thousands of minors displaced during Sudan's Second civil war, escaping their home country meant surviving dangers like wild animals, starvation, and active war zones. But the challenges don't end for unaccompanied minors once they reach their host nation, as the 2014 film, "The Good Lie," shows. The film, which depicts the travails of several Sudanese Lost Boys as they travel from Sudan to resettle in the U.S., is December's installment of the International Humanitarian Law Film Series, screening Thursday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m.

"The Good Lie" explores the lives of Sudanese refugees Mamere, Paul, Jeremiah, Theo and Abital as they resettle in the United States. Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon) is a career counselor whose experience providing vocational assistance only partially prepares her for the challenges of helping the young men from a village in Sudan adjust to American life. With Carrie's help, the Lost Boys navigate the American job market, youth culture and refugee-resettlement bureaucracy with varying degrees of success and failure.

While the film garnered some criticism for its "Hollywood" treatment of the Sudanese minor refugee crisis, it reveals important insights into the difficulties faced by young refugees in their host nations. As the U.S. faces a continuing need for refugee resettlement services, "The Good Lie" offers enduring lessons for Americans whose communities may soon be home to adult and minor refugees alike.

 Unaccompanied minor refugees are among the most vulnerable refugee populations, and require comprehensive and nuanced support once they arrive in a host country. The International Committee for the Red Cross works extensively with unaccompanied minor refugees to relocate displaced family members, provide shelter and medical care, and offer legal and social services.

The film presentation will be followed by snacks and a round-table discussion on International Humanitarian Law and the preservation of human dignity among those fleeing armed conflict, particularly minor children. To RSVP to the event, click here. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Join our Film Club and Receive Free Gifts and Benefits!

Between November 2015 and April 2016, attend at least three IHL film series screenings and receive a free Red Cross first-aid kit. Attend at least five and be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a Red Cross disaster supplies kit!