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Although I’ve only been interning with the Red Cross Communications team for several weeks, I have already gained an entirely new perspective on both this community and providing assistance to those in need. The future of the Red Cross is dependent on volunteers who recognize the importance of this organization and then donate their efforts towards fulfilling its mission.

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During my time at the Red Cross, I have had the opportunity to assist outside of the office. One day, I hope to be part of the Disaster Action team and respond to local disasters. So far, the closest that I have come to disaster response is participating in Red Cross Fire Safety Walkthroughs. During Fire Safety Walkthroughs, Red Cross workers distribute fire safety materials, such as educational materials as well as a 9-volt battery for smoke detectors. The educational material comes in multiple languages and provides individuals with information on how to prevent a fire, making an escape plan and pet fire safety.  In the past several weeks, I’ve participated in Fire Safety Walkthroughs in the two communities surrounding the fatal fires at Gesner Street and North Sixth Street. When fire suddenly destroys homes and claims the lives of community members, the scene is always very sensitive.  It has been difficult to see the tremendous toll these disasters have on communities. As we made our way up and down the streets, I did my best to be respectful to people’s properties, especially the homes where the fires occurred.

Gesner St Fire picture of Laurel

When I am in the office, I work with both internal and external means of communication to keep the general public as well as Red Cross employees and volunteers informed about what is going on in the community and the office. I really value working beside and learning from my manager, Sara, and the rest of the Communications department. Our many responsibilities have so much purpose, which causes me to constantly look forward to my time here. This branch of the Red Cross employs many friendly and intelligent people. I’ve received nothing but a warm welcome to this team. The Red Cross never stops responding, so as long as I’m here I’m sure I will be kept busy by providing the community with the information they need to stay informed and safe.

~submitted by Laurel, a high school intern for the communications department

If you are interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross, click here.

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When the summer heat and humidity becomes unbearable, jumping in a pool, playing in the ocean or cooling off at the lake is a must. The cold water provides a break from the heat and a fun time for the whole family. However, fun can turn into disaster if parents and children don’t know the ins and outs of water safety. According to the CDC, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from accidental drowning every day and 20% of them are 14 or younger.IMG_4433

To ensure the time you and your family spend in the water is nothing but safe and fun, the American Red Cross has launched a free Swim App, designed to help your family stay safe in any type of aquatic setting. Available directly from the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Marketplace, the swim app teaches both parent and child the importance of water safety.

The swim app provides quizzes for parents to take on water safety in different settings, such as lakes, rivers, beaches and pools. The safety section of the app addresses water safety issues such as prevention, emergencies, where drownings occur and the importance of life jackets.
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The app also provides a progress section for children enrolled in swimming lessons. Learning how to swim is not always fun. It can be scary and intense, and much harder for some than others. The progress section of the app rewards children with a badge each time they complete a swimming level. Earning a badge encourages children to complete the next swimming level and lets parents share their child’s progress with family members and friends. The section also includes information for parents on each swimming level so you know exactly what your child has learned. It includes a skill check-list, as well as a “find a class” option.

IMG_4446The apps kid section consists of five fun lessons, including water safety in your home and helping someone in the water. Each lesson has a kid-friendly video as well as a “learn about the rule” section.  After watching the video and learning about the rule, kids can take a quiz to show that they understand the lesson.  They may just learn something that could save a life!

Drowning can happen in less than one minute and is the second-leading cause of accidental injury death for kids and sixth for people of all ages. With the swim app, parents gain knowledge that will keep them and their kids safe, and kids are able to learn, in their own way, the importance of knowing how to swim and water safety.

IMG_4450The American Red Cross has helped reduce accidental drownings by almost 90% nationwide in the last century. Earlier this year, the American Red Cross launched the drowning prevention campaign. A national campaign aimed at reducing the drowning rate in 50 cities by 50 percent over the next five years.

The American Red Cross is the gold standard for aquatics training and offers a variety of swim course’s, such as the learn-to-swim course, parent and child aquatics and preschool aquatics.

 

 

It was shortly after the celebration of America’s Birthday ended when a devastating fire ripped through the 6500 block of Gesner Street in Southwest Philadelphia. The raging fire destroyed or damaged 10 homes, leaving 42 residents without a place to stay. Sadly, 4 children did not escape the fire. This was a tragedy that stunned the entire community.

Red Cross workers, some who had just worked nearly 20 hours at the Wawa Welcome America events along the parkway, responded to assist a neighborhood in grief. Volunteers provided blankets, water, hugs, support, comfort and counsel in the early hours of July 5th. A reception center was set up nearby at Bartram High School where more than 2 dozen residents registered. By Sunday afternoon, Red Cross had provided financial assistance to 10 families, 33 people… 18 of who are in our care staying at Red Cross House.

rco_blog_img_GesnerThe Red Cross will continue to provide assistance to other families who may come forward in the days to come and will continue to support those families in grief over the loss of these children.

