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Friday, December 22, 2017

Making Holidays Brighter for Military Children


Story and Photos By Christina Mascarenas/American Red Cross
Video by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

The children of military families serve too. They endure the hardship and loneliness that comes with frequent moves and deployments. When one of the parents deploys, especially to a combat zone, the stress is hard to cope with. Because the holidays are particularly difficult for the family American
Amber (L) and Zivah get ready to uwrap
at Desert Sage Elem. School.
Girl donated hundreds of American Girl dolls to the American Red Cross with the goal of making the holidays brighter for children in military families. Two daughters of combat veterans were presented with American Girl dolls at Desert Sage Elementary school in Pueblo West, CO.  

Second graders, Amanda John, 8 and Zivah Thomas, 8 were each presented with an American Girl doll in support of them as a military child and to make their Christmas brighter.  The American Girl dolls are a small token to show appreciation for their sacrifice the children make for our nation when their parent is deployed.

According their website, www.americangirl.com, “American Girl is supporting the Red Cross and their Service to the Armed Forces mission, which helps members of the military, veterans, and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service.” 

The Red Cross contacted Julie Kuhlman, the Dean of Students at Desert Sage Elementary School in Pueblo West, CO., who chose Amanda and Zivah to receive the dolls. She reached out to the John and Thomas families to ask if they would be interested participating in the donation. “I know these girls and their families and wanted them to have a brighter holiday,” Kuhlman said. “What a wonderful moment to share.”

Stephanie Thomas, Zivah’s mother said, “The Dean of students called us and at first I thought Zivah was in trouble, then I realized something special was going on.  I kept it a surprise for a while because I had to let it sink in first for me that she had been picked for something special like this.”  

Amanda (L) and Zivah are all smiles as they open the gifts
at Desert Sage Elem. School
On Wednesday in the elementary school’s library, with a holiday theme backdrop including a Christmas tree, handmaid fireplace and library books, Amanda and Zivah tore the wrapping paper of their gifts.  “The doll is really, really, really great,” Amanda said, while Zivah said “I think it’s awesome because I have never gotten one.”  The girls smiled and hugged their dolls and posed for pictures under the Christmas tree.
  
Amanda’s father, Sargent Daniel John, an Engineer in the United State Army and is stationed at Ft. Carson said, “I thought it was awesome” when he received the call from Kuhlman asking if his family wanted to participate in the American Girl doll presentation.  John has been deployed to Afghanistan twice and Iraq three times and fully expects to leave again when his unit deploys this spring. “This is amazing for our daughter and our family, she always wanted an American [Girl] doll, we’ve just never been able to get her an actual American [Girl] Doll.  Thank you so much for everything you guys [Red Cross] do,” John said. 
Zivah said her “daddy is on the other side of the world in [South] Korea.”  She and her mother have been able to Skype with him through his deployments. Sargent First Class, Christopher Thomas is from Canon City.   This is his third deployment but the first deployment that Zivah remembers.  She is counting the days until her father comes home.  Zivah said when her daddy comes home from Korea she is “going to charge at him and give him a big huge hug.”

American Girls for American Girls

Thomas said of her daughter, “Someone like Zivah is very strong for being without her dad and it isn’t easy.  We, as adults often forget that and for her to receive something in recognition for that it’s very special and we thank the Red Cross for thinking of military families for thinking of us, we thank you so much.”

“This is pretty wonderful.” Thomas said, “Zivah’s never had an American Girl doll before so it’s really amazing that we now have this special story to tell of how she got it and why she got it. This is a memory, we will never forget.”





Tuesday, December 19, 2017

American Red Cross Active Shooter Training; A Story of Healing



As part of the work of Save a Life Denver, the American Red Cross is growing a team of instructors to work with businesses and organizations and to prepare community members. On December 16, 2017 a Red Cross training was held to identify these special trainers. Dana Goldsmith, American Red Cross Disability Integration Specialist, along with 20 other volunteers, attended the training and afterward she shared with us the reason she feels so strongly about this opportunity. 

This is her story. 

New Life Church, Colorado Springs; December 9, 2007I was 22 years old. My two sons were 18 months old, and 7 weeks old. My husband was deployed. As was normal for a Sunday, we had attended services that morning and I was meandering in the lobby and talking to friends as we prepared to leave. 

