By Alana Mauger

June 20, 2018. Washington, DC. Development SAF Stock Photography Project 2018. Photo by Roy Cox/American Red Cross

May is Military Appreciation Month, established by the U.S. Congress in 1999 to recognize our uniformed forces for their service, past and present. These include members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Space Force and National Guard. The month holds several military anniversaries and events, including Military Spouse Appreciation Day (May 7), Armed Forces Day (May 15) and Memorial Day (May 31).   

The American Red Cross has been serving members of the military for more than 135 years and has deployed alongside the military in every U.S. conflict since the Spanish-American War. Each year, the Red Cross provides nearly a half million services to active-duty military and veterans, and their families, to help them prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service. 

From the first day of enlistment, service members and their families are eligible for Red Cross assistance, including:

  • Emergency Communications – The Red Cross Hero Care Center is available 24/7 to deliver verified messages across the world when there is an emergency at home.
  • Deployment Services – The Red Cross offers a variety of workshops, tools and support services to help service members and their families deal with practical and emotional challenges. 
  • Services for Veterans – Red Cross volunteers serve in Veterans Administration (VA) and military hospitals to provide comfort, build morale, encourage volunteerism, and assist with benefits information and appeals. 
  • Information Referral – Through our network of about 250 local chapters, the Red Cross provides confidential services and connections with local, state, and national resources across the nation and on 35 military installations worldwide. 
  • Hero Care App – The free Hero Care App helps users identify and access both emergency and non-emergency Red Cross services from anywhere in the world. The app can be downloaded from our website, by visiting any app store, or by texting GETHEROCARE to 90999.

To learn more about how the Red Cross supports service members, veterans and their families, visit the Support Military Families section of our website.  

Primary image description: An Asian female soldier walks alongside a white male Red Cross volunteer outside.

By Marta Rusek

Hurricane season is upon us. As temperatures in our area become warmer year after year, the occurrence of hurricane and tropical storm activity in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and the need to plan ahead for it, becomes more important. Fortunately, the American Red Cross has strategies to help you and your family prepare. 

Getting Ready

Before hurricane season begins, you can:

  • Download the Red Cross Emergency App through your smartphone’s App Store
  • Make an emergency preparedness kit that you can grab quickly in the event you need to evacuate. Don’t forget to add little things that bring you comfort when you’re away from home, like your favorite tea or instant coffee, favorite food seasoning, or a cherished blanket. Also, make sure you have an emergency kit with food and other essentials for your pet(s). 
  • Create and practice your home evacuation plan (don’t forget your pets!). Since the pandemic is still in full swing, make sure everyone wears a face mask. 
  • Confirm that everyone in your home knows how to get in touch in the event that you are separated during an evacuation. 
  • Make sure your home has at least one working flashlight and extra batteries. It’s not a bad idea to invest in a solar charger or stand-alone battery for your phone, in case there’s a power outage. 
  • Get in the habit of checking weather reports on local radio or TV news stations. There’s also the NOAA Radar and Weather App, which you can download to your smartphone and use to monitor local weather developments. 

When the Storm Arrives

If you have time, fill bottles of water for drinking, bring in lawn chairs and anything else that may blow away during the storm, and make sure your car’s gas tank is full (in case you have to evacuate).

Stay inside during the storm, and if there’s flooding, avoid going near floodwater (it may be contaminated). Keep pets inside too. If you lose power, use flashlights and conserve your phone’s battery for essential calls and to check for emergency updates. 

After the Storm

When the danger has passed, let loved ones know you are safe (many people use Facebook to mark themselves as “safe” during natural disasters). If you were evacuated from your home, wait until you are told by local authorities that it’s safe to return home before you start back. 

Disasters can be stressful and traumatic, so pay attention to your loved ones and ask how they are feeling. The Red Cross’ Emotional Recovery resource has more information on how to help you and your family cope after a disaster.

For more preparedness tips and to download a Hurricane Safety Checklist, visit the Red Cross Hurricane Safety website.

