Red Cross calls for new donors to prevent summer blood shortages

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The American Red Cross urges those in the Western Missouri Region who have never given blood before –  as well as those who haven’t given recently – to make an appointment to give blood or platelets now and help sustain a sufficient community blood supply this summer.

While the need for blood is constant during the summer months, the Red Cross experiences a drastic decline in new donors. Many schools where blood drives are held – and where new donors give – are not in session, and current donors often delay giving due to summer vacation plans.

In Missouri, 39 percent fewer new blood donors came out to give last summer than during the rest of the year. In Kansas, that number was 42 percent fewer, and nationally it was 32 percent.

BLOOD DONATION 5 While about 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood, less than 10 percent of those eligible actually do. The blood donation process takes about an hour with the actual donation only taking about 10 minutes. Whether you are new to donating blood or a lifelong donor, the Red Cross offers helpful tips for an enjoyable donation experience:

  • As much as possible, eat iron-rich foods leading up to your donation.
  • Drink an extra 16 ounces of liquid before and after the donation.
  • Have a healthy meal before the donation.
  • Wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be raised above the elbow.
  • Complete a RapidPass at org/rapidpass on the day of donation, prior to arriving, to save time.
  • Remember to bring a picture ID, blood donor card or two other forms of identification.

“Every day, we have thousands of lives to help save, but blood and platelet donations often do not keep pace with hospital demand during the summer months,” said Joe Zydlo, Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region spokesman. “In less time than it can take to go out to eat, you can make a lifesaving difference for cancer patients, accident victims and others in need.”

Upcoming blood donation opportunities:

MISSOURI
Kansas City: June 2, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Red Cross Chapter, 211 W. Armour Blvd.

KANSAS
Leavenworth: June 3, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., VFW Post 56, 523 Cherokee St.
Kansas City: June 12, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Earp Distribution, 2730 S. 98th St.
Bonner Springs: June 13, 3 p.m.-7 p.m., Elm Grove Baptist Church, 15774 Linwood Rd.

Download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information.

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Red Cross joins with church to help Missouri flood victims

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Red Cross volunteer Oscar Peterson of the Greater Kansas City Chapter shakes hands with Deacon Greg Clark of the First Assembly of God Church  in Van Buren, MO.  The Red Cross provided box fans for flood victims in the town. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

With much being done by Red Cross volunteers to help those in need after the massive Missouri flooding, often it’s the little things that make the difference and create lasting friendships among strangers.

Take the case of the Red Cross response in the Van Buren, MO where the Red Cross joined its many partners at the Multi-Agency Resource Center, a one-stop shop for disaster relief.

Scores of homes were damaged in the county-seat town of 900 by floodwaters from the nearby Current River. But like many isolated towns in the Ozarks, residents have learned to depend on themselves and outsiders, including the Red Cross, have to earn their trust.

“What affects one of us affects all of us. We pull together because to us it’s all about neighbor helping neighbor,” explained Deacon Greg Clark of the First Assembly of God Church.

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Many flooded residents in Van Buren, MO had to discard their possessions. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

At the church, people can pick up Red Cross supplies such as cleanup kits, rakes, shovels and trash bags along with hundreds of other items donated by partner groups.

A Red Cross volunteer was talking to the deacon and asked if there was anything else he needed. Deacon Greg looked down at the ground and pondered before replying.

“Well, we really could use a few box fans,” he said quietly with a tone that anticipated rejection.

The fans are important because residents use them to help dry the interiors of their homes after water-soaked items had been stacked outside at the curb. The problem is the demand far exceeds the number of available fans in town.

When the request reached the MARC manager, Red Cross volunteer Oscar Peterson of the Greater Kansas City Chapter, his response was simple.

“We have to find the way to ‘yes’ on this for the sake of this community. They have suffered so much already,” the retired firefighter told his MARC colleagues.

Oscar explained the situation to those at the Red Cross disaster relief operations headquarters in St. Louis and was told that a fan-filled van would be sent there.

The next afternoon, the van arrived and the deacon broke into a broad grin as Oscar and other volunteers started toting the cartons of fans inside the church.

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Red Cross volunteer Oscar Peterson carries box fans into the First Assembly of God Church in Van Buren, MO (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

“You guys have bent over backwards. You have been over the top helpful,” the deacon said. “Everything we’ve remotely asked for, you have done your best to deliver.”

And with that single effort of bringing fans to the deacon, the Red Cross no longer was seen as an outsider but a neighbor helping a neighbor.

“When people ask, I’m going to tell them, trust me the Red Cross is here to help the community and they are here for as long as we need them,” Deacon Greg said as he and Oscar shook hands.

Red Cross and MARC partners provide circle of assistance

 

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Red Cross volunteer Mary Brod, a caseworker from Richmond, VA, puts her arm around Dennis Schweiger while he was Dennis that the Red Cross would provide financial assistance in his flood recovery. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

 By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

When the water started rising, Dennis Schweiger really wasn’t worried until his wife Markey called from work and told him the area around her was flooding.

He told her he would come pick her up, but when he stepped on the front porch, he saw the swift moving rising water engulfing his front yard. That’s when he started worrying.

“While I was standing on the porch talking to my wife, I saw my garage float by with my Corvette in it,” Dennis recalled. “I held my dog because if I had put him down he would have been a goner.”

He said the water went down almost as quickly as it rose, but the damage had been scores of homes in the West Plains, Mo., area. Now it was a matter of recovering and salvaging what could be saved.

