National Volunteer Month

This is National Volunteer Week wrapped inside of National Volunteer Month. To celebrate, we are pleased to be able to share another volunteer profile. This time we introduce you to Virginia Ranville, but her friends call her Ginny.
Ginny is part of the American Red Cross Serving Quad Cities and Western Illinois chapter which is one of three chapters that make up the 78 county American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region.
VIRGINIA (GINNY) RANVILLE

Virginia Ranville, better known as Ginny, lives in Quincy and just retired not long ago. After moving on from her job, she found herself wanting to give back, but not doing just anything to fill time. She yearned for work that was meaningful to others and herself.  “I’ve been given a lot of breaks over the course of my life and I wanted to pay back, so I started looking around.” She says, “I’d been involved with Red Cross in a slight way and investigated further deciding to train and go on deployments. I’ve been on eight deployments in a year and a half.”

Ginny says she’s learned a few things in that time:

1 – Even if your life seems bad, it can always be worse.

2 – People are people – wherever you go.

3 – When you feel like you want to payback, go ahead and do it – because the rewards come back to your pocket.

Ginny says she didn’t expect to get so much personal gratification out of it. “I went in happy to be able to help others and I didn’t expect it to be powerful for me, too.” She says, “I’ve had women in my arms crying wanting to make sure their children and, in one specific case, a little boy had something besides bread and peanut butter for supper. That’s when I was out in the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and she came out crying saying please just give me something for my little boy. I don’t need anything for me. Of course, we fed the whole family. That was a joyful occasion.”

What would Ginny say to someone who wants to volunteer with Red Cross, but just hasn’t done it yet? “My mom gave me a piece of advice when I was younger,” Ginny says thoughtfully. “She said just jump in with both feet and come out fighting. That’s kind of what I did. I just jumped in the middle of it and I didn’t come out fighting for me, but I do fight for the ones who are in trouble.”

What’s next for Ginny a year-and-a-half into her volunteerism with American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois is more deployments which she won’t hesitate to accept when the time comes. “I keep a bag packed by the back door and any time they call me – I’m ready to go.”

Thank you, Ginny. You are one bright light.

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National Volunteer Month

This is National Volunteer Week wrapped inside of National Volunteer Month! We’d like to introduce you to another one of our great long-time volunteers in the American Red Cross Serving Quad Cities and Western Illinois chapter of the American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois region.

JOANNE ORTWERTH

There’s a decent chance if you live in western Illinois – at some point you spent time in the water with Joanne Ortwerth – a 40-year volunteer with Red Cross. Joanne swims three times a week and teaches an adapted Red Cross aquatics class. It’s one of her specialties as a Health and Safety instructor-trainer.

She’s spent more time in water than most and reminisces about her first time. She says, “I was a kid and we were riding bikes. The creek was high from a big rain. I was with friends, but we didn’t tell our parents we were going to jump in. It didn’t go as planned.” She struggled to get to the side – grabbing a root to save herself from going under.

Joanne says, “Swimming is the best exercise there is. It promotes flexibility and circulation. It uses all muscles and it’s not hard on the body. You are only a tenth of your weight in water. The key is you just need to be able to handle yourself in water.”

Having grown up in water with a nearby public pool, she decided to share her passion with others. We are fortunate Joanne has spent those years with American Red Cross.

Thank you Joanne. You are the difference!

National Volunteer Month

Say hello to long time friends and Red Cross volunteers, Bob Allensworth and Dorothy Yackley of chapter American Red Cross Serving Quad Cities and Western Illinois – one of the three chapters in our central and southern Illinois region.

BOB ALLENSWORTH – Bob is one of our region’s Damage Assessment volunteers in western Illinois. Bob has been deployed to nine disasters in our American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region since he started. His motivation for getting involved with Red Cross? He says, “My daughter was hit by a car at age 3 1/2 and she’s 44 now. It incapacitated her and she’s been in a wheelchair ever since. After all of the help she received, I wanted to give back.”

He’s been around for 22 years and chuckles as he answers. “The truth of it is when you are around that long, you somehow you find yourself doing everything.”