My mother and I had planned to grab lunch and she had gone ahead with the infant as I headed for the door with my toddler and sister close by. As my son exited the building, jumping in puddles of slush from a recent snow, I heard a loud bang. I assumed a car had gone over a grate in the parking lot and kept walking. Likewise, my toddler continued exploring the snow, slush, and every little detail of the sidewalk. I had walked about five feet ahead of him and turned to encourage him, once again, to please hurry. As I did, two more BANGS interrupted my words. I looked past my son to see a man run out of the building, holding his two young kids; they were much too big to be carried. He shouted in our direction as he ran, “There’s a shooter!” I was clearly confused and I responded, “Really?” The man looked at me, wide eyed in disbelief of my reaction, "YES," he responded as he kept running. 

The Goldsmith Family 
Everything became a blur at that moment. I dashed for my car as my sister called out to me that she had my son. She held him to her chest, shielding his head. As we bolted towards the car, I briefly paused, realizing my car was parked with no cars near it for several spaces. I briefly contemplated ducking behind a nearby vehicle because running in the open just didn’t make sense, but neither did hiding. I felt like a sitting duck. So, we ran.

Once I was in the car, my sister hurriedly lifted my son inside, jumped in, and we sped off. As we fled the area a couple was casually walking to their own vehicle. I rolled down my window and screamed, “THERE’S A SHOOTER INSIDE!!! RUN!!!,” but they just looked at me as if I were crazy and kept casually walking. I peeled out of the parking lot, dialing 911. The line was busy. As we headed toward the interstate, about a dozen police cars came roaring up the street. All I could think about was not knowing where my mom was with the baby and how badly I wished my husband was there. He would know what to do. I had no idea. Why would I have ever needed to know how to respond to an act of terror in the safest place I knew; my church.

That day, control over my life was taken from me. I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or who to call. I didn’t know what was right or wrong and I had never felt so consumed by panic and terror. Everything I knew to be true, to be safe, to be familiar…my "normal," it was all gone. In its place, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness grew. In the hours that followed the event, I realized that I didn’t know how to help. I was consumed with thoughts about what I should have or could have done. These feeling would linger for a very long time.

As time passed, I purposefully steered clear of any type of active shooter or 'run-hide-fight' training. I wasn’t sure how I would mentally or physically respond to re-experiencing the events of that day and avoided any and all known triggers of my fear. Recently, I made the decision to face those fear and when I entered the American Red Cross classroom on December 16, 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In anticipation of the training, I had watched some videos on YouTube of “what to do”, but they were triggering. They instilled overwhelming terror, and a sense that I really didn’t know what to do, even now. What would I do if I had to hide? Or fight? All I knew to do was run but if I didn't have that option…then what?

The Red Cross Active Shooter/Stop the Bleed training changed me. The Red Cross approach to training was not to scare the class into action. It wasn’t a graphic reenactment of an experience like the one I never wanted to walk through again. The trainers were sensitive to the subject matter and understood the topic was both important, and delicate. In leaving the training, 10 years after my own active shooter incident, I felt for the first time like I had control over my life again. I now know that I have options; I have choices and tools, and I know what to do and how to do it. It isn’t just the knowledge, but the ability to take back my life from the fear placed there by that unknown individual all those years ago. I no longer wonder what I would do if it happened again. Now, I know.

There is power in having control over your life, or your circumstances. The feeling that you are out of control is one that will throw you into a pit you may not even know you are in. It was freeing, to take that control back. Even after just 1 hour of Active Shooter training, I felt that power return to my hands. Now, I have three options: I can run. I can hide. I can fight. I can…I CAN. And not only that, I will. And because of my Red Cross training, I will survive, thrive, and help others do the same. With the “stop the bleed” training, I now have the tools to help save others' lives, not just survive. Thank you, Red Cross, for taking the time to not only teach me, but to also help me heal.

Guest Post: Dana Goldsmith  

We are thankful to Dana, and others, who took the time to start the process of becoming Active Threat trainers this weekend. If you would like to get involved as a trainer for the Save A Life Denver program, please send an email to Julianna Lochte, the Red Cross Save a Life Denver program directorjulianna.lochte@redcross.org 

About Save A Life Denver: 
Save A Life Denver is a unique coalition of organizations dedicated to preparing metro Denver to better identify, respond to and recover from active threats. As a community, we can do more to prepare for, respond to and recover from active threats. Even though this is a difficult and uncomfortable subject to talk about, thinking about and planning for your response to an active threat can save lives. As a community, we will be more prepared and resilient if we are all empowered to save lives. Safe A Life Denver is a joint effort by community partners to provide resources and training to empower individuals to take appropriate action in the moment, and to talk with others about preparing for active threats. Follow us on Twitter at @SaveALifeDenver to learn more. 


