Monthly Archives: January 2016

By: Stacy M. Brown for the Pocono Record


With Texas being hammered with intense storms and tornadoes, a Pike County couple didn’t hesitate to pack their bags and head south to help strangers, particularly those suffering the loss of all of their belongings and who held out little hope that their fortunes could turn.

John and Jane Hoopingarner have been volunteering for the past three years with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Team in Stroudsburg.

Last year, the couple thrice traveled to storm-ravaged areas in Houston and Dallas, where they came face-to-face with many who suffered severe hardship, some who even lost loved ones or friends during the horrific storms.

“I gained real appreciation for the things we take for granted every day,” Jane Hoopingarner said. “We’ve worked with people who have lost virtually everything, and that really does give you a better perspective on things.”

The Red Cross helped prepare the couple for the volunteer work, which included assisting in fire, storm and other disasters.

“Although our assignments come out of the same program with the Red Cross, everyone we encounter is different and the assignment is different in how we handle and meet the needs of the people,” John Hoopingarner said.

While they’ve been volunteering with the Red Cross for the past few years, the Hoopingarners have spent a lifetime helping others.

The couple met on a volunteer church mission more than 45 years ago, and they shared a passion for assisting the downtrodden and a love for helping their fellow man.

“We actually met on a mission team in Mexico, and we started out together that way,” John Hoopingarner said. “We’ve done it all. I was an EMT for 20 years, and Jane taught English as a second language. So, we’ve been volunteering all of our lives.”

That volunteer work also includes working locally in Monroe and Pike County offering relief to victims of disasters here.

“We got a phone call (Tuesday) asking us to be on stand-by for this weekend when the weather is expected to be really bad and there’s a possible storm coming here,” Hoopingarner said.

The Red Cross teaches its volunteers the fundamentals of assessing damage after a natural disaster. They instruct volunteers on how to classify damage, write damage descriptions and interact with victims in the community.

“The vital work of the American Red Cross is made possible by volunteers. It is through the time and care of people like John and Jane that the Red Cross can do extraordinary things, and we truly can’t do it without them,” said Dave Skutnik, the regional communications manager for the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania.

“The Red Cross is always looking for people with various backgrounds, talents and skill levels,” he said, adding that interest individuals should contact the Red Cross in Stroudsburg to sign up.

The organization provides all of the necessary training.

“Part of the training means you can also train for a regional or national deployment. When there’s a widespread disaster needing many, many volunteers,” Jane Hoopingarner said.

“Training is pretty extensive and they offer numerous classes to learn about the different types of disasters. We really appreciate the learning that’s available to Red Cross volunteers because it really does help us to be ready to respond,” she said.

Last year, the couple took three trips to Texas; Jane Hoopingarner went alone to Texas in June for two weeks while her husband spent two weeks in July volunteering in Kentucky.

In November, they teamed up to return to Texas and then, on New Year’s Day, the couple went back to Texas, where storms and tornadoes have destroyed about 1,400 homes.

“On this (latest) trip, we were assigned to help people in a shelter to find housing,” John Hoopingarner said. “The shelters eventually have to shut down, and some of the people where challenged financially, physically and otherwise but over a period of five days, we were able to find housing for them through a local church and other partners.

“In Dallas, we were located in a service center, where hundreds of people came for assistance, and we were able to help them on the road to recovery.”

Through volunteering, the couple has also been able to forge lasting friendships, they said.

“When I was in the Houston area, we were out in an area where they were flooded, and there were many people who had their own wells but they had become contaminated and the water was in very scarce supply,” Jane Hoopingarner said.

“A woman stopped me and asked if I had any water. I said I had a few bottles in my trunk, but let me come over to your house and we’ll talk. As I assessed the damage, we realized that the Red Cross could offer a whole lot more than a couple of bottles of water. Eventually, after talking with her, we were able to get her a lot more assistance, including financial assistance.”

The couple, who have three children and three grandchildren, said they’d encourage everyone who can to volunteer. They’ve served in many areas across the country and locally, including in Philadelphia during last year’s visit of Pope Francis.

“It’s rewarding,” John Hoopingarner said.

To become a volunteer, call the Stroudsburg office at 570-476-3800.


Heating Equipment is the Second Leading Cause of Fire Deaths


rco_blog_img_Home Heating

Last year, The American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region responded to approximately 1,300 disasters across 17 counties– and most are home fires.

