Monthly Archives: December 2012

We’re fast approaching the 4th holiday since Super Storm Sandy smacked the eastern seaboard.

11.12.12_NYC_Trip 037Affected residents, business owners and city, state and federal officials have been cleaning up through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and now through Christmas and New Years.

All the while, Red Cross volunteers have been there to support response, recovery and relief efforts. This is the largest response for the organization in 5 years and so far, the Red Cross has served more than 9 million meals and snacks, handed out more than 6.7 million relief items including cold weather items and clean up supplies, provided more than 103,000 health services and emotional support contacts for people living in very rough conditions and connected with more than 93,000 families and individuals to determine longer term recovery needs.

Here, in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we have been doing our part to assist this on-going response. We have deployed more than 30 volunteers and employees to New York and New Jersey to serve in a variety of ways. Some spent Halloween, Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah away from family and loved ones to help provide comfort and relief to residents still recovering from Sandy.


Just this week, our volunteer, Marc Henley packed his big red bag, put his finger aside of his nose and up to New York he rose to help spread some holiday cheer to families desperately in need. Marc specializes in Disaster Mental Health and will truly spread holiday cheer by providing emotional support to families over the Christmas holiday. When I saw that he was leaving, I couldn’t help but wonder if Old Saint Nick himself was playing a little trick on us and sending Marc on a very important mission. You see, Santa is a very busy elf this time of year and won’t have time to visit with families and provide hugs and a shoulder to lean on. He must be on his way to provide toys for all of the world’s good boys and girls, but Marc will be in New York to provide those hugs, the strong shoulder and time to support families still reeling from the trauma they’ve endured.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll think of Marc and our 4 other local volunteers spending the Christmas holiday in New York as I hang my stockings and set presents under my tree. I’ll think about how they will all be providing comfort, support and hopefully smiles to families and, for Marc, especially to a few little boys and girls in need of a longer visit from a jolly old elf.

Happy Holidays!


It got a little colder this week in Southeastern, Pennsylvania. I could tell because I got requests for scarves, hats and gloves, which, it turned out, had all been “donated” to the school Lost and Found sometime last spring. Apparently, nothing spoils the mood of a sleepy teenager more than the absence of his favorite winter hat on a cold morning walk to the bus stop. I suspect my son will survive, but protection from the cold is important to keep in mind this time of year.

For many of us, especially the very young and the very old, overexposure to cold can cause injury or serious illness such as frostbite or hypothermia. Also, as temperatures drop, people may try using alternative heat sources, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or fires. The Red Cross offers these tips to stay safe in the cold weather:

Out in the cold:

Dressing in several layers of lightweight clothing keeps someone warmer than a single heavy coat.

Mittens provide more warmth to the hands than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers the ears.

Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry and to maintain one’s footing in ice and snow.

At home:

Never operate a generator inside the home, basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment needed directly to the outlets on the generator.

Prevent frozen pipes – when the weather is very cold outside let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.

Bring family pets indoors or provide adequate shelter and water.

Avoid using a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended.

If using a space heater, place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when leaving the room or going to sleep.

On the road:

Carry an emergency preparedness kit in the trunk. FEMA has great advice about this!

Keep the car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

If someone does get stuck, stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety. Start the heater every hour for ten minutes and turn on the lights to help rescuers find you. Also, crack a window away from the wind to let in air.


More information is available on our national Red Cross website. Please follow this link to learn more.

— Submitted by Sarah Peterson, Communications Volunteer

photoMy 12 year old son is currently obsessed with Mythbusters, the show on the Discovery Channel where two crazy special effects guys blow stuff up in the name of scientific analysis. The other day, we were watching a show from the second or maybe third season about combustible Christmas trees.  We learned that when a spark from an overloaded wall socket hits a dry tree Christmas tree, the ensuing blaze is incredibly cool to watch – on television.  As a homeowner about to set up our own tree for the season, I was appalled. According to my son, I shouted something at the TV that wasn’t very parentally responsible. I maintain I said “Holy Cow!”  Never mind, I’m here to tell you that a Christmas tree fire is a potential four alarm affair. No kidding.