American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois is the better for it. Thank you, Bob.

DOROTHY YACKLEY – Twenty-five-year Red Cross volunteer Dorothy is a self-described Jill-of-all-trades not to mention walking encyclopedia of Red Cross information. She’s a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member in the Quincy area and has been deployed to disasters 20-25 times. She’s come full circle, because these days she’s locally focused having she started out handling blood as a nurse in Quincy.

When asked why she stuck around, she thinks for a second and laughs saying, “Oh, I don’t know. It makes me wonder!” She continues, “It’s been nice to see and be part of Red Cross growth over the years.” It’s growth that wouldn’t happen without Dorothy and those as engaged as she is in making the Red Cross mission part of their own.

Thank you Dorothy Yackley. You make Red Cross better.

American Red Cross & Illinois Public Servants Join Governor J.B. Pritzker Warning Residents: Be Careful

This week has been breaking records for brittle temperatures and wind chills in the Midwest creating very dangerous conditions for anyone trying to do anything out in the elements. Across the board, expert advice has landed on the side of do not go outside and, if you must, do not linger at all.

The American Red Cross participated in Illinois Governor J.B. Prtizker’s news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield in anticipation of unprecedented below 0 wind chills this week.

The Governor was joined by the Acting Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Acting Director of the Illinois State Police, the Acting Secretary of Transportation and representatives from the Illinois National Guard, Department of Public Health, Ameren, and Commonwealth Edison.

The National Weather Service was also represented and shared details to prep Illinois residents for the frigid forecast.

Lyn Hruska, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region stood with other public servant leaders poised and ready to help the State of Illinois cope with the unprecedented weather event.

I look forward to working with you in the future

Rather than give you a long boring job description of what a Duty Officer does, I would like to share why Jim loves being a Duty Officer volunteer with the American Red Cross!!!

“Hello my name is Jim Maloney and I have been a Duty Officer for about 6 months now and love every Minute of it! This is not the easiest position to hold but for me it is the most challenging and exciting position I’ve ever had.

One of the things I like BEST is answering emergency calls. When the phone rings you never know what type of call your going to get. It could be the Police or the Fire Department needing help for someone who just had a house fire or a local Emergency Manager needing help to setup a shelter for a whole community experiencing a flood. I also get calls from local community member calling about a personal crisis needing referrals to other community Resources.

In addition, I enjoy dispatching our volunteer responders out to calls and assisting them with whatever they need. Some forms of assistance I provide to responders include creating new case files, activating client assistance cards and obtaining more manpower to handle incidents.

Another amazing aspect of the position of Duty Officer is that we cover 72 Counties in Illinois 4 counties in Missouri and 2 counties in Iowa.  This has given me the opportunity to serve a large number of citizens that reach out for our help in the most desperate times.

If you enjoy helping people and making a difference in their lives then I encourage you to take the next step and join the Duty Officer Team. We would love to have you!! Thank you for your time and consideration in joining our team.  I look forward to working with you in the future.

Sincerely,

Jim”

If you would like more information about becoming a Duty Officer please reach out to Amber MacGrath, Disaster Workforce Engagement Officer @ amber.macgrath@redcross.org 

 