As temperatures start to dip across The Eastern Pennsylvania Region, the American Red Cross urges families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources, and to make a plan in case of a home fire. Heating sources are the second leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months.

Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and fatal fires peak in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends the following tips:

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.



By: Red Cross Volunteer Diane P. Coffey

All merry and bright, the music was playing, the children singing and dancing, families and friends sharing good food patiently waiting for Santa to arrive.  When all of a sudden, right through the Downtown Philadelphia Marriott Ballroom doors Santa arrived laughing and greeting the children with hugs and high fives!

Once again, our community of volunteers and supporters has stepped in to assist the American Red Cross Eastern Region create an unforgettable Children’s Holiday Party for the children and their families who suffered a disaster in the past year.  Some lost everything, including their homes, this past year.  As Judge Renée Cardwell Hughes welcomed the 500 guests to the holiday celebration, she expressed how personally inspired she was by everyone’s resiliency and their ability to overcome challenging hardships.  For Judge Hughes, “the Children’s Holiday Party is an evening of pure joy!   It’s an opportunity to give back some happiness to the children and their families who have lost so much this past year.”

The American Red Cross does a lot of things for a lot of people, and certainly disaster response is what we are most known for.  Last year, the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania responded to more than 1,200 disasters and helped approximately 5,350 people.  Most were fires, but some were floods and power outages.

Fire Commissioner Derrek Sawyer expressed how thankful he is to the citizens of Philadelphia.  “While there has been a reduction in residential fires, the fire department can’t achieve fire safety and prevention goals without the help of the community – we need you to help us,” he said.

Joining the party were special friends and mascots Freddie the Fire Truck, Gentry the Fire Dog, and Fred Cross.  Gentry and Fred Cross love to have their photos taken with their young friends, while Freddie the Fire Truck with flashing red lights rolls along engaging children in conversations about fire safety and asking if they routinely practice evacuation drills.  How about you – does your family practice evacuation drills?

The Children’s Party wouldn’t be possible without the generosity and kindness of the many Red Cross sponsors and volunteers like the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel for hosting the event in a beautiful ballroom and providing much of the food and beverages. Additional food and beverages were provided by Clemens Food Group, Drexelbrook Caterers, Herr’s and WAWA. The staff at the Marriott did a super job setting up the kid-friendly hot dog and chicken finger buffet complete with fries and all the condiments.

PECO volunteers kept the children busy with carnival games including bowling, ring toss, donut twister and flag games. JNA Institute of Culinary Arts provided ginger bread people and set up decorating tables for the kids to “dress” the ginger bread in colored frosting and lots of candy decorations.  The students from JNA Institute of Culinary Arts baked all the ginger bread people and worked side by side with the children to create a memorable experience.

Red Cross “elves” set up tables with crayons and glitter for coloring pictures and another table was set up with markers, rubber stamps and ink for card making.  Red Cross volunteers helped artists of all ages create just the right picture and holiday card.  Crazy Faces Face Painting, added colorful memories with festive and colorful face painting.

DJ Jazzy Joe kept the music playing nonstop with beats that made us all want to move.  The Red Cross Club volunteers reached out to Fire Commissioner Sawyer with an invitation to join them on the dance floor.  Sawyer took to bopping with kids of all ages and heights, even dancing the Whip/Nae Nae.

A holiday party isn’t complete without a picture with Santa Claus. Eric Helt, Chair of the Children’s Holiday Party shared a touching memory from last year’s party of a mother in tears as she looked at the photo of her children with Santa.  This family survived a fire with their lives, but lost everything, including all their family pictures.  For this mother, a photograph of her children with Santa represented starting over with new memories.

Thank you to Aaron Mitchell Photography for making the children smile, snapping the shot and providing photos with Santa for everyone to take home.

Whether the children wrote a letter to Santa or not, his bag was filled with gifts for all the children.  Each age appropriate tagged gift was carefully unpacked from Santa’s bag and organized by Red Cross Club volunteers who stood ready to help distribute each and every one. American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania Director of Special Events Mary Ann Milner said, “Imagine, all these hundreds of gifts are donated.”

Eric Helt is touched by the look of joy in the eyes of some children when they ripped open their gifts and makes note that, “Some families save their gifts to place under the tree, knowing that these might very well be the only gifts the children will receive this year.”  Not everyone is in the same place.

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus

Right down Santa Claus lane

He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor