Red Cross Honors Heroes and Volunteers at 99th Annual Meeting

Sharon Kennedy is this year’s recipient of the Clara Barton Award, the top volunteer service honor presented by the American Red Cross of Northwest Missouri in St. Joseph.

Hers was among the Red Cross certificates and awards presented at the 99th Annual Meeting and Heroes Campaign Celebration held at Stoney Creek Inn and Conference Center on May 17.

More than 80 local heroes raised $105,814 in the campaign, according to officials. All money raised in the only local non-disaster-driven fundraiser supports the operations of the Red Cross office in St. Joseph.

Woman receives an award from American Red Cross
Angie Springs, American Red Cross Northwest Missouri Chapter executive director, presents the Clara Barton Award to Sharon Kennedy as the top volunteer this year in the St. Joseph office. Sharon has been part of the St. Joseph chapter’s operations since 2004. (American Red Cross photo)

“She is truly an example of what the American Red Cross is about — service above self,” said Angie Springs, chapter executive director.

Sharon started as a volunteer in 2004 and joined the board of directors in 2005, eventually working her way up to chair the board. Angie said that she has become one of the chapter’s biggest advocates.

She oversaw the hiring of the new executive director when Kevin Kirby accepted a different position within the organization. Following her service on the board, she was instrumental in developing the Advisory Council, which allows former board members to stay actively engaged in the mission and vision of the Northwest Missouri Chapter.

Sharon currently chairs the Advisory Council and serves as the liaison between the council and the board. In addition to her board service, Sharon was a Service to Armed Forces caseworker and volunteered each year for the Cause for Alarm, the chapter’s Home Fire Campaign.

During times of disaster, she is at the chapter office helping make sandwiches and assisting in office operations. On top of all of this, Angie said, she also is an Annual Hero for the American Red Cross and is a leadership donor.

Other awards and their recipients presented at the banquet include:

Philo Award: Presented to J.R. Roth with the Hillyard Companies. Philo in Greek means “loving,” and the award recognizes the philanthropist of the year who best exemplifies the spirit of charitable giving.

Exceptional Volunteer Awards: For volunteers who demonstrate exceptional performance and extensive commitments to a specific Red Cross service or project. They were given to Theresa Smothers, Lori Harris and Barbara Bigelow.

Spirit of Excellence Award: Given to Red Cross employees who show superior commitment to chapter goals and mission, it was presented to Julie Cobb.

National Certificate of Merit Award: Was presented to Danny Marshall, Markus Owens and Tom Wilson for coming to the aid of Charles “Chuck” Young, who collapsed at Progress Rail Services in Atchison, Kansas. This award is the highest given to an individual or team of individuals who has saved or sustained a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Preparedness and Health and Safety Services Course. This award bears the signature of the president of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross.

Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action: Presented to Shawn Kuhnert, who joined his coworkers in aiding Young. The award does not require that its recipient had Red Cross training.

The Newcomer Award: Given to Bill Gatton and Jaime Foster.

Good Neighbor Awards: Presented to Red Cross partners and friends that provide significant humanitarian contribution. Honored this year were the Andrew County Health Department, Clinton County Health Department, Livingston County Community Wellness Committee, Chillicothe Fire Department, King City Fire Department, Savannah Fire Department, Savannah Rural Fire Protection District, Trenton Fire Department and St. Joseph Fire Department.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, go to RedCross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Red Cross Urges Blood and Platelet Donations During Summer Months

The American Red Cross urges blood and platelet donors to choose their day to give and help ensure blood is available for patients all summer long during its annual summer awareness campaign, sponsored by Suburban Propane.

To encourage donations around the Memorial Day holiday, those who come to give blood or platelets from May 27-31 will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. The Red Cross relies on volunteer donors for the 14,000 blood donations needed every day to support patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. However, during June, July and August about two fewer donors schedule an appointment to give blood at each Red Cross blood drive than what patients need.

Here are some of the upcoming public donation locations:

May 27, noon-4 p.m.: HyVee 64th Street, 5330 NW 64th St, Kansas City, Missouri.

June 1, 3-7 p.m.:  Leawood at State Line, 2140 West 137th Ter. Leawood, Kansas.