Primary image description: a graphic design with the words “Plan Ahead” across the top. Underneath are three icons with action steps: the first is a house with a dotted line coming out the front door, leading to an “X”. Under it reads “Know your community’s evacuation plan.” Next is a paper with a checklist on it, under it reads “Create a household disaster plan and practice it.” The third image is of a box with a flashlight, a bottle of water, and canned food. Under it reads “Put together an emergency kit.”

By Alana Mauger

Today, May 8, is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, dedicated to volunteers around the world who support the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (also called the Movement). These global groups work to reach and support people worldwide who are affected by the pandemic and other humanitarian crises.

“In this past year, COVID-19 has brought fear and disruption into the lives of people across the United States and the world,” says Guy Triano, CEO of the American Red Cross’s Southeastern Pennsylvania region. “Despite these challenges, the commitment of Red Cross volunteers has been unstoppable. They are helping people in our communities every day.”

The Movement comprises 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with 160,000 local branches and around 14 million volunteers worldwide, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

It’s estimated that one in every 636 people in the world is a Red Cross or Red Crescent volunteer. Together, the Movement has reached:

  • 650 million people with health and hygiene promotion activities
  • 106 million people with water and sanitation work
  • 79 million people with food or in-kind assistance
  • More than a million people who needed to connect with their families through phone or video calls, and written or verbal messages.

“There are many serious global challenges to address, such as the pandemic, the climate crisis, and support for people on the move,” says IFRC president Francesco Rocca. “But today we have some 14 million reasons to celebrate: That’s the number of highly committed volunteers we are honored to thank. Every individual act of kindness and support matters, no matter how small it may seem. This collective local action has a massive global impact every day.”

“Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the front line of every crisis, sometimes risking their own safety. They work with unswerving dedication with and for communities. Their goal is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the worst of situations, in armed conflict, disasters and other humanitarian crises,” says ICRC president Peter Maurer. “World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is our opportunity to pay them tribute. They are making a difference all over the world every day to ensure that no one is left behind.

For more information about the global Red Cross network, visit the Mission and Values section of our website.

Main image description: A person in a wheelchair with their back to the camera faces a makeshift camp following a disaster. The graphic reads: “2021 World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day” along the top, “Together we are #Unstoppable” in the middle, and “You can count on us. Because even on the worst days of all, we are still in it together” at the bottom.

By Dave Skutnik

This Saturday, May 8, Red Cross volunteers and Philadelphia firefighters will Sound the Alarm in Southwest Philadelphia as part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety in high-risk neighborhoods this spring. Volunteers will meet with residents outside their homes to share fire safety information and help them create an escape plan to practice their two-minute fire drill.

“Home fires remain the most frequent disaster during COVID-19, yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape,” said Guy Triano, Regional CEO for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “As families continue to spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s critical that we help our vulnerable neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

Philadelphia is among more than 50 at-risk communities participating in the national Red Cross Sound the Alarm initiative with partners. Year after year, the Red Cross and Philadelphia Fire Department work together to provide free smoke alarms and home fire safety education to city residents. 

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE 

You can help protect your family against home fires with this four-step action plan:

  • Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from regional partners: FMC Corporation, Morgan Properties, The Triumph Group, and The Wawa Foundation

Visit SoundTheAlarm.org for more information and to pledge to prepare your family against home fires.

Primary image description: a design featuring the Sound the Alarm logo (a blue hand pressing a red button on a smoke alarm), above the words “Save a life” and the Red Cross logo. On the right-hand side are three house fire prevention safety tips: “Create an escape plan., Practice your 2-minute drill., and Test your smoke alarm.”

By Alana Mauger

In December 2020, 29-year-old Melissa Haley found herself displaced from her third-floor West Philadelphia apartment after a fire. Even though the flames were extinguished quickly, the residents had no electricity or heat and their homes were filled with smoke.