Luckily, the Red Cross has some great advice about setting up Christmas trees while taking fire safety into account. Please consider the following suggestions:

  • Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees.
  • Give a live Christmas tree plenty of water to keep it moist and fresh.
  • Keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces or radiators.
  • Never put a candle on a Christmas tree.
  • Make sure lights are in good condition.
  • Safely dispose of trees as they become dry and needles begin to drop.
  • Don’t let old dried out trees hang around! Dispose of trees through recycling centers or community pick-up services.
  • Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets by not linking more than three light strands.
  • Use decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to embrace the “metallic” Christmas tree, but I’m a firm believer in keeping the tree away from heat, not overloading the lights and turning it off for bedtimes and departures. The idea of Christmas lights getting hotter and hotter on my tree as I’m sleeping holds no appeal whatsoever.

Don’t believe us? Here’s a recent tweet from the Philadelphia fire department with some of the same ideas attached.

Of course, it’s not only the tree. We have a tendency to burn more things this time of year!


We open up our fireplaces and wood stoves. We get out our candles and oil lamps. It is our natural and human instinct to bring light to these darkest days near the winter solstice. And there is no more beautiful light than firelight. The Red Cross has a whole list of safety tips regarding these activities. Please follow this link to learn more.

We give you joy of the season. Please be so, so, so careful with your lights and flames.

— Posted by Communications Volunteer Sarah Peterson

Wayne Sundmacher

Wayne Sundmacher with American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania CEO, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes on the day of his donation.

The following is an account of an auspicious meeting between Red Cross donor, Wayne Sundmacher, and Red Cross volunteers shopping for non-perishable food items at a BJ’s Club store in Hamilton, New Jersey. At the spur of the moment, Wayne stepped up to cover a substantial bill for Red Cross supplies to be distributed to residents affected by Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey at the cash register.

He says:

After having spent four days without electricity or hot water, our lights came back on early Saturday morning.  That’s just an inconvenience, and nothing compared to our friends who lost their home.  My wife and I felt very lucky to have only lost some roof shingles, some food from our refrigerator and our electricity for four days. 

As a State employee, I had some involvement in emergency management and was painfully aware of the plight of those left homeless by the storm.  I was also aware of the great volunteer response by organizations like the Red Cross, and how they were endeavoring to meet the needs of thousands of people affected by the storm.

On Sunday morning November 4th, I was shopping at BJ’s Club in Hamilton, NJ, restocking perishable food items that we had lost during the power outage.  I was surprised to find the aisles crowded with American Red Cross volunteers, scurrying about, collecting case after case of non-perishable food items.  Their enthusiasm was inspiring, and I wanted to find some way to help, but also didn’t want to distract them from the important work they were doing.

American Red Cross Southeastern PA staff and volunteers shop for food and supplies at BJs in Hamilton, NJ on Nov. 4, 2012

American Red Cross Southeastern PA staff and volunteers shop for food and supplies at BJs in Hamilton, NJ on Nov. 4, 2012 on their way to Northern NJ and New York City

When I arrived at the check-out, I turned to find Red Cross volunteers with several flat-bed carts, waiting in line behind me.  My only thought was, “What can I do to help?”  Certainly, the volunteers weren’t set up top take a donation, so I did the next best thing.  I approached the young man behind me, with an offer to pay for the first $100 worth of food items they rang up. 

BJS photo 1While I thought my $100 offer would go a long way, the very first case of food the Red Cross was purchasing rang up at $214.    Sometimes, you just have to go with your heart, and not consider your wallet.  Rather than try to split up the purchase, I just told the cashier I would pay the full cost of that case of food.  I cannot tell you how good it made me feel, to know that food I had just purchased would be distributed to someone in desperate need, that very day.  And the cost?  Well, that’s a couple less dinners out, and a few weeks without doughnut shop coffee.  I think that’s pretty easy to bear.
– Wayne Sundmacher


Here’s a link to a great post on Wayne’s Facebook page where he challenges friends to make a donation of their own to help the efforts of the American Red Cross in New Jersey.

We are incredibly touched by his generosity and second him in encouraging others to follow his example. Thanks Wayne!

By the way, over the course of the weekend of November 3-4, the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania sent 17 teams of volunteers to New York City and Jersey City to distribute food and  and water. In all, our teams distributed more than 48,000 food items and 20,000 bottles of water to residents in New York and Jersey City. (More photos here. Scroll to second half of set to see the store and distribution pictures.) This was just a small part of the large-scale response by the American Red Cross to Superstorm Sandy.