We have been inundated with requests to help, so here are the ways you can help:

First, please consider making a financial donation to local disaster relief to allow the Red Cross to have resources constantly available to respond to disasters like this one and to continue to provide support to the families affected by the Gesner Street fire. You can d this by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or by clicking here.

For those wishing to donate material items specifically to the affected families, many partners are coordinating these efforts. Here is a short list of places to contact or take items:

Christ International Baptist Church
2210 South 65th Street
Philadelphia. Ph:215-729-0214

Community Support Center
Connell Park
6401 Elmwood Ave
Philadelphia, PA

Liberian Association of Pennsylvania, Inc.
1155 South 54th Street
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-651-9322

Saving Grace Orphanage
4918 Baltimore Ave
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-779-5726

First Baptist Church of Paschall
7100 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-724-3294

(This list will be updated as more information becomes available)

Also, consider joining the Red Cross as a volunteer to respond to disaster like this one. We are always looking for dedicated people. You can learn more and sign up by clicking here.

 

 

9590186550_1f869dbf4a_oAfter what seemed like a winter that wouldn’t end, it’s finally SUMMERTIME!!!

That means kids are out of school, long weekends at the shore, and backyard parties are in your near future! BBQ picnics are a way to casually get together. But before you take out the burgers, buns, and condiments, remember these safe grilling tips to keep your home and family safe this summer season:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • Always supervise a BBQ and make sure everyone, including pets, stay away from the hot grill.
  • Keep the grill away from the house, deck railings, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire. Hot grease or ashes could spill from the grill onto a wooden deck or into dry leaves or grass and catch fire.
  • Be ready to close the lid and turn off the grill to cut off the fuel if necessary.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. Be sure to clean after EVERY use.
  • Keep a fireproof pan under the grill to catch falling ashes or grease.
  • Trim excess fat from meat to avoid flare-ups.
  • Use long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill and keep a set of oven mitts handy just in case.
  • Have a kitchen fire extinguisher nearby just in case a flare up gets out of hand and be sure to call the fire department if an emergency occurs.

 

Some special tips for using charcoal grills:9587392889_46c47cc132_o

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as fuel.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • If you do use starter fluid, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away of heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

rco_blog_img_GrillAnd don’t forget these tips if you are using a propane grill:

  • Be sure to check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year:
  • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles If your grill has a gas leak that you detect by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn of the gas tank and grill.
  •  If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
  •  If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. DO NOT MOVE THE GRILL.

All set! Now take those kids outside and away from their video games and computers and have yourself a nice family BBQ. Happy grilling from the American Red Cross!

 

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Dad and I circa 1983

There’s something special about a daughter’s relationship with her father. I speak from experience as I’m my father’s only daughter and I’ve also had the privilege of watching the relationships evolve between my husband and our two daughters.

My Dad meets his first Granddaughter for the first time. 9/9/09

My Dad meets his first granddaughter, 2009

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My Dad with his second granddaughter, 2014.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, as a mom and daughter… watching my dad with his granddaughters is also amazing.

Daddy knows all, can fix all and can explain all. This is an undeniable fact for daughters as lucky as me. My Dad was and is always there for me, especially in times of emergency. When I broke my big toe as a preschooler, Daddy was there to make it better and find a way to keep my plaster cast dry in the bath tub. When I fell and all but broke my nose at a neighbor’s house in kindergarten, Daddy arrived in the minivan to pick me up… complete with my brother blaring a vocal siren through the neighborhood. It was my Dad who taught me how to swim as a child, how to treat my chronic nosebleeds in middle school and later how to drive stick in a city full of hills. My Dad braided my hair, reattached Barbie’s limbs when they fell off, packed my lunches, participated in prom and wedding dress shopping, and wiped my tears… happy or sad. He patched me up when I needed it and even saved my life a few times with a swift back blow when I was choking.

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My high school graduation, 1996.

My Dad also taught me the importance of being prepared. As a family, we talked through emergency plans for escaping a fire in the house, how to deal with strangers and what to do if we became separated. My dad always has a flashlight handy and always made sure I had a quarter in my pocket for the payphone… just in case. It’s all part of the role Dad’s play in our lives.

They are our protectors, our planners, our role models, our rocks…. at least for me. As I think about all of the things my Dad has done and will do for me, I realize I’m looking to my husband to fill some big shoes as a Dad… and so far, he’s spilling over. I know he will look out for our girls just as my Dad has and will always for me. Already, he’s mastering the reattachment of Disney Princess limbs and the art of pig tails. He knows how to stop a tantrum and when one’s temperature needs to be checked. My girls’ Daddy has all the answers they need right now and I know they will look up to him as much as I look up to my Dad. I’m realizing, as Father’s Day approaches, that it’s never too late to make sure your Father, or the Father of your children is as prepared as they can be. I’m lucky to work with the American Red Cross where I’ve learned a lot about preparedness. I’ve been trained in first aid, CPR and know how to use an AED. I know what to do in the event of many emergencies… fire, weather or health related, but I’m not the only one who cares for my daughters. They deserve to have two parents prepared for anything. So, this year…. maybe my daughter’s gift to their Daddy is a gift that could save their lives, or mine. How about a CPR or First Aid class? Maybe a preparedness kit for the car or a fire extinguisher for the kitchen? Forget the ties this year and give your Dad, or the Father of your children a different kind of tool this Father’s Day.

