Jenny Solomon brings passion to Red Cross

JENNY3
Jenny Solomon is a disaster program specialist at the Red Cross chapter in Springfield, Mo. She enjoys helping  people recover from disasters such as a home fire, flooding or tornado. (Red Cross photo)

By Kelsey Coombs
American Red Cross

Jenny Solomon, celebrating her seventh year with the American Red Cross in Southern Missouri, has a strong connection with the organization and with helping people with long-term recovery needs.

It’s her passion for helping people to recover from home fires, floods, tornadoes and whatever other disaster that may occur that led her to the Red Cross — although it was a personal journey of courage and recovery getting there.

JENNY1
Red Cross worker Jenny Solomon holds up a sign explaining why she support the Sound the Alarm program to install free smoke alarms in homes. (Red Cross photo)

At age 4, Jenny was severely burned in a home fire where the water heater exploded resulting in Jenny losing two brothers and an aunt. The accident left Jenny spending most her childhood in the Shriners Burns Hospital in Galveston, Texas.

“Unfortunately, Red Cross was not providing Direct Client Assistance for home fires in 1964,” Jenny said, adding that her family could have benefitted from the services Red Cross now provides.

She recently participated in the Red Cross’s Sound the Alarm event with volunteers installing free smoke alarms in homes in the Springfield area, part of the national campaign to reduce injuries and deaths from home fires.

As part of promoting Sound the Alarm, many volunteers were photographed holding signs stating, “I joined the movement to Sound the Alarm because …” Each volunteer wrote in their reason why.

With her photograph, Jenny’s reason was based on her years recovering from the critical burns she received. She wrote: “… no child should grow up with scars!”

As Jenny grew up, she carried this passion of helping others extremely close to her heart. After moving to Republic from Jefferson City in 2010, Jenny came home to find her apartment building on fire only after living there for a few weeks.

With the apartment building engulfed in flames, Red Cross volunteers were on the scene supporting her and other residents with needed resources.

“I never knew that the Red Cross did those things and responded to fires,” Jenny said.

Jenny has worked with many different organizations throughout her life but none was completely right until she found the Red Cross. In 2012, she was encouraged by someone at the Red Cross to take a class that was focused on disaster case management training.

She instantly fell in love with the training and started working with survivors from the 2011 Joplin tornado. Later, Jenny was offered the disaster program specialist position at the Red Cross in Springfield, where she could finally let her passions flow through her work.

Jenny has served this position by helping people in long term recovery and encouraging clients to move toward a “new normal.” Last year, she helped those recovering from major flooding in southern Missouri. Her humble nature and encouraging personality made it easy to instantly deploy to needed areas and promptly assume the role she was recruited for.

Training others in case work, connecting with partners to discover new resources, and encouraging those recovering to move forward are all a part of Jenny’s daily tasks. She knows her experience has truly shaped how she views her work at Red Cross,

JENNY4
Red Cross worker Jenny Solomon gets ready to head out with a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle. (Red Cross photo)

“We all have struggles, but it’s how we choose to respond to those struggles that makes us thrive or not,” she said.

Jenny has always had a passion for helping others and it serves as her daily motivation. She recently written a book that will be published soon, encompassing everything she has learned and experienced.

“It’s not hard to come to work in the morning,” she said, adding that she plans to continue volunteering even after she retires.

Advertisements

Red Cross helps family who lost everything in house fire

 

FIRE1
Niane Thompson sits with 3-year-old son Lemuel, 9-year-old daughter Jade and father-in-law John H. Thompson Jr. after fire destroyed his Kansas City, Mo., home.  They received Red Cross assistance and relocated to Rich Hill, Mo. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

At age 93, John H. Thompson Jr. has pretty well seen it all, from fighting on Saipan in World War II, to being a deputy sheriff and homicide investigator, to being a Kansas City, Mo., minister, community activist, parent and grandparent.

But nothing had prepared him for waking up that January night to find flames crackling around him in his bedroom. He knew those in the three-story house only had a few minutes to flee into the cold night with little more than the clothes they were wearing.download

Once outside, a quick headcount found everyone had made it out – his son Juan and  Juan’s wife Niane, 9-year-old daughter Jade and 3-year-old son Lemuel, plus a neighbor and her four children staying there because they had no place else to go.

“Getting everybody out was my first thought. I told everybody to remain calm and everybody got out,” John recalled. “I was on Saipan with a platoon of 160 and was among eight to get back. That was the worst thing in my life, but losing my house was number two.”

