Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What a Week (Plus)!!

To say it's been an exciting 12 days across the WNY/Finger Lakes Region, well, that would be an understatement!

It all started back on Saturday, April 26 with a Disaster Drill. Staff and volunteers opened shelters at five locations across Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties, partnering with local governments and their medical support teams for the drill, which focused on serving those with functional needs together with the general population. Community volunteers acted as shelter residents during the exercise, helping responders practice live situations that could occur in an actual shelter.

Polisseni family members official cut the ribbon to unveil a
new blood bus along with Kay Schwartz and
Nancy Blaschak of the Red Cross (l)
Two days later, a new Traveling Donor Center was unveiled at the Blood Services building in Henrietta. Back in 2012, Greg Polisseni was invited to tour that facility after posting on Facebook that he was nervous about having received another person's blood during a life-saving transfusion. Greg was so impressed with what he saw, he helped convince the Polisseni Family Foundation to make a $250,000 donation that was used to purchase this new Bloodmobile, which will allow the Red Cross to collect thousands of additional units of lifesaving blood across the region every year.

This past Saturday was extremely busy. First, 103 youths between the ages of 11-15 became Red Cross Certified Babysitters during Babysitters Training Day. The Red Cross offers Babysitter's Training on a regular basis, but this unique event offered the course simultaneously-and at a discounted rate-at nine different locations across the Region. 

The Regional Disaster Drill team
I saw some of these teens get a head start on their babysitting careers while at the Greater Rochester Chapter for the Regional Disaster Drill, which was also held there on Saturday. Over 40 volunteers from across the Region came together to respond to a mock tornado in the village of Savona. The live-action, table-top exercise included every activity that would be part of an actual Red Cross response, and it was great to see everyone come together and hone their skills in order to be better prepared to help this community should an actual disaster take place.

Jennifer Schaefer prepared to deploy
to Alabama
During Saturday's drill, Jennifer Schaefer became the ninth local volunteer to deploy to help in actual disaster responses taking place right now in places like Florida, Alabama and Arkansas that have been devastated by recent flooding and tornadoes.

Of course, all of this work is only possible thanks to the generosity of our donors. Monday, we launched a new tradition in Rochester--the Casting for Caring women's event. Dozens of amazing women hit the water at the Rochester Yacht Club to try and catch the big one, then tried reel in some great auction items during an evening reception. The next day was the men's turn, as they competed during the 21st Casting for Caring event, which over the two days raised tens of thousands of dollars to support Red Cross services.
Roberta Van Winkle reels one in during the inaugural
Casting for Caring Women's event

All of this took place as we continued to help our neighbors who have lost everything in a fire, support members of the military and their families, and so much more. We can't say thank you enough to all of the volunteers, staff and supporter who make it all possible, and we promise to keep working hard for this incredible community!!