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross and in Colorado and Wyoming at @COWYRedCross






Thursday, December 7, 2017

Disaster Workers Deploying to Support California Fires

Denver, Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - UDATE - Fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, devastating wildfires are threatening communities in Southern California, and the American Red Cross is making sure those affected have a safe place to stay, food to eat and a shoulder to lean on.
The Ventura Fairgrounds shelter. Photo Dermot Tatlow/
 American Red Cross. 

About 620 Red Cross disaster workers are supporting relief efforts now. This includes a total of 6 Red Cross volunteers from the Colorado and Wyoming Region. 

Susan Owen, a volunteer from the Mile High Chapter was deployed on December 9 to support the Client Casework effort in southern California.

Friends find each other at the Ventura County
Fairgrounds Shelter. Photo by Dermot Tatlow/
American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteers are working to ensure that everyone – including those with access, mobility or other functional needs – get the best possible help during this challenging time. The Red Cross is working with partners to provide care for evacuated pets. We encourage anyone who needs a safe place to stay to come to an evacuation shelter, and suitable accommodations will be found for household pets. Service animals and therapy pets are welcome at Red Cross shelters.

The Red Cross is working alongside numerous partners to provide comfort and support to Californians during this challenging time as out-of-control wildfires threaten neighborhoods. Sunday night, more than 300 people took refuge from the fires in five Red Cross and community shelters. Those who come to Red Cross shelters can expect hot meals, comfort and the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and get information.

With the help of partners, the Red Cross has already served more than 20,400 meals and snacks. Red Cross disaster workers are also providing health services such as replacing lost medications and eyeglasses, emotional support and spiritual care to people whose lives have been turned upside down by these wildfires. Nearly 2,200 contacts have already been made. As evacuation orders have been lifted in some areas, the Red Cross is distributing relief items including sifters, masks, trash bags and work gloves. Some 2,200 relief items have already been given out.

You can help people affected by disasters big and small, like the wildfires and countless other crises, by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Call, click, or text to give: visit redcross.org, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Denver, Thursday, December 7, 2017 - The American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming is sending disaster workers to help with the wildfires currently in California.

Suzanne Isenhower, deploying to support logistics. Isenhower is currently a volunteer with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado and lives in Buena Vista, CO. This will be her fourth deployment to a large-scale disaster.

Christine Sturgeon, a volunteer from Poncha Springs, CO with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado, is deployed as a Red Cross Nurse. Sturgeon deployed to support Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma earlier this year.

Cynthia Fox is deploying to California as a Red Cross nurse. Fox is a volunteer with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado who lives in Colorado Springs. She deployed to Hurricane Harvey earlier this year.

Sylvia Raumaker from Jackson, WY is deploying as a shelter supervisor. Raumaker is a volunteer with the Red Cross of Wyoming and she has deployed over 17 times to disasters across the country.

Diana Dalager is a volunteer with the Red Cross of the Mile High Area and resides in Littleton, CO. She is deploying to California as a shelter supervisor. Dalager deployed to support Hurricane Harvey response earlier this year.

Typical deployment for Red Cross disaster response is 14 to 21 days.

In addition to those listed above the Colorado & Wyoming region has four volunteers still deployed to support hurricane relief in Texas and the US Virgin Islands

To see the latest news about how you can help the Red Cross help the hundreds of people that have lost everything due to the wildfires in California visit http://www.redcross.org/news/article/California-Wildfire-Red-Cross-Opens-Shelters-for-Evacuees.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Red Cross responds to help 181 people in November; a 4-week period ending December 3, 2017

American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming, December 5, 2017 -  Disaster knows no holiday. In fact, we find around the holidays to be one of the more common times for disaster to strike. In the month of November our volunteers responded to multiple calls for assistance from disasters such as floods, fires and collapsed buildings across the two-state region. Most of these disasters are home fires, which happen an average of two to three times each day.


Our response to provide help and hope only happens through the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. Today, December 5, 2017 is Colorado Gives Day and you can help make someone’s recovery from disaster possible when you "give something that means something" on this special day. “We are there for your neighbor because of gifts of time and money from Red Cross volunteers and donors, like you,” said Gino Greco, American Red Cross Regional CEO. “We truly can’t do this work without you.”  