Although John said the smoke alarms in the home were working when firefighters arrived, the longtime clergyman said something else accounted for everyone’s survival.

“The spirit of the Lord woke me up and it was the voice of God that told me to get out. It was a miracle. The important thing is that the Lord allowed us all to live,” he said. “I truly believe that.”

Niane and Jade suffered smoke inhalation and were hospitalized for two days. Lemuel escaped unharmed but Niane said she can ever forget seeing the scorch marks on the shoulder of his sleep shirt that night.

“It was terrible. The floors started buckling and I knew I had no choice. I was going to have to get down those steps with my kids,” she recalled, hugging her daughter.

“We had to walk through the fire to get out. It’s something I can never forget,” she said

John, who served for years as bishop of the Metropolitan Spiritual Church of Christ in Kansas City, had lived in that house since the 1950s, raising his family and often offering a place to stay for anyone down on their luck.

Like the rest of his family, John lost his clothes and mementos from his days his days in law enforcement and as a civil rights activist who at times marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of his more prized possessions that burned was a letter from Barrack Obama thanking him for his work in the presidential campaign.

FIRE5
Fire destroyed  the home of John H. Thompson Jr. who was there with his family when the fire broke out. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

“All my worldly possessions were gone, everything. But I’m thankful that we all got out because that’s really what matters,’ he said.

Juan and his family had been staying with John while they were rehabbing their home in Rich Hill, about 70 miles southeast of Kansas City, where Juan is the minister at the Holy Tabernacle Church. After the fire, they quickly got the house in shape so they could move in.

But the fire left them with hardly anything and that’s where the American Red Cross helped out. Red Cross volunteers were at the fire to help with immediate needs like temporary lodging, clothes and other essentials.

FIRE3
John H. Thompson Jr. shows 3-year-old grandson Lemuel a photograph of him in younger days. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

Working with its partners, the Red Cross also was able to provide the family with other essentials such as furniture for the living room and bedrooms and kitchen appliances.

“Everything you see here is because the Red Cross helped us,” John said. “We are very thankful. We couldn’t have made it without the Red Cross.”

Niane nodded in agreement, adding, “I appreciate them a lot. I really do.”

 

Red Cross volunteer returns home after lengthy deployment to Puerto Rico

Ben3
American Red Cross volunteers in Puerto Rico provide assistance to those impacted by the hurricanes that struck the island. (Red Cross photo by Ben Desa)

By Brooke Schmelder
American Red Cross

In the wake of devastating hurricanes, Puerto Ricans looked to numerous American Red Cross volunteers in their greatest time of need. Among those showing up was Ben Desa from the Southern Missouri Chapter in Springfield.

When Red Cross volunteers left each area where they had been helping, the residents’ question – “Are you coming tomorrow?” — weighed on their thoughts. Volunteers did not know if they would return to the same location the next day.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Ben knew he had to volunteer as soon as disaster struck, demolishing the island he once called home. People he knew and loved were suffering and needed help.

Benjamin Desa (2)
American Red Cross volunteer Ben Desa

Although not yet a volunteer, Ben quickly contacted the Red Cross, asking to be sent to support the hurricane victims. His first-hand knowledge of his homeland was a major plus for his deployment.

After completing his volunteer training, Ben made his way to Puerto Rico in late October, where he remained for 64 days working in mass care distributing water, food, cleanup supplies and other items to help people in their recovery.

Normally, such a deployment was about 21 days, so the extended time Ben spent there was a sign of his commitment.

The island Ben knew had completely changed. The flourishing tropical environment was robbed of its beauty. Buildings had been destroyed; bark and leaves from trees had been ripped clean off.

Traveling in the aftermath proved to be difficult. The island had an extreme gasoline shortage, making public transportation inaccessible. When gas was available, emergency services such as hospitals had top priority. When on the move, volunteers were escorted everywhere by the police.

The desperation was evident. Those impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria flocked to distribution sites where volunteers offered them much needed necessities.

Ben recalled that despite the conditions they were in, the hurricane survivors remained humble and kind, being grateful for the aid the volunteers provided and the items they could receive.

Ben2
American Red Cross volunteers hand out relief supplies after hurricanes struck Puerto Rico. (Red Cross photo by Ben Desa)

Religious organizations came together to help. Cell phone companies worked together to help the community. It was unique for Ben and the volunteers to experience this unity formed in the wake of a disaster.

Ben and his fellow Red Cross volunteers in Puerto Rico were quartered in a church basement for the duration of their time. They experienced sickness, hardships, and moldy environments, but despite that, true friendships were formed and they became like a close knit family.

