Thursday, December 29, 2011

Resolve to help others--and cut your tax bill--this New Year's!

Photo courtesy mama-knows.com
This time of year, many of us are making some New Year's resolutions. Often, these involve eating better, getting more exercise and other plans for self-improvement during the coming year. For proof, just check out the extra cars in the parking lot at your local gym over the next few weeks!

Many people also make charitable contributions at the end of the year as part of this holiday tradition. The American Red Cross urges you to resolve to help your neighbors in need by making a tax-deductible donation to the Red Cross before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

A Red Cross national poll found that 57 percent of those surveyed planned to donate to charity during the holiday season, and more than half of them (54 percent) plan to give at least $50. Nationally, donations in December account for about 20 percent of all non-disaster contributions from the public to the Red Cross, and we depend on these donations to provide hope, help and compassion.

Hundreds of thousands of people needed help from the Red Cross in 2011, their lives forever changed by disasters like tornadoes, floods, wildfires and hurricanes in the U.S., and earthquakes and other disasters around the world. In the U.S., the Red Cross launched 137 domestic disaster relief operations in 46 states and territories to help people affected by fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. In addition, major international disasters included the Japan earthquake and tsunami response and the continuing work following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The need was evident here in Erie and Niagara Counties over the Christmas weekend as our Disaster Action Team responded to multiple fires, providing emergency assistance to families that lost everything in the blink of an eye this holiday.

If your New Year's Resolutions include helping those less fortunate, you can make a donation at www.redcross.org, by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation (charges will appear on your cell phone bill). 

In addition, you can still go to the American Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog and buy a symbolic gift. These also are tax-deductible contributions to the overall Red Cross mission. The catalog includes donations for items such as a military comfort kit filled with a phone card, robe, shower shoes, toiletries and an MP3 music gift card for those who have been wounded. Disaster-related items include blankets to wrap around a woman standing in her yard this winter after her house has burned to the ground; hot meals to make sure no one goes hungry when a disaster strikes; or a toothbrush, soap and other essential personal care supplies for a child sheltered from a storm. For those with global interests, the Holiday Gift Catalog contains a number of gifts to bring Red Cross services to people in crisis overseas. These include emergency water containers to help families collect and store clean water, tarps to provide temporary shelter and shovels to dig ditches when floods threaten.

What better way to finish 2011 than with early action on a resolution to lend a helping hand? Help someone in need and resolve to contribute to the Red Cross before the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne, and you'll also be helping yourself to break on your 2011 taxes. Now that's something we can all raise our champagne glasses to this New Year's Eve!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ryan Fitzpatrick Scores Big For Two Local Families

As a certified sports junkie, I can tell you that it's getting harder and harder to be a fan these days.  It seems there's more arrests, lawsuits and big money wheeling and dealing in the sports pages than there are scores.  But for every negative story involving athletes, there's many more positive ones that don't get nearly as much attention, and we're lucky to have many of the good ones playing right here in Western New York.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his wife played Santa Claus to two families who lost everything in separate fires in November of this year.  Even though his beard is brown and not white, "FitzMagic" provided a little more to these families than Saint Nick usually leaves under the tree.  Thanks to a generous donation through the United Way, the Fitzpatrick's have completely stocked these families new homes with furniture, TVs, computers for school, household supplies, blankets and, of course, toys.  Over coffee and donuts generously donated by Tim Horton's, the families got to met their "Secret Santa" at our Administrative Headquarters on Delaware Avenue Friday evening, as the Fitzpatrick's took time out of their busy schedule to personally deliver just some of the holiday cheer their support made possible.

The stories of these families, like so many that come through our doors throughout the year, are heartbreaking.  But to see the looks on their faces when they met the star quarterback and saw what he did for them really made me understand what the holiday spirit is all about, and every one of you that has ever donated, volunteered or supported the Red Cross in any way should know that you help create those same feelings all year round.

With seven straight losses heading into this afternoon's game against the Broncos, it's easy to wonder if there's been anything positive to come out of this 2011 Bills season.  But no matter what the results are on the field, Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown us he is definitely someone we can all root for!

Monday, December 19, 2011

We need your holiday spirit all year round!

This morning, I woke up to a email request from one of the talented reporters at a local TV station, asking about the Red Cross response to an early-morning fire on Clay Street in Buffalo.  In responding to his request, I discovered three separate cases had been referred to our emergency services department, and as of this afternoon we are providing for the immediate emergency needs of a family of five.  I also learned that the NFTA helped to keep people warm at the scene of the fire, then provided those affected with bus transportation to our Delaware Avenue headquarters to begin working on their recovery plan.  A nice holiday story of neighbors helping neighbors.

And that's what got me thinking. The original media request mentioned how these families had "lost everything less than a week before Christmas."  I think everyone's natural reaction, including mine, is to feel a little extra touch of sadness when thinking about those children that may not have any presents under the tree this year because of this fire.  But is their loss really any greater than that of the family who suffered a similar disaster in September?  They also suddenly found themselves with no place to live, no clothes to wear to work, and nothing to play with after school.