Breakdown of the CO & WY 87 county service area:
Mile High Chapter (MHC): 51 individuals received aid; 6 were age 65 and older and 14 were under 18 years old. The MHC response area includes 10 counties in the Denver Metro area.

Southeastern Colorado Chapter (SeCO): 24 individuals received aid; 2 were age 65 or older while 6 were under 18 years old. The SeCO response area includes 16 counties.

Northern Colorado Chapter (NoCO):  46 individuals received aid; 20 were under 18 years old. The NoCO response area includes 11 counties.

Western Colorado Chapter (WeCO): 5 individuals received aid. The WeCo response area covers 27 counties, serving all western Colorado and the San Luis Valley.

Wyoming Chapter: 55 individuals received aid; 14 were under age 18 and 12 over the age of 65. The Wyoming Chapter response area covers all 23 counties that make up the state of Wyoming.

The families and individuals were provided a place to stay, money for clothes, food and medicine. Along with providing casework for the residents in a quick and efficient time frame, Red Cross volunteers will continue to provide support to these families going forward, by doing follow up work to ensure all needs are met and the individuals have a clear path to recovery from this personal disaster.


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Volunteers and Donors Make It Happen

When the path of Hurricane Harvey became more apparent, our Red Cross volunteers got ready to help. It was clear that local volunteers and resources will be completely overwhelmed even before the rain began and Red Cross rallied national resources knowing that the need would be tremendous. Similarly, when Hurricanes Irma, Nate and Maria threatened, resources were mobilized and deployments began. Then came the Las Vegas shooting followed by the disastrous California wildfires.

Two Northern Colorado volunteers prepare to leave for Florida.
Volunteers from across the country, including 37 from northern Colorado, stepped up to support the communities that were impacted. As conditions deteriorated, thousands of volunteers rearranged their lives, said good bye to families and travelled long distances to provide comfort and hope to the people impacted by these storms. More than 18,500 trained Red Cross disaster workers, 91 percent of them volunteers, mobilized to support disaster relief operations including the hurricanes in the southeast, wildfires in the west and, of course, the mass casualty shooting in Las Vegas.

In three months, our responders provided more overnight stays than the Red Cross had provided in the previous 5 years combines. We served more than 10 million meals and delivered 6 million relief items.
One volunteer from northern Colorado deployed as a driver for our Emergency Response Vehicle and quickly acknowledged that, while the work was hard and the days were long, he was happy that he could help people get their lives back together.

Northern Colorado volunteers load the Emergency
response vehicle before heading to Florida. Don't
forget the rubber waders.
Meanwhile, thousands more remained at home to carry on the day-to-day work of the local chapters. They continued to install free smoke alarms, taught CPR/First aid class, brought The Pillowcase Project to local schools, helped military members, their families and veterans and supported families devastated by home fires.

It is the volunteer that makes the Red Cross mission doable. Without them our humanitarian work could not be done. Likewise, were it not for the generosity of donors, the mission of the Red Cross could not be met. As Gino Greco, CEO for the Colorado and Wyoming once said, “Volunteers are the engine of the Red Cross mission and donors provide the fuel that keeps the engine running.”

With that in mind we want to thank our Northern Colorado volunteers, those who deployed to the disaster areas and those who remained at home to carry on the local mission. We also want to thank our donors, like Noble Energy, who saw the need and stepped up to support our humanitarian effort with a donation of $500,000. Without their support we could not have accomplished all that we did.

About Noble Energy

Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL) is an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company with a diversified high-quality portfolio of both U.S. unconventional and global offshore conventional assets spanning three continents. Founded 85 years ago, the company is committed to safely and responsibly delivering our purpose: Energizing the World, Bettering People's Lives®. For more information, visit http://www.nblenergy.com




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Response; A Thank You Note

The mission of the American Red Cross is powered by volunteers and the generosity of donors. The oil and gas industry in Colorado and across the country has committed millions of dollars to the American Red Cross to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, one of the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history.

“Houston, in many ways, is the heart of this country’s oil and gas industry, so the response to this disaster from our members has been overwhelming,” said Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. “Americans from all walks of life are stepping up to help Gulf Coast communities rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and volunteers within oil and gas companies also are cooking food, providing temporary housing, and raising money to support the Red Cross and other relief efforts – many while worried about their own impacted homes and lives.”