A few days after all that happened, Dennis heard about a Multi-Agency Resource Center, or MARC, being held at the civic center with the American Red Cross and some 20 partner agencies there to help those recovering from the flood. It’s one of some 18 scheduled to operate in the flooded areas of the state.

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Dennis Schweiger meets with Red Cross caseworkers Mary Bode and Steve Moore, both of Richmond, VA, at the Multi-Agency Resource Center in West Plains, MO. Dennis’ home had extensive damage and he met with the Red Cross and its partners at the MARC to get recovery assistance. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

Essentially, a MARC is one-stop shopping with various agencies gathered at one location to help people. Dennis wasn’t sure what would be there, but he decided to check it out and liked what he saw.

“It makes it so much simpler for people who have been through all this turmoil. They really can walk out of here with peace of mind,” Dennis said.

Like the others there, Dennis registered and was assigned a Adventist Community Services volunteer who guided him from one location to the next to make sure he didn’t overlook an agency where he might get assistance.

One of the first stops for Dennis was the Red Cross, and volunteer Les Orser of Grand Junction, CO, who specializes in disaster counseling. After talking several minutes, Dennis shook hands and was taken to his next stop along the large circle of tables of assistance groups.

Les said recovering from a disaster can be difficult and often it helps to talk to someone who can put things in perspective. He advises people to concentrate on what needs to be done that day rather than focusing on the overall problem.

Dennis also talked to Red Cross caseworkers to get an idea of what they could do help him in his recovery, a long process that will include major interior repairs to the double-wide mobile home.

He next talked to Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri volunteer Dee Maples who explained that her organization among other things has teams to help repair and rebuild damaged homes.

Dennis also talked to those from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, where he found information about avoiding various scams that often follow disasters and the University of Missouri Extension Service, that had information on such things as how to replace lost vital documents and tips on cleaning up after the flood.

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Dennis Schweiger talks to Red Cross volunteer Les Orser of Grand Junction, CO, a member of the disaster mental health team, about how his home was damagaed by flooding in West Plains, MO. (Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)

At the Salvation Army table, Dennis was explaining what he had gone through when Red Cross caseworker Mary Brod of Richmond, VA., walked up and told him he was eligible for financial assistance after a Red Cross damage assessment team had checked out his home while he was making the rounds at the MARC.

As he started to thank her, Mary put her arm around him to assure him that thing will be better and reflexively he did the same with her.

His journey around the circle of assistance completed, Dennis stepped outside where he was met by other Red Cross volunteers offering items such as rakes, shovels, storage bins, clean up kits from the Salvation Army and even dog food.

“I got more help than I really expected and I’m sure there will be more to come,” he said with a smile.

Red Cross works with partners to provide shelter after flooding

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Red Cross volunteer Codey Bryant talks to Nicole Vincent who is staying at a Red Cross shelter in West Plains, Mo., after flooding forced Nicole from her home. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

 

By Carl Manning
American Red Cross

Nicole Vincent was with her two youngsters when the floodwater started creeping into her West Plains, Mo., mobile home. All she could do was wait for help to come.

“It was really scary. I was just thinking about getting my children to safety and worrying about my family,” she said.

Finally, emergency responders got her and her children to the Red Cross shelter at the First Baptist Church which was operating that first night because of everybody pulling together to make it happen.

Red Cross volunteer Codey Bryant, a truck driver who lives near West Plains, was in Illinois when he got a phone call that water was rising and a shelter would be needed. He rushed back to work as the shelter manager only to find the other Red Cross volunteers were unable to get there because of high water.

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Flooding in West Plains, Mo., forced many people from their homes. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

 

That’s when Pastor John King, members of his congregation plus others from the community jumped in to set up the cots, blankets and other items needed to convert a large room at the church into a shelter for the scores of people arriving after being flooded out.

“It was a real challenge but everybody was real good about helping out, especially the pastor and his team, that we were able to do it. If we didn’t have the partners that we have, we couldn’t have done it,” Codey said.

Recalling that first night, Codey said, “My thought was to help others and just keep moving. We just kept working until we got it done.”

One important task the church took on was handling the distribution of donated clothing and other items that were dropped off to the church.

Like many others at the shelter, Nicole arrived with little more than the clothes on her back. Just about everything else was lost to the rising floodwater and because of the donated goods, she was able to get clothing for herself and children.

“It’s pretty amazing for them to help all of us like this,” she said. “Really, it what neighbor helping neighbor is all about.”

Nicole already is looking ahead working with the Red Cross and its partners as she starts the recovery process. Her first priority is finding a new place to live.

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Red Cross volunteers move cots in a shelter in West Plains, Mo. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

“I want to stay in West Plains because this is where my home always has been and this where my family is,” she said.

 

After a few days, the Red Cross needed to relocate the shelter because of prior commitments for the space at the church. Again, it was the Red Cross working with its partners to make the smooth transition to the First Methodist Church.

Everything was packed up by Red Cross volunteers and community partners, put into trailers and carried to new location on the other side of the town square. As it was at the Baptist Church, the Methodists took over the task of handling the donated items dropped off.

For the Rev. Jon Thompson, the Methodist pastor, working with the Red Cross is a good way to help the community in a time of need.

“The community is being helped by the Red Cross, the church and all the other groups,” he said. “All the community is being helped by everyone working together.”