Red Cross file photo
Here in Erie and Niagara Counties, the Red Cross responds to nearly 400 disasters every year--an average of more than one per day.  Spring, summer, winter or fall, the 762 people that turned to us for help after a fire last year all suffered some sort of loss, and we provided each of them with the same level of services to help turn their heartbreak into hope.  Nationally, the American Red Cross opened 137 large-scale relief operations in 2011, serving more than 6.7 million meals and snacks and providing over 130,000 overnight shelter stays.

It's the holiday spirit that makes us all feel even more sympathy when a disaster hits someone this time of year, and moves many of us to support charitable organizations during this "season of giving."   But disaster knows no season, and it's important that we all carry that spirit of giving with us year-round, so we can help our neighbors in need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Make your holidays happy, healthy and safe!

For many of us, the holidays are typically one of the busiest times of the year.  Between the shopping, baking, travelling to see family, holiday parties and taking the kids to visit Santa, it's amazing we have time to breathe!  But the season wouldn't be nearly as merry if we didn't take the time to stay safe.  So as a gift to you, the Red Cross is offering 12 Days of Holiday Safety Tips (feel free to come up with your own catchy tune and sing these tips the next time you're our caroling!):

1. Prepare your vehicle for traveling to grandmother’s house. Build an emergency kit and include items such as blankets or sleeping bags, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, compass and road maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, extra clothing, flares, and a tow rope.

2. Drive the sleigh and reindeer safely. Avoid driving in a storm if possible. If travel is a must, let someone know the destination, the route being taken to get there, and how long it should take to arrive. If the car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along the predetermined route.

3. Help prevent the spread of the flu. Stay home if you're sick. Wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, someone cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

4. Follow Santa’s fashion lead – dress in layers. When it’s cold outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat.

5. Use a Red Cross-trained babysitter when attending holiday festivities. Red Cross-certified babysitters learn to administer basic first aid, properly hold and feed a child, take emergency action when needed and monitor safe play. Some may be certified in Infant and Child CPR.

6. Avoid danger while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If leaving the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove. This is important because unattended cooking causes nearly 90 percent of all kitchen fires.

7. Be a lifesaver during the holidays. The Red Cross recommends at least one person in every household take first aid and CPR/AED training. Visit www.redcross.org/training for details and to register.

8. Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. Buckle up, slow down, and don’t drive impaired. If you plan on drinking, designate a driver who won’t drink.

9. When the weather outside is frightful, heat the home safely. Never use a stove or oven to heat the home. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and check their batteries.

10. Cut down on heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned and change the filters. Make sure furniture isn’t blocking the heat vents. Close off any rooms not in use and turn off the heat in those rooms. Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.

11. Home for the holidays? Travel safely. Check the tire air pressure and make sure the windshield fluid is full. Be well rested and alert. Give full attention to the road – avoid distractions such as cell phones. If someone has car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

12. Resolve to Be Red Cross Ready in the New Year. Get ready now in case someone in the household faces an emergency in 2012.  Schedule a free emergency preparedness education program at your school, business or organization by contacting Denise Herkey-Jarosch at herkeyjaroschd@usa.redcross.org.

Friday, December 9, 2011

That Mother Nature, she sure is fickle!

Those of us in Western New York woke up to the first Lake Effect Snow Warning of the season this morning.  And while many of us apparently had to remember exactly how to drive in this stuff, our first real snowfall served to remind us all just how unpredictable lake effect storms can be.


Photo courtesy wkbw.com

As I write this at 2:30 Friday afternoon, it would be easy to look out the windows of the Clement Mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, see the grass and distinct lack of white stuff on the ground, and mock the weather folks who predicted five-to-nine inches of snowfall.  At my house in the Town of Tonawanda this morning, however, we had to break out my son's boots for the walk to school for the first time this year, and I had to brush well over an inch of snow off my car before driving in to work. 

I live only a few short miles away, yet while there isn't a flake to been seen here at the office, I'm wondering if I'll have to break out the shovel when I get back home.  Of course, as any Western New Yorker could tell you, this sort of localized storm is quite common this time of year.  Think back just over a year ago--snow was bad enough to close the Thruway for over 24 hours near Cheektowaga, but areas just north of the city were barely effected.

Meteorologists will tell you it's darn near impossible to predict exactly where a lake effect storm will leave it's biggest mark.  That's why it's important to prepare ahead of time, because you never know when Mother Nature might decide to target your neighborhood.  As the winter season kicks off, make sure you follow these safety tips.  And remember, in Western New York, if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will probably change!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Opening our doors this holiday season

When you have something nice, it's best to share it with others.  Here at the American Red Cross, we are blessed to have the Clement Mansion as our administrative headquarters, and this gorgeous building becomes even more beautiful when it's decorated for the holiday season.  It just wouldn't be right to keep that beauty to ourselves, so invited some of our friends, volunteers and supporters over for a Holiday Open House last evening.

Over a hundred people stopped by for some cocktails and hors d'oeuvres from our friends at Brodo, as well as the opportunity to see this amazing building in all its holiday glory.  We love having our friends over to visit, and it gives us a chance to talk about the vital work their support helps us to provide in the community.