Since the hurricanes struck Puerto Rico, the Red Cross served more than 11.3 million meals and snacks, distributed 5 million relief supplies and provided nearly 40,000 mental health and health services to people in need. More than 1,600 trained disaster workers have supported relief efforts in Puerto Rico, many deploying multiple times.

The Red Cross volunteers worked alongside volunteers from all over the world to best serve the Puerto Rican community. Ben and his crew traveled all over the island, even making their way up through the clouds in the mountains to assist bed-ridden victims. The daily relocation of volunteers allowed them to reach more community members.

When reflecting on his experience returning to the island, Ben mentioned that the mentality of the entire island has changed. Puerto Ricans have accepted what happened and look to move forward, but the laid-back approach to their lifestyle has shifted through a change in priorities. Alongside volunteers, the community must work together to rebuild what was destroyed.

Perhaps the hardest part for Ben was leaving, after spending so much time helping those in need. Recalling his experience, he said, “You want to stay till the end.”

BEN1
Puerto Rico residents line up at a Red Cross distribution site  after the island was struck by hurricanes. (Red Cross photo by Ben Desa)

Ben plans to continue volunteering with the Red Cross. He enjoys working with people, getting a feel for the culture, and making an impact on a community. He wishes he could have gotten involved sooner, but he will jump on future opportunities. Selecting the Red Cross as his method of volunteering was an easy choice and he recommends it to anyone who wants to make a difference.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, go to redcross.org.

Red Cross GKC Chapter volunteers busy helping others in disasters during 2017

FIRE2

Red Cross volunteers in the Greater Kansas City Chapter responded to numerous home fires during 2017, helping those who were displaced by providing for immediate needs such as  food, clothing and lodging and working with them on  their long-term recovery (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

For the Red Cross volunteers at the Greater Kansas City Chapter it was a very busy 2017 dealing with fires, floods, tornadoes and occasionally doing a little cat wrangling.

Homes fires accounted for the majority of disaster responses and assistance provided, although there were other disasters such as tornadoes, floods and hurricanes where volunteers from the GKC chapter responded.

Last year, the chapter provided disaster assistance to 2,928 people in the 15 counties it serves. Of that, 2,112 were people displaced by home fires with 1,013 of them in Jackson County.

In some cases, people were displaced when their homes caught fire and they had to flee for their lives. Others were forced out because of a fire in a nearby apartment rendered their place unlivable because smoke and water damage.

Those responding to the fires are members of the Disaster Action Team, or DAT, a specially trained group of Red Cross volunteers who arrive with firefighters and other first responders to provide comfort and care to those facing what likely is the worst time in this lives.

Cat saved
Cat rescued from apartment fire taken to animal shelter thanks to the Red Cross. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

DAT members talk to those displaced and provide for immediate needs such as food, clothing and lodging, often working with Red Cross partners such as church groups or community centers.

Red Cross caseworkers then work with those displaced to assist with their long-term recovery and any special needs they might have.

Often if a large number of people have been displaced by something like a fire in an apartment building, the Red Cross will open a shelter to provide a safe place for people to stay.

Sometimes DAT volunteers will go the extra mile to help out like providing a flashlight and helping a person searching for car keys or a wallet amid the ashes.

In one recent fire, a mother of two was forced to leave her cats behind when she and her children had to flee in the middle of the night because of a fire in an adjacent apartment.

Vounteer5
Red Cross volunteer checks tornado damage in Oak Grove. (Red Cross photo by Sherri Odell)

The next morning, the tenant and a Red Cross volunteer returned and found the cats hiding under the bed and in a closet. The cats were rounded up and taken to a nearby animal shelter that works with the Red Cross to assist in such instances.

Last year was made even busier by a spate of natural disasters like the tornadoes that struck Oak Grove and Smithville. Red Cross volunteers were on the scene to assess damage to homes and provide initial recovery assistance. At both locations, the Red Cross was part of multi-agency resource centers set up with other agencies to help in the recovery process.

July and August brought repeated flash flooding in the Kansas City area where Red Cross volunteers provided assistance with such things as cleanup materials for residents dealing with flooded homes.

BULK2
Red Cross volunteer provides food for those recovering from the Oak Grove tornado. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

But the assistance didn’t stop there. Many GKC Chapter volunteers also were busy helping out with flood recovery throughout southern Missouri and later in the year were part of the national response to hurricanes that devastated parts of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

As Red Cross volunteers start another year of service to others, they will be ready to help those in need. Time and circumstances may change many things, but one thing that won’t change will be their desire to help others.

