Story: Bringing Disaster Relief to those in need

July 16, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer Allen Crabtree.

The job of the Red Cross has not changed

“…My work was, and chiefly has been to get timely supplies to those needing,” said Clara Barton in an interview published in the New York Sun on January 10, 1908. “It has taught me the value of Things. They have lost all. They want food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and a few calm practical persons to administer them. This seems to have been my work.”

The early American Red Cross, under Clara Barton’s leadership, relied on wagons and ambulances drawn by horses and mules to deliver supplies and comfort to wounded Union soldiers in the US Civil War. Starting with a voluntary, independent relief organization to collect and distribute supplies to the wounded from the first battle of Bull Run, she was able to convince US Surgeon General William A. Hammond to issue her a general pass in July 1862 to travel with army ambulances “for the purpose of distributing comforts for the sick and wounded and nursing them.”

Barton collected some relief articles herself, appealed to the public for others, and learned how to store and distribute them. Besides supplies, Barton offered personal support to the men in hopes of keeping their spirits up: she read to them, wrote letters for them, listened to their personal problems, and prayed with them.

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In the 150 years since the fledgling American Red Cross started providing relief to those in need, the mission has not changed but the methods and techniques have evolved with the times. Today the Red Cross responds to natural and man-made disasters with a fleet of Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) and trained relief workers. These red and white “box” trucks, emblazoned with the American Red Cross logo and “Disaster Relief”, are mobile feeding and supply vehicles that carry food, water, and cleanup supplies directly to residents in neighborhoods that have been affected by fires, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. The disaster relief work being done following the most destructive wildfires that Colorado has ever seen that affected thousands of families and homes is a good example of the continuing work of the Red Cross first begun by Clara Barton.

Organizing the ERV Relief Effort

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It takes a coordinated effort of many hands to field ERVs into the neighborhoods where they are needed for effective disaster relief. It begins with the call to assemble crews and deploy individual ERVs from their home chapters to the disaster scene, often many states away. Once in the disaster area, it takes the talent and organizing skills of someone like Todd Vesely to pull it all together.

“My job as the ERV manager on the Colorado wildfires operation is to see the jobs that need to be done and then get it done,” said Vesely.

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Vesely is the key to assigning crews to individual ERVs, making assignments for their routes and the supplies that they will carry, organizing the stocking of each ERV and the movement of supplies from the warehouse to where they are needed, monitoring the maintenance and paperwork to keep the fleet of vehicles running, handling the personnel issues that are inevitable with a large crew of volunteers, and getting everything done on schedule. He also works with others at the Disaster Relief headquarters to coordinate assignments for outreach teams including client case workers, mental health workers and health workers who are also providing services to devastated neighborhoods. Vesely works with the Red Cross’ external partners to confirm which neighborhoods will be opened to returning residents and Red Cross crews.

Vesely has been a volunteer with the Nebraska chapter of the Red Cross for 1 ½ years, following his retirement after 20 years in the US Marine Corps. This is his fourth disaster deployment with the Red Cross.

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“I started as an ERV driver and must have done something right,” said Vesely, “because they keep asking me to do more. I am now managing the ERV program here for the Colorado Springs wildfires.”

His motto for running an efficient, smooth operation? “A little praise goes a long way,” said Vesely. “Our volunteers are already motivated to help others – I just try to set the stage so that they can do their jobs, praise them when they do them right, and help point them in the right direction when there are problems. There are very few problems with our volunteers – they are a great bunch of people.”

He added that the Red Cross family reminds him in many ways of his service family – dedicated to getting the job done.

Clara Barton and her early American Red Cross workers would be proud of the work that Vesely and the other volunteers have been doing to provide relief in the aftermath of the devastating Colorado wildfires. It is, after all, the work that she chose to do, and which the Red Cross today continues.


Story: John Gardner begins the recovery

July 13, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer Bill Fortune.


When John Gardner first heard about the Waldo Canyon Fire and the potential for evacuation he and his wife did the right thing. They packed some things and left their home. That was Saturday, June 23rd. After staying in a hotel for a couple of days they decided to return to their home on Monday June 25th. Feeling safe up to that point they unpacked and settled back in their home. However, that turned out to be a short visit. The very next day they saw flames coming over the ridge and fled for their lives. They had to move fast and grabbed whatever they could. Their home was a total loss, including the restored 1962 Jaguar convertible that was in the garage. John was in good spirits on Thursday, June 12, when he and family members were working their way through the ashes. They had found a few items including his wife’s jewelry box but weren’t expecting to find much more. “I have come to terms with the loss” John said, “We got out and that is what matters most. Everything else can be replaced.”

I asked John if, prior to the fire, he had followed one of the Red Cross preparedness tasks that suggested taking video of his home and belongings for later reference. He said that he had done that a few years back but in the haste to leave he left without taking it. “That will be high on my list for next time”, he said, “That and to pack a kit with some clothes in it. All we had was what we were wearing.” John and his family were grateful for the Red Cross support especially the water, masks, and work gloves. “Just knowing that you folks are here makes a difference.” John said as he turned to get back to the work of recovery.


In a driveway down the street from John’s home someone had placed burnt bricks in the shape of a heart. Just another sign of the compassion that is prevalent in this community.


Story: Not the greatest thing to come home to

July 12, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross Volunteers Bill Fortune and Chuck Bennett.

Jon Wells was in Europe traveling with his daughter, Alexandra, when the Waldo Canyon fire started. They were in France as part of a U.S. Ambassador musician tour and Alexandra had just played the first of many concerts when the call came in to tell them of the status of their home. Jon and his daughter live in the Mountain Shadows area where more than 350 homes were destroyed by the Waldo Canyon Fire. We met Jon on Monday, July 9 at the Red Cross Bulk Distribution Site that was set up not far from his home. Jon was there, like so many other Mountain Shadow residents, to get water and bulk cleaning supplies like shovels, rakes, gloves and face masks so that he could begin the process of going through the debris. “I really appreciate that the Red Cross is here to help.” He said. ” I didn’t know where to start and the Red Cross gave me some of the tools that I need, as well as useful information about how to do it.”

While at the Bulk Distribution Center, Jon was also able to talk with Red Cross stress management workers and ERV drivers about the importance of personal safety when working in the burned area. “I really was at a loss until I talked with the Red Cross volunteers.”, he said, “The first thing I need to do is to buy some work boots and work clothes.”

Not much is left of Jon’s home but he was able to salvage the ceramic casting of his daughter’s baby shoes. “Everything else at the house is a mess but I found the shoes right away.”, He said, “They mean a lot to me.” Red Cross workers found plastic bags and helped him wrap the shoe casting for safe keeping.

Jon said, “Now, I need to stay busy while I think about moving forward. It is so great to see the big red and white trucks driving around the area. It makes me feel that there is hope and help when I need it. “


Story: Red Cross and service partners provide one stop shopping for clients at Multi-Agency Resource Center in Ft. Collins

July 11, 2012

 This story is written by Red Cross worker Chuck Bennett.

Since the wildfires started forcing evacuations and destroying homes in Northern Colorado on June 9th, the American Red Cross has been busy helping those in need.   Shelters were set up in Estes Park, Laporte, and Loveland.  Once it was deemed safe to return to the fire zones, Red Cross Mobile Response Vehicles delivered a large amount of cleanup supplies, water, and snacks directly to the area.  Mental Health workers and Medical staff went out in the field to deliver support and advice.  Red Cross Client Services provided outreach and continues to evaluate the individual needs of each family that requests assistance.

Clients affected by the wildfires in Northern Colorado currently can go to the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at235 E. Foothills Parkway, Ft. Collins.  There, they can seek assistance from the American Red Cross and many partner agencies including Adventist Community Services, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Samaritan’s Purse, Lions Club,Timberline Church & the Fort Collins Church Network.

First a person affected by the disaster must register with the Red Cross.   Then, they can browse through a huge selection of donated items such as furniture, clothing, and dishes.  They can also request direct assistance with cleanup efforts including ash sifting and removal at their home site, housing needs, safety and wellness information, and a huge variety of other immediate disaster needs.   All these services are provided free of charge to those affected by the Colorado wildfires.

If you have not yet received services from the American Red Cross or it’s partner agencies you are encouraged call 1-800-red-cros or go to the “MARC” in Ft.Collins.   It is in the old Mervin’s building behind the Foothills Mall.  Current hours are 9AM to 6PM Mon to Sat and 12PM-6PM Sun.


Story: Red Cross forges partnership with NORAD and NORTHCOM to enhance disaster response capabilities

July 10, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross Volunteer Allen Crabtree.

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“The American Red Cross actively collaborates with a number of non-governmental, faith based and private sector organizations, and military partners,” said Eric Jones, American Red Cross Disaster Officer for Disaster Readiness and Capacity Development.   “These partnerships allow us to greatly enhance and expand our joint capabilities to provide emergency relief to individuals and communities whenever and wherever disaster strikes.  We can accomplish amazing things when we work together!”

One of the Red Cross’ key partnerships is with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).  Jones recently met with representatives from NORAD and NORTHCOM at the American Red Cross Service Delivery Site for disaster relief in Colorado Springsto discuss with our partners how the Red Cross is responding to the Colorado wildfires and how the partnership could be implemented in future disasters.

NORAD was established in 1958 as a joint command between the governments of Canada and the United States to provide coordinated defense against Cold War threats toNorth America.  NORTHCOM was established in 2002 to coordinate defense support of civil authorities and to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DOD) homeland defense efforts.

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“Partnerships and partnering are important to us,” said Captain James Terbush (MC USN) at US NORTHCOM.  He continued: “The American Red Cross is a Primary partner of the NORAD NORTHCOM Interagency Team. We value highly this relationship and look forward to close collaboration with the Red Cross for this disaster and in the future.”

“Think of this partnership as an insurance policy for disaster relief,” Jones said.  “For example, there will be future disaster situations where air space and areas is restricted and the Red Cross will need the active participation of NORTHCOM and other DoD elements to help us get our emergency relief assets on the ground.  This partnership could facilitate the needs of the Red Cross being met with military assets and aircraft.  The collaboration we build today could be of immeasurable value tomorrow.”