We're not the only ones who like to share over the holiday season.  During the Open House, many guests took the time to look at some of the gifts available for purchase through our Holiday Giving Catalog, including comfort kits, blankets, an overnight shelter stay, phone cards for service members deployed overseas and much more.  Instead of giving your loved ones more "stuff" this year, please consider giving something that means something by purchasing a symbolic gift in their honor.  You'll be surprised how good helping others will make you both feel.  And stop by and see the Clement Mansion decked out for the holidays...we'll leave the tree lights on for you! (White ones only, Mrs. Clement!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy anniversary?

For December 1st, today's weather isn't bad.  Sunny, low to mid 40's.  That seems especially nice when compared to what some people were going through last year.

Outside the Cheektowaga Senior Center on December 2nd, 2010

A massive lake effect snow storm hit the area on the evening of December 1st, 2010. The heavy snow, and resulting traffic issues, stranded thousands of drivers on the NYS Thruway near Cheektowaga, some for over 24 hours.  Eventually, area emergency personnel used ATV's and other vehicles to rescue people from their vehicles, bringing 85 people to a Red Cross shelter we set up at the Cheektowaga Senior Center to provide warmth, food and water to people who had spent several hours freezing in their cars.
Volunteers serve up hot meals at Cheektowaga Senior Center
I had the pleasure of working at that shelter, and trust me, none of the people we served that day left their homes on December 1st, 2010 thinking the Thruway would turn into a parking lot, and I'm sure they all wish they had things like non-perishable food, water and blankets in their vehicles.  The time to make sure you're prepared is before an emergency hits, because you probably won't have time to do it afterwards.  We know they're coming, so follow these Red Cross Ready winter storm tips.  And to learn more about what should be in your emergency kits at home and in your car, schedule a free preparedness presentation at your school, business or organization by contacting Denise Herkey-Jarosch at herkeyjaroschd@usa.redcross.org.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Something that Means Something this "Black Friday"--and stay safe!

Thanksgiving week is filled with traditions.  Of course, the biggest is the family feast we're all looking forward to tomorrow.  Then, after the food coma wears off, many people will be heading out to do a little holiday shopping.  But as we saw here in Buffalo last year, the stores aren't always the safest place to be on "Black Friday"!

Photo courtesy monacome.com
If you'd like to avoid being run over by the Black Friday madness, stay home and "Give Something that Means Something" instead!  Visit the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog online and make a donation in honor of the loved ones on your list this year.  You can give a variety of symbolic gifts that support the Red Cross mission, such as blankets, a full day in an emergency shelter for disaster victims, phone cards for our military men and women, or vaccinations that can save lives around the world.

A recent Red Cross poll showed that four in five Americans said they'd rather receive a charitable donation in their honor than more "stuff" they'll never use.  When you shop the Holiday Giving Catalog, your loved ones will receive a free greeting card, letting them know that this generous donation has been made in their honor, and they'll be satisfied in knowing that they're helping their neighbors in need this holiday season.  And you can stay home, warm and comfy in your jammies, instead of fighting the Black Friday stampedes!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Day Travel

As the name clearly implies, Thanksgiving is a time to pause and give thanks for all the blessings we have in life.  However, it's not always a time to relax!  The Buffalo News has listed some of the seemingly endless things to do this holiday week, which for many of us includes travelling to see family.  As the article points out, the Wednesday and Sunday of Thanksgiving week are two of the busiest days on the NYS Thruway each year.

Photo courtesy Albany Times-Union
If you're one of the many thousands hitting the road this holiday, make sure you pack up an emergency kit for your car along with the clothes and other essentials.  If you don't know what to include in your emergency kit, check out Denise Herkey-Jarosch on WGRZ-Channel 2's "The Healthy Zone" for some tips on what to get and where to get it.

It's also important that you know what to do in case of an emergency. To report an emergency along the Thruway, call 911 or 1-800-847-8929.  For up-to-date information, go to www.thruway.ny.gov or www.511ny.orgTRANSalerts are free notices sent via e-mail or text messaging to inform motorists of incidents that may affect their travel on the Thruway. Register at http://www.thruway.ny.gov/tas/index.htmlNY Alert-free notices sent via e-mail or text messaging regarding a variety of emergency notices such as weather alert.  To learn more visit www.nyalert.gov .

Of course, the Thruway isn't the only place that will be packed this week.  We'll have some tips on how to avoid the "Black Friday" shopping crowds later in the week!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let it snow?!?

Snow outside the Cheektowaga Senior Center in December 2010
Did you look out the window in downtown Buffalo moments ago?  That white stuff falling from the sky was not a figment of your imagination.  Yep, it's that time of year again--snow.  Thankfully, it didn't last long and hasn't started sticking to the ground here yet, although some of our neighbors to the south may be in for some lake-effect snow over the next couple of days.  However, it should serve as a reminder that winter is on the way, and spur us into action.