 

Red Cross blood shortage prompts urgent call for donations this month

 

BLOOD 1 WINTER 2018

The American Red Cross has an urgent need for donors of all blood types to help address a winter shortage.

Severe winter weather in Missouri and other states has had a tremendous impact on blood donations. Nationally, more than 150 blood drives this month were forced to cancel causing over 5,500 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected.

This is in addition to seasonal illnesses, such as the flu, and hectic holiday schedules collectively contributed to more than 28,000 fewer donations than what was needed in November and December.JULY BLood 3

While all blood types are urgently needed, there is a more critical need for the following blood donation types right now:

  • Type O negative: The blood type that can be transfused to almost everyone and is what doctors reach for in trauma situations.
  • Type B negative: The blood type that can be transfused to type B Rh-positive and negative patients.
  • Type AB: The plasma type that can be transfused to almost everyone and can be donated through a platelet or plasma donation, where available, or during a regular blood donation.

Every two seconds, someone in this country needs blood. The Red Cross must collect more than 13,000 blood donations every day for patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals across the country.

While serving local hospitals is the first priority, the Red Cross can move blood products to where they’re needed most. This allows generous donors throughout the country to contribute to the national blood supply and potentially help patients locally and in disaster-affected areas.

 Eligible donors can schedule an appointment by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass are encouraged to help speed up the donation process. RapidPass lets donors complete the pre-donation reading and answer the health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation by visiting redcrossblood.org/rapidpass from a mobile device or computer, or through the Blood Donor App.

Locations of area blood donation opportunities in January:

MISSOURI

St. Joseph: Jan. 23, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., Red Cross, Northwest Missouri Chapter, 401 N. 12th St.

Kearney: Jan. 23, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., KCB Bank, 950 W. 92 Hwy.

Independence: Jan. 19, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Bass Pro Shop Independence, 18001 Bass Pro Dr.

Kansas City:  Jan. 11, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. KCMO Aviation Blood Drive, 601 S. Brasilia.
Jan. 12, Noon – 4 p.m., Boys & Girls Club of Greater KC, 2405 Elmwood.
Jan. 16, 2 p.m. – 7 p.m., St. Peter’s Parish, 701 E. Meyer Blvd.
Jan. 17, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., UMKC Student Union, 5100 Cherry St.
Jan. 18, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., City Hall, 414 E. 12th St.
Jan. 23, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., Genesis Health Clubs, 8600 Ward Parkway, Suite 7
Jan. 26, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.,  Red Cross GKC Chapter, 211 W. Armour Blvd.
Jan. 26, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., HyVee 64th Street, 5330 NW 64th St.
Jan. 28, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., Club House, 5602 NW Club House Cove.

Lees Summit:  Jan. 18, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Reese Nichols Lakewood, 5000 NE Lakewood.
Jan. 25, Noon — 4 p.m., John Knox Village, 1001 Chipman Rd.
Jan. 27, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Spirit Zone Booster Club, 1160 SE Century Dr.
Jan. 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., St. Luke’s East, 100 NE St. Luke’s Blvd.

Platte City:  Jan. 30, Noon – 6 p.m., Platte County High School, 1501 Branch and 92 Hwy.

Riverside:  Jan. 16, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., Riverside Community Center, 4498 NW High Dr.

KANSAS

Atchison:  Jan. 15, 2:30 p.m. — 7:30 p.m., Trinity Lutheran Church, 603 N. 8th St.

Gardner:  Jan. 13, 9 a.m. —  2 p.m., Gardner Elementary School, 218 E. Shawnee St.
Jan. 18, 2 p.m. — 8 p.m., Nike Elementary, 19500 S. Gardner Rd.

Lenexa:   Jan. 25, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Metro Title Services, 8215 Melrose Dr., #200.

Leavenworth:  Jan. 11, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., The Guidance Center, 500 Limit St.
Jan. 25, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Fairfield Inn and Suites, 1101 N. 4th St.

Olathe:   Jan. 12, 1 p.m. — 5 p.m., Bass Pro Shop Olathe, 12051 Bass Pro Dr.

Jan. 15, 1 pm. – 7 p.m., Olathe Indian Creek Library, Santa Fe Shopping Center,
13511 S. Mur-Len Rd, Suite 129.