Captain Terbush summed his observations of the meeting with these words:  “Thanks for the terrific visit to your American Red Cross, Colo. Springs, Disaster Recovery HQs yesterday. We gained a tremendous amount of information about your response to the Colorado Wildfires and also a different perspective on the strategic workings of ARC, up and down the chain. [This is] all excellent for our situational awareness.”

“This meeting and others like it provide a forum to share agency roles and allow for networking,” said Jones.  “The more we understand our respective missions and goals, the better we will be able to manage partner expectations and foster coordination so that the Red Cross can provide disaster relief where and when it is needed most!”


Story: American Red Cross Volunteer and her Therapy Dog Support Disabled Veterans and Their Families

July 3, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer in Public Affairs Allen Crabtree.
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The American Red Cross has provided support to our military and their families throughout its history as a key part of its mission to serve the American people.  No matter what time of day, any day of the year, the Red Cross quickly sends emergency communications to deployed service members on behalf of their family during a crisis, provides access to financial assistance in partnership with the military aid societies, information and referral and assistance to veterans.

There is another aspect of the Red Cross’ support to the military that is not widely known – the Red Cross partnership to make available pet therapy animals that visit military hospitals to help the healing process for disabled veterans and their families. There are thousands of active duty and retired military personnel and their families living in theColorado Springsarea, and the Red Cross has three pet therapy teams with trained Red Cross volunteers and Certified Registered Therapy Pets that work in the area.  These teams are sent to military installations, hospitals and clinics in and aroundFortCarson.

Thea Wasche has been a Red Cross volunteer for three years and is the handler and owner of Lacey, a six-year old Golden Retriever Registered Therapy Dog.   “I received Lacey when she was about two years old,” she said.  “Lacey and I have been certified by the rigorous Delta Society training program for therapy dogs, and I have been fully trained by the Red Cross.”

Wasche is a thirty-year civil servant veteran and has been around the military her entire adult life.  She now assigned to Schriever Air Force Base, so she is no stranger to the military.

“Lacey and I visit theEvansArmyCommunityHospitalatFortCarsonevery Saturday,” said Wasche.  “Lacey interacts with the disabled veterans in the patient wards.  It is wonderful to see how they react to her gentle approach and demeanor.  For many, it is the first reaching out that they have done as part of their rehabilitation program.”

Wasche and Lacey also visit outpatient clinics to support veterans receiving physical therapy and other services, and represent the Red Cross when they with the children, families and friends of fallen soldiers as part of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

The American Red Cross has strict training and certification requirements for all therapy pets and their handlers before they are allowed to represent the Red Cross and provide their needed humanitarian healing services to these important military programs or other Red Cross activities.

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Story: Long-time Military Veteran finds a new “Family” with the American Red Cross

July 3, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer in Public Affairs Allen Crabtree.

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Colonel Patricia Chappell treasures the years she spent in the US Air Force and Department of Defense.  She had a thirty-year career in Health Care and Clinical Services as a Flight Nurse and serving in several senior positions planning and coordinating DOD programs.

“We were a family, my military family, and no matter where I was stationed my family was there,” said Colonel Chappell.  “The other thing we shared was our sense of duty and dedication to our mission.  That was really a common thread that connected my colleagues and I for all the years I served.”

It is that same focus on the mission and sharing with others that attracted Colonel Chappell to volunteer with the American Red Cross.  Now retired from the Air Force, she joined the ranks of Red Cross volunteers in 2004 at the urging of a friend at the Air Force Academy near Chappell’s home inColorado Springs.  She was trained as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and then was promoted to DAT Captain.  “Responding to house fires at all hours of the day and night, helping to provide American Red Cross emergency relief to families who had lost their homes, was one of the most meaningful and rewarding things I’ve ever done,” said Chappell.  “The experiences I had as a DAT member ‘hooked me’ on the mission of the Red Cross.”

Since 2004 Chappell has served in many roles as part of the Red Cross disaster relief effort, and is now the Chair of the State Consortium for Disaster Services – Readiness and Response for Colorado.  She is also a volunteer Board member with the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross, and uses her military organization and coordination skills to play a direct role in Red Cross disaster response efforts in the state.

The High Park Fire broke out nearFort Collinson June 9, scorching thousands of acres of forest and destroying hundreds of homes.  Even though her own home in the Mountain Shadow community west ofColorado Springswas threatened by another major wildfire, Chappell left and went toFort Collinson June 14 to direct the massive Red Cross disaster relief effort there.  She served in the role of job director until June 20, and continues as the deputy job director as Red Cross disaster relief efforts continue to support those impacted by this natural tragedy.

“I have been very fortunate,” said Chappell.  “I have learned that my home escaped the fire that swept through the Mountain Shadow Community, and I will be able to return to it once it is safe to do so.  In the meantime, however, the Red Cross and I have an important job to do here inFort Collins.”

The American Red Cross is fortunate to have dedicated, trained and experienced military veterans just like Colonel Chappell to help carry out the mission of helping others in their times of need.  The Red Cross is indebted to all of our military veterans and thanks them on this July 4th Independence Day.


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