June 2, 9 a.m.-2p.m.: Lighton Tower (Building III), 7500 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kansas.

June 4, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.: VFW Post 56, 523 Cherokee St., Leavenworth, Kansas.

June 8, 2-6 p.m.: Pinnacle Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation, 400 S. Rogers Rd., Olathe, Kansas.

June 10, 2-6 p.m.: 24 Hour Fitness Club 378, 7420 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kansas.

Blood donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.American Red Cross Biomedical Application

As official national sponsor of the summer campaign, which begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day weekend, Suburban Propane will help promote the need for blood and platelet donations and will encourage its employees and customers to give.

“Suburban Propane is proud to partner with the Red Cross and help raise awareness of the ongoing need for blood and platelets – especially during the crucial summer months,” said Suburban Propane’s Chief Development Officer Mark Wienberg. “By expanding our partnership with the Red Cross this year, we can continue to support the life-changing work of the Red Cross and make an even bigger difference in communities across the country.”

Headquartered in Whippany, New Jersey, Suburban Propane is a nationwide distributor of propane, fuel oil and related products and services, as well as a marketer of natural gas and electricity and serves about 1.1 customers through 700 locations in 41 states.

Suburban Propane employees also will also volunteer at Red Cross blood drives nationwide in one of the largest national volunteer commitments to the Red Cross Blood Services from a corporate partner. Additionally, this year Suburban Propane is expanding its partnership with the Red Cross to include participation in the Home Fire Campaign in some markets, as well as support for disaster relief efforts and Service to the Armed Forces.

The Red Cross has touched the lives of many Suburban Propane employees including Debbie Traub. In May 2014, her 74-year-old father fell from a ladder while power washing his home and suffered life-threatening injuries. He spent 20 days in the intensive care unit and received many blood transfusions. Traub said that she now knows the importance of giving blood and makes a point to donate in honor of her father at the Suburban Propane headquarter blood drives. Her story is just one of many reasons Suburban Propane continues to advocate for blood and platelet donations to the Red Cross.

“The Red Cross has partnered with Suburban Propane since 2012, and last year’s ‘100 Days of Summer. 100 Days of Hope.’ campaign marked our first nationwide, summerlong partnership,” said Donna M. Morrissey, director of national partnerships for the Red Cross Biomedical Services. “The Red Cross depends on corporate partners like Suburban Propane to help ensure blood and platelets are available for patients in need of lifesaving transfusions and to help our communities prepare for and respond to disasters large and small.”

How to donate blood
For more information and to make an appointment to donate, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donors of all blood types are needed. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Red Cross Volunteer Recalls Horrors of 2011 Joplin Tornado

(Jackie Kennedy, an American Red Cross volunteer and board member at the Joplin chapter, witnessed the May 22, 2011, tornado that caused massive destruction throughout the city. On the fifth anniversary of the disaster, she recalls that day.)

By Jackie Kennedy
American Red Cross

I was folding laundry in my living room, watching the worsening weather reports on local television.

Joplin’s storm sirens had already gone off twice, and I was trying to stay updated. The local news was broadcasting live, continuous coverage, so I felt comfortable watching from the living room.

Very eerily, the TV and the lights began to slowly power down, then slowly come back up. It was almost like a creepy horror movie. I stood up to put the laundry basket away and felt a vibration in my feet.  . . . “Was that thunder?” I asked myself, and then I heard it _ like a jumbo jet landing on my house. I ran screaming for my children and husband, and shuffled everyone to the neighbor’s house, which had a basement.

We beat the neighbors to the basement, and watched through a window as things started flying at my house and flying off my house. I watched my shed get sucked into the air. I watched my tree fold in half from the force of the tornadic winds, and I just kept chanting, “People are dying, people are dying.” My husband finally snapped me out of it.

And then the chaos gave way to an unnatural silence. Emerging from the basement and turning toward my house, I just collapsed. My 80-year-old oak tree was strewn across my property, the street and a neighbor’s yard. I had one car pinned under the tree, and one car hanging from the tree’s upended root ball, dangling like a yo-yo. My husband reminded me that we were alive. He immediately started checking on the neighbors as I just sat in shock.