Thankfully, Melissa had renter’s insurance, which allowed her and cat, Nelita, to have a safe place to stay. But they still had nothing but the clothes (and fur) on their backs and were not sure where to turn. That’s when Philadelphia Fire Department responders pointed her toward the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“I didn’t even know that [the Red Cross] was a resource available to me,” she said.

Melissa recalls that “within minutes” of contacting the Red Cross, a caseworker called her back.

“They asked me what I needed and went through a very easy and efficient process. I didn’t feel overwhelmed.”

After verifying her information, Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members were able to get Melissa funds for food, clothing, toiletries, and other essentials.

“I was able to get everything I needed in less than 24 hours and was safely settled by the end of the night, largely due to their kindness and efficiency,” she said. 

The Red Cross also offered Melissa emotional support and checked back with her regularly.

“My experience with the Red Cross has been amazing,” she shared. “It’s not an experience I ever want to repeat, but for something that was difficult to go through, I honestly feel like [the Red Cross] made it super easy and super convenient by guiding me through the process. I felt very supported.”

Today, Melissa and Nelita are happily back home in their renovated apartment, from which Melissa recorded a video for Red Cross staff and volunteers. “I just want to say thank you all for the amazing work that you do,” she told them.

Photo Description: Melissa Haley plays with her cat, Nelita.

By Sukripa Shah

It’s been quite a year. The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us — individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole. The fear of illness, the toll on our physical and mental health, and the burden of job insecurity have all left an indelible mark. But now, with spring and a rousing vaccine rollout, we’re finally seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, it’s not over. We’re still getting back on our feet. But we’re seeing shots going in arms all across Pennsylvania. That alone has reignited hope for a better future in 2021.

At the Philadelphia Convention Center, vaccine recipients expressed the same hope and optimism as they lined up to get their COVID-19 shots. And you — the Red Cross volunteers of Southeastern Pennsylvania — were on hand to help. Thank you, volunteers, for your time, energy, and dedication to keeping our communities, families, and children safe.

Volunteers at the convention center vaccine event filled a variety of nonmedical roles:

  • Access and functional needs: Addressing any language, mobility, or behavioral health needs and connecting people to the appropriate resources 
  • Greeting and traffic flow: Keeping the mood upbeat while reminding those in line to stay socially distanced 
  • Registration station: Directing new arrivals to registration tables 
  • Wellness checkpoint: Asking pre-vaccine wellness screening questions 
  • Appointment verification: Checking appointments in the PrepMod system 
  • Observation/PrepMod and 2nd appointment registration: Directing first-dose recipients to make an appointment for their second
  • Exit guide: Maintaining orderly exit protocols

Because of Red Cross volunteers, medical professionals at the event were able to focus on their area of expertise: getting people vaccinated! We’re grateful to all of you for your valuable support in inoculating hope and courage into the people of our neighboring cities and counties. Thank you! 

Primary image description: Three Red Cross volunteers of Southeastern Pennsylvania wearing masks and social distancing stand in front of a Red Cross disaster relief vehicle near the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Philadelphia, PA. In front of the volunteers is a table with a red tablecloth with the Red Cross logo on it, holding bottles of water and snacks.

By Sukripa Shah

During National Volunteer Week (April 18–24) we honor the 300,000+ volunteers who donate their time and energy to the American Red Cross, an organization whose workforce is 90% unpaid. This is one of a series of profiles you’ll see on the Red Cross Philly Blog. To learn more about exciting volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday. 

If there’s one phrase that can describe Kathy Mullen’s outlook on life, it’s “relentlessly upbeat.” And make no mistake—her condition is contagious. For decades, the American Red Cross has been a crucial part of Kathy’s life, both as a mother and a volunteer. She recalls a personal crisis almost 38 years ago, when her 2-year-old son was diagnosed with a serious blood disorder. The Red Cross provided her son with a new life. He received countless blood transfusions, thanks to Biomedical Services. Today, Kathy counts her blessings: Her adult son is in great health, and she’s a proud grandmother of three beautiful granddaughters.