Overland Park:   Jan. 19, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., Rose Estates, 12700 Antioch Rd.
Jan. 20, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., New Haven Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 8714 Antioch.
Jan. 23, 10 a.m. — 2 p.m., Ad Astra, 6900 W. 80th St., #300.
Jan. 26, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Overland Park Racquet Club, 6800 W. 91 St.

Shawnee:   Jan. 17, 11 a.m. — 5:30 p.m., Monticello Trails  School, 6100 Monticello Rd.

Red Cross standing by for solar eclipse

solar-eclipse-map
This shows the solar eclipse path across 12 states on Aug.  21 (American Red Cross graphic)

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross
 Millions of people are making travel plans to see the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse visible in the U.S. in nearly a century, and the American Red Cross is prepared to help them if needed.

The eclipse path is a 70-mile-wide band stretching from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina and crossing over much of Missouri. Officials estimate that more than 7 million people will travel to scores of viewing areas.eclipse sun

The Red Cross is coordinating with various emergency agencies along the path to ensure that it’s collectively prepared for any contingency. Such planning is a part of the collaboration between the Red Cross and emergency management officials with regard to large-scale public events.

For example, the Red Cross has hundreds of emergency shelters on standby in the 12 states touched by the eclipse in case of other emergencies such as severe weather that might occur while travelers are away from home.

The Red Cross also has some tips for eclipse viewers:

Looking directly into the sun is unsafe and can cause lasting eye damage except during the brief time when the moon completely blocks the sun’s brilliance. To learn how to observe the eclipse safely, check out the information from NASA at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

For traveling, pack an emergency kit that includes water, non-perishable food, medications, flashlight with extra batteries, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, infant supplies, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps and emergency contact information.

Know how officials contact people in the area you are planning to visit in case of an emergency. Be sure to let family and friends know where you are going and the route you plan to take.

Arrive to where you plan to watch the eclipse at least a day ahead of time and stay up to date with the weather forecast in the area where you will be.

Create an emergency plan including deciding a location to meet in case someone gets separated from your group, and where to go in case of severe weather.  Also, because cellular service may be overwhelmed, print out directions and have a printed map.

Know where you are staying and phone ahead before leaving to verify your reservation since lodging along the viewing areas mostly are sold out and room prices are extremely high in many areas. Plan to camp if necessary.

Keep your gas tank full so you don’t run out stuck in traffic. A good rule is not to let the tank drop below half filled.

The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe with instant access to long-scale event tips, weather alerts and the location of open Red Cross shelters.

“Red Cross First Aid” is another app that puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid scenarios. Download these apps by searching for “American Red Cross” in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Red Cross urges blood donations during summer months

BLOOD PHOTO 2
An American Red Cross blood donation worker prepares a person to give blood. The Red Cross is urging people to donate blood during the summer months. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

The American Red Cross urges blood donors in the Western Missouri Region to give in the final weeks of summer to help overcome a chronic summer blood shortage.In August, regular donors may delay giving as final summer vacations are planned and back-to-school activities ramp up.

To fully meet the needs of hospital patients in the coming days and weeks, donations are urgently needed from new and current donors. Those who donated blood earlier this summer may be eligible to donate again. Blood can be safely donated every 56 days, and Power Red cells can be donated every 112 days.biomed_heart

As a special thank you, those who come out to give blood or platelets with the Red Cross now through Aug. 31 will be emailed a $5 Target eGiftCard™.*

Appointments can be scheduled by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

To help reduce wait times, donors are encouraged to make appointments and complete the RapidPass online health history questionnaire at redcrossblood.org/RapidPass.

Here are upcoming blood donation opportunities Aug. 15-31 in the Kansas City Metro area:

 Aug. 15, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.: Rose Estates, 12700 Antioch Road, Overland Park, KS.

Aug 16, 3 p.m.-7 p.m.: Platte City United Methodist Church, 14040 N. Highway, Platte City, MO.

Aug. 23, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.: Public Works Robinson Complex, 1385 S. Robinson, Olathe, KS.

Aug. 26, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Spirit Zone Booster Club, 1160 SE Century Dr., Lees Summit, MO.

Aug. 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Redeemer Lutheran Church, 920 Alta Lane, Olathe, KS.

Aug. 29, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: City Wide/ODDO/BASYS, 15423 W. 100th Terrace, Lenexa, KS.

Aug. 30, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Hy-Vee, 8301 N.Saint Clair Rd., Kansas City, MO.

Aug. 31, 8 a.m.-Noon: New Directions Behavioral Health, 8140 Ward Parkway, Suite 500, Kansas City, MO.