Anyone who does any driving in WNY knows that everyone seems to have forgotten how to drive in the snow during the first real winter storm of the season, making for some treacherous travel.  Do you have an emergency kit including food, water and warm blankets in your car in case you're stranded on the roads?  Is your home emergency preparedness kit stocked and ready in case snow restricts travel or knocks out power?

Let this quick snowfall serve as a warning--winter is on the way, and there's nothing we can do about it except be prepared.  So take a look at these winter storm safety tips, and make sure that snow shovel is ready for another Western New York winter!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We never even went to Kansas!

Photo courtesy buffalo.ynn.com
Multiple news outlets are reporting that investigators from the National Weather Service has confirmed that two tornadoes touched down in Chautauqua County last nightThe first tornado touched down in Fredonia at approximately 5:10pm, knocking down multiple trees and power lines and tearing the roof off a house.  There are reports of more roofs being torn off and a barn being completely demolished in Westfield, where the second confirmed tornado touched down a short time later.  High winds and rain caused damage throughout parts of Southern Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaragus Counties, but thankfully there have been no reports of any injuries.

Would you know what to do if a twister blew in your direction?  When a tornado warning is issued, that means a tornado has been seen in that area.  If a warning is issued where you are, seek shelter immediately, in a basement or storm cellar if possible.

This storm came quickly, leaving little time for Southern Tier residents to prepare.  Tornadoes can cause massive damage quickly.  Does every member of your family know the safest place in your home to go if a tornado touches down?  Is your emergency supply kit stocked with the supplies you'll need if power outages or travel restrictions leave you stranded for a couple days? 

Take some time now to review these tornado safety tips, because unlike Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," you can't simply click your heels and go back home if a twister rips through your neck of the woods!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Send a message of thanks to those who serve

Many people will have a day off from work or school tomorrow, and it's important that we don't forget the reason we're able to enjoy Veterans Day with our families.  Here at the Red Cross, we're proud of our long history of Services to Armed Forces, a relationship that continues to this day.

Clara Barton, who served as a nurse during the Civil War, founded the American Red Cross following a visit to Europe.  Our organization's congressional charter, issued in 1905 and still in effect today, states in part that our mission is to provide relief to and serve as a medium of communication between members of the armed forces and their families.  During World War I, the Red Cross staffed hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited nearly 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military.  During WWII, that number jumped to over 104,000.  Today, the Red Cross helps facilitate emergency communications to deployed service members on behalf of their families, briefs departing service members and their families regarding available support services, and provides needed comfort and care in military and veterans hospitals.


Holiday Mail for Heroes launch event on Capitol Hill
 On this Veterans Day, many of you may be looking for a way to say thank you to those who are serving or have served this nation.  One way to do so would be to take a little time on your day off to send a greeting from home through our Holiday Mail for Heroes program.  The Red Cross and Pitney Bowes will screen the cards for hazardous materials, sort and package the cards, and deliver them to military bases and hospitals, veteran's hospitals and other locations during the holidays to show our appreciation for their service.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More than just food, clothing and shelter

American Red Cross disaster relief typically includes providing food and water, clothing and/or shelter to those affected.  Sometimes, however, it takes a little bit more to meet people's immediate emergency needs.

After an October snowstorm left thousands without power for more than a week in Connecticut, the gas-powered generators some residents are using to fix that problem are causing another one: carbon monoxide poisoning.  State health officials reported 50 cases of CO posioning in a single day!

The Red Cross urges all residents to use generators safely, and one of those safety recommendations is to install a carbon monoxide detector.  But after a week without power, a trip to the store to buy a CO detector may not be tops on your list of priorities.  So volunteer Steven Schwartz of Buffalo has been handing them out along with the meals while working out of an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) at shelters in Connecticut.  Steven deployed to to assist in the Northeast relief efforts last week, and as always we are very proud of the work our volunteers do to help our neighbors in need across the country.
L-R: Volunteers Jim Schillinger from the Virginia Captiol Region and Steven Schwartz of Buffalo working the ERV in Connecticut
Speaking of carbon monoxide detectors, did you remember to change the batteries in those and your smoke alarms when turning back the clocks over the weekend?  If not, consider this your friendly reminder!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

October Storm, Redux

Earlier this week, in a preview of this Sunday's game between the Bills and Jets, a NY Daily News columnist wrote, "..the weather in Buffalo is never good."  While it would be easy to point out to Mr. Bondy that it's 60 degrees and sunny here on November 3rd, the truth is our bad-weather reputation is at least somewhat based on past events, and we know all too well what some of our Northeastern neighbors are currently going through.


Photo Courtesy www.ct.gov

A weekend Nor'easter dumped record amounts of snowfall for October in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, New Jersey and Maine, collapsing trees and branches that had not yet shed their leaves.  Over three million homes and business lost power, and officials say the power may not be restored until this weekend in some areas.

All of this should sound eerily familiar to Western New Yorkers.  We lived through the same thing five years ago during our own October Surprise storm, so it's no surprise that Western New Yorkers are stepping up to help this time around.
Almost 3,700 people spent Tuesday night in Red Cross shelters.  Tuesday morning, volunteer Steven Schwartz of Buffalo deployed to Connecticut to assist in those relief efforts.  This is Steven's second disaster deployment of 2011--he took part in the tornado relief efforts in Alabama this spring. 