Day in the life of a DAT Responder

American Red Cross Volunteer Brian Deloche offers his perspective as a DAT responder – otherwise known as a Disaster Assistance Team.
Brian shares a pensive moment about his volunteering which has spanned years and includes several vantage points – from being first on the scene to help families with money and supplies to standing back and observing as he writes about his experiences in our effort to share on-going stories for American Red Cross efforts throughout the region.
Today, Brian shares a slice of his own story living and volunteering in his home area in west central Illinois… 
Home fires are difficult regardless of the time of year they occur.  But those that happen before or after Christmas always seem to be among the worst.  Those that occur before the holiday often destroy dreams of Christmas wishes to come.  Those that happen after the holiday often destroy Christmas wishes fulfilled.
Yesterday, for me, was a case of the latter.  I was dispatched to assist clients who were put out of their home after an early morning fire.  Many of the gifts exchanged at Christmas were lost along with other family treasures.
As is almost always the case, the family was unexpectedly put under a great deal of stress having lost furniture, clothes and gifts.  Those stresses are amplified by the financial pressures that come from trying to figure out how to pay for those items essential to their recovery.
As we worked to complete the client intake information, the stresses were evident on the faces of the husband and wife sitting across from me. Their sense of loss was palpable, if not contagious.
It is always a great honor for me to watch tears of distress give way to tears of joy each time I’m able to hand over a client assistance card pre-loaded with cash as I tell the clients “this money was given to the American Red Cross by the American people, and it’s now my privilege to give it to you.”
And while I’m most content to wait for long periods between fire responses, the opportunity to witness that change from stress to relief doesn’t seem to happen enough. There comes great satisfaction in knowing that on this day, something I did mattered in a very positive way for me and the client.
The firm handshake, the tearful thank you and the warm hug that often come when I hand over the card make it all worthwhile.
More importantly, I leave each response knowing one thing. For whatever reason, through Divine grace, my life has been and is blessed. And for that I am grateful.

Red Cross Provides Relief For Pike Co, IL Family

By Brian DeLoche for the American Red Cross

Peace and quiet. It’s what draws people to the rural countryside of west-central Illinois.

Where Greg and Darla Hobson live just off County Highway 21, outside the tiny hamlet of Valley City, that peace and quiet is usually disturbed only by the sound of an occasional passing car or truck, or depending on the time of year, the sound of tractors or combines in the nearby fields.

But on a warm Saturday afternoon (Dec. 1 no less), Darla heard an unusual sound outside her home. “It was a sound like I’d never heard before,” she said. “So, I opened the front door to see what was going on.”

That’s when her world was turned upside down.  “As soon as I opened the door, I was picked up and blown across the room,” she said. “I grabbed onto a chair (an oversized living room chair) and for a while that chair and I were dancing in the air.”

“For a minute there, I thought she was going to be blown away,” Greg, who was seated in the living room putting on his shoes when the storm hit.

Their home, along with those of their sons on either side of their property  had just been hit by one of the more than 20 tornadoes reported as a storm system ripped its way across Illinois in the mid-afternoon hours of Dec. 1.

For the Hobsons, there was no advanced warning.  In the remote rural countryside, there are no warning sirens. “We knew there was supposed to be a chance of severe storms in the area that day. But we didn’t get any warning about a tornado,” Darla said.

“We were just getting ready to head into town (Griggsville) for our granddaughter’s birthday party.  Our son Cody and his wife live right next door and they had already left.  They called and said they had forgotten the ice cream for the party and asked us to stop in and pick it up for them. We were on the way to get it when the storm hit.”

As fate would have it, they never made it to their son’s house next door, and they didn’t make it to the party.  The storm destroyed their son’s mobile home that stood less than 100 yards from their front door. “If we’d gotten out the door two minutes earlier, we would have been inside their house when the storm hit.”

The winds that destroyed her son’s house also did major damage to her own small, cozy home on the hill.  The winds that tossed Darla across the room, blew the north wall out of her kitchen. “I still have no idea where my pots and pans are,” she said. The small microwave oven that sat in a built-in cabinet was ripped from its space and thrown into a field between her home and her son Brandon’s house. “Believe it or not, it still works,” she added as she pointed to the stainless steel appliance now back in its place.

“I can’t tell you much about what happened after that,” Mrs. Hobson said.  “The next few hours were kind of a blur. But I remember somebody told me the Red Cross would be coming to help us out.  I can’t tell you how long it was before they got here, but it was the same evening after the storm hit.”

“I can’t tell you their names, but they were so good to us,” she said.  “They stopped at a grocery store in Barry, Il before they came here and they brought us groceries.”

“They stayed and talked with us for quite a while,” Darla said, “and that helped us calm down a bit.” All three Hobson families received Red Cross Direct Client Assistance.

Darla said she was amazed by the outpouring of support friends and neighbors have shown her family since the disaster.  “It’s good to have friends, and have children who have friends,” she said with a smile, while dozens of people, many of whom brought machinery to help clean up the debris, worked on all three properties.