So if you ever wake up in a bad mood and Kathy’s around, you’ll soon get caught up in her vortex. She’s a ball of energy, passion, and dedication to the Red Cross cause—alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. She began giving back to the community soon after her retirement, and she’s been at it ever since. 

Last fall, after the Oregon wildfires that took the lives of at least 11 people and destroyed more than 4,000 homes, Kathy was instrumental in helping to arrange shelter and support for people who’d lost everything they owned. Even during the darkest of times in their lives, she says, people never failed to reciprocate her kindness by saying “thank you.” This rewarding time left an indelible mark, and she knows that the courage, determination, and undeniable force of the human spirit can still prevail despite difficult circumstances.

Kathy truly embodies the Red Cross volunteer ethic. She has been a pivotal part of the volunteer workforce for four years and continues to work with her local Disaster Action Team, Sound the Alarm initiative, Pillowcase Project, and Biomedical Services. Recently, she became a Community Volunteer Leader to advocate for the lifesaving services of the Red Cross focusing on the school/education sector.

As a mother and professional, Kathy feels fortunate to have a great family and friends both in her hometown and in Phoenixville, where she now lives. She loves taking trips and has traveled far and wide as senior telecommunications manager for Lockheed Martin Corporation. She and her husband are excited about visiting Scotland in the future, where they plan to learn more about their roots and Scottish heritage.

Primary image description: A picture of Red Cross volunteer Kathy Mullen, a Caucasian woman with shoulder-length light brown hair. She is smiling.

By Sukripa Shah

The American Red Cross is celebrating National Volunteer Week (April 18-24) with a series of volunteer profiles on the Red Cross Philly Blog. We’re incredibly grateful to the 300,000+ volunteers who comprise more than 90% of the national Red Cross workforce. To learn more, visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday.

Brian Toll’s journey with the American Red Cross began in an aptly named locale: the Volunteer State. At his chapter, Heart of Tennessee, he assisted in community relations and capacity building in three local counties. (What is capacity building, you ask? It’s an ongoing process that equips people, partners, and the community to better deliver services in a crisis.) He then became emergency services director for Disaster Preparedness and Response and Service to the Armed Forces, and now serves as board chairman for the Red Cross’s Delaware Valley chapter. 

Brian’s passion and devotion to advance the mission and vision of the Red Cross have been above and beyond since the very beginning. He has walked the walk, as they say. In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in 2008, he took on the role of warehouse and transportation manager, and he’s helped train, deploy, and empower volunteers in many disaster situations.

“When Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast, I hopped into a rental car with a few of my volunteers and we drove to Memphis,” Brian says. “We didn’t know what we were going to do when we got there, just that we were going. I’m proud to say that my volunteers back then were ‘jacks of all trades and masters of some,’ so we had a lot to offer.” 

Of the many memories Brian cherishes with his fellow volunteers and friends, his proudest accomplishment is the recent partnership that his team established with the Mexican Consulate to help Latino residents of Philadelphia feel comfortable reaching out to the Red Cross for assistance.  

In addition to his work as a certified International Humanitarian Law instructor, Brian wears plenty of hats at the Red Cross. He’s had countless training hours and certifications under his belt—Shelter Operations, Logistics, Client Casework, Disaster Assessment, Operations Management, Service Delivery Site Management, Psychological First Aid, and more.

Brian, his wife (who’s also a longtime Red Cross employee), and their young daughters make an amazing Red Cross family. His willingness to think outside the box to assist individuals, families, and communities struck by catastrophe have earned him well-deserved admiration and respect from his fellow Red Crossers. 

Primary image description: Picture of Red Cross Volunteer Brian Toll, a Caucasian man with short brown hair and glasses wearing a dress shirt with a salmon-colored tie and a dark grey suit vest.