The response to Hurricane Harvey as of Nov 28, in numbers, looks like this:
The Red Cross has authorized payment of $400 to more than 573,000 households severely affected by Hurricane Harvey. That’s more than $229 million in direct financial assistance, and we continue to process applications. Along with our partners, we have served more than 4.5 million (4,549,100) meals and snacks in Texas and Louisiana and Red Cross volunteers have provided more than 127,200 mental health and health services to support and care for people in their time of need. We’ve distributed more than 1.6 million (1,660,400) relief items like diapers, bug spray, cleaning supplies, coolers, and comfort kits containing deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items. A total of more than 9,500 trained disaster workers, more than 90 percent volunteers, have supported Harvey relief efforts. Many of these workers have responded to multiple relief operations or deployed multiple times.
  
“It takes an entire community to respond to those devastated by a disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey. We are grateful for the support of the Colorado energy community, including the Colorado Oil & Gas Association and its members to bring hope to those in need,” said Gino Greco, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming.

To date member companies have contributed more than $10MM to the Red Cross in response to Hurricane Harvey. Thank You, to these incredible member companies who donated. 


ARCADIS U.S.
Baker Hughes, a GE Company
Bill Barrett Corporation
Boigon Law
BP America
Caerus
Camino Natural Resources
CH2M
Chevron
Complete Energy Services
ConocoPhillips
DCP Midstream
Denver Petroleum Club
Dow Chemical
EcoVapor
EnergyIQ
Enterprise
Extraction Oil & Gas
ExxonMobil / XTO Energy
Great Western Oil & Gas Company
Jost Energy Law
                            Laramie Energy                            
Liberty Oilfield Services
Mercator Energy
Noble Energy 
PDC Energy
Pioneer Natural Resources
QEP Resources  
Republic Services
Shear
Sklar Exploration Company
Suncor Energy
Ursa Resources Group II
Waste Management
Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, PC
Xcel Energy 



About COGA:
Founded in 1984, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s (COGA) mission is to foster and promote the beneficial, efficient, responsible and environmentally sound development, production and use of Colorado oil and natural gas. COGA is a nationally recognized trade association that aggressively promotes the expansion of Rocky Mountain natural gas markets, supply, and transportation infrastructure through its growing and diverse membership. For more information, please visit coga.org or visit us on Twitter @ColoradoOilGas.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Monday, November 20, 2017

10 Holiday Cooking Safety Tips from Red Cross

Cooking is leading cause of home fires. Smoke alarms and other precautions can help prevent them.


Millions of people will gather for Thanksgiving to enjoy time with loved ones and a delicious holiday dinner this week. With cooking being the number one cause of home fires, the American Red Cross recommends that everyone follow these fire safety steps:
  1. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year if your smoke alarm requires it.
  2. Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
  3. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended – stay in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  4. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  5. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  6. Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  7. Keep anything that can catch fire - pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains - away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  8. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  9. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  10. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
Bonus Tip
The Red Cross First Aid App provides expert advice for common mishaps or emergencies including cuts, burns and what to do if someone is choking. Download the app for free in your app store or text GETFIRST to 90999.

With the support of 4,400 partner organizations, the Red Cross has helped to make more than one million people safer through home visits to install free smoke alarms, assist families with developing fire escape plans and provide home fire safety education. This past year we worked closely with several amazing partners like Metro State University and the Denver Chapter of Hope Worldwide. As part of our #30DaysOfThanks, we want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for the support you give in the community. 

Join this Red Cross effort today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org for more information.

  
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Too Long Alone - Restoring Family Links

Story and Photos By Karen Baldwin, Red Cross Restoring Family Links Caseworker

When I first met Shadia, it took only that first sight to halfway break my heart. She seemed young – VERY young. She had that slender, delicate look that makes one want to encircle her within a protective embrace. Huddling her arms close about herself, she sat hunched at the single, tiny table in her bare-as-bones one-room apartment. She bore the saddest expression on her beautiful young face, framed by a bright hijab – the only spot of brightness in the room.

Glancing around as we settled ourselves to talk on one of only two (hard) chairs, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of any curtains on the window, and the small, ragged futon sofa that clearly doubled as her bed -- the sole remaining content of the room. The other half of my heart broke to see this young girl in these circumstances.