Jackie Kennedy, a Red Cross volunteer
Jackie Kennedy is an American Red Cross volunteer and a member of the Joplin Chapter’s board of directors. She was in Joplin on May 22, 2011 when the EF5 tornado struck the city causing widespread destruction and recalls the experience. (American Red Cross photo)

It wasn’t long before people were walking down the street, almost zombie-like. They had glazed looks and seemed not to know where they were headed. Some were bleeding, and some were partially dressed, almost as if their clothes had been sucked off of them. My daughter ran into the house and grabbed sweatshirts, handing them to people as they passed.

Then I noticed the smell. It was awful, and I couldn’t breathe. It was the smell of natural gas, so overpowering that I felt sure I would pass out. My husband told me that all the gas mains had broken and the natural gas was leaking _ and then I saw the explosions. Wrecked homes and structures were bursting into flames, one after another. I thought the whole town was just going to explode.

When I could gather my thoughts, I tried to contact my mom, who also lived in Joplin. But there was no cell phone signal, and I panicked. We could not leave our neighborhood due to the destruction and emergency response.

My mother is blind, and I could imagine her in the bathtub surrounded by rubble. I had no way to communicate with her. After about two hours, I received a text message from my sister in Kansas City; she was the one who let me know my mother was all right.

Most of the rest of that Sunday was a blur. We had no way of knowing yet the extent of the destruction throughout Joplin, although I felt in my head and heart that it must be bad. My house had broken windows, imploded doors, ripped-off siding and water damage _ slight in comparison.

TV news trucks from Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa pulled up in front of our house because they were not allowed into the worst areas. The crews were enthralled with my car hanging from the tree and asked if they could camp there for the night. We agreed, and they did their weather forecasts in front of my dangling car. If only they or I had known at that time what the rest of Joplin looked like.

I had been a Red Cross volunteer for six years before the tornado and had never seen a disaster of such magnitude. I was also so proud of the Red Cross during this time. I have never seen such a well-coordinated effort in disaster relief. I have since accepted a position on the board of the Joplin Red Cross, and I’ve vowed to do everything I can to help others who need relief.

Red Cross responds to tornado that struck Joplin five years ago

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

Tornado warnings are nothing new to Joplin, Missouri, especially in the spring when funnel clouds frequently dip from the sky.

So it was on May 22, 2011. The tornado watches were announced, followed by the tornado warnings. Over the horizon came the EF5 tornado that cut a swath through the city of 50,000, destroying homes, businesses, schools, churches and hospitals and leaving hundreds dead, dying and injured.

Red Cross responding to Joplin tornado
A Joplin resident surveys the damage to her business after a tornado destroyed much of the city on May 22, 2011. American Red Cross volunteers like the ones in the vehicle provided assistance to those impacted by the EF5 tornado. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross.

The Joplin community is coming together this month to mark the fifth anniversary of the event. For information about the various anniversary activities, go to http://www.joplinproud.com/

It was a day that touched everyone. Those who weren’t directly affected knew someone who was in the close knit community. The tornado killed 161 people and injured an additional 1,000. Damage was estimated around $3 billion.

American Red Cross volunteers were among the first to help. The stories of the survivors were horrific and heart-breaking. The volunteers provided help, comfort and hope for many who at that moment saw no future.

The Red Cross operated two shelters that provided 3,450 overnight stays. It served some 86,000 meals and 373,000 snacks; distributed nearly 1,500 comfort kits with personal care items; and provided 205,000 relief items like tarps, ice chests and cleaning supplies.

Tornado damage in Joplin, Mo
This was the scene in Joplin after an EF5 tornado destroyed much of the city on May 22, 2011. Neighborhoods were reduced to rubble. In the distance is what was left of the high school. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

Red Cross disaster assessment teams spread out to determine the extent of damage. Neighborhoods were rows of concrete slabs where houses once stood and families lived.

Street signs and familiar landmarks were gone and people walked the streets in disbelief. What had been their way of life now was gone and the unfamiliar now was the familiar.

Of the nearly 4,500 homes surveyed by the Red Cross assessment teams, nearly three-fourths were destroyed. Their locations were charted on maps shared with emergency officials and other relief agencies.