As we saw a couple months ago, when over three dozen local Red Cross volunteers deployed to assist in the Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee response, more Western New Yorkers will be ready to join Steven if called upon after this October Surprise sequel.  We certainly have experience with this sort of thing! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary shouldn't mean dangerous!

Hopefully all of you were trick-or-treating with us indoors at "Eerie" Community College during "Safe & Seen Halloween" on Saturday.  However, some of you might still want to take your little ghosts and goblins out to scare up some goodies tonight, and while dark and spooky is the order of the night, this Halloween tradition shouldn't be dangerous!

In the spirit of the holiday, the American Red Cross has put together a "Lucky 13 Tips" for a safe Halloween.  Most of these tips are common sense: don't walk in the road, bring a flashlight, wear reflective clothing so drivers can see you.  But frighteningly enough, you may never have considered some of the "Lucky 13!"

One of the overlooked dangers involves something we talk about all the time here at the Red Cross--our dislike for candles!  We really don't like them when they're hidden inside of something, such as a pumpkin.  What if one of the ghouls knocking on your door accidentally knocked over that jack-o-lantern you spent hours carving??  Use a glow-stick instead to avoid a fire hazard.  If your kids are anything like mine, they'll have the added bonus of a "toy" to play with afterwards!!

Before the creatures start roaming the streets tonight, make sure they follow ALL of the "Lucky 13 Steps" for a safe Halloween, so you can be sure that nothing unexpected goes "bump in the night!!!!"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It doesn't have to be a "dark and stormy night"!

It's been pretty gloomy when you look out the window lately. Cloudy, chilly, rainy, maybe even some snow! Some might say that's perfect weather for the upcoming Halloween weekend. While it may be true that many ghost stories begin with a "dark and stormy night", it's not so fun when you have to walk the kids up and down the street to trick-or-treat!

The Red Cross has a way for the kids to get their goodies, stay warm and dry, and pick up some important safety information this Saturday! Join us at "Eerie" Community College's North Campus from 11am-3pm for "Safe & Seen Halloween!" Your little ghosts and goblins can trick or treat for ghoulish goodies along the Haunted Hallway of Treats. While they're filling their pumpkin with treats, you'll also pick up some important family safety tips from local first responders and law enforcement organizations. You'll then work your way to the Creepy Kidzone, filled with Halloween fun and safety-themed interactive activities. Billy Buffalo, the Buffalo Jills, and Sabretooth will be there, along with a local Star Wars fan club and dozens of others, all in bright, colorful costumes.

All the fun costs just $2.00 per trick-or-treater, and all children under 12 are invited to come and scare up some goodies! "Safe & Seen Halloween" is presented by First Niagara, and sponsored in part by Erie Community College, The Buffalo News, WKBW-TV, Classic Hits 104.1 FM, Wegmans, and National Fuel, with all proceeds benefitting the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties. Click here for more information and directions to ECC's North Campus.



Of course, even after joining the fun at "Safe & Seen", you may still want to take your family out for some traditional trick-or-treating on Halloween night! The Red Cross has some safety tips to make this Halloween a little less scary, although we can't promise that seeing our staff in costume on Saturday won't be a frightening experience!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No, Joe. Thank YOU!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that we are constantly thanking our amazing Disaster Action Team volunteers for the all work they do for us and our community.  Not everyone would be willing to take that late night phone call to help the family who just lost everything in a house fire.  However, it can be difficult for even these wonderful people to make such sacrifices of their time and talents.

Joe Long has been volunteering with us throughout his time as an undergraduate student, but has recently decided that as he studies for his CPA exam he no longer has the time to give, and November will be his last month as a DAT volunteer.  You may wonder why someone taking such a difficult course load would ever be willing to spend some of his precious free time helping strangers he's never met.  Without even being asked, Joe answered that question in his resignation letter to our Emergency Services department:

"However in the times I have responded to the calls, I have been truely touched by what a great volunteer opportunity the DAT team is. Its unlike any other volunteer opportunity, because it really, really does make such a positive impact on families in need. It is for that reason that I stayed on the schedule for so long."

Joe went on to thank us for our patience with his schedule.  Well, Joe, we thank YOU and all our volunteers for taking time out of your busy lives to help us help our neighbors in need.  We couldn't do what we do without you!!

Want to experience that great feeling of helping others Joe is talking about for yourself?  We're always looking for volunteers!  Contact Volunteer Coordinator Christine Petre at petrec@usa.redcross.org or click here for a schedule of training classes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A celebration of giving!

Working here at the Red Cross, I am constantly amazed by the sacrifices people are willing to make to help others.  Whether it be volunteering to get a call in the middle of the night to help a family whose house has just burned down, or making the financial donation that allows us to provide that family with the food, clothing and shelter they need, the people of Western New York constantly show us that Buffalo truly is "The City of Good Neighbors."