Shadia’s ‘Restoring Family Links’ file revealed the terrible circumstances of her escape. Her mother had died giving birth to her twin sisters, Salma and Salha. Her father had been killed while serving in the Burundi military. She and her sister Hafsa, and the little twins, began living with her grandparents, two cousins and her Aunt, whose husband had been involved in politics and murdered because of it. But their home of Bujumbura, Burundi, was a still torn by civil war.

Shadia, then only 14, was at the market with her little sister Hafsa, her aunt and cousins when a rebel attack arose. In the midst of gunfire and violence, and not daring to return home, they fled, not even knowing if the rest of the family had gotten away. With the continuing gunfire and violence in the streets, it was unthinkable to consider returning home even after a little time had passed, as the danger had not. (Indeed, much later she would learn that her grandparents, still at home, had been murdered.) On foot, the little family troupe faced a journey of over 1500 kilometers to reach the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, far to the northwest. Prospects looked bad for a woman alone with four young children and no resources.

Long days spent traveling the road brought them to the refugee camp. But Shadia’s aunt was overwhelmed by all that had happened. After just a few months, her aunt stole away in the night with her own two children and all their belongings, leaving the two sisters confused and abandoned. After sleeping for a time in the camp’s refugee reception area, the officials eventually placed them with various foster families in the camp. A year later, 16-year old Shadia stayed home sick from school, one day, and her 10-year old sister went off to class as usual … but never came back.

Shadia, sick with grief and fear, searched desperately for her sister. In the camp. In the nearby town. With the camp officials. With the town’s police. But there was no word, no witness. Hafsa had disappeared without trace.
Shadia feared that everyone in her family had been killed, kidnapped, or both. She could not help but think with heartache of her tiny twin sisters, left behind those awful days ago. And wondered why someone had taken Hafsa from her, her sole remaining hearts’ tie. She had lost everything and everyone she had ever known.

But time passes, as it must, and two years later, Shadia was allowed to emigrate, alone, to the United States late in 2014. Shortly after, she was referred to the Red Cross Restoring Family Links team in Denver in hopes of finding her missing family members.We stayed in touch with Shadia providing both a shoulder to lean on and a sympathetic ear to the displaced young girl. Even here, Shadia had it rougher than most. She was placed with a family that had neither room nor much patience for her, but at least let her sleep on their couch. She soon ended up homeless, moving between the homes of school friends.

Through all this, Shadia somehow continued to attend school, learn English, keep up with her lessons, and learn to negotiate a sometimes baffling culture that does not always welcome people like her. She took care of herself as best she could. One day, while exploring yet another place to stay temporarily, a teacher at her school overheard and offered help. That teacher changed things for Shadia. She found Shadia a subsidized low-rent apartment and even picked up the extra expense for it that Shadia had no way to pay.

All her perseverance, though, could not allay her deep sadness. When I met her, her face was full of pain, her eyes were downcast and would not meet mine, her arms wrapped close around herself. Despite all she’d survived, and all she’d accomplished for herself, she was still utterly alone in the world, and clearly felt it.

The Search Begins 

Not every search is a straight line. With the help of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) we continued to search for her family for two years. After so long with either no tidings at all, or leads that hadn’t panned out, in June 2016, we at the Red Cross finally had good news for her … the Red Cross in Africa sent word that her paternal Aunt had been found, and this aunt knew where all three of Shadia’s sisters were -- I was so filled with anticipation to be able to tell her so!

Hearing the news that day, Shadia’s face awoke in light – her arms unwrapped from about herself and her hands raised to Allah together with her eyes. Her entire body seemed to unfold itself and a half-moon smile flashed large in relief and joy across her face. We celebrated, together.

But even then, we weren’t entirely out of the woods. Shadia did not know this ‘Aunt’ we had found, and doubt crept back into us when that Aunt proved unwilling to share the location of her sisters, and asked Shadia for money to travel to Rwanda. She refused to share phone numbers or addresses or the names of those with whom Shadia’s sisters were living. In our uncertainty, we at the Red Cross feared the possibility of an opportunistic stranger impersonating family and pressing for monetary gain (not, after all, an unknown exploit).

But we got lucky – the Burundian Red Cross had contacted a former neighbor who’d moved into the girls’ original home, and that kind woman knew where another of Shadia’s aunts – her maternal Aunt Betty, was living. She contacted Aunt Betty to tell her Shadia had long been searching for her sisters. Through a phone call, Shadia received the happiest, most exciting word that she had an aunt she’d never even known as a child, and not only that, all three of the missing sisters were there. But even so, Shadia wasn’t yet able to confirm things by actually speaking with her long-lost sisters.