As days became weeks, Red Cross caseworkers continued assisting with immediate and long-term recovery needs. Mental health and spiritual care counselors reached out to help the community begin the healing process.

The Red Cross opened 1,766 cases to address such issues as housing including building materials and temporary rent assistance;  transportation needs such as helping repair or replace damaged and destroyed vehicles; replacement of medical items such as eyeglasses and wheelchairs; and distribution of  household items including appliances, furniture and cleaning supplies.

The Red Cross presence continued beyond the initial recovery as it worked with the community and partner agencies to help people prepare for the next disaster, whether that would be another tornado or a home fire.

For instance, one priority for city leaders was for every family in Joplin to have a weather radio. The Red Cross provided the first $50,000 to purchase radios and the rest of the funding came from the Joplin Tornado Fund set up by the city.

The Red Cross also started providing free smoke alarms in homes as part of its national Home Fire Campaign which seeks to reduce home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent by 2019.

It also launched its Pillowcase Project to educate students in the third through fifth grades about dealing with the dangers of disasters. Students receive a pillowcase to decorate and then are taught how to use it for storing their emergency supplies.

As in other communities, the Red Cross chapter in Joplin always is looking for volunteers to help. For more information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Red Cross volunteers help install smoke alarms in Sedalia

By Dana Fields
American Red Cross

A distinctive “chirp-chirp-chirp” pierces the air, signaling that the new smoke alarm in Kenneth and Brandy Bullard’s living room is operational and ready to save lives.

The three-member Red Cross team that installed the device moves further into the couple’s Sedalia home to install three more, all free of charge. The work is part of the Red Cross national campaign to reduce home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent by 2019.

Amid all the chirping, volunteer Chris Benne — the fire safety educator in the team — playfully peppers the couple’s 9-year-old son, Zac, with questions about the topic at hand.  The boy answers every one quickly and correctly, including a description of the family’s escape plan.

Red Cross volunteers install smoke alarm in home
Kenneth Bullard of Sedalia talks to American Red Cross volunteers installing free smoke alarms in his home to protect his family. Red Cross volunteers recently blanketed Sedalia to install smoke alarms for those wanting them. It’s part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign to reduce home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent by 2019. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

“It’s what he learned at school, and what we’ve been teaching them,” Kenneth says of Zac and the couple’s three other young children. “It’s so important to us.”

Their work done, Chris and fellow volunteers Gary Lamb, who performs the installations, and Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert Harris, who documents each one, head across the street to where a woman had noticed the men in Red Cross vests and asked to talk with them. Her home has four smoke alarms, but they’re at least six years old; the team decides to replace all four.

Such scenes played out throughout Sedalia on a recent Saturday as the Red Cross, in partnership with Whiteman Air Force Base, the United Way, the Sedalia Fire Department, the Salvation Army and other organizations conducted a six-hour blitz of free smoke alarm installations.

Toting ladders and buckets loaded with smoke alarms, dozens of volunteers went door to door offering their services in neighborhoods that had experienced high numbers of home fires.

By the end of the day, 236 alarms had been installed, and the teams took dozens of appointments for more installations, said Teri Layton, disaster program specialist for the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Red Cross. Volunteers from Whiteman had found Saturday’s mass event so enjoyable that they offered to perform the follow-up installations, Teri said.

Some residents were surprised by the Red Cross presence, but many more had heard of the smoke alarm event thanks to heavy publicity by area news media and the work of 57 volunteers placing 2,000 door hangers in the targeted neighborhoods the previous week.

Many residents who would not be home for the mass installation made appointments for earlier installations, 100 of which done by the Fire Department.

The campaign was a case of a distinct need — Sedalia had recently experienced numerous home fires, including a Thanksgiving Day blaze that destroyed three houses and damaged a fourth — and the capacity of the Red Cross to fulfill it.

The only shortage was in available Red Cross volunteers, but that was quickly met by residents like Benne and Lamb, who stepped up to take part, and military personnel like Harris.

Partner organizations were also critical, Teri said. The United Way and the Fire Department helped organize the event. The Salvation Army offered its building as headquarters, and Open Door Ministries prepared lunch for the volunteers.