By Sukripa Shah

During National Volunteer Week (April 18–24) we honor the 300,000+ volunteers who donate their time and energy to the American Red Cross, an organization whose workforce is 90% unpaid. This is one of a series of profiles you’ll see on the Red Cross Philly Blog. To learn more about exciting volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday. 

Camille Harrison is an inspiration. She’s a Philly girl (well, she grew up in Montgomery County, so close enough) who cares a lot about paying it forward. She currently lives in North Carolina, where she’s pursuing her biology degree as a senior premed student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Camille happened upon a unique volunteer opportunity: The American Red Cross Hero Care Network. It was fortuitous: Ever since then, she has helped the Red Cross provide24/7 emergency communications and critical services to military members, veterans, and their families all over the world. Now in her ninth month with the Red Cross, Camille has provided critical virtual support to the Hero Care Network, Service to the Armed Forces, Emergency Follow-ups, and Client Surveys.

As a relatively young volunteer, Camille has been a role model for other millennials, proving that anyone can make a difference—virtually or in person—at any age. Whether you’re still in school, just starting your career, or simply between jobs, the Red Cross has plenty of inspiring assignments to fit your schedule. You decide: A few hours at the computer or a few weeks at a disaster site both fill a valuable need.

“My favorite memories are speaking with the families of service members and hearing their stories,” Camille says. “It touches my heart to see how thankful they are for the Red Cross for providing services in times of need. Especially during the pandemic, it is hard to reunite families in the case of an emergency.”

Besides devoting her time to the Red Cross, she enjoys cooking, reading, and doing yoga. An avid fan Indian food, Indian music, and Bollywood movies, she hopes to visit India to experience the rich culture and, of course, to see one of the seven wonders of the world—the Taj Mahal.

Primary image description: Picture of Red Cross volunteer Camille Harrison, a Black woman with her hair pulled back and wearing a business suit and pearl earrings. She is smiling at the camera as she sits outside on a sunny day.

By Sukripa Shah

During National Volunteer Week (April 18–24) we honor the 300,000+ volunteers who donate their time and energy to the American Red Cross, an organization whose workforce is 90% unpaid. This is one of a series of profiles you’ll see on the Red Cross Philly Blog. To learn more about exciting volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday. 

This month, Maryann Santangelo marks her first anniversary as a volunteer with the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. But she’s no stranger to volunteerism: After retiring from a rewarding career as a senior VP and teacher in the world of marketing and advertising, Maryann donated her time to an adult literacy program at Delaware County Community College. Then she found out about the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross. 

Many people are surprised to learn that 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce is volunteer. That was a big factor in Maryann’s decision to sign on in April 2020. Since then, she has brought a lot to the Biomedical Services table, both as a Blood Donor Ambassador (BDA) and BDA Trainer. She hosts at least one blood drive a week as a disaster recovery caseworker, and she also conducts training and onboarding of new volunteers in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Chester counties. What’s more, her role as disaster recovery caseworker has been invaluable to the disaster services team. And that’s not all: Maryann is also focusing on becoming a Disaster Action Team member so she can further serve disaster-affected people and communities. 

Despite days filled with Red Cross projects, Maryann still enjoys working out and spending quality time outdoors with her daughter and furry friends. (She has three cats and a dog.) Her life and professional experience never fails to yield results: She not only gets the job done but also finds ways to get it done better. 

Maryann is driven. She comes up with creative ideas to keep people motivated. (She recently shared that she and her team have come up with a great idea that’s yet to be set in motion. Stay tuned!) It’s the adrenaline rush of meeting people (virtually) to brainstorm creative ideas that ranks near the top as her favorite part of volunteering. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Maryann has a vibrant personal life. Having been very close to her Italian grandmother, she wishes to visit Italy someday and explore her Italian heritage, as well as learn more about the beauty and richness of that beautiful country and culture. 

Primary image description: Picture of Red Cross volunteer Maryann Santangelo, a Caucasian woman with short brown hair, smiling at the camera. She wears a light gray shirt, lipstick and eye makeup, and flower-shaped earrings.