Time for the American Red Cross Phone Project! 

Robbe Sokolove and I went back to Shadia’s apartment, once again. This time, even that small room seemed to have bloomed together with Shadia’s spirits. Not only had it been furnished with a real bed, a beautiful desk, some comforts and curtains and brightness, but Shadia even had a laptop computer for schoolwork, and had found a job. With her teacher’s help, Shadia had obtained financial aid, and gained admittance to a college in Denver, where (she told us proudly) she was soon to begin studying aeronautics and pursuing her dream of becoming a pilot.

With a mix of hope and trepidation, we sat with her to place the call to her sister.

There they were! All three of Shadia’s sisters were living with their Aunt Betty, happy and healthy and each attending school. Shadia chattered joyfully with each of them in turn, beginning the process of re-connecting and catching up.

Shadia’s sisters were as happy to hear from Shadia as she was to hear their voices. And her family has now expanded to include her Aunt Betty. We could see the joy and excitement visibly radiating throughout Shadia’s whole being as they finally spoke together, after so many years apart.

Thanks to her teacher, the Red Cross, and her own strong will, Shadia’s future has been entirely changed – not only in the opportunities she has found here, but in the joy of reunion with her long-lost sisters and Aunt. No longer alone, no longer anguished, no longer destitute, the future for her looks bright, as bright as her eyes now shine when we see her.

The American Red Cross can only do our work to alleviate human suffering, thanks to partners like The Ball Foundation. The Ball Foundation gives $300,000 annually to the American Red Cross as a Disaster Responder Program member and just announced an additional gift of $300,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for total giving of $600,000 to the Red Cross globally.

Details on the Ball Foundation's donation to the IFRC is at: Ball Foundation grant to IFRC. and details about their gift as a member of the Disaster Responder Program is at: Disaster Responder Program




Friday, November 10, 2017

Celebrate Veterans Day...Everyday

A photo from our story about the Homeless Veterans
Stand Down.
Story by Bill Fortune, a veteran and a Red Crosser

Veterans Day is a day to recognize the sacrifices that members of our armed forces have made throughout America’s history. It began as Armistice Day following the end of WWI. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day saying, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”

After WWII, Americans saw the sacrifices that again were made to protect our freedom and witnessed again during the Korean War. The voices rose to have Armistice Day become more inclusive of all the sacrifices that have been made and that will be made. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law that made the name change from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Since that time our resolve has been tested on many occasions and our freedom remains in tact and our appreciation for those who have served remains unwavering. 

Father/Daughter photo from our story about Red Cross
support no matter what your rank.
Across America there are ceremonies, parades and events commemorating all veterans for their sacrifice in the protection of our freedom.

Celebrating Everyday
The American Red Cross celebrates Veterans Day every day of the year through our Service to Armed Forces program. Many of our Red Cross volunteers are veterans who recognize the value of Red Cross services and the importance of caring for those who serve in our armed forces.



A photo from our story about a letter
home from Vietnam
Every day, the Red Cross provides hundreds of global emergency communications services that serve to connect a service member to a family back home. Every day our volunteers provide comfort and care to thousands of veterans at military treatment facilities and veteran hospitals and clinics across the country and around the globe. Every day we partner with military support organizations to help our military members and their families cope with deployments and to rebuild their lives after deployment.  Every day we provide access to financial assistance to military members and their families. Every day we provide community outreach and conduct resiliency courses and workshops for military members and their families.

Whenever possible we like to post stories on this blog about military members, family members and veterans and how the Red Cross has supported them. 

Here is a list of recent stories showing how we thank our veterans through service:



Every day we recognize and remember the sacrifice. Every day we are here for our service members, their families and our veterans and every day we salute them for making our lives safer.

Thank you to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. You are in our hearts, every day. 


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nationwide is on Red Cross' Side

The shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States.  In this incident 58 people died and more than 500 were injured. The American Red Cross responded immediately by providing the necessary blood to save lives, giving care and comfort to survivors, families of the deceased, and members of the community.

The American Red Cross deployed 150 volunteers from all over the country. Volunteers reached out to people at the Family Assistance Center, in hospitals, at memorials and vigils, during blood drives, and in private homes. Their assistance made a huge difference to the people affected and their families.

