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.
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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.

Media Coverage: Red Cross volunteer rides out Taylorville storm, gets to work

By Crystal Thomas, The State Journal-Register

Kathi Knope has toured the United States for the last 10 years as an American Red Cross volunteer.

She went to Arizona and California for fires, Texas and Florida for hurricanes, and around Illinois for tornadoes and floods.

But that was all before a tornado ran right through her neighborhood Saturday. For the first time, the 65-year-old lifelong Taylorville resident found herself running a Red Cross shelter for a major natural disaster in her hometown.

She was one of several volunteers who flowed in and out of Taylorville the day following the tornado, which destroyed 34 homes and inflicted varying levels of damage on a total of more than 500 residential structures.

Shelter location: Crossroads Apostolic Church, 212 Jaycee Drive, Taylorville, IL

Bryce Goff Brings Passion and Experience to Executive Director Role

Bryce Goff assisting with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts
Bryce Goff (right) served as part of the Red Cross team in Texas following Hurricane Harvey. 

The American Red Cross is pleased to announce that Bryce Goff has been named Executive Director for of the American Red Cross Serving South Central Illinois.

The South-Central Illinois Chapter serves more than 1.1 million residents in a 43-county area—providing vital services including disaster relief, health and safety classes, blood collection and assistance to military members and their families. The South Central Chapter is one of three chapters in the American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region.

Goff previously served as Volunteer Services Officer for the American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region. In his new role, as executive director, Goff will work closely with the Red Cross Board of Directors, community leaders, more than 560 volunteers and the local and regional staff to enhance Red Cross service delivery and strengthen the volunteer and donor base in the South Central Chapter.

“As we conducted a search for a new executive director for the South Central Chapter— Bryce Goff was a clear choice,” said Lyn Hruska. “He is an emerging nonprofit leader with an extraordinary ability to build strong relationships across corporate, government and non-profit sections. Bryce’s thoughtful and inclusive leadership style, strong commitment to Red Cross values and principles, and a desire to empower others will lead to innovation and growth for the Red Cross in the South Central Chapter.”

Prior to joining the Red Cross, Goff worked in education and healthcare, including serving as Strategic Communications Manager for an international school based in Hong Kong. Goff and his family spent three years in Hong Kong immersed in the culture. This international experience helped nurture Goff’s desire for diversity and inclusiveness, which he brings to the workplace. He previously served in a leadership role as the Director of Recovery and Resilience with the Illinois Mental Health Collaborative based in Springfield.

Goff enjoys family time with his wife and their three children and his hobbies include fishing, kayaking and playing guitar.

Don’t be Scared by Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween tips_flashlightIt’s that time of year when ghosts and goblins take to the streets for some Halloween fun. The celebration is growing more and more popular with everyone – kids to adults – and the American Red Cross has some safety tips people can follow to help stay safe this Halloween while enjoying the festivities.

SAFETY TIPS FOR TRICK-or-TREATERS

As parents get their kids ready for Halloween, here are some tips they should follow:

  • Use only flame-resistant costumes.
  • Plan the trick-or-treat route – make sure adults know where children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.
  • Make sure trick-or-treaters can see, and be seen. Give them a flashlight to light their way. Add reflective tape to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags. Have everyone wear light-colored clothing to be seen.
  • Instead of masks, which can cover the eyes and make it hard to see, use face paint instead.
  • Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.
  • Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
  • Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.
  • Make sure a grown-up checks the goodies before eating. Remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards. Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

TIPS FOR WELCOMING THE KIDS ON HALLOWEEN

If you are planning on welcoming trick-or-treaters to your home, follow these safety steps:

  • Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps.
  • Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.
  • Restrain your pets.
  • Light the area well so the young visitors can see.

Use extra caution if driving. Youngsters are excited and may forget to look both ways before crossing.

DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS

Download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies whenever and wherever they need it. Use the Emergency App for weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. The content in both apps is available in English and Spanish. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Deployed Red Cross Volunteer Risks Life to Help Accident Victim

Kathy Yaste2
Red Cross volunteer Kathy Yastes (L) and Red Cross trainer Gayle Lundeen celebrate Kathy’s heroic actions.

Kathy Yaste wanted to help those affected by the recent hurricanes, so she made the trip from Colchester to Moline for the Red Cross Just In Time training on Saturday, September 9. Kathy listened carefully to training instructors Gayle Lundeen and Paul Soebbing, so she would be prepared for what to expect, if she were to deploy to help with the hurricane relief efforts.

 

On September 14, just days after completing the training, Kathy was asked to go to Florida and work on a shelter team helping to provide a safe place to stay for residents displaced by Hurricane Irma. Kathy dug into her duties at the shelter and went to great lengths to provide care to special needs residents in the shelter to make their stay as comfortable as possible considering the circumstances.

Kathy’s story doesn’t end with her exemplary work in the shelter. Kathy and her Red Cross partner were traveling back to Jacksonville from a shelter across the state line in Georgia. Kathy, in the front passenger seat, was focused on the road as traffic was heavy on the divided four lane roadway. Just as she glanced across the four lanes of traffic, she witnessed a truck traveling in the wrong direction hit a vehicle head on – hitting the vehicle with such force that it spun the vehicle off the road. The truck sped off without stopping. Kathy asked her partner to stop their vehicle. Once stopped, Kathy risked her own life as she threaded her way across four lanes of heavy traffic to reach the accident scene. Kathy immediately called 9-1-1- and started stabilizing the 38-year-old woman, who had facial lacerations, broken ribs and the possibility of a spinal cord or neck injury from the severe impact. After a quick examination, Kathy knew she needed her first aid kit, which was back in her vehicle. Kathy made the dash back across four lanes of traffic and back again – this time with the first aid kit in hand.

Back at the scene of the accident, Kathy quickly removed a towel from her pack and placed it around the woman’s neck to provide some stabilization. Kathy also applied pressure to the lacerations and bandaged them as best as she could. As Kathy provided comfort and care to the woman, several road workers stopped and helped to direct traffic away from the accident. Kathy knew the importance of keeping the woman engaged in conversation until medical help arrived, so she asked the woman’s name, her age and also took a quick medical history. During this time, Kathy also learned that the young woman had lost everything in Hurricane Irma and what few possessions she had left were in her now crashed vehicle.

As soon as medical help arrived, Kathy approached the tow truck driver and police and asked if they could help to retrieve the woman’s possessions from her vehicle before it was towed from the scene. With her few personal possessions in the ambulance with her, the young woman was transported to the hospital for treatment.

With the woman was on her way to the hospital, Kathy and her co-worker resumed their trip back to the Jacksonville staff shelter. Upon arrival, Kathy’s heroic actions were quickly shared among the Red Cross workers in the staff shelter. Kathy has some health issues of her own, and it was decided as a precaution that she should be checked over at the local hospital. Kathy was released after a quick examination and again returned to the staff shelter.

Kathy was honored by the Red Cross for her heroic actions. She received a letter from the Deputy District Director highlighting her extraordinary service in the shelter and her heroic actions in helping the accident victim.

Kathy has returned home to Colchester. She is tired and somewhat overwhelmed by her experience. She comments that she has no idea how she was able to make the trip back and forth in heavy traffic since she has COPD and other health issues, but she says that she would do it again in a minute.

Kathy Yaste impacted many lives during her deployment and the Red Cross is grateful for dedication and her heroic actions.

Kathy Yaste