Earlier this week, at this year's "In Celebration of Giving" dinner at the Twentieth Century Club (which is every bit as beautiful as our Clement Mansion) we had the opportunity to say "thank you" for these gifts of time, talent, and treasure.

After honoring Calspan and Matrix Direct, our BASH Commander-in-Chief sponsors, Executive Director Nancy Blaschak told the dozens of Red Cross supporters in attendance the story of Ruth Roberts.  In the 1990's, Ms. Roberts made the largest single donation to the captial campaign that allowed us to renovate our administrative headquarters at 786 Delaware Avenue, but refused to allow us to name anything in the building after her.  She did, however, allow us to present and award in her name. 

Murray Covello holds the Ruth C. Roberts Award with some
of his Praxair, Inc. colleagues
This year, the Ruth C. Roberts Award, recognizing an exceptional contribution to our success in a singular year, was presented to Praxair, Inc.  Often led by Vice President, Global Operations Murray Covello, who serves on our Chapter's Board of Directors, Praxair was one of the first organizations to make a $50,000 leadership gift to support our on-going flooding relief efforts in Connecticut, and has provided a total of over $105,000 to support the work of the American Red Cross.

Sr. Director of Emergency Services, Ken Turner presents
the Clara Barton Award to Diane Sargent
Of course, we would not be able to do perform our life-saving mission without the amazing gifts of time and talent from our volunteers.  The American Red Cross was proud to honor Diane Sargent with the Clara Barton Award, the Chapter's highest honor, presented to an individual whose volunteer accomplishments have made a positive and profound impact on American Red Cross services.  Diane has been deployed to work on a dozen Red Cross disaster relief operations, including two weeks following this spring's devastating tornadoes in Alabama.  Diane volunteers with the Disaster Action Team in both Erie and Niagara County, responding to four separate fires in 24 hours over the Labor Day holiday.

The American Red Cross is proud to recognize our generous donors and volunteers with this great evening of fun, food, and friendship.  Thank you, again, for all that you do! 

To find out more about the many different ways you can share your gifts of time, talent or treasure, please visit our website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Winning for the ARC

Are you looking for a night filled with hockey, Chuck-A-Puck, fun, and the chance to win some cash? Then mark your calendar for October 20th, Canisius College Golden Griffins Hockey vs. RIT Tigers Hockey!

Photo courtesy of
pickinsplinters.com
The American Red Cross Club of Canisius College is partnering with Griffs Hockey to sponsor their home opener at Buffalo State College.  

At the game, you can purchase tickets to "Chuck-A-Puck" ($3 for 1 ticket, $5 for 2 tickets).  Proceeds will benefit the College's club.  In addition to getting a chance to win this contest, you'll also be entered to win some great prizes like an autographed Buffalo Sabres hockey stick, an autographed Buffalo Bandits program, a Buffalo Bisons merchandise basket, or a Canisius College merchandise basket!

Not familiar with "Chuck-A-Puck"? 

Chuck-A-Puck is a foam puck game that acts as a 50/50 drawing.  The person who can throw their puck closest to a designated area wins half of the proceeds raised.  In this instance, the other half of the money will be donated to the American Red Cross, Serving Erie and Niagara counties to help with local disasters.  

To get more information about the game and to purchase tickets, visit gogriffs.com

For directions to the arena, click here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Four Stars!!

Those of you old enough to remember the show "Star Search" probably know the goal of every contestant was to hear Ed McMahon tell them they received four stars from the judges after their performance.  Well, the Red Cross hasn't been on any reality shows lately, but we've still received a four-star rating we're pretty excited about!

Charity Navigator is an independent watchdog organization that rates non-profits on their financial health, accountability and transparency, and they recently gave the Red Cross their highest rating, four stars. 


In a letter to our President and CEO, Gail McGovern, the President of Charity Navigator, Ken Berger, said, “Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that your organization adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities, and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way. Approximately a quarter of the charities we evaluate have received our highest rating, indicating that the American Red Cross outperforms most other charities in America.”

When you are donating your hard-earned money to charity, you want to know the organization you choose to give it to will be putting it to good use.  With this four-star rating from Charity Navigator, you can rest assured that when you support the American Red Cross, you'll be helping turn Heartbreak into Hope for our neighbors in need.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Volunteer, and still sleep in!

When you think of a Red Cross volunteer, the first image that pops into your head is most likely that of a person in a red vest, helping the victim of a recent fire or serving a meal out of an Emergency Response Vehicle during a disaster.  We could not perform our life-saving mission without the dedication of these Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers, but you can still serve the Red Cross even if late-night phone calls to head to the scene of an emergency aren't your thing!

At our administrative headquarters at 786 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, we are currently looking for help at our front desk.  These volunteers greet and direct our guests, answer phones, sign for deliveries and generally support our daily operations by being the friendly face welcoming people as they come to the Red Cross.  It's a great way to learn more about what we do for the Western New York community while spending a few hours a week inside the beautiful Clement Mansion!