Companies like Kohl’s and Tyson contributed as well, and Whiteman Air Force Base became involved through the Red Cross’s Services to Armed Forces program.

“It all came together,” Teri said. “Everything just seemed to want to happen.”

Anyone wanting a free smoke alarm installed by Red Cross volunteers should go to https://getasmokealarm.org/ and fill out the information.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767.

Red Cross urges blood donations during Trauma Awareness Month

May is Trauma Awareness Month, and the American Red Cross urges donors to give blood or platelets to help ensure that lifesaving blood products are available for trauma patients and others with serious medical needs.

Each year, trauma accounts for approximately 41 million emergency room visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions in the U.S., according to the National Trauma Institute. A single car accident victim can need as many as 100 units of blood.

In Missouri, more than 400 units of blood are collected every day from area blood donors. The Red Cross collects and provides more than 50 percent of the blood used by patients treated in Missouri hospitals and provides blood to approximately 2,600 hospitals nationwide.

Red Cross collecting blood via its bloodmobile
American Red Cross Bloodmobiles go to places where people can donate blood. (Photo by American Red Cross)

When there isn’t time to determine a patient’s blood type, type O negative blood and type AB plasma are what emergency personnel reach for because they can be given to patients with any blood type.

Less than 7 percent of the population has type O negative blood, and only about 4 percent of the population has type AB blood. Donors with these blood types are an important part of the trauma team and are encouraged to donate as often as they are eligible.

Donors of all blood types are currently needed. Blood donation appointments can be scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required when checking in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.

Louisiana resident receives assistance after putting neighbors first

(When disaster strikes, American Red Cross volunteers help in a variety of ways, making use of their skills and knowledge. One volunteer, Carl Manning of the Greater Kansas City Chapter, is a retired journalist who uses his skills as a Public Affairs volunteer to help tell the Red Cross story. On a recent deployment to the Louisiana floods, he came up with this Relief in Action story.)

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

Henry Braxton was among the first to assist the American Red Cross when he and his neighbors were caught in the path of rising water in the Natchez, Louisiana, area. Every day for nearly a week, he did whatever he could do to lend a hand, from helping to distribute cleanup kits to showing volunteers flood-damaged areas.

“The Bible says put my hometown first and put myself last, and I think God will bless me for that,” Henry said one recent evening at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Natchez, where the Red Cross offered hot meals, cleanup supplies, emotional support and casework assistance.

He was among dozens who attended, but he wasn’t there to seek help. Rather, he assisted people carrying cleanup supplies and other items to their vehicles.

Henry Braxton tells Red Cross volunteers about his flood-damaged home
At a church where the Red Cross was providing support, Henry Braxton tells volunteers about his flood-damaged home. He came to the church to help others and found out that he qualified for assistance. (Photo by Vickie Goff/American Red Cross)

Inside the church, Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out a Red Cross challenge coin that he received for his efforts—a coin that few receive and even fewer have ever seen. When he displayed the coin, it was obvious to Red Cross volunteers that Henry was a person who had been singled out for recognition.

“It was a high honor and brought tears to my eyes. I was just doing the best I could to help the people needing help,” he said.

Henry, a big man with rippling muscles and an infectious smile, said his late mother raised him to be kind to others and to go to church. To honor her, Henry said his philosophy is simple: “Any way I can help out, I will.”

As he talked, it was clear that Henry deserved more than the thanks of a grateful Red Cross. Henry said he hadn’t signed up with the Red Cross for help, and with that, he was introduced to Jeremiah Norrell, a Red Cross caseworker from the Sacramento, California area. Henry explained how he had lost his refrigerator, stove and furniture to rising water, which soaked his floors. Yet he hadn’t asked for anything.

Henry indeed qualified for Red Cross immediate assistance, as he and Jeremiah together checked a map to see that his home was in a flooded area. He was eligible for supplemental Red Cross assistance and in position to be referred to various partner agencies for things such as clothing and furniture.

As he left, Henry stopped and hugged volunteers who helped him get assistance. When he walked out the door, he turned around, waved and smiled before disappearing into the night.