Yadira (R) coordinates with Natividad Lewis about
supporting the Las Vegas community. Photo by
Bill Fortune/American Red Cross
Yadira Rodriguez, a Nationwide associate, was among those volunteers. Using her personal time and with the support of her manager and team, she deployed to Nevada quickly following the tragedy.

After her arrival to Las Vegas she reached to the Hispanic community affected by the tragedy, by partnering with, local churches, NGO’s and the local media. “The response from the community was amazing, the city came together and helped anyway they could,” said Yadira, who has been volunteering for the Red Cross for over four years. She received the 2017 Community Hero Award for International Services for her work with the Hispanic community in Colorado.

“The work that Yadira did for us was extremely valuable,” said Josh Lockwood, Red Cross Administrator for External Relations. “We were able to engage the Hispanic population more effectively so that they could receive Red Cross services.” Yadira’s work also served to improve the capacity of the Red Cross of Southern Nevada by recruiting volunteers of Hispanic descent.

The shooting in Las Vegas was an unprecedented tragedy and will always remain in the hearts and minds of the community and people affected. However, they will also remember that the Red Cross was there to help and guide them through this difficult process. Strong partnerships with organizations like Nationwide help the Red Cross respond to the needs of the community and make a remarkable difference.

Nationwide stands shoulder-to-shoulder with
the Red Cross. Photo by Axl David, American Red Cross
Nationwide, the Nationwide Foundation and the American Red Cross have a longstanding and significant partnership in Colorado and across the country. Since the company's first blood drive in 1944 in Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide associates have given around 14,000 pints annually — potentially saving 42,000 lives each year. As the country’s first corporate onsite donation center located in Nationwide’s home office, Nationwides associates represent about 5 percent of the local blood supply.

Nationwide does more than roll up their sleeves to give blood. The Nationwide Foundation is a founding member of the Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, contributing more than $16 million since 2000, to assist Red Cross with immediate resources to prepare for and respond to disasters.

Monday, November 6, 2017

October Disaster Response Helps 166 People; Thank You to Partners

American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming, November 6, 2017Every day, volunteers continue to meet the needs of individuals and families who have suffered from disaster. In the past 5 weeks, 166 people needed our assistance. In addition to the response, we are also helping people prepare.

Did you know that if a fire starts in your home you may have as little as two minutes to escape? During a fire, early warning from a working smoke alarm plus a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives.The American Red Cross announced last week that one million smoke alarms have been installed and 285 lives have been saved due to the efforts of the volunteers and community partners who have participated in the organization’s Home Fire Campaign.

“Since 2014, Red Cross volunteers in the Colorado & Wyoming Region and across the country have been working with local fire departments and community partners to reduce home fire tragedies in at-risk communities,” said Gino Greco, American Red Cross Regional CEO.  “We are grateful to everyone who has supported our Home Fire Campaign and helped us reach our one-millionth free smoke alarm milestone and save lives.”

Locally, thanks to support from local fire departments and community partners, we installed nearly 1,500 smoke alarms in communities across the Region; between Sept 23 – Oct 14, 2017. We want to take this opportunity to say 'thank you' to some of our partners who not only helped us with smoke alarm installations, but continually are the link between those in need and our Disaster Action Teams. When a home fire occurs, we are there because you identify the need and call us to respond. This THANK YOU goes out to our Fire Department Partners. We truly are better together! 

Breakdown of the CO & WY 87 county service area:

Mile High Chapter (MHC): 46 individuals received aid; more than 23 were under 18 years old. The MHC response area includes 10 counties in the Denver Metro area. 

Southeastern Colorado Chapter (SeCO): 48 individuals received aid; 2 were age 65 or older while 12 were under 18 years old. The SeCO response area includes 16 counties.

Northern Colorado Chapter (NoCO):  16 individuals received aid; 4 were under 18 years old and 1 was age 65 or older. The NoCO response area includes 11 counties.

Western Colorado Chapter (WeCO): 19 individuals received aid. 10 of those helped were under 18 years old. The WeCO response area covers 27 counties, serving all western Colorado and the San Luis Valley.

Wyoming Chapter: 37 individuals received aid; 10 were under age 18 and 3 over the age of 65. The Wyoming Chapter response area covers all 23 counties that make up the state of Wyoming. 

The families and individuals were provided a place to stay, money for clothes, food and medicine. Along with providing casework for the residents in a quick and efficient time frame, Red Cross volunteers will continue to provide support to these families going forward, by doing follow up work to ensure all needs are met and the individuals have a clear path to recovery from this personal disaster.


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.