Reception shifts are typically four hours, one day a week, either in the morning or the afternoon, and we are always willing to work with everyone's schedule.  If you're interested in joining our wonderful group of front-desk volunteers, please contact Christine Petre, Volunteer Coordinator at 716-878-2140 or petrec@usa.redcross.org

Of course, if you're looking for a little more action than sitting behind the front desk, we're always looking for new volunteers to join our DAT team, help deliver important messages to members of our armed forces, be an advocate for seniors in long-term care facilities and much more.  Click here to learn more about how to Join Us as a Red Cross volunteer, and we look forward to welcoming you to the family!

Friday, October 14, 2011

You didn't want to cook this Saturday anyway!

Do you really want to take the time out of your busy weekend to make dinner?  Since you'll probably be out and about tomorrow anyway, why not let somebody else do the cooking for you?  And here's the best part--you can support the American Red Cross by doing nothing more than enjoying a delicious meal that you didn't have to cook!!

The American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties is teaming up with the Bob Evans Restaurant at 6543 Niagara Falls Boulevard this Saturday for a delicious opportunity.  Between 11am-4pm on Saturday, October 15th, the Red Cross Bloodmobile will be in the parking lot.  So on your way into the restaurant, stop in and roll up your sleeves!  Walk-in appointments are always welcome, and the need for blood is constant.

Of course, after giving blood you may be a little hungry.  Once you're done saving a life, you can still support the Red Cross inside the restaurant tomorrow.  Between 6am-10pm, Bob Evans Niagara Falls location will donate 15% of your food to the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties.  Just pick up a flyer in the Bloodmobile and hand it to your server. 

If you can't give blood, don't worry.  You can still help the Red Cross be there for our WNY neighbors in need--just print the photo below and hand it to your server tomorrow!
So come on out, get yourself some home-cooking without actually having to do the work, and support the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surprise!! Where Were You, Five Years Ago Today?

If you were living in Western New York at the time, you likely have vivid memories of October 12th, 2006.  At the time, I was not yet fortunate enough to be a member of the Red Cross family.  I left for my job at a local tv station that afternoon, thinking it was a little chilly and cursing those pesky white flakes for falling so early in the year.  As the evening wore on my wife called, very concerned.  She was hearing a constant cracking noise and was afraid a tree was going to fall into our house.  Later, she said we had lost power, branches were coming down everywhere, and she was going to a friends house.  That tree eventually did fall into our house, but instead of crashing through it just leaned against the structure.  Others weren't so lucky.

Back at the tv station, the sports office didn't have any windows, so we were pretty isolated from the outside world.  "How bad can it be?" I thought, and in my stubbornness I drove home at the end of the night.  Five years later, I still don't know how I made it.  Everywhere, trees and debris lay in the streets, and all the street lights were out.  Over the next several hours, the damage caused by the October Surprise storm became quite clear.  400,000 Western New Yorkers were without power (ours was out for a week) and 80% of roads in the area were impassable, according to the New York State Thruway Authority.  The impact can still be seen today, as some once tree-lined streets remain empty.

During times like the October Storm, people turn to the Red Cross to turn Heartbreak into Hope.  Even though they had their own cleanup issues to deal with, our Disaster Action Team worked with the emergency management teams of the City of Buffalo and Erie County to open multiple shelters across the area, giving those with nowhere else to turn a warm place to stay.  As always, our volunteers and staff members gave up their time and talents to help their neighbors in need over the days and weeks that followed.


The events of five years ago are called the "October Surprise" because no one saw that storm coming.    It's difficult to think about today with temperatures in the 60's, but we urge you to take steps now to make sure you're prepared before the next disaster strikes.  We have some winter storm safety tips on our website, and encourage you to schedule a free disaster preparedness program at your school, business, or organization.

Everyone who was in Western New York on October 12th, 2006 has their own storm stories.  Please share your October Surprise memories in the comments section here or over on our Facebook page, and when you're done, take a few minutes to make sure that emergency kit is ready to go.  You know, just in case!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekly Worldwide Wrap-up

Wondering what has been happening around the world with the Red Cross and Red Crescents? Well, thanks to Kate Swartz, an amazing Red Cross/Blog Master from the Oregon Trail Chapter, you can find out! Below, she's compiled a non-comprehensive sampling of the larger and/or more intriguing aspects of the work we do internationally


Photo courtesy of insidethetravellab.com
SOUTHEAST ASIA: Flooding caused by two typhoons is affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Hundreds have been killed and thousands left homeless as the flood waters rose. IFRC societies are busy addressing their local concerns and learning the extent of damage.

LIBYAOver the past week the ICRC has been stepping up aid for 10,000 people near the conflict area of Sirte. Locals have been fleeing their homes and heading towards the desert or nearby villages to the east and west. On October 1st a medical team reached Ibn Sina hospital, inside Sirte, with urgently needed surgical supplies. Two days later additional equipment was delivered.

SOUTH PACIFIC: After six months of little or no rainfall, several South Pacific island nations are facing a water crisis. The New Zealand Red Cross’ International Operations is working to deliver thousands of collapsible water containers, hand sanitizers, water capture devices, and emergency desalination units.