My Husband with our daughters, 2012

My Husband with our daughters, 2012

 

Need more ideas? Here are 5 last minute Father’s Day gift ideas from the Red Cross.

 

 

We were so saddened to hear this morning of the death of Chester County Department of Emergency Services Director Colonel Ed Atkins. We send our deepest condolences to his family and the entire Chester County community.

The Red Cross and Colonel Atkins were great partners and worked closely to not only respond to disasters large and small in Chester County, but also to prevent disasters from happening in the first place. Atkins’ leadership during the recent flooding and the February ice storm was instrumental to keeping citizens safe and informed.

Col. Ed Atkins. keynote speaker at the Red Cross Chester County Heroes breakfast in April, 2014, recognizes military members at the back of the room (not shown). credit: Alex Greenblatt

It wasn’t that long ago that Colonel Atkins was delivering the keynote address at our Chester County Heroes Breakfast. His deep concern for the county and his deep appreciation for the Red Cross was powerful and clear.

Col. Ed Atkins delivering the keynote address during the American Red Cross Chester County Heroes Breakfast, April, 2014. credit: Alex Greenblatt

Col. Ed Atkins delivering the keynote address during the American Red Cross Chester County Heroes Breakfast, April, 2014. credit: Alex Greenblatt

 

Our CEO, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes called Ed Atkins a “great man and a great friend to the American Red Cross,” adding, “Every single day he committed himself to making Chester County a better place to live and ensuring the citizens of Chester County were safe. We will miss him dearly.”

 

That was a sentiment echoed by everyone around the office today and in the field. One person who worked very closely with Ed and his team is our volunteer Chester County disaster action team captain, Denise Graf. She is the one making sure the needs of the county and the requests of the emergency services team are met during disasters.

Denise sums up our feelings really well. “As a volunteer disaster responder for the American Red Cross in Chester County, I’ve worked with Ed Atkins on many occasions,” Graf said. “He has always shown me and all Red Cross volunteers the highest respect and appreciation. This truly is a sad day.”

 

I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps member at the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania.  Our year of service is quickly coming to a close and we are already in our last rotations. I will be finishing out my year with the communications department, but I would like to use this blog post to reflect on my rotation at Red Cross House.  Going in I knew very little about what my days would look like.  I knew the statistics, but what I didn't know was all the work that goes on over there. The caseworkers spend many hours helping residents who are staying at Red Cross House following a disaster find assistance and residents spend many hours searching for a new place to live. Anyone who has looked for an apartment or house knows how stressful the process is, but imagine adding that to the stress of just having lost your home and belongings. When families first enter Red Cross House it is not uncommon for them to be overwhelmed. They have a daunting journey ahead of them. Soon, typically the day after they enter, they will sit down with their caseworker.  The trained caseworkers go over what the family lost, what their recovery plans are, and what the next steps should be.  After this first meeting you often can see that the family is visibly more relaxed, because they now at least have an idea of what to do to get back into a home.  The road ahead is still difficult, but they have a sense of control again.

Residents also take classes while staying at Red Cross House.  Some classes offer practical knowledge, such as fire safety and financial literacy, while other activities are ways for the residents to have fun and decompress, such as yoga class or getting a free haircut. None of these classes would happen without our volunteers and financial supporters. In fact, Red Cross House would not run smoothly without the many volunteers who help at the front desk, serve lunch, teach classes, and offer counseling services, or the financial support to help keep the place looking nice.

One of the things about Red Cross House that stands out to me the most is how quickly residents form bonds with each other. After all, no one understands what you're going through better than the people staying down the hall. It was not uncommon to see people sit down at lunch together and start talking about what had brought them to the house.  Soon you would see them checking in on each other, and sometimes even helping each other look for a new place to live. I believe that the sense of community is one of the first things that helps people on their road to recovery, because they are reminded that they are not alone, and they see others who were in the same place as them moving back into a home.

Working at Red Cross House showed me how resilient the people of Philadelphia are.  All of the residents staying there were going through a very challenging period, but they all continued to move forward and do what needed to be done to get them back into a forever home. ​In the meantime, Red Cross House stands ready to act as home whenever needed. Learn more about Red Cross House. - Submitted by Megan Wood, AmeriCorps NPRC Member

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