Darla said she will most likely use a portion of the immediate assistance funds she received from the Red Cross to buy a new vacuum cleaner. “There’s dirt and dust everywhere, in places like the inside of my kitchen cabinets. I don’t know if I’ll ever get done cleaning,” she said with a laugh.

Even though her home suffered major damage, the Hobsons still found time to laugh at the unusual things that managed to survive. A four foot tall  Santa Claus figure made mostly of plastic and cloth stood at the front door of their home. The figure was tied to a post on the south side of the porch with only a couple pieces of yarn to hold it in place.  After the storm, the statue was moved about 4-6 feet, and down a couple of steps and left still standing on the opposite side of the porch. Icicle lights and other Christmas decorations remained on the porch seemingly undamaged.

At her son Cody’s home, the storm destroyed the house, but left standing a plastic nutcracker statue held in place with screws on a porch railing. “It blew up my house, but somehow, the plastic nutcracker survived,” Cody said.

Though there have been a lot of tears so far, and more likely to come, Darla said, she will continue to look for a laugh wherever she can find it.

“You can’t let it get your sense of humor,” she said with a smile,  “’cause sometimes it’s all you’ve got.”

Why Bother Using Safe and Well?

In disaster situations when people are unable to reach loved ones to either find out if they’re ok or to let them know they are safe, the American Red Cross encourages use of Safe and Well as a means to make connections.

Safe and Well is a website with the sole purpose of helping reunite loved ones in times of disaster. It’s available 24-7, 365 days a year.

We encourage this avenue, in part, because it keeps phone lines open for those seeking direct assistance from first responders. Resources can rapidly become stretched during disasters when confusion and chaos are high. Keeping phone lines clear allows those in dire need to reach help they require faster giving them the best chance possible to be safe in their individual predicaments.

When registering at the link above, choose the ‘Other’ selection for the Disaster Event.

You’ll also want to have your phone number and address ready when signing up. If looking for someone, you’ll provide either their phone number or address. This acts as a type of screening process to help all involved stay safe and well.

Sound the Alarm Success Story

Valcun Carmel and his grandson of Springfield fell asleep in the living room watching a movie together a few days before Halloween this year. They were jarred awake by a smoke alarm in the early morning hours of October 29th, 2018. Within seconds, a large mirror near them shattered as they hurried to get out of the house. Everyone escaped safely as Springfield Fire crews arrived to put out the blaze.

Valcun is thoughtful as he looks at his former home at 733 North 4th Street across from the Springfield Art Association. He says he misses it and all he lost inside – his home for 17 years.

“Take care of your home, get alarms, and keep everything safe,” is advice Valcun offers others looking for his insight having survived what he called a ‘crazy’ experience for him and the four-year-old in his care.

Valcun credits the alarms with saving his life and so do area leaders including American Red Cross National Headquarters calling it a result of the successful Sound the Alarm campaign made possible by at least 100 volunteers who canvassed neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms – a program going on for more than three years.

American Red Cross Community Partners in this effort: Springfield Fire Department, Americorps, SIU School of Medicine, University of Illinois Springfield, and Enos Park Neighborhood Association.

The home is behind Valcun and our Red Cross staff – easily identifiable with plywood covering the windows. Left to Right in the photo: Katelyn Trunnell- Individual & Community Preparedness Manager, Alyssa Pollock- Regional Disaster Officer, Valcun Carmel- Resident, Lyn Hruska- Regional Chief Executive Officer.

 

Generosity At Its Best

We offer a warm heartfelt thank you to the Springfield Capital Area Band!

They took up a spontaneous donation and dropped it off to the Springfield office to help support friends and neighbors recovering after severe storms blew through Illinois Saturday, December 1, 2018.

Clarinetist Alisa Blumhorst shared the donation with Scott Clarke – American Red Cross State Emergency Management Liaison. During a free concert, band members asked for donations for American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

They raised $589.44 to help families recovering from the tornadoes. Alisa says they felt it was important not to round off the amount given to symbolize that every single penny counts.

And…it does. Thank you, friends!