SOMALIA: The situation in Somalia remains highly critical as the struggle against food insecurity continues. Livestock has been decimated and there is no hope for an improvement in the situation until the next harvest in December. TheICRC is working to strengthen support for the Somali Red Crescent’s therapeutic feeding centers. In July and August they distributed one-month rations to over 162,000 people in the areas hardest hit by drought.

AFGHANISTAN: The ICRC issued a summary of operations during July and August, as additional emergency assistance has been needed to assist thousands of people fleeing conflicts in their villages. 10 years after the conflict began access to heath care in rural areas remains difficult, as rising prices and lack of job security are taking a toll on ordinary people’s lives.

GLOSSARY:

ICRC = International Committee of the Red Cross

IFRC = International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fire Prevention Month

October is Fire Prevention Month, and it couldn't come at a more perfect time! The temperatures are cooling down which means the furnace is kicking on, the space heaters are coming out, our fireplaces are being lit, and the risk of having a house fire is going up.  
Nationally, the American Red Cross responds to more than 62,000 fires annually, and here in Buffalo, we respond to more than 250 fires, and those numbers always begin to increase during the colder months.  Because of this, we urge individuals to take certain precautions to prepare now, because it could be the difference between life and death later.
You should:
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month (burning dinner doesn't count!)
  • Replace your smoke alarm's batteries at least once a year (we recommend doing this when you turn back/forward your clocks)
  • Create and practice fire escape plans with your whole household (you should have TWO ways out of each room... create scenarios where you can't use a certain exit to test your escape plan)
  • Have your fireplace checked by a professional to make sure it is in working order
If you have kids, make sure that:
  • Matches and lighters are out of their reach
  • Don't leave the kitchen when baking, frying, broiling, or grilling food
And if you ever have a fire in your home, make sure once you're out, STAY OUT.  Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's phone if you don't have your cell phone on you (Don't assume that your children know that this is what they should do, be sure to talk to them about this).

For more information about Fire Prevention Month, visit the American Red Cross online to learn more.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dipping temps

As the temperatures begin to dip, it's time to start preparing for that season we dread and push from our mind all spring, summer, and fall... winter.  Here in Buffalo though, we know that it's better to prepare now, because that white stuff has a way of sneaking up on us (i.e. the October Surprise).  So, here are some quick and easy tips to get prepared for that chilly weather:

Photo courtesy of
jameschurch3.building.officelive.com
Be extremely careful when using candles- Although they warm the atmosphere of a room, and normally smell amazing!, they can be easily forgotten and the open flame makes them an obvious fire hazard! Use sparingly and never use an open flame as an emergency light source.

Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves- If you have one, you probably haven't given it a second thought since last February, so use caution before you light it the next chilly evening.  Have it inspected by a professional to make sure it is in working order.

Check smoke alarms- Since heaters, fireplaces, and stoves are all being used more to warm up our cold homes, it is imperative to make sure that we have working smoke alarms throughout our homes and outside all sleeping areas. This is a safety measure that could save lives and is worth the 10 minutes it takes to test all the alarms in your household.

Update your emergency supply kit- Now that cold weather is settling upon us, it is important to make sure that our emergency supply kits are stocked with items such as gloves, a coat, extra socks, and hats.

For more information about what items to pack in your kit to prepare for the cold weather, and tips on how to dress to stay warm, visit us online.

To schedule a free presentation (click here to learn more) that goes over how to be Red Cross Ready for a winter storm, please contact 886-7500 and ask for Denise Herkey-Jarosch or Louise Porter.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Preparedness month... day 30!

It's the last day of preparedness month! We hope that you've enjoyed celebrating and learning with us these past 30 days about our favorite topic… preparedness!! If you've missed out on any of them, click here to take a trip through the month of September and catch up!!

Photo courtesy of time.com
Preparedness Tip #30
Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. Most likely local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or a wave of sick people seeking medical attention. The best source of information will be radio or television reports.

Understand that some biological agents, such as anthrax, do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus, can result in diseases you can catch from other people.

In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated, and who may have been exposed. 


You should watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news including the following:

--Are you in the group or area authorities believe may have been exposed?
--What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
--Are medications or vaccines being distributed?
--Where? Who should get them and how?
--Where should you seek emergency medical care if you become sick?

During a declared biological emergency:

--If a family member becomes sick, it is important to be suspicious.
--Do not assume, however, that you should go to a hospital emergency room or that any illness is the result of the biological attack. Symptoms of many common illnesses may overlap.
-- Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs, and seek medical advice
--Consider if you are in the group or area authorities believe to be in danger
--If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention

If you are potentially exposed:

-- Follow instructions of doctors and other public health officials
--If the disease is contagious expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment. You may be advised to stay away from others or even deliberately quarantined
--For non-contagious diseases, expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment

If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance nearby:

--Quickly get away
--Protect yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a t-shirt, handkerchief or towel. Otherwise, several layers of tissue or paper towels may help.
--Wash with soap and water
--Contact authorities
--Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news and information including what the signs and symptoms of the disease are, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where you should seek medical attention if you become sick
--If you become sick seek emergency medical attention

To learn more about disaster preparedness, click here to visit us online!